Recently, Carlo and I have heard a lot of chatter about the good food and great atmosphere at The Beehive in the South End so this Friday night we decided to check it out. We arrived around 7pm to be greeted by two smiling and friendly hostesses, one of whom led us down a staircase decorated with an oversized photograph of girls in 70s-era track outfits, leaving the bustling and pub-like upstairs. Downstairs was darker and felt more like the jazz club that it turns into later at night. There was a small stage with a vintage-looking curtain, big chandeliers, and abstract paintings on the exposed brick walls. Carlo immediately remarked that he could see why people like the Beehive, as it has a very relaxed, welcoming feel. The music is good, but not too loud, the decor is whimsical, and the staff is hip but extremely friendly. All this leads to a Friday night packed with people appearing to be of all ages and backgrounds, couples and friends alike, and it definitely didn’t feel like a pick-up joint.

We were approached immediately by our very attentive but not overbearing waitress, who offered us water or cocktails or both. We took the water while we perused the wine list. The wine list is really cool. There is American, French, and Italian mixed in with Canadian, Uruguayan, Greek, Israeli and Lebanese, etc wine. We went with the Canadian, which was Baco Noir Reserve, 2004, Henry of Pelham, Ontario Canada. Our waitress said it was really good, throwing in something about berries. It’s not clear whether she actually knew anything about the wine, but it was very good, refuting any skepticism I had about the Beehive wine buyers selecting from random countries just for the sake of being different.

On to the food. We decided to get a variety of small plates rather than entrees, as the entrees did not look particularly interesting and the plates did. A lot of the food looked good, though most of it was pretty heavy, and it seemed difficult to avoid cheese in every course. I love cheese, but there was definitely too much of a good thing on this menu. We decided on Ricotta-stuffed piquillo peppers, the grilled fontina and chedder cheese sandwich with shortribs, and the poutine, which is a popular Quebecois streetfood made up of french fries doused in cheese and gravy.

The peppers came out first, and I hated them. The marinated peppers were fine, but they were copiously stuffed with ice cold mediocre Ricotta cheese. I feel queasy thinking about them.

The rest of the food was much better though extremely heavy (that’s our fault for ordering so much cheese, though like I said, it was hard to avoid). We had planned on ordering more after we went through our first plates, but could only muster up enough energy for dessert. The grilled cheese shortrib sandwich was amazing. The short ribs were delicious, perfectly complimented by the cheese and the thick soft brioche that they were served on. I couldn’t eat more than the half I was allocated, but it was delicious. The only complaint Carlo had was that he wished there was more meat and less bread, but the bread was so good that I didn’t care. The poutine was also really good, if a little over-cheesed. I have never had authentic poutine so I have no idea how this stuff measures up, but I thought it was great. The potatoes were paper-thin and engulfed in cheese and gravy. I think it got worse as we went through it and the cheese started to accumulate and cool down a little, but the first few minutes of devouring the top were well worth it.

Finally, we got mocha bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb compote for dessert. It wasn’t very good. The ice cream and rhubarb were tasty but the bread pudding was kind of dry and there wasn’t even a hint of mocha. Carlo had all sorts of negative things to say about it, but mostly it was flavourless, dense, and dry. I don’t recommend it.

In sum, our food review was mixed, but we enjoyed the experience nonetheless. The atmosphere was great, and we agreeed it would be fun to return for jazz, which does not start until 10pm on weekends. I think next time I would go for the shortrib grilled cheese and poutine and skip anything resembling a vegetable.

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