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Great chow in Lawrence

[We split this from another thread for better visibility -- The Chowhound Team]

Not sure how controversial this is, but one of the truly underrated towns for restaurants is...Lawrence. Excellent Vietnamese, Korean, Italian, Sicilian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran, and so on. Also, great places for pizza and hot dogs.

BTW, this is one of the best topics I've seen on Chowhound. Thanks for starting it, opinionatedchef!

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  1. hidden,
    my pleasure. listen, you knowledgable CH you, might you consider doing a brief LIST of your fav Lawrence places- w/a few recommended dishes- for us? i think that would be SO helpful. i find that keeping a post to a list form- makes it happen so much faster!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      Sure, why not? Here goes:

      Sal's--excellent New York style pizza in a terrific environment (w/outdoor patio on the river)
      Napoli--terrific Sicilian pizza
      Tripoli--even better Sicilian pizza, plus great pastries
      Fisichelli's--little known pastry shop that I like better than Tripoli for pastries--you have to try the chocolate chip cookies with a layer of fudge in the middle
      Tacos Lupia--we all know about their food, and yes, there is one in Lawrence
      Cafe Azteca--some of the best authentic Mexican cuisine north of Boston
      Pollo Tipico--great cubanos, though not quite up to the level of Chez Henri
      Cesar's--another good place for cubanos
      T&N Vietnamese Restaurant--decent place for Vietnamese food--good pho there
      Lawton's--from what I hear, a place that hot dog lovers must check out (I haven't been yet)

      I'll try to think of some more when I'm more awake...

      1. re: hiddenboston

        I'll add a few more, which you probably know about already:

        Mounir's Restaurant - Lebanese
        Bruno's North End - Fresh Sandwiches & Italian Meals
        Ceasar's Cafe - Sandwich shop. Good place for a Cubano Sandwich
        El Tipico - same owners of Pollo Tipico
        Cedar Crest Restaurant - Diner side. Great breakfast spot, nice lunch specials and excellent burgers.

        1. re: Infomaniac

          I ate at Cedar Crest many years ago while working in the Lawrence area. Very good, inexpensive food. Not fancy at all, just good. A worthy "chowhound" place.

          Branching further afield, My Brothers Place in Andover made a good "Syrian Sub." Don't know if they do any more.

        2. re: hiddenboston

          A friend recalls visiting a good Dominican place but she can't remember any details.

          1. re: Aromatherapy

            Maybe she went to Lechonera on Union Street? They have a combo of Puerto Rican and Domician Cuisine there. Very good plantains, yellow rice, chicken, etc.

          2. re: hiddenboston

            Lawnton's lobster rolls are the best for the price. And there chicken barbs

        3. And a few more. North Lawrence: On Common Street, Tripoli bakery/pizza and Napoli Pizza are literally a stone's throw from each other and Cafe Azteca. I like the Tripoli pizza and the Napoli spinach and meat pies by the slice or whole. You can also get a half/half spinach/meat. Next door to Napoli is
          The Italian Kitchen where on the weekend, you can get all sorts of Italian (esp Sicilian/Southern Italian) treats--rice balls, crispelli (plain, anchovy or cheese).

          Lawton's deep fries their dogs. This might offend some, but they are cheap and good.

          Speaking of cheap and good, in South Lawrence in what used to be the Irish section of town, Hardy's bakery. Great soda bread, and cheap, excellent breads (to die for snowflake rolls), pastries and both sweet and savory pies.

          Also in South Lawrence, down the street from Hardy's, Yokohama Japanese Steakhouse.

          3 Replies
          1. re: thegolferbitch

            I second Hardy's: very inexpensive, very old schoo0l - and old enough that it was back in a time when things tasted good! Good meat pies, without the soapy artificial taste, for about $1.50! Just once I got (and I don't know if they still have them) raised doughnuts stuffed with ricotta. They were only on Sunday mornings, and only until they sold out, but very fun.

            1. re: pastrytroll

              I could be wrong, but I think Hardy's closed up shop as of about two weeks ago...

              1. re: KnittingShaker

                Drove by Hardy's today. Going out of business signs still in the window and it's now closed.

          2. Garden House is Korean home-style cooking with some Japanese (no sushi). Excellent noodle soups and Tchigae (stews).

            The Hee Bin restaurant at the end of South Union does great Korean BBQ and also sushi.

            Up the street from Hee Bin, where the old registry used to be, there is a decent Korean food store, Shin-Shin that has a fresh meat and fish section. They have Kalbi (thin sliced cross-cut short ribs) and lots of other goodies.

            1. Might be over the line to North Andover but on Winthrop Ave/Rte 114 in South Lawrence, Bollywood Grill has really good Indian food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: onlytwomuses

                Bollywood is just over the line, and yes they do put out really good Indian food.

              2. all right, you CHs you! what a valuable service you are performing for so many!!

                1. wow hidden is right. Lawrence does have some good stuff.
                  I always think Lowell as better.
                  I want to add a few more.

                  Inaka, in a little plaza across from Showcase Cinema- Sushi

                  Harrison's _ok in No Andover- fantastic roast beef sand

                  Paisano's - Merrimack St next to train station-good pizza

                  Jim's Kabob's good mid - east take out, also Merrimack St

                  Hardy's Bakery that golferbitch mentioned does a great breakfast pasty ring with loads of walnuts and cinnamon and icing, and their apple cream pie is vg as well.

                  Lee Chen is as good as suburban Chinese gets. I like that if you order lunch specials they are served family style so works out well for sharing.

                  North Andover also has Buthcer Boy Market
                  which is the best for meats,wines produce,specialty items, and i much prefer their bread to any of the Italian bakeries.

                  Mann's Orchards and Piros,both in Methuen, are good bakeries, I got a lemon blueberry trifle from Mann's this summer which was the best dessert that I have had all year, they currently have a nice gingerbread whoopie pie.

                  One last place worth mentioning is J&M subs in No Andover, they have the very best steak and cheese sub.

                  1. la tambora on broadway (right next to cedar crest) for great dominican food. the carribean bakery next door has great cakes, too.

                    1. We just recently searched (because of CHers) out Cafe Azteca and love love loved it!!!!! We've also loved the tepanyaki at Yokohama Japanese Steakhouse. Someone once told me about a great puerto rican place but we haven't been and I've forgotten now - anyone know???

                      1. Are any of these places close to the commuter rail station in Lawrence? I will find myself there on Friday evening and would love to grab a Cubano or some tacos on the way up to our final destination in Maine... Thanks!

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: rosie17

                          If you have time between trains, take a short cab ride to Cafe Azteca, 180 Common Street, for some good mexican food.
                          For a cubano, not far from Cafe Azteca is Cesar's Cafe, 11 Newbury Street, a sandwich shop that does an excellent cubano. Not sure of their hours though.
                          Cash only at both places.

                          1. re: rosie17

                            Nothing is all that close to the commuter rai (except perhaps Sal's), but Lawrence has a good cab system in town, so I'd say perhaps jump in a cab and go to any of these places if you have time.

                            1. re: hiddenboston

                              Thanks, 'maniac and hidden! Although now my driving companion is insisting on picking me up in Andover b/c of the crime reports... And I really wanted that Cuban, too! I bet they're authentic and delish...

                              1. re: rosie17

                                Doh! That's too bad you might not have a chance to get over there. Lawrence really isn't that bad a place for the most part (the area around Cafe Azteca is ok). I spent a lot of time in Lawrence over the past 4 years and rarely had any problems. BTW, the Cubano at Pollo Tipico in Lawrence is terrific, too.

                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                  I was at Pollo Tipico this past Friday and they were not serving the Cubano that day. The girl went out back to ask someone if they would make it, and she came back and told me they can make it today. I didn't inquire why, and don't know if you might know?

                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                    Oh, you know what, I think they might indeed only serve the Cubano at lunchtime. Not 100% sure, but I think I heard that somewhere (and I've only gotten them at lunch).

                                  2. re: hiddenboston

                                    I wonder if they only serve it during lunch hours, though, because we went there in the late afternoon and had no luck getting a Cuban.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      Thats when I went, during lunch on Friday. I'll
                                      inquire next time I'm there, which will probably be pretty soon.

                                      Cesar's Cafe on Newbury Street, between Essex and Common Street does a good traditional Cubano too if your jonesin for one.

                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                        Was able to get a Cubano at Pollo Tipico at lunch today. I asked the girl if it was available everyday, and she said it was available most everyday.
                                        The pork had some really good flavor....a great deal for $6.00, and I still have half left for later.

                              2. where in law. are tripoli and napoli

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: foodperv

                                  They are right across the street from each other, on Common Street. Both great sheet pan sicilian pizzas, unique in there own way. Tripoli has a sweeter sauce, and Napoli has a little thicker crust.

