Formerly Café de Michel, the year-old Solstice Café is part of a growing fleet of dimly lit cafés and bars on a ragtag strip of Tremont Street. Warm orange walls invite hungry passersby, and large windows open on to the sidewalk. Cheerful waitresses, all smiles and bustling energy, hurry back and forth between the bar and small tables.
The dinner menu features an assortment of ethnic cuisines, including Indian, Italian, and Mexican, as well as standard steaks and burgers. The baby-greens salad ($5) was sizable, fresh, and elegantly presented with a summery raspberry vinaigrette. While not forging new flavor-combination paths, the chicken chimichanga ($7) — grilled chicken, cheddar, mozzarella, and red pepper wrapped in a crispy tortilla — resulted in absolute satisfaction. The hamburger ($6.50) was the size of a hockey puck, and roughly the same color. What it lacked in rareness, it made up for in size. The bun was big and soft, with the tomatoes, lettuce, and onions piled high and juicy. The spicy fries were pleasingly peppery, thick but airy.
The clam chowder ($5) was served with a big slice of garlic toast in the middle of the bowl, a crouton raft in a silky sea of clams. The clams were decidedly un-rubbery and the chowder thick and creamy. After sampling three of the 13 mussels ($8), however, the question arose: how many mussels do you try before giving up? They proved overcooked and tasteless.
The Key-lime pie was sting-your-throat sweet, velvety, and delicious. In the raspberry-mango cheesecake, a layer of pound cake between the graham-cracker crust and the orange-pink pie confused the textures, but that didn’t mean that every last crumb wasn’t scraped off the plate. Both desserts ($5) came surrounded by dollops of whipped cream.
The lunch menu includes a selection of salads and sandwiches ($5.50–$8.35), pasta, and shepherd’s and fisherman’s pie ($6.50–$7.75). And consider a long lunch, since the intimate café is a pleasant place to linger.
Solstice Café, located at 1625 Tremont Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (617) 566-5958.