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The One Place You Want to Keep to Yourself - It's OK, We Won't Tell Anyone!

I was thinking about this after I went to the Pasta Market Cafe in Malden for the fourth time in 2 weeks! We all have places like this. A place we always fall back on and are never dissapointed. The truth is, like all of you, I have a couple of places that fit this description - but I'm willing to share this one.

Pasta Market Cafe is right in the middle of a neighborhood in Malden. The food is always outstanding. The problem is working your way through the menu. After you try something, you want to order it again and again. Let me just tell you about a few items. They have a gnocchi appetizer that is not even close to the gnocchi I grew up with. This gnocchi is stuffed with goat cheese and bell peppers, then deep fried before it is sauteed with garlic and tomatoes. Eggplant parmigiana seems like a routine choice. At this place they take the time to make it like your grandmother did. They go through the trouble of getting most of the water out of the eggplant before they cook it. the result is a dense, richly flavored eggplant. The most basic of meals, fettucine with meat sauce, has so much flavor and so much meat that it makes you want to take it to another table so you won't have to share it.

I forgot to mention prices, The gnocchi is $6.95, eggplant $10.95 and the fettucini bolognese $9.50. I'd say the price is less than half what I would pay in Boston. That's one of the secrets of ths place. All of their pasta is homemade and they supply many of the high end hotels and restaurants in Boston with their products. If they make something special that day, they make extra and put it on the special board. For instance, last week I had bell pepper pasta with veal and shrimp in a beautiful cheese sauce.

I shared - Let's see if someone else will share one of their secret places.

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  1. Oh, damn, why did you spill the beans about this spot? :-b

    I don't hold any secrets (and in fact write about them all), but Pasta Market would be pretty close to being a "secret" place for me. A few others that feel like secret places to me are Cronin's in Quincy, La Siesta in Winthrop, Don Ricardo's in the South End, Shanti in Savin Hill, Genki Ya in Brookline, and Simco's in Mattapan.

    1. I used to have places I didn't talk about, so I could always get a table when I wanted to go. The theory was that if you tell the secret, then crowds will show up, and then I will have to wait or won't be able to get in at all. I watched about five of these places go out of business.

      Now when I find a great little place that seems overlooked, I blab about it on Chowhound, Yelp, and in my professional writing gigs. I'm not trying to flout the OP's intention here, but I want good places to stay in business, even if the result inconveniences me, so I don't keep secrets anymore.


      1. I'll play!!

        I love Tupelo in Inman Square. We have been there 6 or 7 times since it opened, and I do not hear a ton of BUZZ about it yet, and surely every time we go, we find a seat. Prices are great, the 'low-country' themed menu has some really tasty items and interesting versions, and the white sangria is sooooooo good!!


        Some of the things I love best there are the turkey meatballs, the pork and beans, the half chicken and the crepes. Hubby loves the Jambalaya of the day and gets it every time.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Small Plates

          I second Tupelo - one of my better "chowhound finds" (my wife doesn't read regularly and laughs at my obsession, except for those times when I turn up something really good). I thought the Daube of beef was one of the better platefulls of food I have had this year.

          1. re: tdaaa

            I love Tupelo as well, though I'm not sure it's a real find anymore. That place seems to be packed much of the time, including on weeknights.

        2. My home! Haha, well, it's true....I sometimes hate that I love my own cooking so much, it prevents me from exploring more. But that aside, I know what you mean exactly. All of the places I feel like this about though are well known, I just make it a point to go to them when I will have a guaranteed seat, good companionship, full attention from the staff, and great food. Sometimes the adjectives I've used move around a bit, haha.Timing is critical, but I guess I've got it down for a few places. I have posted about all of them before, so no secrets.

          Like most of us, if I find someplace really great, my first thought is to post about it here!

          1. I have no "secret places" I love discovering new out of the way restaurants and sharing with hounds, thus hopefully helping the restaurant to succeed in a small way.

            1. I hate to wait in line as much as anybody, but if we find someplace good i think we have to get the word out. A lot of places are having a tough time and we need to support them.