                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                    Both Tripoli and Napoli are worth going to. It's definitely worth doing a comparison test by going to one for a slice, then walking across the street to the other for another slice.

                                    I personally like Tripoli a little better, but I'll do either, depending on my mood that day.

                                2. Sniffed out Tipico Pollo literally while in Lawrence last week - drove by and could smell the roasted chicken and turned my car around. Brought home a whole chicken that was great, if a tiny bit salty - but man, was it good.

                                  Thanks, hounds. I'll have to stop in for the cubano next time.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    agreed about the salt factor on TP roast chicken. we call it 'Thirsty Chicken.'

                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                      Funny...and agreed. It was a no-win situation, because the most flavorful and saltiest part was the skin.

                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                        crispy chicken skin singles anyone?

                                        i wish i knew what spice/herb blend they're using. i tried to ask once but the language barrier was up.

                                  2. Tripoli has great pizza & also a good bakery. It has been in the same location for well over 35 years. The pizza tastes the same as it did 35 years ago. A testament to the generations using same recipes. Bishops Restaurant was a Lawrence landmark & fine restaurant for many years. It has closed but the same recipes are now used at The Phoenican in Salem NH which is a 15-20 minute drive.

                                    1. Thanks for starting this thread! It's helped me try some different places. I work in Lawrence so I am there quite often. I want to add something to this as well...

                                      Bruno's North End Deli sells wonderful Fresh Homemade Italian Sausages. I figured this out one time when I had a tomato and cheese sausage sub with onions and peppers for lunch. They are on display with the cold cuts, cheeses and olives.

                                      I am VERY picky when it comes to Homemade Sausages and these really stand out to me. The have Sweet Italian, Hot and I especially like their Tomato and Cheese (all $4.99lb). You have to bake them in an oven at a moderate temperature though. The skins do not seem to hold up on a grill and the juices ends up leaking out. I have also witnessed them making these, they add some Pomi Crushed Tomato, Fresh Basil and Provolone cheese to their sweet italian sausage mix.

                                      I do not know of any other places in the area that make homemade sausages besides Butcher Boy, and the Butcher Boy's sausages do not even compare to these.

                                      -----
                                      North End Deli
                                      95 Common St, Lawrence, MA 01840

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: mjg0725

                                        Borrelli's Italian Deli in Methuen on Rte. 110 also makes excellent homemade sausage. Maybe even better than Bruno's IMO.

                                        1. re: Infomaniac

                                          Great, another place to try, thanks.

                                          1. re: mjg0725

                                            If you're ever in Manchester NH, Sausage Heaven makes phenominal sausage and kielbasa - they also make it for restaurants too. You can order on line as well and have it shipped but they have a retail store to browse. Quite the long list of funky flavors too.
                                            https://shop.sausageheaven.com/index.asp

                                          2. re: Infomaniac

                                            Thanks Infomaniac, finally got over to Borrelli's to sample their sausages. I liked them a lot better than Bruno's and Dom's Sausages in Malden (one of my all time favorites). I liked the fact that they grind their pork very corsely, almost like it's diced up in the sausages. They were very moist, yet not very greasy at all. The tomato and cheese were my favorite. They just had a much better and fresher overall flavor as well.

                                            Great place, thanks again.

                                          3. re: mjg0725

                                            what about frying does the skin hold up

                                            1. re: foodperv

                                              I have not yet tried frying them, sorry.

                                          4. Stumbled upon some great empanadas and fried chicken recently at Jacqueline's Grocery Store across from T&N Pho Restaurant on Broadway. The counter is in the back of the store. They also serve some hot dishes too, although I have not had any.

                                            There is a usually a large line of locals at lunch. Check it out.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: mjg0725

                                              thanks for the info. on Jacqueline's. I'll be in Lawrence tomorrow and will stop in to try it out.

                                              1. re: mjg0725

                                                What a stumble you made.....I finally made it to Jacqueline's today and tried the fried chicken and empanadas, both were excellent, and freshly made. I noticed some of the other hot dishes too, and they looked interesting and worth trying.
                                                It was a little busy at 12:15. They were doing some construction in there. It would be great if they put seating, but take out is fine. Great find!

                                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                                  Jacqueline's empanada filllings have a lot more flavor to them, especially the beef. I just wish the stuffed it in there more. Other places I've tried in Lawrence have a fillings with a very bland flavor to them.

                                                  Glad you enjoyed it.

                                              2. I work nearby in Andover and I'm working my way through this list of recommended places to eat in Lawrence. I'm a decent cook and baker. I'm always looking for good inexpensive local joints as well as the occaisional high-end restaurant. These are just my personal opinions as a person who enjoys preparing and eating good food:

                                                - Lawtons: classic hot dog stand. Deep fried dogs are good and cooked to order. Takes a little time to get your order, but worth it. Ordered the $5 special: 2 dogs with an order of fries that was so large that it was difficult to finish everything. Got one dog with the works (onion, mustard, relish) and the other dog with chili. I've visited lots of "famous" hot dog stands in the northeast and I would say this place is pretty good: Good dogs, limited selection, good fries, great value

                                                - Tripoli Bakery: Not very good pizza. Tasted like pizza from a chef boyardee pizza kit. Pizza crust was terrible. Pizza sauce was overly sweet. I bought one of their breads. The bread had a soft, fine crumb like an enriched bread. If you have kids that like wonder bread texture, then this is for you. If you're an artisan bread baker, then don't even bother. This is like white bread with a firmer crust. The only nice thing is that they have a huge parking lot. Just not my style either the pizza or the bread.

                                                - Napoli: very good Sicilian pizza. I ordered plain cheese pizza by the slice. They didn't seem to offer pizza by the slice with toppings. So next time, I'll order a small pizza with some of the various toppings that they offer. I did order a slice of meat pie. I ordered meat pie at Napoli and Tripoli. In both cases, it was served as a layer of dough around a slab of "mystery" meat. Not sure what the meat was. Maybe it was some sort of mild sausage. I had never seen "meat pie" until visiting Napoli and Tripoli in Lawrence. While both sounded appealing, the meat stayed with me the rest of the afternoon. I guess I'm just not a fan of meat pie because plenty of other people came in and ordered slices of meat pie.

                                                - Sal's Pizza: Good value. Okay pizza. Order pizza cafeteria style and they slice off a quarter of one of their huge pizzas, cut it into two slice, and re-heat it. The only downside is that you wind up with two huge slices of the same kind of pizza. I wish that they would let you mix slices. Ordering two "quarters" of a pizza, while affordable, is just too much for me to eat. The pizza itself is okay. Not great. Not bad. Better than going to Dominos or Pizza hut, but not legendary pizza like going to Santarpios by Logan Airport. If I had to choose between Sals, Napoli, and Tripoli in Lawrence, I would go to Napoli.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: dlee388

                                                  Chuckle ~ I can say I have never heard of a Meat Pie either. I do like Napoli's, but they do stick with you all day. The mystery meat seems to be a combo of seasoned pork and a little ground beef.

                                                  The spinach pie at both places is great as well, but I give the nod to Tripoli because they use fresh spinach.

                                                  Cafe Azteca is as good as Mexican gets in this state at least.

                                                  1. re: mjg0725

                                                    Meat Pie at Tripoli and Napoli is a local tradition. Also known as scacciata (pronounced skachaatha). Crust is pretty thick and doughy, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Meat is coarsely ground pork. Usually includes onion, mushrooms, and provolone cheese. Done well it is a huge treat (we have it every Christmas Eve - I know - meat - oh well). Sorry you weren't a fan. Maybe it's one of those things you have to have grown up with to like, but you're right, it is hugely popular.

                                                    1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                      I gathered that it must be a local tradition. There is also another place down the street from these two places callled Pizza Land that sells them too (Thanks infomaniac). The meat pie is always very tasty going down, but I regret it later in the day. I'd still get it on occasion though - especially the one at Napoli.

                                                      1. re: mjg0725

                                                        You might mean Pizza King....i sort of know what you mean about regreting it later in the day....I like their spicy meat pie. They do a turkey club pizza too thats pretty good. First time I ever had a pizza with mayo on it....it was good though.

                                                        1. re: Infomaniac

                                                          Yah I meant Pizza King. I saw the "turkey club pizza" being made. Looked like something worth trying. Regular pizza looked great too.

                                                          1. re: mjg0725

                                                            Another local fave are the crispellis from Italian Kitchen. I don't know if they make them year-round, but we always get them during the feast of the three saints over Labor Day weekend. They are fried doughnuts and come two ways - sweet, stuffed with ricotta cheese and rolled in granulated sugar, or savory, stuffed with anchovy. Yum!

                                                            1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                              Yah, it's open year-round. You should also try the aranchini.

