On a Saturday night shortly after the Sinclair opened, the lead guitarist of the Cambridge-based indie band Reports stepped back at the end of a 45-minute set, gazed at the cheering crowd, and said, “Thank you. Thank you, guys. That was so much fun!” His words captured the spirit and ambience of the live-music venue in Harvard Square.
The place isn’t ostentatious. It isn’t grandiose. It’s genuine. And although it’s been open only a few months, its future already looks promising. Dozens of artists, including posthardcore band La Dispute, country musician Chris Young, and pop-punkers Man Overboard, have appeared since it opened, making this Church Street rock club–restaurant a serious contender among the many venues Cambridge and Boston currently offer. Operated by the Bowery Presents Boston, an extension of the New York–based booking company the Bowery Presents, it should hold its own among nearby hot spots.
The night we dropped by the Sinclair, Reports was opening for another local group, the postpunk band Mission of Burma. The crowd ranged from 20-somethings sporting leather jackets to couples who looked like they had a babysitter back home on the couch. The place wasn’t crawling with hipsters, but maintained a cool, urban vibe nonetheless. By the time Mission of Burma started playing, the place was packed.
“Have you heard these guys before?” a 30-something man standing next to us on one of the balconies asked enthusiastically. “Actually, no, I haven’t,” I responded. “Well, get ready. They’re loud,” he warned.
He was right. Mission of Burma had listeners tapping their feet, bobbing their heads, and thrusting their fists in the air. The energy travels well throughout the grunge-meets-chic space, swirling around the audience like the blue and green lights above.
While the venue can accommodate hundreds of patrons, it has an intimate performance space feel, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The balconies are arguably its best feature, affording a fantastic view of the colorfully lit stage.
Parched from all that yelling and singing along? Three small bars are conveniently located throughout: one at the entrance, one to the right of the stage, and one on the balcony.
If you’re looking to escape the noise while enjoying a beer or cocktail, venture to the other half of the Sinclair, where you’ll find a larger, low-key bar, plenty of seating designed for groups, and on the second floor, a stylish dining area and open kitchen. The restaurant area has a simple look, highlighted by trendy touches like an exposed ceiling and dangling lanterns. It offers a more relaxed vibe than you’ll find at Tavern in the Square or White Horse. The first floor’s long wooden tables, with black iron legs, comfortably seat six to eight and give the room a lively, communal feel. The cozier upstairs has tables and booths for four.
Renowned chefs Michael Schlow (Radius, Happy’s Bar & Kitchen, Tico) and Marcellus Coleman (a recent winner of the Food Network show Chopped) have fashioned a gastropub-type menu versatile enough to appeal to any taste and for any occasion. Come for dinner and start with a small plate, such as the crispy fried oysters ($9), and for the main course try the Mushroom & Fontina ($15), “free form” lasagna with pistachios and truffle. Not hungry enough for a full meal? Share one of the kitchen’s snacks, like the crispy chick pea fries ($6) or deviled eggs with bacon bits ($6). Wash it all down with a selection from the extensive list of cocktails, beer, wine, and spirits.
The Sinclair may be a newcomer, but plan on it sticking around to become a popular nightlife destination. Bottom line: bring a group of friends, and you’re sure to have “so much fun.”
The Sinclair is at 52 Church St., Cambridge; phone: 617-547-5200. The kitchen is open daily from 5 to 11 p.m. The box office is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and is cash only. You can also order tickets here. The restaurant takes all major credit cards. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to the Red Line toward Alewife, and get off at Harvard Square. It’s about a three-minute walk to the venue.
This is part of a series featuring Boston nightlife venues of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below.