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New Bostonian Seeks Inexpensive Soulmate

  • b

Hello board.

Just moved here, and I've figured out the high-end game, so I'm already salivating over the thought of blowing my savings on Salts and Clio. Now I need places I can actually afford to eat at, preferably on a regular basis.

So where are these places? The only ones that seem to come up are Kelly's, which gets a very mixed response, Pizzeria Regina, which I plan on checking out, and the occassional strong Chinese recommendation that doesn't seem to be too uniform.

So let's say I want to get out for under 15 bucks, before tax and tip. What competes on a national level in this city?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

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  1. Here's a short list of great places that won't cost more than $15:

    Blue Ribbon BBQ, Arlington and West Newton
    Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, Cambridge
    India Quality, Kenmore Square
    Dok Bua, Brookline (Thai)
    Santarpio's, East Boston (pizza)
    Tacos Lupita, Somerville (Salvadorean/Mexican)
    Chacarero, Downtown (Chilean sandwiches)
    O'Sullivan's, Somerville (burgers)
    King Fung Garden, Chinatown (Chinese)

    I can think of many more, but hopefully this is a good start.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hiddenboston

      Thanks, these look great. I go to blue ribbon all the time and love it, so it bodes well for your other recommendations.

      1. Practically every place in Allston, i.e. Reef, Color, El Cafetal, etc. You can get a good sandwich or burger w/ fries at places like Alchemist, Bartley's, Birch St. Bistro, RF O'Sullivans, Miracle of Science, Audobon. There's a recent thread asking about cheap eats for a student and many more if you search "cheap" on the board.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Joanie

          Hmm I wouldn't put Alchemist on this list; at least not for a burger...they're charging 14 big ones for a merely average burger there. Lots of other places I'd go for a burger instead, including:

          1. re: twentyoystahs

            Yeah, I was thinking more about them in the sandwich category since the chicken salad and portobello burger were $9 w/ fries.

        2. could you clarify what you have in mind by "compete on a national level"? i like all of the places mentioned so far that i've been to, and they are all places that i would happily go to on a regular basis. but i don't know if any of them "competes on a national level," if that means "best, or near best, X in the country."

          then again, best anything in the country may ipso facto blow the $15 limit. (how much does that hot dog in the butcher shop cost again?) but if it's for best X under $15 in the country, then the board seems to be (mostly) of the opinion that e.g. mexican/latin american is out of the question--the best in boston is about averarge for lots of other parts of the country. probably ditto for chinese, thai and indian, at least in my admittedly limited experience.

          but who cares? we're in boston, and all of the places mentioned above are really tasty places. in the vein of really-good-(for- boston)-and-not-too-expensive local chow, i also recommend:

          -hi rise bakery
          -darwin's (both for sandwiches; hi rise for baked goods)
          -cafe baraka
          -christine's ice cream (ok, not a meal exactly, but very good)
          -tamarind bay (good, if not best-in-the-country, indian)
          -clear flour (baked goods)

          6 Replies
          1. re: autopi

            I would disagree about Thai (and, though not mentioned, Vietnamese): the Boston area is stronger than many other metro areas in that regard. Boston was way stronger in Thai well before NY, for example.

            1. re: autopi

              I missed this question the first time around. What I was trying to say was that the kind of place I'm looking for is a destination place. Like a great BBQ shack in Texas or a perfect taco stand in Los Angeles or an amazing pizza joint in New York, this is the food that people have to eat when they come to Boston. I couldn't disagree more about the idea that you can't get fantastic food for under 15 bucks. Many of the greatest meals I've had all over the country - all over the world - were for less than 5 dollars.

              I know Boston is a big city, so I'm not surprised that, if you live here, there is plenty of good food to eat and enjoy, but I'm not talking about the food you get when you're in the mood just because it's there. I know this seems snobby, and I don't mean to say I'm not interested in places like that, because I am. Really, I just want food to not just enjoy, but get really excited about.

              That said, the responses I got seem promising, and I definitely plan on reserving judgement on everything until I've tried it. I've been here a month and I've already had some great BBQ, a well above average banh mi, great ice cream, and some fantastic breads. So even if I've had some disappointing meals as well, I'm still very excited about what is ahead of me.

              1. re: bza

                Since you're new to Boston, I just want to start you off on the right foot and point out that Boston's population is roughly 600,000. Try to factor that in when you think of Boston as a big city.

                It looks like you've already gotten some great suggestions of places to try. Best of luck.

                1. re: gini

                  Don't worry, I have no delusions of Boston having the same kind of options that Los Angeles or New York City have. But 600,000 is still a large amount, and there's great food to be found in SF, New Orleans pre-Katrina, Atlanta, etc. all of which hover(ed) around that same population. This is not to say that I won't find as much good food in Boston, actually, I mean exactly the opposite. I'm just trying to find where to look. But I understand your desire to lower my expectations.

                  1. re: bza

                    I didn't want to lower - just adjust - other people have had delusions that Boston has as many options as NY - glad to see you get it.

                    I think you'll find great food in Boston. I happen to agree - that's one of the reasons I haven't left in 6 years. As this thread and others have proven - there's a good amount of cheap eats in the area.

