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quick bites

Back Bay Harry’s from ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Where to Back Bay Harry’s, a new restaurant in the space that was formerly Geoffrey’s (and before that Laurel).

What for A taste of chef Jason Santos’s creative comfort food in the Back Bay. The restaurant is named for partner Harry Collings; Santos and designer Taniya Nayak are involved, too. Before he was the blue-haired guy on Fox reality show “Hell’s Kitchen,” Santos made his name at Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville; current local restaurants include Blue Inc. and Abby Lane.

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The scene The neighborhood is here — co-workers, boyfriends and girlfriends, man dates, actual man dates, solo businessmen in search of a stiff drink. A blond couple sits at the marble bar, the man with a buzz cut in plaid flannel, the woman in a beautiful magenta poncho with her hair in an elegant twist. Two men in matching black shirts drink martinis and eat burgers. A man in a suit arrives on the scene late, looks at the single woman beside him, and looks away. There’s a basketball game to pretend to watch on the television. The place has black walls, pale wood floors, plenty of mirrors, columns tiled in a chevron pattern, and round glass pendant lights that look like jumbo Christmas ornaments. Empty wine bottles gleam green and clear against an illuminated wall. Big, arched windows offer a view of Back Bay; a server from another restaurant is outside taking a smoke break. Michael Jackson plays in the background.

What you’re eating “People come for the fried chicken,” a server says. Back Bay Harry’s version is boneless, in a crunchy buttermilk batter, served over potato puree with greens, a drizzle of BBQ syrup, and puffy, honey-scented doughnuts. Also on the menu: meatloaf Wellington, squid ink pappardelle, and more. For snacking, you’ll find the likes of Chinese pork sliders, pastrami mac ’n’ cheese, and the Blue Onion, Santos’s blue cheesy riff on the blooming onion.

Care for a drink? The cocktail list announces that it’s truly fall. Drinks are filled with warming ingredients — pecan-infused rye in one called the King of the North; apple cider, honey, cinnamon, and cayenne in the tequila-based Tigers Love Pepper, They Hate Cinnamon (a reference to the movie “The Hangover”). To really savor the season, you want the Don’t Kick My Pumpkin, made with rum and spiced pumpkin syrup. It tastes like mulled cider, sneakily strong.

Overheard People talking about basketball, family dynamics, the mayoral race, and a lifelong avoidance of day jobs. “I can’t stand the Heat,” a bartender says. “They represent everything that’s wrong with basketball.” “Are you voting?” one man asks another. A woman hunts for a hook to hang her bag on beneath the bar. “Are you getting friendly with me?” jokes a regular. At a hightop by the bar, a man talks about playing adventure games: “It’s cerebral.” Comments another patron: “It sounds like you have a very male-dominated family. So what did the girls do?” A friend who has been off the grid resurfaces: “She texted me. She’s in Southie drinking.” Bartenders cultivate a neighborhood feeling, introducing themselves to customers: “Jackie, how was it?” “We will see you!” A staff member drops something with a loud clatter. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” a co-worker ribs him. “We can have nice things,” he replies. “I only drop metal.” A man orders a double whiskey. “I can’t do a double,” the bartender says, and pours him a single, neat. “You want anything to eat? Didn’t think so. Keep it open?”

142 Berkeley St., Back Bay, Boston. 617-424-6711.
www.backbayharrys.com.

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.
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