                                                              1. re: treb

                                                                They are closed on Mon., Tues., and Wed., but yes...open all year long. They fry both the rice balls and crispelli's when ordered and the center of their rice balls have a nice piece of chicken and not ground meat. These are the best around IMO.

                                                2. For the sake of brevity I'll just give you the best and worst:

                                                  Best - Cafe Azteca and Lawton's

                                                  Worst - Sal's pizza and Cedarcrest

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: terrystu

                                                    I agree with Cafe Azteca being the best Mexican in the area. I'm not a hotdog fan and usually get the lobster roll at Lawton's which is excellent.

                                                    Sal's doesn't do much for me and I like Napoli and Tripoli's pizza.

                                                    As for CedarCrest, you may have had bad experiences there, but in the 30 years that I have been eating there, I've never had a bad meal there. I think they have best burger in Lawrence and I love the veal on a heal, Great breakfast's too. I'll only eat on the dinner side.

                                                    1. re: Infomaniac

                                                      I've only been there twice, but they serve canned vegetables, frozen french fries, pre-cooked bacon, etc. Nothing really homemade at all.
                                                      Guess its just not my style.

                                                      1. re: terrystu

                                                        I agree about nothing being homemade there, and it really is no special place. Thinking about it, knowing what Cedar Crest does well (hamburgers, veal cutlet, sausage links w/breakfast.) makes it easy for me to praise the place,
                                                        I can easily see how someone could not like it not knowing what to expect.

                                                        1. re: Infomaniac

                                                          I've been in the diner side many times, good comfort food at cheap prices, I mean come on you can get a complete chicken dinner, with all the tripoli bread you want, from soup to dessert for 8 bucks. I avoid the canned vegies and get their handmade cole slaw made with oil and vinegar.

                                                  2. My comments on the next three places I've visited in my lunchtime adventures in Lawrence. These are just my personal opinions.

                                                    North End Deli: A decent Italian deli in Lawrence. They offer a wide range of hot meals, hot subs and cold subs and carry a limited selection of Italian grocery items. The deli has a number of small tables that were filled, but people constantly came and went so you could eventually get a table. The menu has everything that you might expect in an Italian deli serving hot and cold sandwiches and a limited number of hot entrees. One of the specialties is their “famous jumbo rice balls.” These rice balls are arancini that are the size of softballs. While I like arancini, an arancini the size of a softball just didn’t seem appealing to me. There are too many different things on the menu to assess this place fairly in one visit. I ordered the veal parmesan sub at $7.25. The sub was good. What made it good was that it was real veal – pounded thin surrounded by a thin bread coating. The rest of the sandwich was what you would expect in a hot sub – decent bread and sauce. I’m always looking for the small local joint in my food adventures. If I had to choose one place in Lawrence to go for lunch, I would probably choose someplace else a little bit more “distinctive.” However, if I was in the mood for an Italian sub or sandwich, then I would definitely go here.

                                                    Jacquelines: Jacqueline’s Grocery Store next to Jacqueline’s Accounting business on Broadway. What a great find. This is what I call local food. Going into the back of the Hispanic grocery store, there is a food service counter where people line up for the fried chicken and empanadas. Everyone seemed like a local and was really friendly. They have a number of hot entrees as well, but I focused on the chicken and empanadas and ordered some of each. They also have a warming tray of French fries that most people went for, but I decided to go for something with more local flavor and went for the “yellow” rice. After I ordered the yellow rice, a man behind me smiled ordered the same. The chicken is good. It’s not a Kentucky-fried kind of chicken. Their fried chicken has a very thin coating of seasoned salt/herbs. It was very moist and tasted more like homemade than what you get at Kentucky-fried. The seasoning salt was a little on the salty side, but I didn’t really notice it until I was almost finished eating my chicken. For the empanada, I ordered a Jamaican beef pie. They didn’t have any in the warming case so the counter lady pulled some out of the freezer and toss them in the deep fryer. The empanadas are fried so they’re crispy. Personally, I would have a preferred a baked empanada. The filling was nothing special. In my opinion, it’s worth trying the empanadas, but the chicken and the yellow rice were the stars of my meal. Next time I go back, I’ll probably try some of the other hot entrees in the kitchen. Also, it was very affordable at $1 per piece of chicken or per empanada. The Jamaican meat pie was $1.50. The yellow rice was only available in a fairly large portion for one person at $2, but it was good. Note – this is take out only. There is no seating.

                                                    Pollo Tipico: Okay food, but disappointing. My expectations were too high. Deep in the heart of Lawrence, this is one of the first neighborhoods in my lunch adventures where I felt a little nervous. As a single Asian woman, the busy street in what seemed to be a purely Hispanic neighborhood and everyone looking at me as I walked in the door of the restaurant made me feel a little out of place. I imagine that they might feel the same if they were to walk into a small store in Chinatown. It wasn’t a big deal, but it didn’t have the friendly atmosphere that I experienced at Jacquelines. The restaurant itself had a small seating area and a line of people at the counter where you place your orders. There was no menu. Just a sign on the wall with a few specials. I ordered the # 1 chicken special – ¼ chicken, rice and pigeon peas, and a salad for $5.50. And I had to try the fried plantains and ordered a side of that for $1. I really wanted to swap out the salad for the plantains in my #1, but they wouldn’t make the change. The chicken itself was okay roast chicken. A little dry, but no better or worse than the roast chicken you can buy at the hot deli area of your local grocery store. The rice and pigeon peas was exactly that – a huge serving of white rice with a cup of pigeon peas that I poured over the rice. Nothing special here either. They did give you the option to choose between yellow rice versus rice with pigeon peas. The salad was some shredded lettuce with one piece of cucumber and two slices of tomato with a mild white vinegar dressing. The salad wasn’t even worth eating other than to taste the dressing. Finally, the fried plantains were okay (basically the plantain version of French fries), but a little like lead on the way down. Behind the glass display on top of the counter, they had fried pork ribs, some sort of steak, bbq ribs, and empanadas. If I were to go here again, I would try the fried pork ribs because the roast chicken was nothing special. For chicken, I would choose Jacquelines over Pollo Tipico.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: dlee388

                                                      Thanks for the post. My son (who works just across the line in Andover) picked up some of Jacqueline's chicken and empanadas. Very, very good. Moist chicken with a nice crust and great flavor. Thin and flat empanadas but good ratio of meat to dough - also very tasty.

                                                      1. re: dlee388

                                                        I'll add an Amen and a Hallelujah for Jacqueline's fried chicken-- with the caveat to stick with the dark meat if possible. The first piece was a thigh I guess and just fantastic. Nicely spiced very crisp crust, moist, juicy interior. Another piece was a breast I guess, white meat and on the dry side (pretty small though). Wing was good too. But really, this is the best fried chicken I've had in recent memory.

                                                        I liked the empanada, and so did the chowpup, who devoured about 3/4 of it. It was nicely spiced.

                                                        I didn't see what else was on offer because hubby went in to buy. He did mention there was a bit of a language barrier but he came out with the goods (at $1.50 per piece of chicken, not $1) so it's all good.

                                                        However I was majorly bummed that Fisichelli's was closed for vacation until the 14th because I have been jonesing for a lobster tail and figured this was the perfect opportunity, while I was already throwing calorie concerns to the wind. Sigh.

                                                        1. re: Chris VR

                                                          Jacquieline's is a real find, and it's dirt cheap. There are other better options for Italian goodies, Piro's in Methuen has excellent lobster tails and other tasty treats, personally, I don't think Fisichelli's is anything to cry over.

                                                      2. Two more entries in my lunchtime adventures exploring food in Lawrence: El Mofongo and Tacos Lupita. Again - just my personal opinions.

                                                        El Mofongo – Dominican home-style cooking: good, simple food. I visited El Mofongo twice. It is a small shop with a few tables located on Common Street a short walk from Tripoli Bakery. Everyone speaks Spanish and everything is written in Spanish, but the paper menu at the counter has items in English and Spanish. On my first visit, I didn’t know what to order so I got some braised pork chops in the front counter display that looked good along with rice and beans to eat there. They serve up your order on a tray with real plates and tableware which is a nice touch in a small place like this. The pork chops, rice and beans tasted like simple, good food that one might make at home. The meal also comes with a salad that is 95% iceberg lettuce and a mild white vinegar dressing – nothing special. On my first visit, I really didn’t know what anything was despite the English descriptions on the menu. On my second visit, a few co-workers joined me including one from Puerto Rico who helped me understand the menu. We all shared a little bit of everything. I ordered the Locrio de pernil (roast pork shoulder with rice) because it was on the Thursday Specials. From what the others ordered, I tasted roast chicken, roast plantain, red beans and rice, and pigeon peas and rice. My overall comment holds for all these dishes – good, simple, home-style food. Here are a couple of closing thoughts. There is no air conditioning and the place can get fairly warm on hot days even with the front door open. The owners prefer to speak Spanish. So if you don’t speak Spanish, don’t expect much help in figuring out the menu. The owners are friendly enough, but they didn’t want to, or were too busy to help someone figure out what to order. Of course, I just looked at the English on the paper menu and it took my co-worker to point out the obvious that half of the menu is dedicated to daily specials (Especial del dia) and the other half of the menu is dedicated to the daily menu (Menu diario). Once I realized that, it was pretty easy to understand the menu and what you can order. Overall, I recommend El Mofongo as a place with good, simple, home-style food.

