Looking to open my parents' eyes...
My parents are visiting me here in Boston in early July. Coming from suburban Ohio with travel limited to North America, their experience with unique (particularly ethnic) cuisines is seriously limited. (Mediocre sushi a few years back was a relevation for my father. Oh god, and he had no idea what this strange thing in a tin, fois gras, was that I brought back from Paris.) As a result, I make it my mission to introduce them to food they would otherwise never experience.
So, I'm looking for recs of restaurants with cuisine that will be new and exciting for my Ohioian parents. It can be anywhere in Boston or Cambridge, and I'd like to keep the price reasonable, if not on the middle to low end. I had thought of taking them to Addis Red Sea for some Ethiopian, but I've already been, and selfishly, because I'm relatively new to Boston, I wanted to head somewhere new for all of us. (Also, I've already taken my mom to Toro so that's out. And yes, some items on the menu were a bit too extreme for her!) I was thinking of maybe one of the Portuguese places in Cambridge or Helmand for Afghani? Thoughts on those? Ideas of others?
One final requirement, I'm a bit of a health nut and while it's not a definite prerequisite, healthier cuisine, or at least healthier options, would be much preferred. Additionally, I typically don't eat meat, though I do eat fish/shellfish. Restaurants heavy on meat, lacking on seafood/vegs would probably not be too high on my list. Ok well, I hope this isn't too much to ask! I REALLY appreciate any help on this you can give me! Thanks in advance!!
Spots no middle-American tourist should miss, assuming they won't be going to NYC any time soon:
Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham (or closer, Chili Garden in Medford, or Szechuan Garden in Brookline)
Pizzeria Regina and/or T. Anthony's
Dim sum at Hei La Moon
Fasika (better than Addis Red Sea)
Hot pastrami on rye at Michael's Deli
Falafel at Rami's
El Oriental de Cuba
O Cantinho (if you're feeling like going on the less-challenging end)
First off, good for you for pushing the envelope with them! I once took my parents to Chinatown in SF and they just stared at the people at the next table asking me things like "what the heck is HE eating???"
I'll put in a strong suggestion for Addis Red Sea in South End - though the food may not be quite as authentic as Fasika, it is still very good and the atmosphere is a lot more comfortable. I'll always remember my first time having Ethiopian food there, many years ago; that was an eye-opening experience.
An excellent list, though dim sum is probably not a great choice if we're talking about a straight vegetarian (there are some straight shrimp dumplings, but pork has a nasty way of finding itself into everything whether intentionally or not). As far as ethnic Chinese, I'm also on the bandwagon for Sichuan Garden above Chili Garden (can't comment on Sichuan Gourmet) and Taiwan Cafe; Wing's Kitchen in Chinatown or Shanghai Gate in Allston for Shanghainese cooking (and soup dumplings) and Qingdao Garden in North Cambridge for northern Chinese and dumplings.
I'd also put in a plug for Daily Catch for Italian seafood; Brookline Family Restaurant for Turkish that starts off as an extension of Greek diner food and goes off into some really heavenly directions; Spanish or Portuguese with a variety of options -- I have really enjoyed Dali and Tapeo for Spanish and Atasca for Portuguese, but not everyone on this list is a fan (and it is the case that the Iberian diet is typically a 15 year old boy's pipe dream, but with sixteen different classes of pork, again this might not be the first vegetarian's choice). Publick House in Brookline for a redefinition of what beer is capable of and some decent Belgian fare. And Helmand by reputation, though I have yet to make it out there. Thai is also a thought, though I don't claim to know the cuisine well enough to know what's authentic and what isn't (I like Sugar and Spice in Porter Square and Brown Sugar/Similans).
Iberians are also nuts for fish and seafood (though watch out for sausage sneaking into stews). I've taken suburban Midwesterners to Wing's, which was exotic to them but not that much, and it was a hit. (So was Rincon Limeno, but that's maybe too far afield.) Second Brookline Family, too.
Of the places you mention, I have only been to Helmand. I liked it - especially the pumpkin kaddo.
A few other suggestions my parents (or other visitors) have really liked:
Oleana - Turkish influences (but not as straight out Turkish as Brookline Family restaurant - more with an "upscale" twist), vegetarian tasting menu was great the one time I had it, fish options are generally very good
Elephant Walk - French/Cambodian - I have only eaten off the Cambodian side of the menu - several very good shrimp curry dishes
Khao Sarn - slightly upscale Thai food in Coolidge Corner
I think E. Walk and K. Sarn are great ideas, Oleana may be more than you want to spend. Also agree with O Cantinho for Port. and El Oriental de Cuba since it's basically meat and potatoes but different (and seafood soups for you). I think Korean is a good idea too. Bulgogi is simple but different.
I suppose you've done the clam shack thing with them already? None of that in Ohio.
It sounds like they are pretty open-minded about what you might offer, which is pretty cool too.
Have they had really good Italian? There are tons of options in this regard. Should forever kill off any urge to return to the Olive Garden. Or at least take them to Santarpio's.
The Sunday dim sum brunch is a great idea, especially since they will get to see what they are ordering before picking.
How about some great Indian? Maybe for more informal lunch one day, stop in to India Quality in Kenmore.
For Thai, I love Dok Bua but it's so informal to take the folks - I'd suggest Khao Sarn instead - nice tablecloths and so forth.
O Cantinho would be a great place too -
re: Bob Dobalina
I brought my parents to Dok Bua and they LOVED it. We went for lunch, got a few different "lunch specials" and split 'em, had TONS of food, and the bill was something like 18 bucks for the three of us....they loved that too! Yes, it's casual, but maybe going for lunch is the way to go there with parents....