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Need recs for restaurants in Coolidge Corner

Our dear friends are moving from DC to Brookline, specifically Coolidge Corner. We want to buy them a gift certificate to a restaurant in the neighborhood where they can get decent carryout, or have a casual dinner with their toddler. They'll be new in town with no sitter, so we're not looking for any swanky date night places, yet! Are there any quality neighborhod Coolidge Corner spots you can recommend? The kind you go back to again and again and don't ever get sick of? They have pretty wide-ranging tastes... Indian, Asian, Latin, bagels, delis, you name it, any and all would work.

Thanks!

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  1. there's a lot to like in the Coolidge Corner vicinity. For a toddler, Zaftigs, which is a "jewish-style" deli is very kid friendly. Breakfast is a big deal here (most of their other food is ordinary but they make a fine breakfast). On the Asian front, Dok Bua is excellent Thai and also kid-friendly. Clear Flour Bakery has the best bread in Brookline and some of the best baking. Fukagyu is decent japanese and Lemon Grass is decent vietnamese. Lineage is upscale and Cognac Bistro is currently my favorite Coolidge Corner area bistro, with excellent fish dishes and a comfortable vibe. Keep going down Harvard Street toward Commonwealth Avenue and you'll find Shanghai Gate which is one of the very best shanghainese restaurants in Greater Boston. I might opt for a gift certificate to Zaftigs and one to Cognac Bistro. Also, if they like deli, Michaels has the areas best corned beef and Brueghers gets the nod for bagels.

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    Shanghai Gate
    204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

    Cognac Bistro
    455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

    1 Reply
    1. re: teezeetoo

      I second the Zaftigs rec. They are very kid friendly and a fun intro to the 'hood.

    2. I'll define CC as Harvard Street between Commonwealth Av (Allston boundary) and School Street / Aspinwall Av (edge of Brookline Village).

      Traveling south from Allston:
      Shanghai Gate does not really serve Shanghainese food per se, but it's a distinctive place with some really solid, interesting food and you should go there.
      Rubin's is a Kosher delicatessen that is expensive and not worth it.
      Anna's Taqueria (location #2) is probably their best location and is beloved by many (and hated by a few). I personally do like their burritos, which are a great value. Think of it as your best option for healthy fast food.
      Kupel's makes middling bagels and seriously awful pastries.
      I haven't been to either of the Kosher restaurants here (Taam China, Cafe Eilat) but if you're in the market for Kosher versions of food cooked more seriously elsewhere, there's that.
      Comella's is your place to go for fast Italian if Bottega is closed.
      Dok Bua was, for a few years, my favorite Thai in Boston but they have seriously fallen off, with increased prices and extremely inconsistent food preparation. I can see eating there if you live a couple blocks away (can't beat the fun atmosphere) but if you really want Thai food just go down to Allston and eat (or take out from) S&I.
      Khayyam (Persian) received terrible reviews on this board in its first few weeks open, but since then I've heard good things from friends who have been. Another affordable option.
      Genki Ya is surprisingly fresh, reasonably priced sushi served by a team of Mandarin speakers amidst Ikea decor. There's nothing Japanese about it (which may scare off a lot of people who like to have this fantasy Japanese experience when they eat sushi) but it gets my vote for best budget/craving sushi in Boston.
      Dorado Tacos & Cemitas sells some pretty good shrimp tacos, and their homemade chips are delicious.
      Zaftig's is overpriced, inconsistent, and a generally unpleasant bastardization of the Jewish deli concept. I wouldn't recommend it at all.
      Rami's has probably the best falafel in Boston. I'd like it moister but nobody seems to do that. Their kebab and shawarma are also good, though I find the chicken often has an odd flavor. The fixins and bread are also tasty, and make sure to ask for extra hot sauce (schug, Israeli cilantro/garlic/pepper puree).
      Mr. Sushi is an entirely unremarkable, franchise-feeling sort of place to eat sushi. I wouldn't cry if someone bought me dinner there.
      Bottega Fiorentina is probably my favorite lunch spot in CC, and eating a plate of pasta there is like having my Italian friend's mom make us lunch after school when we were kids. It's great comfort food for all ages. You can also get a killer sub or espresso.
      Shiki tries to serve semi-upscale Japanese food but it's too conflicted to succeed. The service and the room itself are just awkward, which ruins any hope of the food working. Is it izakaya-inspired? Elegant? Accessible for people who just wanted sushi but are afraid of raw fish? Coolidge Corner has a lot of sushi restaurants but it's probably not the right place for this concept.
      Coolidge Corner Clubhouse is a sports bar and pretty much the only non-restaurant bar environment in the area. Food isn't awful.
      The next block comprises many of the eyesore chain establishments that have moved in over the last 15 years. I think there's a Panera there now? And Starbucks and stuff.
      Finale has a location around the corner on Beacon Street if you like "fancy" dessert/drinks/coffee.
      Further around the corner are Boca Grande, Jerusalem Pita and Tsunami Sushi, which are all particularly bad instantiations of their respective food types.
      The other way up Beacon Street you can find the original Anna's (not as good these days, in regards to the most variable elements like meat preparation) and the Bazaar Russian store. While this location is smaller than the Allston one, it's more densely packed and mostly dominated by the deli counter. The counter ladies here are unusually friendly (at least to English speakers) and will even play along (in an amusing awkward fashion) if you attempt to make pleasant conversation before placing your order. This would probably be my main grocery store if I lived in CC.
      Yasu does indeed serve Korean BBQ but you'd be stupid or lazy to eat here instead of going down Harvard to Allston and eating at Korean Garden.
      Zenna Noodle Bar is neither-here-nor-there crap for people who consider Asia to be a country. With the occasional trip to Super 88 you can make better food quicker for less money at home.
      Lucky Wah is where you go at 1AM if your body asks for deep-fried salty sugar.
      Shawarma King offers authentic Lebanese flavors and a shockingly long menu with many options, though I find their meats (and falafel) too dry. I think most people on this board would recommend Garlic 'n' Lemons in Allston over Shawarma King for this general type of food. Good pickles, though.
      Rani Indian Bistro is another "brand over substance" type place that provides a "nice" atmosphere for people determined to eat food described as Indian. I haven't had anything actually decent there... I remember ordering mirchi ka salaan "extra hot" or "extra peppers" or something (is it on the menu? don't remember) and receiving a bowl of sweetish orange sauce and about 15 uncooked Thai chiles. I ate it, but whatever.
      Michael's Deli is a takeout place that has the best corned beef, pastrami, etc. available in the area. If it were lunchtime on a weekday I'd give the nod to Sam LaGrassa's downtown for the sandwich itself, but on the weekend this is the deli, period. (Unless you want not-Jewish-style-deli, in which case Bazaar will treat you very well).
      Bruegger's is the best bagel option in CC but it's still unworthy crap compared to Katz (Chelsea) or the runner-up Rosenfeld's (Newton Centre).
      Khao Sarn gets a lot of love on this board for its Thai food but I don't have enough data points to comment personally.
      Chef Chow's is "nice" food for the deep fried salty sugar crowd.
      Maybe someone else can give more detail on the handful of small restaurants on this block of Harvard Street... there are a few and I haven't been to any of them.

