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Help me decide in Allston!

It's my week to pick the restaurant in our eating-around-the-neighborhood project, and I'm up in the air. So far we've been to Cafe Brazil, Deep Ellum, YoMa, Taqueria El Carrizal, Punjab Palace, Aneka Rasa, Soul Fire, the Indonesian stall at Super 88 which may or may not still be Jakarta Corner, and Shanghai Gate, as well as excursions into Brookline to try out Rami's and the new second location of Taqueria Mexico from Waltham.

Most recent was an oddly underwhelming dinner at New Trend last week - AWFUL salt & pepper squid which we sent back in exchange for a much better executed but underseasoned dish of plain stir-fried squid; Chinese broccoli with garlic, which was tasty but absolutely enormous stems of broccoli that were pretty much impossible to eat without mishap; and "crispy tofu" (again, in a notably underseasoned sauce) which turned out to be stuffed with shrimp. (I'd feared it might be from previous experiences with similarly-named dishes elsewhere, but the waitress didn't have enough English to discuss the problem in depth - unfortunately, BFP is allergic to shrimp alone among shellfish, but he was quite disappointed.)

In any case, I'm trying to decide where to eat tonight. The primary constraint is that it needs to be cheap - we're a bit skint this week, so if we can keep the total bill under $40 that would be a plus. I'm leaning towards a repeat visit to Shanghai Gate, and also thinking about May's Cafe, but I'm open to suggestions.

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  1. I didn't see Grain & Salt (is that thename) on your list. Everyone seems to like that and it got a good review in the Phoenix. Also didn't see any of the Korean places on your list, they're fun and cheap. You could try Greenfields for Brazilian bbq.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Joanie

      Grain and Salt has been on our short list, especially BFP's, for ages now without our having gotten around to them, but I don't think they're a good choice for a cheap dinner. We've already tried out most of the Korean places, which is why they're not listed (ditto for Pho Pasteur/Le's and for Quan's Kitchen, which are regular spots for us already.)

      We went to Greenfields once fairly early on and weren't smitten enough to go back; I've rather enjoyed Cafe Belo on a couple of tries but BFP doesn't seem to think much of them. We've also tried and disliked Victoria and Brown Sugar - if anyone can recommend dishes at Brown Sugar that aren't either oversweetened Americanized glop or melt-your-face hot, I'd love to hear about it. I've brought this up on other threads in the past with no success in getting suggestions - I'm afraid that I'm close to writing off Thai food altogether, because the only dishes that folks find good and/or authentic all seem to be way too hot for me.

      1. re: Allstonian

        G&S is just around $10-14 per entree isn't it? That should be doable for $40 since you can't booze it up even if you wanted to.

        1. re: Allstonian

          My colleagues and I order lunch from Brown Sugar often. Two faves are the Country Pad Thai and the Spicy Green Beans. We like BS because the food quality is consistant, they will cook to order and get it right and service and cleanliness are A plus. Enough about them
          I have been meaning to get up to Soul Fire and Shanghai Gate after work as the students are gone for now. I will be doing takeout at both and would love suggestions.

          1. re: ginnyhw

            My suggestion about Soul Fire: don't go. After a promising start, they've slid so far downhill they're now digging into the permafrost. My most recent (and last) experience there is detailed here:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/398084

          2. re: Allstonian

            If it is still on the menu I would recommend you try the Avacado Dancing at Brown Sugar. It's a coconut-free yellow curry with shredded ginger and potatoes- served over fresh avacados. I haven't been to BS in a couple of years, but that was always my favorite dish.

          3. re: Joanie

            I was also going to suggest grain and salt (but Joanie beat me to it). We enjoyed it a couple of weeks ago. Very good Lamb Biriyani (and I'm not usually a fan of this dish) and good Kulfi for dessert. Reef cafe for Lebanese and Alfredo's for good take out italian or carlos for sit down. Finally, if you can stretch your borders to Brighton Center, we had a very nice sushi experience at Asahi, a great little neighborhood sushi bar. If Brookline is far game, Turksih family restaurant in Brookline village or Yasu for the tofu casserole neqar Coolidge Corner.

