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A Brookline Primer

I'll be moving to Brookline next month and, while I know the layout of the area fairly well by now, I'm not as well versed on the food options. I'll be down by Cleveland Circle, but I really want to explore the town. What's good and what should be avoided? Is there a farmer's market? What's especially cheap and tasty? How about brunch? Thanks!

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  1. farmer's market thursdays on centre street off Beacon, starts i think after May 31st. Very good inexpensive Thai food at Rod Dees. As to the rest, depends on what you like. Super Fusion on Washington Street off Beacon, not so cheap but very good sushi. Washington Square tavern, very acceptable reasonable neighborhood bistro. Excellent and not inexpensive italian at La Morra on Route 9. Many kinds of Asian. Several good Indian restaurants and, if you add Allston (stretch of Brighton Avenue from Harvard Street going toward Boston), you'll find Indian, Italian, Korean, barbecue and even crepes! Clear Flour on Thorndyke is our best bakery and one of the best anywhere. Athans on Washington and Beacon is great for sweets and has a neat local cafe with paninis and coffee as welll as their great pastry. Brookliine is an easy place to eat well.

    2 Replies
    1. re: teezeetoo

      I second the vote for Rod Dee - excellent for lunch or takeout, although it's not the kind of ambience you'd want for a nice sitdown dinner. I'm a big fan of Mr. Sushi and Jae's (the one in Brookline only, not the other location.) Down the street in Allston, Grain and Salt is the best Indian food in Boston, in my opinion. Other excellent stops nearby in Allston/Boston include Brown Sugar (Thai) and the Elephant Walk (French/Cambodian).

      1. re: cambridgejen

        Thank you both for the overviews! I've been to Dok Bua, which didn't thrill me, so I'm looking forward to trying Rod Dee.

    2. although it's sort of at the other end of brookline from where you'll be, taberna de haro is very good - it's a straight shot on the c line from cleveland circle at the st. mary's stop.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BostonCorkDork

        I'm planning on walking home down Beacon Street as much as possible, so I'll definitely give it a try. Is it a fancy place? I don't know why I'm thinking it is, I've never heard much about it.

        1. re: pamalamb

          No, it's a small, fairly casual tapas place. It's tough to get a seat, but try it on a weeknight. Good, authentic tapas.

      2. Best beer bar in town is the Publick House on Beacon St. in Washington Square. One of the only places I am aware of in this area that features cuisine de biere.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Truh

          That's what I hear! My roommate thanks you for the tip.

        2. Dok Bua or Khao Sarn for Thai, Michael's for great corned beef or pastrami sandwiches, Publik House for beer & French fries. There are a bunch of passable sushi places throughout Brookline, but I've never loved any of them. I think there was a posting recently on Eagle's Diner out by Cleveland Circle that was favorable. There's also a bad, bad chinese restaurant out that way. Ana's, maybe? And no, I'm not talking about Golden Temple. I'd also add that if you continue to add the rest of Allston (including Yo Ma/Deep Ellum) you have quite an array of food choices.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gini

            That's probably Chef Choy's (not to be confused with Chef Chow's and Chef Chang's, which are in Brookline). Went there years ago and thought it was definitely nothing special. In general, I'd avoid the food in Cleveland Circle, which tends towards lots of crummy pub-type places, passable pizza joints, and poor Asian options; Eagle Deli is probably the best of them.

            You've gotten plenty of great suggestions above and below. I'd also add Matt Murphy's (which with River Gods in Cambridge is one of the two best pub grub places in the Boston area), Rani (for good Indian food), Bottega Fiorentina (which does excellent and cheap Italian in a take-out like setting), and Tsunami (another good sushi place) to what's already been mentioned.

          2. I'm a fan of the home fries with burnt edges at Eagle Deli and the nachos at Cityside, but that's all I remember standing out in Cleveland Circle. Heading down the steet, I can second Washington Square Tavern and the Publick House (though the stand-around-and-seat-yourself thing drives me a little nuts). Golden Temple is very gross (and I have no objection, in general, to greasy American "Chinese" food).

            On Beacon near Coolidge Corner is Shwarma King, which I love for shwarma pitas (the pita is rolled around the meat and popped on a press to make the outside a bit crisp and toasty). I keep meaning to try some of their dinner plates but haven't done so yet. They look like a good deal--entree, salad, rice, and something else (pickles, maybe?) for about $10.

            Rami's is also in Coolidge Corner, but on Harvard heading toward Allston. I've done a bit of falafel taste-testing lately (b/c I keep having cravings on Saturdays, when Rami's is closed), and although I like the toasted thing at Shwarma King, the fresher falafel and nice hot sauce give Rami's the edge on that one.

