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May 3, 2008 08:28 AM

Chowish places that haven't caught on

After dodging hour-long waits at several chowish mainstays (Washington Square Tavern, Publick House, Asian Fusion), we ended up at Soulfire. Friday night at 8, the place is less than half full. Excellent barbecue chicken, ok ribs, fabulous fried chicken, best collards ever, pretty darn good beans, excellent spicy barbecue sauce, fine selection of beer, lively room with thumping r&b music, Celtics on the big screen TV.

Two questions (1) Am I wrong about Soulfire-is it not a chow-worthy place? and (2) What other chowish places are out there that haven't caught on with chowhounds or the masses?

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  1. Here are a few that I think haven't yet been discovered by the masses or most CH folks, for that matter:

    Don Ricardo's (South End)--a Peruvian/Brazilian restaurant on a lesser-traveled road (W Dedham) in the South End with kind, friendly owners, excellent food, and decent prices.

    La Siesta (Winthrop)--some of the best Mexican food I have had in the Boston area (along with Angela's in East Boston and Cafe Azteca in Lawrence), and it seems to be completely unknown outside of Winthrop. Note that they have finally started renovations to increase the space by about 110%, so I'm not sure if they are open right now...

    Uncle Pete's (Revere)--very good BBQ on a busy road (Route 60) in Revere, but they don't seem to get any crowds at all. Their spare ribs are outstanding, and the grilled bourbon steak is delicious.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      Don Ricardo's is definitely one of the "hidden" places that those South Enders in the know frequent. In the same area, Miami Cafe is a wonderful place to get your Caribbean fix for short cash (mmm... mofongo...).

      For both of them, I think they're both hurt and helped by their location. Hurt because it seems that few South End visitors are willing to walk into Villa Victoria (a.k.a. Little Puerto Rico). But helped because the off-Tremont rent keeps the prices reasonable.

      1. re: hiddenboston

        I'm not sure if I just a bad experience at Uncle Pete's, or their style of BBQ just isn't to my liking. The quality seemed to be there, but I did not at all agree with the way it was spiced and sweetened. As I was looking over their menu, I asked the woman at the counter what her favorites were... "Ribs?" "Yeah, we get awards for those" "Pulled Pork?" "Blech, waay too sweet for me." Should have heeded that warning.

        Before I continue, I'll note that until now, my threshold for sweetness in BBQ has only been surpassed by mass marketed Kraft type sauces. My tastes do tend to lie on the more savory side of things, but I am *very* flexible in that regard.

        When I got home, everything was so sweetly spiced (ie cinnamon, clove, allspice, etc) I couldn't finish my meal... and there wasn't even any spicyness that it was pushing up against. It was just really sweet. When I opened the styrofoam takout carton thingy expecting to smell delicious smoky ribs, all I could smell was the cinnamon from the biscuit. The ribs were decent quality, but once again, much too far on the sweet side sugar wise, and was way too heavy on the sweeter spices. As for the pulled pork sandwich i bought for my girlfriend, you could have put that in a baking dish with a crumb topping, and you;d have a pork cobbler. Maybe 2 bites before it hit the garbage can.

        That being said, their mac and cheese blew the mac and cheese of any other BBQ place I've been to, completely out of the water.... if you reeeally like butter. (and I do)

      2. I've mentioned Soulfire several times on Chowhound Boston, I think it's pretty good BBQ with good beers and prices and good location. A pulled pork sandwich and beer for $10 is a great lunch deal IMO. Others have agreed (the collard greens are reportedly very good BTW) and some aren't as happy with the BBQ. For a year or more after it opened Soulfire didn't have a beer license, I'd say they lost some people because of this. Maybe they ought to have a free BBQ tasting on Harvard some sunny weekend day, like on Gordon Ramsay's show.

        1. Last night, after a wonderful chili verde taco from Three Amigos, I was wondering the same thing- I don't know why I haven't heard more about it here. This taco was just so good- moist chunks of pork in a spicy green sauce with a strong cilantro flavor. Granted, the chicken mole was one-dimensional (especially compared to Angela's- but bonus points for dark meat rather than dried out chicken breast!) The ground beef hard taco was boring (but then, that's to be expected) but the shredded beef was very good. Their tortilla chips seem homemade and their salsa is about as good as Angela's. It's very convenient to 128/93 interchange so it's an easy place to stop on the way home if you're in that neighborhood.