            1. re: gourmaniac

              We usually stick to places within walking distance of Packard's Corner - it's just a weeknight, work-night dinner out - so Coolidge Corner is fair game but Brookline Village not so much. However, we did finally try Turkish Family Restaurant a couple of weeks ago and LOVED it - we'll be back there for sure. I love Turkish food and really regret that Anadolu Cafe didn't survive. Still have to try Szechuan Garden as well.

              Where is Yasu? Tofu casserole does sound intriguing. But I'm thinking that this may finally be the week when we get up to Grain & Salt - I'm a big biryani fan, and today's cool weather makes it sound especially good.

              1. re: Allstonian

                Yasu is on Beacon Street a couple of blocks west of coolidge corner. It's speciality is Korean BBQ which I haven't tried but the tofu casserole (mostly snarfed from my wife's plate) was excellent. Same price range as the other places.

                1. re: Allstonian

                  Have you tried Dok Bua? I haven't (Khao Sarn is closer to me, and I'm lazy), but it gets excellent press around here and is (I think easily) within your price range.

                  1. re: cmd

                    Dok Bua is great, the best Thai in Boston as far as I'm concerned, albeit without the atmosphere of Khao Sarn. Plus they allow brown bagging, which makes it doubly affordable. We ate there last night and left stuffed, and we spent under $60 for three people. Their specials are particularly good value, tasty and plentiful. And if you like spicy food ask for it "pet pet" and they'll make it with authentic Thai heat.

                    1. re: BobB

                      How about Suvarnabhumi Kiri? Try it and give us all a review of the Thai
                      dishes they have (since we've heard a couple people talk about some
                      Cambodian dishes they tried, and liked).

                      I drive by often late-ish, and they never seem busy..I hope they do well..and that they expand the Cambodian portion of their menu.

                      1. re: amatto

                        I'm sorry I don't recall the specific dishes, though I ate there only an hour ago and once before that, but I love the food and service at SK. I eat off plates of everyone I go with and have had just fantastic noodle and rice dishes, spicy and mild. I always get the scorpion roll which is also excellent there. They serve it with potent hot sauce drawn on the plate to make it look like a scorpion. The thai iced tea's aren't legit though they are still tasty. Overall Suvarnabhumi Kiri is an excellent plance that I hope stays open.

                      2. re: BobB

                        What about if you DON'T want it "pet pet" but you'd like something more interesting than bland Americanized pap (or, worse, sweet, like pretty much everything I've ever gotten at Brown Sugar)? As I said above, I'm about ready to give up on Thai food completely because I don't have a very high chile tolerance, and there seems to be no middle ground between dull and inedibly hot.

                    2. re: Allstonian

                      I definitely recommend Grain and Salt. The piping hot naan is perfect on a day like this. Be sure to order the chai!

                2. It's impossible that you're as scatter-brained as I am but if you only have a mental list versus an actual list of places in the neighborhood, I'd go with May's. When I'm sitting here at a computer with no money or plans to go out, I can always remember that place... but when my GF shows up and asks where we should go, May's is caught in a cobweb in one of the myriad empty spots of my mind.

                  1. Ken's Ramen - attached to Super88. Cheap and really damn good. With the chill today it would be my choice in that neighborhood.

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        Drag! I was all ready to head over after work. :(

                        1. re: kittychow

                          I know! It's the one flaw with Wednesday night being our usual night to eat in the neighborhood, but we chose it because Wednesday is trash night and whoever's turn it is to do the trash that week gets to choose the restaurant. On the other hand, that's probably good because it keeps us from just eating there every week.

                          I still feel mildly cheated by last week's trip to New Trend and wish I'd gone with my initial thought of Le's, but there you go.

                      2. re: kittychow

                        A fact which has disappointed us several times, since (of course!) the craving frequently hits us on a Wednesday. Also, they're another spot already on our regular rotation.

                      3. Today's a great day for a funky soup from May's.

                        1. What about Rangoli? We haven't been for over a year, but we have always enjoyed it, particularly the dosas.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: veggielover

                            Can I just second the suggestion for Reef Cafe? Best stuffed cabbage I've ever had, and the garlic stuff (can't remember the exact name for it, it's a thick pure white cloud of garlic godliness) makes it almost possible to forget you're eating off styrofoam. Sweet people, too. Went there yesterday for lunch and had pickled cauliflower and peppers, in addition to the usual turnip pickles. Delish.