Just moved to Boston and need help!
My wife and I just moved to Boston (Brookline, really) from Montreal and are looking for recs on places we have to hit up. We're looking for ideas of places to go to based mainly on location, with preference given to (in order):
1. Brookline (close to Coolidge Corner and Washington Square)
2. Downtown Boston
3. Cambridge, close to Harvard Square
4. Anywhere else accessible by T
Other than that, we're looking for good deals and great meals (not asking too much, I hope!). Some places we've tried so far and have enjoyed are Khao Sarn, Pho Lemongrass and Brookline Family in Brookline, 9 Tastes and Oleana in Cambridge and Legal Sea Food near the Chestnut Hill Mall in Newton. We've liked all of these places and are looking for more "authentic" Boston experiences. Along this line, we've had Regina pizzas and JPLicks ice creams and have loved them too!
So, in short, I'd like any ideas you have, as we like to eat out and will report back here on any exciting finds we may encounter along the way.
One thing we're dying to find right now is a good baguette, which has so far been impossible to find, though we're gonna try to find Clear Flour, which I hear is the best source in our area.
Sichuan Garden right next to brookline family restaurant is good if you like spicy food. I would steer clear of beef w/ broccoli or peking ravioli's (do they even have those on the menu?) here though.
I think Xinh Xinh in downtown is much better than pho lemongrass, but if you wanna stay closer, I also prefer le's down in allston, and pho viet in the super 88 (also allston).
I hear a lot of great things about Athan's bakery in washington square, but I can only attest to the chocolate gelato, and that is awesome. Herell's in Allston, just down harvard ave has good Ice Cream if you liked JP licks. Chocolate pudding and mudslide are my favorites there so far.
Shanghai gate, which is also just down harvard ave from coolidge corner is great. Again steer clear of beef w/ broccoli or peking ravioli's if they have it there. There's a bunch of other great places in Allston like Jo Jo Taipei, Rangoli, ah the list goes on! Michael's Deli is a great lunch spot in coolidge corner. Shwarma king, rod dee and dok bua are all around there also.
In Chinatown, you can go to a dimsum house with pushcarts. My favorite of those is China Pearl, but a lot of the items are almost indistinguishable from Hei La Moon's equivalents. Last time I tried, the lines at Hei La Moon are longer though, probably because their space is smaller. You can try the different bakeries. Eldo's has more pastries, but a lot of their items are very similar other than that. Peach Farm has a great scallop/garlic/vermicelli dish. It and Jumbo also have great steamed fish. Penang is good for malaysian.
Oishii is in chestnut Hill, and it's got quality sushi. You can get the standard stuff, or order from the chef's menu that includes some foie gras creations and kobe beef.
LA Burdick's chocolate shop in harvard sq is great. I love the pave glace and their macaroons. Their other baked goods look great, and their hot chocolate is good. Tamarind bay is there too and it's great indian food.
For a more boston-ish experience, I'd go around the North End more. Maria's, Modern's, Mike's pastries, all good. Antico forno and umberto I like for casual food, and Mamma Maria is pretty good for high end. It is so saturated with restaurants, so there are definitely plenty of goodies to be eaten there.
...peking ravioli being the boston term for Jiaozi, so named because in the 50s, Joyce Chen had a restaurant in the North End and hoped to sell more dumplings. Or so I'm told.
Other boston terms to watch for:
"tonic," sometimes known in lesser parts as "soda" or "pop"
"spa," aka an after-school sub shop
"spuckie," a sometimes name for a sub sandwich (on a spuccadella roll)
"frappe," aka a tourist milkshake
Longtime Boston area local here, and I'll vouch for "tonic," "spa," and "frappe" as enhF4 has defined them. Note that unlike the rest of the nation, "milkshake" means milk shaken up with flavored syrup around here, while "frappe" is the thick ice cream and flavoring beverage every other place in the US calls a "milkshake."
I've grown up in Eastern Massachusetts and lived here for most of the last 45 years, and mkel34 is basically correct.
I can't remember the last time I heard someone say "Tonic".
Nobody ever says the word "spa" (nobody did when I was a kid, either, i.e. "I'm goin' down the spa"), although you see it on the signs at old convenience stores.
I have never encountered the word "spuckie" in the wild, not once.
The term "frappe" seems to be falling out of favor.
