Somerville, like Libya, is a land of contrast. The atmosphere of the yuppie paradise that I live in on the perch of Prospect Hill changes very rapidly as you walk even a few blocks away. A recent venture to Las Brisas was no less a journey into the “long dark teatime of the soul” than it was a 0.4 mile walk. What is this city? What are its secrets, and how many of them are obfuscated by the pleasantness of living in one of its popular squares?
Las Brisas, a restaurant on the corner of Pearl Street and McGrath Highway, opened late last year. I wasn’t convinced that it existed as it is not on Yelp. A leap of faith was required. “Not on Yelp?” my hindbrain inquired. This was not right.
Lo and behold, Las Brisas is indeed extant. The food was pretty good and fairly inexpensive; nothing to write home about but certainly not objectionable in any way.
Las Brisas describes itself as serving Italian-American and Hispanic cuisine, though the menu is largely oriented toward the latter; a few Italian menu items appear as appetizers and pasta dishes. Entrées were well portioned for an entire meal. The steak al pastor and shrimp de la diabla came as a platter with rice, beans, guacamole, pica de gallo, and hot, fluffy tortillas. If you are one mere mortal of reasonable hunger, I wouldn’t recommend an appetizer and an entrée because of the generous portion sizes.
The whole experience, though – the walk to, the dining, the atmosphere, and the walk home – had a discordant feeling. Some soul-searching later, I came to a conclusion. Las Brisas is a pretty good place to grab a bite. It would be even better if you could grab a beer with your meal (as of Post Somerville’s visit no beer or wine was available, but soon to come, let’s hope), but it was sparsely populated even at 6:30 p.m. Two aldermen reportedly supported Las Brisas’ successful application for a beer and wine license, with the liquor license commission choosing it over two other establishments, ostensibly to promote the neighborhood and spur economic activity.
Is one pretty good restaurant selling alcoholic beverages the city’s best idea for growth in this area? To boot, is anything else being done to bring pedestrian traffic to McGrath Highway in the short run between I-93 and Memorial Drive? In my Somerville, hot new restaurants live and die by the sword. They have tiny wars on social media and they succeed or close shop on the merit of their menus and advertising. Yet this no-man’s land of high automobile, low pedestrian traffic seems to be an entirely different world. The ever-receding promise of the Green Line extension would bring much-needed new life to the neighborhood, but for the time being it needs more than a wayward glance from the city to succeed.