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Feast: Five Horses Tavern

September 7, 2011

light fixture at 5H, picture from This Week in Boston


Each time a new restaurant opens up in Davis Square, I think: this will be the one. Finally, a good place to eat in Davis. It won’t be super crowded and cramped (Boston Burger Company), it will find a middle ground between trying-too-hard-to-be-hip (Foundry, Joshua Tree) and dive (Burren, Red Bones), the drinks selection will be varied, and the food will be worth the price.

I wished for all of these things when I tried Five Horses Tavern last weekend. Unfortunately, the music was so piercingly  loud when I arrived at 6:30pm, that I had to abandon all hope and concentrate on basic communication. I whipped out the few words I know in sign language (flower, eat, and car), but ultimately my group resorted to text messaging our conversations to each other.  This is only a slight exaggeration.

Five Horses does have its good points – the extensive drink menu looks great, and my glass of wine was thoughtfully selected and priced. The jalapeno-cheddar mashed potatoes were fantastic, and the Fried Chicken Salad and Pea Salad were quite good. The menu is afforable and, from the looks of the macaroni and cheese on another table, I think Five Horses may find its niche in comfort food this winter. The pizza dough on the vegan pizza was great, but the toppings – whipped tofu among them – were not. It’s nice that Five Horses boasts multiple vegetarian/vegan offerings, but if they can’t do them well, they probably shouldn’t bother.

The decor hasn’t changed much since the restaurant’s last incarnation as Sagra, which means it’s a little confused – is this a club? Is this a restaurant? Is this a bar? What level am I supposed to be on? It seemed that the wait staff – we were served by at least 4 different people, slowly – were also confused as to where they should be, and when. The atmosphere did little to solve any mystery- at 6:30pm it was much more “midnight club scene” than “early dinner.” I respect Five Horses’ right to be available for both drinking and eating, and many places achieve mastery of each. But you can’t do both at once. I actually found myself yelling to get my servers attention, and having to repeat myself 2 or 3 times to my friends sitting across the table. This tells me the managers at 5H are only catering to the people sitting or standing at the bar, talking directly into each other’s ears.

I still think Five Horses has potential, but I hope someone tips them off to the following:

1) Revise the operations a bit. Give your staff more training. And don’t make them wear those plaid shirts. Ditch the cowboy theme, if that’s what you’re going for.
2) Figure out what you’re good at and stick to it. If that means paring down the menu to a few amazing, homey dishes, so be it. Tinker with the vegan offerings, or abandon them.
3) Keep the music at normal (read: conversational) levels until 9:15, when serious diners will be gone or settling up the tab. After that, party on.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kevin Aries permalink
    September 11, 2011 10:46 pm

    Ah, thanks for the review. I’ve been walking past Five Horses wondering how it is. I do love that it has “open walls” for warm summer nights– so it looks good from the outside. Loud music during a dinner hour is extremely inconsiderate, in my opinion. Although, if it is country themed (as you suggest with the plaid shirts) then I may be in love. Is the music country music, too?

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