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Sick of all food and need a jumpstart

Hello everyone,
Just had an uninspiring lunch today, and realized how blah I find food lately. I've gone through a hard past few months for many reasons and lost 20 pounds out of becoming uninterested in food, so I thought I'd hit Chowhound and ask for suggestions of places I should go to try to jumpstart my appetite. I am also sick of my own cooking (will be looking into taking cooking classes).

I used to love food, and some of the restaurants I've liked include Toraya (though I don't eat sushi), Campania, the fries at Sel de la Terre, the cod at Big Fresh in Natick, and I still miss Viet's Cafe.

Someplace within driving distance of Arllington, Lexington and friendly to solo diners would be great. I'm looking for simply prepared, not spicy, cheese-less food, not a fussy atmosphere. A place that serves great (cooked) fish would be a plus, but at this point I'd take a well-made sandwich.

Many thanks.

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  1. Hmm..sorry to hear about your hard times, but maybe a change in circumstances is what you need the most? Not sure what's happening in your life now, but without getting too personal, getting yourself healthy emotionally, mentally will bring back your appetite!

    I've found incorporating exercise helps clear the mind and stimulate the appetite. A good morning workout will reve up your metabolism and good way to work up an appetite.

    1 Reply
    1. re: burlgurl

      I like burlgurl's reply a lot... Exercise (especially running after my dog) stimulates my appetite when I'm feeling down like nothing else. There's something wonderfully, primitively satisfying about running/sweating your way to exhaustion/peace/hunger.

      After that, maybe you'd like a bowl of pho. It tastes like comfort in a bowl. In Allston, there is a pretty good place called Pho Viet that shouldn't be more than a half hour drive away.

      Please be well, taterjane.

    2. Let me be blunt - the fact that you've made it through hard times and are looking for pleasure is a good thing, and a positive sign. I'm sure you are aware that enjoyment (of food, and life) comes not from the object or immersion, but yourself. Simplify. Breathe. In and out - yeah, you do that anyway, but watch the cycle/circle. Food is of the same circle - makes you closer to the gound beneath your feet, the planet, the universe, and all that stuff ;-)

      Enough philosophy - like the nfads said, "i like to feel the food in my guts" so go grab a sandwich at Dominic's in Waltham, sit outside on the sidewalk, and simply enjoy being alive.

      1. I've been there. The last time I needed such a jumpstart I said to a friend, "I just want someplace *tasty*." The friend recommended The Helmand in Cambridge. Tasty indeed.

        1. I'll put in a plug for cooking. I love the process of going to the market (maybe a new one) and getting stuff - with a recipe in mind or buying what looks good and subsequently finding a recipe. I once lived where there was a great market district, I used to buy a bunch of new stuff Saturday mornings and go to the library in the afternoon to research recipes. Then I'd have fun cooking things up that evening, accompanied by new bottle of wine. I just saw an easy recipe for shrimp scampi here on Chowhound, that's a great dish.

          For restaurants I'm challenged as I like sushi and spicy, but I'll recommend the group of Japanese restaurants at Porter Square.

          http://www.urbanspoon.com/fn/4/333/33...

          I love Japanese food, it's not all sushi, and would recommend taking a Japanese cooking class. Here's an interesting website by a Japanese lady who posts what she cooks each day, good recipes too:

          http://www.nsknet.or.jp/~tomi-yasu/in...

          Enjoy!

          1. I've always found that cooking requires a higher emotional investment than takeout, but pays off much, much more.

            But to answer your question: I love eating out alone (took me years to learn how) and some of my suggestions for solo dining in Arl-ish areas include Flora, Sabur, Guru, Gargoyles (all at the bar when available).

            They don't have a bar, but I go to Pescatore by myself for simple fish, not screwed up.

            2 Replies
            1. re: enhF94

              Ditto Pescatore. Really delicious, simple food.

              -----
              Pescatore
              158 Boston Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

              1. re: litchick

                Third. Although the specials can occasionally be overly fussy/cliched, or dull (and ask the price). Also consider Gran Gusto. Both are fine for solo (but I never go at peak times). Also I've never managed to do the Cookbook of the Month on Home Cooking, at least on schedule, but it's a great idea.

            2. Great replies..... Consider coming over to the home cooking board and joining us as we cook from a different cookbook every month.

