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Oct 6, 2007 10:04 PM

East Boston-Most overlooked foodie destination

The weekly publication "Stuff at night" just announced East Boston as their Most overlooked foodie destination of the year:

There has been a lot of talk here recently about Angela's Cafe on Lexington St., but I also wanted to highlight some other of my favorites and see if anyone has any other recommendations.

Latin American:
-Angela's (Mexican) - for obvious reasons, check out the series of posts on this place for more info
-Mi Pueblito on Border St.(Salvadoran/Mexican) - large portions, good prices, cool atmosphere, cheap beer
-Montecristo in Central Sq (Salvadoran/Mexican) - very good pupusas, open till 1AM!
-Pollo Doreno in Day Sq (Salvadoran, rotisserie chicken) - good chicken, easy take out
-Taqueria Cancun in Maverick Sq (Salvadoran/Mexican) - Quality food, frequently receives good reviews, serves beer & wine
-El Jardin in Central Sq (Colombian) - Good food, bright, engaging atmosphere
-Topasio on Bennington (Colombian) - My favorite for Colombian food. Good steaks, a little more upscale than other Colombian places
-El Buen Gusto in Day Sq (Salvadoran) - Nice take on upscale Salvadoran food. Interior is nicely designed. Good meat platters.
-Victors on Saratoga? (Peruvian) - Took over the name from well known Italian place. They have good Peruvian chicken. I heard a rumor they might be closing.
-El Limeno off Day Sq on the way to Orient Heights (Peruvian) - usually cited as the best Peruvian in Eastie
-Colombian Tamale "hole in the wall" on Chelsea off Maverick Sq - Just found this place the other day. They make huge Colombian Tamales with 4 kinds of meat for $6. They look like something you would get on the streets of Bogota...pretty cool. Also have a guava flan type dessert thing that was awesome.

-There is a Brazilian churascaria place on Chelsea between Maverick and Day Squares that is pretty good, but a tad but expensive. I don't really care for the place next to Spinellis. With all the Brazilians in the Boston area, I am really surprised we don't have a better churascaria like they have in Dallas and Chicago and other cities with less Brazilians.

-Another note on Latin food in Eastie. Most of the corner stores sell imported cheeses and sausages from El Salvador. I don't know how they are allowed to import farm cheese from outside the US, but I am not complaining! Also, there are two Colombian variety stores on Meridian St just off Maverick Sq that have amazing Colombian sausage that is made locally by some woman who is known for her sausages. I have seen some El Salvadoran fresh sausage every now and then at a few of the other stores that looks homemade as well.

-Rosticeria Cancun in Maverick Sq (Salvadoran/Mexican) - The enjoyably chaotic atmosphere is the closest I have come to a classic Mexican taqueria - loud music, cramped environment, high energy and quick, decent food. I like their taco de lengua and their Salvadoran-style quesadilla is good. Rotisserie chicken seems to be hit or miss - it is usually much better eaten there than for takeout. Their pupusas are very good.

-Taqueria Jalisco in Day Sq (Mexican) - One of the only Mexican owned and operated taquerias in Eastie. Their adobada and lengua tacos are superb. Torta de adobada is one of my wife's favorites. Nice owners.

-Taqueria Michocan in Orient Heights on Saratoga (Mexican) - The other Mexican-owned and operated taqueria in Eastie. Run by a family from Michocan. They did a great job in designing the restaurant. I heard it was going to close though.

There are already a lot of posts about these, so I will refrain from discussing Santarpios and give my few top favorites:
-Carmen's Kitchen in Orient Heights - High quality Italian food. Small, cozy restaurant. Pretty good espresso depending on who makes it. Kind of expensive, but worth it. They used to have a small deli, but closed it - too bad. Next to Carmen's is an old school gentleman's cigar bar that is pretty cool.

-Cafe Italia on Meridian St in Central Sq - Carmen's menu food might be a bit better, but Cafe Italia's specials are better IMO. The front seating section is very nice with the open kitchen. Lots of politicians and well known people in the Italian American community come fro the 'burbs to dine there. During the day there is a mix of about half Italian-speaking men who have espressos (usually with sambuca) and it is a pretty cool atmosphere, kind of like a Sunday morning at Cafe Graffitti in the North End. I have long felt that the daytime espresso guy, John, makes some of the best espresso in all of Boston. Only competition are a few of the best ones at Graffiti. The nighttime people make very average espresso, but the other woman who works on John's off days is pretty decent.

