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Melrose - did I just move into a restaurant vacuum?

Husband and I just moved to Melrose and alas, we find ourselves in the midst of what looks to our untrained eyes like a sort of culinary black hole. Help me see what I'm missing in the Melrose/Malden/Wakefield area....is it really all about mediocre "family-style" Italian?

We've been to Mexico Lindo. Pretty adequate, though the margaritas were weak.

Turner's - meh. Oysters were good but the rest was decidedly forgettable.

All Seasons in Malden - expectations were low, but it was not too bad! Two high points - they made our food legitimately spicy when we begged for heat, and they have a decent scotch selection (Aardbeg at a Thai/fusion restaurant, who knew?).

Delivery recommendations (besides pizza??) would be much appreciated too.....thanks in advance!!!

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  1. If you define culinary black hole as no four star eateries, you are correct.

    As far as suburbia goes, though Melrose offers as good as any town on the North Shore.

    I thought Lindo was actually quite good Mexican for Greater Boston, though I've never tried the margaritas. Turner's is a traditional New England seafood house, meaning their strengths are broiled fish, chowders, raw bar, and fried seafood. I enjoy their Oysters Rockafella a great deal.

    If you like sushi, be sure to try Sushi Corner, which is excellent and truly a hole in the wall. The Stearns & Hill Bistro offered decent American fare -- but it has been closed foryears now following a fire.

    Moving outside Melrose' borders, some thoughts to consider:

    Bistro 5 - Medford - very nice high end restaurant, strong wine list

    Donatello's - Saugus - high end Italian, Vegas-like atmosphere

    La Vita Mita - Equal of North End establishments like Rabia and Limoncello (see recent thread.)

    Duck Walk - Wakefield - Best Thai in area

    Zalek - Wakefield - Some people think this place is the best value eatery in Greater Boston

    Sushi Island - Wakefield - Wins rave reviews across CH

    Tivoli - Malden - Have not been in years, but is considered strong neighborhood bistro

    I have no delivery recommendations other than Chili Garden in Medford Square, which will deliver to Cambridge (and therefore presumably to Melrose.)

    Don't forget. Melrose is really close to Boston & Cambridge, so you are really not too far from the four-star scene - about 10 miles.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

      Catch in Winchester is wonderful.

      I am one of the people who thing Zalek's is a real hidden jewel (but no atmosphere), and byob.

      I believe Bob left off, that La Vita Mia is in Saugus as well, and excellent Italian.

      Angelo's in Stoneham, expensive but good.

      I like Tremonte Bistro, but I used to love it, and it's in Woburn.

      And I really like Mexico Lindo as well.

      1. re: mcel215

        Perhaps I was too harsh in my description of Lindo. I did enjoy it and expect to go often, but would not want to be stranded on a desert island with it.

        Thank you both for the recommendations. I will certainly have to try Zalek's.

        I know it's not a terribly burdensome drive to Cambridge/Somerville/Boston, but we're lazy hounds and don't like to drive too far, if at all, after deep contemplation of a restaurant's wine list. I've also been to lots of spots in C/S/B and don't need as much help in that area...

    2. There's lots of really good food around here, but for really great food, I usually head into Boston- you can be parked downtown within 25 minutes. OTOH Melrose has very few chain restaurants, and I thiink that is part of the town's charm and appeal.

      Rather than rehash all the stuff I've written before, I'll point you to a few useful links:

      http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chris VR

        There are just two restaurants that have the wow factor, here in the burbs, for me anyway. And they are just as expensive as Boston.

        Catch in Winchester

        Il Capriccio in Waltham

        Pretty much, I stick to a good meal, reasonable prices, and stay out of Boston for the most part.

        But that's just me.

      2. No you didn't. It's not a black hole. It's not a culinary wonderland, by any stretch. But it is very handy as a place to be.

        Mexico Lindo consistently garners raves for the more solidly Mexican side of their menu - make special requests; the menu invites you to. The people there are great. Some hounds even come from Boston/Cambridge to Melrose to go to Lindo. Is is cutting edge? No. But it's a lot better than what passes for Mexican in many other places. We should own the fact that the Boston metro area has more people from south of Mexico than from Mexico, and adjust our expectations accordingly.

        Turner's can be very good, but its range is limited. Which Americans tend to think of automatically as a bad thing, but in Europe limited means a place sustains its focus - try to be somebody, not everything to everybody.

        We all await the reopening of Stearns & Hill, which is being remodeled after a pipe burst a year ago. They've had ups and downs as a restaurant, but it has the potential to be lovely and good. We'll see.

        Blues Grill has a mean burger. Think of it as a diner-type cafe, and you might enjoy some food there. I've never been disappointed, but I haven't worked the full menu.