                                                        Tacos Lupita: Very good tacos,…. for Boston. I lived in San Diego for a few years and I frequented the local taco stands where I sat with migrant farm workers and had some of the best carne asada and carnitas that I’ve ever had. Since moving to Boston, I’ve never found Mexican food that could compare to San Diego. Based my experiences in San Diego, I always look for a couple things when I go to a taco stand/store. If they have Tortas on the menu, then I consider it a real taco stand. When I walked into Tacos Lupita and saw that they had Tortas, I said to myself that this could be good. Then I always try to compare taco stands based on the quality of their carnitas – unfortunately, no carnitas here at Tacos Lupita. And finally, I look for the pickled carrots, onions and jalapenos that are found in every taco stand in San Diego – unfortunately, none of that here either. I ordered a carne asada Torta and an al pastor taco because of the references to al pastor on Chowhound. Side story – after picking up my order at the cashier, I turned around with two plates in my hands and a customer talking excitedly with a friend and waving his arms knocked my taco into my jacket in the split second that I turned around. So I wound up with al pastor taco and guacamole all over my jacket. The counter lady rinsed out my jacket and the man bought me another taco. A little side excitement in a lunchtime adventure – back to the food. The tortas was just okay. The teleras bread tasted a little too much like white-bread. Maybe if they had toasted the teleras a little more, it might have taken the edge off the white bread hamburger bun taste. The carne asada was okay, but a little on the dry side. There was no noticeable heat from the jalapenos in the sandwich. The al pastor taco was better than the carne asada tortas. For a small taco, it came pretty well loaded and was quite filling. Two al pastor tacos could have been enough for a lunch meal. The al pastor was good, but the chile flavor wasn’t that distinctive. Again, no heat from the jalapenos. What’s with these wimpy jalapenos. Overall, good tacos for Boston, but not good enough to be one of my first choices for food in Lawrence. I don’t go to a lot of taco places in Boston because I’m always underwhelmed. For my tastes, I like El Pelon Taqueria near Fenway Park as one of the better taco places in Boston. I still need to go to Café Azteca to see if the Mexican food is as good as everyone says.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: dlee388

                                                          Hey dlee388, you certainly have bragging rights for great tacos and fish tacos in SD but other than that, and maybe Hodad's, SD is a culinary wasteland of overpriced mediocre at best places. Certainly Boston and even Lawrence have a more diverse ethnic choices of excellent chow at 'reasonable prices'. BTW, definately try Cafe Azteca, run by a nice family, then pop over to Tripoli's bakery for some goodies.

                                                          1. re: dlee388

                                                            I don't think Cafe Azteca is that good. It's not horrible but I won't visit again. My preference is Taqueria Mexico in Waltham...it's worth the extra driving.

                                                            There is a Tacos Lupita in Haverhill, as well. I think it's delicious considering how convenient it is for me and the lack of good food, at a similar price point, in the area.

                                                            1. re: dlee388

                                                              Thanks for the great write-ups, dlee38! I enjoyed reading all of them, even though I doubt I will get up to Lawrence to try them out.

                                                              I need to try some more places here in Lynn - I have a few favorites, and want to try more, too (all in the name of Chow-Science, of course!)

                                                              Think a chow crawl would be a good idea..

                                                            2. Pizza King - Corner of Salem & Loring Streets. Been there for close to 30 years. Only open on Wednesday through Sunday. Excellent pizza and Calzones. House made eggplant, meatballs, chicken cutlet, meat pies, spinach pies, broccoli pies. Had the turkey club pizza today...first time I ever had a pizza with mayo on it but it was excellent. Not pretty from the outside, and not an easy place to find if you are not familiar with the area, but it's worth seeking out. Another gem in Lawrence.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                Elaine's is a small old style sub shop on Hampshire St that has a great falafel wrap.

                                                                1. re: citylvr

                                                                  Thanks....I'll be back in Lawrence next week and will try to check it out.

                                                              2. More comments/opinions as I continue to explore Lawrence during lunch time. This time: Harrison's Roast Beef, Top Donut, La Tambora, and Caribbean Bakery.

                                                                Harrison’s Roast Beef – North Andover. This isn’t Lawrence, but someone else mentioned Harrison’s on this thread so I’ll add my comments here with the rest of my lunch time food adventures in the Lawrence area. I went out to lunch with two other people from work and one recommended Harrison’s Roast Beef in North Andover. Nice size restaurant with good parking and plenty of tables. You order at the counter and then take your tray to a table. I ordered a small roast beef with horseradish, small fries and a cup of tea for $8. The sandwich was pretty small – smaller than the diameter of a McDonald’s $1 cheeseburger, but thicker with about 1 inch of thinly sliced/chopped roast beef. It was so thinly sliced that it appeared like a single mass of meat. My general reaction – a tender, but flavorless roast beef sandwich on a soft bun. There wasn’t much horseradish on the sandwich and I would ask for more next time. I didn’t get the “sauce” because most roast beef places tend to use the same James River barbecue sauce for their sandwiches. The small order of fries was decent size and they were traditional crinkle cut fries. The fries were very good – crispy, meaty, and not greasy. I’ve tried a few other roast beef places including Bedford House of Roast Beef (in Bedford) and Greg’s Roast Beef (in Wakefield). I’ve never been overly impressed with roast beef sandwich shops. The meat usually is sliced thin and piled into some flavorless mass. When I have roast beef or prime rib in a restaurant, I usually order an end-cut because I like the flavor that you get from the caramelization on the outside of the roast beef. You never get that in a roast beef sandwich at these shops. It’s always some mass of the tender, pink, flavorless meat. I’ve even had the beef on weck sandwich at Chris Schlesinger’s All Star Sandwich Bar in Cambridge and the best part of that sandwich was the weck bun. I wasn’t impressed with Harrison’s, but that could also come from my general lack of enthusiasm for the sandwiches that I’ve had at any of the roast beef places that I’ve visited. The roast beef sandwich at Harrison’s was about the same as any other sandwich that I’ve had at a “roast beef” restaurant and the value wasn’t very good at $8 for a small roast beef, small fries and drink. My lunchtime preferences still lean towards all the diverse types of foods in Lawrence.

                                                                Top Donut: Makes crullers, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get donuts from Top Donuts. In keeping with my exploration of food in Lawrence, I decided to buy a dozen donuts from Top Donuts instead of stopping at any of the Dunkin Donuts in the area that are on my way to work. I was wondering how an independent donut shop could survive with Dunkin Donuts on every corner in New England. Walking in to the shop, it was clean, but inside of the building felt kind of dated especially compared to what one has gotten used to seeing in a Dunkin Donuts. There were two people sitting at a table having coffee and a few cars lined up outside at the drive-in window - not the crowds that one usually sees at Dunkin Donuts. I’m not a coffee drinker so I can’t comment on the quality of the coffee. The donuts themselves were okay – not any better or worse than what you get at DD. They had a little more variety of donuts than what you might see at DD. The most noticeable thing for me was that they had crullers whereas DD makes the “stick” instead of crullers. One of the glazed donuts came with a thick coffee flavored glaze that was nice and unusual. They had all the usual donuts that you can find at DD: boston crème, jelly filled, glazed. Overall, I would buy donuts from them because I believe in supporting local business. However, it was several miles out of my way to work to go to Top Donut and I wouldn’t make a special trip just for the donuts.

                                                                La Tambora: Good Dominican food in a bright, clean place among a crowded strip mall. Like most of the Dominican places I’ve gone to, no one speaks English unless they have to. There’s a long serving counter with heated trays of food. They had more varieties of different foods that I could see behind the counter than what I’ve seen at the other Dominican places that I’ve visited around Lawrence. Unfortunately, there’s no menu so I couldn’t tell what anything was other than the obvious roast chicken, and rice and bean, and plantain dishes. I asked another customer what it was that he had just ordered and he told me that it was goat and that it was very good. So that’s what I got. The goat stew served over rice and beans. My first time eating goat. They serve up a huge platter of rice and beans and topped it with the goat stew. The goat was very tender and the sauce was the dominant flavor. You couldn’t tell that you were eating goat. Overall, it was very good. The food was as good as El Monfongo The meal was a good value at $5 and they seemed to have a lot more variety than other places I’ve gone to.

