The Five Horses Tavern is new to Davis Square – while I know most of you turn to this blog for updates on the Red Sox rather than restaurant reviews, from time to time a local place opens up that is worthy of a mention. After all, the majority of our readers are Bostonians, and who doesn’t love Davis Square? Yankees fans have baseball to watch this next month or so anyways, but the rest of us idiots may very well need somewhere to eat. The Five Horses Tavern may just be the place.
Let me give you a little context – I am an a veteran of the restaurant industry, and unfortunately I have a huge problem with controlling my eating habits. When it comes to dining out, I know what I like. I went to the Five Horses Tavern for the very first time a few weeks back shortly after they opened. That night I was lucky enough to meet Dylan Welsh, a rare restaurateur who “gets it.” I’d been waiting in line with the lady in my life for quite a while, and Dylan not only came over to our table to chat us up once we were seated, but the man took care of us. Instant points in my book. I vowed to return and really check the place out, and the following review represents the fruits of my labor.
In my eyes, the Five Horses Tavern works because it’s not trying to be something that it’s not. First and foremost, this is a tavern – we’re talking 36 rotating beers on tap coupled with 80+ bottled beers. There’s a nice selection of booze, and as well as a short but sufficient wine list that is extremely reasonably priced. “We want you to come here to have a bottle of wine and relax rather than sitting at home on your couch in an effort to save money,” says Welsh. Mission accomplished. Better yet, the tavern provides a perfectly “chill” atmosphere in which to relax, coupled with a nice menu of primarily locally sourced food. I’m not one to dwell on eloquence when it comes to food, so here’s what you need to know about my meal:
House mussels ($8) – The menu says Maine bouchot mussels, chile, ginger, garlic, white miso, scallion, grilled bread. Sounds about right to me. I am a huge mussels guy, and I always look for interesting flavor sensations aside from the typical white wine and garlic. The Asian influence shines through on this dish, which combines a bit of heat from the ginger that couples nicely with the garlic. Definitely a nice take on mussels.
Calamari ($8) – Flash fried squid from Point Judith, Rhode Island, served with banana peppers, mango, and a yuzu-ginger vinaigrette. I thought that the mango and the banana peppers offered a great contrast in this dish, but the squid could have used a bit more crisp. A common mistake in my experiences with calamari.
I went with the Lobstah Pie – phenomenal pizza dough topped with lobster, grilled corn, scallions, and mozzarella cheese. This dish is usually also topped with pork belly, but we left that out (Hi Kelley!). I was a big fan – the corn and lobster combination whisks you right back to that labor day clam bake. Well done.
While our meal was a bit heavy on seafood by choice, I’ve also had the fried chicken tenders – absolutely to die for, with a portion size that would bring Vince Wilfork to his knees. It sounds so simple, but it may have been my favorite dish.
I had a Czech Pilsner (you can never go wrong in my book) called Czechvar ($5) as well as a bottle of Singaterra ($39), an organic cabernet-merlot mix from Sonoma Valley. Both were delicious – at the end of the day, “tavern” implies drinks to me. No matter what you like to drink, you’ll find yourself happy in this department.
As for the service and the atmosphere, to me this is where the Five Horses Tavern shines. The atmosphere is classy without going overboard, with large windows that open to the street for the warmer months and a fireplace that gives the restaurant a cozy feel as it begins to cool off. The music adds to the relaxed feel – I picked up on Bob Marley and Citizen Cope playing during my visit. As for the service, I give the Five Horses an absolute A+. I’m not the type of guy that cares if the waiter spills a drop of red wine on the table (though this didn’t happen) – all I care about is feeling as though the waitstaff genuinely cares about my experience. The waitstaff was extremely friendly, hospitable, and clearly wanted me to enjoy myself. What more can I ask?
All in all, I’d say I have myself a new favorite haunt in Davis Square. With the prices, the drink selection, and the hospitable vibe I think I’d be crazy to look elsewhere. Welcome to the neighborhood.
And I almost forgot. The Five Horses Tavern is running a lunch special from 11am-4pm daily – their classic pizza is only $5. This is an off menu special, so be sure to ask your server about the deal.