I revisited it later last night with Joel, who lives about 10 minutes away, but those 10 minutes really make a difference between civilization and isolation. While we were out there, we decided to finally try Highland Kitchen; I've heard so many good things about it.
At 9:30pm on a Thursday, it was very loud and lively at the bar, and most of the tables were full of diners. For a place seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it certainly draws a crowd. Despite the near-deafening noise, Highland Kitchen was love at first sight. The overhead lamps looked like science experiments, the cursive on the chalkboard was written by a person who grew up in a time when handwriting still mattered, and the music was one good song after another.
Upscale comfort food fills the menu. I was torn between the handmade potato gnocchi (with vegetable ratatouille, basil, and parmesan reggiano), the hoisin glazed beef shortrib (with scallion pancake and quick pickled cucumbers), and several other items. I ended up settling on the organic mixed greens (with sherry-mustard vinaigrette and goat cheese crostini), plus a side order of fried plantains, and Joel got the spicy goat stew. (The menu even has a picture of a goat and a message to "Try our goat stew...it's spicy!" It's hard to resist a message like that.)
Highland Kitchen gets a major thumbs up for actually making a legitimately spicy dish, a rare feat around here apart from the authentic menus you can find at some ethnic restaurants if you're willing to depart from the typical Americanized dishes.
No complaints on the food: everything met or exceeded expectations. We both tried a bit of everything, leading to the totally un-Kosher (and therefore extra delicious) combo of goat cheese and goat meat.
Service was super friendly, and I was impressed that the waitress asked us if we were "still enjoying our meals" rather than the common but strange "Are you still working on that?" Eating shouldn't feel like work!
Despite the fact that I will most likely not be taking the nearby apartment, I will certainly return to Highland Kitchen, a festive oasis in an otherwise quiet (read: dead) neighborhood. I am anxiously awaiting having an available Tuesday night so I can compete in the weekly Spelling Bee, which begins at 9:30. When I was in 8th grade, I came in 2nd place in the Massachusetts Spelling Bee, so you all better watch out: I am a spelling machine, and I will crush you!