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Lunch, Anyone? Parish Café

Elevating the humble sandwich to something remarkable

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Parish Cafe. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

There are few restaurants that have done for the lowly sandwich what Parish Café has. This upscale restaurant on the corner of Boylston and Arlington Streets, near the Public Garden, offers sandwiches in dizzying and delicious combinations.

Gordon Wilcox, owner of several Boston restaurants, opened Parish Café in 1992. The idea behind the restaurant was simple: get some of Boston’s most famous and accomplished chefs to each create a unique sandwich. The concept worked, turning Parish into a hotspot.

The menu offers numerous tantalizing options. There’s the Zuni Roll ($11.95), created by Norma Gillespie, a wrap with smoked turkey, bacon, scallions, dill havarti cheese, and a cranberry-chipotle sauce. Sean Simmons, Parish Café chef and co-owner, has created Sean’s Meatloaf Club ($13), chipotle meat loaf on Texas toast with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and chipotle mayo. We went with the bizarre, but all-too-tempting Schlesinger ($12.25).

The Schlesinger, designed by East Coast Grill chef and co-owner Chris Schlesinger, defies all sandwich combination logic. Comprising smoked ham and Monterey Jack cheese, the sandwich could be considered pedestrian at first glance. However, served open-faced on two sweet, moist pieces of banana nut bread, accompanied by ginger-pickled cabbage and flawless mango chutney, this must-try sandwich is a medley of intense, succulent flavors.

PARISHCAFEWe also ordered the Pudding Portobello ($11.25), created by Debra Hughes, the chef and co-owner of Upstairs on the Square. This sandwich consists of portobello mushrooms, casa de roma cheese, onion marmalade, and a walnut-parsley pesto served on focaccia bread, with a side of mixed greens and white bean salad. Our dining companion gave it a thumbs-up, saying, “It has just enough spice to give it some good flavor and the salad was tangy but not too bitter.”

We finished off our meal with another sandwich, this one filled with vanilla ice cream squished between two large cookies and drizzled with hot fudge ($7.75)—a dessert suitable for two people to share.

Along with sandwiches, the Parish Café has a few entrees, including baked mac and cheese ($12.95), Parish Pasta ($12.50), made with sausage and spinach, and grilled swordfish ($14.95), served with rice and grilled asparagus.

We noticed an interesting thing about the restaurant: the beer and wine menu is much more extensive than the food menu. Local and national breweries are represented on a beer list ranging from India Pale Ale to Belgian ales. In the mood for something “hoppy,” we ordered a Racer 5 IPA ($6.50) from Bear Republic, a Cloverdale, Calif., brewery. Its combination of flavor and smoothness accompanies any of the restaurant’s sandwiches well.

The restaurant’s décor is standard, and despite the chic menu—and high prices—the dress code is casual. The cramped seating and lively bar create a loud, bustling atmosphere that makes for an entertaining dining experience.

Parish Café definitely pushes the limit for most student budgets, so it may be best to consider only for special occasions. Its delicious and creative sandwiches, however, are reason enough for a food-lover to give this restaurant a try.

Parish Café, 361 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116 (between Berkeley and Arlington Streets), is accessible via public transportation; take the T’s Green Line B, C, or D trolleys to the Arlington stop. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday, noon to 2 a.m. Phone: 617-247-4777. A second Parish Café is at 493 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA 02118 (corner of Mass Ave and Tremont Street); take the T’s Orange Line to the Massachusetts Avenue stop or the Green Line E trolley to the Symphony stop. Phone: 617-391-0501. Parish Café takes all major credit cards except Discover. The menu can be found here.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below. Check out our list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.

John Fichera can be reached at jfichera@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Lunch, Anyone? Parish Café

  • Med Campus on 03.24.2011 at 8:45 am

    For those of us on the Medical School Campus (BU’s neglected stepchild), Parish Cafe II is located on the corner of Tremont St and Massachusetts Ave. If been to both, and personally, I prefer the atmosphere at Parish II rather than Parish on Boylston.

  • Anonymous on 03.24.2011 at 9:16 am

    RE: neglected step child

    Check out BU Today’s neighborhood feature on the South End:
    http://www.bu.edu/today/node/6875

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