It’s summertime and the outdoor dining is easy at Wellesley restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a fancy dinner or just a place to take the kids in a setting where dropped food on the floor just seems like less of a big deal outside than in, there’s a spot for you in town. The first two are places we’ve visited recently. From there, in no particular order, are some of our other favorites:
Bocado Tapas Bar, 45 Church St.
Bocado hit instant popularity since its 2014 opening, and with the recent closing of Blue Ginger, we’re told business there is better than ever. On our recent summertime lunch visit to the tapas spot’s 12-table outdoor seating area overlooking both Abbott and Church Street, we settled into a small cafe table protected from the sun with a red umbrella. It’s a busy spot and we amused ourselves by counting how many panicked drivers realized that Abbott Street is one-way and they are trying to go the wrong way. Our server told us it’s something of a staff hobby as well, and that no one there is surprised by the occasional fender bender that results from confusion at that tough intersection.
He then casually suggested the sangria, a house specialty that we’ve enjoyed before, but we’d been scared straight by the missteps of the (presumably) sober drivers we’d been watching, so a refreshing lemonade it was. Along with our drinks order, we put in a request for a favorite of ours, the mozzarella stuffed crispy rice balls with basil aioli ($7). They arrived piping hot, and the lightly fried exterior gave way to a creamy rice and cheese interior. The six served were just enough for two to share as an appetizer.
For the main part of my meal, I ordered the seared rare Ahi Tuna salad, served with cucumber, onion, tomato, carrot, spicy quadilla peppers, and smoky roasted garlic dressing ($16). The tuna had a beautiful salty crunch to it, courtesy of the sea salt crystals sprinkled on each of the gorgeous, heartbreakingly fresh four pieces. The tomatoes, however, should have been flat-out refused entry to the kitchen, evoking the unripe, tasteless drear of winter rather than the sweet, sun-kissed warmth of summer. If it means keeping such substandard tomatoes the heck off the Ahi tuna salad until August, then that’s what the chef should do. Just please, don’t torture anyone else with that “taste” of January until it actually is January. And even then…
My companion had the iberio ham and manchego cheese grilled flatbread with pimenton (an essential ingredient in Spanish cooking, similar to paprika), white sauce, arugula, olive oil, and sea salt ($15). He commented that the cheese to ham ration was perfect, and that the open-face way of serving it gave it big-time style points for presentation. It was definitely multiple steps up from the grilled ham and cheese that comes his way at home.
All in all, a Bocado is one of Wellesley’s best places to sit outside and enjoy a great meal.
Bruegger’s Bagels, 97 Central St.
Everybody knows Brueggers as a tried-and-true standby for bagels, sandwiches, soups. It’s got a nice outdoor seating area of four tables, which overlook Washington St. and the very picturesque Wellesley Square fire station. Emergency vehicles pull in and out and the street life is generally very active with dog walkers, parents pushing their kids in strollers, and shoppers swinging their prestige bags from one (or more) of Wellesley Square’s swank shops.
Inside, the casual breakfast and lunch place has a busy and welcoming atmosphere. There’s most likely at least one local teen working the counter, and if you order the Sweet Georgia turkey sandwich, one of the chain’s limited-run options, and she hasn’t ever made it, well she’s willing to try (and nail it). Made with an unusual pairing of spicy peach preserves on tomato basil bread, the next time I’ll order the bread toasted. A. Luz was on the register, moving the transaction along with speed and accuracy. As Coach Broe once said, “Someday this guy will sell you something.” That day has come.
My companion ordered his usual, a BLT on a toasted plain bagel. If he even tasted it, I’m not sure how, that’s how quickly it disappeared. No matter, we’d also ordered twelve bagels to go, so he had plenty to nibble on while I ate my lunch. Excruciatingly. Slowly. So I’m told.
Upper Crust Pizzaria, 99 Central St.
Upper Crust is right next door to Brueggers, making this the closest thing Wellesley has to a restaurant row. We come here to sit at one of the spot’s four outdoor tables when we want thin crust New Haven-style pizza without the two-hour drive. I’m also partial to their Greek salad, which includes plenty of feta and nice crisp greens.
b.good, 102 Central St.
The recently re-imagined outdoor seating area of this counter-serve chain that features health-conscious versions of fast-food favorites such as baked fries makes the dining experience feel more relaxed, less gulp-and-go.
In the past, I’ve enjoyed their Power Bowl, a bed of kale with organic quinoa, sesame carrots, brussels sprouts, crunchy chick peas, pepitas, tomato vinaigrette, topped with a (local, of course) easy-over egg. The egg was just so lovely, a crowning achievement of protein, its yolk nice and runny when I broke into it and mixed it in with the rest of the ingredients. When kale cravings hit, I now go to b.good and let then do the work. Yes, you read me correctly. Kale cravings. Thanks to b.good, they’re officially a thing in Wellesley.
Wellesley boasts four Dunkin’ Donuts, and this one has a comfortable, 2-table outdoor seating area. Come here in the morning for your coffee and donut, then enjoy a Baskin Robbins cone later on. Located adjacent to b.good.
Juniper, 13 Central St.
Juniper has served Greek Mediterranean cuisine and libations from their full bar in Wellesley since 2014. The owners also run Needham’s Sweet Basil restaurant. Their outdoor area is just adorable, with white lights and flower boxes. We’ve tried out the eggplant baba ghanoush served with pita bread. Its creamy texture and smoky flavor, along with the homemade pita, made it a winner. Also tasty is the souvlaki, marinated and grilled chicken and pork skewers served on a bed of greens.
The seafood couscous, made with mussels, swordfish, and the most briny-tasting, fork-tender octopus ever, is generously portioned. The grilled swordfish was fresh and delicious.
The menu offers pizza, salad, pasta and more at this popular location, known as Playhouse Square, that once housed a movie theater. The outdoor area seats about 20, and if the weather is on the dicey side, the staff just pulls down the shades so that diners don’t get rained on.