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Flying in the face of "Chow Wisdom"

Because we'd never been and felt we were missing out on a quintessential old-school Massachusetts experience, my family and I went to Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus last weekend.

I'll admit it - I really liked it. The iceburg lettuce with red-onion salad was gigantic, the New York Strip was flavorful and perfectly cooked, and the beer was cold. Couldn't really have asked for a more satisfying or reasonably priced basic steak dinner.

What experiences have you had (either good or bad) that would contradict the generally good advice on Chowhound?

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  1. I've had some good meals at Villa Rosa in Quincy (.....BRING IT ON).

    8 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      I will take the hit with you on this one.

      1. re: hiddenboston

        I'm shocked, you had a good meal at Villa Rosa!!!! What could you have possibly ordered? Please share.

        1. re: Pegmeister

          I have to admit that this was 15 years ago but I recall that they had a very nice Chicken Parm plate. Maybe it is the hazy memory of youth (relatively speaking) or the many glasses of cheap red wine that led me to this conclusion.

          1. re: Northender

            It has been many years since I've gone to the Villa. I had my very first taste of pizza there, when I was 5 years old, and the take out came in a brown paper bag with little paper cups on top of the pizza so that the cheese wouldn't stick. It was actually quite good. The last time I was there was about 6 years ago. The service was horrendous and the pizza while edible, didn't make me feel like I would be running back. To their credit, they have been in business for over 50 years. Someone must like it.

            1. re: Pegmeister

              We went with some native-Quincy friends last year or the year before and the service was a little inattentive and my friend's wine glass hadn't been properly cleaned, but I thought the food was not the worst I've ever had. I had either eggplant or chicken parm, I can't remember which.

              I have decided though that for good Italian food I am going to shop the entrees at Alfredo's on Franklin Street and cook at home. Their stuffed shells were toooo delicious! And shockingly affordable, no where near what I was expecting.

          2. re: Pegmeister

            I have always liked their pizza, and occasionally like their pasta dishes, though the last couple of times they definitely weren't up to snuff.

          3. Despite riding the anti-chain train like a worn-out old hobbyhorse, I have had several not-terrible meals at the Park Square outlet of Maggiano's Little Italy. <ducks>

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            6 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I agree with you here. The Maggiano's salad is always a good hit and I really like their bolognese and meatballs for a good hearty meal. It's not a watery sauce at all. I've had really good bolognese and really bad bolognese. Theirs falls right in the middle - definitely satisfying.

              www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Definitely. It's not the finest Italian food, but it's more consistent than a lot of places. I love going for the full 5-course meal with friends - a true evening of gluttony.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Oh, Slim, I wish you had not disclosed that. I find their food horrendous!

                  1. re: Blumie

                    Context is all here. We're not talking guilty pleasures. Most of my experience with Maggiano's has been with corporate holiday parties, family-style, in downstairs private dining rooms. By that standard (nobody in my industry has been spending real money on this kind of thing for years), it has been a pleasant surprise, especially for the cost, with excellent service. Even the rooms were nicer than I expected for a casual-dining chain outlet. Especially for someone who regularly tries to talk people out of chain dining (in my Phoenix "On the Cheap" column), finding it not-terrible definitely runs counter to my own expectations, as well as (I think it's safe to say) conventional Chow wisdom.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                    i agree to this one. I actually have had nice lunches here. I'm a pretty big fan of their lemon cookies, but only when they've come right out of the over. Last time I was there, they were unfortunately cold and stale :(

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I haven't been to the restaurant but we often do take-out via (Dining-In) from Maggiano's. I wrote about our favorite busy weekend comfort food order last year. We can make a number of meals from an order of roast chicken, a big salad, red potatoes and one of the pasta dishes.

                      http://www.bostonzest.com/2008/05/del...

                    2. Also, the Roadhouse in Brookline takes pretty big hits on this board as being really lousy BBQ. Maybe it is, but being from the North and never having been to the South for any "real" BBQ, I don't think it's all that bad - same w/ Red Bones which also takes big hits. I've never had a bad meal at the Road House and my hubby doubly loves it for the craft beer.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kristinayee

                        I agree about Redbones - I love everything about it.
                        I also like the food I've had at the Sunset Grille & Tap. As far as pub food goes it was as good as I've found.

                        1. re: Pete Lyons

                          Will third on Redbones. Have eaten there several times and never had a bad meal there. It helps if you drown their side of beans (often less than stellar) in sweet BBQ sauce. Otherwise, no gripes here.

                      2. I like Fire and Ice, the Cheesecake factory, and Mount vernon......I am really ducking...lol

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Johnresa

                          I'll take the bait, just thinking about Fire and Ice gives me a rash ;-)

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            I hate fire and ice with a passion. Those people were geniuses when they decided that they were going to create a restaurant where people had to go up and try to get their own food cooked.... and then actually pay for it.

                            Do that at your own home.

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              I agree- I can say nothing good about fire n ice-My neice planned my brothers bday dinner there. Just felt dingy, and my other neice was a bit freaked out- she is one of those " don't like my food touching: so the thought of her food touching others food did not bode well. Have never been to cheesecake, and will admit, have had ok meals at the mt vernon ( use restaurant.com for a coupon)

                            2. re: Johnresa

                              Not to be ageist, but I've never met anyone over the age of 20 who liked Fire & Ice.

                              1. re: BobB

                                I think you are right- my nephew goes to school in Boston, and loves getting GC to Fire & Ice. And my neice who hosted my brothers bd dinner is in her early 20's

                                1. re: macca

                                  Mr Plumtomato liked it into his mid-late 20s, when I got a hold of him and introduced him to better places. He tried to take me there for lunch once but thankfully they hadn't opened for the day yet, and I looked in the window and said "nuh-uh" and steered him away.

                            3. Not Your Average Joe's in the Station Landing Plaza at the Wellington Station Stop in Malden. I loved their focaccia bread dipped in olive oil, parmesan, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Also their Ahi Tuna Wontons. I ate there the first week I moved to Boston from NYC and thought "oh my god what wonderful goodness chain restaurants have to offer...what have I been missing!"

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Suze123

                                I genuinely, unapologetically like Not Your Average Joe's when that's the sort of meal I'm in the mood for: their Cobb salad is a particular favorite.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Ditto Barmy. I always do well with the grilled tuna salad and one of their chicken sandwiches. It's great for kids as well.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    Agreed - that is the best of the lot when I meet up with a friend at the Methuen location (exactly halfway for both of us from my work/her home). Have always eaten at the bar; good service, good basic food....and once they opened a Kim Crawford chardonnay for me for a couple of glasses (even though it's not on their by the glass menu).

                                  2. re: Suze123

                                    Station Landing is in Medford.

                                  3. I am a Mexican food snob. And I like the chicken quesadilla from Qdoba.

                                    I feel better now.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: yumyum

                                      I'm not as heavily against Qdoba either, though I prefer Anna's.

                                      1. re: bachslunch

                                        I actually prefer Qdoba to Anna's. I think Qdoba's chicken is better-seasoned and has a better mouth feel. Ditto Chipotle, and I think Chipotle's pinto beans with bacon are much better than Anna's, plus they go toe-to-toe with places like Tacos Lupita. That said, I still really like Anna's chile verde; spicy, porky goodness through and through.

                                    2. I know there have been some positive posts in the past, but I have never had a bad meal at Petit Robert in the South End and it usually gets killed.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jgarnache

                                        Oh my goodness - PR is one of me and my hubby's favorite go-to places. I've never had a bad meal and the prices are so satisfying. I really don't know why the place gets such bad reviews. But oh well, to each his own.

