SOMERVILLE (CBS) – It’s late at night. You and your date are in the mood for hot dogs, but you also want to go to a classy place, maybe grab a cocktail or two. Impossible combination, right? Wrong! Try Trina’s Starlite Lounge on the Somerville edge of Inman Square.
The vibe of the place mirrors the unusual combination of food and drink offerings: a little bit dive bar, a little bit classy. From the outside, it really does look like a dive bar; the exterior is nondescript and the restaurant sign is completely overshadowed by a Miller High Life sign. Once inside, though, you’ll find it dark and romantic with a bit of a retro feel. Stay in the bar, or wait for a spot in the dining room to the left. Vintage light-up beer signs make up some of the decor, and they’re subtle enough to avoid tackiness. A dark wood bench lines one wall, but if you’re with a large group, you might get one of the luxuriously curved booths by the windows. Noise from the lively bar carries heavily into the dining room. Romantic and candlelit, yes, but probably not a spot for a first date unless you don’t really want to talk.
The cocktails are irresistible and strong. For a drink that’s got a lot going on, try the “word to your mom,” which contains Bols Genever, yellow chartreuse, lemon, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, and a maraschino cherry. (The waitress insisted that I not forget to eat the cherry because it was soaked in bourbon for two weeks.) After one of these and a hot dog, I spent most of the evening passed out on the couch. For something lighter, try the Starlite cocktail: white rum, parfait amor, lemon, and bubbles. If you prefer beer, the selection goes along with the kinda cheap, kinda classy theme. You can get a bucket of High Life ponies for $11, or up the ante a bit with an Ommegang or Dogfish Head.
The hot dogs are heaven on a toasted bun. Go for the “dog of the day” (on our last visit, it was a “Picnic Dog” – topped with coleslaw and served with a slice of watermelon) or a plain griddled dog (just $3). The toasted bun brings back memories of my favorite childhood hot dogs at Bliss Dairy, where five-year-old Rachel liked her hot dogs without a single burn mark, thank you very much! At Trina’s, the dogs are impossibly juicy and split down the middle for easy condiment usage.
The fries are a solid accompaniment, and you can get them poutine-style if you’d like, with gravy and cheese. If I’m looking to balance the hot dog with something a little healthier, though, I like to order the spinach and arugula salad with balsamic, toasted pepitas, and goat cheese ($8).
On my last visit, my dining companion decided to skip the hot dog and order from the section of the menu with “real” entrees. It’s small, but there are some interesting options. He got the PorkX2 (pork belly, pulled pork cake, sauteed greens, and spiced carrot), and it disappeared from his plate in minutes, but I was able to steal a bite of the belly. Delicious.
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Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.