Nearly every kind of cuisine can be found in the Greater Boston area, but some kinds of food can be tougher to find than others.
Sure, it’s easy to enjoy Italian meals, Indian fare, Chinese dishes and Mexican food wherever you are, but Belgian, Dutch and German cuisines aren’t on every other block. That’s why Flanders Field in Hanover is such a special place — it features not only Northern European-influenced food, but also some great beers from that region.
It may also be one of the physically largest hidden gems you’ll ever come across — and one that’s hidden in plain sight just off one of the busiest highways in Massachusetts.
Hanover is quietly becoming one of the hottest communities for development in the region. Hanover Crossing — taking over the former Hanover Mall space — is leading the way, eventually becoming home to a number of restaurants and shops. The section of Route 53 south of Route 3 has a good amount of development going on besides Hanover Crossing and established businesses, and it is a pretty popular stretch of road for dining out, including for those who frequent chain restaurants.
If you head north of Route 3 toward the Norwell line, however, you’ll find a slightly quieter part of Route 53 that is also seeing development, including the upscale Merchants Row, which is much smaller than your typical mixed-use development and has an almost cozy and intimate vibe to it.
Flanders Field is one of a handful of dining options there. Like the other places in the complex, its exterior is sleek and modern-looking, though its storefront doesn’t really give any indication exactly how big it is inside.
Restaurants within newer open-air retail developments tend to be efficient and generally attractive spaces, though many have a certain “sameness” to them, much like standalone chain restaurants and dining spots within malls. Flanders Field doesn’t really look like any restaurant you’ll see at a mixed-use development, however — once you’re inside the place you’ll quickly forget that you’re basically in the middle of a shopping center (albeit a higher-end one).
With a high ceiling complete with exposed pipes and ductwork and echoey acoustics that make it sound a little like a museum or an old bank, the interior of Flanders Field looks like it could be located in a restored garage, warehouse or mill building.
The bank theme continues a bit in the middle of the space, as the beautiful oval-shaped bar is set up with bank lights that give a sort of intimacy to it. Surrounding the bar—and extending into the sprawling back area—are a mix of high-top and low-top tables. Flanders Field also has some outdoor seating during the warmer months, though the restaurant tends to focus more on indoor dining.
In a way, Flanders Field could be considered a New American restaurant, but there’s definitely more of a European bent to this spot. All of the usual modern (and classic) American offerings can be found here, including clam chowder, wings, Buffalo chicken dip, tacos, burgers, Bolognese, macaroni and cheese, steak tips and pan-seared salmon, but the menu is plenty influenced from overseas.
Photos: Best of the Wurst: Eat Like You're in Northern Europe on the South Shore
A very regional New England dish — steamed mussels — gets a boost from its Belgian ale-based broth, as does the meatloaf entrée, which gets an added richness from the addition of Belgian brown ale. Some outstanding Belgian frites can be had here, as can poutine, with the same perfectly crisp fries mixed with gravy, cheddar cheese, braised pork and (if you’d like) and egg over easy.
One of the most mouthwatering starters/sides is the deceptively simple bowl of olives with mixed herbs and olive oil, and you can also order house-made chips with a sweet and rich caramelized onion dip. A great-smelling — and great-tasting — meal at Flanders Field is the mushroom truffle risotto, which comes with an intoxicating mix of wild mushrooms and black truffles. Another highlight is the pan-roasted chicken and the extraordinary root vegetable hash that comes with it.
Perhaps the most European-feeling items on the menu are the wurst platter, which comes with house-made bratwurst, bison and wild boar, and savory pierogi made with potato, onion and cheddar cheese.
If you think that a restaurant with Northern European influences might have a decent beer list, you would certainly be right in Flanders Field’s case. The beer menu is reminiscent of the long-closed Wursthaus in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, as well as The Publick House, a terrific spot in Brookline that also offers some great comfort food.
Flanders Field breaks its draft list into categories, including IPA, stout, Kolsch, brown ale, Belgian white, Belgian blonde, Lambic, Flemish red and brown ale, Dunkelweizen and pilsener. Its bottled beers include a number of Trappist ales, along with some limited “from the cellar” options. For those who prefer local and regional beers, there are plenty to choose from on tap, including from brewers like Exhibit A, Mayflower, Night Shift, Wormtown, Jack’s Abby, Untold and Springdale, and wine, hard seltzer and cocktails are available as well.
When driving on the mostly undeveloped Route 3 to or from the Cape, it may seem a risk to exit the highway to look for food — some exits indeed dump you onto deeply wooded roads with very little development. But the Route 53 exit has plenty of dining options and Flanders Field is one of the best, even though it’s one of the least-known.
If you like European food — and love European beers — this restaurant should definitely be on your radar.
Flanders Field, 2055 Washington Street, Hanover, MA, 02339. flandersfield.org