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Food Culture in Boston (or lack thereof)

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I am interested in starting a conversation about the food culture in Boston. I have only been here 2.5 years after living in the South, Vermont, NYC and Southern France.

I can't afford expensive meals (>$50/pp) and rarely eat meals costing more than $20/pp. I have eaten at quite a few places around town and while there have been some good meals, most are very disappointing. I think am am just so frustrated and have given up hope.

I think what it boils down to is a population that does not demand good food. I cannot understand this though as Boston is a wealthy city with an educated, diverse population.

And even though Boston has a diverse population there is better Vietnamese in Denver, better French in Austin, better bagels in Oregon, better Mexican food everywhere else, better Turkish in NYC and the list goes on. Chinese, even with the large population is hit or miss. Dallas has better Dim Sum. My point is that Boston can't even manage good ethnic foods with a supporting population. How about a freaking Italian joint!? Not American/Italian but a nice eatery with decent value.

How does Boston not have a bakery with a wood fired oven? Rural Vermont has better pizza and bread. I have had better burgers in Berlin ($8) than I could possibly hope to find here. How hard is it to make a good burger? Meat, potato roll, salt, proper heat, done.

Markets are a whole other story. The best Japanese market doesn't sell local fish? How about a butcher shop (Savenor's is just for looks, they defrost and cut primals up, just like the supermarkets)? Cheese there are great choices, without a doubt. Latin American groceries are sad as well. I have no idea why people recommend the Hi-Lo. Market Basket in Chelsea seems like the best option but still is rather lacking. Or an Italian Market? J. Pace is the best out there and but none of their locations even stock artisinal/quality products. How about a good ice cream joint? One that doesn't use stabilizers nor pre-made mix. Or coffee roasters in the city?

Well that's the end of my rant. I'll end with places I like.
Baraka Cafe - excellent
Pho 2000 - best pho in the city but that's it
Habesha - Very good
Singhs - Very good Roti
Oleana - Best upscale place I have eaten at

And no, cities as far away as Burlington, Waltham and Providence do not count as Boston. Sorry.

please commiserate with me. or flame away.

-----
Baraka Cafe
80 Pearl St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Pho 2000 Restaurant
198 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

Oleana
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

Habesha Restaurant
535 Main St, Malden, MA

  1. To not count Burlington or Waltham as part of Boston is at odds with the way that the Boston area actually works. Many years ago those were all very separate communities with distinct marketplaces, but these days they are really part and parcel of the Boston area, with Boston proper as just one more part of it. It is as if you were to say that NYC does not have great Chinese food because you did not like Chinatown and felt that Flushing could not be counted as part of NYC.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      Also, Waltham is less than 10 miles from parts of Boston, and Burlington less than 20. To group them with Providence, which is an hour away and in another state, is hardly fair.

      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        Maybe OP wants to restrict to areas that can be accessed by T. Then Burlington and Waltham certainly don't make the cut.

        While I suggest OP read this thread.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/755316

        1. re: cutipie721

          Waltham, especially around Moody Street, is quite accessible by T, by commuter rail, local buses and express buses.

      2. I think you're being too hard on Boston, even if you only want to focus on low price food. (I think Boston's mid-to-high price offerings are very competitive with other U.S. cities of a similar size.) Some of your statements ("better Mexican food everywhere else") are obviously exaggerations. Have you tried a few meals in East Boston? I'd say that between JP Licks, Toscanini's and Christina's, we aren't hurting for ice cream. Have you tried John Dewar's for meat? I'm admittedly not a burger person, but the burger at Craigie on Main is the most delicious I've had anywhere. Is Trattoria Toscana not "a nice eatery with decent value"? Sure, there are plenty of things the Boston food scene is missing, but a little credit please for some of the many things the city does do well.

