So what restaurants do live up to the hype??
LOVE the other topic, so thought I'd post the alter topic. What restaurants in the boston area do you think actually do live up to the hype? I know the answer is probably none of them, but all the same, humor me. . .
The places where I've thought I'd died and gone to heaven, consistently, are:
Kimball's (ice cream)
It's a good thing I don't live in the North End. I've had great meals and great dishes at other places, but I've never been anything but swept off my feet at these.
re: sophie fox
Actually it was the question: what restaurants live up to the hype? But the question presumes that the hype is good, and the consensus (albeit not universal) is that Mike's is just ok. (My calling it "bad" is an overstatement.) That you and pollystrene like it is great; nothing wrong with that at all. It's just that Mike's does not get a lot of favorable hype on this board.
For me, based on the past year or two:
Christina's Ice Cream
Eastern Standard (especially the bar)
King Fung Garden (Chinatown location)
Maria's (bakery - North End - but is there really hype?)
I have never been disapointed with the following:
O Ya (yes it is actually worth the price)
Charlie's Sandwich for Breakfast (M-F; Sat is another story)
Pizzeria Regina (2nd)
Not Anise - the place is in sad need of some professional management in the dining room. The food is still generally tasty but they've dumbed it down a fair bit for American tastes. The bartender very enthusiastically told me about how hard it was to get the imported Chinese cooks to cut back on the seasoning - but sadly, they managed.
I'd say that these live up to the hype, IMO:
Brown Sugar Cafe
Rialto + West Side (bar menus)
Tacos Lupitos (take away)
Christina's (ice cream)
Town Dinner (brunch: although I think french toast + pancakes far surpass their egg dishes)
Although I've been to a lot of restaurants, my budget mostly allows me to hit only inexpensive spots on at least a semi-ongoing basis, so bear that in mind when seeing the list of places where I've consistently had worthwhile food:
Toscanini's ice cream
Herrell's ice cream
Rosie's Bakery (baked goods specifically)
Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe (breakfast only)
Sound Bites (breakfast only)
Johnny D's (brunch only)
Oishii (Chestnut Hill)
Trident Bookstore and Cafe
China Pearl (dim sum)
King Fung Garden
Other Side Cafe
Popeye's (Kenmore Sq.)
Really at the end of the day its your own opinion that matters because you're the one eating the food, but below are some restaurants I have never been disapointed at.
UBurger (far from high end, but DELICIOUS)
Smith and Wollensky (a chain, but I love a good steak)
I live in the North End and if you are ever looking for a quick, but delicious bite to eat pop into Express Cafe, it has some of the best simple pasta dishes in the North End its quick and won't cost you more than $15. I eat there for dinner when I dont feel like cooking at least three times a week!
OK, I'm sort of astounded by posters who have disagreed with others' postings, it's one person's opinion, hello? - but that's beside the point.For me, the list includes:
Oak Bar (drinks)
This question borders on torture! I've just returned from a week in San Francisco, and in comparision, NO Boston restaurant livesup to the hype! The spouse and I are eating in (luckily I can cook) and the thought of eating at any Boston establishment is repulsive at this point in time. We have in the past enjoyed L'Espalier, the Four Seasons, Radius, No.9 Park, etc., etc,. etc,.
But none of them compare with the freshness, the inspiration, and the preparation of the meals we had in SF. Boston is NOT a food town. Blame it on the seasons, the weather, the location, the signs, but Boston has a long way to go before it is a Foodie location.
That's ridiculous (IMHO, of course! : ) ). Boston certainly is no SF when it comes to food. But some of our best places -- Clio, No. 9, L'Esaplier -- would be great restaurants in SF, or in NY, or in LA. San Franciscans are blessed with a wealth of wonderful places, far more than a city that size deserves, but the hyperbole of your post does a tremendous disservice to the many (albeit not as many as SF) great food establishments that we are fortunate to have.
The establishments in Boston that are worthy are few and far between. But that opinion may be due to the PTSD i'm suffering after coming back to Boston. The two things we noticed were service and price. Even at the low end places service was fantastic. Price, well was a surprise. We went to Michael Mina's for the 6 course tasting menu with wine tasting. Surprise was, Michael Mina's was almost $100 cheaper than the equivalent at L'espalier! The last time we ate at L'espalier, one of the courses on the tasting menu was paired with a beer. Not that I have anything against beer, but given the price I expected better. San Fran did not disappoint. We only had 1 meal, that it wasn't bad, everything was cooked perfectly, but it just wasn't memorable. But we had fabulous meals ( for 2 ) in the $80 - $100 price range (not including tip) that extremely few places in Boston could match.
