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Simple but delicious places for anti-fancy mom?

okello Nov 10, 2007 11:05 AM


My mom will be in town for a week over Thanksgiving, and I'd love to take her to some restaurants offering really good food, but ones that aren't too fancy--it's not her style, and she won't enjoy it. At the same time I'd like to try some new places for me, ones that will satisfy my more foodie tendencies. I'd love to find:
1) a great little place (maybe in the North End) that will have scrumptious, simple Italian in terms of a really good red sauce, Eggplant Parmesan, maybe a Marsala dish. As I said, simple, but reliable and yummy.
2) Solid Indian, which she's said she wants to try. I'm thinking Kebab Factory, as it is close to us in Cambridge. Other thoughts?
3) Seafood. She loves fried clams, oysters, that sort of thing, as well as lobster. Last visit one of her favorite things were the fried clams at Dairy Joy. Good fish and chips will make her happy as well.

Other genres are welcome as well--she's here a full week. :-)


  1. hiddenboston Nov 10, 2007 11:34 AM

    Here are a few options for each of the above:

    1) Antico Forno, Al Dente, Mother Anna's, or Pagliuca in the North End. All are good, unpretentious Southern Italian places. Also, Rino's in East Boston and Vinny's at Night in Somerville are a couple of other places worth considering.

    2) Kebab Factory is one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to in the Boston area, but there are some others to consider; India Quality in Kenmore Square, Shanti in Dorchester, Punjab in Arlington, and perhaps the Bengal Cafe in Cambridge.

    3) Moulton's in Medford has excellent seafood dishes, and the price is right.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston
      bear Nov 10, 2007 11:50 AM

      Can't argue with any of those choices. Good picks. I'd add Artu for Italian, especially the eggplant parm.

      If you want to venture out to the burbs, Zalek's in Wakefield has solid, fresh and simple food at great prices, and it's byob. Seafood, steaks, fish and chips, good gyro, pretty bare-bones atmosphere and a little too bright with the lights, but a good value. Several threads on this board for good rec's.

      1. re: hiddenboston
        Aromatherapy Nov 12, 2007 11:36 AM

        Not sure if "anti-fancy" = unadventurous, but I favor Bengal Cafe. Nice but unpretentious, different, and not all that spicy. Although perhaps I'd avoid the very mustardy dishes, and the very bony Bengali fishes if that's a problem.

      2. j
        joestrummer Nov 10, 2007 11:48 AM

        Vinny's first came to my mind for red sauce Italian near Cambridge. Definitely not fancy and Mom may get a kick out of the grocery store ambience.

        I'll suggest Frank's Steakhouse in N. Cambridge. Old school, not too fancy.
        Great steaks but I'm not familar with other menu items.

        1 Reply
        1. re: joestrummer
          lissy Nov 10, 2007 04:25 PM

          My mother is very anti-fancy and she loved Vinny's at night for both the food (I think she had the eggplant parm and homemade mafalde) and the atmosphere.

          Vinny's on Broadway
          76 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

        2. b
          Blumie Nov 10, 2007 12:22 PM

          Dairy Joy usually stays open til December. Stick with the fried clams and onion rings. Don't be tempted by the rest of the menu.

          1. p
            pollystyrene Nov 10, 2007 01:53 PM

            I'll bet your mom's no anti-fancier than mine when it comes to eating out! My mother lives in California, and her favorite place it the Souplantation, so I face the same challange when she visits.

            These are her favorites: Pizzeria Regina, the fried clams at Dairy Joy (but where would you eat them this time of year?), the Big Apple Pancake at Bickford's, and...hold onto your seat...Sel de la Terre. She scoffed at the latter at first, but saw a salmon dish on the menu that lured her in, made her swoon, and now it's one of her favorite places. There's hope for all.

            1) Antico Forno is popular, but neither my mother nor I cared for it. Maybe Galleria 33 or Maurizio's? Once the eggplant parm fix is accomplished, there's always Pizzeria Regina.

            2) Sorry, I don't like curry.

            3) Legal Seafood isn't fancy. My mother wears her lobster bib right through dessert. She might also like Summer Shack or Barking Crab. Bickford's went through an overhaul a couple of years ago, and added fresh Ipswich clams, along with some other seafood to their menu. Once when we were there for the Big Apples, the manager brought out a couple of fried clams for my mother to try, and she thought they were heavenly. The prices are right, it's not fancy, and if you stick to certain menu items, it can be a good default place for mom's such as ours.

            Another thought: Baraka Cafe in Central Sq.

            1. t
              teezeetoo Nov 10, 2007 04:36 PM

              For not fancy surprisingly a lot of places in cambridge qualify. East Coast Grill, Blue Room, B-Side Lounge, all give you some good choices and your mom some comfortable ones.

