All right, so perhaps this isn't a "hidden" restaurant to those who love steak tips--or to those who live just north of Boston--but to the rest of the population in the Boston area, as well as tourists, people here on business, and other visitors, the NewBridge Cafe in Chelsea remains a bit of an unknown entity, perhaps because it is buried away in a mostly residential neighborhood or maybe because Chelsea isn't really a food destination (though that is beginning to change). Either way, if you like steak tips and other meat-based items, along with hearty Italian-American food--and you like real-deal old-school joints that have a timeless quality to them--this comfy old restaurant and bar is certainly worthy of a visit.
The NewBridge Cafe is located in the heart of "steak tip country," a stretch of mostly working-class neighborhoods that includes parts of Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Revere, and Malden. Indeed, within a 10-minute drive of the NewBridge are several excellent dining and drinking spots for tips, including Tommy Floramo's in Chelsea, Kelley Square Pub in Eastie, The Line and Stewart's Pub in Everett, and Pearl Street Station in Malden. But this iconic Washington Avenue joint may be the best-known of them all for tips, and the space in which it resides is classic, with lots of wood paneling, hanging lights that make some areas too bright and other areas too dim, sports memorabilia and American flags, and several dining and drinking sections including a long bar and a somewhat partitioned dining room in the main area and a smaller, more private-feeling room in the back that is up a few steps. For those who don't know the NewBridge, the outside of the place may look a big menacing with its lack of windows and brick exterior, but this is really more of a neighborhood restaurant than a dive bar and it is actually a pretty friendly spot overall.
Much like Floramo's down the road, the NewBridge Cafe offers a mix of pub grub, American classics, and Italian-American fare, with good takes on such items as garlic bread, sausage, ravioli, baby back ribs, fried fish, and baked scallops. A few real highlights include a mountain of steak fries--or perhaps more accurately, potato wedges--that are so large that one wonders what kind of potatoes they come from; a wonderful plate of house-made meatballs swimming in a rich tomato sauce; a classic antipasto that comes with a variety of meats, cheeses, and veggies, along with NewBridge's "famous" dressing; a plate of cherry peppers for those looking for a bit of heat to start off the meal; and a terrific chicken parmigiana that rivals some other top versions typically found in this section of the Boston area (Kelley Square Pub and Pearl Street, in particular, offer good takes on this as well). And then there are the steak tips, which some consider to be the best in the entire Greater Boston area, and for good reason, as the marinade--which comes from a top secret recipe--has the perfect combo of zing and sweetness and the tips themselves are lean (but not too lean) and tender and have a deep char coming from the high heat of the grill. The turkey tips, pork tips, and lamb tips should not be overlooked, either, which is why the combo plates are such good options; a plate of steak and turkey tips, pork and lamb tips, or any other combination is well worth getting, and for those who want to stick to just one type of tip, both full and half portions are available. The drink list at the NewBridge Cafe isn't overly impressive, but the beers, wines, and mixed drinks are fairly cheap, and the mass-produced beers tend to go well with the comfort food served here.
While not exactly a true hidden gem, the NewBridge Cafe is nevertheless a place that is easy to miss because it doesn't get the press of some of the hot new restaurants in Boston, and also because it is simply not a place people just happen to find in their travels--especially if their travels include sticking to main roads or using mass transit. If you want to check out an example of what much of the Boston area's dining and drinking scene was like decades ago and if you're a big fan of the truly local food item known as steak tips, the NewBridge Cafe is almost a required spot to hit.
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