At Robbins Farm on a balmy day, you can see the Boston's skyline and the Brackett School clock tower.
We have to start this review with a disclaimer; we have been going to flora since it opened in 1996 and have become friendly with the owners, Bob and Mary Jo Sargent. Bob is the head chef and Mary Jo runs the front of the house. The two of them have created a warm, inviting restaurant where we always feel at home and well taken care of. Before it opened in the old Arlington Five Center Savings Bank in East Arlington in 1996, Arlington had very restrictive alcohol licensing.
In 1994, the town liberalized beer and wine licensing and later on made it easier to have a bar and a full liquor license. flora was one of the first beneficiaries of this, starting the trend of Arlington becoming a destination restaurant town.
When you enter flora, you come into the old bank building with its very high ceilings. You can see the open kitchen on the right. This part of the restaurant was the original one. It has a good number of tables and even seating in the old bank vault in the back of the room. Two doorways on the right let you into the expanded section, which was added in about 2002.
The space had formerly been an auto parts store, and so the renovations were extensive. Bob and Mary Jo created a wonderful new space, featuring lower ceilings, a carpeted floor, lots more room for dining, a beautiful bar, a special area for private events, a large fish tank and two spacious bathrooms. Ladies, visit the bathroom even if you don't have to go, because you can see the other side of the fish tank while in there.
In 2011 flora added a bar menu, which is available only in the café area. You can still order from the main menu in the café. The highlight of the bar menu is the cheeseburger. The meat is of the highest quality, and Bob really knows how to prepare a burger to your liking. It was dripping with juices and full of beefy flavor. It comes with lettuce, tomato and a slice of Vermont cheddar and either hand-cut fries or onion strings. Extras on the cheeseburger include bacon, sautéed wild mushrooms and caramelized onions, for $2 each. The burger is $12.
About those onion strings -- when we first started coming to flora, onion strings were occasionally featured as a side dish. On a few occasions, we even ordered them off the menu! We are happy to see them as a regular on the bar menu. The fries measure up to the quality of the onion strings.
Other items on the bar menu currently include a small plate of curried deviled eggs ($3), lobster tacos ($15) and crispy calamari ($8). The bar menu enables one to now dine at flora at a different price bracket.
On the dinner menu there is always a nice selection of starters, medium plates, entrées and desserts. The menu varies on a seasonal basis. Its website is usually up-to-date with the current offerings. Some of our favorite starter dishes have included curried squash soup with toasted sunflower seeds, cream of wild mushroom soup, arugula salad with Great Hill blue cheese and a savory flan.
Some memorable entrées include roast chicken with creamy mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus and pot roast with a horseradish cream sauce and vegetables. This year we celebrated our first Thanksgiving at flora. It was the first time they opened for the holiday. Linda ordered the turkey dinner, whch was perfectly prepared and included mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing and delicious gravy. Uri had a perfectly grilled sirloin steak as he was going to prepare turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner the next day. flora always has an excellent selection of vegetarian dishes.
In all, the meals we have had there, Uri can recall only one that he didn't like. That is a very good batting average and the reason we keep coming back -- that and the onion strings!
Pricing $$$$ (on scale of 1 to 4 dollar signs)
Monday - Friday: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday: 5 - 10 p.m. Sunday dinner 5 - 9 p.m.
flora restaurant, 190 Mass. Ave., Arlington 02476 || 781-641-1664
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