country mice in the city
We're back home in the hinterlands, though my 5-yr-old is begging me to get a job in Boston. Here's our big, all-in-one-dump review. I'm fairly new to Chowhound, so if there's a better way to post this, please just let me know. My comments get more sparse towards the end, because I had such a cold I couldn't pick out flavors as well. Please excuse all the extraneous comments--this is cut and pasted from a travelogue of our whole trip. I figure that even though Bostonians know these things, they might be useful to other tourists looking to get a feel for places. Most of these places were recommended by Chowhounds. Two (FH and Legal's) were explicitly NOT reccommended, but we ended up there somehow anyway.
Day 1: Quincy Hall foodcourt. It was raining, so I didn't care to investigate restaurants in the area (In retrospect, the actors weren't out anyway, so we could've just gone elsewhere) I got a veggie moussaka and Isaac had a piece of cheese pizza. Of course the moussaka wasn’t great, but I was pleased to have the option. Folks at chowhound.com recommended Pizza Regina, and the crust of his slice told me it would probably be good if it hadn’t stood around waiting for a customer. I figured we had plenty of time to make it to the original PR. Unfortunately, we never made it up to the North End all week.
Next day: Cambridge: By the time we got to Burdock’s on Harvard Square, they were all out of breakfast items, but we shared a yummy Engadiner Nuss Torte and a fruit tart. Isaac liked his hot chocolate, and I had a cappuccino. $14. I resisted the temptation to buy fancy packaged chocolates. They probably are good, but I don’t need them, and they’d get crushed before I could give them to anyone as a present. Jen typed day 1 travelogue while Isaac read “James the Red Engine”. This coffee-shop appropriate behavior pleased Jen. Eventually we put our things away and chatted. It was fairly busy, with tables nearly always all full and a constant stream of traffic. They’d apparently been busy early for breakfast too (we got there around 11:20). Several families came with kids. It was a friendly little place, nice. A week later, I'm still craving more of that nusstorte.
Dinner was at Baraka, a tiny Tunisian restaurant. There were several other people waiting when it opened up, so the tables were almost full nearly immediately. The waiter refused to seat 2 people at a table for 4, so one couple negotiated to start at a 4-top, but to let him move them later. The waiter was sweet to Isaac, when he had time, but was very busy. Our appetizer was a sweet pepper dip with strips of pita. It did the trick, tiding us over till dinner arrived, which wasn’t as long as one might expect. Jen also had a glass of hot tea right away. It came with fresh mint leaves in it and was just the right thing on such a chilly day. Jen’s dinner was melka, eggplant with sweet pepper and onions, fresh spinach and feta. The feta really pulled it together. Amazing simply delicious simple food. I ate every single bite. The lemonade with rose petals and mint had a bit too much rose petal water at first taste, but stood up to the mekla very well, and was quite tasty then. Isaac was very insistent that he wanted the couscous casserole, didn’t want to share, but didn’t eat it himself either. That was OK, because a side of couscous came with Jen’s meal, and now there are yummy leftovers on the fridge in our room. $32 + tip=$40
After the Whalewatch, Legal's. I asked the guides for suggestions on seafood restaurants that harvest sustainably, and she said Legal Seafoods, and that they’re sponsors of the NEA to boot. There was one right next to the wharf and we were worn out, so that’s where we went.
From the Chowhound boards, I had the impression that Legal’s would be like Long John Silver’s with chowder. It’s not. The restaurant we were in was ‘fine dining’ with lots of business types doing lunch. I don’t think I saw anything battered on the menu. When I didn’t like the first glass of wine (recommended by the server) he brought me a different one. Isaac ordered crabcakes with a side of mashed potatoes, ate all the taters and nothing else. I had an appetizer tray of grilled shrimp, mussels, calamari, etc. for my meal. It was fine. Not scrumptious, but not the tasteless pap I’d expected to be subjected to either. It came with some kalamata olives (or similar), roasted red peppers, and cubed cukes (Hmm, maybe the veggies are why I can say it ‘wasn’t tasteless’. The seafood was not flavorful). Isaac’s salad had a vinaigrette and mixed greens. The crabcake was more of a lump than a patty, and had quite a bit of filler, but arguably that’s what makes it a crabcake and not a serving of crabmeat. I ate it all. Altogether not so bad, although much more expensive than I expected ($40), and not really worth it.
