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Sterling’s opened this spring, the latest offering from the Glynn Hospitality Group (Granary Tavern, Clerys, Jose McIntyre’s, and more). What makes it stand out? “Sterling’s initial allure is its impressive atmosphere, the upscale eatery’s ‘it’ factor is thanks to a trifecta of stand-out elements that includes equally appealing masterfully crafted cocktails and creative comfort cuisine.” So says the website, sounding like an instruction manual for an appliance manufactured in a non-English-speaking country.
But Sterling’s true allure, initial and otherwise, is its patio. Those who work here know it. There’s not even a question: inside or out? The hostess simply leads guests to one of the al fresco tables.
Glynn’s properties aren’t meant to be gourmet hot spots. They draw people in with reasonable prices and the promise of drink. Every city needs this kind of place. But value and simplicity don’t preclude quality. At Sterling’s, the food is sometimes insultingly bad.
The pork belly sliders feature dry meat and no discernible Dr. Pepper (or other) flavor. Swedish meatballs are mush. Fondue arrives with a skin over its surface, some past-their-prime red grapes moldering in a side dish. Sterling’s burger is so unmemorable I actually, literally, can’t remember it.
In comparison, then, it is easy to get excited about Sterling’s better dishes. Roast chicken is nicely done, with juicy meat and crisp, well-seasoned skin. Linguine is served al dente, garlicky and entwined with tender clams and bits of tomato; there’s a real kick from chili oil. And a lobster roll features a good amount of meat, cloaked in a bit of mayo, on brioche. See? Simple yet still good, particularly when eaten during the tail end of summer on an urban patio, watching the clean-cut crowd meet cute as strains of live music float in from Faneuil Hall.