                                        www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                                      2. I'll take a double hit- I had a great (1) RW lunch @ (2) Top of the Hub! It was one of the best RW experiences-food and service that I've had in Boston or NYC.

                                        26 Replies
                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            I don't know: Johnresa had a pretty powerful two-fer with Fire & Ice and The Cheesecake Factory. (I haven't been to Mount Vernon lately, but I like to imagine that it's not disgusting. Just minutes from downtown Boston...)

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              You made me LOL.

                                              Mount Vernon isn't awful -- sort of like the Paddock without the stale smoke smell.

                                              I just think the RW + Top of the Hub combo platter is made of win.

                                              1. re: yumyum

                                                Though, I must say ... the home made cookie dessert, made to order at the Top of the Hub is really yummy. What's better than hot cookies straight from the oven?

                                                And come on ... Cheesecake Factory's menu is SO big, everyone can find something that they enjoy there, can't they? It's not THAT bad. =)

                                                www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                                                1. re: kristinayee

                                                  Problem is, most chowhounds don't just want to find something that they *can* enjoy. We want something truly delicious. I have yet to eat something at Chessecake Factory that is truly delicious. Fine, maybe. Decent, sure. But not truly delicious. I think that drive for deliciousness is what sets this board (and community) apart. I don't want to see it dumbed down.

                                                  1. re: yumyum

                                                    One of the most useful things about CH to me is getting recs for what not to miss and what to avoid at many of the CH-sanctioned restaurants. Since the Cheesecake Factory menu has so many things on it, you really can't discount it unless you've been steered toward the good stuff, tried several different things, and not liked any of them. Even several things is only about 5% of the menu! I do find a few things on their menu downright delicious.

                                                    MC: was your sandwich "blech" because it was too big or because it was "blech"? Are you horrified by the portions at Vinny's at Night, too? What's so bad about getting a free meal to take home? You must be easily horrified!

                                                    1. re: pollystyrene

                                                      It is true that I haven't much explored The Cheesecake Factory menu. I'm open to the idea that there are extraordinary dishes there, but I have to say that my small sample does not make me hopeful. Further, what I have tasted has a certain factory quality to it that underscores my understanding of how casual-dining chain restaurants work. They're about scale, uniformity, efficient volume production by modestly-skilled cooks, recombination of a small set of ingredients into many dishes. Having a few great dishes bobbing around in the sea of mediocrity doesn't seem to fit that model.

                                                      I definitely have a horror of wretched-excess portions; I've been banging that drum for years. That sandwich wasn't disgusting (it was merely dull), but the portion size was gross, ridiculous.

                                                      I loathe doggie bags, hate how leftover food looks the next day. I think it especially diminishes the experience of fine-dining restaurants: seeing a dish that was carefully prepared and plated the night before, cold and congealed in a plastic container the morning after. It's a disservice to the chefs. Give me higher quality in a portion size I can finish.

                                                      With the benefit of experience, places like Vinny's are manageable: we know to share courses, not to order an antipasto, primo, and secondo each. But I was probably put off the first time I got served a giant plate of pasta there. Two things are different about Vinny's: one, the food tastes freshly and idiosyncratically prepared to me; it doesn't have that formulaic quality that the chains have. Two, I go there with the kind of people I like to share with. That would be a little odd at lunch with my coworkers (nice people, I just wouldn't share a spoon with most of them). So at The Factory, I have to order in a way that's essentially wasteful.

                                                      But I'll note your favorites for the next time I'm there. It would hardly be the first time my prejudices were upended by something I learned on Chowhound. That in fact is a thing to be devoutly wished for!

                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Here's to an open mind (and wide-open stomach)! I wouldn't expect extraordinary, but you just might find something or two delicious. Just remember: dressing on the side, hold the whipped cream if you get cheesecake (I know, it should go without saying), and ice cream instead of whipped cream if you get Linda's fudge cake. (Regina's undercooks their pizza; Cheesecake Factory sprays whipped cream on everything. Every restaurant has its quirks.) A perk: cheesecake stays intact in the fridge for follow-up eating.

                                                    2. re: yumyum

                                                      Yes, this is true and I am with you on the truly delicious idea, but this is the "Flying in the Face of Chow Wisdom" post, so theoretically this whole post would unfortunately meet your "dumbing it down" theory. And I take it back, it's not just that I "can" find something to enjoy at Cheesecake, the things that I find, I genuinely like and think are delicious, such as the Tuna Tempura appetizer, for example.

                                                      1. re: kristinayee

                                                        The spicy ahi tempura roll appetizer is one of my favorite apps! Every so often, I stop in and get it for lunch. When ordering it, I always ask that the chef make sure the tuna is not cooked at all inside. That happeneded once and that was enough. Hmmm... I think I'm overdue for a visit. Unfortunatly, one of my fav cheessecake combos, cheesecake and carrot cake combined into a sinful pleasure, has over 1000 calories/slice. i don''t want to know how many calories the ahi roll has. How bad can it be? Tuna is good for you. ;-)

                                                    3. re: kristinayee

                                                      My "first time at The Cheesecake Factory" anecdote is that I went with my beloved, we both spent ten minutes frowning over the menu, then ordered, only to realize we had reluctantly settled on the exact same thing out of 200 menu items: the grilled chicken and avocado club sandwich. When they arrived, we were further horrified to discover that one sandwich, with its mountainous blanket of fries, would have been more than enough for both of us. Blech.

                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        I hope that's also your "last time at the Cheesecake Factory" anecdote.

                                                        1. re: yumyum

                                                          It was the last time when it was my idea, but I have done a couple of work-type lunches there, putting on my best game face. Nobody likes a snob, and my colleagues don't know about my alter ego. They just think it's weird that I will drive two towns away for good Sichuan food.

                                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            It's really hard to hide sometimes. Are you driving to framingham? Care to name the Sichuan spot?

                                                            1. re: alwayscooking

                                                              Two places I've posted about fairly often here: Sichuan Garden II (Woburn) and Sichuan Gourmet II (Billerica).

                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                Thanks! I drive to framingham from Boston to go to Sichuan Gourmet II - wonder if owned by the same people?

                                                                1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                  The two Sichuan Gourmets have the same owners, and I believe pretty much the same menu. Fresh bamboo shoots with XO sauce, yippee!

                                                                  The Sichuan Garden has the same owners as the Brookline Village outlet, but I think the Woburn one is better; plus it's kind of a cool setting, the historic, somewhat rundown Baldwin Mansion.

                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                    I've been to the Brookline SG and was not impressed but will note the Woburn one for when I'm in the area - thanks tons! (Don't you love CH? - sometimes)

                                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              My "first time" Cheesecake Factory story..I was planning on taking a client to lunch in Miami. Good client and I wanted to take him(me) to Joe's Stone Crab. He told me he loved Cheesecake Fac and would love to go there. Of course, we did. I ordered a small salad which was fine and took myself to Joe's afterward..:)

                                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            the bistro shrimp pasta (not to be confused with the shrimp with angel hair pasta) at Cheesecake factory is not bad, for those crispy shrimp nuggets, and you can even ask to substitute fettucini for the linguine. Also the double cooked noodles at P.F.Changs (if you ask them to go easy on the gravy) is a very toothsome dish, and their ma po tofu can be very good (slightly crisp outside, soft inside, unlike the traditional all-soft version). it's not where you order, it's what you order...