            Upper Crust (also on Harvard) gets mixed reviews, but I like it. If we get a whole pizza I generally have to re-heat it to crisp up the crust (it took awhile for me to figure out why I always liked the slices so much better...).

            The farmer's market doesn't start for another few weeks, and then it's not really spectacular until about July, but it has a great selection. It's on Thursdays from 1 until... 6, I think. In a parking lot on Centre St (still Coolidge Corner, but heading back a block or so toward Washington Square).

            I can't yank myself away from Khao Sarn for Thai, but all 3 places mentioned generally have positive feedback. Pho Lemongrass has acceptable pho...not best ever, but still fights a cold nicely.

            Boca and Anna's are within a couple of blocks of each other. I prefer Boca.

            Brunch usually means heading to Zaftig's, deciding the line is too long, and walking back to Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, which is not nearly as good but rarely has a wait. Sometimes we bail on the whole thing and get bagels to bring back home instead.

            I don't know if Audubon is Brookline or Boston, but it's still the St. Mary's T stop. It's one of my favorite spots for a casual meal (the brie and green apple pressed sandwich or the spicy shrimp appetizer), but I haven't been in awhile (and now I have to wait for the Sox to leave town).

            I think that's my Brookline brain dump for the moment.

            1. As far as the Brookline sushi question goes, I enjoy Sushi Express on Beacon for good, cheap sushi, which in my experience is a rare combo to find. And if you're walking down beacon anyway on a hot day, a fresh cucumber roll might do you well.
              Far more interesting to me is Japonaise on the same stretch. Great for a sweet snack to allay your hunger on your walk home. They raised their prices not too long ago, but its still on par with everything else in the area.
              I second the Clear Flour suggestion. And third it. That's how awesome it is.
              Speaking of awesome is Michaels Deli in Coolidge Corner. I don't see too much about it on CH, and what I do is sometimes mixed, but I swear by this place for a corned beef sandwich and a side of potato salad. The cheapest and best deli in Brookline, again, what a nice combo! Heads up though, they do close early.
              Getting off the C line, and onto the D, New England Soup Factory (facing the Brookline Villiage T stop, hard to find from the street) is always reliable for a solid coup of soup or a salad IMO.
              You'll also find a lot of supporters on CH and among my friends as well for the Busy Bee diner, though I've never been.

              1. Cleveland Circle: Eagle's will make you one of the best burgers available in the whole area, just make sure to ask for rare (as in "yes, I really mean rare.") Pino's and Presto are both pretty good slices, Pino's being kind of quirky and unusual and Presto being great except for a couple flaws like undersalting of the dough.

                1. Some of my favorites, pardon the repeats:

                  Khao Sarn, Dok Bua, Rod Dee -- terrific Thai, in descending order of fanciness and cost.

                  Brookline Family Restaurant -- wonderful, casual, cheap Turkish

                  Fugakyu -- high-end Japanese, broad menu, lovely tatami room and screened booths, fine sushi

                  Taberna de Haro -- excellent, authentic tapas, great Spanish wine list.

                  Washington Square Tavern -- excellent pub food (and much better than its new sibling, tthe Beacon Street Tavern)

                  Rubin's -- a rare actual kosher deli

                  Rami's -- great Israeli-style felafel and turkey shawarma

                  Martin's, Busy Bee -- two small old-school diners

                  1. I haven't yet seen mention of Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village. IMHO one of the two best Sichuan places in Boston (Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham being the other). The Fireplace in Washington Square is pretty good too. There is also good ice cream to be had at JP Licks and Herrel's (I know that's Allston, but so close).

                    Hey, has anyone been in Brookline long enough to remember Edibles? It was where Zaftigs is now. I was a big fan of that place.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ginnyhw

                      I had two very strange experiences at Pomodoro and the food wasn't good enough to make up for the weird vibe boh times.

                    2. Right in your neighborhood for great pizza is Presto. Pino's a few stores up isn't bad either, but Presto's is better. Nothing fancy, but good NY style and friendly staff.

                      1. Though you are asking about Brookline, Cleveland Circle is very close to Newton Centre (closer than Coolidge Corner is...) and there are many good choices there as well.
                        I like Number 1 Noodle House for quick pan-fried noodle take out, and there's a good weekend buffet Indian restaurant (all the standards, not much heat, but good quality for $11), and Sol Azteca which has a patio and outdoor dining in the summer months (decent sangria and mole sauce).
                        You're also very close to Chestnut Hill on Rt 9 for Aquitane Bis and Metropolitan.

                        CitySide right in Cleveland Circle used to serve up a decent brunch with Bloody Mary "Bowls" served in giant fishbowls, and complementary warm blueberry muffins. Haven't been there in a decade so no clue if they still do but still see the CitySide sign so I'll let other 'hounds chime in.

