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Boston Chowhound Rites of Passage

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As I was ready to take my first bite of my first Speed's Hot Dog last week, I realized I was experiencing a Boston Chowhound rite of passage. It was a milestone, established by a special community, to mark my growth.

What were your Chowhound rites of passage?

Have you had Chow moments when you suddenly realized you were experiencing something that moved you closer to the heart of this community?

What were the major markers in your exploration of the Boston food scene?

The big check marks on your list of places to try?

I'll start off:

A Speed's Hot Dog, eaten leaning on the hood of a car, or at least at the scene. (I had a Zipcar so I opted for the picnic table.)

My first meal at L'Espalier- for me it was lunch.

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz (now the Taj) - (I did this many years before Chowhound but I recognized, even back then, that I had entered a different realm. I still remember many details of that afternoon.)

Making my decision about the best lobster roll in Boston. I came down on Neptune, but it's not the choice, it's having made your decision and taken your stand as a hound.

Filling out my Chowhound profile and thinking through those key hound questions. (I really should do an update of my profile at least once a year. Things change as I grow.)

Okay, enough from me.

Next?

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  1. Interesting topic. For me, it's all about the low-profile places in neighborhoods I don't (or didn't) know very well:

    Banh mi from Mei Sum
    Tiger tears at Floating Rock
    Squab b'stilla at Baraka Cafe
    Dumplings from Wang's and Qingdao Garden
    First trips to Cafe Polonia, Toraya, Sushi Island, Fuloon

    And yes, a Speed's hog dog. It's the de facto mascot of the Boston board.

    1. FuLoon. Big, big shout-out to lipoff and limster for sharing this one -- a major find that I would never have come up with on my own.

      I actually also rely fairly heavily on Chowhound when I'm out of town -- probably the two biggest finds so far have been Shanghai Cafe on Mott Street in New York (best XLB that I've had since being in Shanghai) and Ciya Sofrasi in Istanbul.

      -----
      FuLoon
      375 Main St, Malden, MA 02148

      Shanghai Cafe
      100 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

      1. Hard to count how many great tips I've gotten here, but I've certainly called the Speed's dog a Chowhound rite of passage; that first one felt like a revelatory moment. Maybe Peking duck at the old King Fung Garden; crostini di fegato or pappa al pomodoro or ribollita at Trattoria Toscana; tacos especiales de cabeza at Taqueria El Mariachi (now El Amigo); mole poblano at Angela's Cafe; short rib shumai at Oxford Street Grill (now on the menu at Ecco, same chef); potato pancakes at Cafe Polonia; gamjatang at Hanmaru; margherita pizza at Gran Gusto; beef banh mi at Pho Viet. Could go on all day like this.

        1. The first that comes to mind would be Highland Kitchen.
          L'Espalier is truly a classic Boston adventure (though something to be done in non-recession times)
          Cocktails at ESK and No. 9 Park
          The former Oxford Street Grill
          Bubble tea in Chinatown
          and though I am a non-meat eater, my H SWEARS by Speeds. Actually takes co-workers there as thank you for job well done. Probably better than a 3 martini lunch.

          I also use CH when I travel. No way would I have found Germans in San Diego (a restaurant were I had to provide my own water and the beer was whatever the kitchen help was drinking - best damn fish tacos in the world!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: kate used to be 50

            "Probably better than a 3 martini lunch."..or you can do both..:)

            BTW Speeds is offering a $5 dog..Oct 10/11

            I'd add a Chacarero sandwich to all of the above.

            Walking/eating tour of E Boston

            High end..a tasting at Uni, Oya, Troquet or #9 Park

          2. Well for me it would definitely have to be dinner at Floating Rock, ice cream at Christina's, Fried chicken at Coast Cafe, AND a Speed's dog.

            I tried all these on the same day too...lol...very houndish

            1. My first great Chowhound high: my first chowdown ever, at the Potluck Cafe in Ctown, wth Limster conversing (in Mandarin? don't know which language) with the waitress and ordering the non-English specials (among other CHs there: Rubee, Prav, BostonBob3, 9Lives...) .

