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Best Under-the-Radar restaurant ?

MaggieCat Dec 22, 2009 10:02 AM

I'm a fatigued Boston restaurant-goer looking for a hidden gems. You know, that place with wonderful atmosphere and service and terrific food that you love every single time you go but that doesn't draw a lot of attention. Looking for a place with the food/value as good as Eastern Standard, Hungry Mother, Franklin Cafe etc. but without all the attention. (This probably disqualifies everything in the South End for instance, which are always over-noticed in comparison to quality).

The place that stands out to me where I've had this experience previously is Taberna de Haro in Brookline. A wonderful little restaurant that never seems to get the attention it deserves. I also had the same experience to a lesser degree with Salts (a little more pricey, gets a little more attention). What other places have you found like this? I'm desperately looking for someplace new!

  1. n
    nightsky Jan 2, 2010 02:14 PM

    YoMa in Allston. They used to get a lot of raves here. Outside of this site they don't get the attention they deserve. Always good food and good service in my experience. I know when they first opened they got a lot of criticism for being slow, but they have really improved. It's always near empty when i go so i hope they are weathering the recession ok. My 2010 resolution is to go to YoMa more often.

    1. Delhiwala Dec 29, 2009 07:44 AM

      Punjab Cafe in Quincy - probably the best North Indian food in the Boston area. It also has a nice dining atmosphere. Yet, few people know about it.

      1. n
        nasilemak Dec 29, 2009 07:14 AM

        I forgot to mention Bengal Cafe in Cambridge.

        1. n
          nasilemak Dec 29, 2009 04:58 AM

          Habesha in Malden and Pearl Villa in Boston certainly qualifies as under the radar.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nasilemak
            hiddenboston Dec 29, 2009 05:17 AM

            Habesha is outstanding. I really hope they make it.

          2. lipoff Dec 23, 2009 12:57 PM

            Great thread! I would contribute the Masona Grill in West Roxbury, Abbondanza in Everett, Red Peppers in Framingham, and Wang's in Somerville. Perhaps Harvest in Cambridge? And the Black Sheep Restaurant in the lobby of the Kendall Hotel in Cambridge?

            1 Reply
            1. re: lipoff
              teezeetoo Dec 26, 2009 03:53 PM

              i do like Masona (not great but a steady hand and a steady neighborhood vibe) but i so do not like Harvest. I've tried it twice, in hopes of finding what the hoopla is about, and both times I found the service deplorable, the food overpriced, and the atmosphere so full of itself that there wasn't room in it for customers. Not trying it again, thanks.

            2. v
              veggielover Dec 23, 2009 11:51 AM

              I put Kouzina in Newton and Lineage in Brookline in that category. Consistantly good food, a bit under the radar.

              1. finlero Dec 23, 2009 10:29 AM

                Man, this thread has me missing Boston. Let me throw in a link to one of the epic threads of years past, "What favorite places do you go because of Chowhound?":


                I'd argue that an over-$20/entree place is seldom going to be really under the radar, but a few places I love that haven't been mentioned yet, of varying price points and styles, but definitely not dives:

                Trattoria Toscana
                Baraka Cafe
                Cafe Polonia

                And three that aren't my all-time favorites, but are probably the closest matches for the OP:

                T.W. Food since they lowered their price point a bit.
                Bistro 5 in West Medford
                The Cambridge Ten Tables on a slow night

                3 Replies
                1. re: finlero
                  gourmaniac Dec 23, 2009 10:45 AM

                  we miss you too. happy holidays finlero.

                  1. re: gourmaniac
                    hiddenboston Dec 23, 2009 11:17 AM

                    We definitely miss you. It has been awhile since I saw that upside-down avatar. :-)

                    1. re: hiddenboston
                      finlero Dec 23, 2009 12:42 PM

                      Miss you guys too. Email me if you're ever out in New Mexico, and we shall feast on green chile stew, tamales, and sopaipillas...

                2. s
                  Snowflake Dec 23, 2009 09:06 AM

                  Well, If you haven't been to Alia in Winthrop, put it on your list. I adore this restaurant and feel as if I am one of the very few to name it. The owner wanted to get out of the rat race of the North End where people are often rushed out the door. His concept of dining is more social and relaxed.
                  Every meal I have had there has been wonderful. It is a relaxed atmosphere with a slow pace where you will unwind while enjoying fresh homemade food with a gracious host.
                  Many times, the owner will pull the menu away from you and simply ask you what you would like to eat. He will then proceed to describe one thing after another with each one sounding better and better. The resulting dishes will be delicious.
                  It is BYOB with no corking fee and a liquor store around the corner.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Snowflake
                    treb Dec 23, 2009 09:15 AM

                    Nice post, I like Alia and Said and his wife, the owners, they're genuine and want to please their customers. Always had excellent meals there.