                                                            1. re: barleywino

                                                              i love the green bean tempura at PF Changs.

                                                              1. re: mcel215

                                                                Folks, if you've got recommendations for hidden chow gold on franchised restaurant menus, please add your thoughts on the Chains board, where such discussions are on topic, and thousands of readers will benefit from your experience.

                                                                However, please help us keep this board focused on the chow that's unique to Boston. Thanks!

                                                          3. re: kristinayee

                                                            I agree - the cookie plate is amazing at Top of the Hub. The clam chowder is good too, especially in their fun tilty bowl.

                                                            1. re: Prav

                                                              Whoa! I didn't have my glasses on and thought you said something else, not "fun tilty bowl".

                                                              1. re: Alcachofa

                                                                Well, I guess, if you turn the bowl upside down... :)

                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          This post made me laugh and laugh. LOL still laughing.... good thread to break up the day.

                                                    4. Although I depend heavily on Chowhound and have acquired a number of favorites from the advice given (Prezza, No 9 Park ,to name a couple), I still am a defender of Legal's. A half-dozen oysters, a cold draft, an entree of wood grilled scallops and any 1 of several good desserts make a reasonably priced and totally satisfying meal.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Arnie

                                                        Agreed, we actually had a surprisingly good lunch at Legal's in Chestnut Hill the other day. I had a garlicky shrimp and linguine dish and my DC had a salmon prepared mediterranean/greek style....really good.

                                                        1. re: twentyoystahs

                                                          Thanks for the validation...but get ready. The Legal haters should be getting ready to pounce any minute!

                                                          1. re: twentyoystahs

                                                            Agreed- the fresh briny oysters with a martini, the calamari Rhode Island Style (with hot peppers) and the sole in lemon caper butter and the wines are all excellent. I think the haters should try Legal in Chestnut Hill-never had a bad anything there.

                                                            1. re: emilief

                                                              Another vote for Legals. I end up at Legal's Kendall an awful lot of weekends as my DH works across the street, and the bar has become our go-to for light snacks/lunch. The RI calamari is always light and tasty.

                                                              1. re: cpingenot

                                                                Another for Legals, and I'll add Jasper's Summer Shack! I was critical of JSS at first but have come around and ldo ike it.

                                                          2. re: Arnie

                                                            I love Legal, AS a "real" Bostonian I started going to legal when there was one restaurant in Inman Sqare, I ate my first sushi there prepared by their wonderful Japanese chef who has long since retired. I remember the sadness all over the city after the place burned down. They then and now served some of the freshest fish in the area and have brought a lot of new varieties to our attention.

                                                            1. re: maggie may

                                                              I like the place, and I go WAY back with it. I grew up a block from the original Inman Sq location in the days when it was just a fish market with a takeout fish & chips counter. I've watched its evolution ever since, and while I am not thrilled by the fact that it's become so corporatized, I still like the food as long as I stick to the basics.

                                                          3. Fun topic. I like the Rhode Island calamari at Vinny T's.

                                                            1. I'm sorry.....I love REALLY great pizza...really, I do (Stellas, Reginas...New Haven's many)!

                                                              But I have to admit that I also love just about any other pizza and will scarf it down with delight, including Greek style. B&F in Waltham, 4 Corners in Newton. A slice here, a slice there....I'm really not all that fussy about it. I even love certain frozen pizzas...memories of growing up in CT with my Mom serving up Tree Tavern Pizzas.

                                                              Wow...I better stop before I get hammered!

                                                              39 Replies
                                                              1. re: Science Chick

                                                                I find it best to get hammered and THEN have the frozen pizza. :-)

                                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                                  I really like the Arlington House of Pizza (now THERE are 8 words that have never been said in that order in the history of the world).

                                                                  1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                    I wish it were possible to change your screen name for some posts...when I have had a really bad week ( er...or sometimes not ) and I am out shopping on a Saturday by myself with Husband the food nazi at home I have been known ( not by many I hope) to drop into Kowloon and to scarf a sweet and sour chicken plate and a Mai Tai or two...not that I EVER engaged in a little Keno...I wish to pay my final respects to fine members of this board as I will likely die of shame within the fortnight

                                                                    1. re: capeanne

                                                                      Oh capeanne, I undestand. We were looking back and forth between the giant cactus and Kowloon wondering which monstrosity to delve into first. Only reason we chose Hilltop was because I'm trying to cut back on carbs and figured it would be easier to order. But I'm sure Kowloon sweet and sour chicken is in our near future.

                                                                      1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                        and once you are there give it up for a side of faux crab rangoon ...shhhh

                                                                        1. re: capeanne

                                                                          lol. i will order crab rangoon and a glass of trimbach at island hopper. c'mon!! it's fried cheese with a crunchy coat. woo-hoo!

                                                                          i give.

                                                                          every now and again i will have a drink or a bottle at the bar at anthony's pier 4. midday it's never busy, the place is like, trapped in amber, you get that cheesy spread with ritz crackers, for god's sake, and the bartender is usually personable. was there yesterday and on a beautiful day, the view is magnificent. but why is there a small train car in the front?

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            They use the train car for storage.

                                                                            1. re: edgewater

                                                                              Might it also be in homage to the old Boston waterfront, when it was a real, working port? The old train tracks are not far from Anthony's.

                                                                              I'll add some recent visits to this fun and growing post (mainly pubs due to March Madness):

                                                                              -Rudy's in Teele Sq. doesn't get much love here. Love the fish tacos and spinach quesadillas. It sounds weird, but we also had some crab quesadillas last year that were delicious (it was real, picked crab...previously frozen? who cares?).

                                                                              -Spirit, Porter Sq. Better than average pub food. B loves the PBT sandwich when it's on (pressed prosciutto, bacon, tomato). When it's bad, it's bad - really soggy.

                                                                              -Magoun's, Magoun Sq. This is our usual Friday night haunt. We were so (pleasantly) shocked to see it reviewed in the Globe a few weeks ago.

                                                                              -British Beer Company, Walpole. We stopped by this past Saturday on our way home from Providence. We were starving, the rain was coming down in sheets and this is what an iPhone search came up with. I know the food doesn't get much play here, but we were happy with a veggie burger (not just a frozen Gardenburger slapped on the griddle - it looked made in-house) with a tasty Thai broccoli slaw side, a veggie pasty with some better than the usual soggy sweet potato fries. Lots of other menu items we would try on our next visit. Great beer list, especially given its suburban strip mall location - we had Old Speckled Hen, Stone Ruination IPA. Oh, and the free homemade potato chips are ridiculously good with beer. We could easily sit at the bar all day and snack on these with a few Delirium Tremens (tap).

                                                                              1. re: digga

                                                                                Spirit is a pretty good spot to sit and watch a game too

                                                                                1. re: digga

                                                                                  I love Spirit & it's temptingly close. The staff is awesome & it's great for those of us with a Sox problem. They revamped the food in the last year and they can turn out some solid items, like the PBT (but you're right in that the execution can vary). Damn fine burger too (but Temple Bar has the best I've had in the area).

                                                                                  1. re: digga

                                                                                    Spirit! Never thought I'd see that discussed on CH... not my bag at all, though I'm constantly amused that it's the regular hangout for all the chefs-to-be from CSCA up the road. They're pretty full when they walk in the door, though, so food's not what they're seeking.

