New Year’s Eve is sometimes derided as amateur night, an occasion for the bridge-and-tunnel crowd to dress up and indulge in overpriced caviar and bubbly. Savvy diners may shun New Year’s restaurant dinners, but they, too, deserve something festive, a low-key alternative for those who want to go out without going all out, or who want a small bite and a drink before heading to a more ambitious celebration.
Turns out, there are plenty of places to do this, most no farther away than your favorite neighborhood hangout. Lots of area restaurants — even ones that are offering that whole-nine-yards, four-course, prix fixe menu — are perfectly happy to welcome customers at the bar for a cocktail and a nibble. No reservations, no cover, and, perhaps, a quieter-than-typical evening at places where the bar might normally be jampacked with scenesters.
“It’s one of the best nights to walk in and slide into two seats at the bar,” says Garrett Harker. He’s talking specifically about Eastern Standard, but he could be describing the other two places he owns: The Hawthorne and Island Creek Oyster Bar. Harker expects the bar to stay quiet only through the dinner hour; by 10:30 or 11 p.m., there should be more of a crowd. Eastern Standard will be running its regular menu, which means there will be snack options as well as full meals.
Sam’s at Louis, on the Waterfront, will also be business as usual on New Year’s Eve, and patrons can expect to enjoy a drink and a nibble (or a meal) at the bar in relative peace and quiet. “Nobody has do to anything but come and hang out,” says co-owner Esti Parsons. A drink accompanied by spicy hummus or house-pickled vegetables sounds like a good way to kick off the evening, and if you happen to be there at midnight, says Parsons, “We have the best view of the fireworks.”
Not every restaurant anticipates a quiet evening at the bar. Hostess Latoya Weaver of Catalyst in Cambridge, says, “I would assume it might get busy,” adding that the Kendall Square spot will offer a limited menu at the bar.
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