The name Meadhall calls to mind some kind of Viking chamber with knotty, oak support beams, gothic candelabras and a bevy of serving wenches distributing sloshing tankards of frothy ale to rosy-nosed pillagers. The new Cambridge pub’s location, however, next to the Marriott in Kendall Square, is a far cry from ancient Norway. Rather than a heavy, paneled, wood door adorned with torches, customers enter via the kind of revolving door you find at a bank or major office building.
Set up in the former home of Quantum Books, Meadhall’s large windows illuminate the cavernous interior with loads of sunlight during the daytime. It’s enough light to help you to take in the new reading material of a 110-beer draught menu containing brews from national craft brewers and their far-flung Saxon brethren across the Atlantic—though, interestingly enough, there is no actual mead on the menu just yet.
The centerpiece is the large, oval bar taking up the majority of the interior and accommodating between 60 and 70 revelers. It’s likely the size that accounts for the spotty service, but it varies according to time—immediate on a Saturday afternoon, but semi-annoyingly delayed on a Thursday night. Still, bartenders are remarkably knowledgeable about the beer and provide great advice.
There’s also more than just beer on offer. Meadhall’s food menu may be short in choice compared to many other brewpubs, but it does offer gourmet morsels that will especially please carnivores.
Meadhall may not be perfect—inconsistent service, 10pm kitchen closing, limited vegetarian options, lousy acoustics and an IKEA-like atmosphere are among popular gripes—but a few glasses of beer and a quality hamburger can really work wonders.
Drink this: Choosing from 110 craft beers can be a daunting task, so start with a goblet of the locally-brewed Pretty Things Baby Tree ($9). Its plum-raisin taste, garnet color and whopping 9% ABV will definitely soften up the palate for more.
Eat this: Delivered fresh daily, the meat is ground, minced, and chopped right there in the kitchen. For a good sampling, start with the hand-stuffed bratwurst ($12) and follow up with the Lucki 7 Farms pork chop ($27) with cider-glazed carrots, cippolini onions, capers, pine nuts and golden raisins in a cider sauce.
Sit here: Meadhall’s expansive space can best be enjoyed at the south end of the oval bar. You’ll have the whole restaurant in view, people to watch and the large windows to gaze out when the mind begins to swim after a few drinks. For watching the big game, there are sofas upstairs.
Conversation piece: The beer menu offers plenty to discuss, namely the lack of mead. The staff promises that will be remedied soon—from Massachusetts mead makers Isaac’s of Salem.