Where to Buttermilk & Bourbon, where a slice of the French Quarter enlivens Watertown’s growing Arsenal Yards development, home to everything from Marshalls to Roche Bros. to Shake Shack to several life-sciences companies. Biotech, meet bayou.
Why For immense portions of creative New Orleans-style food as imagined by Jason Santos, who also runs a Buttermilk in the Back Bay.
The backstory The original Buttermilk opened four years ago, which feels like ancient history now — a carefree time before COVID, when patrons would guzzle glow-in-the-dark cocktails from a Slushie machine in a black-lit room called the Voodoo Lounge. Life is a bit more somber these days, but the affable, telegenic Santos — who has appeared on “Bar Rescue” and “Hell’s Kitchen” — is betting on Watertown as the next big thing.
“It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood. [I] love what Arsenal Yards will ultimately be and wanted to be able to build something from the ground up,” he says.
What to eat Pace yourself. Santos is a master of culinary hedonism, and he does absolutely nothing small. Come hungry. I was assisted by a group of eager taste-testers for this mission, and my fridge was stacked with leftovers for a week until I almost went door-to-door offering fried chicken to my neighbors.
Enormous honey-glazed biscuits — shiny like a fat baby’s cheeks — were the hands-down favorite.
“I don’t even like biscuits. Typically, they’re dry and need to be slathered with butter or jam. These were perfection. I’ll add them to the ‘foods I’ve eaten and continue to dream about’ list,” gushed one dazzled diner. If you do want to slather ‘em with something, there’s cinnamon butter or pimento cheese ($14), but they’re not necessary. BBQ shrimp ($15) are swimming in an ocean of jalapeno grits, good enough to eat alone, by the spoonful — comforting, creamy, tangy. Vidalia onion dip ($8) is standard-issue except for the chips. Santos never does anything halfway, and this is no exception: They’re served with kettle chips dusted with horseradish-cheddar seasoning, which I kept snacking on for days afterward.
Friskier diners might try the alligator fries, a poutine-like Tetris of French fries with pimento queso and craggy chunks of fried gator (yeah, it tastes like chicken). If you still have room after all this, order buttermilk fried chicken as wings ($12), thighs ($14), or a bone-in half portion ($21). My group enjoyed the chicken but was more effusive about the array of sauces that accompany it, especially the syrupy barbecue sauce (one person was seen swilling it straight from the container). Last but not least: Don’t forget about the aged gouda mac n’ cheese. You won’t taste much gouda, but that doesn’t matter. It’s sprinkled with red hot Cheeto “crust,” the type you licked off your fingers in elementary school. Maybe not a Southern classic, but a welcome diversion when you’ve had one too many Hurricanes.
What to drink Those rum-fueled Hurricanes, of course, plus Bloody Marys, a vast selection of bourbon (available by the flight), and soon, canned cocktails to go.
The takeaway An indulgent way to celebrate something, anything — like getting a vaccine, sending your kids back to school, or just making it through yet another day.
Buttermilk & Bourbon, 100 Arsenal Yards Blvd., Watertown, 857-760-7128, www.buttermilkbourbon.com