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Metro West - is it really as hopeless as I think?

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Hi all,

I've scoured the boards and am getting pretty depressed about the reality of my dining options in Metro West. Just moved to Hopkinton a couple of months ago and have been doing well with entertaining at home and dinners after work in Boston for real restaurant fixes but am I really stuck with Tavolino in Westboro as my tastiest restaurant?

We're looking for a Boston-caliber new American, Italian, bistro french restaurant within a 20 minute drive (Wellesley is too far0 and what I've read of Tomasso, Allora and the Patriot Place restos are mixed at best.

Any recent diners at any of these that would say they're genuinely good and not just "good for the area"? We had a neighborhood gem - Bistro 5 - when we lived in West Medford and am still holding out hope for the same.

My faves in Boston have been Butcher Shop, Troquet, B & G, Mamma Maria, Hammersley's.

Thanks everyone!

140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

Bistro 5
5 Playstead Road, Medford, MA 02155

Mamma Maria Restaurant
3 North Sq, Boston, MA 02113

274 Patriot Place, Foxborough, MA 02035

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  1. The pickings are pretty slim.

    Tomasso is pretty good, better than Tavolino IMHO, and definitely worth a try. If Patriot's Place is an option for you, only Davio's is really good, I'd say it's nearly identical in atmosphere and preparation as the one in Boston.

    I haven't been to Maxwell's 135 in Natick in a long time, but the one time I went it was interesting, and had promise. They've dramatically changed the menu since then, however.

    Sel de la Terre in the Natick Mall isn't as good as the one in Boston, but is still one of the better choices around for what it is.

    There are a couple of places in Franklin that people like, but I haven't been. Perhaps others can recommend?

    75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116

    Sel de la Terre
    774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02199

    274 Patriot Place, Foxborough, MA 02035

    3 Replies
    1. re: winedude

      Thanks winedude. Any thoughts on Allora v. Tomasso?

      I was considering Davio's in Foxboro but wasn't sure if it was worth the drive, maybe we'll consider that instead.

      75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116

      1. re: missykins

        Given your list of favored Boston restaurants, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by Tomasso's. The mixed reviews generally come from folk who are expecting more of the Tavolino/Allora experience - large portions of decent food at decent prices. Lots of my neighbors think it's way too expensive for what you get. But you get what you pay for. Tomasso's is much closer to an urban restaurant - elegant but casual, a regularly changing menu, very high quality ingredients and expert preparation but with smaller portions, and a great wine list. It wouldn't be out of place in the South End, and does seem a bit out of place (but very welcome) here in the burbs.

      2. re: winedude

        Maxwell's 148 in Natick is actually very good and keeps getting better every time I go. I actually just posted on my blog www.keekseats.com about it if you want to look at some photos!

        Maxwells 148
        148 East Central Street, Natick, MA 01760

      3. Hopkinton

        http://www.olivasmarket.com/ - For sandwiches to go






        1. Alta Strada in Wellesley is excellent. Blue Ginger too.

          Blue Ginger
          583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

          Alta Strada
          92 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02482

          8 Replies
          1. re: cherrytomato

            Wellesley is not MetroWest

            1. re: I QUE

              Really? When did it move? To be serious, it was certainly MetroWest when I lived there [moved out in 1976 if that makes a difference.]

              1. re: I QUE

                Wellesley is metrowest, but futher than 20 minutes.

                1. re: trufflehound

                  Sorry Metrowest is along the 495 belt, not the 128 belt.


                  For people that actually live in Metrowest recommendations for restaurants in Waltham or Newton or Wellesley just aren't that helpful. If I am going to drive 45 minutes for dinner I'd probably choose to go into Boston.

                  1. re: I QUE

                    I QUE:

                    I don't think your citation to the Wikipedia definition of Metro West is remotely helpful to this discussion. According to that definition, Metro West includes Natick. I live in Wellesley about 500 yards from the Natick line. According to the definition you cite, someone who lives in the Metro West town of Natick would most certainly be interested in hearing about restaurants a stone's throw away in Wellesley. Everything is not as cut and dry as you make it seem and it sounds like you are only including places in the far western extreme part of Metro West. How would someone who lives in Metro West towns of Framingham or Natick be "driving 45 minutes for dinner" in Wellesley? Are they walking?

