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Melrose - did I just move into a restaurant vacuum?

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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.

              1. I'm going to put in my two cents after living here for 14 years.

                Get a Boneless Buffalo Wing Calzone from Petrones. I like it with extra blue cheese, extra mozzarella, and it to be light on the sauce. I don’t if I just grew up on it or it’s really that amazing, I get one almost every weekend. It’s my favorite place for a cheap bite to eat.

                Turner’s Seafood is good; I use to work at the fish market for them. The tuna sashimi has always been a hot ticket with the place and everyone raves about the fish chowder they serve on the weekends. FYI They get the fish fresh every Monday.

                The Corner Deli on West Wyoming is your best bet for a good sub. Quality meats…

                Soc’s in Saugus is where I go for ice cream. Though m

                Number One Taste on Franklin St. is my favorite place for some good Chinese food. The crab rangoon just doesn’t have cream cheese in it and the dishes aren’t greasy.

                The Sushi Corner is tucked away next to Shaws but offers good sushi. I generally will sit at the bar and chat with the chef. Bring him a beer or two if he makes anything over 60.00, he’ll remember you!

                1. Some of my favorite restaurants in the area include:

                  Rang Indian Bistro: This is located in Stoneham Square. Good Indian food and a nice atmosphere.

                  Porchai: Another Thai restaurant in Wakefield (Duck Walk is more popular). Porchai doesn't have much atmosphere, and the service has been slow occasionally. However, I think the food is absolutely delicious, and well worth the wait. The prices are very reasonable, and the staff is friendly.

                  Three Amigos: This has been mentioned previously in this post. The food is good and the owners are friendly. I've been going here for years.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: rosemel

                    As of today, all the window coverings are gone at Stearns and Hill, the tables are set, a TV was on at the bar, and it looked ready to open. Finally.

                    1. re: tbresna

                      Will have to keep my eyes open. I have always had good luck there- almost always get the lamb. The only thing I did not care for was a special that had a vegatable risotto- not very creamy. But will definitely go again when they reopen. Will have to check out the local paper this week.

                      1. re: tbresna

                        That sounds really promising. I'll have to keep an eagle eye out too.
                        We've been here for 40 years and have seen that space through several incarnations. It's about time Stearns and Hill makes a come back!

                        1. re: Gio

                          Stearns and Hill IS OPEN!!!!! It just opened this evening at 6:00, It looks BEAUTIFUL!!! My husband and I have been regular customers there for years, the menu is much the same, with a few more additions. Another great place is "Cedar Perk after dark", a breakfast/lunch place by day, but on Friday thru Sundays, it turns into a really nice cozy Italian resturant, that is BYOB!!!! The food is excellent. Its on West Emerson Street.

                          1. re: Riley O

                            Will have to get to Stearns and Hill soon. THanks for reminding me about Cedar Perk- there was an article about these dinners in the paper a few months ago, but I had forgotten all about it. I think it is a local chef/caterer who was looking for a place to cook, and teamed up with the Ceder Perk restaurant. Didn't she have some funny stories about cooking for a president- maybe one of the Bushes. Is it a set menu?

                            1. re: macca

                              No its not a set menu, they have blackboard specials, as well as there regular menu. Definately try it out, where its so small we have called to let them know we were coming, they had the table ready for us.

                              1. re: Riley O

                                Thanks. Do want to try it. Do they feature a region or type of cuisine each week? That is what the article said the chef wanted to do. SOunds like a fun night.

                              2. re: macca

                                I had friends who really enjoyed their dinner their a few weeks ago. She said their check, with apps and dessert came out to under $60 for two, and she thought it was a great value.

                                1. re: Chris VR

                                  It is on my list.Will have to call them before a visit, and pick out a nice wine to go with the meal. Thanks

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    I'll second this. We went there the other weekend and were quite favorably impressed with the food, the service, the chef (who was kind enough to stop by our table), the price and even the ambience (simple but just enough). The wine was good too, but I guess they can't take credit for that. :)

                                    Chowhounds should go there and encourage her to try fun things so that she doesn't get too much pressure to fall into a Melrose-Italian rut. I'm trying to lobby for a winter pate or terrine.

