We are suburban empty nesters who never make reservations. We are simply incapable of planning ahead, and balk at the very early or very late options proposed when we do call. But we still manage to get into the best restaurants. How? By eating at the bar. In fact, we prefer the bar for its intimacy and great service, as well as the camaraderie that forms between patrons and the chance to see what everyone else is eating.
Recently, we tried The Backroom at Moody's Delicatessen & Provisions in Waltham. The former location of the late, great Salem Market (where we could find every necessary ingredient for Italian cooking) was taken over by award-winning chef and butcher Joshua Smith, who learned to make sausage in his native North Carolina and drew raves locally as sous chef at the Four Seasons restaurants and executive chef at Tico. Smith launched Moody’s Deli, an authentic charcuterie that also serves breakfast and lunch, in 2013. He added Moody’s Backroom—with a full bar and dinner menu—in the adjacent space last spring.
We were told there would be a 45-minute wait for bar seats when we arrived, although we only waited 20 minutes. Our usual plan is to hover at the bar, get a drink and a feel for the room, and then make a beeline for the first available seats. At Moody’s, where you wait in the deli rather than the Backroom, we were ultimately seated at a beautifully crafted—if somewhat weighty—bar, with structural beams dividing the expanse into smaller sections. This limits the sociability central to the bar experience, which on this night was non-existent, as one member of the nearby couple gave an uninterrupted lecture on all things foodie to his silent companion.
Our bartender (and from what we saw, his counterpart) was excellent. He informed us that the Backroom “has designer drinks and makes great martinis” and we took his advice. The Tito’s extra dry martini straight up with a twist was perfect; the Primero (tequila, mescal, gran clasivo and lemon) was refreshing, if less bracing. Affordable wines by the glass are in high-tech dispensers. We were offered the rich and spicy Pinot Noir from the popular Ken Wright vineyard in Oregon to pair with charcuterie. (For a splurge, even first-growth Bordeaux is offered by the glass.)
We also entrusted our bartender with selecting a charcuterie and cheese plate ($15), which the Backroom offers in various sizes. The delicious standard accompaniments—slaw, pickles, fruit-based spread and toasts—were uniformly tasty, and unanimous kudos to the bartender for the country pate and three-year aged Gouda he selected for our three-item sampler. (Opinion was split on the ‘Nduja, a Calabrian salami that one of us deemed “too smoky”.) On our own, we chose the Never the Same Wagyu Meatballs ($15), a changeable and on this night incredible blend of charcuterie scraps with herbs and cheeses, covered in a thick tomato sauce that we eagerly sopped up with bread—the ultimate comfort food! For dessert we ordered homemade dulce de leche ice cream ($9), good enough to soften the sticker shock.
The meatball appetizer and charcuterie/cheese plate (and bar munchies—did we mention the truffle Fritos?), plus ice cream satisfied our appetites. We can imagine going all out on charcuterie (six items for $28) and cheese (four for $20) with friends, or sampling more of the small plates and grill items, which we were told are all made for sharing.
While the Backroom bar is convivially challenged, we were able to observe other menu items as they were served, each of which led us to begin our plans for future visits. Across the bar, we saw another couple who arrived after us, were told that the wait had increased exponentially and chose to have a drink elsewhere and return. They also were seated faster than expected. We toasted our mutual decision to hang in there.
The Backroom - 468 Moody St., Waltham, 781-216-8732, moodyswaltham.com