                    1. re: Gordough

                      ; how about just talking about restaurants which are a 20 minute drive from a certain suburb. I feel as if I am back reading Aquinas discussing Angels dancing on the head of a pin.

                      1. re: Gordough

                        According to metrowestvisitors.org, Metro West is comprised of these towns:
                        Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Medway, Milford, Millis, Natick, Northborough, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland and Westborough.

                        1. re: SLL1065

                          It seems to be a moving target. I cited wiki below and it was a much smaller list. When I lived in Ashland, I would receive the "MetroWest" section in my Sunday paper. When I moved to Westborough, it changed to the "Globe West" section. So the publishers of the Globe have their own interpretation of what MetroWest is. IMHO , the town has to be in Middlesex County to be called Metrowest.

              2. Szechuan Gourmet in Framingham is outstanding, if that counts as Metro West.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hckybg

                  what about red pepper that is also located in framingham?

                  1. re: hckybg

                    If Wellesley is too far east to be Metrowest, I'm not sure what your geographical definition is. Of course, anyone who thinks the suburbs (be they north, west, or south) are going to give you easy accessibility to the same sort of sophistication you are used to from Boston proper, the South End, or such, is, in my opinion, just looking for an excuse to belittle the suburbs. People who are looking for au courant cooking (or art, or music) obviously are going to have to go into town.

                    1. re: johncb

                      i do not think that anyone is arguing about geography; he just wants proximity that is a 20 minute drive.

                    2. re: hckybg

                      that's Sichuan Gourmet, for my money best Chinese restaurant anywhere in the metrowest area

                      Sichuan Gourmet
                      1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                    3. Café Bella in Randolph probably won't meet your 20 minute criteria, but it's worth the drive. Ditto for Kouzina in the Waban section of Newton. Both are easy to reach from 128.

                      1649 Beacon St, Waban, MA 02468

                      1. Is Worcester too far (28 minutes according to Google maps)?? There are some really great places there of late. I would highly recommend Baba sushi (rivals anything I've had in Boston, including Oishii) and The People's Kitchen/Citizens Bar for top quality locally sourced food in a beautiful, rennovated factory building. Also, Bocado is great for tapas (owned by the same group as People's Kitchen).

                        82 Winter Street, Worcester, MA 01604

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Science Chick

                          Oh, I forgot Willy's Steakhouse in Shrewsbury. Expensive, but good. Owned by and right next to Amici Trattoria, which I believe someone mentioned above.


                          Amici Trattoria
                          582 Main St, Shrewsbury, MA 01545

                        2. I hear very good things about the Oregon Club (in Ashland, I think) and AKA Bistro in Lincoln (not sure if that counts as MetroWest). The there's the Coach Grill in Wayland, and Zebra's in Medfield. And of course, The Chat, in Cochituate.

                          The Oregon Club
                          117 Oregon Rd, Ashland, MA 01721

                          Coach Grill
                          55 Boston Post Rd, Wayland, MA 01778

                          AKA Bistro
                          145 Lincoln Rd, Lincoln, MA 01773

                          1. Stone's Public House in Ashland. Boston quality food, pubby atmosphere and very good draft beers and wine selection.

                            Stone's Public House
                            179 Main St, Ashland, MA 01721

                            1. It's been a few years since I was in there, but if you're willing to expand your choice of cuisines to include Thai, there's a surprisingly good place called Benjarong, in a strip mall in Acton. Nice complex flavors, and they're willing to make it to authentic Thai spice levels if you ask; the menu specifies heat levels 1 to 3, but they will make it 4 or 5 on request. 5 is the real deal.

                              Can't say whether it's gone downhill since I was last in but it's worth a try. Their lunch specials are (or at least were) very good value.