              1. Almost everyone is missing the point. I guess it's my fault for improperly stating the premise. But let me ask you - How can anyone possibly think I'm looking for a real "secret" place if I'm asking you to tell it about it right here? This is a great opportunity to tell about your favorite go to place and let the world know about it. Fun for us - good for the restaurant.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tryanything

                  I think your intentions are clear. I wish I could offer a potentially "secret" place but my haunts are probably well known to most CHers. That said, if people could forget that Kebab Factory existed on Friday lunchtimes, that would really help me out -- especially in the colder months when queuing outside. Cheers!

                2. I've recently rediscovered Cafe deParis (part of the Common Market Group) in Quincy. For so many years it seemed like every function or Christmas party I went to was held here so I forgot how good their regular menu could be. I get there about once a week now and it's definitely a neighborhood place Some of my favorites -- grilled scallops with ginger sauce; petite filet mignon; baked haddock; wood grilled sea bass with red pepper peri peri sauce, and delicious pizza which actually comes from Darcy's kitchen. Their function menus at times can be pretty blah but I can give a shout out for their regular menu. Last week, I had a fried clam dinner which was on special for $11.95 and it was every bit as good as Tony's yet considerably cheaper.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pegmeister

                    That's a good one Peg. Thanks for sharing.

                  2. Neptune.....oops guess that cat's out of the bag. I loved when I could actually grab a seat at the bar at 6:00 on a Tuesday night.

                    1. I am sure people know about Zaleks', but I'll give them shout out.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mcel215

                        Zalek's is a great example and it shows the value of chowhound. I live very near it, but heard about it here - I believe I first heard of it through Shaebones. I have gone many times and told everyone I know because you badly want them to succeed - and they are!

                      2. Pasta Market is also my secret place that I rave about on here every chance I get :) I've said it more than once, and I'll say it again, their eggplant parm is the best I've ever had. We now order trays of it for every family event. I think we may have to go there tonight!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lulu806

                          Oh Somerville. My new home. So happy to be living here. SO THRILLED WITH THE EATS. My "secret restaurant" is Tu Y Yo. Same syllabic intent as OMG!!! If you like AUTHENTIC OAXACAN MEXICAN, complete with grasshopper tacos (which are fantastic), you must try Tu Y Yo on Broadway in Somerville. I have eaten here at least 7 times since I've moved here. I'm speechless at how amazing the flavor profiles of the cooking is. The Cazuelas, the use of Chiles, and the meanest of Sangrias!

                          1. re: NiveaF

                            Agreed - love Tu Y Yo. Last time I was there I had a huitlacoche crepe and a really delicious cactus dish. Nice to have such a unique place so close to home.

                        2. There's one restaurant I don't want to keep to myself--Yoong Tong II in Chelmsford. LOVE this cute little Thai place but it's in an out-of-the-way location and thus often empty, especially since the economy tanked. I'm afraid it will go out of business.

                          And then we wouldn't be able to order the Hot & Crazy Noodles with chicken. These are wide rice noodles with green peppers, hot peppers, onions and basil. They'll cook to order and I like mine SPICY! It's delicous, flavorful comfort food, done well every time. The Pad Thai is also really good.

                          So do me a favor and visit Yoong Tong in Chelmsford or in Northborough, and help me keep them in business!

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: MenuPorn

                            Don't you find Yoong Tong II a bit expensive for what you get? Entrees are routinely around $17, when you can get the same thing down the road at Thai Jasmine for $12.

                            1. re: Dinsdale45

                              We typically get takeout and eat it at home, so it's $25 for two people. Not bad.

                              1. re: three of us

                                At the intersection of 4/110, tucked behind some buildings next to Domino's. Honestly, I can get great Thai food in Lowell for much less money, so I don't bother with this place. I can cook passable Thai food and I know what these ingredients cost. Charging 17 bucks for some chicken and vegetables is over-the-top, IMO.

                                1. re: Dinsdale45

                                  Where do you go for Thai in Lowell? I know where to get Indian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Lao in Lowell. But Thai?

                                  1. re: justbeingpolite

                                    Places like SE Asia, Viet-Thai, and Etsogo have Thai dishes, along with other Asian offerings. There's also Garlic Bistro in Chelmsford (more expensive than Thai Jasmine, less than Yoong Tong).

                                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                                      That's my question, I guess. I've been to Garlic Bistro, kind of typical American Thai place. Nothing special, I think. I haven't been to the Coolidge Corner Thai places, but my impression from the board is that that's the standard. How do the Chelmsford Thai places measure up?

