Phantom Gourmet: Earls Kitchen + Bar In Somerville

SOMERVILLE- Sometimes bigger really is better. There aren’t many restaurants that have about 300 seats, serve more than 2,000 people a day, and still make virtually everything from scratch. That’s just the way they wok, toss, and roll at Earls.

Brand new to Assembly Row in Somerville, Earls Kitchen + Bar is big and bold, and has burst onto the local dining scene, serving a globally inspired menu in an eye-popping setting.

“When customers come in and see us for the first time, the wow and excitement, there’s nothing better than that,” said General Manager Dwight Hoover.

The first Earls opened in Canada more than 30 years ago, and today there are 65 locations across North America. It takes an army to run this place – with Dwight overseeing a battalion of black shirted servers circling the enormous dining room, and Head Chef Tim Pennington commanding almost two dozen white coated chefs in the super-sized open kitchen.

“It’s a very high volume kitchen. It’s a lot of covers, a lot of seats. So we want to be able to get the food out very quickly and at an incredible quality to our guests, but we also don’t want to take short cuts by precooking food, having food ready to go,” said the Chef. “We actually cook everything from scratch on line as soon as it’s ordered. So, we have more cooks on line to make sure that we can handle that food and get it up and get it out without having to sacrifice the quality.”

The menu at Earls features flavors from all around the world.

Fried Shrimp and Mango Roll at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Fried Shrimp and Mango Roll at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For starters, there’s a bowl of Crispy Thai Shrimp with Napa cabbage and a sweet and sour glaze, Pork Ribs dry rubbed with coarse salt and cracked pepper, and a Fried Shrimp and Mango Roll, perfect for sushi skeptics.

“If you’re afraid of sushi, if you’re a little afraid of the raw fish aspect of it, you don’t have to worry about that. We’ve got fresh mango, fresh avocado, fresh cucumber all in there, so it has a nice fresh vibrant taste to it, as well as a little bit of that crunch,” described Chef Tim.

For some All-American eats, nothing beat Earls’ burgers featuring seven ounces of grilled goodness on a fluffy bun that’s worth every bite.

Bacon Cheddar Burger at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Bacon Cheddar Burger at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“The big characteristic you’re gonna see with our burger that really sets it apart is we make all our burger buns from scratch in house,” Tim said. “It’s a brioche style bun, so it has a little bit of the sweetness to it as well. From there, we’re using certified Angus beef, never been frozen. It’s hand smashed in house. We keep it very, very simple.”

While a simple Bacon Cheddar Burger is a good choice, the Fenway Burger is even better.

“The Fenway Burger is by far the most popular burger that we have on our menu,” Chef Tim informed us. “Aged white cheddar, arugula, confit garlic mayo, a red pepper relish, and then it’s served with three freshly beer battered onion rings. When it’s actually put together, it’s just a monstrosity. It’s a massive burger.”

The Fenway Burger is certainly a hit here in Boston, but at all the other Earls locations, it has a slightly less appealing name.

“In the rest of the company we actually call it the Bronx burger. When we came out here we knew that with the rivalry with sports between New York and Boston, there’s no way we could call a burger a Bronx burger,” the Chef rightly stated.

BBQ Ribs and Cajun Chicken combo  at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

BBQ Ribs and Cajun Chicken combo at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Steaks are serious business here, all grain feed, aged for 28 days, and marinated with a signature house rub. If you want to amp up the flavor, there’s a Madagascar peppercorn demi-glace, or a rich crimini and button mushroom sauce.

For something distinctly southern, the BBQ Ribs and Cajun Chicken combo are a house favorite, but the best part of this dish is actually what comes on the side: Earls’ outrageously delicious Warm Potato Salad.

“It’s such a great side. We start with a baked potato, hand smash that baked potato, break it up into chunks. Then we roast it and toss it in a confit garlic butter. And then from there we add bacon, corn, and then we toss it in a homemade potato salad dressing,” described Chef Tim.

Warm Potato Salad at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Warm Potato Salad at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s almost like a deconstructed Baked Potato, and I think that’s one reason why people really come in, just for our warm potato salad. It stands apart and it’s a little bit different. It’s unique in that sense,” added Dwight.

Just in case you’ve saved room for dessert, the Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding has everything you’re looking for.

“On the top it has a dark chocolate caramel sauce as well as toffee sauce on it. It’s an incredible volume of chocolate in there,” said Tim. “We actually leave chunks whole of chocolate in there that melt through the baking process, so as you’re eating it, you get these kind of huge kicks of just melted chocolate, as well as the cake.”

Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Earls has plenty of great food, but the most fun is found at the bar where cocktails are shaken, stirred, and served in all kinds of unique ways. There’s the whiskey based Cabin Fever presented in a camping mug and garnished with a pine cone; the citrusy sweet Bees Knees offered up in a honey bear jar; and the whimsical Mad Hatter, with vodka, black tea, and coconut water.

Bees Knees at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Bees Knees at Earls. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s served in a teapot, and we actually add dry ice to it, so it’s smoking as if it’s hot tea and when it hits the table. It’s fun,” said Dwight.

From the drinks, to the food, to the chefs and servers, Earls is a place that prides itself on delivering a total dining experience.

“Nobody does what we do,” stated Dwight. “So you can have some places that do great food, you can have some places that do great service, we do both great food and service, but we do it in the environment that people love to be in. It’s approachable and it’s fun.”

You can find Earls Kitchen + Bar at 698 Assembly Row in Somerville and online at Earls.ca.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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