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Moving to Arlington - where's good?

We'll be living near Blue Ribbon BBQ. What else is cheap and tasty in the area? Thanks!

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    1. Search the term "Arlington" and you will find no shortage of discussions. You'll have plenty of time; it's gonna be awhile before you get sick of Blue Ribbon.

      1. The cookies at Lakota Bakery, though I suppose even I could not live on them alone.

        1. Jade Garden on Mass. Ave (Arlington Heights) has a delicious and cheap luncheon buffet. It's one of my favorite Chinese lunch buffet places. Everything is very fresh and the people who work there are very friendly. I have never had a bad lunch at Jade Garden. Their fried chicken wings are golden brown and juicy. I'm getting hungry just typing this up.

          1 Reply
          1. re: buffet king

            Jade Garden 1360 Mass. Ave Arlington 781-648-8882

          2. Toraya is just down the street from Blue ribbon and has excellent sushi. The scallop sashimi (when available as a special) is not to be missed - rich, buttery, melt in your mouth with perfect sweetness. Soft shell crab tempura roll is great, as are all the standards.

            Near rt. 60 and mass ave, I do like sweet chili for Thai, although I have heard some cautionary tales. Tango is an argentinian place with great meat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tdaaa

              Welcome to Arlington!

              I second Toraya, which is our default choice when we don't want to cook. Very hard for me to get past the sushi but the cooked food is good too: there is a deep-fried tofu app that's great, and also a salmon wrapped in miso and banana leaf that I love. The owner is there every hour of every day they are open and it really shows in the quality and consistency of the food.

              I also agree with Za, especially for their salads. I am personally not a fan of Jade Garden although I know some people are.

              Something Savory in Arlington Heights has very tasty Caribbean-inspired food although I think the prices have gotten a tad high.

              Just over the line in North Cambridge you will find Greek Corner and Qingdao Garden (Places link won't work but it's a block closer to Arlington than Greek Corner) which are both worth a visit. Search on Qingdao to get ordering tips -- I like the dumplings by far the best of anything I have ordered there.

              Having said that, when we want Chinese we almost invariably go to Chilli Garden in Medford or Shangri-La in Belmont.

              If you are a Whole Foods shopper, the one in Fresh Pond is closer but the new one in Woburn is bigger and has lots more parking and less traffic. Berman's, Mass Ave just over the Lexington line, has good wines.

              -----
              Shangri-La
              149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

              Toraya Restaurant
              890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

              ZA
              138 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

              Something Savory
              1312 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

              Greek Corner Restaurant
              2366 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

              Chilli Garden
              41 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

            2. Thai Moon
              Scutra
              Za
              Tryst (not so cheap)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sal Monella

                I'd include the "not cheap" caveat for Scutra, as well.

                -----
                Scutra Cedrone Restaurant
                92 Summer St., Arlington, MA 02474

              2. Thai Moon
                Something Savory
                ZA
                Kathmandu Spice
                Great Wok and Cafe Nicola for takeout
                Some people say that A&A has great subs, but I've never tried them

                1 Reply
                1. Punjab - great Indian in Arlington center.

                  BK

                  -----
                  Punjab
                  473 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474

                  1. Personal favorites (10-year history in Arlington) in order of priority to me (what would I miss most if it weren't here anymore) -- more centered on Arlington Heights than East Arlington, though some of the North Cambridge options are excellent:

                    Blue Ribbon (everything)
                    Za (pizza and salads)
                    Lakota Bakery (the florentines!)
                    Wilson Farms (nearby in Lexington)
                    Toraya
                    Trader Joe's
                    Carey's Catch (just into Lexington) - great small fishmonger
                    Peet's (Lexington Center)
                    Jade Garden (select dishes only -- like Chicken with Young Ginger and Szechuan Won Tons)
                    Catch (Winchester - upscale seafood)
                    Quebrada Bakery (coffee, croissants, and muffins)
                    Something Savory
                    Thai Moon
                    D'Agostino's market (cold cuts, milk, basics)
                    Ixtapa (also Lexington, basic Tex Mex, really nice people, good margaritas)
                    Scutra
                    Mr. Sushi
                    Chilly Cow (frozen custard ONLY)
                    Not Your Average Joe's (really)
                    Sweet Chili

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: rlh

                      I heard Carey's Catch had changed hands from the nice young people who used to own it. Is that true and if so, is it still good under new ownership (I mean, if you recommended it probably so, but I'm curious)? Excellent list, by the way, got to get out of my rut and try Catch and Thai Moon, although I can't agree with NYAJ either in Arlington or Lexington. Can't believe I forgot to mention Wilson Farms, considering I am there at least twice a week...

