BOSTON – It’s one of the coolest new spots to eat and drink in downtown Boston, combining old-school dishes with a new, trendy twist. Swedish Meatballs and Schnitzel. Crystal Chandeliers and hanging fedoras. At Sterling’s in Boston’s Financial District, everything old is new again.
“The menu and the concept of circa 1960s, almost a Mad Men-esque or a nod to a Mad Men-esque era,” described Chef Travis Talbot.
Inside this swanky dining space you’ll find decor that pays homage to days gone by, with fancy lighting and black and white photography. Just outside, there’s an enormous patio, perfect for dining and drinking downtown in the nice weather.
“Outside we have this beautiful, gorgeous patio. You can look one way and see Faneuil Hall. Look another way and see Government Center. You can see all the history of Boston, see all the moving parts of it, but you can kind of be in your own little oasis,” said Operations Manager Vinny Polcari.
Polcari runs the front of house at Sterling’s, while Chef Talbot labors over a retro-style menu that pays tribute to the original celebrity chef: Julia Child.
“The menu we actually developed based on Julia Child’s kind of recipes,” Talbot said. “So in the 60s you were getting a lot of comfort food. You were getting a lot of global influences.”
So there’s Pork Schnitzel topped with decadent bleu cheese and an arugula salad, and that nostalgically delicious bite-sized appetizer: Swedish meatballs.
The savory spheres are made with premium beef sourced straight from Savenor’s Market, a spot where Julia Child herself was a loyal customer. Topped with a tasty sauce, they’re a perfect starter to share.
“You’ve got some peppered gravy, so there’s little bit of bites to it, with a huckleberry jam,” explained Chef Talbot. “You get about 6 to 8 to a serving so we find a lot of people order them and then forks are going out everywhere.”
That same superb meat is also used in Sterling’s Burger.
“A burger’s a burger, but you have to do it well. And to do it well you have to have little touches in there that people go ‘interesting’ or ‘hey that’s delicious’,” said Talbot.
So they’ve added flavorful touches like Grafton Cheddar cheese, their signature Tavern sauce, and a perfectly baked bun.
“It is on a fresh brioche roll that we grill on the flattop with a little bit of butter, so it gets that nice little grill mark and they’re so full of flavor. You can eat this burger without the bun and you wouldn’t be disappointed,” Polcari promised.
Sterling’s Sliders get a modern makeover, too, because they’re made with pork belly marinated in Dr. Pepper.
“The pork belly sliders are awesome,” declared Polcari. “They’re marinated in a Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce which is a little out of the ordinary, and it’s really, really good.”
The classics continue all the throughout the menu, with sharable snacks like steamers cooked in beer broth. Some other dishes are so good that you may want to keep them for yourself, especially Sterling’s cheese fondue.
“A lot of times we’ll see one go out, and all of a sudden people thought they were going to share it and you see the guy kind of pull it over to themselves and they order a couple more,” said Chef Talbot.
While ribs aren’t really considered old school, you may end up looking like a school kid when you dive into them.
“They’re ribs. They’re supposed to be messy but they’re delicious. Look around the room and everyone’s face is messy – that was a good dish,” said the chef.
Then there’s a dish that smells as good as it tastes: the classic Steak Frites.
“It doesn’t get any more classic bistro-wise than steak frites,” Polcari said. “When the servers are walking by with it, it’s just such a nice aroma, you want to follow it and see where it’s going.”
To end your meal, you can order up another craft cocktail from the bar, or indulge in one of Sterling’s Chocolate bars – a decadent dessert that’s small but satisfying.
“It is the perfect ending to the meal. You can get a little bit of sugar rush but it won’t weigh you down and make you want to take a nap,” explained Polcari.
From start to finish, Sterling’s doesn’t disappoint, and that’s because the kitchen really takes pride in what they do.
“We like to look across the room and watch people have a bite and see what their expressions are,” explained Chef Talbot, “because it’s the little touches and the fact that you’re showing some passion in the food that makes the difference.”
You can find Sterling’s at 60 State Street in Boston, or online at sterlingsboston.com.
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