                                                                                    Re: Magoun's, I've heard tell that there's a guy there who's a pretty solid cook, but who's on-and-off for months at a time. I have no idea if that's true, but I've had likeable, well-seasoned grub there - the cubano in particular (which replaces the traditional mustard with chipotle mayo). The fries are generally cold and soggy. I do like that they serve (pre-fab) baked-to-order chox-chip cookies, which go awful well with beer.

                                                                                    ETA: woops, commented on a long-dead thread. sorry, RSS-dwellers.

                                                                                    1. re: enhF94

                                                                                      Re: Re: Magoun's..enhF94 you might be referring to Sully, who was head cook at Magoun's sometime back. Last I heard, he high-tailed it to L'Espalier or Sel de la Terre (or somewhere fancy in Back Bay). We haven't been in since the NFL season ended after PJ Ryan's fancied up their food, but if Sully is back in the kitchen, we will be back pronto!

                                                                                      1. re: digga

                                                                                        Digga, that sounds vaguely familiar. I haven't been in months, so sounds like you're more up-to-date than I... though my impression is that he has returned to Magoun's more than once (helping out friends, in need, maybe?) so all may not be lost.

                                                                                  2. re: edgewater

                                                                                    lol. the train car looks like a toy and the place is a giant barn. what do they store in there?

                                                                            2. re: capeanne

                                                                              I ate at Kowloon for the first time today and thought the luncheon special of chicken fingers, lobster sauce, and lo mein was fine...obviously not amazing, but not as bad as I expected given the bashings people hand out.

                                                                              1. re: observor

                                                                                I guess if you're looking for chicken fingers, lobster sauce and Lo Mein, it probably IS fine. A lot of people who post on this board are looking for authentic Chinese, rather than Chinese American, which is why YMMV...

                                                                                1. re: galleygirl

                                                                                  On the other hand, you'd have to be an idiot to look at a place like Kowloon and think it even pretends to serve "authentic" Chinese.

                                                                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                    Yes, yes, but i understand that suburban Chinese has a place in many (not MINE!) hearts....

                                                                                    1. re: galleygirl

                                                                                      I'm just saying that the comparison is moot. It's like getting sniffy because McDonald's doesn't serve steak tartare.

                                                                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                        They don't?
                                                                                        I know, I know. I grew up around there,and I just never liked Chinese food til I trid the real deal. Go figure...Just trying to give this poster the benefit of the doubt!
                                                                                        I may rent a parking spot near Jo Jo Taipei, tho...

                                                                                        1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                          Yeah, what many of us who grew up in the suburbs in the 60's thought was real Chinese food. It wasn't.

                                                                                      2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                        Actually, I think you have to know what to ask for...my office enlisted me to host an authentic chinese banquet for our holiday party last year. We needed a place that had enough space for all of us and Kowloon's private room fit the bill. I have had many an authentic chinese banquet and let me tell you, Kowloon knew their stuff. We had a multiple course banquet menu that rivaled the best I've had in Chinatown. Everything was fresh and just as we'd requested. We even hired traditional chinese lion dancers to perform.

                                                                                        As part of a family that has owned chinese restaurants for generations, I know that Kowloon's food, like many other restaurants of its kind, caters to the americanized chinese food crowd, because let's face it, that's what most people (admittedly not chowhounds) want. There is definitely a market for that. But honestly, the cooks/chefs in the kitchen usually are chinese workers who during their own lunch time and dinner time breaks make food that you won't see on the menus - these cooks have talent. They know their stuff and if you request something authentic, or cooked in a certain way and specifically seek that out, I think you'd be surprised.

                                                                                        www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                                                                                        1. re: kristinayee

                                                                                          Maybe, but I doubt you'll get it on a Saturday night, and probably not at all if you don't speak Cantonese. Plenty of places to get the real thing, IMHO.

                                                                                          1. re: galleygirl

                                                                                            I've enjoyed authentic Chinese food very much, especially from the Chili Garden in Medford, but sometimes you just want a pu pu platter!

                                                                                            1. re: pemma

                                                                                              That's why they call it "flying in the face..." I have never in my life wanted a Pupu platter, but hey, I have my little secrets!

                                                                                          2. re: kristinayee

                                                                                            what dishes were included in the chinese banquet at kowloon?

                                                                                            1. re: galangatron

                                                                                              This is gonna make me hungry, but here's what I remember off the top of my head, among other items:

                                                                                              Tasting portion of Winter Melon Soup
                                                                                              Shark's fin soup
                                                                                              Assortment of cold plates including jellyfish, etc.
                                                                                              Chicken w/ salty dipping sauce
                                                                                              Steamed sea bass w/ ginger sauce - served whole w/ head and tail
                                                                                              Oyster and Scallops served in the shells w/ black bean sauce
                                                                                              Beef and dried bean curd w/ fat choy (black hairy looking)
                                                                                              Lobsters with ginger and scallion sauce
                                                                                              Steak and chinese brocolli
                                                                                              Chinese eggplant with black mushrooms and other veggies
                                                                                              Jiao-zi - chinese dumplings with dark vinegar and soy sauce
                                                                                              Noodles for long life
                                                                                              Sweet red bean soup for dessert
                                                                                              Sweet rice cakes for dessert

                                                                                              And by traditional chinese banquet, we didn't go for the traditional # of courses, just the food. We typed out a menu w/ all of the symbolic meanings of each dish.

                                                                                              www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                                                                                  2. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                    Ditto Olympic HOP in Watertown.
                                                                                    This_IS_ a really fun thread!
                                                                                    My offering- Border cafe scratches the Tex Mex itch for this transplanted Texan.

                                                                                    1. re: cpingenot

                                                                                      Must concur with the Border Cafe. I have a serious weakness for their Blackened Chicken Quesadilla. I am going to purge myself now, I also enjoy:
                                                                                      Boneless Buffalo Tenders @ The 99
                                                                                      The Sausage and Ricotta Pizza @ Bertucci's
                                                                                      Redbones though not The Roadhouse.
                                                                                      General Gao's and Crab Rangoon from Great Chow in Quincy
                                                                                      And finally the spicy chicken sandwich @ Wendy's.
                                                                                      I am now prepared to be banned.

                                                                                      1. re: ChickenBrocandZiti

                                                                                        As a fellow transplanted Texan, you must be familiar with this feeling: sometimes I just want really mediocre Tex-Mex. And it VERY SPECIFICALLY needs to be mediocre! In that case, Border Cafe does the job quite nicely.

                                                                                        I just wish there was someplace in town for when I want *good* Tex-Mex!

                                                                                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                          yeah......
                                                                                          Friday night, margarita, warm chips, mariachi band roaming and trying to make eye contact, a blanket of melted cheese, what else matters.....
                                                                                          Since I'm still trying to finish my deadline at work, I may have to stop at Border on the way home....

                                                                                      2. re: cpingenot

                                                                                        We LOVE the Border 20 years later - really. The margaritas are fine (as is the recently-discovered sangrita at $5 each!), the fresh fried chips/salsa are the best in town (faint praise, I know) and a number of menu items are reliably satisfying - cajun popcorn fried shrimp, fajitas, burger, eggplant royale, blackened chicken fingers - that's the short list. Their front of house recovery on a couple of disappointing occasions has been outstanding.

                                                                                        1. re: cpingenot

                                                                                          Haven't thought about the Border for a long time. We used to take our kids when they were in Harvard Square. I took a bunch of folks, maybe 10, there one night. We ordered way too much and when the waiter cleared the table, he slipped and the stacked plates with half eaten burritos and pico de gallo and black beans, etc. all slid off the waiter's tray and onto...me. A Harvard undergrad at the next table immediately quipped, "I guess dinner's on you, sir!" The rest of the packed dining room burst into applause. It was that spectacular. They gave me a free t-shirt that I put on then and there. They also comped my dinner and paid my dry cleaning bill.

