Although I like to be in charge of picking new restaurants to try, my boyfriend, Doug, also does a pretty decent job researching and finding new places as well. I always give him a hard time as we drive to a new spot he’s selected, and when I ask him what type of cuisine they have, he responds with … “Contemporary American?”
I love that phrase: Contemporary American–especially because I’ve eaten at a lot of these self-proclaimed spots and still have no idea what it means. Was there ever non-contemporary American fare? But I digress.
Earlier this year, I gave Doug a list of places I wanted to try. So several months ago, he made us a reservation at Puritan & Company in Inman Square in Cambridge. Their website’s About Us section proclaims they “serve modern American cuisine, with particular emphasis on traditional New England fare, and not without occasional excursions into other ethnic ingredients and styles. Our mainstays are ingredients sourced from farms we know and locally to the extent possible, and always a sense of fun.”
And after eating here, that description is exactly what you’re going to get at Puritan: local ingredients, unexpected twists, and a fun atmosphere.
We were seated in the main dining area of the restaurant, although the open floor plan pretty much has you sitting among everyone–whether you’re at the bustling bar, or more laid back food-prep area bar (decorated with pots of herbs which I can only assume are being used in the dishes you’re about to eat). I’ll describe the decor as farmhouse chic. There was a weathered farmhouse look incorporating stuffed roosters, old wooden crates, mason jars, and baskets of colorful fruit scattered about a bit of modern-day flair with touches like sleek wooden tables, linen napkins, and shiny silverware. What I loved most about Puritan is that many dishes are served atop slate slabs, so it gives an even more rustic, yet contemporary feel.
Puritan doesn’t have an aggressive cocktail menu: it’s short and sweet and has something for everyone. And their beer list has a bunch of locally brewed options, both draft and bottled.
The food menu changes often, so our menu was not the same as what you might find today. Doug and I started with the deviled crab biscuits (which come in pairs, so we got an order of two) and swordfish pastrami. The biscuits weren’t anything special, and definitely needed more seasoning. The actual biscuits had more flavor than the crab topping. However, the swordfish pastrami starter was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time. The swordfish tasted exactly like pastrami you’d find in a small Jewish deli in New York City. I don’t know how they cured this fish, but it was spectacular and if you go and can only order one thing, you MUST get the swordfish.
We then moved on to our main meals. Doug (surprisingly) went with the vegetarian option: barley risotto with mushrooms, parmesan, and marjoram. And I got thewith
Although we were stuffed, we needed to try at least one of the desserts, so we ordered the butterscotch pudding with “‘nilla” wafers and whipped crème fraîche. It was simple, sweet, and quite tasty.
To sum it all up: Puritan & Company was a just a really nice and laid back spot to go. The restaurant hit some pretty high notes with its swordfish pastrami and barley risotto, and had a few dishes that were just okay. So if you’re looking for a fun, local New England experience with knowledgeable waiters, head to Puritan.