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Exceptional Dishes in Unlikely Places

Have you had a truly well-executed dish (entree, app, side, whatever) in the Greater Boston area that really surprised you, that it would even be worth going to the place, sitting at the bar, and just ordering that dish?

Especially a place not usually on the Chowhound radar.

Examples for me:

1. The grilled artichoke hearts appetizer at Houston's (the Boston one).
They are really smoky, well-charred, perfectly tender, with lots of lemon. Unbelievable. I would be willing to bring a couple of foodie friends there, order a cocktail, and a few plates of those.

2. Skirt steak tacos at Bonfire.
Yes, Bonfire suffers from the over-the-top Todd English mediocrity, but the skirt steak tacos are really something special. Well marinated, darkly charred (a theme!), with avocado crema, in a soft flour tortilla---perfect contrast of smoky, creamy, hot, cold...

3. Frites au Bercy at Les Zygomates.
Not a huge fan of Les Zyg. BUT: These fries, served with gravy and a big, nasty knob of compound butter are a fat-addict's dream.

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  1. Higaditos Mexicanos (spicy sauteed chicken livers) at Sol Azteca.
    Not your typical Tex-Mex fare, these little guys are absolutely scrumptious. They're listed as an appetizer but if you ask they'll make you an entrée-sized plate of them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BobB

      Oh, I second this suggestion. Fab chicken livers in a scrumptious, slightly spicy sauce. Absolutely delicious, and horribly addictive.

      For another unexpected treat, try the steak tips at The Paddock.

      And while I'm not a huge fan of Assagio's in the North End, their risotto always blows me away.

    2. The meatballs at Anchovies in the South End are probably some of the best I've had in town. I think their pasta is out of a box, still, I get the meatballs any time I'm there.

      1. Good question. Wednesday's crispy pork shank at Abe & Louie's. I'm in the "steakhouses are generally overrated" camp but that dish wowed me. And the tuna tartare app at KingFish Hall--one of the best preparations of a ubiquitous dish IMO.

        1. This is a great question. I absolutely agree about the artichokes at Houstons and the tuna tartate at Kingfish. I'll have to try those frites.

          Here are mine; the only things I'll order...

          Cheesecake Factory: Grilled artichokes with garlicy dip
          Steve's: Avgolemono soup
          Summer Shack: Tuna tartare
          Border Cafe: French Quarter chicken, or fish in same sauce
          Red Bones: Catfish fingers and potlikker soup. Also dirty rice.

          1. I've said it before, and nobody seems to believe me...pizza margherita at Amelia's in Teele Square.

            1. Edamame at Harvard Gardens. Better than Nobu's!

              I concur with the Summer Shack and Kingfish Tuna tartares, as well as the Border Cafe: French Quarter chicken, and also the tacos at Bonfire.

              Definitely will have to try Zyg's frites soon!

              1. The truffled frites at Sorrelina. The frites at Sel de la Terre are a close second, but the addition of the truffle oil at Sorrelina has won me over. I cannot eat there without getting them. Soooooooo good

                1. yeah, I know, but...jalapeno poppers at Charlie's Kitchen. I won't eat anything else on their menu (bourbon doesn't count) but these are damn good.

                  1. The combination plate (lebanese food) at Byblos in Norwood center.

                    1. It's a shame it's too late for me to get to Les Zygs for those frites tonight, I'm having a fit for them.

                      Any of the food at the Tir na Nog I'd consider suprisingly above average, I typically shy away from bar food in Boston. Unfortunately, they're closing in a few weeks.

                      The lobster bisque at the Lobster Claw in North Reading has been a favorite mine since I was little. It's just your basic fish and chips shop that does this bisque really well.

                      The ribs at Texas Roadhouse in Methuen. I'm usually too snotty but sometimes I get dragged out to suburban chains and boy was I impressed with these.

                      And while this is probably Greater Boston only when the ferries are running in the summer, the boboti (I think) at the Karoo Cafe in Provincetown always makes me happy. Think of a meatloaf made with Indian spices in an British manner, (greasy, fatty and custardy). YUM!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sailormouth

                        Tir na Nog is closing? What a shame--why?

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          The web site doesn't say why but it does say it's closing on January 30 -- there is a count-down clock and everything.


                          1. re: GretchenS

                            Yeah, I had heard from someone awhile back that Tir Na Nog might be closing. Not sure why, either. I was going to mention it in my blog today, actually. I had some great times there; decent food, good music, interesting people, lots of pints....it will be missed...

                        2. re: sailormouth

                          There has been a new ownership rumor going around for the Tir Na Nog for some time. Perhaps it is finally coming to pass?

                          I will definitely have to get down there often this January to get my fill of the best bacon cheeseburgers I've had of late.

                        3. It used to be corn dogs at the Summer Shack. Washed down with a couple of cold beers.

                          1. Blackened chicken fingers at Border Cafe

                            1. Excellent topic! Here are a few that I can think of:

                              -the hot and sour soup at Jade Garden in Arlington Heights
                              -the steak tips at Joe Sent Me in Cambridge
                              -the Cubano at Pollo Tipico in Lawrence
                              -the pepperoni "bar" pizza at Doyle's in JP
                              -the pork chops at the Venetian in Weymouth
                              -the boneless buffalo wings (extra hot) at Cambridge Common in Cambridge
                              -the wild mushroom raviolis at the Macaroni Grill in Burlington
                              -the pizza at Primo's on Beacon Hill (no joke!)

                              1. The Tower of Power (an appetizer meant to be shared, but too bad for my companions), a mighty raw bar selection, at the Summer Shack at Mohegan Sun. Only at that Summer Shack, though. You can pick your oyster varieties, and it's just luscious.

                                More to the topic, in Boston, slices from Ernesto's on Salem St in the North End.

                                1. Two soups:

                                  the potato leek soup at the Druid was really great and I really loved the chicken noodle at the Middlesex. Both dishes surprised me.