              1. t
                tomaneng Nov 10, 2007 04:55 PM

                Since she'll be here a full week how about El Oriental de Cuba in JP. It's about as unfancy as you get and it's also some of the homiest, tastiest food ever.

                1. b
                  bachslunch Nov 10, 2007 06:45 PM

                  I'll second Antico Forno, Pagliuca's, and Maurizio's for excellent, basic Southern Italian in the North End and also suggest Saraceno's and Giacomo's. I'm thinking Galleria 33 might be pricier and more involved than other possibilities. Outside the North End for Southern Italian, I'll second Vinny's at Night and also suggest Carlo's in Allston.

                  The Indian suggestions from hiddenboston are first rate. I can only think to add Tamarind Bay or Tanjore in Harvard Square to the list.

                  For seafood, I'd think Neptune Oyster will be excellent and not too pretentious. For more "blue-hair" oriented examples of this cuisine, I'll echo the suggestion of Legal's and also suggest Dolphin Seafood in Cambridge. If you really want to go down-market on the decor and still get decent fish, Morse Fish in the South End is another option.

                  1. f
                    fredid Nov 10, 2007 07:48 PM

                    Here's one more - How about Angela's cafe in Eastie for wonderful, homey Mexican cooking? And Angela is such a Mom! Quick 2 minute drive from the Sumner/Callahan tunnel. (Take an immediate right as you leave the tunnel, left at the light onto Chelsea, (Santarpio's is right there for pizza and lamb tips - do I have that right? - Can't get any less fancy then this 50's bar!) left at Brooks, up hill to Lexington.) I would recommend the great guacamole and the mole chicken for your mom....

                    1. o
                      okello Nov 11, 2007 07:10 PM

                      Y'all rock.. your suggestions seem right on target. Can't wait to try them out...and feel free to keep them coming. If you'd like a new challenge, Mexican (more on the Tex-Mex side) is good too.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: okello
                        joestrummer Nov 11, 2007 08:26 PM

                        Don't bother with the Tex-Mex in Boston, IMO. Not sure where Mom is coming from but mediocre Tex-Mex usually isn't hard to find.
                        Take Fredid's rec and go to Angela's.
                        They have American items on the menu and I'm sure will cater to your Mom and/or steer her towards a Mexican dish far superior to anything she'd get at a T-M joint.
                        I've had a few good meals at Ole in Inman Sq, and I bet it would charm your Mom if it's running right but I've heard some recent less-than-great reviews so I'm hesitant to recommend it.
                        Any recent reviews on Ole?

                        1. re: joestrummer
                          kate used to be 50 Nov 12, 2007 08:37 AM

                          I like Mexico Lindo in Melrose on Main Street. Think it is the best Tex-Mex around.

                        2. re: okello
                          galleygirl Nov 12, 2007 05:59 AM

                          I know it isn't what you asked for, but my motherrecently visited, and couldn't get enough Korean,whih she had never had before. She liked it cuz it was spicy, healthy, and cheap.

                          1. re: galleygirl
                            maillard Nov 13, 2007 02:07 PM

                            Would you mind sharing where you went and what you ordered? I like spicy, healthy, and cheap!

                            1. re: maillard
                              galleygirl Nov 13, 2007 03:09 PM

                              Sure, I was under the influence of cold meds....;)
                              We wentt o Minsok, around the corner from me in Brookline. There's probably better Korean in Union Square in S'ville,but I quite like Min Sok. We went for lunch. Mom was drooling over my Hai Dup Bap, even tho it had raw fish in it! I like their version,becasue it has more marinated veggies than a lot of others. She had a huge bento box; a good sized serving of tempura shrimp, and veggies, some salad, some sushi, some dumpling, rice....I was really surprised that there was so much at lunch; all light, fresh and most non-quilt inspiring...

                          2. re: okello
                            Bob Dobalina Nov 12, 2007 09:57 AM

                            Hit Tacos Lupita for extremely unfancy, or Taq. Mexicana in Union Square.
                            Basically, any place in Union Square is extremely unfancy, with the exception of Independent, which is fancy unfancy.

                            How fancy is Pescatore in Ball Sq. for seafood?

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina
                              Aromatherapy Nov 12, 2007 11:36 AM

                              Il Pescatore is nice but not fancy.

                          3. s
                            Snowflake Nov 12, 2007 05:11 AM

                            This sounds like a good chance to hit up the Druid in Inman Square. They have great fish n chips as well as seafood soups and stews. And it is cozy and warm.

                            1. b
                              BBHound Nov 12, 2007 05:13 AM

                              For something different for seafood, try MuQueCa near Inman Square. Brazillian style seafood stews that are wonderful.


                              1010 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                              1. c
                                chowfamily Nov 12, 2007 05:26 AM

                                It might be out of your way, but Grumpy White's in Quincy has old-fashioned, delicious seafood.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chowfamily
                                  chowfamily Nov 13, 2007 04:48 PM

                                  I should clarify. If Grumpy White's has fried clams (and it is best to call ahead), they will rival those at Dairy Queen. They also have fish with chips. The atmosphere is very basic, but if you can get there during daylight it is a nice reminder of Quincy's coastal roots.