                        My favorite Brookline choices have already been mentioned. Rod Dee Thai and Brookline Village Family restaurant, Boca Grande and Upper Crust.

                        1. Don't forget Taqueria Mexico, on Beacon almost directly across the street from Anna's. More authentic then either Anna's or Boca Grande.

                          1. Lineage on Harvard St. for excellent new american.

                            I like the food courty, cheap as anything indian takeout at Gourmet India right in Coolidge Corner. Some disagree with me, but I think the nan breads are top notch and the safe choices like tikka masala, vindaloo, and the lamb korma are really great for the cost.

                            Boca Grande in Coolidge Corner for Boston's best burritos and tacos. Yes, I mean it. Anna's can kiss off.

                            Anam Cara gets my vote for the best pub grub+beer selection.

                            1. I'm on the North Shore now - but lived in Cleveland Circle for 15 years.
                              a) Leary's on Beacon St. near St. Mary's T stop. Wonderful Irish stew with Guiness and other comfort foods. Nice atmosphere.
                              b) Soul Fire on Harvard Ave. This is a relatively new place but very good ribs and sides. They pay attention to the smallest details which is a nice change.
                              c) Presto's Pizza late at night. Their pizza is good during the day - but best at night after 9:00. Not sure why .
                              d) Moogy's on Chestnut Hill Ave. They cater to the student population but have great variety for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Interesting menu-but everyone can find something they like. Never had bad food there and I've tried most of the menu. Steak subs are killer.

                              e) DOWNHILL ALERT: Bluestone Bistro. This used to be a rare gem especially the pizza, calzones and veggie lasagna - but the new owners ruined it. The quality of ingredients has slipped and the food is barely edible.

                              1. Have lived in Brookline for 3 years now and have many favorites:

                                Pizza/Pastas: Upper Crust on Beacon Street. They make an excellent whole wheat crust and seem to use higher quality toppings than many other pizza places in the area - try chicken, spinach, ricotta with sundried tomatoes...so good!

                                Italian: Pomodoro in Brookline Village. Make a reservation for one of their "seatings", order a bottle of wine, and they'll treat you like gold with extra appetizers and desserts on the house. Antipasto plate, rabbit lasagna and "little ear" pasta are my favorites. Also recently tried Trattoria Toscana based on positive reviews on this board and it did not disappoint - although it's in Fenway, it's worth the trip.

                                Brunch: Martin's Coffee Shop is a "hole in the wall" type place in Brookline Village with some tables and counter seating. Excellent omelets. Matt Murphy's serves an authentic Irish brunch, and gives you delicious breads to munch on.

                                Sushi: Our go-to place is Minato Sushi on Washingston Street, just before the Square. Excellent sashimi, but not super cheap. I prefer it to Super Fusion which is just a few doors down.

                                More Upscale: Washington Square Tavern is a great place to get a nice meal and a glass of wine. Only downfall is that it gets very busy so the wait can be pretty long, and they don't serve dessert. Often end up going across the street to The Fireplace where the wait is never as long...although the food isn't quite as good.

                                Pub-Style: Publick House has a great beer selection and delicious burgers and mac 'n cheese. Also enjoy Audabon Circle which may technically be in Boston.

                                Enjoy exploring the area!

                                1. Sorry to bring up ghosts, but boy do I miss Jack and Marion's. It was even good after Jack hooked up with Val. I still remember the sandwiches, and the whipped cream on the pecan pie, whipped until almost a butter state. Those were the days when I went to Devotion school, spent my money at Irving's, Brighams, and Kasanoff's deli, where I used to eat tongue and cream cheese on white bread. I was a weird kid.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: aadesmd

                                    Is cream cheese, jelly and white bread better? A few years ago I went into Irving's and the owner was still there!

                                    1. re: tomaneng

                                      She was still there as of a couple months ago... it was some birthday or anniversary or something.

                                      1. re: Luther

                                        Her name is Ethel- her husband was Abe. She was featured on a Chronicle episode about Brookline that I just happened to turn on recently. It was so strange to see her on TV, as I graduated from Devotion school in the 70s! I remember what a big deal it was when the McDonald's opened, and then I recently read it was a big deal that it closed! Anyway, Pino's was the big hangout in high school after Friday night basketball games. What a time warp!

                                        1. re: Luther

                                          I talked to her today. She wears her "I Love My Customers" button with pride. She lives around the corner. I forget if she's 94 or 95. I buy cartons of jawbreakers.

                                      2. re: aadesmd

                                        Jack and Marion's - what a blast from the past. It was the first restaurant I got taken to for Sunday brunch when visiting the area in 1958. The biggest menu I'd ever seen, being read by women in pink mink coats. Wow. The food was actually pretty good, as I recall. None of the later places could compare.