-Reno's Place on Saratoga - This place is really hard to get a table at. Real old school Italian where most everything is made from scratch. Definitely check this place out if you can get a table.

-I think Zafferanos is closed, but it was really excellent. This served real Italian (not Italian-American) cuisine with a nice wine list. Run by a family recently immigrated from Naples. I heard that they went back. I think Italian Express is also closed, but that was good the few times I went there in Orient Heights.

-I don't really care for Jevelli's or Mario's. They seem to be very standard Italian-American places. Kind of cool atmosphere and lots of history to both, but the food isn't that special when you compare it to the others above. Jevelli's does serve till 10PM which is nice, though. In another neighborhood these places would rank higher on my list.

Sub shops/Pizza:
-Dough near Maverick Gardens - The owners of this place are really nice guys and they make a pretty good pizza. I really like their subs though. They layer prosciutto with capicola and genoa salami in their Italian, which makes it extra good. They also have hot pepper relish if you ask for it, which is not that common in Eastie. They have some interesting specials too (they like to play around with creations involving buffalo sauce).

-Meridian Street Market - Always a lunch line out the door of cops, firefighters, construction workers, and local office workers. The Meridian St Special sandwich (roasted red peppers, broconccini, garlic, & chix cutlet) is excellent. Their Italian sub is very good. Nice to go dinners and arranchini. I occasionally get catering from them for parties and they have good prices for that.

-M&M Variety - I just like this place because it is 2 blocks away and has a decent Italian sub for around $4. It also was the convenience store owned by Sean Penn in the movie "Mystic River." For those two reasons, I kind of like going there.

-Spinelli's in Day Sq - They have good Sicilian style pizza and lots of fresh meals to bring home for dinner (the Eastie version of the TV dinner). They make fresh raviollis and fusilli that you can purchase. Also have good desserts and Italian pastries.

-There is a Vietnamese place on Meridian Street (corner with Lexington or Trenton) that makes excellent Pho and other typical dishes. I hear that it is well known among the Vietnamese community as being on par with the better known Pho places around town. Actually, Eastie used to be a large Vietnamese neighborhood and we still have the remnants of that through this restaurant and a Buddhist temple around the corner.

-Korean/Sushi place in Orient Heights - Haven't been there as frequently as I would like because it is a little far for me, but this place is great. I love Korean food and they do all the typical dishes. They also do decent, fresh sushi. My friends who live in Orient Heights go there all the time.

-Breakfast joints:
Donnas in Orient Heights, Dozzi's in Jeffries Point. Both neighborhood institutions. Used to be Lenny's Spa in Eagle Hill, but Angela's took that over and moved to Lexington St (they still serve the same breakfast plus Chilaquiles). Now we have Cafe 303 for an upscale yuppie breakfast that is probably my favorite menu compared to lunch and dinner there.

Other places I like:
-Right off Central Sq before you enter the tolls for the Sumner Tunnel, there is a place that is about to open as a seafood restaurant, which I think is our first in Eastie. They were running a fresh fish market (originally from the Cape, this was very important to me), but they didn't get consistent business and they had to close it down. Hopefully with the restaurant open, they will be able to start up the fish market again.

-Kelly's Sq Pub near Day Sq - This place doesn't look inviting from the outside (small windows), but inside it is a bright family restaurant. It is mostly locals, but very clean and the waitstaff is very friendly. The food is standard bar fare with very large portions. Wednesday is half price pizza day (pretty good pizza, especially the garlic pizza). We always take home half our meal and it is good for lunch the next day. It is probably the best, non-dive bar to watch the Sox game.

-Cafe 303 on Sumner St in Jeffries Point - I already started a post about this place, but I will mention it here. It is the first yuppie cafe/restaurant in Eastie and they are doing cool things with their international menu. I am there more and more often just hanging out because there is always someone I know stopping by. Really nice addition to the neighborhood.

-There are also a few old school bakeries that make fresh bread daily. The one I go to is on Sumner St (think its called AJ's). Everything in that place seems to cost just $0.25 cents. So cool.

That is all I can think of for now, but there are many more, especially in Orient Heights, that I forgot. Good thing I type fast. If anyone wants addresses, post your queries here.

