Last week, my dear friend The Cocktail Queen suggested we meet at Bonfire, a contemporary steakhouse with a Latin American twist in the heart of Boston. It had been ages since we caught up, so I was totally game. Bonfire is one of Todd English’s restaurants, and I’d been wanting to try it. Here’s a peek around the restaurant and a look at what we ate.
This isn’t a comprehensive restaurant review by far since I’ve only eaten there once, but…I would certainly go back based on the experience. The food was great and the service was excellent.
So as in most big cities, you can lose your shirt eating out in Boston. It takes practice and skill to know how to eat well at the city’s best restaurants—without breaking the bank each time. If I’m unsure about a new place, or just want to test drive the food without committing to a whole meal, I usually have a nibble or two at the bar first.
The bar at Bonfire
Now, The Cocktail Queen is a dear old friend of mine, and knows exactly how to talk me into things quickly: “Bonfire has delicious drinks and really good, cheap, tiny tacos.”
“Delicious drinks! Wait, and…tiny tacos?”
“Oh! Well then. I’m in.” I’m a sucker for any kind of mini food. How could I resist?
Location, location, location
Let me back up for a sec and set the scene for all you non-Boston folks. Bonfire is located in the historic Boston Park Plaza Hotel down on Arlington Street.
The Boston Park Plaza Hotel
If you’ve never been inside the Plaza before, it’s worth a stroll through. It was built in the late 1920s, and is just grand and gorgeous like most of the big hotels from that period.
The lobby of The Boston Park Plaza Hotel
The lobby of The Boston Park Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Hotel is just a few blocks away from the Public Garden, on the edge of Boston’s Back Bay—one of our city’s swankier neighborhoods. (The area is just stuffed to the gills with condos, cobblestones, designer boutiques, and high-end hotels.)
Boston’s Public Garden, along Boylston Street
Here’s the view up Boylston Street from the corner of Arlington Street. The tall, blue building in the background is the John Hancock Tower, built by I.M. Pei. I worked on the 42nd floor for about a year. (The views were a-ma-zing.)
Via Matta, which serves Italian food and has a really pretty outdoor dining area, is right across the street from the Plaza.
I entered Bonfire from the street.
But there’s also an entrance inside the hotel.
The atmosphere (a.k.a. a peek inside Boston’s Bonfire)
So what’s the vibe? Bonfire is dark and inviting, with lots and lots of dark wood and stone that’s softened by richly upholstered chairs, velvety curtains, and warm, glowing lights. The crowd is 30-something-ish, stylish, and relatively well behaved.
One of the first things you see when you enter the restaurant is the stately, slate-floored wine room, Bonfire’s private dining room.
The room seats up to 22, and has a handful of prix-fixe menus.
Inside the main restaurant, the dining area is to the left.
Even before dark, the dining room is cozy and inviting. But then, we weren’t there for dinner.
The Cocktail Queen and I made a beeline for the long, curved bar to the right.
There’s a ton of seating at the bar and in the bar area. We were there after work, so I’m not sure how busy the place gets later on in the evening.
There’s a long, open kitchen behind the bar, so you can watch your food sizzle away as you sip one of the place’s signature, juicy cocktails.
The cocktails at Boston’s Bonfire
The Cocktail Queen, in typical fashion, ordered what I have to believe (admittedly based on almost no experience) has to be the best drink on the menu: An Authentic Bonfire Margarita.
Their take on the drink is a mouthwatering concoction of tequila, Grand Marnier, and lime juice topped with a splash of champagne. It was fresh and juicy, and I took the biggest sip I could politely pull off when I was offered a taste.
I was in the mood for a glass or two of red wine, and ordered a really good Cabernet-Tempranillo.
Tiny, tiny tacos
So what’s on the menu?
Like I said, this is a steakhouse with a Latin American flavor. Twenty-four ounce Porterhouse steaks share menu space with the likes of paella and appetizer portions of beef empanadas.
But that’s not why we were there. We were there for the tacos.
Which brings me to the Taqueria menu available at the bar from 5-7 pm. Four tacos are $12, and were more than enough for a small dinner.
Bar menu at Bonfire
The Cocktail Queen and I each ordered a plate of four tacos. The soft tacos were shot through with a skewer to keep them upright, and arrived on a bed of lightly dressed greens.
I had (pictured below from left to right): The smoked pork taco (by far my favorite), the smoked beef tongue (very beefy and surprisingly tender), the skirt steak taco (pink in the middle and also sliced to be very tender), and the brown butter braised lobster taco.
The Cocktail Queen had a crispy fish taco, a spicy tuna tartare taco, a smoked pork taco, and a chicken taquito.
Boston’s Bonfire: The Hungry Mouse’s Verdict
I liked Bonfire a lot—at least at this hour. I highly recommend heading over to the bar and nibbling your way through a personalized tasting menu of tiny tacos.
Who knows. We may even go back for dinner sometime.
All’s well that end’s well
Oh, and you never know what you’re going to see in Boston, especially at a place like The Plaza, which is a curious intersection for tourists, business people, locals, and—this evening at least—teenagers.
As The Cocktail Queen and I were saying our goodbyes, a flock of prom-goers swept past us, on their way to their party at the hotel. We stood and watched the kids parade by in their fancy dresses, rented tuxes, and corsages.
It was a perfect—and perfectly strange—way to end a lovely evening.