                                                                                          Now I need a couple of margaritas and an order of catfish mardigras.

                                                                                          1. re: Essex County

                                                                                            I was going to put Border Cafe on my Chowhound Guilty Pleasure list as well but you guys beat me to it.

                                                                                            However I must report with dismay that as of last weekend the Catfish Mardi Gras is no longer on the menu. A big disappointment to me as it was my go-to dish there.

                                                                                            1. re: dfan

                                                                                              I've sometimes done OK at Border Cafe, but limiting myself to things like the tostata grande and gumbo is usually in order. And I too liked the catfish mardi gras a good bit and was surprised to see it gone from the menu -- it's arguably their best entree.

                                                                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                                                                Border is not the worst I've had but I can't stand how they bring all of your food at once. If I'm eating an appetizer I don't want the fajitas to sit there getting cold. When I rarely go, I make sure to only order one thing at a time. The staff doesn't understand it, so it can be a struggle!

                                                                                      3. re: Science Chick

                                                                                        Sometimes I love a slice of "garbage pizza" - i.e. Joseph's Pizzeria, on South Huntington / Huntington in Mission Hill/Jp. Only place open till 3am.

                                                                                      4. Rather than replying individually since I've eaten at most of the places listed here (and unfortunately sometimes more than once and and at more than one location), I'll just say that this thread is aptly named. And that I'll search and cling more closely to those wise CH words.

                                                                                        1. The Hilltop is my absolute favorite 'cheesy' restaurant! I've never had a bad meal there and I suspect I never will.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: missfoodie

                                                                                            There are moments when I want really greasy, utterly horrific Chinese food.... and I end up at lucky wah. I'm ok with this.

                                                                                            1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                                                                                              Same here. It's right across the street, easy and convenient.

                                                                                          2. Top of the Hub. I know everyone says the food is not up to par and it's only good for the view but honestly, I've had some really good food here. I love their clam chowder and braised short ribs (although it seems like everyone has good ones these days). And here's another stunner, I've had the softest, most juicy, melt in your mouth beef tenderloin here in Boston. It was better than my steak at Grill 23- honest. But this must have been a pearl in a sea of empty oysters because the last couple occasions I went back and ordered the same dish, it didn't even come close to the first time. Oh consistency... how you torment me.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Snoop37

                                                                                              Top of the Hub clam chowder is one of my faves. :)

                                                                                            2. I have to admit I really like the breaded chicken cutlet at Papa Razzi. I think that counts...

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: dtremit

                                                                                                Papa Razzi is another one that's great for family. They do a decent Bucatini Amatriciana, Penne Pomodoro and chicken, ziti and pasta. Their homemade focaccia ain't bad either.

                                                                                                1. re: dtremit

                                                                                                  I think that Papa Razzi actually gets a lot of good press on this site. I personally like the place a lot.

                                                                                                  1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                                    Aww, that's only because I discovered it last week..LOL
                                                                                                    But aside from the prices being a little high for entrees, the rest of the menu looked okay...Pizzas and salads with wine are the way to go....

                                                                                                    1. re: galleygirl

                                                                                                      Their pizzas are usually very good, and some of their pastas are good as well. I usually inhabited the Burlington location, as it was right next to the building in which I worked when that location was built. (In that time frame, ANYTHING new was welcomed in the neighborhood - only Dandelion Green and Cafe Escadrille were there when I worked at the building on Cambridge St/Route 128).

                                                                                                    2. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                                      Agreed -- I've done fine the couple times I've been to Papa Razzi.

                                                                                                  2. I've had a decent meal or two at Joe Tecces,the antipasto and a pizza at the bar with a bottle of chilled straw Chianti sometimes really hits the spot. I also don't find the food at Boloco to be as disgusting as most others.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: phatchris

                                                                                                      Boloco can be awful or pretty good, especially depending on whether the rice is OK or crunchy hard in their wraps.

                                                                                                    2. So I'll throw in something a little different - my last outing to Gitlo's was a disappointment. I'd been once before when they first opened and everything was fantastic. This time, about a month ago, while the atmosphere and service had improved, the food was just not as tasty. Sweet potato puffs and cream buns were still fantastic, but XO daikon cake was mushy and the we had some taro bun that was just too starchy and sort of flavorless. Oh well, can't win them all.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                                                        i don't get all the love for grotto on here. i've been a few times. i hate the low ceiling. the food is very much just ok. the service is embarrassing it's so amateurish. the wine list pedestrian.

                                                                                                        don't get it.

                                                                                                      2. I love The Sunset Grill in Allston, definitely not a CH favorite. Love their apps, and have had many a great chicken sandwich or burger there over the years. Not crazy about the curly fries, though.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: mabelm4050

                                                                                                          i still hold that they have the best nachos in town... the half size not the full, but only because the mountain of toppings somehow gets on every chip unlike the full plate. It's delicious

                                                                                                        2. Demos in Watertown makes a greek salad chock-full of iceberg lettuce, thin slivers of raw onion, tomatoes (in any season), and feta. And I adore it. They could put that dressing on anything and it would be fabulous! I'll eat their iceberg lettuce any day.

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: sfumato

                                                                                                            That's because feta makes everything betta.

                                                                                                            1. re: pollystyrene

                                                                                                              Too true! I like it when they add lots of feta. It's also the way they slice the onion. And something about that dressing. Mmmm. I order that and their lemon chicken soup (not really avgo, I think, because there's no egg in it) every time.

                                                                                                            2. re: sfumato

                                                                                                              I usually cover that salad with black pepper, but I agree that it's a hidden gem. They've got good moussaka, too.

                                                                                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                more than one shoe has been thrown at me but i remain a staunch fan of golden temple's martinis (up there with the best i've had) and of their special ribs. also love their shanghai chicken and that they'll make me a plate of peapods and shitakes, not on the menu, whenever i ask. as to guiltier pleasure than that: ok, cobblestones at Paneras. sticky, icky, mmm

                                                                                                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                  Very good to know! Gotta try their moussaka.

                                                                                                              2. I've never had anything but really good food at Sibling Rivalry.

                                                                                                                The Northern Style Dry Spare Ribs at PF Chang's knock my socks off, and the crazy-salty Kung Pao Shrimp is a guilty pleasure.

                                                                                                                I've had great meals at Bonfire.

                                                                                                                Houston's rocks.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                                                  Jolyon and I may be the only folks on this board to have a good meal at Sibling Rivalry -- I did fine the one time I went there.

                                                                                                                2. I like the Summer burrito with Steak from the Boloco in the Financial District, other locations not so much though.

                                                                                                                  At Finale in Coolidge Corner we ordered a sampler and enjoyed a good portion of the deserts.

