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Best "hole in the wall" type place in Boston?

I feel like I've been to the "big name" places, or at least already have them on my "to-try" list, any suggestions on random new places to try? All types of cuisines, please apply!

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  1. Moby DIck House of Kebab on Huntington Ave.

    4 Replies
    1. re: scratchie

      LOVE Kebabs and haven't been here...thanks!

      1. re: scratchie

        2nd'd. Order the fesenjan and enjoy.

        1. re: scratchie

          OMG, Moby Dick's has the BEST lentil soup in the city. Love love love.

          Side note #1: The woman who runs Moby Dick is a hoot, and if it's not too busy, I recommend striking up a conversation with her.

          Side note #2: I heard a story once that the name "Moby Dick" is due to a famous Moby Dick resto in Iran, and that Iranian restaurateurs in the US sometimes use the name as a signal to other immigrants that theirs is a quality joint.

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          Moby Dick
          269 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

          1. re: litchick

            That's an awesome little fun fact on Moby Dick, certainly didn't know that! Thanks..love it!

            www.OnceUponASmallBostonKitchen.blogs...

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            Moby Dick
            269 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

        2. That's my beat at the Boston Phoenix, and a lot of the places I review for On the Cheap I was led to by Chowhounds here. A few highlights from the last few months:

          Lee's Store & Bakery -- convenience store serving great banh mi in Dorchester

          Falafel Corner -- Harvard Square Egyptian sandwich shop with great lamb shawarma

          El Pelon -- taqueria near BC with fine tortas and fish tacos

          Cafe Mamtaz -- Southie takeout Bangladeshi/Pakastani/Punjabi joint

          Montecristo -- Salvadoran sit-down place in Central Square, East Boston

          WAN Convenience -- Mission Hill shop with great, messy sandwiches

          Cutty's -- Brookline Village storefront with astonishing gourmet sandwiches

          Dosa Factory -- versatile Central Square Indian in the back of an Indian grocery store

          Spot Cafe -- excellent breakfast/lunch place near Watertown Square

          Cafe 57 -- good little family-run diner/sandwich shop in Brighton

          Taqueria Jalisco -- very fine Mexican-run place in Eastie with great tacos, weekend soups

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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          El Pelon
          2197 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, MA 02135

          Montecristo Restaurant
          146 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

          11 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Really great suggestions, thanks! The only one I have been to is Cutty's and it was fantastic. I also really love ethnic food so this is very helpful.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Is Felafel Corners felafel very green like real Egyptian taamia made with fava's?

              1. re: trufflehound

                Falafel Corner is another Egyptian-owned place (along with Azama Grill in Allston) that doesn't seem to be doing much in the way of traditional Egyptian cuisine, like stuffed squab or koshari or the breads. It's more the typical Arab Levantine fare, hard to distinguish from a Syrian or Lebanese place.

                Ironically, I think Falafel Corner's falafel is really weak: it's purportedly a chickpea/fava mix, but is dry and chalky inside, a pale yellow interior. I liked the sesame seeds on the crust, but otherwise, it is just not good. The rest of the mezze are much better, the foul moudames is really nice, and that lamb shawarma is worth a trip, in my book.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                There's a Montecristo in East Som'l, too, on Broadway.

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                Montecristo Restaurant
                146 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

                1. re: enhF94

                  And one in Brigham Circle as well.

                  1. re: Allstonian

                    Anyone know if the three are related? The Eastie one is Restaurant Montecristo, the East Somerville one, Taqueria Montecristo, the Brigham Circle one, Montecristo Mexican Grill. They all appear Salvadoran.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                    Montecristo Restaurant
                    146 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

                    Montecristo Mexican Grill
                    748A Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      MCSlimJB when the East Boston restaurant opened the menu was very similar to East Somerville, but my best guess is they are different owners. That is almost definitely the case between Taqueria Montecristo and Las Carnitas de Montecristo in Chelsea. They have very similar menus, down to actual appearance/photos and the common annoyance of never having adobado fillings (or the chuleta), but there are significant differences in the food. The Brigham Circle has a completely different menu. So the similarities in name are simply national pride and owners likely from the interior of El Salvador. The similar menus are probably due to a limited pool of graphic artists and reusing "stock" photos. In the case of East Boston and Somerville, I have onl been once to East Boston so it could be the same owners but I don't think so.