        -----
        Trattoria Toscana
        130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

        Craigie on Main
        853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

        5 Replies
        1. re: peelmeagrape

          I too feel that gross generalizations obscure the many assets we have here, many in categories that fishmanator complains about. While the OP is certainly entitled to feel frustrated by the food scene, I eat at the same price point for the same reason and have also lived in other excellent food cities and disagree with the overall point. It would be much easier to have this discussion with specific examples. I do not think it is terribly unusual that the Chinese food here is "hit or miss." I think you would find that in any city, with any cuisine. Of course there are good and bad options, but I would put Fuloon, Peach Farm, Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling Cafe, New Shanghai, Zoe's, Best Little Restaurant, Winsor, Szechuan Gourmet against the Chinese restaurants in any other city. Washington, DC has a very rich Asian food culture that I am pretty familiar with and I have found equals here across the board--and that is not my opinion alone. What makes the Vietnamese better in Denver? Anh Hong, Pho 2000, Pho So 1, and Xinh Xinh are excellent, to my tastes at least. I have eaten Vietnamese in other strongholds and have not found it lacking here. What does the OP find lacking? It seems especially odd to criticize ice cream and coffee, both of which are actually real strengths of this area. As peelmeagrape points out, Christina's and Toscanini's, among others, are real innovators and generally pretty excellent. I am not sure whether they use stabilizers or "pre-made mix" but have never found their tastes to be off or the texture unpleasant. The flavors are vibrant. Barismo and George Howell/Terroir are extraordinary coffee roasters, as good as anything in the country. We have really great options for retail coffee: Thinking Cup, Voltage, and Simon's among the growing list of Third Wave choices in this area. Picco, Pizzeria Regina, Santorpio's, and Emma's are just some of the pizza choices we have here, and I don't find them lacking. Perhaps we do not have a dozen Neapolitan pizza options here as in NYC, but there are some really fine options, which actually directly reflect our "food culture"--Pizzeria Regina and Santorpio's are certainly reflective of the particular history of this area. And what about the Portuguese and Brazilian options here? Those certainly seem to be a distinctive food culture, one that few other cities can boast in similar numbers.

          -----
          Peach Farm
          4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

          New Shanghai Restaurant
          21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

          Xinh Xinh
          7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

          Gourmet Dumpling House
          52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

          Pho 2000 Restaurant
          198 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

          Anh Hong
          291 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

          Barismo
          169 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

          1. re: hckybg

            LOL fishmanator! I'm going to enjoy watching for your posts --if they even make it to this board. If you question the majority opinion here you can look forward to having your posts yanked. Period.

            Take it from another newb in Boston: there is good food to be had here, but Boston cuisine is wildly inconsistent. Just realize that the dish and the restaurant you liked last week won't be very good next week though it might be excellent again the week after that. Keep experimenting. It's out there, but you'll have to find it for yourself.

            Yes, you'll have to travel like a FedEx deliveryman from one borough/town to another to find individual places you like. And good luck navigating Boston's roads.

            Best bets here? Bread. French bakeries abound and they're
            all wonderful, with European-style loaves and pastries to choose from. Local ice cream is also expertly made. Wine shops stock really good stuff. The beer is fabulous. As noted above, the coffee is first class and they told you true about the pizza. I agree with you about the ethnic food, at least as much of it as I understand. Don't believe anybody here about the Chinese or Mexican. Beware reviews that address how MUCH food a restaurant offers; we both know that isn't the point. And the rapturous reviews of hot dog wagons gives you an idea of what passes for gourmet here. It's too bad, as you say, that a city this sophisticated in every other respect would settle for restaurants this indifferent, but it's possible that Boston's physical isolation from the rest of the U.S. accounts for it.

            I'll be surprised if this post even makes it to this board. On the off-chance that it does, I wish you luck with your culinary travels an advise you to get over your shock and approach each meal with an open mind.

            1. re: SSqwerty

              Can you explain what you mean by "Boston's physical isolation from the rest of the U.S."?

              1. re: stomachofsteel

                Maybe somebody didn't get the memo about the city fathers filling in the Back Bay?

              2. re: SSqwerty

                Rarely is there a post here that addresses "how MUCH food a restaurant offers," I believe that is firmly Phantom Gourmet territory. They can also point you guys to some great ooeygooeycheesybaconmcfried ________.

