If you're willing to travel just a couple of miles further north, into Nashua, you have some very good options, to join the list. On Main Street, Surf offers fine seafood and a creative menu. Across the street, Michael Timothy's serves fine continental cuisine. Manhattan on Pearl is the best martini bar I've been to and the food's spicy. Mezza, on Elm Street, is an underappreciated authentic Middle Eastern restaurant. La Caretta on Daniel Webster Highway offers entertaining Mexican.
Yum!! Can't wait, maybe we'll even get to Surf too. We're kayaking so I think one night we'll be over in the Newburyport area - instead of Nashua for both nights. But I'm gearing up for oysters at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival in Oct. soon, I'll get my fill of oyster then. Can't wait.
Good thymes is indeed terrific. Really good service and food - nothing special, but solid and family-run and incredibly reasonable. My favorite place in Lowell is probably La Boniche - it's terrific for lunch and surprisingly cosmopolitan for downtown Lowell!! Another fun place for sandwiches/deli-type stuff is the Chelmsford Deli across from Marshalls (in a small strip mall). Best Italian sub I've ever had. They also do things like pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, and other tasty specials.
We really love this area for dining, most of my favorites have been mentioned:
Southeast Asian for awesome thai, vietnamese, cambodian, laotion, bermese
We love Pho 88 too in Drumhill (Lowell/Chelmsford line)
Awesome Italian at Ricardo's Tratorria in Lowell
Friends on Market and Cavalero's on Lawrence St. for excellent Portuogese. I haven't tried Four Seasons but heard great things.
If you are into health food, awesome little place on Middle St. downtown - Life Alive. awesome menu - we've had a few things, always very good.
I love Good Thymes on Gorham Str. for good ole fashion phenominal service, homemade, excellent, fresh, nothing fancy, great price - food. Haddock is to die for - prime rib is to roll over in the grave for. Basic but they know how to do it perfectly and that includes service. I love this little place. Very casual.
Another casual, busy place - not gourmet but just great is The Glenview in Chelmsford - awesome calamari. And Skips in Chelmsford on Rt. 110 - it's more like a diner but great prices for great prime rib, clams, scallops, etc.
Oh oh, my favorite all time breakfast place is the Owl Diner in Lowell - you can't find a better eggs benny anywhere (well except their other two places, Dream Diner in Tyngsboro and Rosie's Diner in Chelmsford - Vinyl Sq). Even if you don't like eggs benny, their breakfasts are eggsellent. :-)
Sushi is great in Chelmsford at Sukora. We love the mexican at La Carrata in Nashua. Hong Kong is still our favorite chinese (Chelmsford - off Rt. 110, behind Skips).
I think Lowell has the best options of the three. For lunch, I like Oasis Grill (Brazilian BBQ/churrascaria). It's a buffet that you pay for by the pound and it's very tasty and reasonably priced. We always walk two doors down for a very good Portuguese bakery and take home a few treats and/or sweet breads. My 2nd choice would be Southeast Asian for the (incredibly cheap) buffet. Make no mistake, when they say "hot", they mean "hot".
For dinner, I like Ricardo's (italian with a very nice bar) or La Boniche (french). I also enjoyed Cavaleiro's (Portuguese) very much, but it's not close to downtown and may be hard to find.
Posts from "lexpatti" are very informative on restaurants in the Merrimack Vally and the near beyond. Do a search on her name.
Stonehedge Inn in Tynsborough is very good but on the classy end of things with a superb wine list. I believe "Silks" has been replaced/renamed with "Left Bank".
Gibbet Hill in Groton is another place that gets good remarks. It's not as high-end as Stonehedge Inn but it's not what I'd term jeans casual, either, although business casual would be okay.
re: three of us
I was actually seriously underwhelmed when I went to Silks back several months ago. Food was expensive and nothing special, and the service was an utterly appalling mix of snooty and incompetent, easily among the top 10 worst I've ever experienced. You couldn't drag me back there again.
For great authentic Sichuan cooking, go to the Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica. Wonderful food there, and not too far out of your way.
Down 3A a bit from Sichuan Gourmet is also a good vegetarian southern indian place (it's all vegetarian) called Masaala -- atmosphere isn't great, but food is excellent -- it's in a small house-like building off the road a bit by itself.
Masaala - 786 Boston Rd., Billerica, MA 01821
502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821
We used the two words of Tamil that we know: Warnakam (Hello) and Nandri (Thank you) with the waiter and his whole manner changed. He started giggling, ran into the kitchen and brought out the other waiters to show off the crazy Americans. Service markedly improved.
Also like Udupi Bhavan, have to try Mysore Veggie.
I'm 10 min away from Masaala and refuse to go there due to not just bad but abysmal service. It's a cute story about speaking a couple words in Tamil but you shouldn't have to do so to get reasonable service. My young son, husband and I were so rudely treated that it was inexcusable. We were the only non-Indian table one weekend afternoon and literally weren't served our food for 30 minutes! As we watched table after table that had been seated after us get their food, we remained just to see how long it would take for our dishes to come out. Repeated polite inquiries as to the whereabouts of our food were pointedly ignored. We didn't even get eye contact let alone a response.
My husband and I have traveled the world and Masaala wins our "Worst Service in the World" award and it's right here in our town.
Can't argue with the first few choices, but should also mention:
Lil Lobster Boat
440 Middlesex Road (Rt. 3A), Tyngsboro
.for simple, perfectly fried seafood.
6 Vinal Sq., N. Chelmsford
.best gourmet Chinese restaurant for miles around, for the past 20 years
170 Concord Road, Chelmsford
.a bit better and pricier than Il Cipresso or Bella Italia, but for one week, every August, they roll back prices to the 1980s.
Used to work in Tyngsboro, and I have a few favourites that I still make a point to go to whenever I'm up that way:
Take a biiiig appetite. This is a great, chepaish lunch spot to go to with colleagues.
Southeast Asian Restaurant
343 Market Street, Lowell, MA 01852
Fantatsic, home-style cooking - viet/thai plus a few BBQ items. Their soups are wonderful on a cold, wintery day.
Cafe II Cipresso
130 Middlesex Road, Tyngsboro, MA 01879
Really goood capuccino and basic italian fare. Everything is very fresh - family owned. The pesto pasta lunch entree is my favourite.
Silks Restaurant, StoneHedge
160 Pawtucket Boulevard, Tyngsboro, MA 01879
Recommend this for afternoon tea or a nice dinner.
Tyngsborough Village Grille
171 Middlesex Road, Tyngsboro, MA 01879
I always stop here for a nice, greasy bagel sandwich in the morning. It's up the road from Cipresso, so i stop here first before i go down to get my capuccino.
Osaka Tea Garden Japanese Restaurant
295 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, NH 03060
Good price for a lunch bento.