Food & dining

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A new wine hangout downtown, better cheese for Brookline, and making muscles in Saugus

Olivia Culpo, along with her father and a cousin, opened Back 40 in North Kingstown, R.I.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Olivia Culpo, along with her father and a cousin, opened Back 40 in North Kingstown, R.I.

Openings: Taste Wine Bar & Cafe (101 Summer St. at Bedford Street) has opened downtown, serving flights, half-pours, and an upcoming reserve list, along with small plates and wine seminars. It offers about 20 wines by the glass, with another 30 to 40 by the bottle. The menu includes cheese and charcuterie boards, salads, topped toasts, and other wine-friendly foods; meatballs in a spicy Korean sauce might be paired with a lightly chilled Poulsard from the Jura. Co-owners Jennifer Scott and Christopher Hsi, who are married, opened Taste with the goal of making wine approachable. “Our mission is to be a true wine bar, to offer a comfortable place for people to come and hang out and explore the large, broad world of wine,” Scott says. They also run the shop Common Vines across the street, so you can purchase what you’ve sampled and bring it home.

To go with that wine, how about some cheese? Brookline’s Curds & Co. (288 Washington St. at Holden Street) bills itself as a “21st century cheese shop.” (Yes, there’s an app for that — you’ll be able to track, rate, and sort your favorite cheeses.) Cheese from local farms and dairies is a focus; founders Jenn and Matt Mason have brought on Kyra James (Formaggio) as cheesemonger.

Farther afield: In Rhode Island, Back 40 (20 South County Trail at Ten Rod Road) debuts in North Kingstown, a family affair. Rhode Island native and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo (above) is behind the spot, along with father Peter (Parish Cafe and others) and cousin Joshua (Lulu’s Allston). Chef Kim Scarano’s menu features the likes of chicken pot pie fritters, steamed littlenecks, fried chicken, and whole grilled branzino.

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Muscle Maker Grill is now open in Saugus (358 Broadway, in the Shops at Saugus plaza). This is the first Massachusetts location for the chain, which offers a menu of healthier takes on chicken Caesar salads, burgers, penne with vodka sauce, and more, along with protein shakes and smoothies.

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Menu changes: At Banyan Bar + Refuge in the South End (553 Tremont St. at Clarendon Street), chef Phillip Tang (above) has overhauled the menu, which now includes charred shishito peppers with buttermilk ranch dressing, a BBQ short rib bao, salmon poke, and crispy pork ribs.

DEVRA FIRST

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