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Local flavor, real deal, one hit wonders, down scale, no reservations, hole-in-the-wall in Boston area…

I’m a fairly recent immigrant to the Boston area and New England in general. I have a couple of friends coming in for a visit from Houston and I’m looking for some recommendations. They’re foodies and particularly enjoy downscale local places that have a lot of atmosphere. Definitely nothing fancy. Places with a lot of history are great but local ethnic spots that are simple and real are also in order. Anthony Bourdain “No Reservations” type places, etc.

Two places that I’m thinking of so far (that I’ve found on Chowhound) are Floating Rock and Daily Catch in the North End. If what I’m talking about makes any sense and you get what I’m talking about, I’d really appreciate a recommendation or two. Thanks.

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  1. Pomodoro in the North End would fit the bill.

    1. Ethnic I would do Angela in Eastie and downscale local with great ( non ethnic) food I would do Green Street in Central Sq...

      1 Reply
      1. re: capeanne

        Green Street is pretty far from downscale; half of the entrees are over $20.

      2. I'm not sure if I'd call it a "hole in the wall" (that term seems as subjective as "dive bar" these days) but maybe Casa Portugal in East Cambridge?

        1 Reply
        1. re: LeoLioness

          Privus in Brighton (the spaciest bar and the best korean fried chicken) - Shanghai Gate in Brighton - JoJo Tapei in Brighton - Any of the vietnamese places in Dorchester (Sunrise Cafe comes to mind) - Orinoco (great drinks, good Venezuelan food) - Tupelo for southern - and the list goes on.....

        2. floating rock definitely fits your criteria but keep in mind that they're closed until next wednesday (1/6)

          1. What you are talking about is largely in essence what this board is about, and there are dozens of respectable replies, give the board a good read some time when you have a few hours, that said, a few that come to mind:

            Buff's Pub
            Peach Farm
            Best Little Restaurant
            Kathmandu Spice
            Kebab and Tandoor
            Rincon Limeno
            The Original Pizzeria Regina
            Galeria Umberto
            The Warren Tavern
            The Sevens
            Winsor Dim Sum
            El Oriental de Cuba
            Dok Bua
            Blue Ribbon
            Lobstaland (Gloucester)
            The Clam Box (Essex)
            Wang's Fast Food
            One of the various Brazilian BBQ places.
            That'll hold ya for a meal or three, etc. etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: StriperGuy

              Should make it clear that you're talking about the belmont shangri-la. Wouldn't want the OP to wander into the Boston one by accident :) That place is certainly *down scale*.

            2. Cafe Mami
              La Pupusa Guanaca
              El Oriental de Cuba
              Kebab and Tandoor
              Xinh Xinh
              Brookline Family Turkish Restaurant
              Taqueria el Amigo
              Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken
              Dorado Tacos (for a shrimp taco)
              S&I Thai
              Hanmaru (for gamjatang)
              T. Anthony/Presto/Pino's
              Mt. Everest
              J&J Turo Turo
              Shanghai Gate
              Bottega Fiorentina (for penne fedora and an espresso)
              Cafe Belo (Everett location is really bangin' right now)
              Tacos Lupita
              Celebrity Pizza (for soft serve and fried seafood)

              3 Replies
                  1. re: Luther

                    I guess not, not sure what I was thinking of

              1. Wai Wai for their chicken rice and roast duck...and their ambiance hasn't changed in decades!

                4 Replies
                1. re: nasilemak

                  And decor! I love Wai Wai as much as anyone (heck I've been eating there when their decor was only 10 yrs out of date), but I actually think there are better roast meat places. I do love their chicken and rice, but I find their roast duck to be consistently less meaty than other places.

                  Does the relocated King Fung II still do their peking duck (3 course duck) meal? If so, I think that would be a good place to take them to, if they want Chinese.

                  Don't know how many Taiwanese are in the Houston area, but perhaps one of the Taiwanese restaurants would be good for something different and downscale.

                  There's also of course the Thailand Cafe, "but really we're a secret Sichuan restaurant too", in Cambridge (not so secret if you read Chinese). Your visitors might get a kick out of this one.

                  1. re: kobuta

                    It does say "Sichuan" in English on the awning too.

                    1. re: Luther

                      So they finally changed it? Haven't walked by there for the last few months. I know they just got their English Sichuan menus in the last time I visited.

