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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.