                                                                                                                  1. I really like Papa Gino's pizza.

                                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: pemma

                                                                                                                      Do the Chowhounders hate Houston's? I love it. The fish specials can be really excellent, but the salads are my weakness. Looking at things the other way, a lot of the Boston CHers seem to love La Campania in Waltham. My husband and I tried to eat there several weeks ago and were, well, repelled by it. First, it smelled kind of funny, but we asked for a table. We had no reservation but it was about 6 p.m. and 90 percent empty. There was a LONG conference about where to seat us (which was really very annoying) and then they tried to put us at the worst table -- in an empty restaurant. Already our experience was spoiled, we left, and I would never go back.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Lucymax

                                                                                                                        so you never tried the food? As far as I can tell, that's how the "CHers" judge restaurants, primarily.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Lucymax

                                                                                                                          "Conventional wisdom" is a little tough to gauge sometimes. I don't think Houston's gets a ton of adverse reactions here. One, it's a chain, and thus properly discussed on the Chains board, not the Boston board. Two, at least in my book, it's too bland and forgettable, too much a chain restaurant, to inspire love or enmity either way. Many posters may be like me in that if a place inspires a big "Meh", I can't be bothered to react when someone asks about it. Only places I love or hate are post-worthy.

                                                                                                                          For some reason, P.F. Chang's comes up more often (maybe because there's two in Boston now). I think it's pretty awful, but I haven't really explored its menu deeply. I can also see how people would like it, especially the many folks I know who wouldn't dream of going to Chinatown a couple of blocks away.

                                                                                                                          I think a lot of people like Sibling Rivalry here, while I'm a relatively rare person who actively dislikes it. Bonfire is another place that rarely gets discussed here outside of its bar food. That's another one I think is pretty terrible, but I do get in and have a drink and a plate of tacos once in a while, and the dining room always looks empty, so I'm not surprised it hardly ever gets mentioned.

                                                                                                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                          1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                                                                            Me three, but it's a chain. (Shhhhhhh.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: pollystyrene

                                                                                                                              To clarify, we do allow discussions of chains that are primarily local chains on local boards. It seems that Papa Gino's restaurants are, for the most part, located around the Boston area, so it would pass muster under our request to discuss chow that's (mostly) unique to Boston.

                                                                                                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                Although Papa Gino's is now a national chain, it started in Framingham. I always think of it as local and am surprised when I run across one in another part of the country. They did scale back a few years ago, though.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                                                                                  Where was the original? I used to go to the one in Shopper's World (I think) when I was little, but have no idea when they started to expand - I'm a little curious.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: nfo

                                                                                                                                    They started in East Boston:

                                                                                                                                    http://papaginos.com/corporate/who_we...

                                                                                                                                    And their stores are *still* just located in New England.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                      Interesting - I always thought they started in Framingham. Maybe the owners were from that area...hmmm... Not sure why I thought that. However, they may only be in New England at this point, but they had broadened down the East Coast at one point. I think they may have scaled back.

                                                                                                                                2. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                  Right because God forbid, 1 post out of 153 mentions a chain...

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ac106

                                                                                                                                    Hey, hey!

                                                                                                                                    I realize that a given comment from the mods might seem silly - but their overall structure keeps the boards interesting and helpful! Just look at almost any other "free to comment site" (like my condo associations weblog!) to see how ridiculous things become in about two seconds!

                                                                                                                            2. re: pemma

                                                                                                                              PG's has its share of defenders - including me - on this Board. Not as an exemplary pizza, but - if you get pepperoni or something simple - a fairly straightforward decent pie, better than a lot of non-chain places.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                My thoughts exactly: never my first choice, but you could do much, much worse.

                                                                                                                            3. No secret from me, but I like Durgin Park a lot, which not everyone here does.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                                                                                                While it is sub-Greek style pizza crust, I sometimes must have a Needham House of Pizza Buffalo Chicken calzone with extra blue cheese sauce. And I used to frequently require the cheesy garlic bread from Dixie Kitchen when it existed - I have never been able to replicate it or find in anywhere else (I'm sure it involves gobs of cream cheese and butter).

                                                                                                                              2. On a warm summer day the Barking Crab is really not a bad place to go to have a couple of beers and a snack while taking in the skyline.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: pemma

                                                                                                                                  I'm with ya; I've never had the dreadful experiences that others describe here...

                                                                                                                                2. Ok, so my stomach is churning from some of these suggestions, but let me propose my own: I love the original Regina's, but I still find the other, mall-based locations of Regina's to be better than most pizza in Boston. Is that controversial, or do others agree?

                                                                                                                                  26 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                    I totally agree, though I don't think all the Regina's branches are at the same level as each other. I actually find the one at South Station to be very good, though perhaps it's because most of the other places in there are wretched. And I've heard that the one in Medford is excellent, probably because of the oven they use.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                      Speaking of stomach-churning, the Burlington Mall food court outlet of Regina's is heinous.

                                                                                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                        The Quincy Market branch pales in comparison to the original.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                                                                          "just because" i was at haymarket last week i thought i'd get a regina's slice. i live right near santarpio's, so never trek to the north end regina's.

                                                                                                                                          the slice utterly sucked. dry, almost no cheese, the sauce was sugary sweet, the mushrooms were like paper. yuk. it was nearly $4. a whole pie at santarpio's is $10.

                                                                                                                                          i'll admit to liking bertucci's too if you want a whole pie.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                            I've always gotten a whole pie at the North End Regina and never had a bad one (I order mine well-done). I guess by definition slices are pre-made and reheated?

                                                                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                              They make a finite number of pies for slices at lunch. When they're gone, they're gone. I've never had one that hung around long enough to be bad....

                                                                                                                                            2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                              Wait - did you say $4.00 for a SLICE? That's highway robbery!

                                                                                                                                              And I like Bertucci's as well - not all of their pies, but several. And the bonus are those rolls. :-)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                the pie was fresh out of the oven. i saw the guy pull it, which is why i ordered it. and faneuil hall was insanely busy, so obviously they were too.

                                                                                                                                                yeah, the slice was $3.85 and since haymarket pizza is less than $2 a slice and about 1000x better, it was an experiment i won't need to repeat.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                  I am pretty much addicted to Haymarket's dough - I make a homemade pizza a couple times a month - Buck a dough cannot be beat.

                                                                                                                                                  Hotoy - just to clarify, was the grodie $4 slice from the North End Regina's (original) or the Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market Regina's?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                                                                                    Does the original North End (Thacher St.) Pizzeria Regina even do slices? In my experience, they don't (unless they started selling them recently) except during the St. Anthony's Festival -- and even then, they sell them only from an outside stand at the side of the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bachslunch

                                                                                                                                                      They sell slices - cheese and another special of the day.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                                                                                                        But if memory serves, slices are at lunchtime only.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                                                                                      i was food shopping at haymarket and instead of haymarket pizza, i gambled on regina's in faneuil hall. how could it suck so much right from the oven? blech.

                                                                                                                                            3. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                              The one in the Pru is terrible as well. I only ate at the closed Regina/Polcari's location in Tech Square Cambridge once even though I worked right there if that tells you anything. Our last two visits to Station Landing were far sub par to the point we agreed that we would only go to the original from now on.

                                                                                                                                              I love the original Regina's, but we need more pizza choices around here! Has anyone tried Cristo's in Davis Sq? It was recently recommended, but I have not tried it yet.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                                                                                The South End has Mangia (I haven't tried other locations) and Picco that are decent for pizza.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                                                                                  Cristo's is completely unremarkable pizza if you ask me, but everyone has their favourite basic place. Living near Dial-A-Pizza in Somerville, I think their pizza is great example of the style and they do fantastic cheap offers.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chickendhansak

                                                                                                                                                    Wow: Dial-a-Pizza? "You ring, we bring?" I would not have expected them to not suck. Been driving by that one for at least 15 years.

                                                                                                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                      I used to really like them but that's been dropping over the last couple of years. My friends still love them though, so I always seem to end up eating it.