              Then the 3 GREAT chowdowns at Fuloon (one had 24 dishes and I got a bite of every one!), the wonderful traveling chowdown through JP, the first chowdown I organized, in the wilds of Lynn.....

              The Burmese temple and families in Malden, inviting us warmly to share their food, that I would have never found without CH...

              The moment I walked into Angela's, and realized, no, this isn't another taqueria....

              Eating weekly with my CH crew....

              That's just the first moments to come to mind!

              1 Reply
              1. re: fredid

                Yeah, that night at Potluck was a lot of delicious fun. As was FuLoon. And Angela's Cafe. All great chowdowns.

                But for personal Boston Rites of Passage, I'd say the old Tim's Tavern (of course) on the low end, and Uni on the high end. Speed's, naturally, and I have a long love affair with Neptune Oyster. Even counter joints like the Pepper Pot have a great appeal to me. Troquet, Salts, Regina's, Gran Gusto, Peach Farm, a couple of slices from Haymarket Pizza eaten at the bar in Pete's Pub...I guess a rite of passage is just a joint that has wonderful food and makes you think back fondly and remember that we live in a pretty special place.

              2. Sitting at the bar at No. 9 for the first time drinking those elixirs, late at night with a dear old friend. Not believing how good the cocktails were, my friend and I had to return a few nights later just to be sure. This is not a place I can really afford, but I can't wait for an excuse to return. Few places induce such a warm, magical glow. It was like we were at a gracious, wealthy Beacon Hill friend's home as a party was dwindling down, and were urged to stay as long as we'd like. There have been other chowhound favorites I've been happy with, but the bar at No. 9 felt like a bewitching rite of passage.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pollystyrene

                  What a lovely scene you set! I'm not a cocktail person but you made me want to experience it. I do like the occasional perfect gin martini so No.9 bar for a martini goes on the list.

                  You're all adding to my winter list of "Must trys."

                2. Great topic -- adding to the list places outside of my hood that I would never have tried if not for CH:

                  Santarpio's pizza (I prefer Regina's but consider Santarp's a rite of passage)
                  Dok Bua and Khao Sarn in Brookline
                  Floating Rock, of course
                  Angela's and Rincon Limeno in Eastie
                  Taiwan Cafe, Best Little Restaurant, Peach Farm in Chinatown
                  Tamarind Bay
                  Kathmandu Spice
                  Gran Gusto
                  ....

                  I'm sure I will think of others, but these come immediately to mind as places I wouldn't have tried or even known about without this board.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: yumyum

                    Second Santarpio's - pizza with extra garlic and a barbecue combo. The novelty of taking the tunnel to another part of the city only adds to the allure.

                    Also, sort of hate to admit it, but a burrito from Anna's probably also counts as a rite of passage.

                    Or getting six cherrystones for $5 standing up in Haymarket from the clam/oyster guy.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      O, and the slice of pizza at Haymarket Pizza after a cocktail (or two) at Pete's Pub next door.

                      As a transplant to Boston who travels frequently, Santarpio's has always been my gateway - in and out of Boston.

                  2. I've only come across CH recently- initially using it because I'm sick of eating bad food when I travel. But in the past few months, I've been wowed by what a great resource if is for my own town. My first sucesses were Baba Louie's in Great Barrington MA, and Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor, ME. Those led to scanning of the Boston boards, and led me to realize- hey, I've done O Ya, L'espalier, No 9-- these are my people! I should listen to them!

                    So, my initiation moment is that I eat Chinese food again! Seriously- over the past few years, although I've eaten a lot of Asian food, if a choice is to be made about where to eat, we'd always go with Thai or Vietnamese or even Korean. There's only so much Sesame chicken and greasy lo mein anyone can eat. But in the past few months, based on Chow recs, I've had fabulous meals at Fuloon and Quingdao Garden and have re-discovered how amazing good Chinese food is and how much I love it! There's no excuse for bad Americanized takeout now that I know better. Thank you CH for reintroducing me to good Chinese food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Parsnipity

                      Cool post Parsnippity, and second the Fuloon, Quingdao raves. Do yourself a favor and compare Mulan and Wangs too. More of my favorites that I discovered through CH. In fact, my entire understanding of Chinatown has been informed by this board.