      Outside of CC you're only a 15 minute walk away from Allston, which has been covered extensively, and has the highest concentration of good quality cheap ethnic eats in all of MA. At the other (southern) end, there's Brookline Village, which has a number of good places including Brookline Family Restaurant, Sichuan Garden, Brookline Spa, Matt Murphy's, Orinoco and Cutty's. To the east, if you travel on Beacon Street to the St. Mary's area, there's Sichuan Gourmet and Taberna de Haro before you get all the way to Fenway. This is also about a 15 minute walk from CC.

      All in all, Coolidge Corner is not a bad area for food. It has an increasingly corporate, suburbesque, chain-dominated vibe that I find much less pleasant than the student-driven flavor of Allston, the semi-urban cultural mix of the southeastern half of Cambridge, or the working class immigrant neighborhoods of East Boston, but if you're OK with that, it's your best choice for a relatively food-saturated neighborhood.

      -----
      Brookline Family Restaurant
      305 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

      Matt Murphy's
      14 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445

      Khao Sarn
      250 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Shawarma King
      Brookline, MA, Brookline, MA

      Sichuan Garden
      295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

      Michael's Deli
      256 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Brookline Spa
      75 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445

      Shiki
      9 Babcock St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Rani Indian Bistro
      1353B Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Bottega Fiorentina
      313B Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Cafe Eilat
      406 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Zenna Noodle Bar
      1374 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Boca Bar & Restaurant
      11 Pine St, Waltham, MA 02453

      Comella's
      1302 Washington St, Newton, MA 02465

      Genki
      398 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Coolidge Corner Clubhouse Restaurant
      307 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Dorado Tacos & Cemitas
      401 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Sichuan Gourmet
      1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

      18 Replies
      1. re: Luther

        I wouldn't know if Shanghai Gate was authentic Shanghainese, though I've been told it is. I do know the kitchen turns out very good food and food that doesn't mirror other Chinese restaurants (food that seems specific to this place and chef). Luther, if it isn't Shanghainese, how would you describe it? Does it represent a region or merely a chef?