          2. I have lived in (within 10 miles), of Boston most of my life.
            I love the Italian Suulmeria in the North End.
            Christina's Ice Cream in Cambridge is excellent.
            Formaggio in Cambridge for Cheese.
            Karl's for sausage (Saugus)
            Red Barn Coffee Roasters (they have a location in Fanueil Mkt)
            I agree that the prices in Boston are high as is the parking. I stay out in the burbs
            and love to eat pizza in Santapio's, East Boston. But, both Regina and Antico Forno
            have brick ovens, so you might want to check at least Regina's out. Galleria Uno
            is great if you want a slice and some Arancini, but geat there by 11am. They sell
            out and close afterward every day.
            Sofra Bakery is a great place for lunch as is Dave's Pasta.
            Oh, if you ever make it to Burlington, check out H-Mart, it's worth the trip.

            -----
            Antico Forno
            93 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113

            Red Barn Coffee Roasters
            2 Walker Dr, Upton, MA

            Sofra
            1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

            H-Mart
            3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

            1. I don't understand this post very much. At the end of your post you mention some very fine places, but it is possible that you just haven't found good places in other categories? Rather than flame Boston for supposedly not having any "food culture" why not ask the knowledgeable hounds on this board for recommendations in categories that interest you?

              How many of the following places have you been to?

              Bagels - Rosenfeld's in Newton
              Chinese - Fuloon in Malden, Jo Jo Taipei in Allston, Wang's in Somerville, and the Sichuan Gourmets
              Turkish - Cafe Istanbul'lu in Somerville
              Burgers - R.F. O'Sullivan's in Somerville
              Inexpensive Italian - Basta Pasta in Cambridge
              Mexican - Tacos Lupita in Somerville, Angela's Cafe in East Boston
              Ice Cream - Toscanini's and Christina's in Cambridge
              Pizza - Emma's in Cambridge
              Vietnamese - In addition to Pho 2000, what about Pho Hoa? What about Pho Viet's in Allston or Bobalicious in Newton for Banh Mi

              (I am sure that other hounds will quibble with me about some of these categories, particularly my burgers and pizza recommendations, but that's what this board is all about!)

              If you like Oleana, have you tried Sofra? You might like Garlic 'n Lemons as well for inexpensive Middle Eastern.

              Have you tried some of the more local specialities? Roast Beef sandwiches? Fried Clams? Lobsters?

              I think it is true that you cannot walk into a random restaurant in Boston and expect great food. Boston has some truly terrible Chinese restaurants, for example, but also some of the best in the country. I haven't done a scientific sampling of random restaurants in different cities, but I doubt there are many places where you can wander into random restaurants and receive great food. I tried that strategy on a six-day road trip through Sicily once and ended up with five disastrous dinners and one excellent one. The whole point of Chowhound is to consult with fellow enthusiasts to find those relatively rare places with outstanding food.

              Finally, by the number, frequency and expertise shown in the posts on the Greater Boston Area board on Chowhound, compared to almost any other metro area in the United States, I would say we have a very nice food culture here.

              -----
              Sichuan Gourmet
              502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

              Basta Pasta
              319 Western Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

              Pho 2000 Restaurant
              198 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

              Bobalicious
              308 Watertown St, Newton, MA 02458

              Pho Viet
              1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

              Sofra
              1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

              Oleana
              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

              JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
              103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

              Garlic 'n Lemons
              133 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

              3 Replies
              1. re: lipoff

                I have been to about 3/4 of the places you mention. I think the fact that R.F. Osullivans and Rosenfelds is on your list means that our tastes are quite different.

                1. re: fishmanator

                  And that is the crux of the matter..taste is different..and different is neither good nor bad, simply different. Often taste is not slmply a gastronomic sensation. The ambience, people with whom you are dining and where you are dining all affect that sensation..before you continue bemoaning the lack of food culture in Boston, look to yourself and be certain that your feelings about being in Boston, as opposed to the other areas in which you have lived and which you extol, are not coloring your opinions. "Bloom where you are planted (or transplanted)" as the case may be

                  1. re: grammywheels

                    Well said.

              2. Guess I don't understand why we all feel the need to convince the original poster that Boston is worthy of good food. For anyone who has relocated here you will not find NY pizza for example, just open your mind and stop looking for what you find at home. When I go to San Antonio I'm certainly not looking for Maine lobster but I do expect to find great Tex Mex.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Pegmeister

                  Will you bring me back a Baja Fish Taco from Texas? ;)

                  1. re: mcel215

                    You could probably get those at LeVerdad :)

                    1. re: Pegmeister

                      only one tortilla, though.

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        Thanks Peg.