              My family has found investigating a new cuisine each month brings a new level of excitement into the kitchen. Sourcing new ingredients, learning new ways to build flavors; eating foods we have never tried before or foods we have eaten for years prepared differently makes us pay attention to everything we eat more carefully. And it is fun[and less intimidating] to do this with a group.

              1. taterjane: everyone has given good advice, so I'll aim to offer a few restaurant suggestions to go along with it.

                1. Pho & Rice / Petsi Pies
                These joints are next door to each other on Beacon street, between Inman and Porter Squares. At Pho & Rice, I recommend the big bowls of Pho soup -- I especially like the roasted duck version -- which are savory, filling, and a perfect kind of comfort food. I also quite like their Bun, which is lighter, but very flavorful. Petsi Pies, next door, has tremendous baked goods, particularly their pies (sweet and savory).

                2. For fish nearby to Arlington, I say head to the Summer Shack near Alewife. I know -- this board has very mixed responses on Summer Shack, but honestly, they do fish very well, and if that's what you're looking for, it's a good option. I especially like their bluefish preparations.

                3. I love the recommendation someone else made for Helmand. In particular, I'd suggest the banjan, the leek ravioli, and the dwopiaza -- but they also make some seriously good lamb kabobs and chops.

                4. Maybe look at Hi-Rise in Huron Village. They're a little pricey, so I don't go as often as I might otherwise do, but their sandwiches are delicious, as are their baked goods. The tea cookies, the vanilla bean loaf, and the harissa tuna salad sandwiches (which may be too spicy, but they have lots of other great ones, too) are tops in my book.

                5. Johnny D's Uptown in Davis Square for their catfish and eggs breakfast plate on the weekends. I don't love a lot of the rest of their menu, but the catfish and eggs is downright terrific -- a perfectly panfried fillet with a light cornmeal crust, alongside softly scrambled eggs, skillet potatoes, and a side of Frank's hot sauce (which is, of course, optional for use). I think it may also come with a side of (real, not instant) oatmeal.

                6. Sofra. One of things Sofra does really well is to pack a lot of flavor into small-ish packages, so it may be a nice way to stimulate your appetite without feeling like you're stuffing yourself. The lamb sandwich is mouthwatering, and they always have a ton of small dish items that you can mix and match.

                I hope this helps. Let us know if you end up finding something that works for you.

                3 Replies
                1. re: litchick

                  Here are the locations...

                  -----
                  Hi-Rise Bread Co
                  208 Concord Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                  The Helmand
                  143 1st St, Cambridge, MA 02142

                  Johnny D's Uptown Restaurant
                  17 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

                  Petsi Pies
                  285 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

                  Summer Shack
                  149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02140

                  Sofra
                  1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                  Pho 'n Rice
                  289 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA 02143

                  1. re: litchick

                    What a thoughtful list. Love "pack a lot of flavor into small-ish packages." A wonderful way to ease back into food enjoyment.

                  2. re: litchick

                    I would add Oleana on Hampshire St. to this list.

                    -----
                    Oleana
                    134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                  3. Ow, Taterjane, I am really feeling for you. Others have posted some excellent suggestions, and I agree that if you take some cooking classes (you do not have to be an expert to cook some really tasty food), you will have a lot of options for meals that you enjoy. Here is another idea for food to give you some joy:

                    - Hit Massis bakery or Arax or Sevan in Watertown for some middle-eastern food-to-go. Boregs, lamejun, any of the vegetable preparations can make a tasty lunch and really wake up your taste buds and make you smile with their bold, bright flavors. Some have cheese (like spinach and feta boregs) but there are plenty of choices that do not.

                    Across the street from Massis is a wonderful Persian restaurant take/out place. It is clean but has a Formica atmosphere if you know what I mean. So, it is decidedly informal and unfussy. It does not meet your fish criterion but the food here is delicious and just a little different from everyday fare.

                    If you are willing to journey to Waltham, I would recommend Beijing Star. It is definitely cheese-free, has seafood options, and many ways to delight one's palate without spiciness.

                    1. Give YoMa in Allston a shot. They have the most amazing combinations of very simple food that really force your tastebuds to take notice. There is something about the place itself that is very soothing and calming too. I think it is the utter lack of pretense. And there are often solo diners there.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nightsky

                        Second Yoma...the down to earth homey cooking coupled with the exciting discovery of a relatively unfamiliar cuisine is exciting and reassuring at the same time.