                                      1. re: justbeingpolite

                                        I'm all about taste, authenticity, and value. I don't care about presentation or ambiance. I've never been to Thailand, so I can only use my subjective judgment of "authenticity". I tend to like the smaller family-run places with no frills, but I've rarely had Thai food around here that I didn't at least like (I don't get the "Boston has no good Thai food" rants). They may be "nothing special", I don't know. I guess it depends on what you're looking for. That said, I like Thai Jasmine best out of the 3 Thai places in Chelmsford, but for more variety and value, I hit the Lowell places I mentioned.

                                      2. re: Dinsdale45

                                        se asia has really gone downhill and i think the sushi at etsogo is way better than their thai.

                                      3. re: justbeingpolite

                                        I am terrible at names but there is a Thai rest. in Tewksbury that is given props for not being the usual americanized Thai place. Is it Mango II? Not sure of the name.

                                        1. re: three of us

                                          Yes, actually that place is very good. There's another one in Tewksbury right off the Dascomb Rd. exit, but I haven't been there in years.

                                          1. re: three of us

                                            Yup, Mango II, and it's probably my favorite Thai place in the Boston area other than Dok Bua.

                                    2. re: MenuPorn

                                      I agree. We love this place. The food is always fresh and tasty, and the owners are super nice. Love the wild boar basil, but will be trying the Hot & Crazy Noodles next time (maybe this weekend!). We usually do takeout too.

                                      Haven't been back to Garlic Bistro at Drum Hill in years, last experience was a bad one.

                                    3. Corner Tavern in the Back Bay. It's a short walk from Cambridge and rarely busy during the day (more crowded weekend nights). They have a few tables, we have only eaten at the bar. Beer selection isn't extensive, but what they have is good. My roommate loves everything that he has had (especially the lobster mac & cheese and scallops). I've only had the cubano and I enjoyed it (about the same as Plough and Star). And most importantly they got the NFL package for this fall and promise to show out of market games and not only the Pats.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: viperlush

                                        It's funny, I was going to mention the Corner Tavern because I think it's great. I did a post on it a month or so back and it generated absolutely no interest. I don't get it. Their scallops with the pistachio crust are perfection.

                                        1. re: Pegmeister

                                          We are Corner Tavern fans and have posted about it as our pre-Fenway go-to place. Sincerely nice bartenders and not-your-usual pub fare (they don't have a deep fryer so don't expect fries - those cooks do a great job with only a salamander). I particularly like the lemon garlic skillet shrimp and country bread with white bean spread. The pick three bar bites are also tasty (spiced nuts, local cheese from the Berkshires, olives, etc).

                                      2. I'm not sure what really qualifies as hidden, but we recently discovered eating (as opposed to only drinking) at the Druid in Inman. Definitely worth a trip - fish and chips, fish sandwich, burger, and veggie burger are all great. Had a lovely soup special as well.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bgraves

                                          Yes the fish sandwich is great!
                                          I had the clam chowder (or fish chowder, I forget) once too...and it was really good.
                                          Usually really quiet on a Saturday morning as well, as their main brunch thing is on Sundays.

                                        2. May's in Allston. Her Taiwanese specialties are to die for, especially because they're cooked by her parents who are the chefs. It's a quiet restaurant on a back street in Allston, Glenville Ave. It's hand's down the best Chinese food I've ever had -light, fresh, really different dishes. She has a special menu that you can order from if you call ahead 24 hours. I go there at least once a week and have the fresh steamed greens, or the turnip cakes. I love her sauteed cabbage with pork. And the scallion pancakes that are made by her dad, who is the prep chef.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Blinefoodie

                                            I ate there once and was underwhelmed. Have you been to Jo Jo Taipei? Is it on that level?

                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                              Hmm.. Haven't been to Jo Jo Taipei. I'm sad you were underwhelmed.... What did you order?

                                              1. re: Blinefoodie

                                                Some spicy noodle dish that just sort of ending up being a really boring generic stir fry. I did not order off a Taiwanese menu, that I am sure of.

                                                Whereas Jo Jo right nearby is certainly one of the top Taiwanese places in Boston if not the best...