                      1. re: GretchenS

                        Busa Farms isn't as shiny as Wilson's, but it's also worth a stop, especially in the summer when they have corn.

                        I continue to be amazed that NYAJ is wildly popular and is packed so often. One new addition to town is Mifune, which has several posts already.

                        1. re: GretchenS

                          Carey's is not quite as good, but still at least as good as the best day at Whole Foods at Fresh Pond -- still very friendly, just slightly less pristine on the cuts and maybe the freshness (but still our go-to for home cooking of seafood). I should have warned that I think NYAJ's Lexington is one of the very worst dining experiences I've had in the past 3 years or more -- won't return there ever -- I meant the one in Arlington Center for simple, value-priced basic meals (and I like the bread, sort of the same way I like the rolls but nothing else at Bertucci's now). Catch is special. Thai Moon needs your support -- the founding owner recently passed away suddenly and his wife continues to serve great food in a warm atmosphere at decent prices.

                          1. re: rlh

                            I agree with ZA and I really enjoy Ristorante Olivio. I have always had a wonderful meal and the menu is pretty exstensive.

                      2. I went to Toraya over the weekend. We were a little disappointed because there was a long wait for the sushi. The sushi chef was working hard at preparing the food, so we really couldn't be upset. But there was a mix-up in our order so we had to wait an extra 15 minutes. In total we waited over an hour for our sushi. I won't be going back there. Sushi was fresh, but nothing to rave about.

                        1. Lots of good recs here, but don't forget Bollywood Cafe. Ok, technically it's in Lexington, but only just. The food's great, the owners are nice, and it's BYO (and there's a liquor store next door). Don't pass it up, even though it's got a cheesy name and signage.

                          Gotta disagree on the Ixtapa front -- really really mediocre. Super nice people, fairly unpleasant food.

                          Do go to Za. Really. Za Za Za Za. See? It's even fun to say. And Scutra -- Didier & Cesidia are good people with a good menu.

                          Also, I like a good greasy breakfast at the Arlington Diner, but I hear that the Broadway Dinier is fast eclipsing it. I haven't done the comparison yet, but two good greasy spoons are better than one.

                          We have really liked casual dinners at La Buona Vita. It's not the best Italian food in the greater Boston area, but for a relaxed meal with family or friends, they do a good job for a good price.

                          Finally, since we've reached ever-so-slightly beyond Arlington's borders, I must concur with GretchenS on the Qingdao Garden rec -- they're a favorite of mine. There are plenty of posts on this board about what to order (and what not to); check them out before you go.

                          -----
                          Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                          2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                          Bollywood Cafe
                          135 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

                          La Buona Vita
                          450 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                          Arlington Restaurant & Diner
                          134 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                          Broadway Diner
                          117 Broadway, Arlington, MA 02474

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: litchick

                            Ok, tried to reply to the original post, but the website is being weird, so I'll just reply to the last post.
                            We really like Mifune - we've become regulars there. The sushi is generally very fresh and good (I had one so-so experience). I always get sushi there, but I like that they have other options for non-adventurous diners (my 15-month-old always gets lo mein). We just love the people who work there. They always recognize us and are so friendly - the service is great.

                            I've never understood the hype about Za. We've gone there numerous times because it's really close, but I always come out of there thinking it could be so much better. I really like the concept, but the pizza is just not that good. Probably just a personal preference about pizza, but I think for a "gourmet" pizza the crust should be thin and the sauce should not shout "tomatoes!".

                            We like Ixtapa, but you have to take my opinion there with a grain of salt. They have a very good kids menu and great margaritas - baby's happy and momma's happy. However, I do think their fajitas are very good. I always get the same thing, so I couldn't tell you about the rest.

                            I refuse to go back to NYAJ after 3 bad service experiences in a row. In one the bartender actually chased me. Don't ask.

                            We love Blue Ribbon! Just ordered from there the other night. We usually split the 3-choice (ribs, pulled pork, sausage) with baked beans and cole slaw and add on a pint of mashed potatoes. Yum.

