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Aug 24, 2009 08:09 PM

Boston-area chow that's difficult to find in New York

I'm headed north for a four-to-five-day weekend, this weekend. I've already planned excursions to Lowell, Lynn, and Revere for Cambodian (and a little Lao), and I've scoured the Boston and New England boards for recommendations. I've also noted a Cape Verdean joint down in Dorchester (perhaps out of the way for this visit), as well as the Karo's cart (perhaps only ostensibly Armenian, but easy to get to). I'll leave room as always for Rhode Island-style calamari; it's too early for Indian pudding, I reckon.

What else is notable in the Boston area that's absent from the New York food scene? To expand the discussion, what's found in both cities but is outright better up north? If you make "better in Boston" suggestions, please also supply specifics on your points of comparison in New York. Thanks to all, in advance.

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  1. The first thing that comes to mind is Armenian and Turkish food/stores, not that there's a giant volume of this in Boston, just that nothing in NYC really comes to mind. Also, the fried clams etc. paired with good soft serve.

    Love your blog!

    1. I've never been that much of a burrito eater myself, but there are those who claim that burritos found in Boston are vastly superior to those found in NYC. Also, I don't know if it's still the case, but seven years ago when I lived in Boston, Thai, Vietnamese pho and Portuguese were better than they were in NYC. I think we've caught up a bit, since, but Boston's scene may still edge us out.

      ETA: Oh, one more: I also think that Boston has perfected the art of the laid-back beer bar in a way that NYC hasn't, yet. One of my former favorites, Anam Cara, has closed down, but I'm sure folks can suggest similar alternatives.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cimui

        Anam Cara is better than ever, but with a new name--The Publick House/Monk's Cell. Same location in Brookline.

        You don't consider Blind Tiger on Bleeker in the same league?

        1. re: Trumpetguy

          Oh, Blind Tiger is lovely, you're right, and they even have a cozy fireplace for the winter like Anam Cara. But Anam Cara also had all those soft and comfy couches and chairs by the fire and crazy, full-participation quiz bowl nights... I guess I'm just waxing a little nostalgic, here!

          I also fondly remember the terrible food and grog / mead / mulled wine and incomparable atm. at Grendel's Den... And the sports bar / frat basement atm at Sunset Grill, combined with the fantastic and fantastically inexpensive beer flights... and that kooky bar near MIT with the chemical structure of ethyl alcohol, I think it was, etched on the wall...

          Very interesting to hear about The Publick House / Monk's Cell! I didn't realize it was related to Anam Cara in any way. Is it the same ownership?

          1. re: cimui

            If we are indeed talking about the same Anam Cara(I don't remember it the way you do!) it is the same ownership. Brookline--Beacon St. Yeah?

            1. re: Trumpetguy

              Yeah! The area to the far right when you walked in, by the fireplace, had two armchairs and a table in between, right in front of the fireplace. Behind that, there was a couch, and all throughout the rest of the restaurant there were tables and bar stools. It was a hop and a skip away from Washington Square Tavern. Sounds like we're thinking of the same Beacon St. location, at least?

        1. Tall order: New York is so much bigger than Boston.

          For its size, I believe Boston has more and a more diverse range of Tibetan restaurants than NYC, maybe a function of the original JFK-era resettlement of Tibetan exiles here after the Chinese invasion.

          5 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I can only think of two Tibetan places off hand (one in Cambridge, the other in Allston). Is that what you are thinking of? The Chinese invasion occurred well before JFK, though the Dali Lama exile happened right before his term...and I'm not exactly sure what the direct connection with the Boston-area would be in terms of settling dissidents (there is not a huge Cuban population in comparison to Miami for instance)...

            1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

              House of Tibet (Teele Square), Martsa's on Elm (Davis Square), Rangzen (Central Square), Tashi Delek (Brookline Village). Last I looked (in a feature for Boston Magazine a little while back), New York only had six Tibetan restaurants in a city 13 times Boston's size.

              I'm guessing the Allston place you're thinking of is Mt. Everest Kitchen, actually Nepali.

              Some history of the Kennedy-era Tibetan ex-pat resettlement in the Boston area here:


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I was thinking Rangzen and Mt. Everest. Haven't spent much time in Brookline Village since St. Petersburg Cafe left for Newton. Forgot that Martsa's was Tibetan.

                Guess I was thinking since I had my first Tibetan in NYC, that they had to have more than the Boston area (and I probably would not trust Boston Magazine as a reference for NYC restaurants)...

                Plus, the link you provide starts with, "One of the first few Tibetans settled in Boston in 1965." That is two years after JFK's assassination. So unless LBJ was trying to not settle any of them in Texas, I'm guessing the Boston connection during that time was rather tenuous...or coincidental.

                1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                  If you are getting specific (re Mt. Everest being I'm sure the influences/dishes are worlds apart), the review for Martsa's actually specifies Indian and Chinese influences/dishes as well. So I guess that can't count as pure Tibetan either:


                  "Both owners were born and raised in India, like many young Tibetans whose parents fled along with the Dalai Lama from the Chinese in 1959, and the menu wanders through their Indian favorites as well."

                  "Two standouts derive from Indian and Chinese influences."

                  "His father, a yogi lama, had just opened a Tibetan monastery in India. The Martsas visited and found the monk in the kitchen making the same old bland dish that he made every day. So this world-traveled pair taught him a half-dozen of Martsa on Elm's Tibetan-world-fusion entrees, and now he too is serving up these Somerville-born recipes."

                  But getting back to the OP's question, I would guess Portuguese might be the way to go. My NYC experience is limited, so this is purely a shot in the dark. But it seems that New England has a pretty large Portuguese/Brazilian population, and I have not heard much about such cuisine in NYC.

                  1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                    Yes, Marta's is Tibetan-in-exile-in-India cuisine, rather different from the others for the local influences they absorbed (and very interesting for it, I think). But I wonder whether the folks at Mt. Everest would appreciate a North American casually lumping their cuisine together with that of Tibet, however similar they might appear to you.

                    As I understand it, JFK's State Department did provide many emergency visas for Tibetan refugees to enter the States in the wake of the Tibetan famine that followed the Great Leap Forward, and I believe some of these ex-pats stayed temporarily in the Boston area, but few stayed permanently. Barney Frank was the driving force behind enabling another influx in the early 90s, and more of those folks stayed, which I believe was the germ of our cluster of Tibetan restaurants. I know of one Tibetan ex-pat who had long worked at Tremont 647, which is why they've had momos on their menu since the early days.

                    Portuguese/Azorean/Cape Verdean is an excellent suggestion, something we're fat on that few other areas of the country have.


          2. Ice cream. Boston is passionate about ice cream and it shows. There are many local purveyors, each with a distinctive style. A quick search should land you into the many opinions that is chow-land.

            1 Reply
            1. re: smtucker

              Yes, I read once that Boston Metro has the highest ice cream consumption in the country. I don't know if that is actually true, or not, but we will go to ice cream stores in the dead of winter, so maybe it's true.