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Greatest meals

What is the best dish that you've ever had in Boston? I don't mean the most expensive (emptying your wallet), or the most comforting (reminding you of home), or the most familiar (drawing you back every week). I mean the cherished dish that you'll remember and love for years, the dish that will brighten your memory long into dim old age. It's the dish that shattered your idea of greatness in food.

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  1. My first Harrow's Chicken Pie when I was younger. I swore it was the greatest thing I would ever taste in my life at the time and it has held its own over the years! :)

    1. My mind changes on this topic every week, but I'd say either the Cubano at Chez Henri in Cambridge or the black forest chicken at Jasmine Bistro in Brighton would be right up there...

      Outside of Boston, however, it is no contest for me: The double cheeseburger at Hodad's in Ocean Beach, CA, is something I dream of nearly every day <SHUDDER>.

      1. Top 3 -

        3 - My first Speed's dog.
        2 - My first Santarpio's combo.
        1 - My first double-thick pork chop with vinegar pepper sauce at Vinny's at Night.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          Hell yah BobDob!!! Have you ever been to Lil Vinny's? Its nearby and affiliated to Vinnys at Night. The chops at Lil's are even bigger. Go on the weekend when the real chef is in for a special experience.

          1. re: jerrytrey

            Lil' Vinny is Vinny's nephew. They parted ways and the nephew opened Lil' Vinny's. Last time there I had the stuffed veal chop and it was both huge and amazing. I ate the entire thing and couldn't move afterwards. Lets just say there was no dessert for me after that!

            I have always been a fan of Lil' Vinny's and have had two so-so experiences recently at Vinny's at night (one was overcooked meat and the other was a burnt taste to the tomato sauce). Because of that I have been avoiding Vinny's at Night for a bit. I will say that it is nice to have two good/great italian options close to home in Somerville.

            1. re: jerrytrey

              Thanks, Jerr. I have been to Lil Vinny's - I thought it was good too, although I love the Vinny's at Night antipasto table, which Lil's doesn't have unfortunately. But I think I owe the cousin another visit...mmmm.....

          2. Hopefully this thread will drum up some new thoughts, but for thoroughness' sake, you'll find several hundred ideas in heWho's "Your favorite thing to eat in and around Boston at the moment" thread from a few months back.

            Not quite the same thing as you're asking, I realize, but there's already some overlap:


            1. I had the rabbit with pappardelle @ Mamma Maria about a dozen years ago. Had it again about 10 years ago. Still think about it.

              1. Not really chowish but back in the early 90's, I had Jasper White's pan-roasted lobster with chervil and chives for the first time and it transported me to a food euphoria that I can't remember ever being replicated.

                6 Replies
                1. re: RandyL

                  That reminds me -- the pan seared whole lobster with pancetta, potatoes, grilled asparagus and calvados-saffron reduction from the Cape Sea Grille in Harwich Port was one of only two rapturous dishes I've had in my life.

                  Would you still recommend Jasper White's pan-roasted lobster, or has the quality slipped since the early 90s?

                  1. re: Guilty Glutton

                    I would recommend it - but it can be hit or miss. Sometimes great and other times good (but never ever bad). Hard to maintain the same high standard as one kitchen (with Jasper running the show) to now when there are three restaurants and many different people working the kitchen. But the price in the $40's is not that far off of the price it was back in the mid 90's when he closed. But I do recommend it.

                  2. re: RandyL

                    Loved that this back then. Also the lobster pizza at Biba.

                    1. re: nasilemak

                      That app helped put Lydia Shire on the culinary map....one of the greatest app's ever in Boston....

                    2. re: RandyL

                      That's mine too! I had to go back to Jaspers for dinner twice during his last week on the waterfront to get it.

                      1. re: catsmeow

                        Haha! Tha's funny! I did the same thing! Took just my wife there one of the times and went with another couple the second time. Sigh......that was a sad week (culinary speaking)...

                    3. The handmade wild mushroom ravioli at Mamma Maria. Good lord. And don't anyone go tellling this devout vegetarian there's beef broth in them thar ravioli or I'll hunt you down and go hara-kiri on yo a**.

                      1. none of my greatest meals have been in Boston but one of my happiest tastebud memories is having my first snails in black bean sauce at Ho Yuan Ting on Hudson street a million years ago. The other great awakenings were in France: my first frisee salad, my first sweetbreads, and my first four star meal at Cote D'Or, a lunch so amazing that i smile as soon as I think of it. I had my first epoisse at that lunch and told the waiter how utterly unexpectedly fantastic it was. One minute later, the maitre d' came to the table to thank me for the "cheese manager" who was so pleased that I loved it.

                        1. My first thought was the Roast Chicken at Hammersley's. After all of the hype, everyone recommending it, the chicken was still better than I was expecting.

                          I would say the same about the Cubano at Chez Henri. It also exceeded the deafening hype.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: foodscience

                            Aaaahhh....good choice foodscience. I remember my first time having the roast chicken at Hamersleys.....divine.....

                            1. re: RandyL

                              Can I just offer an amen to the chicken at Hammersley's - unforgettable.

                              I also remember my first dinner at the original Icarus ( a much smaller homier version ofthe current place.) It was the first place I had really innovative food in a low-key atmosphere.

                          2. Excluding meals where wine, beer or mixed drinks flowed . . .

                            1. When I was a kid and we went to Durgin-Park back when the market was a vegetable warehouse and looked like a ruin at night. If you had a drink downstairs - my dad, that is - you could escape the line and go up the back way. The prime rib was salty goodness and huge for a kid and the atmosphere was old-time wonderful in the era before tourists took over. My brother and I ate entire servings like hyenas ripping apart a wildebeest.