                  2. fishmanator I have always enjoyed your criticism(s) as they hit on some valid points and some things local hounds may miss, but do tend to be a bit extreme and tend to have specific restrictions. The area where I think you and local hounds will be most out of synch are "no, cities as far away as Burlington, Waltham..." I think on this board in particular, hounds eschew the motto of "a chowhound ... that travels all the way across town on their lunch hour for a bite, and ... across town for another" Even hounds which tend to frequent a particular area -- for instance Bob Dobalina who regularly professes a Cambridge/Somerville provincialist view, checks out all sorts of places in Waltham, Watertown, Roslindale, etc.

                    Its close to impossible to open anything in the city of Boston which uses solid fuel, so you are not going to get a wood fired bakery there anytime soon. That said, if you trek to Plymouth (which might be closer to Boston than rural Vermont to Burlington) we do have a wood fired bakery. The main thing I fault both the Chelsea Market Basket (which for me is not a complete latino shopping experience) and Hi-Lo is for meats and cheeses they just carry national brands, over time both have come closer in selection to Price Rite. But have you tried Compare in Chelsea, Frio Rico in East Boston, La Sultana in Somerville or Everett, Amigo's Market in Somerville. El Paisa carniceria, Casa de Carnes Solucao, or Seabra? Our latino populations here are spread out -- Framingham, East Boston, Somerville, Everett, Ashland, Chelsea, JP, Lynn, and Lawrence so that one ideal "latino supermarket" doesn't exist here, but for the most part if you know what you want there is a place to buy it.

                    Although I like J Pace, the original Capone has artisan meats, better fresh pasta, importated bufala all at better prices. New Deal in Revere, La Bella Ravioli, Regina's in Everett (this has gone downhill a bit), Foodland in Wakefield, and Russo's all carry some very good products (and the Chelsea Market Basket does have Pasta Market fresh pastas and Columbus Salame Company products). I enjoy being able to get an Italian espresso (or italian espresso drinks) and a selection of amari at places like Caffe Paradiso, Caffe Toscana etc. Italian does tend to be Italian American at the moderate price points (I assume you don't want to go to Erbaluce) and I know a few hounds still morning the fact that Zafferano is now a dental clinic in East Boston, but there are Italian American restaurants which have not red sauce specials: Abbondanza and Rino's come to mind, maybe Pescatore. Trattoria Toscana is something which gets away from the red sauce mold, have you tried Pulcinella or Gran Gusto? Its not perfect, but there are options. There are restaurants which are well liked on chowhound, but not discussed as much which you may not have tried like Cafe Polonia or Jasmine Bistro -- good hearty foods made to order.

                    Columbian, Dominican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran groups are more populus than Mexican (or Cuban or Puerto Rican) and you will find better bakeries and restaurants trying to eat those foods. Likewise there appears to be a strronger Korean community than Japanese and there certainly are Korean fishmongers (like Capt Boston) which offer local fish, plus where many Japanese shop is actually New Deal. So in Boston you aren't going to find incredible suadero tacos on housemade tortillas (both dorado and la verdad tried the tortilla part of this), but if you look beyond the taquerias and lousy burrito chains there is interesting central american food around. If someone does recommend a taqueria, ask them though whether the fillings are prepared to order or simply reheated.

                    I know the Ice Cream mix is a big thing of yours (and yes, I still personally use it on occasion because it makes experimentation easy). Boston isn't a dairy city, so its likely to be rare that someone pasturizes their cream, but there is a ice cream maker in JP doing just that (and places like Richardson's which is decent but not suburb, but does make their own base). It is $7 for a pint, so that might not fit your budget. I too am a bit confounded by the number of chefs wanting to make a $20 burger and there aren't many good $6 options, but there are things like Highland Kitchen, Green Street (I haven't tried Central Kitchen) and other options opening. Have you tried Tasty Burger?

                    -----
                    Pasta Market Cafe
                    237 Ferry St, Malden, MA 02148

                    Central Kitchen
                    567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                    Highland Kitchen
                    150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                    Bella Ravioli
                    369 Main St, Medford, MA 02155

                    Frio Rico
                    360R Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

                    Tasty Burger
                    1301 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: itaunas

                      Excellent points and a reminder that I need to try harder.

