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might move to boston

thinking of moving to boston from philly in the spring. food is my main influence in a move. we are addicted to vietnamese, malaysian, and indian. looking for good recs on both restaurants and grocery stores. also, are there good farmers markets, and maybe some nice mexican markets?

any other things you think we should know would be appreciated

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  1. Welcome. I think that food-wise Philly-Boston is a lateral move.
    Here are a few to get you started

    Vietnamese: Pho Hoa, Ba Le (Dorchester) Xin Xihn (sp?) (Chinatown) Mei Sum Bakery(Chinatwown)and BaLe (Dorchester) for Bahn Mi

    Malaysian: Penang (Chinatown) Aneka Rasa (Allston)

    Indian: Tamarind (Harvard Sq), Namaskar (Somerville), Indian Dhaba (Allston) Woodlands (Framingham), Udipi Bhavan (Lowell?)

    Bonus: Cambodian: Floating Rock (Revere) If you like the three cuisines that you mention, you'll LOVE Floating Rock

    1. I also don't think of Boston as a step up over Philly, food-wise. And certainly real estate is more expensive here. That said, Boston is a safer city and our access to the oceans and mountains is much easier, and the overall nature of the city is denser in the European sense, which leads to a certain kind of urbanness and even urbanity at times that many people find fetching in its own way.

      There is some good Mexican food, but overall Boston has more Central and South American immigrants (especially in East Boston) than Mexican.

      Unlike Philly, we don't have the vast farmlands of Penn. and NJ nearby that attract migrant agricultural labor. There are farms with great alluvial soil in lovely river-bottom towns like Concord (pace stereotypes, not all of New England has rocky soil), but overall farms in these locales are smaller and more specialized towards dairy, farmstand vegetable and small flocks of animals.

      1. For Vietnamese. try Pho So 1/Pho 2000/Pho Hoa, all in Fields Corner (Dorchester), or Pho Yuen Dong (my favorite) in Quincy.

        For Indian, my favorites are India Quality in Kenmore Square, Kebab Factory in Somerville, Classic India in Quincy, and Shanti in Dorchester.

        All of the above are reasonable and lean toward less Americanized, more authentic dishes.

        1. I've lived in both cities and like them both. Sadly we dont have anything quite so nice as the Italian market or other (permanent) farmers markets in Boston, but the local produce at the weekly neighborhood markets (or if you want to go out of the city, at the farms) can be fantastic from May to October. But restaurants are generally very good, both in the city and in surrounding towns. A definite advantage of Boston is year-round good fresh seafood. You will probably hear a lot about grocery destinations depending on what neighborhood you choose, but I'd say that another plus of Boston is that there are several very good supermarkets specializing in Asian products (especially Super 88). When I miss Philadelphia cuisine, what I mostly miss is the good smoked meats.

          1. i agree with karl s and gourmaniac about boston and philly being lateral moves for food. we do have a lot of vietn and indian restaurants(large indian popula here for high tech industry) but malaysian restnts are few. nothing really outstanding in mex restnts, but certainly good ones. v small mex popula here. lots to draw one to boston, as others have mentioned; wealth of experiences relatively nearby- ocean, history, architecture, beautiful landscapes; 'mountains'; culture, education, liberal politics. really moving for FOOD?

            1 Reply
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              more like i wouldn't move if there was no good food. we were both chefs for 15 yrs so we tend to pick towns based on restaurants.

            2. I have been in Boston for 17 years now, but if I were moving for food - as you are both chefs, why not New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Much as the food scene has improved in Boston over the time I have been here, I just got back from a week in San Francisco, Boston still has quite a way to go. That said, I would agree with the above posts, the seafood is good, there are some very good Vietnamese and Indian restaurants in the city and out. Chinese food is a little trickier a few real hits and many, many misses. Mexican food is not easily found here and we don't have an over abundance of what I call "casual neighborhood restaurants." The kind where you go 2 or 3 times a week - the prices are moderate and food is very good. It is the biggest food thing I miss about San Francisco. There they have many. Education is huge here - I believe we have 80 some odd colleges within 30 miles of the city and if something makes you sick there appear to be hospitals on almost every corner! The hot dogs are good here if you know where to go. I keep hoping for a permanent farmers market.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ptrefler

                After living in Quincy for a couple of years and now living in Pittsburgh, the one sandwich I really miss is the sirloin tips from The Fours (chased down with a couple of Harpoon IPAs on tap, of course). And I'd die for anything remotely like the Forest Cafe in Cambridge (no Mex in Pgh).

                That said, Philly (was also briefly housed in Gulph Mills) does have more good-quality Italian spread out all over the place. Although the cannoli joints on Hanover in the No. End rock more than anything I've been to in Philly. Never had Asian in Philly so tough to relate... would have to think Boston is better in that regard simply because of greater Asian density.

