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May 27, 2008 01:00 PM

Reporting back: didn't realise taking a baby would make chowhounding so difficult

Hi. I had asked for tips from chowhounds a couple of weeks ago, asking for recommendations on eating out in the Boston/Medford area. Thanks so much for all the replies. It was my first time on holiday with a baby in tow, and I didn't realise what a difference that makes in terms of not being able to draw up a satisfying chowhound itinerary or follow through with plans already made.
This is my first attempt on reporting on food experiences, so sorry if it is too long-winded.
Our first morning there 4 of us went to Soundbites for brunch with baby. We got a table quickly because it was relatively early and a weekday morning I guess. I'm told it is practically impossible on weekends. I had wholewheat pancakes with maple syrup and Canadian bacon. Other 3 diners had brunch platters that had an insane amount of food on them, including eggs and grilled muffins and mashed potatoes(!). We all had fresh orange juice. The pancakes were good, baby enjoyed chewing on pieces, which kept him occupied. I tasted bits from the other platters and everything was tasty. It was the huge portions that perplexed me. I guess that was just a first reaction from a Londoner going to America.
Wednesday night I went to the Boston Symphony with my sister. We grabbed a quick bite at Anna's Taqueria in Davis Square. I wanted to look for Tacos Lupita but it seemed too far from our T stop. Everyone knew how to order there, except me. My sister never orders tacos (she's a burrito girl) so despite her shepherding, I was sort of lost and the man at the counter was getting sort of annoyed. He even tried speaking to me in Spanish (we look Hispanic but are not) but that got me even more confused. I finally managed to secure a roast pork taco. It was quite good. My sister's burrito was very good but too big for me to have one on my own.
We had a funny experience just before the symphony performance. We had about 30 minutes to spare before it started, so we asked the woman at the door if there was someplace we could get a coffee. We thought the symphony hall would have a cafe or something. She sort of looked at us funny, as if we were imposters, so we showed her our tickets. Then she said there was a Dunkin' Donuts down the street. My sister was fuming as she pulled me away from there. She felt the woman was being racist. I felt the woman probably didn't know any other places apart from DD. We did end up having coffee at a non-chain place around the corner (can't remember the name) which had a lot of indie types sipping coffee. The coffee there was very nice.
We ended up having a few breakfast/brunches at the Danish Pastry Shop in Medford near Tufts. I loved the grilled sandwiches and muffins. I had a smoothie there which was a bit too thick for my liking. The coffees were good.
We had lunch at Redbones. It was good, but again, was overwhelmed by huge portions. I had the baby back ribs which I thought were very good. My sister had a jerk beef sandwich which was way too hot. Hushpuppies were underseasoned.
One night my husband and I went to Hungry Mother in Cambridge. Dinner there was the culinary highlight of our trip. Baby slept soundly in his stroller throughout, which was a huge bonus. The low lighting and muted sound levels helped. We had cocktails, which were good and strong. We shared a catfish pate and ham plate as an appetiser. It was one of the best appetisers I have ever had. The pickled ramps and fig compote complimented the ham perfectly. I wish they had given us a couple of more pieces of toast with it though. For mains I had the pork shoulder on grits and hubby had the steak. Our server was very good, not overwhelming us but provided the advice we needed about our selections. I enjoyed the pork, but it was a bit too fatty for my liking. The steak was divine. We had cornbread on the side, which was very good. Desserts were nothing to write home about. We had chocolate cake, which was just average and too sweet, and buttermilk tart, which was good.
My real regret is that we missed out on seafood, which was a absolute shame, given that we were in Boston. My baby had an accident on the morning of our 3rd day in Boston and we were a bit housebound after that. So I am feeling bad about not being able to try out so many of the recommendations given.

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  1. Medgirl, thanks for your update! It sounds like you had a good sampling of some of what Boston has to offer....and with a baby at that! I don't know if I'd have been as successful chowing as you when my daughter was so young.

    As for the portion sizes, yes, the U.S. is ridiculous in this respect, and you can now understand why SO MANY people here are overweight. When my BF and I go out, we usually split an appetizer and an entree and it is plenty. We get the stinkeye from servers sometimes, but we simply do not want to overeat. The other option is trying to only eat half of what they give you and bring the rest home.....but that is not always easy when something is tasty...but I digress...

