Every year, to coincide with March Madness, the Boston Globes website does something called Munch Madness. They bracket 64 of the best/most popular restaurants in Boston and the surrounding area, and they let readers vote on them. Just like in the NCAA March Madness tournament, the winners move on to the next round until there is an ultimate champion. The last two years, a small southern inspired restaurant called Hungry Mother in Cambridge has won. So, to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, Cathy and I decided to have dinner here.
Hungry Mother has a relatively small menu. The good news is, upon investigation, I found that they were quite gluten free friendly. Many of the dishes are gluten free to begin with, and many others become gluten free if something like crostini is left off of the dish.
Downstairs there is a small area with two tables and a bar. Upstairs is the main dining room with about twelve tables. I must say the clientele is quite eclectic. Diagonally across on my right hand side was a table of older couples. The men were in dress shirts and slacks, while the women were in dresses. Directly across from me was a young couple. She was wearing a mini dress; he was wearing a polo shirt, shorts and flip-flops, while my wife and I were wearing something just short of business casual.
I have read various reviews mentioning that Hungry Mother’s bartenders are incredible. However, Cathy chose to get their wine du jour, while I chose to go with sweet tea. I mean, how could I go to a southern restaurant and not get sweet tea? The tea by the way was just right, not overly sweet like it sometimes can be.
Both Cathy and I had the same appetizer, which was the New Orleans BBQ shrimp and grits. We have tried shrimp and grits in many places, including the Pink House in Savannah and Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain. This was unlike either of those. This had a heat to it that you felt on the back of your tongue, but it wasn’t over powering on your pallet. The Tasso ham brought some smokiness to the party, and some gluten free cornbread croutons brought a nice bit of crunch to the dish.
We shared the large skillet cornbread, which as I mentioned was gluten free. It was very crunchy on the outside with good corn flavor, but was ever so slightly dry on the inside, though Cathy didn't think so. That being said, it had very good flavor. It was topped with sorghum butter, which I had never had before, but certainly can’t wait to have again. I suspect it was sweet sorghum that was used.
For our entrées, I had the smoked pork shoulder and Pat’s clams. Pickled peppers, ramps, hominy and potatoes were also incorporated into the dish, along with a sauce. To make this gluten free, all that had to be removed from the original dish was a piece of grilled crostini. The clams were very fresh, and the pork shoulder was smoky, and appeared to be fairly lean for that cut of pork. The texture was not like shredded pork, but instead were in small chunks. The left over cornbread was used to sop up the sauce.
My wife chose to have the scallops, with sea island peas, bacon (everything’s better with bacon), pea tendrils and pickled red onions. The scallops had a good sear to them, but were perfectly opaque on the inside. Again, the other items were incorporated into the dish for different textures, and flavors. This dish was also completely gluten free.
Finally, we shared the butterscotch pot de crème. This was also gluten free, and had a salty aftertaste to it which I believe was also used to make their salted ice cream. It was full of butterscotch flavor, but the finish was a bit salty for me…which is not to say I wouldn’t have it again.
One thing I really liked was the portion size of the dishes. As you can see from the pictures, the entrees were not massive quantities of food, nor were they so small you felt like you were getting ripped off. This was the perfect amount of food, so when you left, you didn’t leave feeling bloated or wanting.
So, when you’re feeling blue, and your mother isn’t around, go to Hungry Mother for some fine Southern Comfort Food.