                              Benjarong Restaurant
                              214 Main St, Acton, MA 01720

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: BobB

                                Used to get takeout from here when I lived down the street about once a month and it was always pretty good. Last time I got take out though on my way back from a ski trip- about a year ago, everything was really bland. Good thing we can get Tree Top Thai now that we live in Waltham.

                                1. re: BobB

                                  I wouldn't drive that far for Benjarong, certainly not based on the original question. It's the closest Thai restaurant to me and I don't eat there. Been disappointed every time I've tried. If I want Thai nearby either of the places in Maynard is better. Or lots of other places.

                                  1. re: snippet

                                    Too bad - sounds like they lost the chef they had when I used to go there. At that time it was as good as any in Boston.

                                    1. re: snippet

                                      Im with you on this. It is very close to me and i wont go there. Been 2-3 times. Perhaps the last was several years ago. Always disappointed. You would be better off at Yoong Tong in Northborough. Closer to the OP too.

                                  2. If you promise not to tell anyone (we live in Newton and drive out of Boston for this place): Yama Zakura in Northborough is great sushi. 19 miles from you.


                                    Yama Zakura
                                    369 W Main St Ste 3, Northborough, MA 01532

                                    1. In Milford, we love to go to Oliva's for Italian staples -- great meats, porchetta, olives, homemade soup, etc. Also in Milford, we like Mangos for Thai food. My husband just had sushi in a restaurant in Milford -- in the shopping plaza with TJ Maxx. Can't remember the name, but he was pleasantly surprised.

                                      In Ashland, try Stone's Public House. Very good food and some nice entertainment on weekends.

                                      And Worcester isn't too far and is worth the trip. We love the tapas at Bocado and the Mexican food at Mezcal (same owners). My parents really like El Basha for Middle Eastern food. It's cheaper than going to Boston, you can park for free, and the food can be great at some of the Worcester restaurants.

                                      Stone's Public House
                                      179 Main St, Ashland, MA 01721

                                      82 Winter Street, Worcester, MA 01604

                                      Basha Cafe
                                      26 New St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mcupcake

                                        Isn't there an El Basha outpost in Westborough as well, just off Rt. 9 near the 495 exchange? Never been, but I'm sure its decent if its owned by the same Worcester folks. This would be very close to the OPs hometown.

                                        1. re: Science Chick

                                          Yes, and it's BYOB.

                                      2. While many areas are wastelands, there are good restaurants in the burbs. The key is you usually have to accept traveling further, especially if you have something pretty specific in mind, as things are more spread out. That is after all pretty much the definition of "suburb". It's not like every restaurant downtown is what you are calling "Boston-caliber" either, it just has density (of restaurants and people) working in it's favor. Best to simply find the very good food that is around and get over it ;)

                                        1. I've seen Tomasso in Southborough referenced a few times on this thread, I really enjoy this place (when my wallet permits). Their provisions shop next door, Panzano, shouldn't be overlooked either. They have amazing panini and deli-style homemade italian dishes, and some great arancini.

                                          Otherwise, in Metrowest, one of my Sindhi coworkers raves about Punjabi Grille in Framingham. I haven't been yet, but I plan on trying it out soon. In Worcester, Via Italian Table is wonderful for a nice sit down Italian Meal, and Armsby Abbey is one of the greatest craft beer bars I've ever been too. They have a really nice locally-sourced menu too.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: anthony.izzo

                                            FYI, Panzano and Tomasso are owned by the same guy......nice consistency!

                                            1. re: anthony.izzo

                                              I ended up going to Punjabi Grille about a month ago. There were no other customers in the restaurant, but none of the tables had been cleared or cleaned, dirty dishes and food particles were everywhere. I was sat and given a menu, then sat quietly for 15 minutes after putting down the menu. Although sitting in clear sight, the server didn't come over to take my order. I got up and walked out without ordering.

                                              Their Indian food could very well be the best this side of the Atlantic ocean, but with service like that, I'm not surprised it was empty at dinnertime on a Saturday.

