Tuesday, July 23, 2024

A glazed Korean pork sandwich at The Turing Tavern in Cambridge’s Inman Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The Druid and S&S Deli have long been standbys in Inman Square, but much has come and gone in the spaces that were pre-pandemic go-tos Bukowski Tavern, the East Coast Grill and Montien: the Ginger Exchange, Corazón de Frida Mexican Cantina, Drifter’s Tale and Highland Fried, to name a few. As of now, Bom Dough, a Brazilian bakery and brunch spot, has demonstrated a solid foothold, with Oak Bistro and Turing Tavern setting up where Corazon and Drifter’s Tale were. (Corazon and Drifter’s opened during Covid and shuttered in the aftermath.) The two gastropubs with very different vibes opened on the same day last month. 

Turing took over that old Bukowski/Drifter’s spot and wisely kept the old Bukowski garage door that opens up onto Cambridge Street, giving the place a Parisian cafe vibe complemented by a newly extended sidewalk with a bike lane. The bar is about how Drifter’s had it, with a patchwork decor that’s curious to say the least. (It was a real travesty when the management at Bukowski’s decided to swap out its woody, dark mantle of grunge and speakeasy atmosphere for a bar that felt cosmopolitan and upscale.) It’s a great, long bar top, perfect for camping out with your laptop or taking in a sports game. Then there’s the pink-and-violet neon grills that adorn the place. Are we at a sports bar or Trina’s Starlite Lounge? The pub’s run by the group that owns the Pi Alley gay club in Boston’s Financial District, which has resonance when you consider the tavern’s namesake: the British World War II code-cracker and godfather of AI, who spent most of his postwar time being persecuted and harassed for being gay instead of being hailed as a hero. Oscar Wilde, you are not alone.

Turing Tavern’s hummus is a gingery surprise. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The menu is geared toward sandwiches, salads and snacks, all with a definite French twang and a twist, though there are mains of seared cod and a pan-roasted chicken breast with mushroom au jus and a Jenga tower of chickpea fries. On the small-plates side, carrot hummus comes with warm slices of pita and veggies, a richly surprising changeup. It may look blandly beige like your typical hummus, meaty and just out of the blender, but one chomp and ginger and carrots emerge in a pleasing, culinary sleight of hand. A French flatbread with black truffles, shallot jam and brie is an addictive starter, but how could anything ever go wrong with caramelized onions and brie – one of those gastro got-to-haves – alongside duck and bacon? 

Another pleasing surprise is the glazed Korean pork sandwich, a super lean and juicy boneless square of pork ribs marinated in a light gochujang sauce, packed into a gorgeous brioche bun and topped with pickled veggies. That sauce isn’t quite true to the Korean chili paste’s roots, being more ginger soy with a bite, but it’s perfect with that eggy French bun. My one letdown at Turing was a chicken salad tucked neatly into fresh baguette: I appreciated the sparing use of mayo and addition of apples and raisins, but it was undeniably salty. 

The Turing Tavern’s decor is a change from the location’s days as Bukowski Tavern. (Photo: Tom Meek)

I was told by my server that the dessert menu’s cookies and milk were a reason for revelry. The sea-salt and chocolate cookies are soft, as if undercooked, which initially seemed odd, but that turned out to be an advantage when soaking up that sweet vanilla-bean milk. Thumbs up from my daughter, who shared the dessert.

Turing’s a nice addition to an area that has languished as it’s evolved. If you’re missing Bukowski Tavern, there is New Republik just down the way – or you can slide into Turing with a copy of “Tales of Ordinary Madness” and order whatever’s cheapest in a can.  

The Turing Tavern, 1281 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge 

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.