And service, well it took getting used to servers that didn't hate their jobs. They all seemed to be enthusiatic and enjoy their jobs. They all like going through the menus and describing their favorites. Rare if you ever see that in Boston.
I never found any good Bengali food when I was in SF, nor was I able to score good moqueca or feijoada or other good Brazilian chow. Maybe I didn't look very hard back when I lived there, but I've had better luck with Dominican or Salvadorean here, especially in East Boston. We've got a pretty decent Foochow restaurant in Chinatown (Potluck Cafe) and I never saw any Foochow places there. Shanghainese was definitely comparable since Shanghai Gate and New Shanghai opened up. And I'd pick Aneka Rasa over Straits Cafe or Singaporean Malaysian in SF. The list goes on.....
Of course there are good restaurants everywhere and every geographic region has its strengths. there's nothing even remotely close to Maki here, or Hama-Ko. Certainly very little that approaches the elegance and refinement of the late Elisabeth Daniel, although I sometimes sense echoes of that at Salts. And as for Acme Bakery, 'nuff said. A neighbourhood Cantonese place like South Seafood Village (back when I was there) would have been head and shoulders above all the Cantonese places I've been to here.
Thus, it's important to appreciate what's good for the area, and understand what's world class (note: world class isn't necessarily what's in NYC or LA or SF), and not get worked up because King Fung Garden isn't like Quanjude.
"Fine dining" restaurants aren't just the only places that serve delicious food. There's a huge world of chow out there, some with sauces that are more intricate or dishes that are just as technically demanding than what one would see at French or New American places. The Chowhound FAQ puts it more succinctly than I can: http://www.chowhound.com/faq#chowhound
Getting a little closer to the question posed here, to be honest, my personal opinion is that hype, or reputation, is irrelevant. At the end of the day, everyone of us has to be responsible to finding our own version of deliciousness. We can use the information out there to try something, but deciding whether that suits one's tastes is for the individual. And rather than be told who's good, I believe chowhounds want to decide for themselves, and better yet, find new places that serve something they consider delicious. Zagat's is a fine book, it's the dependence on Zagat's that's bad.
While I agree with you that San Francisco is an unbelievable food scene, Betelnuts, being one of my favorites as well as the Slanted Door, and Zunis. Don't discredit what Boston has to offer. We aren't trying to compete with San Francisco or New York. Living up to the "hype" I would say:
Clio, Mistral, Radius, No.9, Eastern Standard(but really only when Jamie was the chef), Toro(but once again you have to wonder if it was better when Anthony was there), Craigie Street, East Coast for brunch, Oishii there are a good amount of restaurants in Boston that live up to the hype.
re: MC Slim JB
I agree this argument could go on forever. Having been born and raised in SF to a rest. family then moving to Boston, there are differences. But I am not sure it is overall better.
Things out there are different. Farmers markets, fresh produce, etc. I greatly miss the SF concept of a farmers market menu. So far only Cragie has done it, that I know of and would love to hear about more.
IMHO the major difference in SF vs. Boston is that SF has alot of redundancy...how many goat cheese apps does one city need???(and I love goat cheese) or beet salad.
However I find in Boston that many "chef" rest. the chef doesnt actually cook!. The oversee, build a menu, etc. But I tell you. every time I eat at a KO place or a Lynch, etc I never see them coming out of the kitchen with a chef coat on. I find there to be many more working chefs in SF. I think that makes a huge difference.
Back on topic
the old Fed(many would disagree)
and besides the one HORRIBLE experience I had at b side, I love it.
I definitely agree. When was the last time someone saw Todd English come out of the kitchen at Figs? Or saw Barbara Lynch work the dining room? And it's not just Boston, who's seen Mario Batali or Bobby Flay in a kitchen? I would rather spend my money at a restaurant where the chef works, than a restaurant that works from someones cookbook. This seems to be a whole new topic that needs discussion. "Celebrity Chefs: Are Their Restaurants Worth Our Money If They're Not in the Kitchen?"
Todd English is obviously an absent father as far as his restaurants in Boston go. I don't think Barbara Lynch deserves that particular criticism.
As much as I have mixed feelings about her restaurants (love the bar/cafe at No. 9, am indifferent to the dining room, love B+G, am less enthralled with The Butcher Shop), it's kind of hard to gainsay Lynch's work ethic: that woman puts in the hours across her empire. I regularly see her face at each of her various ventures. She also manages to attract, cultivate, and retain great talents around her.
She may not be a figure to inspire a lot of warm, fuzzy love, but she's clearly one of the most talented, ambitious, driven, and business-savvy of our local chef/owners, a fascinating character. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does with that big honking Southie venture she has in the works.
