Friday, May 10, 2013

The Colonial Inn, Concord

I have lived almost my entire life in Lexington, and yet I've somehow managed to go all these years without a visit to The Colonial Inn in Concord. Maybe that has something to do with the long-standing feud between Lexington and Concord (because they can't accept the fact that the first shot of the American Revolution was fired in Lexington), or, more likely, why would I visit an Inn in the town right next to mine?

The Colonial Inn, originally built in 1716 and in operation as a hotel since 1889, could continue to operate based on its history alone. What tourist (and yes, this region sees bus loads of tourists each year) wouldn't want to stay in such a historic spot (which may or may not house a ghost or two)? But recent personnel changes and a revamping of the Inn's two restaurants have made it more than just a historic spot. I was invited to spend an evening sampling dishes from both restaurants, and how could I say no?

We started the evening in the taproom, decked out much as it would have been during the Colonial period, with low ceilings, rustic tables, brass lamps - the perfect spot to enjoy a bit of whiskey or beer. This room, along with a larger bar room in the back and a restaurant room in the front of the building, make up Liberty, the Inn's gastropub. We enjoyed bites from the bar menu a we listened to the in-house historian, Arthur. The crab johnnycakes (less johnnycake, really, and more an impressive crab cake) and the smoked maple bacon bites (served on skewers with little bits of roasted sweet potato) were my favorites. All of the bacon is made in-house, and it's the attention to the little things like that that make a difference here. I would happily stop in for bacon bites and a drink any day.

After our cocktail hour, we moved into Merchants Row, the more formal dining room in the Inn. Our meal, meant to highlight the new menu and new chef at Merchants Row, was served in small portions (ie the portions in my pictures here are not indicative of what you'd order). I found quite a few dishes that I would happily order full servings of.

The highlights of the meal for me were the various seafood dishes. We started with salmon tartare, and while that's never my thing, I appreciated the skill with which it was made. Next up was shrimp and grits, which I'm pretty sure everyone at my table agreed on as being phenomenal. Granted, I haven't had shrimp and grits in the South, but this was by far the best rendition I've ever had. The grits were appropriately cheesy, the shrimp were buttery and perfectly cooked, and the little bits of bacon, mushroom, and scallion on top tied everything together. In fact, this dish is on the menu in Liberty as well, so you can pair it with your drink and bacon bites. After a sorbet palate cleanser, we had our last seafood course, a Meyer lemon scallop with parsnips and beets. I am always in awe of perfectly cooked scallops, and these were wonderful. Our final dish was a duo of beef - short ribs and steak frites - and while they were very good, they paled in comparison to the seafood that had come before.

And then a dessert sampler came out. The chocolate stout cake was fine, the bread pudding was tasty, but oh, the blondie sundae! I could have happily eaten another one, even after the huge meal we'd had. This perfect sundae consisted of tiny bites of blondies, topped with ice cream, whipped cream, caramel corn, and nicely salty caramel. I was definitely licking that plate clean, and you would have too.

I am happy that I have finally visited The Colonial Inn, and even happier still that I've found a lovely spot to send visitors to the area to eat. As the days get nicer, Concord is a perfect spot to spend the day exploring (again, not as perfect as Lexington, but I'm biased), and lunch or dinner at The Colonial Inn would be the perfect way to wrap up the day (especially if you order one of those blondie sundaes!).

Full disclosure note: my meal was provided for free by the Inn.