                                  2. re: macca

                                    The article is still online, if you're interested, at:
                                    http://www.townonline.com/melrose/foo...

                                    1. re: DamianPBNJ

                                      Thanks- I did find this last week. Was wondering if they were going with their original plan to have theme nights, or if they had a set menu. Am definitely going to try it soon.

                                  3. re: Riley O

                                    Welcome to CHowhound, RileyO! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your Melrose favorites.

                            2. Went back to the Exchange Street Bistro last night for the second time - I just like it more and more (except for the extremely obnoxious patron sitting at the bar!)
                              DC and I wanted a solid cocktail and some small bites, and we were granted our wish with a serving of PEI mussels - white wine/garlic broth, lovely for dipping. and I usually prefer mussels marinara, but this was great. the addition of julienned veggies was a nice touch.

                              the goat cheese bruschetta was amazing - like a party in your mouth, no lie - the medley of flavors and the high quality olive oil meshed together perfectly. this place has great martinis too, always made exactly as requested - and no over-shaking. we will definitely be back, it's a great addition to the neighborhood. and so accessible, it's a block or two from the Malden T stop.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: rosie17

                                Love their scallop dish. havent' been there in a while. The people who run this place are so nice. I usually go during the week, as I would think such a small place is jammed on the weekends. Will have to try the mussels on my next visit.

                                1. re: macca

                                  hmm - there were no scallops on the menu last time, or in the specials (they're my favorites, so I was looking for them). I hear they change the menu seasonally, not sure when the fall change is coming. better get over there quick to try the mussels!
                                  I have gone on Sat. night on the later side, and got a table right away (they said summers are much lighter for them, business-wise) and Wed. night with no wait. I hope it picks up a little for them, I really liked the staff and the dining experience as a whole.

                                  1. re: rosie17

                                    I think the scallop dish was on the menu- I know I ave gotten ti there twice- it is so good. The scallops are seared, served with ( I think) leeks and some other vegatable, and a bit of cream sauce- loved it!!

                              2. You know, for years, from the 70's till sometime later, Melrose did not allow beer/wine/liquor, so that's part of the reason no notable establishments opened up there.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TheWizard

                                  Good point. And I think yolu are right- it was later than the 70's- I used to go the Caruso'sin the 70's, and we were able to bring our own wine, but it really had to be in the brown paper bag!!

                                2. who delivers a good pizza? i miss the city for that alone.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: foodismyfun

                                    These days I get my pizzas delivered either from Vinnie's in Malden or Bacci's in Saugus.

                                    -----
                                    Bacci's North End Pizzeria
                                    4 Howard St, Saugus, MA 01906

                                    Vinnie's Pizza
                                    198 Salem St, Malden, MA 02148

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      Anything to say about Bobby C's across from Pine Banks? Good or bad...

                                      1. re: bcrowls

                                        I went there last week and put a post on this board. They have a large menu and a large amounbt of specials.

                                        It's OK, everything seem to have needed more flavor, the sauce had the possibility to be great but lacked flavor, maybe herbs etc. were needed, same with the escarole I ordered, watery tasting. Chicken dishes were OK, I had a cream sauce on one of them and it was kind of bland. Inside is very nice, it's all new and clean. I'd go back in a few mos to try again.

                                        1. re: treb

                                          Here is the discussion

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531906

                                          1. re: drbangha

                                            I also just saw the following article in the Globe over the weekend:

                                            http://www.boston.com/news/local/arti...

                                  2. Tryout these places in the Melrose/Malden area.
                                    Stearns&Hill--main st. Melrose--this place is Fantastic!
                                    Bistro 5 In west Medford--Awsome!
                                    Exhange st. Bistro--Great Martini Bar!!--Malden
                                    Tivoli's exchange st. Malden Quaint and delicious

                                    Frankie Imbergamo?medford ma.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: frankie Imbergamo

                                      Strongly disagree regarding Stearns & Hill. I'd really love to love it given its location and setting, but it is just too inconsistent in both food and service. I will try again in 6 months.

                                      Will have to try Bistro 5 and Tivoli's, have not heard much about them.

                                      Our current favorites in Melrose/Malden are All Season's Table in Malden and Absolutely Fabulous in Melrose. Of course there is Fuloon as well but it is in a league of its own (I've probably eaten there 20 times in the last 4 months) and hardly needs any more exposure here.