                    2. I've had a few CH rites of passage. I'll list a few below, with (I believe) the specific folks who "guided" me there through their posts:

                      1) Jasmine Bistro, Brighton (MC Slim)
                      2) La Hacienda, Somerville (itaunas)
                      3) Waterfront Cafe, North End (Pegmeister)
                      4) New Brown Jug, Chelsea (BostonBob)
                      5) Monte's, Lynn (Chris VR)

                      1. In no particular order:

                        Hei La Moon - Various dumplings
                        UBurger - Basic cheeseburger & fries
                        Speed's - (had known about it pre CH, but could never find.)
                        La Morra - Pappadarelle with Lamb
                        L'Espalier - cheese plate (seriously, I had no idea what heaven their cheese plate was)
                        Izzy's - 'Cubano'
                        Chez Henri - 'Cubano' (large roast pork sub)
                        Charcarero - Chicken Charcarero, small
                        Mangia Mangia - Chicken parm sub
                        Neptune - Everything
                        Xinh Xinh - Chicken curry soup (thanks Finlero)
                        TLM - Nachos (never tried 'em until CH recommended. Sinful!)
                        Tacos Lupita - Combo plate
                        Taranta - Gnocchi with lamb ragu
                        Kane's - Doughnuts, old fashioned.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                          I just the detail that is coming out with your posts. I'm going to try to order the specific items all of you suggest. In some cases you are mentioning things I haven't tried at some of my favorite places.

                          And, I really need to spend way more time in Chinatown.

                          1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                            What/where is TLM?

                            1. re: Joanie

                              I think he's talking about Taqueria La Mexicana in Somerville(?)

                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                Yes, Taqueria La Mexicana. For years, I ordered the tamals and chile rellenos. CH had some posts about the nachos. I was wise to heed the advice.

                                1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                  Your waistline may curse us, but your tastebuds are happy about those nachos. Buen provecho!

                          2. My first Chowhound days took place long before there was a Chowhound web site. The greatest discovery was Calvin Trillin's articles on American eating in the New Yorker in the 70's. Later, picking up Jane an Michael Stern's books "Good Food" and "Roadfood" in combination with Trillin writting led me to borrow a motor home from a friend and take my 13 year-old son on a 3000 mile eating trip that started in Somerville and went from there to Katz's Deli on Manhatten's lower East Side and then to the Eastern Shore of Maryland for crab cakes. Then to North Carolina for Moulton's (rest in peace) pulled pork.

                            The turn-around was the world BBQ festival in Memphis. On the return trip we stopped at the Loveless Motel and Restaurant near Nashville for country ham and then headed up to Cincinatti for 5 way chili. It was truely a great deal of fun. Today my boy is 32. Someday we will hit the trail again.

                            1. speed's hot dogs

                              nothing else comes close for me

                              1. Chinese New Year (? was it CNY?) dinner with 10+ hounds at Peach Farm with much more knowledgeable hounds doing the ordering (some in advance).

                                Ol Dax thinks to himself, what in the hell is "gooey-duck?" Mmm, I like duck, sure I'll eat it. Err, that's a funny lookin' duck! Mmmm clams ...

                                1. CH has been very good to me. I'd list the following, as places I wouldn't have tried/found without it:

                                  1. Ten Tables
                                  2. Flat Patties
                                  3. The "Clover" coffee at Starbucks next door to Flat Patties
                                  4. Lulu's cupcakes on Hanover St. (not the greatest, I know, but a fun change from all the cannoli)
                                  5. Maria's, for the best cannoli in the N. End (I was a long-time Modern fan before)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: winedude

                                    What exactly is clover coffee at Starbucks?

