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Unique restaurants in Boston

Hi - I'm traveling to Boston with a group of friends.

We were in NYC earlier in the year and were lucky enough to be told about 'Peanut Butter & Co' (all PB sandwiches), 'Rice to Riches' (20 flavors of rice pudding) and 'Sweet Revenge' (cupcake bar with wine/beer pairings for the cupcakes)

I'm wondering if Boston has equally as quirky restaurants... the type that you really can't find anywhere else... I'd love to surprise my friends with some excellent, unique, choices.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Hmmmm.......well, not totally unique as far as food options, but Fasika in East Somerville is a sedate Ethiopian restaurant on the left side, and an old-school Somerville dive bar on the right side. Not too many places where you can listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd and hear beer bottles smashing while dining on minchet abish key and yekik alicha.

    147 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145

    1. I can't think of anything that high-concept but Scup's in the Harbor is a great casual restaurant in a working shipyard. Parish Cafe features sandwiches created by noted chefs from all over town. Those both have some novelty factor.

      1. You mean really gimicky, moronically dumb concept places, nope fortunately none of those in Boston.

        Want something unusual and authentically New England, head up to the North Shore and hit the Clam Box.

        Clam Box
        789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

        4 Replies
          1. re: StriperGuy

            Foumami, the Asian Sandwich Bar is probably the closest thing Boston has to a unique concept restaurant, serving Asian flat bread sandwiches.

            The Clover Food Lab is fairly unique, both in its Food Truck incarnation near Kendall/MIT as well as the new store front location opening in Harvard Square any day now.

            Cuchi Cuchi is a pretty uniquely decorated restaurant, although I don't like it so much.

            However, I don't think that restaurants that serve only one kind of food are "gimicky, moronically dumb concept places". In fact, in many cultures most restaurants serve only a single kind of food. That some dish concepts have been tried before or not doesn't make them moronic in my book. The first restaurant that served only Banh Mi, or only soup or only salads, or hamburgers (before they were a concept) might have been derided as gimmicky, but I think unfairly so. That's how innovation happens. I will concede that some of those restaurants (often found in New York) I don't like very much, but I'm still glad people are trying them (especially since Xie Xie and Baohaus in Manhattan are two of my favorites!)

            Some slightly more traditional single-type of food type places include the Chicago style hot dog place in Weymouth, Windy City Eats. Arrow Street Crêpes (or is it called La Crêperie?) is a little restaurant that only makes crêpes in Cambridge. Finale Desserterie is a place that I don't like very much but it is a fairly unique dessert-only restaurant (i.e. complex plated desserts, not just slices of cake). Burdick's in Harvard Square is a chocolate-themed cafe. Maybe the Dosa Factory in Cambridge, Speed's Hot Dog Wagon, and Fred's Franks fit the bill a bit too. The Easy Way / Leisure Station in Cambridge has a fairly unique take on "maki rolls" filled with other than raw fish, although not totally dissimilar to those at Blue Asia in Allston.

            Soon, Zinneken’s is slated to open in Harvard Square, which will be a Belgian Waffle specialty restaurant. Bull will have Korean Bonchon chicken in Harvard Square when it opens. I seem to remember a specialty french fry restaurant slated to open in the South End, although I can't seem to find the name.

            Maybe Chez Henri (French-Cuban), Ginger Park (modern Pan-Asian in a stunning room), Myers + Chang (modern Pan-Asian with a funky vibe), or Bartley's (burgers in a funky atmosphere with a politically charged menu) would satisfy your curiosity.

            Finally, clam shacks, oyster houses, lobster shacks (such as Alive & Kicking Lobsters in Cambridge), and Roast Beef restaurants (Mikes, Kelly's, Skampa) are all pretty special local-to-New England joints.

            Fred's Franks
            390 Quannapowitt Pkwy, Wakefield, MA 01880

            Cuchi Cuchi
            795 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139

            424 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

            Chez Henri
            1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

            Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

            Windy City Eats
            407A Middle St, Weymouth, MA 02189

            Blue Asia Cafe
            113 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

            225 Franklin St, Boston, MA 02110

            1. re: lipoff

              Actually, the Cambridge Dosa Factory has a broad menu of snacks and entrees in addition to dosas. The Indian flatbread-sandwich joint in The Garage, Chutney's, is closer to this idea.

