There are two things the city of Boston has in excess: Tom Brady jerseys and low-lit dive bars. You could throw a rock in any direction and hit a pub or a Pats jersey. Most likely you'll hit someone in a pub wearing a Pats jersey. And then you'll have to fight that person because they've been drinking and you just hit them with a rock.
While I do not own any sports memorabilia, I do love a good dive bar. This love is what got me out of in the house and into a snowstorm so I could eat my dinner at Trina's Starlight Lounge in Cambridge.
Trina's is hidden away in Inman Square, that strange no-man's land between Cambridge and Somerville that you can only get to by bus or by foot or by uber. From the outside, Trina's is unassuming and easy to miss. Even I cruised passed it a ton of times before realizing it was a legitimate restaurant that served actual food. It just kinda give off that beer-nuts-and-tall-boys vibe, you know? Which I am all for, I'm just saying, does this look like the kind of place you could walk into and order corn fritters with a lavender-honey dipping sauce?
Well guess what, friend? You can.
Here's my first disclaimer; Trina's is dark. Which, again, is not an issue except when you are an aspiring hobbyist restaurant critic who wants to take pictures of your food for your blog. I snapped these pics with nothing but a votive candle and the flash from my phone's camera for lighting so while they're not pretty, they're honest. And in this day and age that's what counts, right?! Whatever. Let's get on with it.
Trina's menu consists of gussied up Southern classics like vidalia collard dip and shrimp etouffee. They put a valiant effort into offering vegetarian choices, like the option of changing a burger to a veggie patty and a hotdog to a tofu pup. They do have a "vegetarian plate" which the diner creates by choosing 3 side dishes from the list below:
If you chose the vegetarian plate, you can basically pick between 2 vegetables and potatoes cooked 5 different ways. Which is not unappealing, but hardly exciting.
My dining partner and I started our meal with their fried green tomatoes. I was happy enough about fried green tomatoes be themselves, so I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived along with an herbed bean salad.
You know you've been vegetarian for too long when you're "pleasantly surprised" by beans.
Overall, these were delicious. They were well fried and perfectly crisp but the bib lettuce and herbed beans gave the dish a refreshing, light quality. However, green tomatoes are light-tasting and a tangy, and these were a little overwhelmed by the fried crust and sauce. It was more like a crunchy fried patty with a hint of green tomato.
For entrees we got mac and cheese and their veggie burger, done "Starlight Style". I haven't had macaroni and cheese in years, so I got overly excited to eat this when it arrived. My trash photo doesn't do it justice, but this baby is a sweet pile of pasta and cheese topped with Ritz crackers. We added spinach and broccoli for like, health.
This was true soul food, made all the better with the giant bottle of Frank's the waitress brought us. If you don't put hot sauce on your mac and cheese, I don't care to know you.
I also appreciated the gooeyness of this dish. Get away from me with your dry-ass baked mac and cheese! People who prefer baked mac and cheese over gooey are the same people who don't use Frank's, and they should all be institutionalized or shipped to Australia.
Onto entree #2. Getting your burger "Starlight Style" means it comes topped with fries, coleslaw and "Starlight Sauce". Every burger-serving restaurant has a "special sauce", and we just pretend like they're not all slightly varying versions of Big Mac sauce. So while they don't get originality points for the sauce, they do get points for making their patties in-house!
Now I may not know much about wine or cheese, but I do consider myself something of veggie burger connoisseur. I personally believe veggie burgers should live up to their name and include actual veggies, not just some rice or oatmeal held together by eggs. Otherwise, you're just eating a carb patty between carb buns! We deserve as much protein as our omnivore brethren!
So when our waitress excitedly told me, "The veggie patties are so good! We make them here, and the're filled with rice and stuff!" my heart sunk a tiny bit. I took a very anatomical cross-section photo of my burger so I could truly analyze it's contents:
I told you these pics would be honest! It looks like the patty is mostly rice and beans, with the occasional carrot bit thrown in for moisture. So while the patty on it's own wasn't dazzling, the burger as a package was pretty damn tasty. I mean, they put fries on it!
The Good :
- Tasty, un-pretentious soul food.
- Homemade veggie burgers! Make this the industry standard, you lazy jerks!
- The mac and cheese alone was worth braving a snowstorm and paying for an uber
The Bad :
- Very limited number of vegetarian dishes. Our two entrees we half the vegetarian offerings on the menu.
I tried really hard to come up with more things for The Bad list, but honestly, there weren't any! I must be feeling generous, or maybe I'm still coming down from my mac and cheese high.