                                                                                                                                                      In general I like their crust, although that's one of the things that's getting to be less so. I decided that even when I was a fan that the thing that held them back for me was simply not liking their sauce. Another thing that IMO is on the decline is the quality of their toppings.

                                                                                                                                                      Still, for the area you can do a lot worse for the prices on their specials.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: chickendhansak

                                                                                                                                                      When I stopped by Dial-a-pizza a few years ago, I was pleased (and surprised) they made their own dough. Wasn't in love with the pizza, though.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: enhF94

                                                                                                                                                        But...chicken rings! I just can't get past those...

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dtremit

                                                                                                                                                          chicken rings? pun on the shop name?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps, but they're not the only people that serve them. They were a fixture in a sub shop at my college in the mid 90s.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                    Funny, my most recent mall-based Regina's experience was at the Burlington Mall, where I bought a whole pizza and thought it was pretty good!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                                      I feel a little sheepish saying "The mall food-court pizza was terrible", because it invites a roundly-deserved "What did you expect, dumbass?", but it was really bad. And it gave me the worst heartburn, something that rarely hits me. Incidentally, it was a couple of slices, not a whole pie.

                                                                                                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                                        Ditto. I've ordered slices and whole pies from the Burlington Mall location and been pretty happy. North End is still way better, but as mall pizzas go, you could do way, way worse.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                                          I only got slices, but they were really bad, and who can complain if mall food-court pizza is bad?

                                                                                                                                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                    2. So I'll add three places to the mix that I enjoy, but I seem to constantly have to defend myself when I mention them.

                                                                                                                                                      Durgin Park is one. I really enjoy the atmosphere, and I think that their Prime Rib is excellent. A meal of their clam chowder, prime rib and indian pudding is a favorite comfort of mine.

                                                                                                                                                      The second is NoName. I realize NoName has many haters on this board, but I enjoy going there, usually before concerts at the Pavillion. I qualify my love by saying that I always get the same thing when I go; a cup of their excellent fish chowder, and the fried fisherman's platter. I find it to be fresh, crispy and delicious.

                                                                                                                                                      I also happen to like their homemade cole slaw and tartar sauce because they don't have that overly-sugary and generally weird flavor of the supermarket deli versions. My husband, who is allergic to seafood, gets the steak dinner, which for the money, is excellent and he's always quite happy with it.

                                                                                                                                                      Finally, another place that I have to whisper the name of...Frank's Steak House. I've always had good meals there, and I really like their Bourbon Street Sizzler steak. Sure, it's frayed around the edges, and everyone there seems to be on an AARP discount, but the food is good and reasonably-priced.

                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                        Any thoughts on the quality of Durgin-Park since Ark Restaurants Corp bought it a couple of years ago?

                                                                                                                                                        I remember doing a prime rib, butternut squash, and Indian pudding lunch just before the takeover and thought the place's old virtues were still intact. My waiter was an old pro, a guy, not the caricature of the sit-down-and-shut-up waitress type they flogged for a while. (Plus I shared a table with an old Brahmin gentleman right out of Central Casting: perfect.)

                                                                                                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                          The "fishwife" waitresses of old have been long gone from the place. I remember when I first went there, back in the mid 70's, before Quincy Market became "Faneuil Hall Marketplace", the waitress dumped the napkins in the center of the table, along with all the silverware, and told us to "help ourselves".

                                                                                                                                                          As for the food, last time I was there was last December. It still seemed to be the same as I had been used to. Granted, I can't vouch for many of the other menu items because I always get the Prime Rib. But at least in that department, it was still good. I never was overly-impressed with the vegetables or side dishes, though. But that was never the reason for going in my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                            I've been to Durgin Park a couple times since the ownership change and didn't notice a drop-off in quality.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                            The family who Ark Corp bought Durgin Park from was retained manage the restaurant on a long term contract. They are still on site on a daily basis managing the dining room and kitchen. This has a lot to do with the quality being pretty consistent since the acquisition.

                                                                                                                                                          3. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                            I like Frank's, though whenever I'm there, I always have this uncontrollable urge to say to the waiter, "Hey, there's a blue hair in my soup."

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for posting, mwk -- I thought I was the only other person here who didn't utterly despise the No Name. It isn't at the level of Neptune Oyster or even Dolphin Seafood, but my experience has been that if you stick to fried seafood and fish chowder, it's perfectly fine.

                                                                                                                                                              As noted above, I'm in agreement with you about Durgin Park.

                                                                                                                                                              And for steak at blue collar prices, I've had my best experiences at Frank's (which I find better than Jimmy's Steer House or Hilltop, or heaven forbid, Ken's Steak House). Sure, Grill 23 and the Oak Room do steak better than any of them, but they're a different critter altogether. Kind of like comparing Prezza in the North End to Greg's in Watertown -- they're both Italian, but that's where the similarity pretty much ends.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                                                                                                                                I think I posted about a revision of my hating-No-Name policy a few years ago here. A friend from Chicago with fond memories of the place from 25 years prior dragged me there, and to my shock, I thought the fish chowder was really good: I had two bowls. It wasn't at all the nightmare it had been on a prior visit that had me saying "Never again."

                                                                                                                                                                I don't think I've been back since, but that pleasant surprise softened my hardened heart a little. Still, my larger experience is that once a place makes you say "Never again", you are rarely rewarded by return visits.

                                                                                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                            2. Siros at Marina Bay in Quincy seems to get mixed reviews on this board, but we did their $20(!) prix fixe three-course dinner last night and it was mostly very good. The Italian wedding soup could have had a bit more flavor and the chocolate cake could have as well, but everything else was quite tasty, including the clam chowder, pasta bolognese, sauteed chicken with penne and ziti, and bread pudding. Excellent service as well, which kind of flies in the face of the often surly/uncaring service I've gotten at other places in Marina Bay in the past.

                                                                                                                                                              1. My confessions...I hate Tremont 647 despite the raves, and I LOVE RW!

                                                                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                                                                Tremont 647
                                                                                                                                                                647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

                                                                                                                                                                Tremont Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                418 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116

                                                                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MenuPorn

                                                                                                                                                                  I similarly was not impressed by Tremont 647.

                                                                                                                                                                  We really like Gourmet India (in the Burlington Mall food court - I know, a food court!). On the weekends, it has specials and lots of South Asians go there...we look at what they order, point to it, and have discovered some great chow that way.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tigerswims

                                                                                                                                                                    Mmmm. I agree re Gourmet India. At their best, the palak (saag) paneer and the channa masala (the reddish one, not the darker one) are excellent. Their naan can be great. I recently tried and fell in love with their achari chicken, although the second time I got it, it wasn't quite as wonderful. I just wish they would have lemon rice again....

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ErstwhileEditor

                                                                                                                                                                      Until the opening of Blue Stove (upstairs at Nordstrom), Gourmet India was by far the best dining option in that mall. That is a grim little corner of Burlington otherwise for food.

                                                                                                                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                        I actually think it's incredible that there are two really solidly good places to eat in the Burlington Mall. We go to the mall specifically to eat at Blue Stove. I'll admit we don't go just to eat at Gourmet India, but if we're in the food court it's always the top choice. (That and our new nasty guilty pleasure, Shot Cakes...)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                                                                                                                          There's someplace that serves food in Burlington Mall other than Chik-Fil-A? I'm not sure I ever would have learned that on my own!

