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Eating Boston: Pub Grub Gone Gourmet at Ten Tables Jamaica Plain

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Like every other college student juggling exams, papers, and reading, I just want a break some evenings. Lingering over a couple of great drinks and good food in an off-the-beaten-path locale can often provide the perfect escape.

Problem is, drinking anything that isn’t a dollar draft, or bottom-shelf liquor, gets expensive. Fortunately, many restaurants have elevated their tavern fare to gourmet heights. The reinvented cuisine can be filling, and a fraction of the price of an entrée, so that imported beer or crafted cocktail is suddenly affordable.

My favorite spots include Publick House in Brookline, a Belgian gastro-pub with a staggering selection of Belgian brews that couple nicely with a cone of frites or a cheese board, as well as Lord Hobo in Inman Square, which has a great selection of cocktails and imports along with delicious, inexpensive appetizers like deviled eggs and fried oysters.

When I heard that Ten Tables, a beloved Jamaica Plain restaurant offering seasonal and local cuisine, recently opened a bar with house-made “Bar Bites,” I headed over on a Sunday evening, sister in tow.

We settled at a high-top table in the small, inviting bar area, an addition to the original restaurant space. I ordered a Prickly Pear Martini, a combination of pear juice, vodka, and spicy ginger syrup. My sister ordered the Le Gaston 76, a mix of White Lillet, tarragon, and cucumber. Mine was spicy and sweet, hers floral and refreshing.

After sopping up a dish of olive oil with complimentary crusty rolls, we decided to order a few “Bites.” The fresh ricotta ($6), made in-house, came whipped and laced with lemon. Spread on a baguette with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, it provided a creamy counterpart to our tangy drinks. Roasted root vegetables ($6), a medley of celery root, parsnips, and turnips seasoned with rosemary, were served sizzling in a crock and were perfectly crispy and savory.

We moved on to the antipasto board ($13), piled high with pita chips, smoked paprika hummus, tzatziki, eggplant caponata, marinated mushrooms and artichokes, pickled green beans, and fennel. The smoky hummus was less creamy than I expected, but I appreciated the lighter contrast with the thick tzatziki. The pickled vegetables were the surprise favorite, adding an extra sweet and sour zing to the other components.

After the antipasto we were stuffed. But we forged ahead, trying the TT Mac and Cheese ($13), a crock of artisanal jumbo elbow-shaped pasta baked with gooey Lagouile cheese and topped with homemade breadcrumbs. The giant cylindrical shape of the pasta was key — each tube trapped a melty mouthful of cheese.

Two people could have shared fewer bar bites and would have been quite satisfied. Four bites was definitely pushing the limit. But when each bite is as flavorful and tasty as these, it’s hard not to ask for more.

Prices on the Bar Bites menu range from $5 to $23.

TTJP Bar, Ten Tables Jamaica Plain, 597 Centre St., 617-524-8810, www.tentables.net.

When she’s not sipping a pint of Hobgoblin, Leah can be reached at lmennies@gmail.com.

Do you have a favorite spot for bar food? Let us know in the comments.

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