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A week in South End - round up (incl brief review Acquitaine, Pops, Buttery etc)

ozinboz Jun 23, 2010 10:14 AM

I had the good fortune to spend a week staying in the South End (14th - 22nd June) and thought I'd do a little round-up of the places I tried. Roughly arranged by best first - although some places near bottom because I only tried a small thing there.

<b>Pops Restaurant</b> - Food - very good. Service - <b>fantastic</b>. Value - v. good, if we'd paid for it.
Walked in for early (11.30) lunch. Sat at the bar, got really friendly service. Guy at the bar chatty and gracious but also backed off when he saw we were having our own conversation. Near the end of our meal the fire alarm began to shriek loudly, almost painfully near us. Server was very embarrassed although it was obviously some accident and not their fault. Still, gave us our meal GRATIS even when we insisted repeatedly we would pay! They really didn't have to do that. I had:
* Turkey chilli with corn chips - the chilli was ok, ate it up but a tad too sweet for my taste - more like very good baked beans with turkey mince in it rather than chilli. I really liked the corn chips, crispy almost glass-like shards that looked and tasted like friend wonton skins to begin with but asserted a corny flavour later. The diced grilled vegies on top was a nice touch.
* SO ordered the turkey sandwich. He really liked it, said it was well made, flavours worked well together. Said it tasted like a pizza sandwich, crunchy on the outside and cheesy in the middle. He liked the thick brioche bread that gave it the crispy-outside and fluffy-inside texture. Only downside was the sandwich had a greasy feel, too well buttered.
* I want to know what kind of lemonade they use in the bar dispenser. It tasted sweeter and nicer than the usual sprite.

<b>Aquitaine</b> - Food - great. Service - very good, professional. Value - pricey but I'd definitely come back for a special event.
I walked past looking for a quick dinner, and smelt the most delicious, savoury, spicy smell I could imagine. I was in long-shorts and t-shirt, the place looked fancy. But I couldn't forget the smell. So turned around and walked in. They were a little formal, but really accommodating and treated me just like the more formally dressed patrons around me. Also instead of ordering from the menu I said, "Could you give me whatever that is smells soooo good?" The waiter inquired with the chef and found out what it was. Also offered "fancy" water but gave me not the slightest grief when I asked for plain/tap. I had:
* G3 - a refreshing cocktail with gin, grapefruit juice and greylock sav blanc.
* The grilled lamb in a vadouvan sauce, apparently a french "curry" spice mix. The sauce was as good as it smelt, savoury, redolent of cardamom, spiked with intensely sweet bits of caramelised onions. The medium rare lamb was really good as well.
* Glass of rose
* Apple tarte tartin - rich, almost bruleed mmm.
* Bread was good, they brought me two little gougeres to begin, these were light, cheesy, perfect.
About $60 for one I think, but it was really the cocktail that set me back.

<b>Berkeley Perk</b> - Food - good. Service - OK (that's not a criticism).
IMHO, BEST latte I've had in Boston OR NYC, and I stress I realise that's a really individual thing. And yes I've tried Simons, 1369, Art of Joe in NYC even. Planning to write a separate post about this later. Came here when only the breakfast menu was available (obviously early)
We had:
* Latte - OMG
* Onion bagel with smoked salmon & cream cheese - one of the best bagel & lox I've tried. Bagel skin had the good toothy resistance I like. Smoked salmon taste rich and lingering smoked flavour. But the kicker was the fresh, sweet bits of raw red onions flecked through.
* Sarah Sandwich - Scrambled egg, bacon, peppers on a multi-grain bagel. SO said it was very good, one of the best bagel sandwiches he's had. He liked how they sort of wrapped the crisp bacon inside the egg. But still he was jealous of my smoked salmon bagel :)
* Between $15 - $20 for both of us.

<b>Billy's Sub shop</b> Food - good. Service - OK. Value - very good. Cleanest sub-shop I've ever been into, really spotless and even then they were cleaning.
Had lunch here. Really enjoyed the "local" vibe, mix of nearby builders having mid-morning breakfast, parking officers on their break, a bunch of guys watching the game and two elderly ladies apparently splitting their bingo winnings. Hilarious when the cat lady had a cross-table conversation with the tattooed young builder about their favourite kind of cats. I had:
* Meatball sub - Good honest sub, bigger than the paper plate I got it on, 8 big, tender meatballs with a thick, tasty tomato sauce in a soft roll.
* With a juice, that came to about $9.50 for one really really filling lunch.