                                    1. re: taxi

                                      Coffee made with the $11K Clover coffee machine (Starbucks just acquired the manufacturer). It's an automated cup-at-at-time French-press machine. Good Chow article here: http://www.chow.com/stories/10853

                                      I haven't tried it myself yet. Not every store is going to get one.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        I've had several cups of Clover recently and while I love the smoothness of the cup, the price is a little high for my pocket book. I'll stick with the regular mass produced cup and refills for $0.53. Clover is a "special" coffee, not a daily drink. SB seems to be installing Clover in more stores. Route 1 South in Saugus has Clover as does Melrose.

                                  2. For me it has to be the Haymarket Pizza/Pete's Pub combo; Angelas Cafe; Santarpios pizza; Cafe Polonia for that OMG gypsy pancake; and B&G;s lobster roll. In my future, I still see a Speeds hot dog. Maybe this Saturday, I'll finally get there.

                                    1. out to kellys in revere for fish and chips on a warm summer night.

                                      dinner and a show!

                                      1. Chowhound has always come through for us, especially since relocating to Boston a year ago. It is also our go-to site when we are traveling.

                                        As people said, I probably would have tried L'Espalier and No.9 Park on my own, but the following somewhat hidden places I owe to the CH community:

                                        Taiwan Cafe
                                        King Fung Garden
                                        Mei Sum for a Banh Mi
                                        Peach Farm for anything S&P
                                        Hong Kong Eatery for BBQ Duck and Pork
                                        Angela's Cafe
                                        Katmandu Spice
                                        Orinoco
                                        Villa Mexico for a real burrito made the right way
                                        Speed's
                                        and my first Hot Lobster Roll from Nepture....pure bliss

                                        1. I believe I read Speeds is closing for the season this weekend and will be open this weekend. Fieldtrip!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: cassoulady

                                            The sign on the truck says that he will be there Saturdays until Columbus day. But, it has hours weekdays through December - weather permitting. Here's a photo of the sign and a link to the Speed's site.

                                            http://www.bostonzest.com/2008/10/spe...

                                            1. re: cassoulady

                                              He is NOT closing for the season this weekend! This Saturday is merely the last Saturday that he'll be open. (Incidentally, dogs are $5 tomorrow and Saturday!) He'll be open weekdays, regular hours, at least through November.

                                              I found myself down there this afternoon (I had an errand in the South End and made a detour) and the dog was as excellent as always. Two different people there were having their first-ever dogs. That's always fun to see.

                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                OH, ok! Thanks for the clarification! Good excuse for a field trip either way!

                                            2. Neat topic. For me, the Speed's dog was really fun. I had to smile just thinking about how many other hounds had found their way to that deliciousness. Other memorable first bites that come to mind:

                                              Angela's mole
                                              mushroom risotto at Trattoria Toscana
                                              broccoli rabe and sausage pizza at Gran Gusto
                                              xlb at Taiwan Cafe and Wings
                                              dumplings at Qingdao

                                              Lots left to go!

                                              1. I think a Chowhound rite of passage is to find a new eat, cart, or restaurant and report on it.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: gini

                                                  Good point. Which brings up another topic: which place(s) did you bring to hounds' attention?

                                                  I guess mine would be Villa Mexico.

                                                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                    None. I'm completely unoriginal!

                                                    1. re: gini

                                                      Oh, that's not true! In fact, I think your answer is the best on this thread.

                                                      BTW, speaking of original places, remember that guy I wrote about a year or two ago who smokes and grills his own BBQ in his front yard in JP? Around the corner from the Fireside Tavern?

                                                      He got closed down at that time, but word is he still occasionally fires up the pork and beef. I'll have to get out there soon, and follow my nose.

                                                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                        Gini, I agree with Bostonbob3, I loved your answer. It was a fresh way to look at the discussion. Not all of us are seekers and scouts, some of us a faithful followers. There is room for both in the Chow world.

                                                        1. re: BostonZest

                                                          Thank you, but no need to pile on. Was just being funny. Bob - sounds like an interesting, if scary, topic for a thread.

                                                  2. re: gini

                                                    Yep - that's a major part of Jim Leff's definition of a chowhound.