                            2. To skip to the present, I love Yang Rou Pao Mao, the lamb soup dish of Xian. I found it at New Taste of Asia, complete with the bread you tear apart (and send back to the kitchen to be added) and it was actually boiling and very, very lamby, like a consommé of lamb.

                            3. I started eating pho ages ago and would usually go to the same hole in the wall off Washington Street, ordering the same safe combination each time. One lunch my bowl came out and perched on the edge were one perfect piece of tendon and one perfect piece of tripe. I figured it was an invitation so I tried them and loved them. I was never a fan of tripe prepared the French or Italian way, perhaps because I'd some lousy tripe, but tendon (& if possible tripe) in chili sauce is one of my all-time favorite dishes.

                            4. In the same vein, where I grew up we had only American Chinese restaurants. In travel, I'd learned about more authentic cuisine and perhaps my favorite dish is Ma Pa Tofu. I used to shy away from ordering it - because it comes out with a Yu Hsiang sauce or some brown glop - but around here I can order real Ma Pa Tofu with lots of astringent sichuan peppercorns (which I used to buy in bulk when they were, for reasons I don't get, illegal to import). BTW, Mimi Sheraton says this is also her favorite dish. No particular place for that meal, but that I can get the dish here is wonderful.

                            1. My best meal in Boston was my last meal ;-)

                              I don't even believe in picking a favorite. I have had too many excellent meals in Boston to pick just one.

                              1. A "loaded" Speeds hotdog on a nice summer day. Yumm!!

                                1. Excellent topic.
                                  Years ago in Natick there was a place called Lotus Flower, and it was the first I recall having a separate, "authentic" Chinese menu. I had to fight to get items from it, they did not want to serve me, but I will never forget the red cooked pork hock (leg), first time I had eaten so much fat, meltingly delicious along with a little cilantro to brighten it up, all soaked in an unctuous sweet and salty sauce. My god! The waiter stood behind me anxiously as I ate it, and then slowly smiled, and finally said it was his and many of the staff's favorite dish.

                                  Another is definitely the Uni spoon at......Uni! I still love it, what a fantastic combo of flavors.

                                  1. My greatest Boston chow memory (limited to my few years here) has been the fried clams at Clam Box, hard to find this anywhere else and a great meal. Second to that is Neptune Oyster, great food & drink and atmosphere. Elsewhere, Faidley's crab cakes and some homemade spinach gnocchi with shrimp and a cream sauce at Johnny's Bar in Cleveland are some strong memories.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: steinpilz

                                      The New York Times ran a great review of the Clam Box last summer: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/29/din...

                                      "The bellies dripped sweet, briny clam juice down my chin . . . .Ms. Aggelakis uses only Ipswich clams unless bad weather or high demand causes her to turn to Maine suppliers. She also double-dips her clams while cooking. Excess coating stays behind in the first deep-fryer, allowing for cleaner cooking in the second. In addition, she closes the restaurant between lunch and dinner — unheard-of — to change the oil, ensuring a clean taste all day long."

                                    2. 1-Sitting at the bar at Neptune the first time and having a dozen oysters and a beer, so simple, but so fresh and delightful. I swear I could have three dozen myself (if my wallet wasn't so skinny)

                                      2-Standing up in a dirty industrial parking lot eating a loaded speeds dog, dripping a plethora of condiments and hot dog juice on myself, mmm

                                      3-Eating my first Figs pizza about 3 years ago at the one on Beacon Hill off of the upside down sheet pan and having a watermelon feta salad on the side

                                      1. My favorite meals in Boston have been in the company of other chowhounds, to be sure. I remember my first trek to East Boston to get ceviche at Rincon Limeno, followed by a few too many glasses of red wine at Santarpio's. Or there was the clam crawl a few years back that was so much fun -- that day Farnhams was the winner although I do like the Clam Box. Hell, I just like clams around here. There was a fund-raiser pizza crawl too before CNET and the proceeds went to keeping the lights on at chowhound. Ernesto's was awfully good that day but my favorite is still a pizza at Pizzeria Regina with a few friends.... Sitting at the bar at Chez Henri with another hound who grew into a great friend..... Meeting a new chow friend at our neighborhood breakfast place, or an old chow friend at Mulan for lunch. These are my greatest meals.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          Yumyum, - These are my favorite "vicarious (or cyber?)" dining experiences, thanks to the posts you and the others offer up. Each one makes me imagine being there and laughing through the dinner although wondering whether I could possibly keep up with all of you.

                                          1. re: Northender

                                            I have to agree that the roast chicken at Hamersley's is way up there as one of the greatest and also Speed Dogs. The cauliflower soup with green garlic flan that I had at Lydia's new restaurant, Scampo, last night was outstanding as was everything else I had. The bread we ordered was the elephant ear walking...a giant piece of flatbread grilled and topped with tomato, fresh basil and cheese. I had a couple of small plates in addition to the soup. I had the asparagus sformato and the house made mozzarella with peaches and pistachio pesto. For dessert I had the pistachio gelato with chocolate biscotti. All in all it was a most memorable and enjoyable meal.

                                        2. Couple things, both from three or four years ago.

                                          1. Duck confit at Hamersley's Bistro. I know that's a basic bistro dish, but I had avoided it for years after several experience with duck in Boston where the bird was tough and chewy. This one was a revelation that completely turned me around on the bird. Also had it with my first Cote Rotie, it was a rather lucky pairing, perfect.

                                          2. Homemade papperdell pasta topped with a heap, a real heap of just-shaved white truffle. This was at No. 9, it still rings.