              2. So by now you've probably decided about the move but I can't help venting a little on this topic. I moved from Philly to Boston a few months ago and have been pretty disapointed about the food scene here. Good asian food has been the saving grace, although the quality doesn't differ greatly from Philly. Boston lacks a decent market (The grossly overrated 'Quincy Market' is nothing more than a food court, no joke). For ingredients, one must choose between supermarkets and snobby specialty food stores. 'The North End', the acclaimed Italian section of Boston, doesn't even have a fresh pasta store. Also..I miss Philly's sandwiches (italian pork, roast beef, cheese steaks, etc). There are no close substitutes in Bean Town. The mexcan food around my neighborhood is limited to gross burrito chains. Boston has quite a few good burger joints and of course the seafood is good. I can't comment on fine dining here b/c I haven't done any. But so far, Philly has much better for food. I've actually cried a few times thinking about the 9th Street Italian Market!!

                11 Replies
                1. re: scoopie

                  You can get fresh pasta at Monica's Salumeria on salem Street in the North End. I believe there's been a few posts about it here and there.

                  Farmer's markets tend to open in late spring. In the fall you can drive up to the a number of orchards to pick your own apples. And try scoring some Maine blueberries in the late summer or Maine sea urchin in the winter. Also, in the north end, there are butchers, green groccers, a spice store etc... There are also places to buy fish at the piers, before they even get to markets.

                  In general, I think it's a good rule of thumb to go for what a given area is good at, rather than to try to find good versions of dishes in a previous location. Moreover, if you just moved here a few months ago, you're not going to able to suss out all the good chow right away. I can only assure you about the food I miss from Singapore, and there is no place within a 16 hour flight from here that represents a significant fraction of that repertoire. But that's not the point. Chowhounding's about getting the best of what one could get given the available resources, and better yet, treasure hunting for delicious food that may not be obvious.

                  1. re: limster

                    Thanks for the reccomendations. I wish I'd known about this site when I was trying to find the pasta. Anyway I agree with you about sticking to local specialties. It would be silly to say, "Boston's cheesesteaks are awful." or "I don't like Philadelphia because they don't have good clam chowder." but the original post concerned moving to Boston soley b/c of food.

                    I think it is fair to compare cities based on restaurants and on the general accessability of quality ingredients. Especially cities in the same country that are only 300 miles apart. Boston and Philly both have access to cheeses from around the world but Philly has more specialty cheese stores. Both cities have access to milk but Boston has more (and better) ice cream shops. Treasure hunting for food is fun...but maybe 'treasures' are easier to find in certain cities. I think it's a relevant discussion.

                    1. re: scoopie

                      What people from elsewhere don't seem to realize, is that Boston is a tiny city in a huge metro area. Boston itself is only 53 sq miles and 500,000 population, as opposed to Philly which is probably 5 times the physical size and three times the population.

                      My point being, that when looking for good chow or fresh pasta or anything else in this area, you can't limit yourself to the city of Boston itself. As happened in many places, as the immigrants assimilated and became wealthier, they left Boston for the suburbs, and took their food with them. So, if you want fresh pasta, you will find it in Medford or Everett, or East Boston. If you want good sandwiches, you might need to go to Cambridge, or Brookline. Boston is more spread out that way, except for Chinatown, maybe.

                      Don't give up hope, it's all out there for the finding. Chowhounders are here to help.

                      1. re: mwk

                        And now the greater Boston metro area is about the same size as Philly. The Census Bureau last year finally overcame a decade and a half of hesitation over reclassifying metro areas in New England and consolidated Boston & Providence into a Consolidated Statistical Area (like Washington and Baltimore were merged 15 years ago) that stretches from southern Maine, southern NH, eastern MA, a bit of northeastern CT, and RI. Over 7M now.

                        The jealousy of New ENgland municipalities has reduced the merger mania that rendered city boundaries much larger elsewhere. Even so, Boston absorbed several other towns before that stopped a long time ago.

                        1. re: mwk

                          Thanks for the reccomendations. Thats a very good point about the relative sizes of the cities. I don't hate all of the food in Boston or anything. I just don't think it's worth leaving Philadelphia for. Check out my post on Boston's burgers. Im also a fan of Sam LaGrassa's and Chacarero in Downtown Crossing. I think the asian food and seafood is great here. Your bars and public transportation are faaarrrr better, your city is much safer and we lost to you in the Super Bowl. From now on I promise to limit my Boston kvetching for the "Pennsylvania" board. Philadelphia doesn't even have it's own board...lame! Go Eagles.

                          1. re: scoopie

                            Have you checked out Russo's in Watertown for fresh vegetables, baked goods, cheese, meats, etc? I find it anything but snooty.