                                          2. Susty's Cafe in New Hampshire. Best vegetarian establishment I have ever eaten at! Worth the drive for a day trip.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: three of us

                                                It is in Northwood, NH - half way between Concord and Portsmouth.

                                            1. Just had my first Banh Mi ever at the hidden convenience store at Fletcher&Dutton in Lowell. Fantastic!!! Since if it were any harder to find it would be a speakeasy, I'm not worried about keeping it to myself.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                next to the food market at the intersection?

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  There's a tiny Asian fish market perpendicular to it, but that's probably not what you mean. As you go down Dutton past the mill museum place, take the right on Fletcher but before you even go 30 feet, there's a little parking lot on the right. Pull in there and look around the corner of a building.

                                                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                    Any opinions on that fish market? I should have taken a look-see and didn't. I keep meaning to check out Battambang, where I hear they have a lot of fish, including live. But when I'm in the area, I am always headed somewhere else, and then forget to head back there.

                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      By the way, when we drove to Battambang from the more central part of Lowell (I think down Middlesex) we noticed what looked like an old-fashioned ice cream "parlor" (well, that's really too fancy an image - more like a counter in a store that looked like it was straight out of the thirties!) - closed both times I went by - but my curiousity was piqued!

                                                2. re: greygarious

                                                  I mentioned this place in another thread. My Vietnamese coworker told me a bout it. It really is a hidden gem.

                                                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                    Then you are the one I need to thank, Dinsdale! I couldn't find the initial post but had the location in my mental notebook. Took a few tries to actually find the right spot, but I will definitely return. The counter girl told me I was the second person to mention finding them through CH, but said people sometimes get there via Yelp as well.

                                                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                      I went there last week after reading your post. I'm not sure how secret it is since at least 4 other people came in ordering sandwiches while I was there, although, unless someone like you had told me about it, I would never have found it.

                                                      I got the shredded pork banh mi. It was good and the bread was nice and crusty/chewy, but it was filled with what I assume was tripe. It was definitely some kind of lining sliced up. I'm not put off by tripe, I was just not expecting it. I also grabbed a couple of the egg rolls (2/$1) which were great.

                                                      I'm still liking Nhu Y Vietnamese Sandwich Shop on Merrimack. This seems like a a hidden gem. They never seem to have many customers except for people buying lottery tickets. Very friendly people. They stuck a small hot chili in my sandwich last time that they grow out back. I think they thought it was funny a white guy was going to be able to put up with the heat...they kept laughing and telling me to take small bites of it between bites of the sandwich. Yup it was hot.

                                                      1. re: Ali G

                                                        I usually get either the BBQ beef or shredded chicken (before they run out) but I think I've had the BBQ pork, too. I don't recall any tripe-like thing in there. The "regular", with roasted pork and pork pate usually has slices of head cheese, which is kind of chewy. Could this be what you ate?

                                                        I also like the banh mi at Heng Heng, which is opposite the parking lot for Yummy on Branch St.

                                                        I'll have to check out Nhu Y.

                                                  2. Head to NH, just past Portsmouth. In Newcastle you'll find the Wentworth-by-the-Sea (old historic hotel). Ignore the dining room and head into the bar (I think it's called the Roosevelt room). For approx $20 you can get the best lobster roll (with fries) around.

                                                    I once split it with a companion; I started with a cup of chowder, he had a bowl of lobster bisque, and then we struggled to finish the lobster roll. And by struggled, I mean, struggled to finish the meat in the lobster roll -- forget the roll and the fries!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: nomadgirl

                                                      The added atmosphere created by the live piano music on Fridays and Sundays makes the whole thing a really nice and cheap summer date. Then grab a mojito and go for a stroll on the deck and grounds.

                                                    2. I'll toss my hat in the ring and mention Webster's, in Quincy. It's in a boring strip mall off of Quincy Avenue, and it has all the ambience of a strip mall pizza joint.

                                                      However, you can order a Lebanese feast for two with Fattoush, Kibbe, homemade hoummus, fasoulia, chicken/lamb/beef shish kebabs in a great garlicky marinade, Loubi (string bean stew) and rice pilaf. When I want my fix of that good Middle Eastern food, I'll head over there.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                        This is a good tip, with so little Lebanese in Boston.