        Melrose has limited commercial property, so there's not a lot of room for restaurants, but it helps give the city its laid-back charm. I moved here from Cambridge 17 years ago - when Melrose had no restaurants to speak of - and adore the city. I live on a street where people leave their doors open, neighbors all know each other and watch out for each other, and people can forget their briefcases on their porch in the morning and find it unmolested in the evening.... A lot of my Boston-based friends refer to it as Melrose RFD - the good parts of Mayberry RFD without the bad parts. It's not without its problems (Mayor Dolan - please pave the roads!), but Melrose has among the highest (if not still the highest - I haven't seen recent figures, but we were highest for years) rates of natives who stay in the town in the greater Boston area. For a good reason.

        I would love a great Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant in Melrose, but I can hope more will blossom in Malden, which seems a decade behind Quincy as a major Asian suburb of Boston.... And I wish Malden still had a great Jewish deli.

        Outside of Melrose:

        Saugus: La Vita Mia; Bacci's (for pizza and calzones - the only place around here that does NY-style calzones); Out of Asia (delivers to Melrose - the only place around here with thin-skinned dumplings); Kane's Donuts (out of the way, but a must; I've not found some recent problems that Chris VR has described in recent postings on Kane's - Kane's is one of the doughnut lodestars of greater Boston). Do patronize J Pace & Sons and Russo's Candies and Lil n'Chick's Gelateria in the same strip mall as La Vita Mia - and across from Bacci's...

        Lynnfield/Saugus line: Donatello. Seems dominated by regulars because it seems it's overlooked by strangers speeding by.

        Malden: Fuloon (the real Chinese food is hihgly reputed; the only place around here you can get real white fried rice, for example; they deliver to Melrose); Two Paisans (for pizza; delivers to the southern half of Melrose); Tivoli's, Exchange Street Bistro; Artichokes. Markets include Super 88, Dom's Sausage and Piantedosi's for wholesale bread - all near each other on Commercial St between Malden Ctr and Wellington.

        Everett: Abbondanza. McKinnon's Meat Market.

        Wakefield: Zalek's, Porto-Bello (for the Portuguese side of the menu especially), Ristorante Molise, Duck Walk, Fred's hot dog stand, Gingerbread Construction Factory (for muffins). There's also a new Indian bistro I haven't checked out that sounds promising.

        Stoneham: Raj (Indian); Angelo's (the fine restaurant side of what looks falsely to be only a pizza joint - it's surprising).

        Reading: Savory Tastes is uneven, but the good stuff can be great.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I second the recs on Catch in Winchester as one only a few really top end dining experiences in the burbs. I have tried Mexico Lindo four or five times and while the food is OK it is not what I would put in the really great category. For a more down market place I like Tres Amigos on Rte 28 (Main St) in Stoneham. It is a hole-in-the-wall place that is very inexpensive but the food is very good. They don't have a liquor license but you can BYOB. There is also a new Italian place in Stoneham called Georgie D's which is also on Main St. It is worth a try but I have found the quality of the food to be spotty at times. Another place I like which is also in Winchester is the Swanton St. Diner. It is a small casual place that serves a wide variety of dishes including sandwiches, burgers, broiled and fried seafood, some pastas and even a very good seafood risotto.

          1. re: RoyRon

            Thanks for the reminder about Trs Amigos- have not been there in years. I liked Georgie D's- but reservations are needed- even during the week. Have never been to the Swanton St Diner- but it is owned by the same people as the STearns and Hill Bistro. Always enjoyed the lamb at Stearns and Hill.

            1. re: macca

              Swanton Street Diner was previously owned by the people you mention but about a year or so ago the guy who was managing the place bought it out and has been running it ever since. His name is Mario and he and his brother now run the place. They are from El Salvador.

              1. re: RoyRon

                That's interesting. Is it an El Savadoran menu?

                1. re: macca

                  No, But I have had several discussions with the owner and encouraged him to put a few El Salvadorean things on the menu to see if people would try them

                  1. re: RoyRon

                    Please let us know if this happens. Would love to try something new!

              2. re: macca

                Went to Georgie D's a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night. It is a tiny place, but very cute and we lucked out because they had a fantastic female singer there that night (just on Wednesdays, we were told). We had made reservations (there were 4 of us) and there was no problem, just a matter of thinking ahead. Food was great & plentiful, and we are definitely going back on a Wednesday soon to enjoy the food and entertainment. ~ Janice M.

                1. re: JaniceM

                  So funny- We were there during the week- and it was the first night the singer was there( thought it was a Tues, but maybe it was a Wed), and we were glad we were able to get the small two top table in the front room- away from the singer!! THat is not a comment on her ability- I just prefer a bit of quiet so I can easily converse with my DC. I will say, the bruschetta app and the seafood entree were wonderful.

          2. Yes, you just moved into the land of mediocre. Trust me, I spent lots of time in that wonderful town.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BostonBarGuy

              I'm confused. If the town is wonderful then isn't that contrary to mediocre?

              1. re: kate used to be 50

                I was referring to mediocre dining options in Melrose and the surrounding towns.

            2. Try the North-Eastern Chinese/Shandong and Sichuan dishes at Fuloon in Malden centre.