        -----
        Shanghai Gate
        204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

        1. re: teezeetoo

          I would say it represents its chef/owners more than a particular region. It does have some dishes that I would classify as "classic Shanghainese" but they aren't really the best ones on the menu or anything. It's just a nice selection of generally well-prepared food that doesn't overlap much with other places around.

        2. re: Luther

          Nice review of the area, Luther, and pretty comprehensive. Of the "handful of small restaurants" just south of Beacon on Harvard St. I can recommend Gari for sushi - it's actually my favorite sushi place in the area, and one of very few places that advertise themselves as serving "fusion" food that doesn't manage to mess up both of the cuisines they're trying to fuse.

          1. re: BobB

            Oh yeah, forgot that... and also Fugakyu on Beacon Street just east of Harvard.

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            Fugakyu Cafe
            621 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

          2. re: Luther

            Great post, I'd say I agree with everything! I'm on the Allston/Brookline border of CC (so I get the best of both Brookline and Allston!) I think you fully summed up everything I could've written about the area and these restaurants.

            1. re: Klunco

              actually, while I agree with Luther on most of his assessment, I disagree about Zaftigs and Dok Bua. The OP asked for kid-friendly: Zaftigs is very kid-friendly and, while the breakfast is definitely overpriced, it is about the best you can do in the immediate vicinity and it makes a very good corned beef hash. Dok Bua has increased some in price over the years but is remarkably good and very kid-friendly. I love the food at S & I but I think of it as a takeout place and not a sit-down option.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                The lighting is harsh and the seats are cramped but the waitstaff at S&I are the most friendly, helpful people ever and the food usually comes out fast. And they don't make you pass some crazy test to prove you want your food prepared properly.

            2. re: Luther

              Luther, no comment on the newish curry place near Rani? Great aromas wafting from there when I passed by recently.

                1. re: drb

                  drb, what is this newish curry place's name? I didn't see anything near Rani's.

                  1. re: CookieLee

                    http://www.gourmetcurryhouse.net/

                    Looks mainly takeout- gets mixed reviews on Yelp, but, like I said, smelled great

                    1. re: drb

                      Ohh, I forgot about this place. It's not just takeout. I haven't been there, but I see they make onion bajii, which I love. I'll have to go check it out.

                      1. re: CookieLee

                        I know this is an old thread, but isn't Curry House basically exactly the same thing as the Gourmet India it replaced? Food court style takeout indian from big vats? Now, don't get me wrong, GI is not terrible by any stretch...a good fast meal. But other than their great naan, nothing was special there. I wonder if CH is any different really.

                        1. re: tamerlanenj

                          I don't know if it is the same thing, as I haven't been there as yet. I do see they have lunch and dinner buffets. I'm a huge fan of British style Indian food, as that was my intro to Indian food. And onion bajiis are my favorites, so I'll have to give them a try.

                          1. re: CookieLee

                            Yes, let us know if you try it. FYI Gourmet India had pretty darn good onion baji...though they were the first I ever ate so perhaps I'm not the best judge.

                2. re: Luther

                  I appreciate anyone taking the kind of time Luther clearly did; that being said, I kind of disagree with his take on Shiki (strongly disagree) and Zaftig's (somewhat disagree).

                  Shiki, food-wise, is fantastic. I wish they were a bit more organized, but the quality of their
                  dishes are top-notch (when we're talking Japanese in Boston). Whether their lunch sets or
                  dinner, I do recommend Shiki.

                  Zaftig's is a good place for breakfast/brunch in Coolidge Corner; the headache is the wait.
                  It isn't cheap, it isn't an authentic deli, but it is what it is..

                  -----
                  Shiki
                  9 Babcock Street, Brookline, MA 02446

                  1. re: amatto

                    I agree re Shiki. I just had lunch there yesterday and it was great. Their Kurobuta pork tenderloin is one of the best pork tenderloin preps I've had - flavorful and moist, with a delicious (and tender) ring of fat around the outside. I've always had excellent food at Shiki and haven't experienced any of the awkwardness re service or atmosphere that Luther mentioned.

                    Separately, I agree with the praise for Khao Sarn, especially for any of the whole fish preps and the noodle dishes, particularly the pad kee mao.

                    -----
                    Khao Sarn
                    250 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                    Shiki
                    9 Babcock Street, Brookline, MA 02446

                  2. re: Luther

                    Luther, this is a terrifically impressive run-down of a really wide range of restaurants. Apparently, there are a number of restaurants I need to get out and visit. Thank you!

