On the Cheap: Bella Drew's (Boston Phoenix)
Those who call the avocado "nature's butter" are after my own heart, though that adage is an affront to actual butter, which is, itself, nature's butter. Bella Drew's, a new luncheonette, serves what it calls Southwestern-style cuisine, a regionalism expressed mostly by liberal applications of avocado. Its workday-only hours and Financial District location place Bella Drew's squarely in the sights of the working-stiff crowd. The office worker's direst ennui may come in the form of the rigid lunch combo, the kind that steers you away from all the fun and shoves you into the side-salad/plain-turkey half-portion consolation corner. Bella Drew's will mix and match a pair of any soup, salad, or sandwich for $7.75: sweet liberation among the skyscrapers!
All this freedom leaves the inmates running the asylum,though, and you could end up like me, recklessly mismatching spicy shredded-beef salad ($8.25), a pile of peppery meat atop a bed of crunchy lettuce, crackling tortilla ribbons, and hunks of avocado, with the cilantro chicken sandwich ($8.50). The latter contains tender, herby chicken breast, mild queso fresco, and a garlicky minced pepper chutney spread with avocado and chile mayonnaise, like a jaunty Tex-Mex bánh mì. I wish the sandwiches defaulted to the crusty, fresh bread that accompanies the soups, especially the BD Club ($7.25), whose sliced turkey and crisp bacon was obscured by the ample sub roll. The portabella-and-tomato salad ($7.95) layered hefty slabs of mushroom with Roma tomato wheels over balsamic-laced greens. Bella Drew's chicken salad would do well at any Cantabridgian pot luck: a light dressing of mayonnaise harmonized with mild curry spices and bits of coconut ($8.25). Fresh soups include red-pepper tomato bisque, a light sweet-corn chowder, and bright and crunchy tortilla soup (each $3.75/medium, $4.75/large).
Portions could sustain two lunches, an observation which I hope won't induce reductions; I commend the value. Take note of breakfast here, which should salve repeat injuries sustained from too many chain bagel breakfasts, and which most closely resembles Southwestern cuisine, including breakfast tacos ($4.95). A burrito filled with good scrambled eggs, roasted red peppers, and melted cheese in a nutty whole-wheat tortilla came with a side of fresh pico de gallo ($4.95).
This review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix, June 29, 2011.