Thursday, June 20, 2024

The turkey club at Salt + Stone in Somerville’s Assembly Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Assembly Row doesn’t have many genuinely local food spots. There’s Legal Sea Foods and Tony C’s, but those are part of corporate restaurant conglomerates. Zo Greek is legit, but there’s also Salt + Stone – with an interior that is deceptively spacious, taking on new form and context as it meanders. As you enter there’s your classic 10 to 15 short-backed upholstered stools and TVs to watch sports on, but the bar drops to low seats and bows out to form a raw bar where dinners get to ogle pre-shucked shellfish on ice. Then the bar top arcs again, and diners can look into the open kitchen with a hearth oven where pizzas are wood fired. ’Tinis, clams and ’za – it’s a neat concept that took over the spot that was Midici, a Providence-based pizzeria. (Pizza, or perhaps just that oven, is in its DNA.) And it’s run by Sean and Sue Olson, who ran the Midici and kept the space for an independent restaurant as the chain departed.

There’s one menu for lunch and dinner (as well as a weekend brunch) sliced up into pasta (twirl + taste), salads (forage + field), pizza (wood + fire) and mains and sandwiches (hold + hearty). Each section of the menu has a decent balance of land, sea and veggie; take the mains, which has a rib-eye, chicken and scallops, ahi tuna and salmon. Lots going on, but done competently with portions that are more than generous and quite a deal for the dollar. I’ll cite the crabcake plate the gentleman next to me was noshing on: three large crabcakes perfectly browned, a lush surrounding of mango salsa and a garnish of salad. I kept looking for it under mains, but sure enough that plate that looked like a meal in its own right was an appetizer.

My attentive and friendly server told me that her favorites were the Margherita flatbread, turkey club and crostini with burrata. Others on the pizza slate included a wild mushroom, spicy red known as “The Devil’s Flatbread” and lobster with corn and goat cheese. A good spot for a pause: I love the creative ingenuity of pizza and lobster spins, but if you’re going to give me lobster, for the most part I just want lobster; and if you’re going to give me pizza, give it to me with marinara and mozzarella (with the exception of the fabulous O’Re at Gran Gusto). I recently had a clam pizza and rued my selection instantly. Similarly, the tempura lobster tail as part of my lobster ramen experience at WakuWaku made me yearn for an unadulterated version of its tender steamed charms. Rant off. Back to Salt + Stone.

I began with the tuna poke stack, an impressive tower of tender cubes of raw ahi and silky avocado with soy sauce, wasabi aioli and wonton chips – it was simple, of good quality and tasted as good as it looked. Taking my server’s recommendation, I signed up for the turkey club, which felt like an anticlimactic choice. When it arrived, though, I was more than pleased. It wasn’t a high stack that you needed two hands and a gaping maw to get around, but fluffy layers of lightly toasted sourdough with a briochelike quality. Inside was moist, oven-roasted turkey with lettuce, tomato, avocado aioli and just the right amount of crisp applewood bacon. (Some may complain it’s too subtle, but in the final result I applaud the restraint.) The club came with housemade chips, which is cause for another jumping-off point: “Housemade chips” have become a trend, which is fine, but I’d be just as happy with a side of Cape Cod chips with less grease and more salt. 

No matter: Salt + Stone offers a menu with a lot to explore that can be many things to different people – a fine dinner, date night, slow book club burn, gastropub or bar-top lunch. 

Salt + Stone (463 Assembly Row, Assembly Square, Somerville)

Easter brunches

Looking for a good spot for Easter Sunday brunch? Bambara Kitchen & Bar has a new brunch menu, and Colette has relaunched its French-infused brunch menu; Pagu is offering an Easter brunch special with bacon and egg bao, a build-your-own congee bar and waffle churros; and you can never go wrong with the seasonal carving stations and salad bar at Nubar in the Sheraton Commander.

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.