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best of Boston (non-stuffy, non-touristy)?

  • k

I'll be in Boston next weekend from NYC for work (writing a travel profile) and have the same question as many have had on this board--where are the best places to eat? Well, with clarification--I have a pretty good sense of the more popular, upscale places, but where do people under 30 with a modest to moderate income find amazing food in town? I'm not talking college-ish burrito, falafal type fare, more like places where relatively hip (not pretentious of course) culinarily savvy folks can get a decent bite to eat. Is this an impossible order? Pardon my ignorance, this will be my first visit to Boston and I want to cram as much good food as is humanly possible into a tight schedule. I'm personally excited by anything Asian, especially Malaysian and Thai. Dim sum too. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. I'd recommend the Pandan Leaf in Coolidge Corner, they have very good Malay fare, without an huge bill. It's been a favorite of my girlfriend and me. Hope that helps.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jon W.

      Thanks. I'll probably check out Pandan Leaf since we have a handful Penangs here (I'm guessing it's part of the same chain?).

      1. re: Krista G.

        Pandan Leaf is good but if you're looking for hip with your Asian, you might want to try Pho Republique in the South End. I haven't been there but supposedly it's pretty fun, good drinks, esp. on Thurs. Jae's is a little more fun too with different kinds of Asian food. Their locations in the South End and Inman Sq. are probably the most "hip".

    2. Pandan Leaf is okay for Malaysian, but much hipper, more tastey, and more edgey, IMHO, is Penang in Chinatown,,,great crowd, and really unusual food.

      3 Replies
      1. re: galleygirl

        Hmmm... my experience at Penang was markedly disappointing. It all seemed to be bland fried things and ketchupy sauces. Maybe I just ordered all of the wrong food, or went on the wrong night...

        1. re: Gabe Handel

          Wow, you must have!!!! I tend to avoid any fried thing, but their homestyle-steamed whole fish was a nice take on the usual steamed fish with ginger, garlic and soy. It had lots of garlic, ginger and cilantro, for a much lighter but very tasty sauce...There's a malaysian vegetable called beluchan, a kind of watercress with hollow stems, that they serve steamed, with a great sauce. There's a raw squid or cuttlefish appetizer with a kind of peanut sauce that is definitely a challenge- for-chowhounds kinda food...Anything with fermented shrimp paste and vegetables is intriguing and good, tho they'll discourage you from ordering it if you're not Asian..Forge on, I use those "please consult your server" warnings on ANY menu as a blueprint for what I SHOULD try! Try them again, please!

          1. re: galleygirl

            Will do. Thanks very much for the specific recommendations. I'll post again when I get over there a second time.

      2. Scaredy - K...

        There is a local franchise that bears at least a lunchtime visit - Pho Pasteur has several locations around the city and serves up good chow for a very decent price - (Just stay away from the Salty Plum soda - Phew!) It is Vietnamese in tint but runs the gamut - You can get a healthy meal for two with split appetizer and drinks/tip for about $30 - It is one step above falafel/burrito joints.

        There is a curious vegan asian place - Grasshopper in Brighton which is also quite reasonable and filled with the kinds of trendy vegans that you would expect...
        (Which begs the question, "Is there such a thing as an un-trendy vegan?")
        Being an omnivore, I have found it a good place, and their faux-barbecued pork is curious and a conversation starter...

        Also, more in the trendy department - Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner on the E line of the Green Line on Huntington Ave. Trendy Noertheastern/artsy folks and again good quality/quantity: price ratio -

        I will make one caveat - It has been to my grave disappointment that most Thai and Asian places in this burg don't spice things very much due to the predominantly "Irish/White Frat boy" palates that dominate the culture. Betty's does a good job of kicking it but you may need to be explicit in asking for spicy.

        Good luck and let us know what you found.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Al Fresco

          Thanks for the suggestions, I'll have to try at least one of them. Yeah, I've never really had the impression of Boston as a SE Asian food mecca, but I trudge on nonetheless.

          I really get a kick out of faux meat even though I'm pretty carnivorous. The only time I really eat it is when my sister, the surprisingly untrendy vegan, visits from England (I think being vegan is different over there). There's a place here (NYC) that serves "un-buffalo wings" and fake popcorn shrimp which I find amusing, though no one else who eats meat really does.

          On a side note, is there any particular meal or dish that just screams Boston? Of course, Philly has their cheesesteaks and New York has bagels? Pizza? Cheesecake? (not sure the most quintessential). The only thing that comes to mind with Boston is baked beans, which I'm sure no one actually eats. I need the kindness of chowhounds to keep me from looking like a rube.

          1. re: Krista G.

            Well, it's not a Boston-only meal, but only in Boston, and even then only in some neighborhoods, can you order a spucky (spukky? spuckie?) and not have someone punch you in the face.

            For some reason I can't even begin to fathom, in these parts of Boston (Dorchester, Southie, to name two) subs are also known as spuckies.

            I guar-ron-tee that if you find yourself in a pizza joint that serves "spuckies," you're in a non-stuffy, non-touristy joint. But you still might look like a rube; can't help ya there. :>D

            1. re: Bob W.

              It is not a meal but the only place in the country where you can order a frappe and not have anyone look at you like you have 9 heads is Boston.

              1. re: ScoobieSnack

                LOl yes, but you better pronounce it frap. If you prounounce it frappay or you will get the nine heads look.

                Actually milkshakes are called frappes from Boston north into Maine. At the camp in the Sebago Lakes area I used to go to many years ago, the archery counselors would buy a frappe for any kid who shot six bullseyes in a row. Do that and you were in "Frappe City." :>)

                1. re: Bob W.

                  There's always "clam chowda"

                  pretty quintessential - and a cheap meal can be had with a bowl of chowder and a beer at the bar at Legal Sea Foods

            2. re: Krista G.

              Roast beef sandwich--the "super beef", or "supah" beef (forget about "clam chowdah", the only people saying that are tourists trying to imitate the Boston accent). If you want the real thing, and hear the real Boston accent, try a supah beef sandwich at either Daddy's on Kingston Street near downtown crossing. If you're more adventuresome, and want to get your roast beef the same place all the MBTA bus drivers do, head to Mike's in Everett, recommended by others on this board. Anywhere you go, you want a supah beef on an onion roll. I get it without sauce, but that's your call. Do get it with cheese. Aaawh gees, supah!! This aint no "I pahked my cah at Hahvihd Yahd" fake Boston accent... it's the real thing!

              Boston is remarkable for its ice cream, though most places serving it are new. Toscanini's in Central Square IMO has the most flavorful ice cream in town, but do get the micro size to keep your health in good check. Or you could scout out some old style places, though Bailey's with their 19th century style ice cream parlors are long gone.

              Fried clams--try the Ipswich Clam Box in Ipswich. The fried seafood platter is also classic, with very sweet scallops. Classic 1930s seafood shack.

              After sampling the "best" of NYC pizza as recommended on Chowhound, I find that Rossini's pizzeria on Washington Street in the South End serves up fresh pies more to my liking than anywhere else still in business. Takeout and delivery only.

          2. there is a pretty good discussion below of good dim sum in Boston. Chau Chow City at 86 Essex in Chinatown is first rate, and I think they have cart service every day and as late as 3 pm on Sundays. not as good as triple 8 palace in NYC, but up there.