                      BTW, the Oliveira's Brazilian restaurant in East Boston had different ownership (uncle, cousin, etc) from Peabody and Everett (and the short lived Revere location).

                      Another thing which happens is restaurants get opened and then sold without necessarily changing the DBA. A lot of the Morales family restaurants/stores have been bought/sold/bought again, some of them have different partners. So sometimes you get something that is intially identical (there was a Salvadoran restaurant in Allston which sounded like their menu/style) but changes hands. Or something like Tapatio which was completely different, but now is a lot similar to Taco Loco for the taqueria selection (it differs with the salvadoran fried chicken, mojarra frita, roasted meats).

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                      Montecristo Restaurant
                      146 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

                      Taco Loco
                      301 Lancaster St, Leominster, MA 01453

                      Oliveira's
                      751 Broadway, Everett, MA 02149

                      1. re: itaunas

                        What can you say about the Savadoran fried chicken at Tapatio? Last time I was there it looked really good, but then, I'm a sucker for fried bird.

                        (PS: glad to see you are up online in your new locale!)

                        1. re: yumyum

                          I nibbled on it and was a bit disappointed because the texture suffered from sitting around and it was a bit over-fried, but would give it a try again with a fresh batch. Definitely better than Super Burrito in Everett (fried to order, but poorly fried) and not as good as El Charrito (right across from Campero) which was fried to order. None of them are identical to campero, all were pretty good for seasoning, but its mostly been off my radar (between campero opening and having it imported from El Salvador before the novelty has worn off a bit). Some also were probably pre-cooked and then fried (in Brazil its common to do this, but breaded) but I think tapatio just fried and campero I think is pressure fried. Probably better to buy it seasoned and fry at home in a cast iron skillet. :-) I like the selection at Taptatio, but since its reopened I have continued to frequent Montecristo more because I like that they make your food to order rather than reheating toppings.

                          -----
                          Montecristo Restaurant
                          146 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

                2. re: MC Slim JB

                  i love el pelon and spot cafe. I don't know if these are "hole in the walls" but S & I Thai and Shanghai Gate are two of my favorite restaurants at any price.

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                  Shanghai Gate
                  204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I would define hole in the wall as places that it is possible to dine in but barely. Here are a couple of nonoverlapping choices
                    S&I Thai in Allston my current favorite Thai place thanks to Chowhounds
                    QuickPic (Chinatown) Best price on Chinese BBQ rice plates and I like the scallion oil and sauce that they add.
                    Alex's Chimis (JP) Good Chicharrones, and Chicken.
                    Lenny's Bakery (Mattapan)

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                    Alex's Chimis
                    358 Centre St, Boston, MA 02130

                    S&I To Go
                    168A Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  2. A bona fide hole in the wall - Wai Wai in Chinatown. Love their roast duck and chicken rice plates.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: nasilemak

                      2nded. Been eating here for about 30 years (probably on the very same furniture!). My family and I always love coming back here.

                      1. re: kobuta

                        Awesome, thanks for the Chinatown suggestions, I haven't ventured too far into there so this is helpful

                        1. re: The_SBK

                          If you've never been, just some suggestions - there is no menu that i know of. They primarily serve rice plates with roast meats. There is barely any service. You just tell the surly lady what you want (rice with....). You can go up to the counter and pay when you're done, or if you manage to wave her down, she will bring you the check or tell you what you owe. They used to serve more than just rice plates (noodles, etc.) but I haven't had those in years and I haven't seen anyone else order those, so I don't know if they still serve them. The server and the cook (who chops the meat and plates the food) speak very little English. Don't be intimidated though because I always see at least one non-Chinese speaker who's eating there.