          Three Amigos
          125 Main St Ste 4, Stoneham, MA 02180

          8 Replies
          1. re: Chris VR

            Just a note on Three Amigos. They opened, maybe 10 years ago, and they were fabulous. Great dishes, huge portions. Then apparently they changed hands and instantly went downhill. Everything was bad from cleanliness, freshness, portions, etc. I tried them a few times, always a disappointment. Now, apparently they are pretty good again but it takes a while to get the "bad taste" (pun intended) out of one's mouth.

            1. re: powerfulpierre

              Ahhh- that makes a lot of sense. I have a really hard time getting myself back into places that have disappointed me. I only started going there about a year or so ago. Portions are definitely large- the chili verde taco was actually too full for me... but it made it easy to share, because I ate the taco and hubby ate all the rest of the pork that spilled out. Everything seems fresh, and the few times I've eaten in, the cleanliness seemed fine.

              1. re: powerfulpierre

                Three Amigos was around circa 1989-90, because I recall going there before I moved to Melrose early in 1991.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Tres Amigos is one of my favorite spots for Mexican. I have never been disappointed there. I too love their version of Chilli Verde and usually order it in a burrito. I also like their refried beans and would have to agree that while their mole isn't as good as Angela's Cafe it still is pretty darn tasty. I also like their Carne Asada tacos especially if they have their home made soft corn tortillas. This is a great little spot and certainly far and away better than any of the other so called Mexican restaurants in the Stoneham area

                  1. re: RoyRon

                    I love 3 Amigos too, and especially their homemade soft corn tortillas with carne asada - and yeah, that pork chili verde is great too. The owners are sweethearts, too. Atmosphere isn't my favorite, but the food is consistently good.

                2. re: powerfulpierre

                  Yeah, we hit them in the downhill slide and nothing could get us back. We just couldn't figure out what the noise was about.

                  1. re: three of us

                    Soul Fire suffers from the same syndrome as all the bbq places I've tried in Boston and New York (haven't been to Redbones yet, though) which is that the cuisine is just too OBVIOUS --to salty, sweet, saucy, smokey etc. It all tastes like cartoony bbq instead of resting at a low temperature long enough to develop the right flavor. As a kid my parents dragged me from one Florida backwater to another where local families set up a smoking shed on Friday night and put out a sign. By 6 pm Sunday, they were packed.
                    Sauce? *snort* They didn't believe in it, or at least very much of it. And the cole slaw had better be good. And there'd better be hush puppies or it wasn't authentic. For economic reasons, I guess, the Slow Food movement just isn't catching on in Boston. Restaurants need to turn over those tables in a hurry to pay the taxman. But when it finally gets here --and it will-- I hope we can all look forward to some real barbecue because I really miss it.

                    Sorry this is somewhat OT.

                    1. re: SSqwerty

                      A wise man at Memphis in May BBQ contest once told me if you can make BBQ fast enough to make money selling it, then it aint no good.

              2. Soulfire has its detractors, of which I am one. How much you like it depends hugely on what you expect from a barbecue place, and Soulfire does not meet any of my expectations.

                2 Replies
                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  It would be great if you could elucidate what it is that you expect from a barbecue place but don't get from Soulfire.

                  1. re: FoonFan


                    Do a board search with a 2-year window - there are a fair number of threads discussing Soulfire with a wide range of opinion form great to horrible, sometimes (as with BFP) from the same people.

                2. jnj turo turo filipino cuisine (quincy)
                  mittapheap (lynn)
                  house of tibet kitchen (teele sq)
                  color (allston)
                  s&i thai (allston)
                  uncle cheung's (framingham)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: galangatron

                    I'm with you on mittapheap and color. both have amazing flavor palates. I've yet to try s&i - I'm too much in the dokbua groove.

                    1. re: FoonFan

                      I 'heart' Mittapheap...;)
                      Try S&I when you're not in the moidd to sit down at Dok Bua...
                      And, of course, I'm right there with Uncle Cheung's...They even sell me moo shi pancakes when I run out at home...

                      1. re: galleygirl

                        Used to eat at Uncle Cheung's once a week when I worked nearby. Still meet some friends from that company there for lunch occasionally. It never disappoints. Hmm, time to schedule another lunch soon.