Black Horse Tavern is a cozy stop
This is the scene in the Black Horse Tavern on a recent winter night: A man clutching a weeks-old baby in one arm and a diaper bag in the other asks the hostess whether the bathrooms have changing tables. (One does.) A round table of people who look younger than the legal drinking age share pizza and onion rings, alternating between boisterous conversation and awkward silence. A 30-something-looking man with a British accent heads to the bar with a friend. Near the coat rack, a hard-of-hearing elderly gentleman sits on a chair, asking “What?’’ repeatedly, as his group waits for their table.
It’s hard to imagine a more varied mix of ages than the crowds that fill this new tavern in Winchester Center. And crowds they are — the Black Horse Tavern is routinely packed. The owners nicely renovated this former bevy of shops into a warm and cozy dining room — bar in the back, booths and tables in the front. The ceiling shines with an intricate pattern of new copper tiles, and a stone fireplace projects heat from one end of the room. This is a fun place to spend a few hours — even if it does mean waiting a while for a table, and even if the food is decidedly mixed.
The Black Horse Tavern, which seats 88, doesn’t take reservations. You can call ahead to be put on a waiting list. Even so, we wait about a half-hour for a table one night between Christmas and New Year’s, though on an earlier night, the wait is shorter. On two visits to the restaurant, the time it took for our food to arrive varied wildly. The first time, we had barely finished ordering when our meals flew out of the kitchen.
Four margarita shrimp ($11.95) are lightly glazed with a tequila orange sauce and served with spicy-sweet pineapple salsa. Baked spinach artichoke dip ($9.95) is actually a thick cheese sauce with a little bit of spinach and a few slivers of artichokes, although the pita chips on the side are quite good. The veggie burger ($8.95) tastes like an afterthought, bland and dry. One margarita pizza ($16.95) is big enough to feed the whole table, and made with a sturdy and nicely crisp crust. Garden fettuccini ($16.95) is another favorite, and seems fresh even in the dead of winter with still-crisp asparagus and red peppers, and a dusting of arugula.
We like that the kids’ menu is more varied than most, with eight entrees, including steak tips and Caesar salad, and a choice of five sides. And our table, too, falls quiet as the brownie sundae ($6.95) arrives, though there’s nothing awkward about this silence. It’s the silence of contentment.
Kathleen Burge can be reached at email@example.com.