                    1. re: treb
                      hiddenboston Dec 23, 2009 09:22 AM

                      I have a funny story about Said at Alia. We were there again recently on a rainy night, and he got to talking with us toward the end of the meal. Well, a half hour later we all headed outside (including Said!) and chatted some more for another 15 minutes in the rain before heading back to the car. I've said it before--if there's a nicer person in the restaurant business within the Boston area, I'm not sure I've met him or her yet.

                      1. re: hiddenboston
                        MaggieCat Dec 23, 2009 09:25 AM

                        Wow, with recommendations like this I will definitely have to check it out!

                    2. re: Snowflake
                      Pegmeister Dec 26, 2009 05:51 AM

                      Definitely agree about Alia. The food there is way better than anything you get in the North End with the possible exception of Prezza. Unfortunately, coming from Quincy, I don't get up that way often. I knew Said when he worked on Hanover St and he was so excited about opening his restaurant. His enthusiasm shows in his food, you feel like family when you go and it's really a relaxed dining experience. BYO is a plus.

                    3. t
                      terrycatch Dec 23, 2009 07:54 AM

                      Something that counts a lot for us is that your repeat patronage is appreciated. Not that you expect the hosts to treat you any different from any other guests...just that they recognize and acnowledge the commitment that you have made. For example, we go to Oga's on Route 9 every two weeks or so. Not only is the food exceptional - especially the monthly specials - but the staff is exceptionally welcoming and hospitable. No, Oga's is not exactly a "hidden gem," but we find it to be something far more than just another exceptional sushi restaurant.

                      1. ecwashere7 Dec 23, 2009 06:25 AM

                        Dante would fall into this category for me. It isn't exactly under the radar, but I am surprised that it isn't packed every night. The location isn't the most conducive to walk in traffic, I guess.

                        5 Cambridge Pkwy, Cambridge, MA 02142

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ecwashere7
                          MaggieCat Dec 23, 2009 09:34 AM

                          Interesting recommendation. I haven't ever been because no one's ever recommended it to me so I just assumed it wasn't very good. Do others agree it's worth the stop?

                          1. re: MaggieCat
                            ecwashere7 Dec 23, 2009 09:44 AM

                            It's the same chef as the new il Casale in Belmont. il Casale has been getting rave reviews (even from Esquire Magazine).

                            il Casale
                            50 Leonard Street, Belmont, MA 02478

                            1. re: ecwashere7
                              StriperGuy Dec 23, 2009 09:57 AM

                              Il Casale is good, but it's not THAT good.

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                allthebest Jan 2, 2010 11:48 AM

                                i agree with striperguy. How about a little less PR and a little more concentration on the front of the house and the kitchen.

                        2. b
                          bostonbroad Dec 23, 2009 06:06 AM

                          I'll throw in a mention of Vee Vee in Jamaica Plain. The owners are usually on-site, lots of neighborhood walk-in regulars, good menu that has variety and interest.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bostonbroad
                            AmbigEthnic Dec 23, 2009 06:14 AM

                            Both Vee Vee and Bon Savor in JP fit the bill - I have had excellent, reasonable meals there recently - the new chef at Bon Savor has definitely brought some flair - the chicken salad dish (of all things) was exceptional -

                          2. d
                            drb Dec 23, 2009 05:33 AM

                            Another Grotto is Sophie's Grotto in West Roxbury, although I wish they would vary the menu a bit more. Generally unrecognized is Tartufo in Newton Center for Italian

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: drb
                              Science Chick Dec 23, 2009 10:54 AM

                              Pretty sure Sophie's is in Roslindale......

                              1. re: Science Chick
                                drb Dec 23, 2009 11:36 AM

                                oops, my bad. Its also Sophia's Grotto

                            2. s
                              snowcone Dec 23, 2009 04:47 AM

                              The Navy Yard Bistro in the Charlestown Navy Yard comes to mind. A cozy atmosphere with well-prepared comfort foods and excellent value.
                              They do not have a full bar a la Eastern Standard, but serve beer and wine.

