525 Medford St., Somerville
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; closed Monday
Credit cards accepted
A visit to Daddy Jones in Somerville’s Magoun Square can feel a bit like traveling in a glitch-prone time machine: You aren’t quite sure what decade you’ve landed in.
Kitschy drinks evoke the ’80s and ’90s, the barware is vintage, the décor a combo of sleek Art Deco and earth-tone modern, and the menu full of traditional Greek specialties that date back generations.
Owner Dimitra Tsourianis has said she’s aiming for a fun and easy vibe, the kind customers might find in the home of a friend. The pace is certainly relaxed and the staff friendly, and if you’re willing to embrace the stylistic muddle, you’ll discover that Daddy Jones is a smart neighborhood spot with playful drinks, a few solid dishes, and plenty of room to grow.
The long bar occupies most of the space. The cocktail list features a range of cheesy, rainbow-bright throwbacks, complete with plastic umbrellas and outsized fruit garnishes, served in chunky vintage glassware.
Those looking to escape the winter blues will appreciate the Blue Hawaiian ($9) made with Raspberry Jolly Rancher Rum, or the Sex on the Beach ($9), a bubblegum-pink concoction dressed up with peach-ginger puree and a splash of ginger beer.
The fizzy Grape Crush ($10) was cleverly presented with a skewer of frozen grapes, but its cognac base was muted by too much lemon. The DJ Cocktail Cooler ($10) arrived in a glass bottle with a homemade “Daddy Jones” label and straw, but the presentation couldn’t disguise the fact that this too-sweet cocktail was heavy on the apple flavor and needed another good stir or two.
Simpler cocktails earned high praise. My tablemates and I adored the Bourbon Spoon ($8), a glass of chilled bourbon sweetened with mastiha, a honey and vanilla resin that takes the edge off the bourbon but preserves its throaty heat.
Not a cocktail fan? Daddy Jones offers plenty of other libations, including a Europe-heavy wine list and a selection of craft brews.
The Greek-inspired menu reflects Tsourianis’s heritage and includes staples from her childhood in Somerville. Dishes range from bar snacks to small plates to full entrées, so you can find a right-sized bite whether you visit for a quick cocktail or a long dinner.
Meals begin with a serving of sesame seed bread, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Don’t skip your slice: It’s made in-house and has a perfectly crunchy crust.
For starters, try the smoked herring ($5), a recipe made often by Tsourianis’s mother and updated with fried capers and grilled romaine. The fried zucchini wedges with skordalia dip ($5) were piping hot and nicely crisped, but the garlicky almond skordalia was so thick we couldn’t get it to cover the wedges without using a knife — not ideal for a dip-based bar snack. The baby eggplant ($8), roasted and stuffed with ground beef, was tender and filling.
The well-priced main courses run on the large side at Daddy Jones. The grilled sausage sandwich ($8) was a hit with a fluffy pita, sweet and spicy loukaniko sausage, and a heap of roasted peppers and caramelized onions. The sandwich comes with a generous portion of skin-on fries, which were crisp but too salty.
Kiss your New Year’s resolutions goodbye with the Mac Daddy ($12), a macaroni casserole made with cheddar and Greek kasseri cheese and sautéed tomatoes. Chunks of bacon lend a rich, smoky flavor to this already sinful mac.
The grilled lamb skewer ($14) arrived lukewarm and with a few undercooked onions, but it was perched atop a bed of buttery rice pilaf and long slices of tender eggplant and zucchini that earned rave reviews. As for the chicken souvlaki wrap ($9), I was disappointed by overly salted fries (again), but delighted with the tender chicken and light dill yogurt sauce.
The service at Daddy Jones could use some sprucing up. One of our starters never appeared (though we weren’t charged for it), drinks were delivered to the wrong diners, and bread plates took an awfully long time to disappear from our increasingly crowded table. For a place that has been open just two months, though, it’s not all bad, and the cheerful staff is clearly trying hard.
Tsourianis plans to add some entrées after the New Year and hopes to offer Sunday brunch in late January or early February.
In the meantime, one plan is confirmed: On New Year’s Eve, Daddy Jones will embrace its 1980s vibe with a decade-themed celebration. For more information and tickets to the 21-plus event, visit the Daddy Jones website.
After all, why not usher in 2013 with a quick trip back in time? Marty McFly would, like, totally approve.
-- Emily T. Simon