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relatively new to boston.. help?

i've eaten at some of the high end places in boston such as clio/uni, l'espalier, #9 etc.... what i haven't found yet are the hidden jems.

here is what i am looking for

1) great ethnic places
2) good late night places (not places that serve food late)
3) restaurants with good wine lists (not wine spectator award winning lists but places that serve the appropriate and well thought out lists for their respective foods)
4) deli's?

background - i've moved around quite a bit and found it really hard to get to know these spots in the first few months of living somehwere. living in new haven ct for a while i was spoiled by pepi and sally and louies lunch. (greatest pizza and no fuss burger joint) i've worked in paris and was spoiled by great french food, wether it was legumes at l'arpege or cured meet sangos and menetou rouge bottled by a friend at au sauvignon. i like all kinds of stuff but want the inside dirt on the 4 things mentioned above. hopefully i provided enough to go on. i live near downtown so getting around by t or cab to the other hoods is not a concern. i work and eat for a living is how i look at it....
if you want to add some standouts that don't fall into the 4 categories that would be appreciated also


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  1. One good place to start is Taberna de Haro, one of the most authentic Spanish restaurants in town. The food is excellent, with a nice mix of tapas and larger plates, and they have an extensive, well-chosen list of Spanish wines including many that you don't often see in the US. This fits your categories 1 and 3, and it's easy to get to by T, it's right at the first above-ground stop on the C line.

    Boston is not really a late night town, but then, I'm no longer a late-night kind of guy (when I was, back in the day, the late lamented Mondo's was the spot). I'm sure there are others who can fill in more details on this.

    As for delis, this is a perennial topic of discussion out here. All the real old-style Jewish ones are long gone, but you can get excellent corned beef and pastrami at Michael's in Coolidge Corner (weird hours though), and Sam LaGrassa's downtown.

    Sam Lagrassa's
    44 Province St, Boston, MA 02108

    Taberna De Haro
    999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

    Michael's Deli
    256 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

    2 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      Good advice above.

      The two delis BobB mentions above are arguably the best in the Boston/Cambridge/Brookline area. Note that Rubin's Deli in Brookline is indeed an old fashioned Jewish kosher deli, but it's the last one in this immediate region and the food is not as good as at Michael's or Sam LaGrassa's -- though if you must stay strictly kosher it's the only game in town nowadays. Zaftig's (Brookline) is about on a par with Rubin's, and S&S (Cambridge) is the weakest of the lot.

      1. re: bachslunch

        I now live in Wilmington, DE. and miss the ggeat Deli"s I grew up from when in Brookline, MA.. When my Wife and I return to Boston one of our first visits is to Rubin's a Kosher deli on the Brookline / Brighton line! Very close to Commonwelth Ave. This place is all Kosher and prices are on the high side but worth the visit! Corned Beef on dark rye bread is the best!! Brandywine

    2. Chinese: FuLoon in Malden Square (honorable mention to a batch of others, but this is the gem to find). Many speak highly of Jo Jo Taipei in Allston, but I haven't built up the courage to brave the traffic to get there. Chinatown has been discussed at great length on this board; would search to see what people say and then ask more specific follow up questions if you need them.

      Turkish: Brookline Family Restaurant in Brookline Village. Many have spoken highly of Sarayi in Allston, but I haven't gotten out there yet.

      Afghani: Helmand in East Cambridge

      Ethiopian: Addis Red Sea in the South End and Cambridge between Harvard & Porter

      French: La Voile in the Back Bay

      Spanish: I'm partial to DalĂ­ on the Cambridge/Somerville line, but many on this group sneer at it.

      Italian: Grotto in Beacon Hill; Daily Catch for a hole in the wall in the North End. North End also discussed at great length; try finding "My Own Private North End" for a good recent run down of the best.

