I’ve been anticipating the opening of for Rachel Miller Munzer’s new restaurant space for what seems like years. I’ve been such a fervent fan of her eponymous Bay Village breakfast-and-lunch spot Rachel’s Kitchen for ages — you know, now that I’m thinking about it, it might have been the first restaurant I blogged about. Over time, I had heard that Miller Munzer’s original restaurant concept, The Village Table, had fallen through; when the rumblings of a Cambridge eatery reached my ears, the nail-biting and toe-tapping began. After all, I had seen (and smelled, and eaten) what this woman and her husband Alon Munzer could create for breakfast, so I couldn’t wait to see (and smell and eat) what the two could come up with for dinner.
A few months ago, I found out where the future restaurant was located — 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue — and my heart sank. Since the it’s right down the block from the Kendall Square movie theater, you would think that anything occupying the space would do a brisk business, but I never thought that was the case. During my years in the area, I’ve seen a handful of bars, pubs and restaurants come and go in that exact spot. I wanted to make sure I was able to drop by ASAP in case the place wasn’t able to put a kibosh to the curse, so when Alyssa and Guillaume asked us out to dinner, I immediately suggested Hungry Mother.
The menu skews towards Southern comfort food, an culinary arena I must admit that, as a child of foreign parentage, I am not at all familiar with. I am very familiar with bacon, however, so I insisted that the group of us place an order for the deviled eggs and with bacon ($4.00). Listed in the menu under “To Tide You Over…” these creamy little egg halves were pretty close to perfect.
I’m trying no to subscribe to the school of thought where, if you like something, you must have more and more and more; shouldn’t you instead savor and relish and thoroughly enjoy the quantity you’ve got? More doesn’t make anything better, after all. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that three egg halves divided amongst three people — Keith abstained — should have been more than enough… but it wasn’t. I wanted so badly to ask for more and more and more.
We four decided to split an appetizer as well, opting for the shrimp and grits ($9.00). Guillaume, Frenchman that he is, had never had grits, and this sounded like too delicious a version to pass up. Grits, or coarsely ground corn, are very Southern; Hungry Mother amped up the Southern-ness by serving it alongside two other Southern items: tasso ham and maque choux. Both can trace their origins to Cajun cuisine, and they added a nice jolt of flavor to the plate. I’m surprised we were all able to share so well. We did, however, ask for extra bread to sop up all the remaining juices, of which there was plenty to go around.
As soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew I was going to order the catfish ($17.00), but not for the regular reasons. See, I don’t really like catfish, and I thought that if I was going to trust anyone to serve me a catfish that might have the potential to change my mind, it would have to be Chef Barry Maiden. (Think about it: if Rachel’s Kitchen can get me to wax poetic about a bagel, what could Hungry Mother make me say about a fish?) Here’s my verdict: fantastic. The fish had a crispy and golden cornmeal crust, and was tender and flaky beneath — a nice combinations of textures. You can’t really see it in the picture, I’m now realizing, but also featured on the plate were some really delicious collard greens. I’ve been told that collards are normally quite bitter but these were sweet and citrusy, two of my favorite flavors. Some Carolina Gold Rice middlins (literally broken grains of rice) and a mustard-caper brown butter sauce finished everything off.
After eating all this food, I simply did not have the capacity in my belly for dessert. If that hadn’t been the case, I most likely would have tried the watermelon sorbet; it is summer, and I can’t think of anything more refreshing on a hot night than that. Another exhilarating thought came to mind as Keith and I said our goodbyes and goodnights: is the jinx of 233 Cardinal Medeiros at its end? Has a restaurant finally come along that will last the long haul?
God, I hope so.
233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141