Where to Forge & Vine at the storied Groton Inn.
What for Oysters, grilled meats, and flatbreads in a pastoral setting, next to Lawrence Academy. The original Groton Inn dates to the 1600s and was destroyed by a fire in 2011. It reopened in May as a boutique hotel, complete with modern touches — like a restaurant with an open kitchen, raw bar, and attractive wood-fired grill. Back home for the holidays and reuniting with your high school swim team? Need a gift certificate for mom and dad? This is your place.
The scene Hushed and mysterious at first; rowdy and rollicking once you get your bearings. There aren’t many streetlights in Groton, and be forewarned: The restaurant isn’t attached to the inn. You’ll want to drive around back. From there, the Forge & Vine — styled as a modern carriage house — rises up like a beacon in the darkness. Follow the hordes of eager customers venturing in from the cold and crowding the entryway, which is anchored by a table bearing magnums of champagne, butter tins, decorative gourds, squashes, and cookbooks, as in days of yore. Groups drink martinis by the fire on the four-season porch; older folks on the prowl swarm the large rectangular bar; groups of middle-aged pals shed their puffy jackets and hoist beers. The music segues from soothing to thumpy as the night wears on.
What you’re eating A crowd-pleasing roster of appetizers, raw bar plates, shareable dishes, and entrees that cover all the bases — kale salad, poutine, mushroom toast, assorted flatbreads, maple-lemon-glazed short ribs, potato-crusted cod, rotisserie chicken for two, and a grain bowl with kale, Brussels sprouts, and local squash. You will sup heartily, though not adventurously, here. Prices are far more reasonable than what you’d encounter in the city; most entrees are under $25.
Care for a drink? There’s a small cocktail list and a selection of wines on draft, $4 cans of Budweiser, and a house rum punch sprinkled with nutmeg.
Overheard Food recommendations; saucy banter. A twinkly-eyed woman in an elf sweater knocks over a propped-up beer list. “This is the second time tonight, and I haven’t even been drinking!” she insists. Her mate rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. A server appears at a nearby table and recites the specials. “You didn’t tell us the specials!” Lady Elf says with a laugh, making a stabbing motion. “The mocha bombe is to die for,” a lady in a fur vest and thigh-high boots tells her friends, heading for the bathroom. An older server pulls aside a novice and points toward the fireplace. “The woman in the white sweater is number 101. Then you just work your way around the table,” she says. The server nods and prepares for battle. A silver-haired gent approaches a ladyfriend at the bar. “I knew I smelled trouble!” she says, giving him a hug.
Forge & Vine, 126 Main St., Groton, 978-448-9200, www.forgeandvine.com