                          2. re: mwk

                            "My point being, that when looking for good chow or fresh pasta or anything else in this area, you can't limit yourself to the city of Boston itself. As happened in many places, as the immigrants assimilated and became wealthier, they left Boston for the suburbs, and took their food with them. So, if you want fresh pasta, you will find it in Medford or Everett, or East Boston..."

                            I totally agree. Many of the businesses that USED to be in the North End migrated to the suburbs because of the work on the Big Dig (killed business there for the longest time), and the eventual touristy change of the area (and subsequent rise of property value). For better or worse, most of the North End is no longer Italian, but then again, that's part of it's history since it's beginnings, anyway.

                          3. re: scoopie

                            Formaggio Kitchen is the 800 pound gorilla on the cheese shop factor here in the Boston area, and is hard to beat; it's at the top of the class. Though there are a number of others good shops in the area, as threads on that topic bear out.

                        2. re: scoopie

                          As I'm probably the umpteenth person to remind, living in Boston for a few months is like a few days in most cities: give it some time and you'll find what you're looking for, including every day supermarkets that have what you're looking for.

                          I think you'll also find many of the subs made by our suburban cousins (typically Greek bodybuilders in small strip malls) to be the Red Sox to Phildelphia's Yankees, not always quite as stellar but they can play ball and even pull a surprise upset once in a while.

                          Check out Quincy market again in the summertime on a weekend morning, it's surprising how different that food court inside compares to the market outside.

                          I'm a little frightened if you think our bars our better.

                          1. re: scoopie

                            In the summer, you might enjoy the farmers' market in Coolidge Corner--in addition to local farms selling produce, it has meat, fish, bread, and the goat cheese lady. I remember a decent market in Chestnut Hill (the one outside of Philly, not the one outside of Boston), and while it's not quite like that, it does have good variety and some very good things.

                            Oh, and though Quincy Market can be a food court, Haymarket (right behind it) is a real market. But I'm not sure what (if anything) they have during the winter.

                            1. re: scoopie

                              Whoa...sounds like you've been misled on some accounts and maybe haven't had a chance to explore on others. Quincy Market never claimed to be a "food" market. It is a grouping of mid-to-high end retail stores with the central food court being as you would expect to get in any mall. If anyone led you to believe otherwise they were grossly mistaken. That being said, there are many good markets here. If you want a chain, Whole Foods are ubiquitous. If not, Russo's in Watertown, and Wilson Farms in Lexington are good too. There are several shops that sell fresh pasta both in the N. End and out. In the N. end there is Monica's, and the one on the corner of 2 streets (sorry, can't remember). In Hyde Park there is Tutti Italiano. There is also good Mexican food to be had at Tu y Yo and I also like Ole Mexican grill...Boston certainly doesn't do sandwiches - or deli - in the same way as Phila...but that's apples and oranges...Phila doesn't do seafood, or portuguese, or Brazilian, or Indian the way we do it here...I think that Boston has a tremendous amount to offer a food lover who is willing to explore..I felt the same way about Phila when I lived there (in an apartment 2 blocks from the Italian market).

                            2. I moved here from Philly about 2 yrs ago. Food-wise, Boston has wonderful offerings, as does Philadelphia. The big difference is scale - Boston is a smaller city (if you ignore the whole Providence expansion thing, which is a little wacky on the part of the folks at the Census Bureau) with just as many restaurants and it's way easier to get from place to place. My frustration in Philly was that it was pretty tough to "hop" from a yummy dinner on 2nd Street to the Continental Midtown to Manayunk for a nightcap (where I lived). The good sections of town were like little islands separated by tough areas. Boston is denser and safer and the public trans (T) kicks Philly's to the moon, at least where it concerns the city center and immediate extremities. (Commuter rail is about the same)

                              So, that said, you've had lots of good recommendations on Asian (Aneka Rasa, the Malaysian place, is in my 'hood and I love it - But don't miss Dok Bua on Harvard Street for understated, underpriced, overly-wonderful Thai!). I'd like to make a Mexican recommendation: El Pelón (in the Fenway area) for fantastic fish tacos. It's my latest magical discovery in the Boston cuisine scene and I'm completely addicted, like as if to crack.

                              Finally, the question of farmers markets: there is the Boston Haymarket (north of Quincy Market) similar to Philly's Italian market in price but not necessarily in quality or diversity (Fri & Sat most of the year when it's not freeeezing). Every neighborhood seems to host a farmers market over the summer and into early fall. But for year-round, reliably fresh produce at an entirely reasonable price, I hop in the car and head to Russo's in Watertown (next town over from Cambridge): http://www.russos.com/index.html. I never miss there and rarely spend more than $15 for a basket heaped with gorgeous fruits and veggies...and maybe a mini-cannoli as a treat.

                              Lots of luck in your move and enjoy your culinary adventures wherever you land!