      Albanian: Vlora in the Back Bay is quirky, but spectacular when it's on

      I think there's general agreement that Indian and Thai are some of the weaker links in the Boston area, though I'm partial to Punjab in Arlington Center, Namaskar in Davis Square for their naan, and Bombay Cafe near Berklee and Symphony for peshawari naan and convenience to Jordan and Symphony Halls.

      Hearty second on Sam LaGrassa's for deli. Apart from one or two passable places, deli is not a strength in Boston, though there are some wonderful small sandwich joints like Darwin's in Harvard and Inman Squares and Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square.

      For places for well thought out wine lists, I'd look at Erbaluce (well thought out but very pricey, in Bay Village), Navy Yard Bistro in Charlestown for a laid back approach. I keep trying to get into Enoteca 26 in Beacon Hill, and something between the prices, the crowds and the attitude keeps me away.

      Oh, and if you're jonesing for a French style baguette, you'll need to discover the Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline/Allston. And get in line.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dr.Jimbob

        Excellent options above and from Igss below. Would also suggest:

        Indian: India Quality (Boston), Rangoli (Allston), Kebab Factory (Somerville), Rani (Brookline), Tamarind Bay, Tanjore, Cafe of India (all Cambridge).

        Portuguese (all Cambridge): Atasca, Casa Portugal.

        Thai: Dok Bua, Khao Sarn, Rod Dee (all Brookline), Brown Sugar, Montien (Boston).

        Brazilian: Muqueca (muquecas), Midwest Grill (rodizio) (both Cambridge), Cafe Brazil (Allston).

        There's a treasure trove of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese options in Chinatown.

      2. I agree with Bob that Boston is not really a "late night" town. Most places that stay open late close at 1, maybe 2 if you are lucky and rarely serve food until then. Close to the financial district is the South Street Diner. Its as close to a dive as anyone can get, but at 3 am, you have to expect that. They have your standard diner fare... grilled cheese, burgers, fries, etc. They will also serve you beer until like 1 or 1:30. The food is really not horrible, especially after you've had a few drinks. Also, perhaps try Chinatown. There are several places there that stay open pretty late!

        1. Welcome to the area.
          1) Asmara, Central Square, Cambridge, Eritrean
          Martsa's on Elm, Davis Square, Cambridge, Tibetan
          Elephant Walk, Cambodian & French, Boston, Porter Sq Cambridge & Waltham

          1 Reply
          1. re: lgss

            wow! thanks for all the help!! lots to go on. getting hungry!

          2. for the ethnic category: the BEST thai food, without exception, can be found at Dok Bua just outside of Coolidge Corner, between Beacon and Comm. If you like thai don't bother going anywhere else, head there first.

            1 Reply
            1. Hungry Mother and Rendezvous both have excellent value wine lists, with unusual bottles that are well matched to their food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jajjguy

                jajguy... i've heard great things about hungry mother. thanks for adding that bit of advice

              2. If you are missing some great cheese or charcuterie. You must head over to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. They have the best and greatest selection around. Whole Foods at Fresh Pond (and others) also have very good cheese selections but not nearly as many specialty choices.

                For breakfast (Turkish) check out Sofra. I agree the best french baguette is the clear flour baguette.

                The best French cooking I have had outside of France is at Craigie Street Bistrot now Craigie on Main. I also really like Chez Henri. If you want somewhere to eat late at night that is good (it's not that late but open until 10:00 - late if you're a mom/dad) I highly recommend the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown.

                that's a start...

                Leah Klein
                Boston Family Foodie

                1 Reply
                1. re: leahms

                  Polish-Cafe Polonia just outside of Andrew Square (Southie/Dorchester) on the Red Line.

                  Lithuanian-Lithuanian Club Kitchen-West Broadway in Southie. Limited menu and hours (weekends only) but very good, fresh, simple food.

                2. If you are a fan of West Indian food try these two places out:

                  Ali's Roti: This is some of the best Roti I have had before and both my wife and I are west indian and have spent time in cities with large West Indian communities. They do it authentically and delicious.