                    I'm afraid I have to disagree about a few things though:

                    Shanghai Gate is not strictly Shanghainese, but Shanghainese cuisine is obviously the major influence on their menu. Some of their dishes, such as the Wild Veg & Bean Curd (ma3 lan2 tou2 xiang1 gan1), rice cake (nian2 gao1) and center fish in brown sauce (hong2 shao1 du4 dang) are very Shanghainese. If you mean that their xiao3 long2 bao1 (soup dumplings) aren't very good, then I agree with you, but not only are most of their best dishes Shanghainese, but most of the menu is inflected with a Shanghainese style --- a little sweetness and a different way to balance ingredients.

                    Dok Bua is still my favorite Thai restaurant in the area. Prices may have gone up, but they are still very inexpensive, and I've always had excellent, authentic Thai food there. The menu is enormous, and some of the more Americanized items on the menu are not handled well, but I find the flavors clean, bright, spicy and sour in a very good, very Thai, way.

                    Shiki is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Boston, bar none. There service is slow, to be sure, but they serve interesting cooked Japanese dishes that no other restaurant in Boston does. I don't think they are confused at all --- they are an izakaya, and a very good one at that.

                    Genki Ya, by contrast, serves dreck. I don't care what language the owners or waitstaff or chefs speak, but the nigiri were atroious, and the rolls could best be described as a hot-mess. Or, as tatsu might say, "jive-ass."

                    Rubin's is very expensive, but I've been very pleasantly surprised the last few times I've been there. Many people write off the kosher restaurants because they have little competition (and indeed, many, such as Taam China are terrible), but Rubin's more than just not terrible --- it's my favorite deli in Boston for meats and hot deli platters.

                    -----
                    Shanghai Gate
                    204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                    Shiki
                    9 Babcock Street, Brookline, MA 02446

                    Taam China Restaurant
                    423 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                    Genki
                    398 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                  3. I love Rami's in Coolidge Corner. They have great falafel and hummus! Plus Kupel's bagels is great too, in my opinion.

                    1. There's also the Reagle Beagle for mid-priced gastropub (pardon the cliche) food, across from the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse and several steps up quality -wise, although there's been some talk of a downward trend on this board lately. In any case, it's a friendly, neighborhood type place.

                      -----
                      Coolidge Corner Clubhouse Restaurant
                      307 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: GaryK

                        Reagle Beagle is maybe one of two places in CC that I wouldn't consider especially kid friendly (the other being Lineage)--it's just a little tight, IMO. To be fair, I've only been there at night, and maybe earlier in the day it has a different feel.

                        I've been to Khao Sarn with several toddlers (though, thankfully, not all at once) and it has worked well. It's a bit pricier than the other Thai places mentioned, but it's still fine for kids --the fish tank works well as a distraction-- and I prefer it to either Dok Bua or S&I. And it has a full bar and fantastic bartender.

                        I'm in the middle on Zaftig's--I can't disagree that it's a fake deli, but I like it for breakfast, and sometimes for the 'I'm exhausted" dinner. It's definitely kid friendly, and has a playground next door.

                        I'd say the best pizza is at Mangia in Brookline Village, and they deliver (free!) to Coolidge Corner.

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                        Khao Sarn
                        250 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                        Mangia
                        655 Washington St, Canton, MA 02021

                        1. re: cmd

                          agree re: reagle beagle. they are definitely cramped for space and were not super accommodating to kids/babies even at lunch. have to go back and try again but that was the initial vibe i got. also have heard reports of people not loving the food recently.

                      2. Phew, nice breakdown, Luther! Well done!

                        I'll add that I had a solid first impression of Cognac Bistro. I've admired the chef/owner's work at Kouzina in Waban, and he's doing an interesting combination of raw bar, French bistro, and old-school New England seafood here. A full bar and free parking are other assets. I'd say the prices seem fair, despite some early reports: did he slash them a bit after opening? The dollar special on raw Blue Points, still going this month, is pretty easy to take, too.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        -----
                        Kouzina
                        1649 Beacon St, Waban, MA 02468

                        Cognac Bistro
                        455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          The prices did come down on some items, and the menu has also changed a bit since opening. Probably the most dramatic price change was on the fruits de mer platters, which went from $45 (small) and $89 (large) to $35 and $65 respectively.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            yes - they did come down...we are excited to give it a second try.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I agree-- now that the prices are lower, it's a great place. Fun atmosphere and energy. If you go earlier in the evening, it's family friendly. When I was there I saw a few families (including young kids).