On the way home, we were both ready for a hot beverage, so we stopped at the Appleton Bakery. I didn’t get a bit of Isaac’s cupcake before it was all gone. My blueberry buckle-thingy was fine. The cappuccino was good. Isaac’s taken to saying “cocoa” lately and enjoyed his. It seemed a bit sweet to me, and he didn't finish it. We may pick something up from their lunchroom counter for lunch/dinner sometime this week. We stopped here again later in the week for more pastries, which were also OK, but not great. After that we met our afternoon carb-craving at the place 2 blocks South of here (corner of Dartmouth and Montgomery) where the baked goods are made by folks from a homeless shelter.
Lunch at Paris Café was good, but $40+ AGAIN. The corn cakes were really good (I want to experiment and figure out how to make my own) and Isaac liked his jerk wings. I don’t know why I got the salad Nicoise. It’s the most expensive thing we ordered, and when it came, it really wasn’t what I was hungry for. We didn't get carry-out for the park--ate on their patio, then went to the Public Gardens.
Bhindi Bazaar lunch buffet was good for a buffet. I was glad Indian restaurants supply sauces etc to spice things up as needed. With my cold, I hit the tomatos and onions pretty hard. Isaac was ecstatic to have a lassi again. Around $20, almost as cheap as FH.
Dinner Fri night was Ethiopian, at Addis Red Sea. We got a platter with fish—the sauce had really yummy spices, slightly hot, collard greens, a mix of potatoes, carrots and green beans that were disappointingly unmade up, and Jen’s favorite, spicey wat with lentils. It was all good, but I had such a cold I can’t say much more. Isaac only ate the injera, so the waitress brought him a little serving of beef, which he really liked. Jen had a glass of red (can't remember which) and Isaac had mango juice, which seemed slightly less sweet than the standard boxed mango drink. Ordering dessert made this our most expensive meal of the week--$50. The chocolate mousse cake was chocolatey and smooth, but the taste was not exceptional. The Ethiopian coffee may’ve been a bit on the thin side for Ethiopian, but was recognizable.
We never made it to Formaggio Kitchen or Turkish Family or the Brazilian place. Maybe when I visit the boy at Harvard.
Thanks again to all the hounds for the suggestions!
Thanks for reporting back. I went back to see the thread where you asked for advice, and you did quite well considering you got a lot of conflicting suggestions for your visit.
I'm sad that the Pizzeria Regina you were able to visit was at Faneuil Hall. It's a mere shadow of its cousin in the North End. That said, you hit some really chowish spots ... Baraka, Burdick's, Addis Red Sea. Legal's is terribly expensive and nothing like Long John Silver, but you know that now. (I think we Boston hounds forget that everything here is SO expensive ... that a $40 lunch is a lot to most rational people)
Do come back to our fair city -- there's much more to eat. :-)
We (three CHers) were sitting right by you at Baraka! We would certainly have said Hi if we had realized...Come back for more adventures, and we'll send you to delicious, maybe less expensive hole in the walls (Cambodian, Peruvian...)
We would like to come back! Perhaps next time we won't be jonesing for good food so much and will strike out on our own a bit, but I sure appreciate all the tips steering us straight to sure things! We had some great meals at places I know I wouldn't have stumbled across on our own.
Fredid, I'm impressed you 'recognized' us here! I suppose it's the 5-yr-old who gives me away offline. If I recall, you were seated on the bench along the wall and it was your enjoyment of the appetizers that led to my deciding to order something. Was it one of your dinner companions who recommended (or seconded) Baraka in my earlier thread?
Yumyum, the Pizzeria Regina in Faneuil was just because Isaac wanted pizza. I was hoping to get up to the North End one with a friend during my conference, but we could never coordinate a lunch together. As for the expense, you all did suggest places I could buy groceries, but we never had time to shop and prepare anything. (I told myself it was a foreign currency that only looked like dollars. We'll see if my bank statement agrees.)
Thanks for the full report and adorable title! I remember your original post and marveling at the chowishness of your 5-year old. You did very well and I still haven;t made it to cafe Baraka! Please come back and enjoy what we have to offer.
Update: the Nusstorte continued to haunt me, so my sister mail-ordered one for my birthday. It didn't taste like I remember--seemed much sweeter, less nutty. Not sure if that due to changes for/in shipping or atmosphere or coffee or what. Probably just need to make another visit :)