                          1. re: kobuta

                            Do you know if Wai Wai does takeout? I've been hoping to try it for a while but I'm usually in the area only for lunch on weekdays and due to the nature of my work I generally don't have time to sit down at a restaurant.

                              1. re: galangatron

                                Thanks for the ultra-fast reply! As soon as it's just a bit cooler I'll head over for some duck and chicken.

                          2. re: The_SBK

                            In Chinatown, I also like King Fung Garden, which definitely counts as a hole in the wall. Their authentic Chinese dishes are great, but I even like their hot and sour soup, scallion pancakes, and stir-fried Shanghai noodles (the thick kind). I think the noodles used to be made in-house, but I'm not sure they still are. Supposedly their Peking duck is amazing, but I haven't gone with a big enough group to try it yet...

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                            King Fung Garden
                            74 Kneeland St, Boston, MA 02111

                      2. Tip Top Thai in Teele Square, Somerville. Was just there tonight, only people there. We split some Shumai which were great, and then my DC got their drunken noodles (they call it "moody chef") and I got the dancing pasta, which was basically like chicken gaprow mixed with stir-fried penne (i kid you not). Good times, SUPER heat, and happiness all around.

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                        Tip Top Thai
                        1127 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: marcreichman

                          Great suggestion, thanks! I also get drunken noodles when I go out for Thai...yum.

                          Stir fried penne?

                        2. Ole Cito in Inman...but only the Baha taco...everything else is pretty mediocre. Shrimp taco is amazing.

                          1. Eastie is full of "hole-in-the-walls" (some now enlarged!) for Latino food...Taqueria Jalisco, Rosticeria Cancun (Maverick Square one is literally a h-i-t-w) Rincon Limeno, Angela's (more "upscale but incredible!) and more...

                            Also Scup's - small and lively, with great food!

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                            Rincon Limeno
                            409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fredid

                              I heard about a Pakistani place in Eastie that opened recently, that supposedly is very good.

                            2. I think Cafe Pamplona in Harvard Square has to count as a "hole in the wall"! Perhaps Wang's in Somerville would fit the bill as well?

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                              Cafe Pamplona
                              12 Bow St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                              1. Also tiny and excellent: Mike & Patty's in Bay Village.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Definite second for Mike & Patty's. Their breakfast sandwich options are some of the best in the city.

                                  1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                                    Yes, I'd third them! Definitely a "hole in the wall"!

                                    1. re: Joanie

                                      I think of a "hole in the wall" as one of those unexpected places where the food is really great and where the decor is no frills. Based on that, I think Mike & Patty's is a perfect hole in the wall. But in terms of grunginess? It probably wouldn't qualify. Also, another hole in the wall for me was Villa Mexico although they are so well known now in the area.

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                                      Villa Mexico
                                      296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                      1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                                        Villa Mexico for me is a quintessential hole-in-the-wall. The old Chacarero, when it was literally "a hole in the wall" by Filene's, obviously fit the bill, too.

                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                    The only downside is that after one of those breakfast sandwiches, you might have to work up an effort to eat lunch :)

                                  3. I'll add Royal Pacific (Tyler south of Kneeland) to this fine list. I just had thick slices of braised pork belly (kow yook) with preserved vegetables (moo choy) on rice and a bowl of seaweed and ground pork soup for $5.90 and easily two meals worth. Extraordinary, homey and delicious. I also enjoy their dry fried beef chow fun and the salty spicy pork chop on rice. Two or three tables and take out of course.

                                    -----
                                    Royal Pacific
                                    70 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: gourmaniac

                                      I believe it is caller Royal Palace? Or more specifically Royal Palace Restaurant II.

                                      That pork belly dish sounds amazing. I'm looking at their menu right now (it might be old) and the only thing I see similar is #266 Pork & Preserved Vegetables on rice. Is this the pork belly dish? Thanks!

                                    2. Wang's Fast Food in Somerville; Qingdao Garden in North Cambridge; and Mary Chung's in Central Sq -- all three have excellent food, and the kind of tired/run down decor that would keep the atmosphere snobs away.

