We’ve been eager to check out the new Wild Horse Café, since we were great fans of new owners Matt Blanchard and Sam Hunt when they were at 15 Walnut in Hamilton. (Blanchard and Hunt took over the restaurant from Brendan Crocker several months ago.) The renovated space and updated menu were overall a hit, with a couple of minor quibbles.
The interior is lighter and brighter, but still quite cozy. The sound levels are very good, with the upholstered furniture doing its job, and the décor is quirky without being over the top. The bar in the dining room is gone (the separate bar area remains), but the cocktails are in full force. We loved the generous-sized raspberry lime rickey, an adult version of the ones we used to splurge on at Brigham’s ($11) and the hot & dirty martini, which had just the right spice level ($10).
We started with a meze plate, choosing grilled asparagus, cheese of the day, and olives from a list of potential meze ingredients ($12). The cheese was outstanding, and the asparagus was wonderfully smoky. We asked about the preparation and were told it’s from a wood-fueled grill. We couldn’t resist the Thai poutine, which featured decadent fries coated in Thai spices and laced with peanut sauce ($8). Sounds weird, tasted great.
The menu is well thought out, with salads, small plates, and sandwiches along with standard apps and entrees. The specials include a daily cheese, salad, taco, flatbread, and pasta, keeping things interesting and fresh.
The meat dishes we tried were terrific, including steak frites ($24), meltingly tender short ribs with mashed potatoes and the smoky asparagus ($26), and the good-sized lamb chop small plate, also deliciously smoky ($14). We didn’t love the pesto accompanying the lamb, which was bitter, and the swordfish in the taco plate ($17) was on the rubbery side. But the tortillas were grilled, and the salsa and coleslaw were flavorful and made for a wonderful combination with the fish. Given the ingredients, it will surprise no one that the pork dinner was the group favorite, featuring slow-cooked pork shoulder with Moxie barbeque sauce, confit belly, and kale braised with bacon ($19).
We suspect Blanchard and Hunt are still refining the menu, looking to make a mark in the area while giving customers what they want. We’d hope to see service levels bumped up a bit—our waitress was more harried than friendly on a moderately busy night.
We certainly did not need dessert, but we splurged anyway. We enjoyed the bananas foster (although the bananas could have been caramelized a bit more, $7), and the chocolate therapy cake ($8) was served too cold but was wonderfully decadent once it warmed up.
Wild Horse Café
393 Cabot St, Beverly