                                                                Caribbean Bakery (in the same strip mall as La Tambora): A small bakery/sandwich shop. At lunch time, it seemed like most people in the bakery were ordering sandwiches and I didn’t see anyone else ordering baked goods. A co-worker told me that they have good flan. So I picked up some flan and variety of other baked items to bring back to work. They’re a small bakery with a small baked goods display. There’s not a very large selection of items. The majority of the items were baked with puff pastry in different forms and with different fillings. It seemed like pineapple, apple and strawberry were the two primary fillings that they used. A small bakery like that probably can’t afford to work with too many different types of dough or fillings. The flan itself was okay. I’ve had better flan, but it’s usually at a restaurant. At least you can buy an individual serving of flan at the bakery which is unusual in itself. I might go back some day to try their sandwiches. They had Cuban sandwiches on the menu and a number of other interesting sandwiches. The baked goods were standard fare. Nothing to rave about other than the ability to get a serving of flan if that’s what you wanted.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: dlee388

                                                                  Great post, dlee388. BTW, I just got back from a trip to Tripoli (the pizza place/bakery in Lawrence, not the Libyan city). We got some squares and ate them on the benches over by the loading dock. God, I love their sauce. A bit too sweet for some people, but one of my favorites...

                                                                  1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                    I am from the Andover/Lawrence line and live in Los Angeles now, I dream about Tripoli pizza at night and it's one of my first stops when I visit my parents twice a year. It is a unique slice to some, but one of my favorites in the world. Also, they sell packages of frozen slices in the bakery section, obviously not as fresh out of the oven, but good to keep in the freezer for a late night snack.

                                                                2. Does everyone LOVE, Van Otis Chocolates on Andover St.??? Unbelievable chocolate!!!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                                                    I do...they should be opening up soon too.

                                                                  2. More comments from my latest lunch time food adventures in and around Lawrence. This time: Lee Chen, Jim's Kabob Express, Mounir's Middle Eastern Restuarant, and La Cibaena Bakery. I would also like to comment that for every time that I visit a new place, I've probably gone to Jacqueline's for takeout Dominican food just as many times in that same timeframe - Jacqueline's has quickly become one of my favorite places in Lawrence.

                                                                    Lee Chen: A typical suburban Chinese restaurant. Good Chinese food if you’re not Chinese. Acceptable convenience food if you’re Chinese. I’m Chinese (Cantonese) and it’s very difficult to find good Chinese food in the suburbs. I went to Lee Chen with some (non-Asian) co-workers. Lee Chen is very typical of what I’ve found in the suburbs. It’s a nice, clean restaurant with a pleasant interior. They have the same general types of dishes that you find in all the suburban Chinese restaurants. The menus have numbers next to the items on the menu so people can just tell the waiter what number item they want. They even had salt and pepper shakers on the tables – something you never see in a real Chinese restaurant. My biggest complaint about suburban Chinese restaurants is that they don’t serve very many Chinese vegetables. You rarely see standard Chinese vegetables like gai lon, bok choy, or dried mushrooms in the dishes. At Lee Chen, I got button mushrooms in the hot and sour soup, broccoli with my tangerine orange chicken, and a co-worker’s cashew chicken came with zucchini. The hot and sour soup was pretty good. It had a nice little hit of heat on the finish despite the button mushrooms. The tangerine orange chicken was acceptable, but I’ve had better in the suburbs. The portions were small, but the cost of rice has really shot up this past year and I imagine that it is difficult to keep the prices low on lunch time specials in a nice restaurant. The lunch special was a bowl of soup with an entrée and rice. Lunch including tip cost $9. I’ve worked in a number of areas around 128 and 495 and it’s rare that you find a good Chinese restaurant outside of 128. In my opinion as a person that likes Cantonese food, Ginger Court in Acton is one of the best Chinese restaurants that I’ve ever found in the suburbs. Unfortunately, Lee Chen falls into the overall category of average with all the other suburban Chinese restaurants. I would go there because it’s convenient Chinese food, not because it’s good Chinese food.

                                                                    Falafel: Jim’s Kabob Express vs Mounir’s Middle Eastern Restaurant. I didn’t set out to do a falafel comparison, but it turned out that I had lunch at these two places two days apart. It’s actually a family affair with a brother that owns Jim’s Kabob Express and a sister that is an owner/chef at Mounir’s. Good falafel at both – Jim’s is less expensive, Mounir’s is better (more authentic in my opinion) and a little more expensive.

                                                                    I had a late lunch at Jim’s Kabob Express on a rainy Wednesday. Jim’s is a small non-descript building located on Merrimack St (near Sal’s) that’s easy to miss as you drive by. I would call Jim’s a clean, sandwich shop. It’s a small, clean shop with 4 small booths and a counter where you place your order. The place was empty when we walked in, but that could be because it was rainy and after the main lunch hour. The people behind the counter are really friendly – including the owner Jim. My co-worker and I ordered falafel plates. We also ordered a skewer of chicken kabob. I couldn’t go to Jim’s Kabob Express without trying some sort of kabob. The falafel plate was a platter of non-descript salad, smothered in some sort of dressing with falafel across the top and some pita bread on the side. The exterior of the falafel was nicely brown, but perhaps a little too browned because they were a little on the firm side. The inside of the falafel was fine. For my first taste of falafel in Lawrence, it was good and it felt like a healthier alternative to all the other foods that I’ve been indulging in, in Lawrence. The salad was smothered in dressing that was tangy. There was more salad than either of us could eat and just too much dressing smothering the salad. Next time, I would order the salad dressing on the side. The chicken kabob was good – moist, a little smokiness from the grill, and just the right amount of saltiness (I wonder if it was brined). The falafel plate cost $7. Good value and a lot of food.

                                                                    I had lunch at Mounir’s Middle Eastern Restaurant two days later. I was originally intending try Sam’s Steak Out, but they were closed. Since I was parked in front of Mounir’s, I decided to give it a try. Mounir’s is more of a restaurant than Jim’s Kabob. Mounir’s has a small counter up front, a couple booths, and then a long dining room that stretched into the back. The place was also empty when I walked in for a late lunch that Friday. I decided to order the falafel plate here too because I like falafel. The falafel plate was a small bed of salad on a platter with falafel spread across the top with tahini sauce spread lightly across the salad. The most immediate thing I noticed about this falafel plate is that it just tasted more authentic middle eastern to me. The salad was a mixture of greens with some sliced radishes and pieces of tomato scattered across the plate. The tomatoes were incredibly ripe – just like ones you might pull from your own garden instead of the flavorless tomatoes that most restaurants serve. The falafel were tender. Everything was drizzled with just the right amount of tahini sauce and there was fresh parsley scatted across the top of everything. Just the right combination of salad with tahini sauce and fresh parsley with the falafel is what made it taste to me like it was more authentic. I’ve had falafel at lots of places and this falafel plate was very good. It’s not as good as Rami’s (perhaps the best falafel in the Boston area), but Mounir’s serves an excellent falafel plate. As I was talking to the woman who cooked my falafel she told me that her brother is the owner of Jim’s Kabob Express. And she said that her falafel is homemade – whereas many falafel places buy their falafel as a premade mix. The only downside is that the falafel plate cost $10 and that’s a little on the high side for my lunch time trips. However, I will definitely go to Mounir’s again when I have the urge for Middle Eastern food because the falafel is very good. For my tastes, Mounir’s has better falafel than Jim’s Kabob.

                                                                    La Cibaena Bakery: Good hispanic-style bread. A great source for teleras to make tortas at home. They call it “pan del agua” (water bread) and it’s a great bun ideal for making tortas. I first noticed their bread on the grocery shelves at Jacquelines during my frequent lunch visits. I always peruse the grocery aisles at Jacquelines looking for special ingredients and brands that you don’t find in the huge grocery stores. And I came across the breads from La Cibaena Bakery. Since the bakery is located in Lawrence, I had to check them out. More of a wholesale operation, the bakery does have a small counter where they sell a few items on a retail basis. Located on Cross Street (north of 110), it is in an industrial looking building with a small entrance on the side of the building. You go into an unfinished room where they have bags of different breads piled on tables. They also had a cookie called a Coconut Simon. The bread is good. The Coconut Simon wasn’t that good – too firm and not very flavorful. I like their bread and I’ll keep buying it. Going to La Cibaena goes into a really busy section of Lawrence with a lot of traffic – for some reason, once you head north over the bridge on Broadway, the traffic seems to get really slow in both directions. So I’ll probably stick to buying their bread at Jacquelines instead of going to the bakery.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: dlee388

                                                                      Another great post! I really appreciate all of the posts from you on this board....as well as every one elses. Lately, I find myself going through Lawrence on business at least every 2 weeks, and check out this thread before deciding where to go for lunch. My favorite so far is Napolis for a square of pizza. I tried Tripoli's pizza across the street, but it was much too sweet. The crust even tasted like it had a lot of pastry flour in it instead of a pizza crust. Another time, I tried the North End Deli. The arancini were too big to look appetizing. I got a sausage sub, and it was really good. They had different kinds of sausage, and I got a tomato and cheese. Yum. I've also tried Fisicelli's Bakery. Wonderful Italian cookies. Thanks to all of you! Onward to Jaqueline's.....

