Whether you’re in search of a coffee and croissant or a glass of wine and fine French cuisine, you won’t have to explore any further than Explorateur, situated in the former Grand Masonic Lodge on the corner of Tremont and Boylston. Equal parts café and restaurant, Explorateur dabbles in a little bit of everything: a cozy spot to hole up with a book and a latte; a convenient destination for fine pre-theater dining; and the perfect place to grab a late-night tipple before you Uber home.
Explorateur’s culinary roots are French and its ethos is Californian, but as its name suggests, the menu tends to wander. You’ll find classically prepared food sourced from local farms and waters (words like flambé and frite are all over), as well as exotic spices and hearty far-flung dishes ranging from Middle Eastern to Middle American. At the café counter, you can grab coffeehouse fare all day long, with fresh baked goods and prepared salads. Their lunch, brunch, and dinner menus change with the seasons, and theatergoers on the go can enjoy a three-course prix fixe menu before the show.
The restaurant has a split-personality, with the towering white-lettered menu of the espresso bar on one wall facing the high arched liquor shelves of the bar on the other. But it plays both parts well, managing to be simultaneously airy and intimate. Some of the grandness of the Grand Masonic Lodge lingers in the high carved ceilings, suspended with translucent globe light fixtures illuminating simple café tables near the windows and deep green, studded leather banquettes in the dining room. Blond woods and exposed brick make the wide space feel warm, and hints of gold add a touch of elegance.
If you’re thirsty at Explorateur, your first choice will be whether to head to the café or the bar (or, if you finish your homework, both). A full espresso bar along with a handful of creative coffee drinks will put a pep in your step, but the real show-stoppers are being shaken up by the bartender. The cocktail list reads much like the menu, with seasonal, globally-inspired drinks utilizing fresh, homemade ingredients, as well as a few large-format drinks to please the whole crowd at once. Beers are craft-driven and mostly local, with a few foreign stars thrown in, and the impressive wine selection has a French backbone with plenty of darling picks at a range of price-points from all over the world.
Explorateur’s private space, The Library Room, is a cool vintage space with high-backed leather chairs lined with rich wooden bookshelves equipped to host large parties and special events of up to 200 guests.
186 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116