                      I think I get most discouraged with Boston when I cannot understand why some foods aren't better. This is the "culture" I am talking about. Batch (hipster JP ice cream) is not that good and obscenely expensive. Gran Gusto (very expensive), Cafe Polonia, Taqueria Jalisco, Gauchao, Peach Farm, other Pho places, New Deal, Compare, Rosenfelds (terrible every time, I do like Katz's) and every French bistro in the freakin' city are all mediocre. I think my standards are higher than most.

                      And although H Mart, Arax, Moody Street and Framingham all are enjoyable food destinations (still bummed about Little Q moving), they cannot be a part of my daily food experience due to their distance (2.5 hours out of my day to get Kim Chi?). I live in Dorchester.

                      I have been to many of the stores you mentioned. I work in most of those cities and am in a vehicle most of the day so I get to stop in to places and check them out. I need to check out the rest of the places you mention as you seem to understand what I am looking for.

                      Again, getting back to the "culture", I think a lot of your points support what I was saying. How is it that Boston, an educated, wealthy city with 600,000 residents does not have a quality dairy? How is it possible that New Deal is the only decent fish market around when we are next to the ocean? How can it possible be that within the city of Boston, there is no quality bakery? WHY is there no good burger? I could go on.

                      Again, I am inviting many flames and annoying a few people but I think the boards are a places to get different opinions. I really appreciate your response and it has again motivated me to get out and try some new places. I think I should start a foodie group of other frustrated people and we could go try places, criticize everything, go home and make better stuff. Who is interested?

                      -----
                      Peach Farm
                      4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                      Cafe Polonia
                      611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

                      Gran Gusto
                      90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                      1. re: fishmanator

                        I guess I'm always surprised when people dismiss places I really like, like Peach Farm or Cafe Polonia or Jalicso, as mediocre. Really? Nothing to love there at all?

                        Before I respond further, I guess I'd want to hear some detailed restaurant reviews from you explaining how you arrived at these conclusions about these places -- what dishes you ordered, why you disliked them, what other factors contributed to your dismissal of the place as mediocre.

                        Otherwise, I wonder if there's a risk that you're one of those unfortunates who is simply too hard to please and has unrealistic expectations of what a restaurant experience can ever be. Or one of those painful people whose goal in online forums is to show off how well-traveled and discriminating they are. You know the type: they like to flaunt their credentials, talk about how much better this dish at this restaurant where they know the chef personally in this other city, etc. In other words, not someone who tries to find the joy in every dining-out experience and wants to share tips with like-minded folks.

                        I'm not saying you're either of those, but those types do show up here, and I've decided it's better to ignore them than try to help, since their agenda isn't really to revel in a passion for great food wherever it can be found, to work communally with similarly-impassioned Chowhounds. Looking back at some of your prior posts, I detect a lot of general negativism: "that place sucks", "doesn't live up to the hype", "that neighborhood caters to idiots", etc. It doesn't encourage me.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        -----
                        Peach Farm
                        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                        Cafe Polonia
                        611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          New Deal is good; New Deal is great; look, i spend 1/4 my time in nyc; If you care to show me an equivalent place with reasonable prices in New York, I will be impressed; a better cheese shop than Formaggio, a better sausage place than Karl's; a better chinese fish-in the tank restaurant than Peach Farm. (As my partner says of one of the grocery stores that in SoHo, "you may find better quality, but you will never pay more.")

                          Look, I used to live in SF and Chicago and spend time in NYC; I do not think that Boston is in the same league as these places, but this blanket condemnation of Boston is over-the-top. There is lots of good food here, and I am definitely picky.

                          and what about the Craigie burger?

                          -----
                          Peach Farm
                          4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Not to mention that lipoff offered a good burger in his opinion (R.F. O'Sullivan's), the OP responded that perhaps their tastes are different, and then in a slightly later post again reiterated "WHY is there no good burger?" This suggests to me that the OP does not want to acknowledge that his question actually may be more about personal tastes than anything about Boston, and in that case it would be impossible to help or to convince.