                      2. Not sure why, but Vietnamese food works like a spiritual restorative for me: a plate of roll-your-own fresh rolls (banh hoi) and a bowl of noodle soup (chicken or beef pho) or stew (banh mi bo kho) always makes me feel better. It helps that this food is fairly light, doesn't give you that boom and bust feeling that heavier, more animal-fat-heavy cuisines sometimes do. Xinh Xinh is probably my favorite spot for this kind of meal: bright, cheery, friendly, and the food is really nice.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. My fix tends to be an on-line site that specializes in Spanish food. The descriptions in their catalog make me dream about their food. If I place an order on a Tuesday morning, the order arrives on my door by Friday afternoon. I've had especially good luck with their cheeses, and the Spanish hams are a special treat. Take a look -- http://www.tienda.com

                          1. What about a trip to Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square? You can browse their wonderful homemade takeout fresh pastas and sauces, then sit and have a panini either at a table out front or inside. There's enough delicious sauces and gourmet fixings there to hopefully spark your appetite.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Parsnipity

                              Oh, that's a great suggestion. Whenever I go in there my mind reels from all the possibilities. There's something really seductive to me about checking out what fresh pastas are available that day, ordering too much of whatever seems intriguing, then watching them pull out fresh sheets of pasta dough, carefully feed it into the pasta cutter and having them cut it to your specifications, toss it in the (semolina?) flour, and put it into a plain white paper bag. It feels so close to the source that it makes me want to head home immediately and boil up a huge batch of it with only some chopped fresh tomatoes, evoo, and s&p as a very basic sauce.

                              1. re: litchick

                                OMG, litchick, now you have me wanting to go to Davis Square... for Dave's... a visit to the Dairy Bar for some of my favorite creamline Shaw Dairy milk... and of course a visit to McKinnons to see if they have something that might go on the grill over the next few warm days. Heck, Taterjane has lost so much weight, perhaps she could get at least part of her jumpstart with a decadent cupcake (next door to the Dairy Bar, same people, can't remember the name of the place atm).

                            2. For nearby fish in a simple atmosphere go to Moulton's in Medford. If you are alone you can eat at the bar.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pemma

                                I am usually a solo customer when eating out. I never eat at the bar because I do not drink, dislike the smell of alcohol, and don't want to listen to loud, rowdy people, which is more likely to happen in the bar than the dining room. I do not subscribe to the idea that it is somehow embarrassing or pitiful to dine solo. I have never been treated poorly in a restaurant because I'm by myself. I don't eat out alone during prime Fri-Sat dinner hours; I am sure restaurants would prefer a two-top to a solo diner, but they also prefer a solo diner to an empty table.

                                Jimmy's Steer House (Arlington) meets the OP's simple and non-spicy preparation criteria. Their steak teriyaki, baked schrod, and rice pilaf are well-done and satisfying.
                                Blue Ribbon BBQ (Arl) is mainly takeout, but not very spicy. I like the barbeque burrito made with burnt ends, and the sweet potato pie. I'm in Billerica, with fewer worthwhile restaurants in the immediate area, so I envy the OP's proximity to Lexington and Artlington, which is better Chowhound territory.

                              2. In Arlington itself, for warmth and good food, try Tango. For variety, you might try the new Turkish restaurant further west on Mass Ave. Of course, my brain just lost its name.....

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cgj

                                  You are thinking of Pasha at 669 Mass Ave.

                                2. Many thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses. Not to worry, I have definitely been taking care of myself mentally and physically (other than the weight loss, which may have partly been because I was exercising more) and just need something tasty to remind me of enjoyment.

                                  THANK YOU TO ALL!

                                  1. For anyone needing a jumpstart to get interested in food again, I strongly urge you to go to the new H-mart in Burlington on a Saturday or Sunday morning - get there before 11:00 to avoid the traffic jam. This market is amazing with an incredible variety of food that will at least whet your curiosity and jolt your senses. And going on the weekend mornings is best cause they have samples of all sorts of things so you can try before you buy.

                                    Korean food is pretty healthy too - but there is a ton of other non-korean foods including fresh veggies, meats and fish.