The city of Boston has no shortage of upscale American restaurants and bistros that feature inventive cuisine and attractive, comfortable digs. And this also applies, albeit to a lesser extent, to Boston's suburbs, with a sprinkling of such restaurants found in various cities, towns, and neighborhoods near Beantown. But Lynn? Sure, this working-class city north of Boston has a number of interesting ethnic dining spots as well as some decent old-school restaurants and bars, but there aren't many classy-feeling spots within the community, and its rather gritty downtown area doesn't seem like a place that might have such a restaurant. But among the old warehouses and factories of downtown Lynn sits The Blue Ox, a casual upscale place that in some ways beats its Boston competitors at their own game, with reasonable prices, easy parking, and seating that isn't all that difficult to get, even on a weekend.
The Blue Ox resides in the heart of Lynn's downtown, yet sits on a fairly quiet one-way street with a decent amount of on-street parking. The exterior of the restaurant has a comforting, classy feel, with old-fashioned lights shining down on the richly-colored entrance to the place. The interior of The Blue Ox is every bit as attractive as the outside, with brick beams, a hardwood floor, exposed pipes, a tin ceiling, and a mix of sconces and track lighting, all giving the restaurant an industrial yet almost elegant feel. The main room to the left includes both a dining area (including a couple of window seats) and a sleek bar, while a separate room to the right has a good amount of extra seating.
The executive chef (and a partner) of The Blue Ox has quite an impressive background (he is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, and worked at such restaurants as Prezza and No. 9 Park), and the menu certainly reflects his cooking skills. Aside from the warm homemade bread that is served to each table, The Blue Ox features some intriguing starters such as a wonderfully sweet and savory summer melon salad with prosciutto, parmigiano, and balsamic vinaigrette; a plate of crispy calamari with spicy sauce and vinegar peppers; a pear salad with hazelnuts; and clam chowder with hot Tabasco, applewood bacon, and chives. Entrees are equally interesting, with the grilled hanger steak having a deliciously zesty balsamic red wine reduction and some excellent handcut fries along with a side of lemon zest mayo for dipping. Another memorable dish is the ricotta-filled raviolis mixed with capers, roasted tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, oregano, and cheese, giving a wonderful combination of bitter, sour, salty and sweet flavors all in one dish. Other entrees of note include grilled tenderloin, pan-roasted salmon, potato gnocchi, and herb-roasted chicken. The Blue Ox also features an array of excellent wines and beers (including some local brews), and a dessert menu that changes from day to day.
Downtown Lynn might not seem a destination spot for diners, but The Blue Ox may just change a lot of minds on this point; indeed, this casual upscale spot is surely worth a trip from downtown Boston if you have a car, and for those who live in the northern suburbs of the city, it goes without saying that this restaurant should be considered for either a romantic night out or for a fun evening out with a group of friends.
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