You haven't been listening to my family then - I somehow escaped the Boston accent myself, but my sisters still say tonic when referring to soda. And I worked at a spa as a kid, in the '60s - though that is a dying usage.
Spuckie, on the other hand - no. From what I can find, it's local to Southie (South Boston) only. I grew up in Somerville in an Irish/Italian neighborhood and never heard it used by anyone.
I grew up in Allston saying "tonic," but changed over to "soda" probably in high school or college (in the 1970s.) Nowadays I have a tendency to deliberately and non-locally call it "pop."
Definitely also grew up in a neighborhood of spas, but again by the 70s or so that was dying out. I've picked up Barmy's southwestern habit of calling them "bodegas" whether or not they're actually Latino.
And I never even heard of a spuckie until Cutty's opened, but growing up I only knew one or two girls from Southie.
(Warning- this is pretty darn long! I guess I was feeling expansive tonight!!)
Welcome to our historic and handsome city.You have made some good dining choices so far, so you've been doing your CH homework! I hope you went to the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End. This is many afficianados' fav pizza place period. It is the original(and only worthwhile) location of what is now a chain and most importantly, its pizzas taste like no others , partly because of the WWII oven they use, which is more than 'seasoned' by now. This pizza tastes like it does in Rome. It is also a tiny CROWDED, loud, FUNKY space; unique; not decor-changed since the 50's maybe. If you haven’t been there, don't go on a wkend,and go for lunch or earlier dinner to avoid lines.
Regina’s is located on the outer edge of the compact North End, so after pizza, walk over to the Hanover St. (main drag) area and feel the history of this unique neighborhood.Its oldest extant buildings are from the early 19th c.; through the centuries it has been peopled successively, by : rich bostonians, blacks,jews, italians. It has been Italian since the early 20th c. While harbor-dwelling yuppies have been encroaching of late, it still has lots of sidewalk life, Italian being spoken, bacci being played. There are some wonderful gelato/cafes on Hanover St. I particularly like the gelato at.Cafe Sport, and Modern Pastry is across the street, with wonderful quaresimali(an Easter specialty avail yr.round- a version of almond biscotti)
and sfogliadel, a very unusual 3 cornered hat of layered/crunchy pastry filled with a farmer's cheese/candied fruit mixture. (While many will steer you to Mike’s Pastry, I won't.)The North End is also home to the 18th c. Old North Church and 19th c. Seamen's Home etc etc. If you like to discover-by-walking, the end of Hanover St away from downtown Boston- leads onto the waterfront area. This is also architecturally and historically fascinating because it is very intact with its 19th c. warehouses/wharves (now waterview condos). With all I've described, you might find it worth your while to go to Regina's and the North End for lunch and the afternoon. You could incorporate the nearby Aquarium, and Sel de la Terre for dinner (excellent ,modern French style, a fav of CHs here.)You could also go the local seafood route and try Neptune Oyster in the North End (a CH favorite.)
The South End is Boston’s amazing well-preserved and very large Victorian district, chock-a-block w/ handsome brick and brownstone rowhouses and pocket parks, with a large gay population and lots of super restaurants(mostly bistro style). Union Bar and Grill and Acquitaine are my own favs. The former is handsome, dark, comfy with amer.regional food; the latter is trad French, very well executed and very attractive room.(somewhat like your L'Express.) Tremont 647 is a popular asian and latin influenced amer regional grilled food bistro. It has a FUN Sunday brunch, their famous Pajama Brunch, where all their servers, chefs etc. wear their pjs.On the edge of the South End is Toro, a very loud crowded Spanish tapas place owned by one of our most famous innovative chefs, Ken Oringer, whose Clio is probably Boston’s most innovative restaurant (and very expensive).
When you follow Commonwealth Ave. from Brookline (Boston's first street car suburb)into the city, you will come to one of Boston's most beautiful features: Comm Ave between Mass Ave and Arlington St.(next to the Public Garden, the oldest arboretum/public park in the U.S).This part of Comm. Ave was designed after the Champs Elysees and is a long strip of park with handsome 19th c. homes lining both sides. It is parallel to and one block away from Newbury Street, Boston’s center of couture and art galleries , with many restaurants. (My own fav is a handsome bustling , terrific Amer. Regional food bistro,Sonsie, at the Newbury St. end by Mass. Ave. (and close to Clio) . It is dark and handsome, LOUD and always crowded; very popular w/ the Euro set, and with a sidewalk- fronting wall that opens up in season.
