80 Thoreau

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a lovely dinner at 80 Thoreau, a restaurant I’d been wanting to try ever since they opened last year. Its location in the charming town of Concord, MA was part of its appeal, as was the fact that they source many of their ingredients from nearby farms and producers including one of my favorites, Verrill Farm. Additionally, chef Carolyn Johnson’s resume includes such standout restaurants as Rialto in Cambridge and Arrows in Ogunquit, ME. The restaurant, on the second level of the Concord train station depot, is easy to miss from the outside. Inside, the space is elegant and minimalist, with both modern and rustic touches. There are two main rooms. The first room contains the bar area and as well as several tables and is wide open with high ceilings and exposed beams. Down a short hallway is the open kitchen which is connected to a smaller, more intimate dining room.

The meal began with several shared appetizers, including tender, buttery gougères; olives in a bath of fruity, herbed olive oil; pork & rabbit terrine with pickles and house mustard; broiled oysters with saffron champagne sabayon; and pork rilletes and lardo.

Grilled Squid Salad with Meyer lemon, celery, and saffron cauliflower.

celeriac & parmesan custard with herb salad and mushrooms (normally served in a beef broth-based wild mushroom consomme) was creamy and earthy,

For my entree, I chose the Roasted Sweet Potato Tart with pecans, black trumpet mushrooms, and garlic. This was the single vegetarian entree on the menu. I was deciding between this and an assortment of the side dishes served with some of the other entrees, something I do from time to time when the vegetarian entree is less than thrilling. The tart was creamy and sweet, with a rich and nutty pecan crust. It would have erred a little too much on the side of dessert were it not for the small bit of heat and spice in the sweet potatoes. The vinegary greens cut through the richness of the tart and added a nice amount of acid. A topping of fried shredded carrots was deliciously crisp and whimsical garnish. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the tart, I would love to see the same creativity in the vegetarian entree that I saw in the appetizers and the other entrees. The grilled quail, for instance, came with an absolutely delightful pan fried crepe filled with bulgur and pistachios that would make for an excellent component of a vegetarian entree.

The dessert whose description on the menu was most enticing ended up being the one that I enjoyed the most. The Chocolate Parfait featured layers of chocolate cookie, caramel pastry cream, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, and warm caramel. It was much more reserved and less decadent than one would expect from the description. My one critique, I would have loved if it were in a glass dish so that you could see all of the layers at once.

Other desserts included a Lemon Duet of icebox pie and angel food cake with fool; Ricotta Cake with figs, pistachios, vanilla ice cream; and a delightfully creamy raspberry sorbet with shortbread.

The meal ended with a dish of chocolate-drizzled pistachio toffee. In addition to the food, the setting and the impeccable service (this meal was complimentary) played a large role in creating such a pleasant experience. Being outside the city, the restaurant had a laid-back, cheerful feel, and its location next to a train station adds to its charm. As with any restaurant that relies heavily on local produce, I look forward to seeing how the menu changes with the seasons. Though I enjoyed making a weeknight trip out to the suburbs, I would recommend to anyone else who plans on going to go on a weekend and make a day of it. Spend an afternoon visiting farms and the town of Concord and finish up with dinner at 80 Thoreau.

80 Thoreau
80 Thoreau Street
Concord, MA
80 Thoreau on Urbanspoon

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13 Responses to 80 Thoreau

  1. I think you have an interesting perspective as a vegetarian food blogger. While restaurants offer so many more vegetarian entrees than they did ten years ago when I was a vegetarian, a lot of restaurants still don’t put the same creativity as they do for their typical entrees.

  2. leslie says:

    The complimentary toffee sold me! that, and the fact that concord is adorable.

    i’d seen this place covered in the globe, but your opinion has way more weight. 🙂 love it!

  3. The food looks great (and I love Verrill farm), but I’m surprised they don’t have more vegetarian options given that they source so much from local farms! Maybe they will when the weather gets warmer…

  4. Daisy says:

    hearing lots of great reviews for this spot! nice to have your perspective. I’m glad they nailed dessert!

  5. shannon says:

    my cousin lives out there, so i should totally try it some time 🙂 surprised by the paucity of veggie options though… perhaps you should’ve asked for something at the whim of the chef 😉

  6. Your review is making me want to make the trip to Concord, this meal looks delicious!

  7. Megan says:

    Love reliving this dinner! It was so much fun and everything was so good. I need that squid salad again. And I agree the chocolate parfait would be great in a see-through glass dish!

  8. Ranjani says:

    I like the idea of making this part of a day trip out of the city, especially in this beautiful weather we are having!

  9. Sacha says:

    I have also been looking forward to trying 80 Thoreau. And the parfait? You had me at caramel pastry cream!

  10. Yum! But what a drag that they didn’t have more veggie options. I’ve been eating mostly vegetarian (though by no means completely) and it can really be challenging when out to eat (as you know)!

  11. Eating out as a vegetarian can be hard (and boring) but that sweet potato tart sounds delicious! Even though they only had one option, at least it was an interesting one!

  12. Molly Galler says:

    I’ve been steadily reading about 80 Thoreau for the last few months. It even made Devra First’s list of her best meals of 2011. So glad to have your perspective on the vegetarian offerings. Go to know before I make the trip up to Concord.

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