                                      1. re: drbangha

                                        I agree- I do not like STearns and Hill- especially the service!. Have been before and after the renovation, and they some off- to me- as snooty.COme on, it is downtown Melrose, for petes sake!
                                        I do like Tivolis and Absolutely Fabulous. Have not tried Bistro 5- but did see coupns on restaurant.com, so will have to give it a try.

                                    2. Stay away from the Cedar Perk/Absolutley Fabulous is anything but. Inadequate service and small portions make this place a ripoff. Not to mention the $2.00 charge per glass for bringing your own wine. Give me a break.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Lillpkg

                                        I had a completely different experience than you with Absolutely Fabulous. The food was great ( we had a seafood diablo entree and a steak entree), the service was wonderful. I thought the portions were just fine- did not have tons of leftover seafood, which is good, as I really don't like reheated seafood and pasta. And we were not charged a per glass fee- dont remember what we were charged, but it was not by the glass.

                                        1. re: macca

                                          First I'd like to welcome Lillpkg to chowhound. I am curious as to what places you would recommend?

                                          Like Macca, we have also had excellent food and excellent service at Absolutely Fabulous on the 3 occasions we have been in last 3-4 months.

                                          They charge $2 "per glass" as opposed to $2 "per glass of wine." In other words a couple pays $4 to split a bottle of wine. Personally I think it is totally reasonable (not to mention market) and they are very attentive to refilling glasses, etc. And I am happy to pull a $25 bottle of wine off my rack rather than pay $75 for lesser wine off of a wine list.

                                          1. re: drbangha

                                            Thanks- I guess I misinterpreted the post. I knew we were not charged $2 per glass of wine. I have only been there once, but will definitely be back. We made early reservations on a Friday evening and had a nice, leisurely dinner.

                                            1. re: drbangha

                                              I think it is a little unusual to charge a corkage or glass fee when you don't have a wine list. That's a disincentive. That said, I haven't been (closed for a private party the one time I was able to try) but in my neighborhood it's pretty darn popular.

                                              1. re: almansa

                                                I love Absolutely Fabulous and think it is one (of 3) best restaurants in Melrose. $2 fee is so minor that I never even thought about it when I looked at the check. I think, as drbangha. I prefer an evening out with great food at reasonable prices and I get to chose the wine and the price. Sorry your experience was so bad, but hopefully you will try AF again. I do think it is worth it.

                                        2. I want to make sure my fellow Melrosians know about Mamadou's Bakery in Winchester. It opened right before Thanksgiving and the bread is truly phenomenal. Good bread is one thing I've given up on finding around here, so it's a thrill to have such great bread so close by. It's right across the street from teh Swanton Street Diner.

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576156

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Chris VR

                                            Thanks Chris - and did I hear of a new Chinese restaurant on Main St, Melrose where Rudy the Tailor used to be?

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Hmm that's news to me! I'll try to scope it out.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                I think it is a take out place- has been there for years and years, and I heard a few weeks ago that it has new owners. It is next to the tailor and a pizza place and across from EAstern BAnk. It used to be vile- not sure what's up now!

                                                1. re: macca

                                                  Good grief.... I thought it was something new. DH came home the other day and said it looked as if there were some tables & chairs inside. He didn't have time to stop in and see what was up so didn't even get a menu. He thought it was where Rudy's used to be. Thanks, Macca!

                                                  It's usually FuLoon for us or the small place in the Essex St. Plaza when we're lazy.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    When I lived on Main Street in Melrose, I went down to Beansprout in Malden for Chinese.
                                                    Or searched for an excuse to go to Peabody to Su Changs.

                                                    1. re: bgavin

                                                      Hi B.... we used to go to the Beansprout/Malden too and thought it was very good....this was after I had gone to the Beansprout in Medford Sq. a few years ago. But believe me, FuLoon is extraordinarily good!

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        Need to get to Fuloon- I like Out of Asia in Saugus for take out, too.

                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                      I could be wrong! I heard this from a friend of mine. Will have to take a drive by tomorrow when I am running errands. Will post back.

                                              2. Yes. Me too.