After many months of negotiations, bankruptcy proceedings, gut renovations, and fights with the local licensing commission, the Lord Hobo finally opened to the public last Wednesday. Initial reviews were positive, with some inevitable sniping on various restaurant (*cough Yelp*) and local sites. We stopped by last night for dinner and a few drinks and to check out the long-awaited addition to the neighborhood.
In terms of design and decor, starting with the exterior, I like, as I’ve mentioned before, that the old Windsor Cafe and Pickwick Ale signs remain exposed. I have no idea whether this will continue as the Lord Hobo appears to have no signage of its own, but it’s a nice touch of history and I hope it stays and gets restored. Walking past tall curtains to enter, the room looks as if The Dirty Truth, The Moan and Dove, and The B-Side got together Three Bars and a Baby-style and had a child. With the Dirty Truth’s color and general design scheme, but without the tall ceilings that plague that establishment, you get more of a local Moan and Dove feeling, but with the B-Side’s buzz and general layout. While it looks largely like the B-Side, a review of photos of the renovation demonstrates a complete gut rehab of this troubled location. The square U-shaped bar design remains and was packed two deep, even on a Monday night, with folks drinking beers in various glassware and even cocktails, which was a nice sight.
As to the beer, the draft list is 40 deep, split one third for domestic crafts and two-thirds imports. In the domestics, a good range of styles are represented, with sizes and ABV’s listed on the menu. Perhaps a touch heavy on IPA’s, never a bad thing for hop-friendly Boston, the list ranges from big, boozy beers, down to reasonable session beers (including two low-alcohol beers from nearby Cambridge Brewing Co., also a nice neighborly touch). Prices are about what you would expect, with pints starting at about $5.50 if local (of which there are a couple beers from Massachusetts (the aforementioned CBC, Pretty Things, Mayflower, and Will Shelton’s High n Mighty) and quickly moving to $6.50/pint for out-of-town beers, with several 12-ounce offerings ranging from $5-7. As with how the Moan and Dove and Dirty Truth often operate, there are no other beers from New England or even the Northeast.
Moving to the massive imported section, this is where the list starts to shine but for a quirky reason. With the sole exception (to my eyes) of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, every other imported brand on the draft menu hails from the Shelton Brothers lineup. That’s 23 drafts from the Shelton lineup. Now perhaps the regulars at the Lord Hobo will lap up the domestic crafts versus the imports at a rate of 3 or 4 to 1, but with the recent sale of the Shelton’s Massachusetts distribution operations, it remains an open question as to whether this pace can be maintained. A look at the most recent price book shows that the Shelton’s brands from La Resistance have not yet been integrated into the Craft Brewers Guild portfolio so Lord Hobo owner Daniel Lanigan is drawing upon his long relationship with the Shelton’s in order to make this list work. If the imports heat up, as well they should considering some of the gems he has available, it’ll be interesting to see whether any shortages occur (especially with the Cantillon line) and how the recent distributor sale will shake out for the lesser known brands in the Shelton’s import lineup.
While the Belgians represented on the menu are impressive and it’s quite rare to find the Nogne brands on tap anywhere in the country, it is Lanigan’s continued affinity for traditional German beers, especially those from Franconia, that make this list special. Often a fixture on the menus of the Dirty Truth and the Moan and Dove, but in smaller numbers, his list contains eight German lagers (nine if you add Victory Lager from the domestic craft side of the ledger), including the brilliant Mahrs Ungespundet (which sadly kicked right as I arrived), a kellerbier, and several pils offerings. At around $8 for a half-liter, these beers aren’t perhaps the cheapest offerings but I doubt you will find them as reliably fresh and well-serviced as you will here on a regular basis.
We ate as well but I hesitate to comment at length on the culinary operations as of yet. The place has been open less than a week and the kitchen needs time to even out its short but intriguing menu. As many others have reported, the Lobsta Mac & Cheese is quite something and will likely serve as many patrons’ dinner option.
In some final observations, the service (especially at the table) tends to be uneven and waits should be expected, but again, these speed bumps will inevitably improve as everyone gains their respective footings. One curiosity you will inevitably notice is that the servers uniformly watch you like a hawk when you put your glassware or plates down. It turns out that something went awry in the finishing of the attractive tables and bar and so you, oddly, may find your server laying out full napkins across your tables and even black mouse pads to protect the tables. The joys of opening a restaurant…
Across the board, the Lord Hobo is an impressive offering, having vastly improved upon the B-Side in many respects (one visit to the bathrooms will convince you of that alone) while not having lost touch with its core charms. The hipsters drinking $3 PBR pints have disappeared and have been replaced with folks drinking $98 bottles of Bordeaux and $10 Cantillon half-glasses. For all of you B-Side cocktail loyalists, of which I know there are many, we didn’t try any of the new offerings but they looked quite good and the bartenders took care in making them so I look forward to hearing your thoughts.