                      1. re: kobuta

                        I don't think they changed it, they just added some more text (in a smaller font) to the front face of the awning

                2. Personally, I don't think anything in the North End would qualify as a hole-in-the-wall, "No Reservations"-type place. The North End caters to tourists and IMO the food shows that. There are a few places that are good, but they certainly aren't under the radar. Places like Rod Dee in Brookline and Tacos Lupita are much more the types of places I'd think of. If you want Italian, Gran Gusto in Cambridge is great option.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: ecwashere7

                    If you have never been to Galleria Umberto, Modern Pastry, Maria's Pastry, or the original Regina, then you are rather far off the mark. Just because a place is popular does not mean it is a tourist trap, or that it is not chow worthy.

                    And none of the above is particurlarly decor oriented. Regina is 20 years overdue for a makeover, and I love the 30 year old hand painted goofy murals in Galeria Umberto in particular.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      I think you just listed the entirety of the non-tourist trap places in the NE...

                      1. re: Luther

                        I don't find Prezza, Carmen, Marco or Taranta to be tourist traps.

                        1. re: Luther

                          How is Mangia Mangia these days?

                            1. re: Luther

                              yes..sub shop

                              Lim,I've never been but it generally gets good reviews.I'll take 1 for team in the interest of research..:) after I digest the fine Pace prosciutto/provolone sub I had yesterday..What I like about Pace is that they'll put whatever you want on the sandwich..ex. light pickles, hot peppers,roasted peppers, tomato, oregano for me It's either Mangia or Dino's that's a little more rigid in what they put on it.

                              1. re: 9lives

                                Mangia is one of my main lunch places - excellent soups, burgers, chicken salad, and pretty decent chicken and eggplant parm - all for crazy cheap prices - very old school lunch place in NE - very consistent...

                        2. re: StriperGuy

                          If you're a fan of sci-fi fantasy art, the murals are doubly interesting as the "artist" liberally borrows (badly) figures from many of acclaimed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta's paintings. This is evident mostly in the "fighting" mural, where the main sword fighting figure and the tiger are lifted wholesale from Frazetta's work. Oh, and to keep it on topic, the arancini is the reason I go to Umberto's, though I like the pizza as well.

                          1. re: kimfair1

                            Awesome, who knew?

                            I like any of the Calzone, pizzette, panzarottie.

                            1. re: kimfair1

                              Interesting. I'll have to take a look when I go tomorrow. all this talk has me craving a trip there..:)

                              1. re: 9lives

                                Don't think I've noticed it in 300+ trips to GU til today.

                                I think it's a a Frazetta depiction of my bros and I fighting for the last arancini on Hanover St..: Ralph and John cheering us on..:)


                                1. re: 9lives

                                  I've noticed it. Awesome. Thanks for the pic.

                        3. A few that come to mind:
                          Dok Bua in Brookline (Thai)
                          Cafe Polonia in South Boston (Polish)
                          Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square (Indian)
                          Tacos Lupita in Somerville (Salvadoran/Mexican)
                          Taqueria Mexico in Waltham (Mexican)
                          Galleria Umberto in the North End (pizza)
                          El Paisa in East Boston (Colombian)
                          Pho So 1 Boston, Dorchester (Vietnamese)
                          Hong Kong Eatery, Chinatown (Chinese)
                          Don Ricardo's, South End (Peruvian/Brazilian)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hiddenboston

                            And some more:
                            -Habesha(Ethiopian) Malden
                            -Roticeria Jalisco(Mexican) East Boston
                            -Cesaria(Cape Verdean) Dorchester

                          2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642662
                            also if they like spicy, the cumin lamb and chengdu chicken (aka chongqing chicken, think spicy slightly-crunchy "popcorn" chicken) at New Shanghai (Chinatown)

                            1. Desfina, in Cambridge. Fantastic Greek food.

                              1. I would like to second the Santarpio's in East Boston reco. Definite character, and good food.

                                1. I have a couple of out of town friends who always want me to take them to Vinny's in Somerville http://www.vinnysonbroadway.com/

                                  1. Muqueca is one of my favorite local ethnic spot. Awesome Brazilian seafood cooked in clay pots. It's fantastic and not too expensive. It is a tiny restaurant though, so you may have to wait for a table. It gets crowded on weekends especially.