At the other end of Newbury St. and across the Public Garden, away from Comm Ave, is Beacon Hill, Boston’s well preserved elite neighborhood of 18th and 19th c. town and rowhouses. Near the State House side of Beacon Hill (and the Boston Common) is No.9 Park, exp. innovative Northern Italian, beloved by many CHs. At the base of another side of Beacon Hill is Charles St., dating from the same time period and where there are many restnts. and handsome shops. Lala Rokh is a very good romantic quiet Persian restaurant. On the Govt.Centyer side of Beacon Hill is another CH fav- Grotto.
Lastly, I would steer you to our Chinatown. Very small but still unique. It dates back to the early 19th c. when it was the center of the garment industry here. It’s dirty and funky but has interesting buildings, and the Chinatown Gate, and plenty of good food (another CH will fill you in on fav places I’m sure.). Nearby is a new and newly famous Japanese restnt- O Ya; recently heralded as ‘one of best new restnts in u.s’. by some famous critic. Very expensive and innovative.
If you do decide to visit the subway- accessible bustling, historic Harvard Square area of Cambridge, I would steer you to Casablanca and Craigie Street Bistro.Since you were willing to walk to Oleana from the subway, I think you would benefit greatly by walking from the Harv Sq T to EVOO( our most frequented bistro.)
I'm sure you will be pleased with Clearflour's breads. Iggy's is another justly famous bread bakery. Their breads are sold in Whole Foods and many other stores.Pigs Fly Breads, while made in Maine, have a new outlet near you and their breads are very innovative and amazing.
In Brookline, there are many many excellent Asian restaurants on which other CHs can wax more informatively than I. For traditional quality Japnese sushi we like Mr. Sushi. For more unusual non-sushi dishes, there is an excellent below-ground Japanese place on a side street across from the Coolidge Corner Cinema.
In Brookline Village is Pomodoro and the Turkish Family Restaurant and the excellent Chinese place, Szichuan Garden, which has many unusual dishes and has been extensively CH- covered. A few blocks from Brookline Village is La Morra, with some very good Northern Italian food and many special dinner events throughout the year. I don't think you'll find Jewish delis here that will thrill you. A T ride west will get you to 51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands. Interesting international menu with some innovative twists.
In Brookline and Allston,you are surrounded by the full variety of ethnic shopping options - Asian, Russian, Latin, etc etc. Marty's has a lot of French and other European foodstuffs.(For a large number of Armenian , Greek and Middle Eastern foodstores, you'd go to Watertown, the center of Boston's substantial Armenian community[and a bus ride from Harv Sq.])
Brookline Liquor Mart is one of Boston's best wine stores. FYI, a large percentage of Boston CH posts are about food places in your neck of the woods, as it is a real culinary nexus. Brookline follows a general rule in the U.S.: where there is a substantial Jewish community,there is a large number of ethnic and other restaurants and food stores (as well as excellent libraries and schools!).So congratulations! You're in a great spot!
We look forward to reading your reports.
Wow- there is lots of good info in this thread. Two things to add: 1) while in the Beacon Hill area, I would suggest checking out 75 Chestnut. I've had only good experiences there in terms of service and food. As for tonic, I grew up in this area, and tonic is what my dad, who would be in his 90s if he were alive, always called Coke, etc. And don't forget jimmies for your ice cream...Enjoy...
You're basically asking what's good in Boston and besides the things herein, you just need to read the board. There are several Coolidge Corner and Brookline threads. Lots on the south end, north end, back bay, Jamaica Plain, etc. (the different sections of town) and of course the same is true for Cambridge. So a search will help with all these things. As far as the baguette goes, there's a newish bakery Tatte (I think) on Beacon St. just outside Kenmore that might work altho they may be more dessert oriented. JP has two good bakeries, Blue Frog and Canto 6 (who get their bread from Clearflour) who you may want to check out.
Welcome to Boston and this lovely Chowhound community. You have been given lots of good info and the boards are loaded with more.
I hope you have found your farmers' Market - Coolidge Corner on Thursday afternoons.
Here is information on it from a piece I did earlier this year. It will continue through the end of October.