                                            2. Yes, it is utterly hopeless. I have lived here since 1994 and the same topic keeps popping up on this board as well as others. I've posted the same exact topic a few times myself. The ONLY 2 places that I think deserve any mention are Maxwell's 148 and Sel de la Terre in the Natick Mall. I've tried all the others. Tomasso; never have so few eaten so little for so much money. Terrible. Oregon Club; utterly pedestrian. Arturo's changed hands last year (I know the new owner) and is now a waste of money. Stones? Light your money on fire instead of going there for "fine" dining.

                                              I am going out tomorrow for a romantic, high quality evening and just sucked it up and made a reservation in Boston. I don't look forward to the drive or the $20 valet parking but after 16 years of searching, I know its' what I have to do for a good meal.

                                              The Oregon Club
                                              117 Oregon Rd, Ashland, MA 01721

                                              Sel de la Terre
                                              774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02199

                                              Maxwells 148
                                              148 East Central Street, Natick, MA 01760

                                              1. Romaines in Northborough is excellent. They have a nice bar and a restaurant.
                                                Alicante in Mendon is excellent. Bigger bar area looking over the lake in Mendon. A little more pricey. Both of these places have bar menus
                                                3 in Franklin is good.
                                                Fresco's in Upton is just ok.

                                                1. Linguini's in Northboro is amazing. It's not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but the home-style Italian food is very nostalgic for me - their red gravy tastes like my grandma's did. Also, ask to get on the "tripe list" - you won't be dissapointed. They also serve red wine mixed with orange soda, another throwback to dinner with my Italian immigrant grandparents.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: anthony.izzo

                                                    Linguine's is in Marlborough actually. Good food. Horribly loud room.

                                                  2. Tomasso is, IMO, way overrated and overpriced. Sel de la Terre, meh. That location is really inconsistent. Maxwell's 148 in Natick can be very good, and they have excellent Boston-caliber service and atmosphere, but is very pricey. The weird thing out here (I live in Sudbury) is that there are a number of really good/great ethnic eateries but very few new/ American/"regular" fare. Oishi and Fugakyu both have great sushi; Lotus Blossom has very good, fresh & healthful Chinese; Paani Pure Indian Cuisine is an excellent mom & pop (literally) place...but while Bullfinch's is a nice place and serves a good jazz brunch, it's pretty conservative old-school New England cookery - as is Coach Grille, Wayside Inn etc.

                                                    The Met Bar at the Natick Collection is good for a drink and a hunk of meat, on a bun or otherwise. Lately that's been a default meeting spot when not in the mood for sushi et al. Natick used to have some good Brazilian holes-in-the-wall but they don't seem to stay open long.

                                                    Cast Iron Kitchen in Maynard does good things to short ribs and other comfort dishes.

                                                    Some of us moved here just thinking we'd found house to fix up, stay in a few years and then move on. Sigh. Does anyone want to buy a nicely reno'd ranch in a burb with great schools? ;)

                                                    Fugakyu Cafe
                                                    621 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

                                                    Cast Iron Kitchen
                                                    177 Main Street, Maynard, MA 01754

                                                    Maxwells 148
                                                    148 East Central Street, Natick, MA 01760

                                                    Sel de la Terre
                                                    1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA 01760

                                                    1. I think everyone brought up good points. However not everyone in the burbs lives in a McMansion and can still afford to dine out frequently. Our little Metrowest town has exploded with young families from the city who moved here due to our affordable houses, most of them small and older (the houses not the families!). We just don't have young people with disposable income to spend on entertainment here that can support great restaurants and bars consistently. When people here go out, they tend to go out early to somewhere affordable if they need to bring the kids since they can't get a spur of the moment babysitter, or get takeout.
                                                      Missykins, having grown up in Milford I feel your pain, but I haven't been back there in a few years so I can't help much except to second Oliva's market for Italian and also Gene's Market for Italian products, which I haven't seen mentioned here. I get my handmade cappaletti (spelling?) there since they are hard to get at Oliva's now. They have good sandwiches and Italian cookie plates too.

