A warm summer night.Small plates of charcuterie, spreads, and local cheese.
And a huge selection of pink wines - namely, rosés.
That was our evening at Belly Wine Bar a few weeks ago. If you love sitting outside, grazing on little bites, and tasting a bunch of really interesting wines, you'll love Belly Wine Bar.
Started by the same folks who opened up The Blue Room and Central Bottle, Belly Wine Bar is a more casual cousin, dominated by a large selection of reasonably-priced but lesser known wines, both by the bottle and by the glass. The menu is full of little bites that go well with wine: charcuterie, cured meats, raw oysters, and various types of small plates (and some large plates too).
Furthermore, it's designed so you can try many types of wines without getting tipsy too fast. Their wines-by-the-glass come in 2 ounce or 5 ounce pours, which is a lifesaver for a lightweight like me.
Left: my two ounce pour; right, Bryan's five ounce pour.
The wine menu has a decent selection of bottles, mostly in the $30-$70 range. They are categorized by flavor profiles. For example, there's a section in the whites called "ginger, limes, green, piercing, slate, shapely" and another describing certain red wines called "leather, tar, smoke, rustic, countryside, artemis.
Different wines-by-the-glass are featured depending on the season. When we went, rosés were definitely the star of the show. In fact, the menu had over 30 rosés, made from all different types of grapes (e.g., merlot, pinot noirs, various blends), available by the glass.
It was hard to choose from the variety of snacks from the "Small Plates" section of the menu. Many things looked appetizing, like the fried chickpeas with lemon salt, arancini, warm ricotta with honey, or the various spreads that came with house made foccacia. We finally settled on one of the spreads, Roasted Eggplant Puree, which consisted of garlic confit, mint, and balsamic vineagar. It was good and we finished the whole thing pretty quickly.
There are several types of salumi as well as charcuterie that are available. If you're having a hard time deciding, you can get Chef's Selection for $27 (three types), or you can choose your own three. We ended up choosing our own three: Coppa ($7), Jamon Iberico ($14), and Sopressata ($7), all of which were delicious (though we still prefer the 5J Jamon Iberico that we typically buy at Formaggio, albeit it's much more expensive).
Similarly, you can get the Chef's Selection for the charcuterie as well ($27), which includes choices like rillettes, various liver mouses, terrines, and patés.
Cheeses sell for $7 each, $30 for five, or $44 for "the monger loves you", which sounds like an even larger selection that the monger chooses for you. The cheeses are not specifically listed out by name/region, but instead just listed by flavors like fresh, butter, earth, salt, funk, home grown, and the blues.
It was hard to choose a cheese based just on the adjective, but we ended up choosing "funk", which was pretty good. The cheese came with honey, crostini, and some sort of apple butter.
There are a few raw oysters on the menu as well ($3 each or 6 for $16). The day we went there were Daisy Bays from Prince Edward Island, Northern Cross from Virginia, and from Duxbury Massachusetts.
Bryan was drawn to the House Made Spaghetti with Puttanesca Sauce, which shows up on the "First Course" part of the menu. It comes in two sizes: $12 (half) and $22 (full). We ended up getting a smaller portion, which worked out just fine since we also ordered a main course. The spaghetti was quite al dente and overall the dish was solid, though nothing particularly special.
There were only three main courses on the menu: a fried chicken, hangar steak, and Roman gnocchi. The server strongly recommended the Boneless Fried Chicken ($16), so we went with that. It came with cornbread, cole slaw and salsa verde.
It was definitely very good fried chicken, on par with some of the better ones we've had in Boston (though still not quite up there with the best we've ever had).
There was only one dessert on the menu: a surprisingly savory Chevre Gelato ($8) served with rosemary shortbread and candied citrus. I'm not naturally a huge fan of goat cheese, but this ice cream was executed well and I could still appreciate it even though it wasn't one of my favorite flavors.
The best part was the whole atmosphere. I loved sitting out on the patio, soaking in the warm weather while watching the sunset. The mini lights added to the festive and cozy nature of the outdoor patio.
I liked the small-plates focused menu. I didn't feel at all pressured to necessarily order an "appetizer" and a "main course" like I would at a more traditional restaurant. It was most certainly fun to graze our way through the menu, tasting little bits of salumi, cheese, and small plates. If it weren't for the blog (and me trying to sample something from each section of the menu), I would have much preferred to order a few smaller items and calling it a day.
There is one option for large appetites. Parties of 4-8 people can reserve an "Arm + A Leg Dinner" with 48-hour notice. For $62 a person, guests can enjoy a 4-course dinner + dessert consisting of a themed meat. The day we went, the menu was featuring lamb, and had courses like lamb tortellini, lamb leg, and even a dessert that was titled "something sweet + lamby". (?!)
Overall, I love the concept of Belly Wine Bar. The wine selection is fun and you'll most likely discover something you've never tried before. Even though none of the food blew me away, I still found it all to be very enjoyable, especially with the fun wines and the lovely atmosphere. It's definitely worth visiting.
Summer is running out soon, so get out there while the weather's still good!
Belly Wine Bar
One Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
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