                  Flames: There are two locations, but I usually go to the one at Brigham Circle. They serve some of the best Oxtail I have had outside of my mothers kitchen.

                  Ali's Roti Restaurant
                  1035 Tremont St, Roxbury Crossing, MA 02120

                  Flames Restaurant II
                  746 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Matt H

                    yes! flames!! fantastic. loved the oxtail but only was there once. do you know if they also have cullaloo?

                    anyone have any other wine related help? i see troquet and bin26 but not much else. seems like the cocktail scene in boston is starting to gain some momentum. is boston just not a wine town?

                    1. re: cockscomb

                      Flames serves a steamed Jamaican style Callaloo as a side dish usually. If you are looking for a Trinidadian style Callaloo Ali's does not offer it at either location, but Singh's Roti in Dorchester does.

                      As far as wine lists are concerned a few of my favorite places are Troquet, Excelsior and Oleana.

                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                      140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                      Singh's Roti Shop
                      692 Columbia Rd Ste 1, Dorchester, MA 02125

                      272 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                    2. re: Matt H

                      quite a bt different but the bone marrow with oxtail at ko prime was the best i have ever had. better than st john, but don't tell fergus henderson i said that!

                      1. re: cockscomb

                        That dish is amazing! The marrow liquid seeping down into the oxtail, giving it that extra richness. Man, I wish I had some of that right now!

                    3. A few ideas for more modestly-priced places; pardon if I repeat some of the excellent suggestions above:

                      Ten Tables in JP, which I've called a fine dining restaurant disguised as a neighborhood bistro. Small, intimate, candle-lit, and really fine French-inspired food at bargain prices. Extraordinary vegetarian options, too. Just be sure to make reservations: every time I go, I see a stream of couples trying to walk in and getting turned away. It literally has only ten tables. They're also opening another outlet in the old Craigie Street Bistrot location near Harvard Square.

                      Don Ricardo's in the South End. Very good and reasonably priced Peruvian, Brazilian, and Mexican food, though the room is rather plain.

                      El Paisa in Eastie, which has a very pretty room but serves excellent Colombian cuisine at very nice prices.

                      Ecco: Eastie upscale American in a dark, cool-looking setting. A little upscale but still very easy on the wallet:, kind of like the Franklin Cafe (another favorite of mine, a standout in the bars-with-good-food category), but is quieter, takes reservations, and has free parking out back.

                      Jasmine Bistro in Brighton: French and Hungarian, with a few Middle Eastern specials

                      Estragon: pretty Spanish place in the South End with great tapas.

                      Trattoria Toscana: my favorite Italian place at any price, terrific Tuscan food at trattoria prices

                      Addis Red Sea: South End, very romantic with affordable Ethiopian food

                      Rincon Limeno: Eastie Peruvian, fantastic food at great prices, recently redecorated to look pretty nice

                      Angela's Cafe: Eastie, the best Mexican food in Boston, in my opinion, if you order off the blackboard instead of the menu

                      Xinh Xinh: Chinatown Vietnamese, not much to look at, but wonderful food and cheap, plus the cuisine, especially pho, makes you feel like a loving person

                      Tashi Delek: Brookline Village Tibetan, the prettiest in town, with lovely, comforting food (great fried momos)

                      Grotto: Beacon Hill Italian, a bit pricier than some of the ones I've listed, but great dimly-lit atmosphere and a very good deal ($36 three-course prix fixe)

                      Coda, another bar with modest, carefully-executed American food. It also has a well-matched wine list put together by Deborah Hansen of Taberna de Haro, a lot of interesting New World wines at prices that make sense for a place where no entree exceeds $17.

                      Taberna de Haro: the best all-Spanish wine list in the city, including interesting sherries. Excellent tapas in the Madrid mode, a pleasant patio in warmer weather.