                            We're moving at the end of the month, so I'm trying to hit all these places one last time.

                            1. re: MrsCheese

                              I just had to agree with you about Za...LOVE the salads, love the descriptions of the pizza, but the crust is just AWFUL! sort of a cardboard-y piecrust meets stale pizza hut quality thin crust. I SO want to love this place, and do like the atmosphere & salads, but the pizzas are such a disappointment.

                              1. re: poptart

                                I agree with MrsCheese: I think that this really comes down to preferences for certain kinds of pie. I *love* the crust and tomato-y sauce at Za -- but I've never in my many many MANY visits ever found the crust to be cardboardy. But this is may be because I'm partial to their style of pie. Also, their toppings are always farm fresh and in interesting (unexpected) combos. I'm no purist when it comes to pizza, so this makes me quite happy.

                                To the OP I say, go check it out and see what you think. It's at least worth a visit. Plus, the general manager Steve is awesome -- always walking around to check on customers and generally making the place feel welcoming and homey.

                                And it's true what poptart says, their salads are very nice.

                                1. re: litchick

                                  You are right, it is a matter of preference. I will still go to Za, I just get more excited about their salads (the beet/orange/goat cheese is amazing) than their pizzas, although I do agree the toppings are interesting combinations.

                                  1. re: poptart

                                    I know it's an easy plating trick, but I love how they shape the salads into cylinders. ;)

                                  2. re: poptart

                                    Oh my God! I totally agree -- ZA's crust is horrible! The topping combinations were 'gourmet' and the watermelon salad was wonderful, but the second worst crust that I have ever had. (The worst was Domino's, which I almost had to spit out.)

                                  3. re: MrsCheese

                                    "I refuse to go back to NYAJ after 3 bad service experiences in a row. In one the bartender actually chased me. Don't ask."

                                    O.K. - I have to be the one to ask... sorry, this sounds too funny (of course, at your expense ;>). Can you share this with us?

                                2. Definite endorsement for Punjab. It's my second-favorite Indian in the area after Namaskar in Davis Square. Tryst I had one great and one mediocre experience with. NYAJ is fine but pretty average, notwithstanding the name.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Horace Rumpole

                                    Heartily concur with the Punjab rec (and it's my second favorite after Namaskar also).

                                    Thai Moon is also terrific.

                                  2. Definately Thai Moon. It's the best thai in town. Za or Sabatino's for pizzas and Krazy Karry's for burgers and onion rings.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: nasilemak

                                      Yes, Sabatino's! Very good NY-style pizza. It's right down the street from us and we order from there all the time. Also love the steak bomb.

                                    2. I agree with many of the other recommendations below. We love many of the Arlington restaurants, such as Blue Ribbon, Toraya, Something Savory, and Punjab. Our favorite place to splurge a little is at Prose. I believe it is much cheaper than Scutra and offers a wonderful menu that changes regularly with seasonal favorites. Check the board to see some of the past posts on it.

                                      -----
                                      Prose
                                      352 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: margie

                                        I love Prose too, a lot, but I think recs to this place should come with a small caveat to first-timers, since there are definitely folks who don't like it. It pretty much comes down to whether you'll be amused and charmed by the crazy proprietrix/chef, or whether you will find her oddness annoying. No matter how you cut it, she becomes part of your experience of the place, since there's basically no other staff but her and a bus-boy. The food is definitely farm fresh, locally sourced, and well executed.

                                        Margie is right, there are plenty of posts on this board regarding Prose's plusses and minuses. I say go try it out, but then again, I'm in the camp that isn't irritated by the chef.

                                        (small edit: I wouldn't call it much different in price from Scutra, though.)

                                        1. re: litchick

                                          I can be amused and charmed by an eccentric chef if her food is good.In our case, it wasn't, so the quirkiness was a little less charming.

                                      2. Punjab is my favorite thing about Arlington (not just my favorite restaurant) and I've absolutely love Arlington.

                                        Toraya is excellent sushi. All of the other sushi in town is very skipable.

                                        Kantmandu Spice is very good Nepali and now that the hordes have stopped after their glowing Globe review, the service isn't so horrible.

                                        I enjoy ZA. I don't think it's as special as others, but its pretty tasty - and given how bad the rest of Arlington pizza is - it's needed.