    1. Thanks so much for the report. I think you did very well considering you had the baby along! So glad that you enjoyed Hungry Mother -- I agree about that app, it's beyond fabulous. That Symphony story did point out a cultural difference -- I find it so civilized in London where you can get coffee or even a drink at such events -- I recall pre-ordering drinks that were ready for us at intermission even -- nothing that civilized around here. Glad you had a good trip overall.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GretchenS

        Actually, they serve drinks before and during intermission at Symphony Hall (there's even service during the performance for Pops). Which makes it even stranger that they were directed to Dunkin. I think I've been to that cafe the OP was talking about - around the corner on Huntington - and agree it's not bad.

        Great report, sounds like you did pretty well. The jerk at Redbones has been inconsistent - I thought it had gotten milder (I like it hot), but apparently it varies a lot. I'd like to go back to Hungry Mother soon - I really liked the version of the Virginia ham app that I got. I bet your portion shock was probably comparable to my sticker shock dining in London (but I did have some great meals over there).

        I don't think you necessarily missed much by not going to a New England style seafood restaurant. Sure, a good clam chowder has that local flavor, but if I had to pick one I'd stick with a place like Hungry Mother that does interesting stuff with local ingredients.

        1. re: nfo

          I can also confirm that you can get coffee INSIDE the Symphony Hall. I just did that in April.

      2. Glad that you enjoyed your trip, baby in tow. You did quite well and as far as seafood, I honestly don;t think that Boston does much better than other places. It's harder than one might think to get a good piece of fish, well prepared and at a fair price in this town. You did take advantage of things that i find are harder to come by in London, Mexican and BBQ, and the abundance of meat here. Please come back.

        1. Hey I think you did really well for a first visit with a chowpup in tow. Soundbites and Hungry Mother are places that would be great for more locals to explore. I don't care for Redbones myself, but sounds like you had fun, and no matter about not knowing the secret ordering code at Anna's. Posts like yours always remind me how accustomed to things we can get ... from portion sizes to seeing a Dunkin on every corner. Thanks for reporting back!

          5 Replies
          1. re: yumyum


            I'm going to Soundbites for the first time tomorrow. I searched the boards and saw all the comments about the Nazi-like owner and the crowds. When does it start to get crowded on weekends? I'm an early riser and planned to go early, but any tips would be great.
            Also, any other breakfast favorites? Good pancakes, French toast, eggs, etc?

            1. re: High Heels and Frijoles

              I don't go on the weekends but I would say that since Tufts is through it will be a little easier this weekend. I've hear the line moves quickly anyway, so if you get there by 9 I would think you'll have no problem.

              My favorites are in the eggs bene category ... served with "no place like home fries" which are garlicky mashed potatoes crisped on the griddle. Omelets are good too. If you are a waffles kinda person, people flip out about the waffles with fruit. On the simple side, but good is the breakfast sandwich with canadian bacon. Just yummy and greasy and satisfying.

              Don't worry too much about Yassir. He's really not that bad.

              1. re: High Heels and Frijoles

                I go almost every weekend and notice that the line generally forms around 9:30am. With Tufts out now, it might be slightly less crowded. Even with a line, the wait generally isn't terrible and since the drinks are self-serve, you can go in and grab one to have while you wait. I LOVE the wonder waffle with fruit, but have been happy with everything I've gotten (except I got coldish french toast once which must have been a fluke). Yassir has been pleasant since moving to the bigger restaurant from what I've seen, so I think that might have been a thing of the past.

                1. re: soxchik

                  Good to hear... I've been inquiring about Soundbites on other discussions and I'm ready for tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the mashed potatoes and the grilled muffins! I'll report back. Thanks for the input.

                2. re: High Heels and Frijoles

                  Definitely the homefries. Also the pear and cheese stuffed french toast... though I kind of just ate all the filling :P

              2. Great report! I'm headed to Boston tomorrow with a baby - only two months old - to see my sister as well and feel good after reading what you had to say. I traveled with my four year old to NYC when he was a tot and it wasn't a problem, but it can be a challenge in between feedings, etc. I think you need to come back when your baby is older and do another report and try some of the seafood next time! Bravo to you for a lovely trip!