                      Washington Square Tavern: essentially a pub with above-average food. I wish the wine were more reasonably priced, but it has good beer and decent cocktails.

                      Silvertone. Yet another bar-with-good-food (I like these places for weeknight dining out), with a very nice-priced wine list (nothing more than $10 over retail, which makes the pricier bottles an even better deal).

                      India Quality or its slightly flashier kid sister Punjabi Palace, two standouts for familiar Punjabi and Mughal dishes, with a bit of regional diversity.

                      Namaskar. Another excellent Indian with a bit more geographic breadth. I especially like the Desi Chinese dishes here (Chinese food as done by Chinese cooks in India, a kind of fascinating, fusion-y adaptation of recipes and techniques to local tastes and available ingredients).

                      Mi Tierra, Waltham. My favorite Guatemalan / Salvadoran place, bare-bones, cheap and delicious. Great pupusas.

                      Peach Farm. My favorite Chinatown Hong Kong style live-tank seafood place.

                      Beijing Star, Waltham. Stick to the pink menu and the foyer whiteboard and you've got one the best Boston-area venues for Northern and Eastern Chinese cuisine. The rest of the menu there is forgettable.

                      Taqeuria El Amigo, Waltham. My favorite little hole-in-the-wall Mexican-run taqueria.

                      Farm Grill & Rotissie, Newton. One of the better inexpensive Greek places in town, with excellent gyros. Counter service.

                      Pho Viet, Super 88 food court, Allston. The best banh mi in town, fresh and overstuffed.

                      Pita Kabob, Downtown Crossing. My favorite Persian sandwich joint, awesome kubideh.

                      Bom de Boca. A fine buffet-style churrascaria in East Somerville.

                      Toraya, Arlington. Maybe the most solid small sushi joint around, with a Japanese itamae.

                      Sichuan Gourmet, Billerica. My favorite Sichuan place, much more authentic than most. There are other well-regarded ones (mostly outside of the city proper), but I haven't tried them.

                      Dok Bua, S&I Thai, and the two Rod Dees. Excellent, nice-priced, authentic Thai places. The Rod Dees are just counter service, one with virtually no seating.

                      Aunite B's in West Roxbury and Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown. My two favorite diners, a cut about the usual hash house.

                      Kaze, Chinatown. One of the many excellent shabu places that have popped up like mushrooms over the past year or so.

                      Vinny's at Night. A kitschy, townie Sicilian-American joint with a good antipasto table and fine, cheap red-sauce specialties; get the homemade pastas.

                      (Okay, my get-off-Chowhound buzzer just sounded.)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        mc thank you. excellent advice and i definitely want to try some of these places because there are a few that i have been too and all have been excellent. dok bua is a must for me. so far rod dee has been such a great find. i'm not a huge fan of some of the others but i will also have to try s&i.
                        kaze is great and im not a huge shabu fan. only had service churrascaria so bom de boca would be interesting.
                        silvertone has already been a staple for me living in the neighborhood. love the clam chowder. i'm not really into the thick "more is better" chowders.
                        really excited to have some more direction with this kind of stuff.

                        1. re: cockscomb

                          Not really cheap, but one of my favorites all around is Neptune Oyster: really fine raw bar, great cooked seafood dishes, and interesting seafood-friendly wines. The reason I thought of it is they make my favorite clam chowder, with a thin broth based on clam stock.

                          I also left out Korean: my favorite little places are the Buk Kyungs, one in Somerville and one in Allston. Decent Korean BBQ at Apollo Grill in Chinatown, better BBQ at New Jang Su in Burlington.

                      2. I think you already have quite a list running. A few more would be:

                        -The Vietnamese banh mi shops. I'm partial to Ba Le, which is in my neighborhood on Dorchester Ave near Savin Hill. Chinatown has some good places too.

                        -Troquet has a splurge worthy and an inexpensive (relatively speaking) but very good by the glass option wine list. There's an older thread on a wine's by the glass value by MC Slim somewhere out there that should be required reading. The food isn't bad either, to say the least.

