The humble chicken sandwich has taken a star turn of late. But few approach the high-low deliciousness of executive chef Megan Vaughan’s fried chicken sliders at the new Rare Lounge at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. The pair of palm-sized sandwiches each sport a piece of well-breaded and deep-fried thigh meat, topped with a house-made buttermilk dressing kicked up with kimchi, sriracha, and herbs, along with a spicy cabbage slaw and a refreshing pile of house-pickled cucumber and radish. This Asian spin offers subtle heat, with the creamy toppings a nice contrast to the crispy chicken.
That’s just one of the playful offerings at Rare Lounge. Vaughan, whose resume includes high-flying spots like Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Seattle and Wolfgang Puck’s CUT in Beverly Hills, which earned a Michelin Star during her tenure, has positioned the restaurant as a low-key sibling to Rare Steakhouse, which she also oversees. It comes with the same attention to detail that has garnered the steakhouse multiple BONS awards, and the same quality ingredients, but with an easygoing attitude.
The result is fun comfort food for sophisticated palates—think pigs in a blanket, but the “pigs” are made from Wagyu beef, and the “blanket” is a puff pastry encrusted with an everything-bagel-style mix of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion, and garlic. And the side of ketchup dipping sauce is smoked. Even the crudité comes with glamour—a riot of colors, with purple and orange cauliflower, pink watermelon radish, and green snow peas and cucumber slices, it arrives on a bed of crushed ice alongside a house-made roasted-garlic hummus and a tray of crisp gluten-free chickpea crackers reminiscent of Indian papadum.
The menu is small and focused, with several nods to its seaside location. A trio of mini Maine lobster rolls comes lightly dressed in a subtle tarragon aioli, served on adorably round and plump brioche buns. The fish and chips features locally caught haddock, fried to a lovely crisp in batter made with local beer (the brewery is a secret). Naturally, the fries are delicious, and we’d suggest also adding an order of the thick-cut tempura-fried onion rings. Patrons at Rare Lounge can also order anything from the menu at the steakhouse next door when it’s open. We think the Rare side flight, which includes a selection of three of the restaurant’s side dishes, goes with everything.
Plush leather chairs in conversational arrangements and dark coffered ceilings give the flexible space a private library feel. But instead of books, the shelves are lined with an extensive array of collectible spirits, like Blanton’s and Clase Azul offered in flights, alongside rarities like Pappy Van Winkle 25-year and Eagle Rare 17-year bourbon. At the far end of the narrow space, live nightly entertainment centers on a white grand piano, where a student from the Boston Conservatory of Music might be crooning a mix of standards and requests.
Rare doesn’t take reservations, so feel free to drop in for a sophisticated cocktail—perhaps the Harlow, a pink-and-purple grapefruit-and-tequila delight that’s served in a glass seashell, making anyone sipping it feel a bit like a mermaid. Pair it with the Cones—a tiny, sophisticated (and photo-worthy) snack of sesame-seed-studded conical morsels filled with a lemony avocado whip and topped with crudo and caviar.
Nightcaps and desserts are a specialty. Order the whiskey ice cream and have both at once—it’s made in house and a perfect ending in its own right. But if the idea of bacon caramel popcorn holds any appeal, order the warm chocolate cake. A spin on a classic lava cake, decorated with house-made caramel popcorn studded with crispy bacon, then topped with a scoop of that whiskey ice cream, it’s an indulgent treat that is both comforting and sophisticated.
One Broadway, Everett, 857-770-3300, encorebostonharbor.com