                                                                    2. I was driving through Lawrence the other day and on the sign at Lawton's it said "building has to be moved, looking for a lot". any info on this landmark? Also, I noticed that Sam's Steak Out is closed, must be the economy.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                        No clue about Lawton's, but I never saw a soul in Sam's Steak Out. What was the word on that place anyways?

                                                                        1. re: treb

                                                                          I saw the sign on Lawton's today and will try to find out more on this.
                                                                          As for Sam's Steak Out....it's been a long time since i've been there, but they used to have a nice fish n chip special once a week.

                                                                          I've made a few stops at Mt. Vernon Variety & Deli on 58 Beacon Street in Lawrence, up the street from King's Subs. It is a typical neighborhood variety store that does some basic subs, but does an excellent steak & cheese and bomb, and has some interesting spanish specials with rice everyday. They always have empanadas (frozen kind) ready to eat. I've found him sold out of the daily special sometimes at 12:30.

                                                                          1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                            http://www.eagletribune.com/archivese...

                                                                            1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                              Damn!

                                                                              I wonder if they'll move the hydrant, too?

                                                                              1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                                I just read the article, what a mess.

                                                                                1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                                  Thanks for the link to the article.

                                                                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                    I was just in Lawrence, meeting some folks at the Mill City Gourmet for lunch, and I so wanted to swing by Lawton's afterwards to get a hot dog perhaps one last time in that spot, but I ran out of time. Perhaps I'll try again next week...

                                                                                2. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                  Lawton's reopened!

                                                                              2. More comments from my lunch adventures around Lawrence: Cafe Azteca, King Subs, and the Sunbeam Bread Bakery Outlet Store.

                                                                                Café Azteca: Okay Mexican food for Boston. As stated in a previous post in this thread, I used to live in San Diego and I'm frequently disappointed in the Mexican food around the Boston area. In San Diego, there is a chain of Mexican restaurants called El Torito that’s like going to the Appleby’s of Mexican food. It’s Mexican food that’s been generalized and the main reason people go there is for the convenience, the nice restaurant environment and the margaritas. While I can’t comment on the margaritas at Café Azteca, everything about Café Azteca reminded me of El Toritos in San Diego.

                                                                                From the outside, you might think Café Azteca is a tiny place, but once you walk inside, it’s a very nice restaurant and surprisingly large. This is one of the few places that I’ve visited during lunch around Lawrence that actually has a hostess to seat you and wait staff to take your order. Like most Mexican places they immediately bring chips and salsa to the table. One of my co-workers commented that the salsa had no heat – which is fairly common for restaurant salsa in New England.

                                                                                We ordered some tamales for an appetizer. They came with chicken, cheese and a mild green salsa scattered over the tamales. The strange thing was the tamale was simply a lump of steamed masa. There was no filling inside the masa. The masa showed the marks of having been steamed inside a corn husk, but it was simply a lump of steamed masa and I guess that was the “filling” that was spread over the tamales. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t order them again because a tamale is supposed to have the filling inside the masa.

                                                                                Lots of different tacos, fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and quesadillas on the menu. However, they didn’t offer the carnitas or tortas that I usually look for at a Mexican restaurant. I went with the Tacos de Bistec al Carbon with corn tortillas because I figured that would be the closest that I could get to something that might resemble Carne Asada. I also asked for some jalapenos. The taco was okay. The beef had a nice grilled flavor to it. The guacamole tasted like it had some sour cream blended in with it and it was disappointingly soupy and detracted from the flavor of the beef. The jalapenos were given to me as a puree. I can’t remember ever seeing that before. The jalapeno puree had a little zip, but nothing like what I get with my homegrown chiles. The tacos came with rice and refried beans that I barely touched since we had tamales as an appetizer. Lunch including tip split among 4 people cost $16 each. The tacos plate cost $8 on the menu. So it’s priced accordingly for lunch at a nice restaurant.

                                                                                Overall, the Mexican food at Café Azteca was good for Boston. It’s okay Mexican food that has been generalized for the average New England palate. In my opinion, Tacos Lupita has better tacos, but Café Azteca has a broader menu that provides more options especially for dinner. Within the Lawrence area, Café Azteca is certainly one of the best and few Mexican restaurants around if you’re not willing to drive down to Boston where there are more options or if you can’t cook Mexican food yourself. Café Azteca is a nice restaurant and a great place to go with friends when you to get together over Mexican food that is typical of what one finds in New England.

                                                                                Sun Beam Bakery Outlet Store: I pass the Sun Beam Bread Bakery Outlet Store on Andover Street/River Road every time I drive to Lawrence for a food trip and I had to stop in to see what they had. If you’re a fan of Hostess snacks, then you have to visit here. All of your favorite Hostess snacks are here at a discount: Twinkies, Yodels, Devil Dogs, Suzy Qs, Coffee Cakes, Funny Bones. I don’t normally buy these snacks, but at these discounted prices it’s easy to break the rules once in a long while. Here’s an example of the pricing. A box of ten Twinkies has a retail price of $3.99. They sell for $2.39 at the outlet store. These are regular product. Then there’s a shopping cart with items that are close to their expiration date, but not expired. The same box of Twinkies in that cart sells for $1.39 because the expiration date is near. Who can refuse a box of ten Twinkies for $1.39? Besides treating my co-workers, I saved some of the Twinkies because I want to try deep frying them at home. I’ve seen deep fried Twinkies on TV cooking shows and the people are always raving about them. The outlet store has all sorts of breads and rolls at good prices – mainly Wonder Bread brand. A six-pack of Wonder Bread New England-style hot dog buns was $1.50. That’s a pretty good price – it’s less than or equal to the price of Market Basket brand hot dog buns that are usually the lowest prices available among all the grocery stores. At the front counter where you check out they had special deals on bread. There was a big loaf of sandwich bread for 49¢. There was also a wide variety of other items like cookies, cereal, and canned goods in the store. I was really surprised to see a limited selection of Bob’s Red Mill products – usually a premium priced product in the grains section of the grocery store. It was definitely worth a visit (and my co-workers absolutely loved the Twinkies).

                                                                                King Subs: Okay sandwiches, but a little on the expensive side for a sandwich shop in Lawrence. Upon walking in the door there’s a line of people waiting for their sandwiches so I said to myself that this is a good sign that there are lots of people. Then the next thing that strikes me is that everyone looks like they work in an office. In all the places that I’ve visited for lunch in Lawrence, this is one of the few where it seems like all the men are wearing Dockers and button down shirts (business casual). Nothing against that, but it was just very noticeable how literally every customer looked like your typical office worker compared to the diverse population that I’ve seen at all the other places I’ve visited for lunch in Lawrence.

                                                                                The menu comes across like a typical Greek pizza shop. I ordered a small steak & cheese and small order of fries to go. Total cost was $7.65. Then the waiting began. They didn’t seem overly concerned about cranking out my lunch. I could see that my sandwich was done and then they started the order of French fries. So I was little put off to see my sandwich sitting there on the counter getting cold while the fries were cooking and the staff was walking around joking with each other behind the counter because there was nothing else to do. The positive side is that the fries were hot out of the fryer and hadn’t been sitting around getting cold. I guess ultimately whenever I’m getting fries, I usually dig into those first so if one part of the meal was going to delay the other, then getting the fries last, but hot was the way to go for me.

                                                                                And the fries were pretty good. They were normal size fries (not shoestring fries) and hot from the deep fryer. They tasted great as I munched on them on the drive back to the office. I thought that the fries at Harrison’s Roast Beef were better, but the fries at King Subs were pretty good for a place that is much closer to the office where I work.

                                                                                The most noticeable thing about the steak and cheese was that it was kind of small for $5.89. It had plenty of flavor and I considered it above average for steak and cheese, but not great. For my tastes, TC Landos in Acton makes one of the better steak and cheese subs that I’ve had in the Boston area. I’ve read about J&M Subs in North Andover on this thread and it’s in my plans to check out the steak and cheese there. The steak and cheese King Subs wasn’t good enough to bring me back, but I might be tempted for more French fries if they came hot out of the fryer again.