                        There's some good Korean around. I had dinner tonight at Wuchon in Union Sq in Somerville. Nice, standard Korean.

                        Late night is challenging. If you're talking post 2am you may be SOL, though Chinatown has a few spots open that are okay. Order cold tea.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: sailormouth

                          i did order the cold tea one night but what i discovered was it was the pg-13 version! a little disappointing but certianly had great periwinkles with black bean garlic. awesome. i may have to take a run over now. peach farm is delicious. any other chinatown joints?

                          troquet was good. solid bistro-like atmosphere (to me but it seems like there may be some opposition) a la landmarc in tribeca but tries to be more than it really can be. good wine list but really fell short on breadth and focused on the trophy stuff. good location for me but otherwise i wouldn't frequent.

                          wuchon? i'll have to try. there was a good korean place that i went to in cambridge but can't remember the name

                          thanks people for all your help

                          1. re: cockscomb

                            It's still fun though!

                            Wuchon and Buk Kyung are two or three doors down from each other in Union Square. Buk Kyung has been described to me by more knowledgeable people as northern Korean.

                            1. re: cockscomb

                              perhaps you ate off the downstairs menu at Troquet, which is more bistro-like...try the tasting menu upstairs, which is very French in concept and execution. probably blows away Sensing (which I have not been to) if what I hear about Sensing is any indication.

                              1. re: barleywino

                                i have actually experienced both... it just has a more bistro-like feel both upstairs and down. while i enjoyed the food, i'm not as taken by it is as some others. definitely somewhere that i will return to though as i do like the occasional splurge on some good wine as well as a good cheese selection.

                                1. re: cockscomb

                                  I dont' think their tasting menu bears any resemblance whatsoever to bistro food...

                                  1. re: barleywino

                                    "bistro-like feel"

                                    i think the food is fine. it sounds GREAT on paper. it doesn't fully deliver. i enjoy the place but, my comment is that i don't find it nearly as impressive as some of the others do on chowhound.

                                    1. re: cockscomb

                                      If you're looking for the best they have to offer, you should try their tasting menu (not the regular menu)

                            2. re: sailormouth

                              I thought the cold tea thing stopped working around 1995...or maybe I just got old and stopped ordering cold tea at 2am around that time.

                            3. A few others not mentioned yet:

                              Orinoco: Very good Venezuelan food, locations in both the South End and Brookline Village.

                              Baraka Cafe in Central Square: Algerian and Tunisian

                              The Helmand in Cambridge: Afghan

                              Villa Mexico in Beacon Hill at the back of Grampy's Gas Station: My personal favorite Burrito in the city.

                              To get you started in Chinatown as well:

                              Taiwan Cafe: One of my favorite places to eat in the city, super affordable and excellent Taiwanese cooking.

                              Hong Kong Eatery: Excellent authentic Cantonese, very good roast duck and bbq pork also.

                              My two favorite places for Bahn Mi are Mei Sum Bakery and Lu's.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Matt H

                                Can you eat inside at Mei Sum? Or is it takeout only?

                                1. re: sailormouth

                                  Yes Mei Sum has a few tables available where you can eat, you can usually grab a chair most times of the day.

                                  1. re: Matt H

                                    Thanks! Grabbed an early dinner of pork pie (awesome) and black bean jello cake (better than it sounds, or looks).

                                    1. re: sailormouth

                                      If you're going to eat it at Mei Sum, try to get there early enough to get one of the rice noodle rolls,(forget the Vietnamese and Chinese terms, sorry, but they're to the left at the counter) and eat it hot....

                                      1. re: sailormouth

                                        I've always wanted to try that Jello Cake, might just give it a go next time.

                                      2. re: Matt H

                                        Love hanging out with the old guys at Mei Sum. Their Cafe Au Lait is pretty good too.