                                  Neptune Oyster also has great fried clams, and it isn't stuffy, but they don't take reservations. It is a very easy space to be comfortable in, and the food is very good.

                                  I agree with other posters that better Tex-Mex is found in other parts of the country.

                                2. o
                                  okello Nov 12, 2007 07:10 AM

                                  Yeah, I'll agree Tex-Mex is tough. We lived in Texas for about 5 years, so it's a favorite (when done well)--but certainly a challenge in Boston.

                                  1. t
                                    tulseluper Nov 12, 2007 08:29 AM

                                    for kickass italian seafood, Pescatore in Ball Square (Somerville) is both unpretentious and excellent.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tulseluper
                                      digga Nov 13, 2007 03:47 PM

                                      In nearby Davis Sq. is Out of the Blue for not-fancy seafood.

                                    2. MC Slim JB Nov 12, 2007 10:44 AM

                                      1) Anchovies, Carmen's Kitchen, and Trattoria Toscana (a stealth choice for you, since it doesn't look fancy and has more interesting Tuscan stuff in addition to non-scary pasta dishes, though no red sauce)

                                      2) India Quality, Punjabi Dhaba (as down and dirty as it gets -- stainless-steel compartmented food trays instead of dishes, but still excellent), and Grain and Salt (nice looking, plenty of unscary Punjabi dishes, but some excellent weirdness for you, like the Desi Chinese)

                                      3) Rendezvous (upscale but not intimidatingly so, very fine seafood options), Green Street (excellent updated Yankee options, like that corn chowder with fried clams in it, in a clean but casual setting -- if you're lucky, they'll still have that one-dish clambake entree going), Morse Fish (fresh and cheap, with styrofoam boxes and plastic cutlery, about as plain as the South End gets).

                                      1. c
                                        cyng Nov 12, 2007 11:41 AM

                                        Morse Fish is definitely fresh and cheap, though it might tip the scales into the anti-fancy a little too much. That said, I've had some of the best fish and chips there. If you want to get seafood and italian, the Daily Catch in the North End has a great homemade pasta with squid dish (even though I hear from some people that they're inconsistent, I've always had great luck there). You could also try Addis Red Sea (south end) for some fantastic ethiopian, and it's very casual. And I second the vote for Tamarind Bay - I absolutely love their daal and their okra.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cyng
                                          Bob Dobalina Nov 12, 2007 12:54 PM

                                          I thought Tamarind Bay was relatively fancy, i.e., white tablecloths and all...
                                          As opposed to someplace like India Quality, which I always thought of as form unfancy.

                                        2. p
                                          Pegmeister Nov 13, 2007 03:36 AM

                                          I enjoyed an excellent dinner at 75 Chestnut this weekend. The shrimp cocktail was a bit overpriced, $12 for 4, but they were quite good. On the other hand, my mussels in tomato broth with chorico was full flavored with nice plump mussels and only $13. My DC had the porterhouse porkchop. At $20, it was fairly priced as it was oversized and more than enough to share. Cooked to order, incredibly tender served on top of shallot mashed potatos. I had an eye for the apple strudel with cinnamin ice cream but just couldn't do it. Our server kindly, brought us a complimentary dish of the ice cream that was just enough. I also noticed that they have a Thanksgiving menu. You may want to check it out.

                                          1. c
                                            crosel23 Nov 13, 2007 12:39 PM

                                            Taq. Cancun on Sumner St. in Eastie is amazing for Salvadorean/Mexican food. Right off the Maverick T-stop. They have delicious bean and cheese pupusas!

                                            1. l
                                              lhb78 Nov 13, 2007 12:49 PM

                                              If she likes Chinese food- Kung Fung Garden on Kneeland Ave. is the BEST chinese food I've ever had. Call one day in advance for delicious peking duck served 3 ways.
                                              It is a hole-in-the-wall (6 tables) and is very inexpensive. I ate with 4 friends -peking duck, scallion pancakes and dumplings- for under $50. it is also BYOB. It gets crowded but the wait is worth the wait.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: lhb78
                                                Rubee Nov 13, 2007 03:32 PM

                                                King Fung usually makes a couple of 'extra' Peking ducks for the day, so if you have a last-minute craving (as I usually do whenever I see it mentioned!), it's worth calling the day-of. You can order the whole three-course meal for take-out also.

                                                King Fung Garden
                                                74 Kneeland St, Boston, MA 02111

                                              2. j
                                                jrmd Nov 14, 2007 04:08 AM

                                                Turkish food was not on your list but what about Turkish Family Restaurant (I think that is what it is called) in Brookline? So good and very inexpensive.

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