From the outside, Lincoln Tavern looks like a thousand other bars in Boston. Inside, it's a different story: the high ceilings and well worn brick walls provide instant comfort, making you feel like you belong here. There's see-and-be-seen seating by the front windows a la Sonsie, hightops further back, huge mahogany booths beyond those and a separate cavernous room further back. Both rooms have long bars that stretch the entire length of the right side. TVs are present but downplayed; I'd rather gaze at the flames in the wood oven behind the back room bar.
A big draw is the Lincoln Burger, and there's a kobe slider option as well. Naturally, I had to try both, so the Bun, Beef and Toppings sections below will do double duty.
Kobe beef sliders: It wasn't until a day after visiting Lincoln Tavern that a) I learned that Chef Nicholas Dixon previously worked at Lucky's Lounge and b) I re-read the 2012 Boston Magazine article on Boston burgers that featured Lucky's sliders. Based on appearance and description, Lincoln's sliders (two for $10) are identical. Anyway, getting down to the bun, this is a cross between ciabatta and a dinner roll that's ever so slightly on the stiff side, but more from inherent density than any freshness deficiencies. It's a good match for beef that never got too heavy but I did find it a few sizes too big for the slider patty.
Lincoln Burger: From a distance, the bun on the Lincoln Burger ($12 with fries) looks eerily like the Back Bay Social Club model, but upon closer inspection it has the coloring and texture of an English muffin. It tastes like an English muffin too, so think of it as an English muffin with brioche shape and volume. Other buns have been described here and elsewhere as pillowy, but this is more of a bean bag chair made with ball bearings. I like the rustic flavoring and that it's firm and dense enough to support a good sized patty without falling apart, but there's an awful lot of it.
Kobe beef sliders: There's a lot going on in this slider, with bun and toppings competing more furiously for attention than a women's bodybuilding posedown. It would be easy for the beef to get lost, but it doesn't. There's a light char flavor on the surface, some aggressive salting, plenty of juices and some interesting beef flavor that's refreshingly more full bodied than the usual kobe blandness. I'd still like just a little more beef here, especially since there's only two sliders per order, but overall, a nice job.
Lincoln Burger: This statuesque patty makes up for any deficiencies in the slider and then some, reaching high and all the way to the perimeter of the bun. There seems to be a nonstandard blend that gives it a little funk even though it's not billed as aged or as using esoteric cuts. Salting is again well done, but the cooking is medium rare—most of the way, at least. Parts of the patty periphery wind up going a little past that, hitting medium well in spots. Juices run rampant at the outset and through most of the experience, then dry up about 75% of the way in. There's a lot to like about this beef, even with a few minor but not insignificant rough spots.
Kobe beef sliders: The star of the show is a perfectly cooked quail egg that's soft, moist and bearing a freely running yolk. One costar is a bacon aioli—less about the bacon than the aioli—somewhat thickly applied but not too overpowering volumewise. Flavor was borderline overpowering, with a strong garlic punch. The cheese hid in the trenches somewhat but added a nice sharpness that rounded out the flavors.
Lincoln Burger: Fully melted orange cheddar completely engulfs the thick patty and adds some potent sharpness that doesn't hide at all. Onions are deep brown from a long cook that makes them more sweet than anything else, but they're struggling for fifth billing behind bun, aioli, beef and cheese. Notice how I listed the bacon aioli ahead of the beef; the most assertive of the toppings hits hardest and leaves the longest lasting impression.
The Fries (and Such)
Fries: Included with the Lincoln Burger (you can opt for a salad instead, but I opted out), these looked a little droopy but wound up being quite crispy along with that droop. They brought some good flavor from the skins and had a nice salt content too.
Mac and cheese: Ordered as an appetizer ($10), the truffled mac and cheese changed things up with the namesake addition and inclusion of peas, but the sharpness of the cheese was what stood out most. I liked the cheese quantity too: just enough to keep things moist, but restrained enough to keep the not-droopy elbows a key component.
High ceilings and high capacity beget high noise levels, so if this is a problem, consider arriving early or for weekend brunch.
Plates on adjacent tables looked great, especially the French toast and thick cut bacon.
The Bottom Line
Lincoln Tavern presents some creative takes on the slider and the burger that are both interesting and good. A few minor design flaws keep them at good as opposed to great, but the potential is there. I wouldn't hesitate to return, whether to revisit the burgers or try more of the menu.
Other Opinion/ Info
Phantom Gourmet video of Lincoln Tavern
Boston Globe review of Lincoln Tavern
Yelp reviews of Lincoln Tavern
Urbanspoon reviews of Lincoln Tavern
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