Grilled octopus at Out of the Blue
Last week I hailed the Detroit-style pizza (a hot trend, it seems) at Avenue Kitchen & Bar but lamented the loss of Pescatore, the Italian seafood restaurant that once occupied its space in Ball Square. I mentioned Out of the Blue in Davis Square for having an old-school, family-run vibe similar to Pescatore’s signature, but it’s also a hidden gem in haute Davis, an ever up-and-coming destination powered by the new and the hip. Sure, there’s Mike’s and Sligo, which are legit old-school, but their feel is retro even if not by design, especially so close to the re-done Rosebud (’twas the Rosebud Diner, now it’s the Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar). That brings me back to Out of the Blue, easy to miss with its slender street profile nestled tightly between Rosebud and The Painted Burro on Elm Street.
Opened more than 20 years ago by Lydia and Steve Liakos, it’s simple, quality seafood done with a Sicilian accent in a cozy, nonpretentious atmosphere suitable for your grandma or a college reunion party. The menu varies some, and there’s always daily specials. Tried and true (dare I say, “blue”) choices are the calamari (a copious serving, and light on the batter), the perfectly fried scallops, Cajun-rubbed swordfish and classic clams linguini – my family says my version can’t compare, and now it’s a regular takeout order. On my last visit I was wowed by the grilled octopus salad, tender cheeklike chunks in a tangy yet pleasingly subtle lemon vinaigrette, garnished with capers and Kalamata olives. It’s not always on the menu, so if you see it, jump.
Wines by the glass are super wallet friendly, and the crew at Out of the Blue is ever attentive and friendly; you can feel the teamwork and care and, notably, you always see the same faces working the floor. In addition to Pescatore, it reminds me of Gran Gusto (not too far away on Sherman Street in Cambridge) where the owners and chefs are often out from behind the swinging doors and interacting with patrons. I might not have learned about Out of the Blue if it were not for my friend Paul Wilson, whose 2019 homicide remains unsolved. He called it “the best seafood restaurant no one knows about.” He was spot on, and there’s a bittersweet twinge each time I walk in.
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.