                                      3. as an aside, you'll have to venture out and form your own opinions. for example, you'll note several potshots at Golden Temple. Its glitzy and overpriced, but it has the best bar in brookline if you want a real martini. also, the best chinese ribs (golden temple special spareribs) and wonderful lobster in ginger and scallion. it also is open the latest, so if you get hungry after midnight, you might find dinner and a drink there. i have found most of the people who automatically pooh pooh places like Golden Temple in brookline or zaftigs for breakfast in brookline are grinding some other reverse snob axe. so do your own tastetesting!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: teezeetoo

                                          Have to admit I haven't been by Golden Temple in over a year, but my enduring impression there is of pedestrian, really expensive American Chinese food. As for cocktails, I have to admit I've never ordered a Martini there, since what they push are nasty knockoffs of 50s-vintage tiki-bar cocktails. I've always stuck to beer or tea there.

                                          I have to scratch my head to remember the last time I got a proper shaker drink anywhere in Brookline: maybe not since the demise of the 1280 Beacon St (now Fugakyu), an old-school bar in every sense of the word. The very nice lady at Khao Sarn is great on the service front, but her mixology chops aren't exactly Golden-Age scholarly. I've had passable but not memorable strained cocktails at that tacky little bar at Fugakyu.

                                          Brookline does have a great beer bar (Publick House) and a fine wine bar (Taberna de Haro). The Village Smokehouse is a fun place to knock back a highball or two, as long as you stay far away from the food. There are some good pubs with very good food and decent beers (Washington Square Tavern, Matt Murphy's).

                                          Maybe I should give Golden Temple's bartenders a shot: they wouldn't have to be particularly extraordinary to claim the crown of "best cocktails in Brookline".

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            i look forward to hearing your martini experience. the washington square tavern is great for wine or beer and ok on mixed drinks and I agree Khao Sarn tries hard. but if you want a memorable martini and a plate of spareribs, its still Golden Temple. Especially if its midnight!

                                        2. We moved from Cambridge to Brookline a few years ago, and these were our great discoveries from moving across the river:
                                          Clear Flour Bread
                                          Indian Cafe: in Washington Square right next to Emack and Bolio's -- nothing fancy but really good, well-spiced food -- a sleeper, highly recommend it
                                          Oishii in Chestnut Hill: no surpise to many here, I'm sure (we used to go to Bluefin in Cambridge mostly for the high bang-to-buck ratio)
                                          Other places we like have been mentioned: Washington Sq Tavern, Athan's (esp their baklava and desserts), Family Restaurant (Turkish), Rod Dee, Sichuan Garden (too bad about the shut down), Elephant Walk
                                          My favorite casual brunch in the Boston area is Centre Street Cafe in JP but I haven't been there in ages because I just can't wait in line that long (the reason why I've never attempted Zaftig's), but if you're looking for a casual diner-type experience near Brookline, I like Jim's Deli in Brighton Center, which is pretty close.

                                          1. Super Fusion is on Washington Street at Washington Square. There are about 5 tables in the place and they do a huge take out business. The food is very fresh and very delicious for sushi. I live in the south, but visit Brookline a couple of times a year and always try to make it to Super Fusion. I think they also deliver.

                                            There is also a little creperie near Coolidge Corner. Can't remember the name, but it reminds me of some of the little cafes in Greenwich Village.

                                            Other posts have mentioned Elephant Walk and I would save that for a special evening out. Skip dessert and have the cheese plate with a good after dinner drink. Delicious!

                                            1. I second/third/fourth/whatever Dok Bua, Rod Dee, Boca, Anna's (I prefer Boca but still, this is tasty), Fugakyu (I'm not convinced Oishii is superior), Oishii, Rami's, Publick House, Sichuan Garden, Upper Crust, and Shawarma King. Also, while I am not a big fan of Bottega Fiorentina, I really love their caprese sandwiches on delicious oily focaccia. And I will mention Kupel's for decent bagels and great cream cheese and Bazaar for outstanding Russian groceries, including a good smoked fish selection and terrific feta. Of the Indian restaurants (Rani, Gourmet Indian, and Indian Cafe), my pick would be Indian Cafe.

                                              I have yet to try Brookline Family Restaurant. Looks like I should!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: aventinus

                                                I had a poor experience at Indian Cafe's weekend buffet last year (so-so food, very unfriendly waiter who refused to clear used plates). Rani is the best Indian food I've had in Brookline.

                                                1. re: bachslunch

                                                  I've only been to Indian Cafe once for dinner, it wasn't great, it was just OK. Rani is OK too. Gourmet India always disappointed me, and I gave up on it, though it seemed like the chef had some ability.