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                          Isn't Capitol Grille somewhere by there?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                            Nope. An exit north on 128 at Wayside Commons

                                                                                                                                                                  2. I'm still pretty new around here, so I guess I don't know all of the "Chow Wisdom", but based on what I have seen so far (esp. in this thread):

                                                                                                                                                                    Redbones - as someone else said, I've never had a bad meal here. A few years ago this place slipped to second place on my list (behind Blue Ribbon) but they're back on top now.

                                                                                                                                                                    Frank's - not exactly four-star dining but I like it. The steaks are just OK but I love the Greek salad (done the right way, with just tomatoes, onions and cucumbers), the French onion soup and the real mashed potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                    And speaking of which, Jimmy's Steer House. Just the opposite. The sides and salads are very mediocre, but I've never gotten a bad steak at this place. Not on the same level as the Oak Room, obviously, but very very good for a neighborhood steak place.

                                                                                                                                                                    Greek pizza - haven't read too much about it here, but I imagine that everyone loves to turn up their nose at this Massachusetts classic. Obviously the quality varies, but when it's good, it's great. My favorite is the hamburger, salami and green pepper pizza at Villa House of Pizza in Arlington Heights. As good as any pizza I've ever eaten.

                                                                                                                                                                    I love Anna's Tacqueria.

                                                                                                                                                                    I like the No Name (esp. the chowder as others have mentioned) and will gladly eat there if I'm in the neighborhood.

                                                                                                                                                                    I haven't eaten at Fire & Ice in years, but I always had a good meal there. I'm not sure what there is to complain about with that place, unless it's gone way downhill. Obviously some people are not happy with the whole process, but if that's the case, you shouldn't go at all.

                                                                                                                                                                    None of these are places that I'd hold up as "Best of Boston" or "You've got to try these while you're in town" but they're all consistently enjoyable for me.

                                                                                                                                                                    And that's probably more than enough evidence for most of you to safely ignore any and all opinions I may put forth on these boards in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                      I grew up eating Greek-American pan pizza -- there was little else around -- so I have some nostalgia for it, but I've come to prefer other styles, especially thin-crust wood-oven pies.

                                                                                                                                                                      I think you have plenty of company here with a lot of those "likes". I was a No Name hater for years, got dragged back by a visiting friend, decided that fish chowder was pretty fine.

                                                                                                                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                        Greek pizza isn't my favorite kind of pizza, but when it's good, it's good. There's no rule that says you can only eat the one kind of pizza you like best, and there's no nostalgia required to enjoy Villa's pies.

                                                                                                                                                                        My favorite kind of pizza is probably thin-crust North End-style (i.e. Regina-style), but I'm not a big fan of the super-thin wood-fired pizzas that are so popular these days. That probably puts me in the minority around here, too, but my feeling is, if the crust is burnt, you've ruined it.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                          I mention nostalgia because I think a lot of folks who get into "Best Pizza" holy-war discussions are often simply arguing for whatever style they grew up with. I agree with the idea of not eating only one style all the time: it's like listening to only one style of music, a practice I could never understand. Based on the nostalgia factor, I ought to be a bigger advocate for Greek pan pizza, but I'm not. I will have to give Villa a spin sometime.

                                                                                                                                                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                        Greek pizza is not MA-only. At the very least, it exists in New Jersey as well.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Alcachofa

                                                                                                                                                                          And VT is big on greek pizza.

                                                                                                                                                                          I have to say, I was feeling like Scratchie at Picco a couple weeks ago. We were there on a busy Sat. afternoon and split one with mushrooms (they have a mix of portabello and crimini I think), caramelized onion and roasted peppers and the edge of the crust was this puffy burnt thing that took up half the pizza. Plus it was cheese-less, we said white pizza not no cheese. We did get some good free banana choc chip and capuccino ice cream cuz of that gaffe, and the warm spinach salad is good, but way too much burnt area for a small pizza. I'm less likely to go back there.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Joanie

                                                                                                                                                                            The Hartford area is FILLED with Greek style. Despite growing up in CT, I never knew any other type of pizza existed until moving to the New Haven area for a year when I was 16!

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                          I'll back you on most of these, especially Redbones, Frank's, and Anna's. I too was raised on Greek pizza and still enjoy it from time to time though I do prefer the thin-crust North End style (and even more the true northern Italian style, small and thin with minimal toppings).

                                                                                                                                                                          I haven't been to No Name in decades so I can't comment on that.

                                                                                                                                                                          My problem with Fire & Ice is basically that it's not what I'd consider a restaurant at all, in the sense of a place where a chef with some degree of skill and vision prepares food for people to enjoy. It's just a depot of mediocre ingredients and equally mediocre sauces that may or may not go together, combined for your dining pleasure by a technician, not a cook. In my book that puts it one step above a salad bar - not awful, but not worthy of consideration when rating places to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                                                            I think you're selling the chef at Fire & Ice a little short. The creation and production of the sauces requires some sort of chef. You may find them mediocre, but the sauces are certainly the creation of a chef. The selection and preparation of the ingredients requires some skill and knowledge, even if they're all going to be placed out salad-bar style (i.e. choosing fresh produce, cutting everything to the proper size so it all cooks in the same amount of time, etc). Making sure that the raw food remains edible requires food-preparation knowledge. And cooking it properly requires knowledge and skill.

                                                                                                                                                                            None of these require L'Espalier-level culinary skills, but none of them are trivial, either.

                                                                                                                                                                            Geez, all this dumping on F&I makes me want to go back just to see if it's half as enjoyable as I remembered it. I agree that the whole thing is pretty gimmicky, and I haven't (until now) felt the need to go back there in a long time, but at the same time, I never had a meal that was less than enjoyable there.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                              Uhhhh no.

                                                                                                                                                                              The sauces at Fire and Ice are straight out of the bottle. You can buy any of those at any half decent Asian supermarket and probably even at Stop and Shop.

                                                                                                                                                                              There is almost no cooking or chefing here. Place ingredients on griddle, overcook or torture the poor veggies to death, throw slop on plate.

                                                                                                                                                                              As a big fan of various Asian cuisines I find F&I to be a singular abomination. Not even worth eating for free (a friend once won a free lunch for ten there).

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                I seem to recall something (printed in their menu?) about how one particular sauce was the inspiration for starting the restaurant in the first place, but like I said, I haven't been there in a long time, It wouldn't surprise me if they're mass-producing their sauces now that they have so many branches.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: scratchie

                                                                                                                                                                            <<I haven't eaten at Fire & Ice in years, but I always had a good meal there. I'm not sure what there is to complain about with that place, unless it's gone way downhill. Obviously some people are not happy with the whole process, but if that's the case, you shouldn't go at all.>>

                                                                                                                                                                            I had the worst meal of my life at Fire and Ice a few years ago - I never got served at all. It was a holiday lunch for about 14 people from my work group. When they served us, my plate wasn't what I'd put in my bowl and I told them so, (they were not surprised.) I later heard from other friends who worked across the street with me this wasn't unusual. The waiter asked me to go up and get another bowl. I was wedged in the middle of the bench with several folks on either side, so I asked if they would mind bringing me a cheeseburger instead, the waiter said fine, and it never showed up. The waiter came back to check on us and I asked about the burger -it still didn't show up. We finally asked for the manager and suddenly there were three cheeseburgers on the table right at the point when we were ready for the check. You couldn't pay me to go back.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pasuga

                                                                                                                                                                              Probably didn't seem like it at the time, but they did you a favor.

                                                                                                                                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                                Well, I went downstairs and got an Italian sub on terrific ciabotta bread from the little "Croissant" takeout place in the Park Square Building - that's something I'd recommend to anyone, anytime.