<b>South End Buttery Cafe</b> Food - Good. Service - OK - slight reservations. Value - good if you order the cafe/takeout food.
Breakfast here twice in the cafe. Once on a sunday where there was a queue for breakfast, apparently half hour wait. The service is OK, but a sort of a strange off-hand vibe. I can't quite put my finger on it though so that might be unfair. Slightly put-off that the person who brings out the food always has on a stained apron, both of them, both times. We had:
* Biscuit Breakfast - biscuit with egg, bacon. Loved the flaky biscuit, and the crispy bacon. Liked the egg as well. Came back for it 2 days later.
* Turkey breakfast burrito - SO says it was OK. Filling. Needed something sweet in it.
* Coffee (drip) - IMO was awful. I took a sip and couldn't drink it, I found it thin and very bitter with no other flavours in it.
* Simple breakfast and coffee for two, about $15 to $18 for two - better than I thought it'd be given the reputation.

<b>Flour</b> Food - good. Service - pretty good. Value - can't remember.
Dropped in for the famous sticky sticky bun. Packed at 9am on a weekday. People at counter were friendly, pleasantly quirky and relatively quick given the queue. Sticky sticky bun was very very yummmy (mis-spelling intended) and rich. Coffee (drip) was bad imo. I can't remember what I paid.

<b>Chilli Duck (delivery)</b> Food - range from good to meh. Service - delivery. Value - OK.
Had a hankering for thai at home, irdered in from Chilli Duck twice based on Chow reccs. First time Sat'day night - took an hour and second time Monday night took about half hour. I was fine with that. First time was good:
* Thai Beef Salad - spicy, sour, good authentic flavours. Beef slightly dry and overcooked, but I expect that in this dish.
* Seafood Red curry - REALLY liked the flavours in the sauce although a little mild and the sauce slightly thinner than I prefer. Good range of seafood, not overcooked. Large mussels and scallops. Liked the sauce enough I kept some and cooked more fish in it the next day.
This led to the second time, where I followed the little "chef recommended" symbols on the menu. I was disappointed. Food wasn't bad. Just not very good nor particularly Thai in flavour or execution. Ordered:
* Chic & Chic dish (or something like that) chicken was battered, deep fried and slightly dry in a sticky sauce - can't explain why I thought this tasted like Gen gao's chicken with a thai twist.
* Chilli duck - strange - big pieces of duck that tasted like it was fried in a peanut butter batter. Again, it really didn't taste bad to me. Just not particularly Thai.
Second time, came up to about $40. IMO a bit expensive, but there really was a lot of food and I woulda thought it was good value if I enjoyed the leftovers more (I didn't).

<b>Appleton Bakery</b> - Food - OK-ish. Service - Good. Value - eh
Had a meatloaf sandwich here. Thin slice of multi-grain bread that didn't assert itself, meatloaf sort of bla flavour, I smeared it with mustard to make it tasty. Didn't seem to have a big range of baked goods - which I'd expected for a place called a bakery. I really liked the staff though, they were obliging and friendly and I liked the gentle banter among themselves. Coffee was bad IMO. But that's becoming a bit of a theme with me isn't it?

On Monday night, I was craving an ice-cream or Gelati. Walked into Picco, waited at the counter and got ignored for 5 minutes (yes I checked) and walked out again. *shrug* they were busy. Walked into Cafe Francesca - got a friendly greeting and really enjoyed my caramel and pecan thing very much.

Here's where I shopped for food:
* Foodie's Urban Market - it was alright. Got the basics. Very convenient Seemed cheaper for fruit than Shaw's @ Prudential.
* Ming's Supermarket - Wow, biggest Asian supermarket I've ever been into, saw heaps of stuff I'd never seen before and huge range of vegies. But I was a bit scared to try much, there was a large, aggressive, trolley wielding crowd of people there that Sat'day mid morning.
* Copley Square Farmer's Market - HEAVEN, spent lotsa money at Siena Farms and got riches for both my eyes and my tummy. Blueberry pie from Cook's Orchard *siiiing*
* SOWA open market - to my eyes, a bit sparse on the fresh fruit and vege after going to Copley's, although arts and crafts stuff was heaps of fun.

I'm sorta new here, so if there's a different way I shoulda written this post (like break it into separate restaurants or something) lemme know, but gently please :)

  1. t
    teezeetoo Jun 23, 2010 11:12 AM

    Happy to hear your take on wandering through the South End. There's lots to come back for: come again. Your post was fun and I appreciate your sharing your impressions and experiences.

    1. m
      momoftwo Jun 24, 2010 09:20 AM

      Great post, these are the types of things I love to read...living vicariuosly through others!!!

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