                                                                                Comments from repeat visits:
                                                                                - North End Deli: Ever noticed that it takes a long time to get your order? Every time I’ve been there, it takes almost 30 minutes just to get a sandwich to go because they had one person taking orders and one person filling orders.

                                                                                - La Tambora: Another good visit. Had the pork chicharrone and tostones. The pork was very moist and the skin was crunchy. The tostones were straight from the deep fryer and were outstanding! Much better than the tostones that one usually sees that have been sitting around in a warming tray.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: dlee388

                                                                                  excellent report!
                                                                                  i am a little disappointed in your experience at Cafe Azteca. i've not been yet and it's been on my list for-evs. now, i don't know.
                                                                                  we're also Big Fans of Tambora, glad you liked it.

                                                                                2. By the way, there's a new restaurant coming to downtown Lawrence called the Terra Luna Cafe. It will be located over where the farmer's markets are held by the pedestrian walkway.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                    Eye-Talian?

                                                                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                                      Not sure. That's my guess, though!

                                                                                  2. Now that Essex St. was made 2-way I'm hoping more restaurants will move in. Of course, there are more tiny Spanish restaurants/lunch counters than ever, but I'm a little intimidated just dropping into most of them because I kind of get the feeling that they are not really courting business from non-Spanish speakers.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                                                      Just go in, most places are very friendly and will be eager to help you order. They are really proud to have you taste their food. They don't bite!

                                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                                        I agree. I've been in a number of places in downtown Lawrence and have never had any problems (although I was called a "gringo" once, but not in a mean way).

                                                                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                          I go in and let them know i'm a gringo and I need help with what's good to eat.

                                                                                    2. Latest comments (just my opinions) from my food adventures around Lawrence. This time: J&M Subs, Pizza King and Mt. Vernon Variety & Deli.

                                                                                      J&M Subs: Mentioned on this thread as one the best places in the area for steak and cheese subs. In my opinion, the steak & cheese was average – a good value, but nothing to get excited about. This is a small sub/pizza shop in North Andover. One small booth, two tables to fit two people and a counter means that getting a seat is a hit or miss proposition. The shop is clean, but there wasn’t anyone wiping down the tables between uses. I ordered a large steak & cheese for $5.75 and small fries for $2.50. My co-worker ordered an Italian with fries. The small steak & cheese costs $5 so one might as well get the large for the price difference. The large steak & cheese is a good deal at $5.75. Much bigger than the small/medium steak & cheese at Kings Subs at $5.89. They have a pile of sandwich steak sitting on the grill and they just add some cheese and you’re ready to go. The steak was kind of flavorless. I only got some flavor when I hit the cheese that was at the bottom of the bun. The steak in the Kings Subs’ steak and cheese sandwich tasted better, but both sandwiches pale in comparison to the steak and cheese at TC Lando’s in Acton. The order of fries is huge. One order was enough for two people. I couldn’t finish it. I work relatively far away from J&M Subs and I wouldn’t go out of my way to go back. It’s not bad, just nothing special to go out of my way for.

                                                                                      Pizza King: The best pizza that I’ve had in Lawrence (better than Napoli, Tripoli, and Sal’s). Great crust! Good sauce. Creative toppings. I went to Pizza King with two co-workers for lunch. It’s just a blank store front from the outside and the inside is equally sparse, but clean with several small tables and a counter eating area. We ordered a large sausage pizza with onions and a slice of the Turkey Club pizza for each of us to start. The turkey club pizza came with shredded lettuce and pieces of fresh tomato scattered across the top – like a sandwich. The most noticeable thing about the slice was the creamy cheese topping. There were bits of bacon scattered across the pizza, but no noticeable turkey. It didn’t matter because the creaminess of cheese was so good against light crisp pizza crust and the counterpoint of the crisp cool lettuce (I’ll bet it would be really good with fresh arugula instead of lettuce). The crust had that slight char that you usually only get with coal fired ovens. Their ovens looked like standard pizza ovens, but perhaps they were running them hotter than most other places to get that nice char to the crust.

                                                                                      It took a little while for our sausage pizza to arrive, but when it came out of the oven, we could see the steam rising off the top of the pizza because it was so hot. Again, the crust was the most noticeable thing about this pizza – light, crisp, slightly charred. The tomato sauce was good – clean, not too sweet. The sausage and cheese were standard fare. The crust is the reason why this pizza is so good.

                                                                                      Mt. Vernon Variety & Deli: This could be the best steak & cheese in Lawrence – at least that I’ve tried – and it all comes down to the bread. I’ve gone to Kings, J&M, and Mt. Vernon to try their steak & cheese sandwiches.

                                                                                      Mt. Vernon Variety & Deli is a small non-descript convenience store that stands by itself on a neighborhood street. Inside there are a few small aisles of groceries and a deli counter in the back. The two guys behind the counter are very friendly – after all this is a neighborhood convenience store. I ordered the steak bomb because someone else mentioned it on this thread. I also got a small order of fries to munch on while waiting for my sandwich. The fries were just okay. It took a little while to get the sandwich made. This isn’t a high volume place and they didn’t have a pile of sandwich meat sitting on the grill. The sandwich is big. The sandwich is made with loaves of bread from Tripoli bakery and it’s about one-third of a big French bread loaf. The steak bomb was filled with steak, ham, green pepper, red pepper, onion, and cheese. I could taste the flavor of the ham coming through. The sandwich was very moist and cheesy – much more so than the cheese steaks that I had at Kings Subs and J&M Subs. In a previous posting, I commented that I’m not much of a fan of Tripoli’s style of bread. However, in this steak & cheese sandwich, their use of Tripoli’s bread set this sandwich apart from the wimpy buns that Kings and J&M used. The Tripoli bread in the Mount Vernon steak bomb had a much better texture and flavor than the buns used by the others. If I had to summarize all three of these places, Mount Vernon Variety & Deli has the best steak & cheese, Kings Subs has the best french fries and J&M Subs gives you the most volume for your money.

                                                                                      As I was leaving, the guy who prepared my sandwich told me that their Cubano is their best sandwich. A good reason for me to go back again.

                                                                                      Quick comments from other recent visits:

                                                                                      • Got a visit in to Lawton’s before the building is potentially moved.

                                                                                      • I went to Napoli with a co-worked where we split a small pizza and some slices. I liked the individual slices better than the pizza – the crust was better to my tastes. They weren’t the same pizza. The slices were more Sicilian-like pizza. Afterwards, we went to Tripoli to grab some cookies. I saw that they make cannoli and fill them fresh to order. I ordered two to go. Very good cannolis because they’re filled fresh. The filling was a little dense, but a pretty good cannoli. I’m not a big fan of the bread or pizza at Tripoli, but fresh filled cannolis are good reason for me to go there.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: dlee388

                                                                                        I live literally right around the corner from Mount Vernon Variety and Deli and I will vouch for their Cubano. I have only had theirs and one other Cubano, (I'm more BBQ), but theirs was fantastic. And I agree they have the best steak and cheese as well.

                                                                                        1. re: dlee388

                                                                                          i do like J&M's chicken salad and meatball subs.
                                                                                          they also do a great greek chicken kabob wrap.

                                                                                          1. re: dlee388

                                                                                            Pizza King and Mt. Vernon are two of my favorite places in Lawrence right now. The eggplant calzone at Pizza King is amazing and I love that Turkey Club pizza. Try the spicy meat pie sometime too.
                                                                                            I can vouch for Mt. Vernon Cubano also, and his daily specials with rice as well. Mt. Vernon does sell Tripoli bread (the sticks only), but I'm almost positive his subs are made with Piantedosi's bread, except his Cubano.

                                                                                          2. My search for the best Cubano in Lawrence begins. On my list of places to visit: Caribbean Bakery, Pollo Tipico, and Mt Vernon Variety & Deli.

                                                                                            Caribbean Bakery - Cubano: What strikes me most about this sandwich is the bread and the pork. I ordered a small Cubano with the “works” except no mayo. The crusty, grilled bread (with grill marks) and shredded pork shoulder are the dominant flavors in this sandwich. The sandwich was loaded with shredded pork. There is a slice of ham and slice of cheese, but they’re barely noticeable in the sandwich. The sandwich also has some shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion and thinly sliced tomato, but they’re not adding anything to the sandwich. The small Cubano cost $5.50 and is plenty of sandwich for lunch. They keep a warming oven full of pre-made sandwiches, but if you order it to eat there, then they’ll make the sandwich fresh for you. An interesting feature of this place is that they offer similar sandwiches with beef or turkey or all three meats if desired. Overall, the sandwich was satisfying. I would have liked to have had more ham and cheese in the sandwich, but the shredded pork was very good.