                                                      1. I've been in Hopkinton for about 8 years myself, and it's pretty dire. My favorite spots are Il Forno for Italian and Sapporo for Korean/Japanese, both in Westboro. Beyond that, Minerva in Framingham/Natick for Indian and the hopefully opening soon Zaftig's West are high points but otherwise I usually have to head inside 128 for good eats.


                                                        1. I've been working in Westborough for a couple of years now and I'm always on the lookout for good eats. Here are my favorites that I typically haunt come lunchtime:
                                                          - Sichuan Gourmet (Framingham) - one of the only truly authentic Chinese restaurants around, no buffet but the quality of their food is really really good. I have never liked Kung Bao chicken before and now I can't get enough of theirs!
                                                          - Punjabi Grille (Framingham) - great Indian/Pakistani food with a small lunch buffet. It's a small place, maybe 5-6 tables, and their selection isn't huge but the quality of the food is good and it's under $9 for lunch.
                                                          - Sapporo Korean BBQ (Westborough) - The best Asian buffet in the area, it's a mix of Korean and Japanese and is a nice change from the usual Chinese staples. They also have a good selection of Korean dishes and Bento boxes you can order (I love their Dol Sot Bibimbap), plus the traditional Korean BBQ at your table during the dinner hours. It is a little pricier for lunch ($12 for the buffet) but well worth it.
                                                          - Tacos Acapulco (Shrewsbury) - A hole in the wall Mexican joint, serving cheap and authentic food. Service isn't always good and it's tight seating with the tables they squeezed in, but worth checking out if you want decent Mexican.

                                                          1. This thread needs some new blood!!! We are going on our 12th year in Metrowest, and with the notable exceptions of El Huipil in Maynard and Fugakyu in Sudbury (perhaps also the lunch buffet at Bamboo, Westford) it is a veritable dining desert out here. Any new suggestions, ideas or discoveries??

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: rubysdad

                                                              J's, at Nashoba Winery, for fancy New American?

                                                              1. re: rubysdad

                                                                Madrid Bakery in Marlboro is an interesting find; an actual Spanish bakery hidden away in Metro West.

                                                                1. re: retrofabulousity

                                                                  I lived in Sudbury for 10 years and have lived in Hopkinton for 3 now. I will make some additions This is one of my favorite subjects.

                                                                  I can say that Zaftigs Delicatessen in Framingham is very nice for a good Jewish brunch.

                                                                  Tavolino in Westborough is quite good with a very nice scotch menu.
                                                                  I lived in Sudbury for 10 years and have lived in Hopkinton for 3 now. I will make some additions. This is one of my favorite subjects.
                                                                  I can say that Zaftigs Delicatessen in Framingham is very nice for a good Jewish brunch.
                                                                  Tavolino in Westborough is quite good with a very nice scotch menu.
                                                                  I would not waste my time with Tommaso it reaches for the stars and falls on its face each time I've been.
                                                                  I would recommend Zebra's in Medfield easily less than 20 minutes depending on where you live in Hopkinton.
                                                                  3 in Franklin is very good better than Incontro by a small margin.
                                                                  Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham is very good for Sichuan cuisine
                                                                  Uncle Cheungs is outstanding for Shanghai cuisine (you must specifically ask for the pink menu (do not miss the shanghai lomein)) though it's not upscale by any means more of a hidden gem.
                                                                  Stones should not be overlooked in Ashland. It is a new American pub and the atmosphere and food reflect this but they are very good.
                                                                  I’ve been told 45 in… Medway is quite good but I haven’t been there. I also haven’t been to Maxwells145 though all these comments are making me want to try it. I’ve also been meaning to try the tasting menu restaurant at patriot place so would be interested to hear feedback on that as I am a big fan of tasting menus.
                                                                  The Coach grill in Wayland is very good for steak but it’s really outside of your 20 minute radius. As are the things in Wellesley apparently though not outside 20 minutes for me since I live near the Holliston line.
                                                                  I’m afraid my preference is for Asian cuisine more so than modern Italian American I could tell you every good restaurant and every dish to try in metro west in that realm. For me it’s more about the food than the atmosphere usually I am very happy in the shabbiest place in Chinatown.

