Common Ground: A Work Out For Your Brain And Your Tummy
When people think of going to a restaurant, they usually think of going out to enjoy a meal, a good chat or serious gossip — but there is so much more that be can done within the framework of a restaurant.
Common Ground in Allston, Mass has the right idea, offering a different event every night of the week, from Stump trivia on Mondays to their Millennium party on Saturdays. (Check out their weekly schedule of events here.)
My friend and I went to check out their Monday night Trivia last week and from about 8-10, the bar was packed with eager trivia gurus... and then some pretty fresh faces... aka, my friend and I.
Although the trivia certainly helps draw in the crowds, Common Ground also has a recently re-configured menu, drawing on seasonal items, hand-picked and created jointly by Manager Bob Oguin and Chef Jaime Suarez. Everyday, they set off in search of the freshest ingredients from local markets that incite their inspiration... it makes the world of difference!
My friend and I arrived a bit before 8 and got started with an array of food... aka brain fuel, because we were ready to give this trivia a real go. On the board above the bar is a list of daily specials, whatever Chef Jaime Suarez and Manager Bob Oguin create from their collaborative morning trips to the markets.
We started with some chicken wings with Sweet Asian glaze. Knowing we were going to have some serious pub fare, we figured we should get some greens... something people don't usually associate with a neighborhood bar. Again, Common Ground knows what they are doing and serve up a delicious, roasted duck salad, with Gorgonzola, dried cranberries, green apple malt vinaigrette, all on a bed of delicious mixed greens.
Deviled eggs, an item I usually skip over, came topped with house-cured bacon which sparked our interest. Turns out the bacon was a delicious crispy pork belly...these little guys did not last long:)
Of their daily specials, and upon Bob's recommendation, we tried their 'Sticky Chicken'. It was a juicy chicken thigh, covered in a sticky, sweet glaze and on a bed of chopped fennel, carrots and cabbage. It was similar to the chicken wings, but so much more fun because there was more meat... and consequently — so much more mess.
We also (yes there was more), ordered their buffalo mac and cheese which is, understandably, a crowd favorite. Served in a skillet, the casserole is cheesy and creamy, mixed with the sweet and spicy kick from the buffalo and a traditional sharp cut of Gorgonzola. It was a fantastic rendition.
Only their fig and prosciutto sandwich disappointed, but it was largely because it was a bit light on the house-made fig jam... the fries however, were prime! (Apparently some people travel from quite a distance just for these fries... and I consider doing the same shortly)
We were completely stuffed, and come to think of it, our food coma probably did not help our trivia situation... but I refused to leave without dessert. Again, as recommended by Bob, we gave their Chocolate Grand Mariana cake a try. It was a glorified molten chocolate lava cake - crispy on the outside, warm and lava-like on the inside. With the side of whipped cream, I somehow polished off an entire cake.
So what did we learn? Among other things, that 'Mac and Cheese' was apparently a special editionCrayola color introduced in 1993, the LA Lakers were originally from Minneapolis and Oakland is the 4th highest ranked 'place to visit' as stated by The New York Times... We also learned that Trivia takes some practice and although my friend and I had some shining moments... we did not perform as well as we had hoped. Common Ground seems the perfect place to fine tune our trivia skills — and even if that doesn't end up panning out - we are sure to have a great meal.