                                        I think Thai Moon is by far the best Thai in town. Most of their stuff is outstanding. The owner that waits tables is a bit odd and awkward, but not enough to detract from the great food. Sweet Chili is very decent too, but I don't think there's much point with TM so close by.

                                        I'm a fan of Prose and the owner. It's heavier food with a small menu so it's not a place I'd want to eat too often (as opposed to Punjab where I go once a week), but I've enjoyed every meal there. I don't understand how she stays in business as it's always empty.

                                        Not so good in my book: Mifune, La Buena Vita (OK - but not worth the $). The new Brazilian place was bad and the service horrible then one time I went. The Chilly Cow is an outrage that they charge so much for such bad, freezer burned ice cream.

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: mr pinchy

                                          Good call on Thai Moon, mr pinchy. We love the place just as much as you.

                                          Just an FYI...assuming you're talking about Paul Dexter (co-owner with his wife)...he passed away in April. They do have a couple of other women running the front of the house and it's hit or miss with them but the food is still outstanding.

                                          1. re: Sal Monella

                                            I had no idea. I am very sorry to hear that. I was wondering why I hadn't seen him. That's very sad.

                                            1. re: mr pinchy

                                              It was very sudden (heart issue) and devastating for everyone. Over the years, we had become regulars there and became fast friends. He was a wonderful human being. It still stings whenever we go there and we miss him. There was talk of his wife keeping the place going but she's thinking of moving back to Thailand...time will tell. :>(

                                          2. re: mr pinchy

                                            when i lived in Arlington i loved La Buena Vita. they had a great pasta dish with pistachios and gorgonzola. i also once had a tuna special and it was phenomenal. i never understood why this place always got a bad rap here on CH. i liked the neighborhood cozy feel of the place.

                                            1. re: mr pinchy

                                              Can you give me a bit more on why you like Punjab?

                                              I've eaten there 2X and have felt, just another of the so so Indian places that (with some notable exceptions) are dotted all over Boston.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                Really? Well, I don't know what you're ordering. I will tell you the dishes that I think are fantastic (keep in mind I don't eat land animals): Shrimp Tikka Masala, Shahi Paneer Korma, Baingan Bharta, Chana Paneer, Malia Kofta. Their biryanis are quite good. Their breads are wonderful, although their dosas are not hing to write home about.

                                                If you go back, order the first two on my list and share with a friend. Their tikka masala is like crack. If you don't love those two, then I guess punjab is not the place for you. I lived in New York for many years and the only Indian food I had there that was comparable cost at least twice as much.

                                                1. re: mr pinchy

                                                  Yes, i also have a crack-like addiction to Punjab's tikki masala. I also find the kormas very tasty and I like the bread as well. Their chicken (at least what chix dishes simmered in sauces such as mentioned above) is incredibly moist and tender - not tough and stringy like it's been nder a lamp for a few hours, which I find is the case at "so-so" indian places (Diva comes to mind). I have found with take out that the entree sizes have gotten smaller, but have not eaten in the dining room since they moved next door.

                                                  I heart punjab!

                                                  1. re: vanna f.k.a. babette

                                                    I'll also add re: Punjab that they are not afraid to bring the heat. You don't even need to make any special requests. I've only once ordered something "very spicy" and now usually order things "medium spicy." And I'm a chili head. Been to Hell Night at East Coast twice.

                                                    :)
                                                    BK

                                                    1. re: BJK

                                                      Punjab does have some very different and very tasty food. But service can be very inconsistent. The last time we were there, we called the waiter over a half-hour after ordering, and asked him to check on our food. Ten minutes after that, with no sight of the waiter again, we flagged down the hostess. She asked us what our table number was, so that she could check on the food (we're supposed to know that?). She came back and reported that the kitchen was backed up and our food "would be coming in a certain period of time" (what time?). Two minutes later, our food came out - lukewarm, and clearly having sat for a while waiting on our waiter.

                                                      Next time, takeout.

                                            2. We live in Medford and for relatively inexpensive food in and around Arlington, we like Zocalo in Arlington, Namaskar in Davis Sq. (Punjab in Arlington is fine as well), and Tacos Lupita near Porter Square. For a more upscale evening, Bistro 5 in West Medford, close to the Arlington line, has been great in the past. Quebrada Bakery on Mass Ave. in Arlington is very good -- especially their challah on Friday.

