For years, Downtown Crossing has been known as that dead zone in the middle of Boston with tons of potential. About two years ago, I saw a shoplifter I can only describe as Ron Jeremy’s doppleganger run out Tello’s with a bag full of hideous shirts. I felt really bad for the guy that had to chase after him. Those were some hideous shirts, not worth either of those men’s dignity. And that vignette pretty much summed up how I felt about Downtown Crossing.
Luckily, over the past few years, theaters, hotels and restaurants have cropped up and revitalized the area, though the shopping still leaves something to be desired. Tello’s is still there, just to give a frame of reference.
There is now a good mix of bars, cafes and higher end restaurants. I have been to a few and found them either too focused on gimmick and not enough on food or just a little pricier than after work dinner and drinks generally warrants. Back Deck seems to have filled the space in between. Chef Paul Sussman has a great restaurant track record, having worked at venues like Fireplace in Brookline and Z Square in Cambridge. Recently, I was invited to go to lunch there to check it out.
When I first walked around to the front door from Washington Street, I noticed the huge windows wrapping around two sides of the restaurant. Apparently, those windows can slide out in good weather and allow for more interactive people watching.
The inside of the restaurant is just as interesting with casual and overt references to its namesake: a back deck. The furniture is comfortable wooden outdoor furniture. There are railings throughout that reminded me of the railings from my parent’s first house. Some of the walls have maroon subway tiles that are a clean update on exposed brick, or maybe in this case, a cute allusion to a chimney.
The music is good and reminds me what I would expect to hear coming from a friend’s iPod. The décor verges on gimmicky without being irritating or distracting.
When our waitress came by, I asked about gluten-free options. She mentioned that many of their items could be made gluten-free. She also mentioned that the kitchen has a separate gluten-free grill. Having a separate grill is huge in my book. A separate grill can help to cut down significantly on cross-contamination. Our waitress seemed overall, knowledgeable about gluten-free options, and was able to point out several items that could be made gluten-free.
I ordered a Mexicali burger and was pleased to be able to choose between various sides: cole slaw, potato salad or fries. Don’t get me wrong, I love fries and potatoes, but sometimes it is nice to be able to have something a little lighter than fries. I went with the coleslaw.
After the waitress took our order, the chef, Paul Sussman came by to say hi. He was a really nice guy. He asked me if I wanted to try one of his newest item additions: gluten-free buns from the Curtis Street Bakery in Somerville.
Chef Sussman’s interest in gluten-free options stems from a desire to help all guests enjoy his restaurant and dining out. On a personal note, one of his family members has Celiac disease.
The service was good and our lunch arrived fairly quickly. My friend had the gobbler, which was an open-faced Thanksgiving sandwich: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.
The Mexicali burger was cooked a little more than I asked for, but was not over done. There was a good balance of lettuce, onion, tomato and avocado. On top of the burger was a nice, medium heat green chili salsa. I especially liked the Chipotle mayo that came on the side so you could decide to lather it on or just use a little.
The bun was really soft and tasty. Of course, as with all gluten-free buns, it was flakey and broke up more easily than a regular gluten-bread. Don’t get me wrong, the bun did its job and held up better than some other gluten-free buns I have come across, but gluten-free bread does break apart more easily. I am not sure any chef has yet come across a way to completely eliminate this.
The coleslaw was great. Instead of the normal, super creamy coleslaw, this coleslaw was a nice blend of cabbage, onion, celery, apple and light vinaigrette. It was crunchy and fresh tasting. It really lightened the dish and kept my burger lunch from weighing me down for the rest of the day.
I was intrigued by my first visit to Back Deck and am looking forward to going back to try more.