Fool’s Errand is a choose-your-own cocktail party
Located on Boylston Street between Tiffani Faison’s sprawling Fenway restaurants — Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama — is the tiny beating heart of Fool’s Errand, a snug snack bar without any chairs that bathes all comers in electric-blue light. Faison and her wife and business partner, Kelly Walsh, opened it at the end of the summer, and it is not like the others. The barbecue joint and the Southeast Asian-influenced restaurant are where you go before a Red Sox game or for a friend’s birthday with a big group: established, professional, polished fun for the masses. Fool’s Errand is their weird little sister getting freaky to the music by herself at a house party, just owning it over there in the corner. It’s what happens when a successful chef comes by a few square feet exempt from some of the usual pressures — it shares a liquor license and dishwashing space with Sweet Cheeks — and gets a glint in her eye.
You creep in here hungry after the official action of the night has wound down, or before it has started, with the people you actually want to hang out with. There’s a spot for you, whoever you are. Mismatched crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, cheesy and fabulous. The bar is at the center; along the walls are ledges to cluster beside. In the back is a slip of an open kitchen where chef de cuisine Ellie Roycroft prepares orders. The menu is written on the mirrors that hang along one wall, surrounded by French-y toile wallpaper. It’s like a choose-your-own cocktail party: canapes for days.
The snackdown begins with complimentary bread and butter you wouldn’t mind paying for: slices of good, crusty francese and a silver dish bearing a rococo swirl that looks like soft-serve but is a mountain of tangy, light butter.
Fool’s Errand isn’t really a utensil kind of place. Many of its offerings are cut into squares and impaled with toothpicks, beginning with the decadent finger sandwiches: Buttery toasts filled with melted Gruyere, topped with a bouffant of more shredded cheese. An everything-bagel-gone-haywire, seeded salmon atop bread smeared with Brillat-Savarin, one of the world’s best cheeses for anyone craving butterfat and mild richness. Smoked beef tongue with raclette and house-made hot peppers, showered in crushed Lay’s potato chips. There’s a cheeky high-low quality to it all: good ingredients in clever composition.
Fried, crunchy things get filed under “GBD” on the menu, which stands for “golden brown and delicious” and has absolutely nothing to do with CBD or marijuana in general, although the snacks here happen to be perfectly calibrated to the stoned appetite. Little croquettes of mozzarella and pepperoni contain the virtues of pizza in crisp brown spheres. A crispy potato mille-feuille is made of many layers of thin-sliced potato, compressed and fried, then topped with your choice of sour cream and caviar, or lobster gravy, or raclette and truffles. This lily is gilded just the right amount.
But these snacks can start to feel too heavy, too same-same. It helps to cut your order with some fresher, lighter offerings. Crudites bloom, triumphant and vertical, from a berm of sour cream and chive labneh: wee carrots, celery, green beans, cauliflower, and radish, adorned with a few colorful flower petals. Charred okra comes striped with tomato and sprinkled with nigella seeds. Mexican shrimp cocktail is a bright, zesty version, garnished with excellent miniature saltines. Tuna salad is both perfectly cheffy and perfectly simple: a tin of good tuna with aioli, garnished with chives, shallots, celery, and cornichons, a showcase for excellent knife skills. (This time the accompanying saltines are fried in butter.)
If you want something sweet at the end, there is pastry chef Dee Steffen Chinn’s “Pink Pink Choco Snowball,” a reimagined version of the Hostess classic, or her Crackle Bites: little cubes of caramel-peanut butter Rice Krispies treats in caramel ganache, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with edible gold. The bill comes with gummy bears, flavored with sherry.
A cocktail party needs cocktails. Bar and hospitality manager Daniel Motsinger oversees a list of appealing inventions: the Heart of an Artichoke, citrusy Italian gin with sherry, vodka, and vermouth, garnished with an artichoke heart; the hard-to-pass-up Fetishist, bourbon, amaro, and spicy ginger syrup. Fortified wines are a focus, with a section of Lillet, Pineau des Charentes, vermouths, and more, to be sipped on the rocks or with a splash of soda or tonic. (“Stop ignoring us,” this section of the list pleads, and it’s worth listening.) There’s a neat by-the-glass list that ranges from sparkling sake to Sicilian grillo to Argentine cabernet franc, plus an almost-equally-long sherry list and a selection of beer and cider entirely made in Massachusetts. If you come here late, perhaps after a night of some excess, you will appreciate the good half-dozen amari, Italy’s answer to indigestion.
Fool’s Errand merges the spirit of a Barcelona tapas bar with a Tokyo tachinomiya, the standing-only nooks where customers come to drink and mingle. Here, the chairless setup serves the same social purpose. The place is good fun, but I went back and forth on whether it warranted a full review. In the meantime, I kept coming back: with three different rotations of out-of-town friends; by myself, just passing through. (On at least one of these visits, I was spotted by Faison and Walsh, so was not anonymous.)
Why review a snack bar? Because I like it, and the people I know like it, and you’ll probably like it too.
But also, it feels original. (Where else will you find an ornately framed portrait of Snoop Dogg hugging Martha Stewart hanging in the bathroom?) In this ballpark-oriented corner of the city — in every corner of the city — there are still places that sparkle with personality. It’s nice to see a bit of weirdness flourish in the cracks between glossy buildouts. It always manages to.
★ ★ ½
1377 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston, www.foolserrandboston.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. (Chairs available if needed.)
Prices $2-$16 per plate (unless you order caviar service, which is $100 for 30g).
Hours Sun 3-11 p.m., Mon-Wed 5-11 p.m., Thu-Sat 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
Noise level Commensurate with the number of people occupying 400 square feet.
May we suggest Salmon finger sammie, Italian roni and mozz croquettes, crispy potato mille-feuille, charred okra, tuna salad, Mexican shrimp cocktail.
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