                                                                2. re: rubysdad

                                                                  Thanks for the pointer to El Huipil in Maynard; I'm not a fan of restaurant Mexican food in general b/c it mostly tends towards cheese-covered glop (in New England anyway), but I always like to try a place that could change my mind.

                                                                  Fugakyu is our go-to for sushi, for sure. We like it better than Oishi, but I guess that's largely just a matter of opinion as both are high-quality.

                                                                  Went to Coach Grill in Wayland for the first time (we've lived in Sudbury 7 years!) a few weeks back and found it a great (special occasion) steakhouse - loud and boisterous, but terrific bread, steaks, desserts - a solid choice if you want a red wine & beef night out, which we did. We compare it to Maxwell's 148 who also does a terrific steak; their ambience is much quieter and less "old school"ish...both are great places for a special night out. (Special meaning worth getting a sitter for a few hours and having a couple glasses of wine and dessert, to this parent of a toddler).

                                                                  J's at Nashoba is nice and fun, great place to take out of towners to experience quaint New Englandiness.

                                                                  Tomasso's in Southborough has been a disappointment twice, so I skip it now.

                                                                  I will have to try Madrid Bakery, sounds intriguing!

                                                                  Paani Pure Indian in Sudbury is really nice Indian, very fresh and family owned.

                                                                3. I would second the Maxwell's 148 recommendation, having finally made it there a few months ago. Haven't been to AKA Bistro in Lincoln, but have heard very good things about it.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: nsenada

                                                                    Love AKA.

                                                                  2. I wrote a couple of years ago and still feel that it is hopeless for anything resembling fine dining outside of Maxwell's. There are some very good Asian places in Metrowest, though. I have yet to find a decent Italian place , as I grew up in an Italian town in North Jersey and frequented Little Italy. The level of inexpensive casual Italian food down there is far beyond anything even in the much more expensive North End. The litmus test is that red sauce is not called sauce; it's called gravy. Then you know you have found the real deal.

                                                                    I DID finally find good pizza at Sabatini's in Westborough. The family who owns it are 100% Italian and hale from Brooklyn. It is the best real pizza north of New Haven. Technically, Westborough is not MetroWest but is one town over.

                                                                    Also in Westborough is Ted's Montana Grill. While it may be part of a chain, their standards are very high (as per Ted Turner) and the burgers are fantastic. They offer most dishes in either beef or bison. That makes the burgers even better but the steaks too lean. They also have fantastic short ribs that are not on the menu anymore but are available most nights.

                                                                    As a sidebar, MetroWest originally centered around Framingham/Natick.. According to Wiki, it has expanded to "nine towns of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Natick, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, and Wayland". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MetroWest

                                                                    1. Bella Costa in Framingham is a great Mom & Pop Italian restaurant.


                                                                      1. I'd seen a few people here name-dropping Madrid Bakery in Marlborough; we were in the area yesterday, so I suggested that we stop in. Wow. What gem that place is. If any of y'all are ever in Marlborough, you absolutely need to go. It's a husband and wife -- the husband is the pastry chef -- who are cranking out some seriously beautiful, delicious pastry. From reading the website, he started working in his father's bakeries in Spain when he was 9. The years of training show.

                                                                        They're very generous with samples; after picking our way around, we had an absolutely perfect apple tart and a hazelnut croissant, a wonderful cannoli, and some cononut macaroons to go that we mostly just ended up eating when we got home. I think they came 8 to a bag; I'm certain, though, that only two remained this morning. $15 total. Basically flawless pastry IMO. The heartiest of recommendations.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: FinnFPM

                                                                          Thanks. Still not a proper restaurant, though. I will go give it a try nonetheless.