The closing of the Forest Cafe, the beloved Cambridge neighborhood bar and Mexican restaurant, came as a blow to locals earlier this year. But how's that old saying go? Every time god closes a door he opens an environmentally conscious organic bistro and bar? Something like that.
While I'll miss the Forest's divey charms, Rafiki Bistro, designed for people with “conscientious consumption habits”, is a more logical fit for this quintessentially Cantabrigian stretch of Mass. Ave. “Everything is all natural and organic, and I make everything that I can in house,” explains manager Simone Nakhoul. That means doing his own pickling, brining olives, using house made grenadine and working with infusions like a horseradish, sun dried tomato, black pepper and jalapeno charged vodka. Most of the spirits on their cocktail list are organic as well, like TRU vodka and gin, Crusoe spiced rum and Tierras blue agave tequila.
They carried that environmentally aware approach to the redesign of the space as well, he says. “Since the concept is natural and organic, when we were renovating we tried to reuse and save everything that was good and practical.” It's more stylishly appointed in here now, with creamy brown banquets, theatrical orange curtains and gritty exposed brick; but if you look close enough you can still see the ghost of the Forest hanging around.
What you're having
The oniony vodka punch of a Gibson can often be a hard sell, but the onions Nakhoul has been pickling in house with thyme, rosemary, sage, coriander and brown sugar might make you reconsider. On the opposite end of the flavor spectrum, the ginger infused cachaça kissed with a squeeze of fresh lemon and brown sugar syrup used in their signature cocktail the Ginger Limão is pure, citrusy heat.