                                                                                            One quick note for those of you that are familiar with this tiny strip mall that also houses La Tambora -everyone always used to park along the sidewalk in front of all the stores because there was so little parking. However, the Lawrence Traffic Control has started ticketing cars that park there. I saw someone get a ticket while I was eating lunch. So if you go to the Caribbean Bakery or La Tambora, I suggest getting a legal parking spot to avoid the risk of a parking ticket.

                                                                                            Mt Vernon Variety & Deli – Cubano: A good Cubano, but it could have been better if they put more pork in the sandwich. This is one of the friendliest places that I’ve encountered in my lunch adventures around Lawrence. I’ve only been there once before, but they welcomed me and treated me like a regular. (Maybe they don’t get too many Chinese women in their store during lunch time and I’m easy to remember.) In the mean time, all these other regulars are coming and going with a constant stream of chatter and jokes. The Cubano itself contained the shredded pork, pickle slices, ham and cheese. The pickles and ham were the dominant flavors in this sandwich. There was definitely more ham than the sandwich at the Caribbean Bakery. However, the pork, what little there was of it, was not really noticeable. The bread is Piantedosi bread (Infomaniac was right about this) and it is good by itself. The bread was grilled in a sandwich press, but it didn’t have the grill marks and the extra degree of toasty flavor that I found in the cubano at Caribbean Bakery. The sandwich was about the same size as the Caribbean Bakery. It was a little less expensive at $5. Overall, I’m all about the pork in a cubano and I would have to choose the cubano at the Caribbean Bakery as the better sandwich because it was loaded with pork. However, the two guys behind the counter at Mt. Vernon Variety & Deli are so friendly that you’ll walk out of there with a smile on your face regardless of the sandwich.

                                                                                            I went to Pollo Tipico looking for a Cubano, but they didn’t have one. Any other recommendations on who else might have a good Cubano to check out?

                                                                                            While I'm at it, here are my comments on the best Chicharrones in Lawrence:

                                                                                            In my lunch adventures around Lawrence, I’ve had the chicharrones at La Tambora, Jacquelines, El Mofongo, and Pollo Tipico. Pork chicharrones are one of my favorite foods. It’s pretty hard to resist deep fried pork with crunchy skin. At most places, the chicharrones are in some sort of counter display case so you can usually choose which piece you want. I usually order chicharrones with a wedge of lime, tostones, and sometimes a slice of avocado. Ask for a slice of lime if they don’t give it to you and squeeze it over the meat. Chicharrones and tostones are usually eaten by hand – don’t expect to get a fork and knife when you order them. For my tastes, the chicharrones at La Tambora and Pollo Tipico were the best. The reason why those rose to the top of my list is that they were crispy on the outside, but the meat below the layer of fat was moist and tender. Whereas the chicharrones at other places were somewhat dried out. And I’d have to give the top slot to La Tambora because the tostones are usually fresher, but Pollo Tipico has some pretty good chicharrones.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: dlee388

                                                                                              Have you ever tried the Cubano at Cesar's cafe? I believe's its on Newbury St, in between Common and Essex, near Tripoli bakery. They make a wide range of pressed sandwiches, including an especial that has steak, chicken and pork. A large sandwich is about $7, but is good for 2 meals.

                                                                                              1. re: dlee388

                                                                                                Have you ever tried the Cubano at Cesar's cafe, near Tripoli bakery in between Common and Essex streets? A number of good pressed sandwiches.

                                                                                                1. re: dlee388

                                                                                                  Another Cubano you may want to try is the one from Ceasar's Cafe, on the side street across from Tripoli's parking lot...very good. The best Cubano for me in Lawrence has been the one at Capital Grille Cafe 89 S. Broadway Rte. 28.

                                                                                                  I haven't made it to Carribean Bakery yet but I am looking forward to a visit after reading your post. Thanks for the parking warning.

                                                                                                2. My latest lunch adventures in Lawrence: La Rubia and Cedar Crest.

                                                                                                  La Rubia: Sandwiches and “Natural” Juices. La Rubia is a new sandwich shop that opened within the past few months serving Dominican food and “natural” juices and another stop in my search for the best Cubano. The small, clean shop is located on Common Street - a few doors down from El Mofongo and Tripoli Bakery. Since it’s new, everything is very clean and bright. There’s plenty of counter seating – like sitting at a bar, but no tables. There’s a very limited printed menu of sandwiches and juices. However, while we were there everyone else was getting hot meals brought out to them from the kitchen - so there was more food to order, but no visible menu. The language barrier was a little more difficult to work around here because there wasn’t the usual counter loaded with warming trays full of different foods.

                                                                                                  The cubano was good. Lots of pork, but the pork didn’t have much flavor. The standard cubano is shredded pork, some ham and cheese that were barely noticeable, and lettuce and tomato grilled in a sandwich press. I had to ask to get pickles and mustard added to the sandwich. The grill didn’t produce any grill marks so the bread had the crunchiness of being grilled, but lacked that toasty flavor. I would still rate the cubano at Caribbean Bakery as the best that I’ve found so far.

                                                                                                  The natural juices were disappointing. I went in there think that “natural juices” meant that they were going to be taking fresh or frozen fruit and turning it into some sort of drink. I ordered a passion fruit natural juice. I was disappointed to see them pull a gallon jug of liquid from a refrigerator and pour it into a glass. It tasted like it was from concentrate or one of those canned juices that you see in the grocery store. A co-worker ordered a pineapple juice and was pointed to a bottle of Dole pineapple juice in the soda cooler. So unfortunately, there’s nothing special about the so called “natural juices” that they advertise.

                                                                                                  Finally, the service was terrible. Maybe it was a language barrier, but language hasn’t been a problem at all the other Dominican places that I go for lunch. The woman working the counter was no more than three feet away from me, but she had a difficult time understanding a simple order for three cubanos. And when it came time to get the bill, after trying to ask her several times for the bill and being ignored, we finally stood up and got ready to leave to get her attention. The bill for three small cubanos and three drinks was $22.25 and was a good value.

                                                                                                  Overall, I don’t see myself going back. The Cubano was okay, but the natural juices are nothing special and the service was terrible. After eating a number of cubanos, I’m starting to think - why should I waste my time eating mediocre cubanos when I could be eating really good chicharrones instead.

                                                                                                  Cedar Crest: A classic diner and the food is what you’d expect to get from a diner. The interior is a classic diner with the tiled floors, leather stools and long counter. If this interior was in an old diner “car” it would probably get more attention. Even the employees seemed to be the kind of people that you would expect to see in a classic diner.

                                                                                                  Whenever I go to a diner, one of my favorite things to order is a hot turkey sandwich with french fries and gravy on the fries. So I was happy to see that on the menu. The hot turkey sandwich was what I expected - real turkey with white bread loaded with gravy. The fries were a little over done, but you still can’t beat a hot turkey sandwich and fries all smothered in gravy. The only thing I forgot to do was to ask them to toast the bread.

                                                                                                  The sandwich also came with a choice of vegetables and for that I got their cole slaw. Their take on cole slaw was a nice twist with a mild vinegarette. It was a lot of food – it was enough for dinner, let alone lunch, and I was stuffed when I left.

                                                                                                  A co-worker ordered a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings and a diet coke. The bacon cheeseburger looked like one that you might make at home with two big strips of bacon.

                                                                                                  The service was a little on the slow side. It seemed to take forever to get what was a fairly simple order. The total bill came out to $20 for two people not including tip. The food was good, but not the best value when you consider that you can get a great meal for $5 about 50 feet down the street at La Tambora. Maybe I’m being spoiled by the food and price/performance at all these Dominican places.

                                                                                                  1. I'd like to add that Arthur's Corner Pizzeria at 1060 Osgod St in North Andover has great fried chicken. I usually go the the bodega, Jacqueline's, but have been going to Arthurs lately. Really tasty. I like their salads as well.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: littlegreenfrog6

                                                                                                      Good to know about Arthur's. Never heard of it!

                                                                                                      By the way, has anyone heard any updates on Lawton's? Are they staying put, moving out, closing, etc.....

                                                                                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                                        I've heard their staying. The 'looking for a lot' on the marque is gone.

                                                                                                        1. re: treb

                                                                                                          I understand Cedar Crest will be closing begining of September this year.

                                                                                                          1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                                            That's right, info, and none too soon. The article I read said their busines has declined steadily since the original owner died a couple of years ago.

                                                                                                            1. re: terrystu

                                                                                                              I know it's not the same place it used to be back in the 70's, but i'll have to stop by for one more breakfast before they close.

                                                                                                    2. Jacquelines: Jacqueline’s Grocery Store next to Jacqueline’s Accounting business on Broadway across form St. Pats on Broadway. This is the biggest secret in the city.
                                                                                                      Get the Adoba chicken! $1 pc.