                                              1. My favorites:
                                                Great Mexican at Zocalo, though it is very small and difficult to get in during peak times. Come to think of it, please avoid this place so I can get a seat.
                                                Best coffee and pastries in town (and beyond) Quebrada
                                                Punjab is very good, but Kathmandu Spice is wonderful. It's Nepalese-Indian, and the word "spice" is in the name of the restaurant for a very good reason. Not a place for the bland leading the bland.
                                                Most pizza in and around Arlington tastes like tomato sauce on cardboard. Joe Pizza, just across the beautiful Mystic River in West Medford, makes a great Gorgonzola and sun-dried tomato pizza, and their sausage pizza reminds me of the yummy pies I enjoyed growing up in New York.
                                                Please avoid Toraya, and eat instead in the faux-Japanese restaurants instead. Toraya is second-best Japanese restaurant in the Boston area (behind Oga in Natick)
                                                Romantic: we do our wedding anniversary and special occasions at Flora. Wonderful food, and the owners are involved in the community, having opened their restaurant for several fundraisers (including the local library).

                                                Note that the beta link thing is coming up with the wrong place when I try for Flora and Joe Pizza, so you will need to find your way to Google happiness.

                                                -----
                                                Zocalo
                                                203 Broadway, Arlington, MA 02474

                                                Quebrada Baking Co
                                                208 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                                                Oga's Japanese Cuisine
                                                915 Worcester St, Natick, MA 01760

                                                Kathmandu Spice
                                                166 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                                                Flora Botanica
                                                14 Beacon St, Boston, MA

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Pablo02475

                                                  I had a goat dish at Punjab that I though was fabulous. Moist and tender goat, strong spices. I'm no expert, but I thought the standard tikka's and such were good, too, and the breads also. They have a glassed in area where you can see them cooking in the tandoor.

                                                  Pablo, joking right? You're saying Toraya is good, yes? I ask because I haven't been yet. Actually, I kind of like the sushi at Mr. Sushi.

                                                2. I'm a recent transplant to Arlington myself, right up the hill from Blue Ribbon as well. Came from DC by way of NY, and have been in the restaurant business for 10 years. Haven't had much chance to dine out in Arlington yet, but... (btw, I tend to be very defensive of restaurants and babble a lot. Sorry for both).

                                                  Toraya is good if you don't mind mid-range quality and long waits for smallish to-go orders. I have recently gotten a job at a sushi place in Boston, and the difference in quality is noticeable, but with a commensurate difference in price. Why anyone would eat in their dining room is beyond me. I mean, good for them for making a go of it, and I love their business model (low overhead and low staffing costs), and it certainly meets expectations from a price-quality perspective, but to me, it's strictly for take-out, and "pretty good."

                                                  Tryst is good, better than Flora, which seems to be the other nuevo fancypants place in town. Sadly, at both places, as with any place in Arlington, it's the law that you have to eat something if you're drinking, so you can't just go to the bar and have a few glasses of wine without ordering something off the menu. Silly, but not their fault. Haven't sat in the dining room of either place, but have drank at the bar. Good wine at Flora, but not as friendly service as I found at Tryst. Might have been an off night. Or nights.

                                                  Jam 'N' Java receives dual honors for Arlington eateries: best pastry and worst name. Spacious, nice atmosphere, free WiFi, friendly staff, enjoyably cranky owner, amazing Heckla, good sandwiches. If you don't mind swimming against the constant tide of leisure class moms and their progeny, you could do a lot worse for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snack. Not open late enough for me, but I can't fault them for that if they don't think they could make any money after 7 or 8 or whenever they close.

                                                  Sadly, I haven't been to Blue Ribbon yet. I really probably need to remedy this. Maybe tonight, even. On the one evening I stopped in to pick up a takeout menu, I was really put off by their atmosphere. I get the point, but it's a little cutesy for me.

                                                  Oh, and Kathmandu Spice is freaking great. Go there. Soon. Just terrific. I recommend the spicy goat thingy.

                                                  1. We really like Ristorante Olivio across from the Capitol on Mass. Ave. They have a two-pasta special with linguine with duck ragu and some other kind of pasta with bolognese. Absolutely homemade and great.

                                                    1. The steak and cheese sub at Boyle's Market in East Arlington is outstanding. I noticed that Paul, I mean Pablo, didn't mention Boyles...