Where to: Barlette, a “BYOB bar” in the Coolidge Corner Arcade building.
Why: You like new experiences. You’d like to eat at Cobble, Barlette’s sister restaurant upstairs in the same building, but you can’t get a reservation. You just want to know what a BYOB bar is.
The backstory: Rachel Trudel and chef Emily Vena opened Cobble, a BYOB restaurant, in September 2020. Barlette followed last month. It is open Fridays and Saturdays, by pre-paid reservation only ($65 per person), with seatings at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. In an intimate, 14-seat lounge, painted in jewel tones with rich floral wallpaper, patrons cozy up in nooks or sit around an L-shaped bar. A bartender arranges trays with glassware, cocktail shakers, mixers, and garnishes; sets up ice buckets for bottles that need chilling; converses with customers — everything a bartender usually does except touch alcohol. Guests bring wine, beer, spirits, sake, whatever they’re in the mood for, or nothing at all. The mixers make for tasty alcohol-free cocktails. As the night progresses, several courses of fancy bar snacks are served.
What to eat: It’s a set menu that might best be described as a “bar picnic.” The offerings evolve: The chicken slider I ate on one visit is no longer on the menu. Currently, there’s a course of whipped goat cheese with smoked garlic gremolata and honey, served on a wooden board with dried apricots and Clear Flour sourdough bread. Then comes “Crudites & Co,” a cocktail party on a tray, featuring cheeses, cured meats, vegetables, pickles, olives, dates, potato chips, and onion dip. It’s fancy and retro and fun and satisfying. In a little glass, a pina colada parfait — coconut cake with coconut caramel, pineapple curd, roasted pineapple, whipped cream, and a cherry on top — ends the meal, with a few slices of citrus and a chocolate on the side for good measure.
What to drink: Bring a bottle, or a few, from home if you like. Or stop into neighboring shop Sorriso beforehand to pick up small-batch spirits or wine. Each reservation includes three drink options: Try a mixer like the Bow Regard (a blueberry highball with mint, lemon, and sparkling water) or the That’s All, Folks (a “spicy carrot margatini” with chiles, cilantro, and a Tajin rim). There’s also martini service, setups for a classic gimlet or Old Fashioned, or pickleback fixings. Yes, of course there’s coffee service, for your “so old-school it’s de rigueur” espresso martini. Add on tonic and lemon or lime, sparkling water, or a phony Negroni for $7 if you like, then settle up via Venmo when you go. A 20 percent service charge is added on to all reservations, in lieu of a tip.
The takeaway: Barlette is a fun experience for people who like to experiment with making their own drinks, and for those who enjoy the bar experience but aren’t partaking in alcohol. It’s like attending a festive, interactive cocktail party with strangers, in a cute apartment, with great snacks.
318 Harvard St. #11, Coolidge Corner, Brookline, 601-301-2024 (text only), www.drinkatbarlette.com