What are the other chowhounder recommendations for Eastie? I would love to hear them. Anyone been to that place way up on Bennington St almost in Revere? It looks like an old school neighborhood place. What about Italian places in Winthrop? I hear there are some good ones, but I am not sure of any names. I also hear there is a famous old donut shop in Orient Heights, but I am on a strict no-donut diet according to my wife :)

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  1. Haven't you tried Betos/Peaches and Cream? Their rotisserie chicken is excellent; like it more than the version at El Chalan, although the sauce at El Chalan is very good. Was wondering how they compare with Victor's across the street. Enjoyed both places, but haven't had the the same dishes. Their aji de gallinha is next on my list to try. Betos/peaches & Cream makes their on alfajores in house and it's good, although I like the ones at Rincon Limeno a bit more and i think they're imported from Peru.

    The Colombian tamale place on Chelsea is called Re-tamale, enjoyed their chicken tamale and am thinking about going back for their morcilla which they make themselves.

    What do you think about El Rancho Grande in Day Sq? I've enjoyed their cabeza tacos in the past and their salsas were good, but haven't been back recently. A very houndish friend pointed out the birria at Jalisco to me a couple of years ago, and I'm embarrassed to say that I've yet to try it. La Chiva has decent arepas, but wasn't mind blowing. I wasn't blown away by the fried chicken at Pollo Dorenos either, but good to hear that the rotisserie chicken is good.

    I think the Brazilian churascaria you mentioned on Chelsea is Oliveria's; it's not bad, but I kinda like the ones in East Somerville more (that's also another underexplored neighbourhood). I vaguely remember itaunas mentioning that they have another branch somewhere else, Everett perhaps?

    My memory is a little foggy, but I thought Topacio on Bennington was Salvadorean, by virtue of their excelent handmade pupusas that several chowhounds had introduced me to. I've also read good things about the pupusas at El Buen Gusto on this board, although the venison I had there was good not great.

    A&J has a good cannoli; they seem to make everything themselves, except for the sfogliatelle.

    Have you tried Mr Pollo Mario on Bennington? Have heard good things about the empanadas at this Colombian place.

    I kinda like La Sultana in Maverick Sq and have been meaning to go back to try their lunch stuff. There's a new place called Cactus Grill or something like that that's supposed to have opened a few days ago. Would love to hear some recon on it.

    I remember liking the fast food-like Colombian place on Meridian, a few blocks away from Maverick Sq., but it's been awhile and the name eludes me. There's also another Colombian place that's bakery/restaurant but further up on meridan, close to the Vietnamese place, but it's also been many years since I've been there.

    There's also El Paisan in Orient Heights, lots of food, but in what I had was in the realm of good not great, although it would be great to hear more about it.

    To be honest, I think there's tons of underexplored neighbourhoods in the area; East Somerville is another and Dorchester probably falls into that category too. Even obvious areas like Chinatown have restaurants that I haven't heard much about in years, such like Big Fish, Pearl Villa etc.

    6 Replies
    1. re: limster

      love the pupusas at el buen gusto and agree with you about the fried chicken at pollo doreno. thought it was bland. had the birria at jalisco and it wasn't bad. think they used beef instead of goat though. pretty sure topacio is salvadoran. they have a sister restaurant in lynn. vietnamese place on meridian is saigon hut. haven't been yet

      also like el penol (colombian), la frontera (salvadoran), and la reina (pupuseria). all on bennington. anyone tried la terraza or punto rojo?

      1. re: galangatron

        Tried Punto Rojo years ago and wasn't wowed, but really should go back for another sample. Havent been to La Frontera or La Reina -- very grateful for the tips!

      2. re: limster

        Thanks for the recommendations! I definitely need to try more of the Peruvian food, but what I have tried I have liked. I haven't tried enough of the menus to compare across restaurants. I occasionally get cravings for rotisserie chicken and fortunately there are plenty of places to choose from.

        Yea, Topacio is Salvadoran and I haven't had their pupusas, but they look like they have a big pupusa-making operation there. It is on Meridian. I meant to refer to La Terraza as the Colombian restaurant on Bennington (or perhaps Saratoga). Its the one where you walk up a few stairs and it is kind of nice on the outside and in.

        I was in Peaches & Cream the other day for a quick espresso because I had an appointment around the corner. I noticed the new ownership but they seemed to be running three businesses in that one location - I couldn't really get a sense of what was going on. I will go back and try it.

        Never been to Rancho Grande in Day Sq, nor to Frontera. Always wanted to go in, but I usually end up at Jalisco or El Buen Gusto when I am there. Actually, Day Sq has a number of good restaurants of different varieties packed in together.

        I was expecting more from the fried chicken at Doreno because that is their name! I had fried chicken at the soul food place off Central Sq Cambridge a few years ago and that has set my standards very high.

        La Sultana, the Colombian bakery is very good and I should have mentioned that earlier.