              But you're absolutely right: one-dish specialty restaurants aren't new or necessarily bad. And I much prefer your notion of unique restaurants for a visitor to Boston.


              1. re: lipoff

                Hadn't heard about the Harvard Square Belgian Waffle place. I feel bad for Saus if they get beat to the punch.

            2. You can get a three course tasting menu of desserts with or without wine at Le Patissier beneath Troquet.

              140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

              Le Patissier
              140 Boylston St, Boston, MA

              1. There doesn't seem to be much out there, but you can look through this thread.


                This isn't exactly a restaurant, but if you're at South Station at all, the Cheese Boy grilled cheese place sounds fun.


                4 Replies
                1. re: bear

                  We ate at cheese boy today and it was fabulous

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Who woulda thunk. Cool. My vegetarian son will be psyched since he's at SS fairly often. Thanks for the report! What cheese/bread options did you try?

                    1. re: bear

                      I had the plain old, plain old, as it was my first try with them. White american on "italian" white bread.

                      My friend had white/cheddar/ham.

                      Both were yummy. Piping hot, not greasy. The bread was good, not to soft, not too chewy.

                      The tomato soup is Campbells out of ginormous cans. We didnt have that, but I had a soda and chips, which brought lunch to $4.99.

                      The line was really, really long. About a 10-15 min wait. They handed out free cookies to people in line, which was a nice touch.

                      Now that I knowthe baseline sandwich is good, I'll def add on some other stuff next time.

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Totally not my thing, but sounds like they have the business/service NAILED. Always makes me happy to see a business doing something well.

                2. This reminded me of the ill fated "Pudding it First," in Coolidge Corner, an all pudding joint. I really liked that place, but alas, there was only so much chocolate tapioca pudding I could put away to keep it afloat.

                  I like the Scup's recommendation, for something very unique.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: nsenada

                    I did all I could to keep that place afloat, too. I loved it so ....

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      Gee, I did my best to help out with the chocolate & tapioca. I miss that place.

                    2. re: nsenada

                      I'd love if a rice pudding place like 'Rice to Riches' in NYC, were to open here!

                        1. re: Nab

                          Ugh, it was closed last time I tried going. I was pista.

                    3. Thanks so much for the recommendations! I just figured that if something existed, you guys would be the ones to know about it :)

                      1. Alas, the comically-named Trani ("the surprise in your cupcake is an injection of soft-serve ice cream") is no more.

                        There are other restaurants that are essentially one- or two-product places: Speed's, most banh mi joints, the original Pizzeria Regina, the original Santarpio's, that awful chicken-fingers chain, Four Burgers. They're mostly not that unique to Boston, though.


                        Four Burgers
                        704 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          If Trani had only opened in a mall, we would all be eating their bizarre (but I thought, delicious) treats. And feeling awkward when asked the name of the joint.

                          1. re: nsenada

                            What about The Friendly Toast in Cambridge? It's different - & fun with a group of people. There's the chocolate bar at The Langham too if you want to do a desert / brunch kinda thing. If it was warmer, I'd add in Chacarero & go to The Common to eat - I'm not sure if they have seating inside.

                            The Friendly Toast
                            1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                            101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

                            1. re: nsenada

                              I never made it to Trani (friend of a friend owned the place), but it looks like they inspired someone else to try a similar concept. Shotcakes in the Burlington Mall has a large variety of cupcakes filled to order with soft serve ice cream. Cute idea and a nice treat on a hot summer day, but nothing to rave about.

                          2. Here are some restaurants unique for Boston but some not necessarily for the food. Durgan Park, one of the oldest in the city. go for the Indian Pudding. Union Oyster House also one of the oldest, sit at the oyster bar only and treat your self to oysters or clams on the half shell. Locke Obers, old Boston with kitchen makeover. Regina's Pizzeria in the North End for excellent thin crust pizza. East Coast Grill in Cambridge for excellent grilled fish and other grilled items.

                            East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
                            1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            Union Oyster House
                            41 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108