                                      Also, a former hole in the wall that has transformed into a hole in the wall with a restaurant attached: Taqueria la Mexicana in Union Sq. The sit-down addition ("Cantina La Mexicana") I can take or leave, but the Taqueria take-out counter is still quite excellent. I particularly love their tamales.

                                      Lastly: Tacos Lupita at Somerville Ave and Elm St. They specialize in Salvadoran food.

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                                      Mary Chung Restaurant
                                      460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                      Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                                      2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: litchick

                                        As I read the first and second paragraphs of your post I prepared to reply and mention Lupita... But you beat me to the punch in paragraph three. Absolutely seconded.

                                        1. re: litchick

                                          I agree with your first two, but am not a huge fan of the mostly Americanized Mary Chungs.

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                                          Mary Chung Restaurant
                                          460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            Ah, I steer clear of the Americanized stuff at Mary Chung. My fave items there include: suan la chow shou, dun dun noodles w/chicken, shrimp with stumble eggs (yes that's really the name), spicy eggplant, plus stuff from their weekend dim sum menu. Also, on request, they make a delicious eggplant in black bean sauce, which is hard to find round these parts. Oh geez, and I nearly forgot, I find their moo shi to be some of the best in the city -- lots of wok hay.

                                            -----
                                            Mary Chung Restaurant
                                            460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                            1. re: litchick

                                              Guess if I were in that generally area jonesing for Chinese I would hit Mulan...

                                              1. re: litchick

                                                Recently had Mary Chung's Pig's feet in noodle soup. Pretty good!

                                                -----
                                                Mary Chung Restaurant
                                                460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                1. re: nasilemak

                                                  Would not have thought they would even serve something so Un-mainstream.

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    Usually that sort of thing is on the specials menu

                                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                                      they have a separate specials menu with more traditional dishes. it's usually a photocopy inserted into the main menu. a lot of the dishes also appear on the weekend dim sum menu. the hung shao pig feet (braised pig feet in a soy-based brown sauce) are my favorite

                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                        I bet i had the least mainstream order amongst the Monday lunch office crowd! It was funny watching the owners kept mentioning to the customers as they were about to be seated, that they were offering whole fish special.

                                                  2. re: StriperGuy

                                                    King Fung Garden was very good until, I was told, the ownership changed hands earlier this year. I went back twice and thought that the quality had slipped.

                                                    -----
                                                    King Fung Garden
                                                    74 Kneeland St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                      actually the owners reopened out on huntington by brookline high,
                                                      king fung garden ll. got a thing for their dumplings and their peking duck (24 hour notice) is on point. new place probably fit the hole in the wall moniker, as it looks like a rather run down/ no atmosphere/ suburban chinese take out place. a while back a brookline police car, in a high speed chase, smashed through the front window wall of the joint, they fixed the window but never really finished the inside so there was sort of this "under consruction" vibe with exposed 2x4's and unpainted sheetrock up front that just cracks me up. very chinese, surprised workers were not sitting on site smoking while you consume wonderful hon su beef and scallion pie.

                                                      1. re: hyde

                                                        ha, and the original king fung garden didn't fit? lol.

                                                        glad to hear the excellent dumplings and ducks are still as good. sadly, the location is not convenient for me, but i'll have to make a point to have my family make a trip for those one day. i miss their house-made peking duck skins...those things were lovely. the chewy but thin wraps went so well with the duck skin.

                                                2. Another one to add to the list:

                                                  Zoe's, a former hole in the wall in camberville (on Beacon, by RF O'Sullivan's and Petsi Pies) moved across the street to nicer digs, and no longer fits the "hole in the wall" requirements. However, Pho & Rice, in Zoe's old space, is still very much "hole in the wall"-esque, and provides some tasty bun and pho.

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                                                  Petsi Pies
                                                  285 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                  1. Anchovies on Columbus (#433) in the South End. Stick-to-your-ribs Italian, large portions, reasonable prices and a cozy, neighborhoody, old-school style.