        The fast food Colombian place on Meridian is called something like "Mi Rancho" and is perfectly enjoyable for a quick bite. Nothing really stood out for me. Nice owners.

        You should try Saigon Hut. It is really very good.

        I am really looking forward to a Morrocan restaurant here. Did you ever get over to Beni's on Meridian St (across from Perlera RE and Cafe Italia with the brick archway in the front) while it was open? He was half Italian, half Moroccan, and had several Moroccan dishes off the menu. They had this really great soup and would rotate typical Moroccan dishes (not Tangerino-style high end food, but working class food like the Salvadoran/Colombian places here). I would love to see a little hole in the wall Moroccan place open up here. Anyone know the Moroccan version of Angela?

        1. re: jbowen1519

          Thank you for all the recs -- I have get over there soon to try all the dishes and place, esp. Saigon Hut.

          Yes - Mi Rancho is the name of the place -- I agree about the food there -- it's fine but El Jardin's much better.

          Peach & Cream confused me too at the beginning -- they have a Peruvian kitchen at the back. So for take out, it's at Betos which has an entrance on Bennington. But for sit-down, one goes into Peach & Cream where the food comes from the same kitchen.

          I never got to Beni's, but we certainly need more Moroccan places here. Cafe Baraka in Cambridge is my go to place for Maghreb food.

        2. re: limster

          Oliveira's original location is on Broadway in Everett. The owner bought a Brazilian fashion store, then saw they only made money with salgadinhos and money transfers, so turned into a restaurant with money transfers. I thought he opened another one in Revere, but it changed hands or something (its definitely under another name).

          There is another Brazilian restaurant in the space that used to be Cafe Belo (254 Bennington), but I can't for the life of me figure out the name of it. I don't think East Boston is as attractive for Brazilian business owners (slightly higher rents due to competition with many latino groups), but in any case to respond to the original poster the high-end Churrascarias in those other city make money off a business crowd (much like our numerous steak houses), rather than Brazilian workers. If you want a similar experience, the nearest is probably Brazilian Grill in Hyannis, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good Brazilian meal here in a per-lb or fixed-priced takeout place. (There are even women that cook up daily meals and deliver them to work sites or houses, although not as many.)

          I think hounds have paid pretty good attention to both East Boston and even East Somerville, although in the case of East Boston it changes so often. I see areas like Chelsea, Fall River, maybe the Central Falls area of RI (or that whole valley which includes cumberland). But in any case, its really great to see posts like this!!!

          1. re: itaunas


            I realize your post is over a year old, but can you give more details about the Brazilian cooks that will deliver meals to your house/workplace? I am very interested. You can email me at if you would prefer. Thank you.

        3. That particular award was one of my contributions (Ruth and I split the 30 awards between us). I should have added, "...overlooked except by Chowhounds." Certainly many of my best tips on places to eat in Eastie have come from this board. I'm furiously scribbling down recs from this thread for my to-try list.

          Another underexplored restaurant destination is Lower Roxbury. Every time I wander around there, I notice a new little place. Doesn't seem to get much play here, either. I hope to remedy that in the coming months. Gotta add East Somerville to my map, too.

          1. Thanks for the comprehensive list. A few of us have been visiting E Boston for a few years, sampling 1-4 restaurants per trip...and posting the highlights. Lim, the seafood soup at Topacio (Columbian, I think) was a highlight. I've got a few of those Columbian sausages in the freezer. The aji de gallinha at Rincon Limeno is a winner. Btw, if you like Tacqueria Cancun, and can't make it to E Boston, Burrito Express is operated by the some x employees from fave tacqeria in downtown Boston.

            Nice to have a few "1 pagers" to refer to....RL and a Meridian Special for dessert..:)


            4 Replies
            1. re: 9lives

              Many thanks for chiming in -- been craving aji de gallinha for a while, but have been distracted by other things, will have to go back to RL for it. Could be figment of my imagination, but were they closed for a while (and if so are they reopened)?

                1. re: ipsofatso

                  Oooh I second Milano's...they also have a great deli with imported Italian meats and cheeses. Its worth a trip just for the sub!!

                  1. re: ipsofatso

                    Milano's tray pizza...regular and the 'cheeseless' is heaven!!!

              1. Here's another place to poke our noses (and mouths!) into - There's a pupuseria way down on Sumner, going towards Jeffries Point and the airport, away from Maverick Square .....Maybe some good eats will come from the BlueLine substitution bus - that brought me to this part of Summer.

                1. Thanks! Just added these to my list to try!