                              1. StriperGuy Dec 22, 2009 11:28 PM

                                I just posted about Savinos in Belmont. WAY under the radar. Very nice atmosphere, killer, reasonable wine list. Worth a whirl.

                                1. Eatin in Woostah Dec 22, 2009 06:46 PM

                                  Atasca in Cambridge has been around for a while and isn't talked about all that much, but every time we go it's delicious, has a great atmosphere, and is incredibly reasonable. Service can be spotty, though.

                                  We went to Catch in Winchester a few weeks ago, and also had a really good evening. Mostly delicious with just a couple of slightly imperfect notes (one undercooked potato "pearl" in my monkfish dish, a bit too many ingredients in my DC's scallop dish). But for the most part, very, very good for a small suburban spot.

                                  1. r
                                    robwat36 Dec 22, 2009 11:43 AM

                                    I wouldn't say it disqualifies everything in the South End. I like Columbus Cafe a lot. Nothing's over $20, and you can usually get a table.

                                    I know Gran Gusto hardly qualifies as under-the-radar on this board, but it might qualify with regard to the broader populace. That place is awesome.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: robwat36
                                      mollyditty Dec 22, 2009 12:18 PM

                                      I have enjoyed the couple meals I've had at Grotto, on beacon hill. very well priced, and especially for the winter it's very cozy. I've had a couple different things, and while tasty and very good, they were not as refined as perhaps some other places...but still, good quality for a great price.

                                      1. re: mollyditty
                                        MaggieCat Dec 22, 2009 12:50 PM

                                        Good call on Grotto. I've been there (mostly just because I work right near there, not because I ever heard anyone particularly mention it) and agree it fits the bill (though I hadn't thought of it when posting).

                                        1. re: MaggieCat
                                          hotoynoodle Dec 23, 2009 04:12 AM

                                          grotto has plenty of fans here. ( i am not one, and don't get the love personally.)

                                      2. re: robwat36
                                        MaggieCat Dec 22, 2009 12:49 PM

                                        Sorry, didn't mean to offend anyone with my comment about the South End. I actually haven't been to Columbus Cafe, so I'll have to check it out. I just didn't want another recommendation for Toro or Gaslight or fifteen other places like that. That Ginger Park place has been open for like a month or whatever and it's talked about all the time. Same with Coppa.

                                        1. re: MaggieCat
                                          robwat36 Dec 22, 2009 01:07 PM

                                          No offense taken, I don't think anyone would disagree that the South End has its share of overhyped places.

                                          1. re: robwat36
                                            teezeetoo Dec 22, 2009 06:38 PM

                                            estragon is worth a visit. erbaluce is definitely worth a visit. orinoco and la morra in brookline deserve more attention than they get. lots of attention on this board and well-deserved if you're interested in chinese is Shanghai Gate. Tupelo is fun for southern food and old standbys like Green Street still deserve attention.

                                      3. Joanie Dec 22, 2009 11:40 AM

                                        In the south end, I think Columbus Cafe is a cool little spot and gets no attention. Pops doesn't get that much. Most of the Rozzy places (Delfino, Birch St., Sophia, Geoffrey's), Dogwood in JP, La Morra in Brookline, those are a few that come right to mind.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Joanie
                                          twentyoystahs Jan 3, 2010 07:45 AM

                                          I especially think Geoffrey's is a great hidden gem. Food is not mind-shattering or innovative but just really good, basic fare. A perfect neighborhood spot.

                                        2. g
                                          gourmaniac Dec 22, 2009 10:43 AM

                                          Recent favorites: Bon Savor, Estragon (if you want to continue with the tapas theme).

                                          1. t
                                            treb Dec 22, 2009 10:39 AM

                                            How about Duckworth or Franklin Cafe, both in Gloucester.

                                            1. hiddenboston Dec 22, 2009 10:17 AM

                                              Perhaps a bit too far away, but Loco Tapas in Easton is outstanding. Great hot and cold tapas as well as excellent Spanish and Mediterranean entrees.

                                              Also, Jasmine Bistro in Brighton is really nice. They mostly do Hungarian and French fare, and the prices are pretty good considering the quality of the food.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: hiddenboston
                                                MaggieCat Dec 22, 2009 12:45 PM

                                                Yeah, Easton probably is a little far for me. But,

                                                Jasmine Bistro looks great, thanks for the tip!

                                                1. re: hiddenboston
                                                  TheScribe Dec 23, 2009 05:18 AM

                                                  I second Jasmine Bistro.

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