Monday, February 25, 2013

New Eats in Union Square: Donuts and Ramen

I've now lived in Somerville for more than two-and-a-half years, the last six months of which I've spent in Union Square. I've loved the food in this neighborhood since before I lived here, and I'm excited that a couple of new treats have popped up in the last few weeks.

Two tenants of the Kitchen Inc. community cooking space, Josh Danoff (Culinary Cruisers - my kombucha obsession - and Ocean Ave Pops) and Heather Schmidt (City Chicks), began baking donuts a few months ago and selling them at farmers' markets, and they just opened up a retail shop in the front of Kitchen Inc., right across from Target on the outer edge of Union Square.

Union Square Donuts opened on Valentine's Day, and I was there right at opening to grab some photos for Eater Boston. Of course, there was no way I could go home empty-handed, so I bought two chocolate chipotles, a maple bacon, and an orange ginger cream to split with Joel. The chocolate chipotle was my favorite: light and airy with just the right amount of chocolate. I'd love more heat, but as you probably know, I'm a bit addicted to spicy things. The others were great as well, although a little more decadent, so I wouldn't recommend trying too many at once!

At $3 a pop ($3.50 for the maple bacon), these aren't your average Dunkin' Donuts donuts (but there's one of those down the street if that's what you're after). I found them to be worth the splurge, but I wouldn't make a frequent habit out of it. If you want a taste, be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for announcements as they've been selling out pretty early most days. They're open from 9 AM until selling out on Thursdays through Sundays, and they also carry dulce de leche cinnamon rolls, Ocean Ave Pops (fun-flavored popsicles!), coffee, and Spindrift sodas.

Union Square Donuts on Urbanspoon

The other new treat is at Backbar (which itself isn't new): ramen! It's available between 4 PM and 6 PM every day (except for Tuesday, when the bar is closed). The catch is that there are only 10 portions available each day. Kathy and I checked it out Saturday, arriving about 15 minutes early with one couple ahead of us in line. By 3:58, eight of the 10 portions had been claimed.

From Backbar's website:
"One of the head chefs of Journeyman Restaurant, Tse Wei Lim, has been working on this ramen recipe for many many months. Although he’s constantly in the pursuit of perfection, he has finally deemed it good enough. And let me tell you this far exceeds my definition of “good enough.” I personally think it is the best ramen in Boston. The broth is made from pork and duck stocks, with scallops, miso and soy sauce. The noodles are made fresh daily and topped with shredded pork, runny duck eggs, scallions, and bamboo shoots. Then you can personalize by adding on kimchee, pork lard, garlic, extra noodles or just some bacon!"
I haven't had nearly every ramen in Boston, so I can't verify Backbar's claim that it's the best, but it was certainly enjoyable (not to mention close to home). The egg was absolutely perfect, and I loved the housemade noodles, which had just the right amount of chewiness. I'm not sure if I'll be willing to battle hungry customers for one of just 10 helpings once the secret's out, but I'm glad I got to try it. Plus, I love spending time with Kathy, and I love Backbar, so this was a triple-play of an afternoon!

Meanwhile, more delicious ramen lurks less than two miles away. My go-to spot is Sapporo at the Porter Exchange, and I suspect that I will fall in love with YumeWoKatare, also in Porter Square, once I finally get around to trying it.

But getting back to Union Square, there's more excitement on the horizon as well. Bronwyn, from the owners of T.W. Food, is getting ready to open in what used to be Ronnarong, plus the adjacent space. I miss Ronnarong terribly (Thai tapas!), but it sounds like Bronwyn could be pretty awesome, from a beer garden to hand-twisted Bavarian sausages to artisan breads. Here it is in its under-construction glory:

And it looks great under a few feet of snow, too!

Backbar on Urbanspoon

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