For those of you who are counting the days until summer, here’s a way to pretend it’s outdoor grilling season, at least for an hour or two.
At the Back Deck restaurant, it always smells like summer. “Nine out of 10 of our dishes touch the grill,” says chef Paul Sussman. That includes dessert, like pound cake with grilled pineapple, and a gourmet take on the classic S’more, featuring house-made graham crackers and marshmallows, in flavors like cranberry and peanut butter.
While it wasn’t Sussman’s primary intention to create a summertime vibe year-round, that’s how Back Deck evolved. The idea was to serve food cooked on a charcoal grill. “We decided to create a party on your neighbor’s back deck. It’s your neighbor’s deck, because you’re not doing the work,” Sussman says. The Downtown Crossing restaurant, opened last year, has quickly become a hot spot for diners who yearn for a taste of summer, but don’t want to actually scrape the ice off the grill. The Back Deck isn’t theme-y — it has actual furniture, not picnic tables and lawn chairs — but it keeps the “everlasting summer” illusion going with side dishes like coleslaw and potato salad, which lend a picnic-y look. Chef’s top pick for a summer item: the rib-eye steak with Texas toast and chimichurri sauce.
For most guests, however, burgers rule. Nothing says “summer” like a juicy burger, hot off the grill, whether it’s made with ground beef or chickpeas and lentils. “Initially, I put a burger on the menu so we’d have a low-end item,” Sussman says. Now, about a third of the plates that go out of the kitchen feature a burger. To keep things interesting, they offer specialty versions, like the Mexicali (with avocado and green chile salsa) and the muffaletta (with olive salad and provolone), plus a turkey burger (more flavorful than many we’ve tried), and a house-made veggie burger, made with chickpeas and lentils and spiced like a falafel.
By the time you read this, there may be an Italian burger on the menu; each costs from $10 to $12. For his winter menu, Sussman has added some slow-grilled, internationally-inspired dishes, from sunny locales like southern Italy, Spain, and Morocco — sort of a virtual vacation for your mouth, if you’ve got a good imagination. But, really, the Back Deck is all about the promise of summer. “It actually gets pretty hot back here,” the chef says, flipping yet another row of burgers.
Back Deck 2 West St., Downtown Crossing, 617-670-0320; www.backdeckboston.com.
and PAMELA WRIGHT