I think the percentage of working chefs aren't actually that different, when we look at restaurant scenes as a whole. Celebrity chefs and their restaurants are a drop in the ocean -- there are so many working chefs across so many chef-driven restaurants in so many different cuisines that we sometimes forget about because they are not in the media all the time.
It is not a matter of if they work the rest. I see them at their rest. I never see them cook!
I agree it is not Boston. But I feel as though this city is especially chef driven.
Is KO making tacos at La verdad or is Joanne Chang Making cookies at Flour. Is Todd English grilling the steak? Or even expediting from the kitchen to ensure the food is at their standards? I find people(granted not the brightest people) flock to a rest. with a chef name and have no idea they are not actually cooking.
I do agree with Lynches vision and work ethic. Sometimes I would like to know if they can really temp meat.
Joanne Chang, Ken Oringer or Todd English are in the vast minority; celebrity chef restaurants are in the vast minority. There are tons more restaurants where we may have never heard of the chef, but produce good food. There are lots of good Sichuan, Mexican, Salvadorean, Shanghainese, Dominican, Bengali, Korean, Brazilian, Portuguese, Columbian etc. chefs out there cooking in in their own chef-driven restaurants.
I live in San Francisco but I spent six years in Boston in the late-80s. It's great to see so many of my old favorites on this thread. Regina, the Modern, Durgin Park, Tosci's, Christina's, Bartley's! I'd also add, anyplace where a Greek person is cooking breakfast (but I suppose those places never get any hype?). Nothing out here comes even remotely close.
In my opinion, right or wrong to anyone, I think that Pizzeria Regina (the original location in N. End), Franklin Cafe, Union Bar & Grille, Durgin Park (for good down home New England cooking), Bristol Lounge, are all ones who live up to the hype.
How are we defining hype? think about it, there's so much hype in this town about restaurants and chefs, everything from Phantom Gourmet (poopoo if you must, but this outlet is a huuuge resource to many people) to TV Diner to every publication (free or not). when I think of Boston-specific hype i think of Todd English and the Hilltop :D
these places have surpassed my expectations, and you hear about them a lot:
i really do like eastern standard at the bar -- havent bothered with dinner yet ;)
I guess it's easy to point to the fancier places but there are many just regular places that we've never had a bad meal at: Strip Ts, Publick House, Vinnys at Night, Bob's Italian foods, Namaskar, Santarpios, etc....
I can't believe it hasn't been mentioned as of yet, but Mistral has consistently rocked my world, the Tuna Tatare being one of the most heavenly things I've ever eaten.
Other restaurants on my list
Oishii Sushi - Chestnut Hill and South End locations
And on the South Shore:
Tosca - Hingham
Square Cafe - Hingham
Bia Bistro - Cohasset
Edited because it's Chestnut Hill! Doh! :)
Gotta like certain dishes at both Mistral and Olives (Charlestown).
Grill 23 is always a good choice (unless you like quiet rooms) because it not only serves great beef but has other dishes as well (unlike Capitol Grill which you only go to when you know everyone wants an aged steak).
Hmmm. Went to Blue Ginger once. Perhaps they were having a bad night, but I was totally underwhelmed. Bland, gloppy & uninteresting.
Have enjoyed L'Espalier, but way overpriced. For half the cost, I could get a better dinner at the late, lamented Federalist. And I've always enjoyed Rialto.
Over in my neck of the woods (Coolidge Corner), I've always enjoyed Matt Murphy's pub, the Publick House, Ginza, Lemongrass and Taberna de Haro.
Top of the list for me are:
L'il Vinny's (Somerville)
Tu y Yo (Somerville)
The Independent (Somerville)
The Duck Walk (Wakefield)
Riverview Pizza (Ipswich)
And not exactly "Boston Area" but would drive all the way to Ogunquit, ME at almost any time to eat at MC Perkins Cove or Arrows...
Well I'm gonna sneak in here and trot out my list of restaurants that never fail to disappoint me and thus live up to their individual hype...in no particular order:
La Vita Mia
The Blue Room
I've been living in Boston for seven years now, and I'm consistently disappointed by the food around these parts. But then again, you could call me spoiled, since before I moved to Boston, I spent my entire life in New York City and Sydney, which I consider to be two of the three greatest food cities (the other being Paris). Food here tends to lack creativity, flavor and inspiration. That being said, I have eaten at some really good restaurants in Boston, but you need to look out for them, research them, etc. The only places that stick out in my mind right now as being exceptional are Oishii, No. 9 Park and Top of the Hub.