The Foodie Files

Ben Whelan

Replacing 30-year Jamaica Plain institution Triple Ds is a tall order, but Alchemist owners Relena Erskine and Lyndon Fuller are certainly up to the challenge. Longtime JP residents, the couple had talked about opening their own place in their neighborhood, and saw their chance when they heard Triple Ds was closing in 2006. Erskine and Fuller, amid worries that one of their favorite hangouts would become a Bertuccis, sprang into action and purchased the prime spot in up-and-coming Hyde Square.

What followed was a whirlwind five-month renovation where the pieces of the Alchemist were assembled from all over the city, with some items traveling hundreds of miles before reaching their final destination. The custom-made concrete bar is outfitted with the taps from Yawkey Way watering hole The Cask & Flagon, the flatware and glasses are from the now defunct Bay Tower Room and the booths inside were purchased from a seller in Virginia who had posted the items on craigslist. The most incredible pieces of the Alchemist’s décor are the 19th century gothic style lanterns rescued from a church in Mansfield that was scheduled for demolition, a find that the owners stumbled upon by chance.

After this incredible transformation was finished, the two owners found themselves in debt, but also with an establishment they were proud to call their own. Upon opening, they received a less than warm reception from the surrounding community, who were resistant to the change and what was a perceived as an attempt to replace Triple D’s, which had been a part of the neighborhood for so long. However, after a lot of convincing and a successful public relations campaign, the Alchemist is finally being welcomed into J.P. culture with open arms.

After being promptly seated in prime real estate on the patio overlooking bustling Centre St., we began our meal with a trio of the Alchemist’s famous appetizers. First up were the Hot and Sweet Pork Spare Ribs, which were coated in a tangy-sweet teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds and finished with a mild heat. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, the ribs were cooked to perfection and packed with intense flavors in every bite. The only downside was the relatively small amount of meat on each one. They were delicious and we would have liked more.

From there we moved on to the Tequila and Lime Marinated Hot Wings, a creative take on the classic bar food. While the wings were a little on the mild side for our tastes, the liberal amount of lime juice incorporated into the sauce cut the heat very nicely and added another level of complexity, elevating this version of the dish above its more traditional counterparts.

The Crispy Fried Calamari was on the bland side when taken individually, but created a very nice bite when combined with the accompanying salad of feta cheese, kalamata olives, fried pepperoncini and tomatoes.

For an entrée we were served a very classic version of Spaghetti Bolognese, which was loaded with ground pork and beef in a slow cooked marinara sauce with hints of sun-dried tomatoes and peppers. It wasn’t the most interesting menu item, although as pasta dishes go it was very satisfying and could certainly pass muster at any Italian restaurant in the city. Finally, we reached the desert phase of our meal, which we had been eagerly awaiting so that we could sample the notorious Guinness Float. Originally made famous by popular Kenmore Square nightspot Deli Haus, which closed its doors more than 10 years ago, the resurrection of this fondly remembered treat lived up to its billing. The thick, chocolaty stout perfectly complemented the rich and creamy scoop of vanilla bean ice cream supplied by neighbor J.P. Licks. This is definitely a dish to be savored slowly, not only because of its heaviness, but also because the flavors improve dramatically as the ice cream melts and blends into the beer creating a smooth almost milkshake-like texture.

As Mr. Fuller put it, the whole idea behind the Alchemist is to “bring a little bit of downtown to the hometown.” The owners set out to create a place with the atmosphere and feel of a Downtown hot spot, but without the hefty price tag and less of a corporate feel. They have certainly succeeded in this aspect, as service was attentive without being bothersome and our food service was timed very well, setting a nice pace for the meal. Our waitress Patricia, poached from the South Street Diner, complemented the hip, relaxed atmosphere and was always quick with a joke or an amusing anecdote that made us feel like regulars.

MENUThe Alchemist Lounge

While the food at the Alchemist is good, the real draw here is the wide beer selection and creative cocktail menu.

BEERThe beer menu at the Alchemist features 13 bottles and 13 drafts highlighted by Alchemist Pale Ale: a custom brew from the nearby Sam Adams brewery ($4) Stella Artois: A slightly malty import from Belgium ($4) Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life: Working class classics in an acknowledgement of the former establishments character ($3)

COCKTAILSThe inventive alcoholic concoctions from which the restaurant derives its name are the true highlight of the menu that features such selections as: The Watermelon Smash: Silver tequila, watermelon, limoncello and ginger beer ($8) The Bulleit: Bulleit Bourbon, mint & pineapple syrup, slice of orange ($9) The Kicking Mule: Triple 8 Vodka, lime juice, ginger, ginger brandy, ginger-beer ($8)

435 S. Huntington Ave Jamaica Plain, MA 02130phone:

Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pmLunch: Daily 11:30am-5pmDinner: Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed 5pm-10pmThu/Fr/Sat 5pm-10:30pmLate-Night: Thu/Fri/Sat 10:30pm-12amLounge: Nightly 5pm-1pm

MBTA: #39 bus or #41 bus

Our ChoicesCrispy Fried Calamari: $9Tequila and Lime Marinated Hot Wings: $7Hot and Sweet Pork Spare Ribs: $9Spaghetti Bolognese: $16Guinness Float: $5

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