                2. re: bza

                  i'm glad you've found some great places--i'm also relatively new to boston (1 year) so i'm looking too. but i didn't say, nor did i mean to imply, that you can't get fantastic food for under $15. only that "fantastic food" is not necessarily the same as "best in category in the entire country."

                  internationally is a whole different kettle of fish, and not a very good mode of comparison, price-wise.

                  as for thai, i'm not aware of any place in boston that approachs arun's in chicago, though i'm told arun's is not what it used to be.

                  can't say for vietnamese, though i haven't found boston's argyle street (vietnamese district) yet. but as pointed out below, boston isn't that big a town, so expectations have to be tempered a bit.

                  anyway, all the recs so far that i'm familiar with, i'd consider "fantastic/happy to go there often" and occasionally even "food to get excited about." i particularly agree with bread and ice cream--2 boston strengths.

              2. oh yeah, also bella luna and zon's (both in jp) are solid, more or less reliable neighborhood places that fall into the "able-and-happy-to-go-there-often" category.

                1. The Publick House (aka Anam Cara, http://www.thepublickhousebrookline.com/) in Washington Sqr. Brookline has an amazing selection of beer (esp. belgiums) and pretty good food. service is eh, but the bar is where's its at.

                  Redbones in Davis Sqr. also has an amazing beer selection and pretty decent bbq (the catfish is OTC, www.redbonesbbq.com).

                  1. One other place I forgot; you can also get one of the greatest cubanos you'll ever have at Chez Henri in Cambridge for about $14.00 or so.

                    1. I got that Cuban this weekend and boy was it good. It may be about $14 but it fed two of us...it was huge!

                      I would also add Franklin Cafe. Not sure you can get out for under $15 but most likely for under $20.

                      I am also a big fan of Audubon which has a great burger but the whole menu is really good and reasonably priced.

                      1. Try the Chicken Parm at Carlos Cucina for $13.95; the Burritos in the Fenway at El Pelon Taqueria for about $4.50; Chicken Pho at almost any Vietnamese Restaurant for about $5-$6; eat to your heart's delight at Hei La Moon in Chinatown (dim sum) for well under $15.

                        1. Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village is a solid favorite.

                          1. Highest quality tuscan food, definitely national quality, is Trattoria Toscana in Fenway. You can certainly eat for under $15 for lunch and probably also for dinner depending on wine or app. Among the best pasta you can have for reasonable prices.

                            1. If you like a vegetarian lunch, there is Buddhist temple inbetween Central and Harvard Square on Mass. Ave. that serves a vegetarian lunch for <$10. It's really good. Unfortunately for the life of me I can't remember its name. But if you're in the area you should give it a try. It's on the left hand side of Mass. Ave. as you're going towards Harvard Square from Central.

                              1. Rod Dee in Coolidge Corner, Steve's on Newbury & Hereford, Trident Cafe, Delux, Bartley's, O'Sullivan's, Men Tei, Paramount

                                1. Thank you to everyone for the responses. I have a lot to work through now...

                                  1. For $15 you can have an all-you-can eat Brazilian Rodezio if you are willing to travel to Everett -- Sal e Brasa (also Picanhas I believe is $14.95 too). In Hudson you can have an all you can eat Chinese seafood and so-so sushi for that price. There are threads about Brazilian bakeries which are inexpensive and can be excellent. Blue Fin in Porter Square for Sushi.

                                    Izzy's is an excellent bet near Central Sq for Carribbean food. You can get a Moqueca at either Muqueca or Oasis, and have change left over for a beer at the latter. At a Portuguese or Cape Verdean restaurant you could probably arrange a 1/2 carafe of house wine and a meal for that. Il Panino Express in Harvard Sq can do red sauce Italian seafood and nearby is the Dolphin for decent straight forward seafood. In harvard square grab a couple of sicilian slices at Pinocchios or brave the line in the North End at Umberto's.

                                    Casablanca has appetizers for this.

                                    Getting out of the city there is Floating Rock in Revere.

                                    1. Silvertone on Bromfield will certainly not break the bank. I love the roast chicken there. Hip, relaxed vibe, good food, great drinks.

                                      1. For Korean, I like Wu Chon house in Union Sq. (Of the two nondescript-looking Korean places in the Square, it's the one closer to the motorcycle store. Both are good, but Wu Chon is *excellent.) Try the barbecued pork or anything in the hot stone pot.

                                        Other good bets: Fancy pizza: Cambridge, One, on Church St. in Harvard Sq, or Emma's Pizza on Hampshire St. in Kendall Sq.

                                        Bar menu: Gargoyle's on Elm st. in Davis Sq. has high-end dining in the back and a great bar menu in the front. Plus Paul is one of the best bartenders anywhere.

                                        For a moderate-priced dinner, try an app and a side at Green St. Grill (the grits are AWESOME).

                                        1. definitely agree with silvertones... also check out el pelon in the fens. second the cuban at chez, but that plus tip and a drink isn't going to get you out under 15. under 25, sure, but not 15. that said, you can indeed share it with ease.
                                          also second regina, santarpios, and matt murphy's. sounds like you've got some good recs.