                            1. re: hckybg

                              I thought the same thing, particularly about Rosenfeld's. Also, the bagels from the bagel bakery in Chelsea are great.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                              MC, "it's better to ignore them than to try to help". Well said. Just what the doctor ordered for me. On to more interesting posts.
                              CocoDan

                              1. re: CocoDan

                                I prefer to think that the OP's heart is in the right place, but I find it easier to get behind folks whose basic outlook seems to be positive and appreciative of what we have here. Of course it is possible to find more extraordinary examples of just about any dish you can think of someplace else, but a sweeping indictment of our dining scene strikes me as ungenerous.

                                I think of all the godawful places I've had to endure three or four or seven days around North America, and Boston looks pretty damned good. I too wish the average local diner were more adventurous, that luxury steakhouses and dull Italian-American fare weren't so popular here. But there's plenty to keep the interest and spark the ardor of the smaller community of dedicated food nerds hereabout.

                                It helps to be willing to range around a little bit, to get out of your back yard and the city limits -- I mean, technically Hyde Park is part of Boston, but it feels a lot more remote to me than Somerville, Cambridge, or a big chunk of Brookline, takes just as long to drive there as to Waltham, so I don't get the "city limits" circumscription. Mostly I chafe at a summary judgment that says, "Bah, it's all mediocre." I hate the word "mediocre" in food reviews: I want specifics. It's just too easy to be morose and dismissive.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Well, I'm very hesitant to wade into this argument. MC, I respect you much, but I think sometimes "mediocre" is a fair way to describe a meal, or an experience, meaning it's "of moderate or low quality or value", per Merriam-Webster. It may not be the most articulate way to say something, but it gets the point across.

                                  I can understand much of the flaming here, as the OP was certainly trying to be provocative, and succeeded in that. I prefer to think of the sentiment as expressing a sincere disappointment, and a "cry for help", regarding the local offerings. I think it's a common sentiment that many transplants here feel, and I don't think it's productive to just dismiss it. I also don't think that the posters here should feel defensive about it, either. We're all trying to find and share the best local experiences we can, but, as a cockeyed optimist, I always hope that some entrepreneur will view this board, and identify some of the things that are missing, and act on it.

                                  Having said that, I'll put in my plugs for eating experiences in Boston that measure up to anywhere:

                                  1. Ten Tables. I'd eat there once a week if I could. Great, chef-prepared cuisine, changes pretty frequently with the seasons, great value.

                                  2. Regina's on Thacher St.: What every great pizza joint wishes it was. Less is more on the toppings, ask for it well done.

                                  3. Toscanini's: They may use a prepared base, but their flavors are honest, inventive and excellent. Great texture, very little overrun, and state of the art hot fudge.

                                  4. Flour Bakery: Home made oreos, OMG. The rest of their baked goods are yummy as well.

                                  5. Dave's Fresh Pasta: Not the greatest I've had, but well-made pastas and ravioli, with interesting flavor combinations.

                                  6. Clear Flour Bakery: Their breads are as good as anywhere in the country.

                                  That's a start.

                                  -----
                                  Dave's Fresh Pasta
                                  81 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                  Ten Tables
                                  597 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                  Flour Bakery + Cafe
                                  12 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA

                                  1. re: winedude

                                    While I agree with your overall point, I do want to point out that responding posters did not dismiss the OP for the most part. There are literally hundreds of good suggestions in these posts, a veritable catalog of what Boston does well. I'd be more satisfied if the original poster tried some of these suggestions and gave impressions in response. Sure, say something is mediocre. But when someone offers another option, don't just dismiss that as mediocre too. That is where general descriptive words tend to be useless, versus something along the lines of "I tried burger X, which you say you love, and I did not like it because the patty was too thick and charred for my tastes. I am looking for a thin, Western-style burger" etc.

                                2. re: CocoDan

                                  I agree with a part of what everyone is saying.

                                  McSlim's profession is to make the food culture of boston seem as enticing as possible while still being objective about individual restaurants. I don't know why he has a problem with things being mediocre. Food is just like any other subjective interest, there are shades of gray but sometimes something is just bad. I also don't agree with him that Burlington and the like are part of Boston. I have no problem with driving an hour for a meal, heck, I have gone way further than that. That being said, Burlington is not part of Boston. Mango II might be in the running for best of Tewksbury but it should not be in the same race as Rod Dee.

                                  Hckybg makes a good point but I often find that if someone thinks a particular place is good (for example, certain burger joints), I probably will not agree with any of their recommendations and it might be best for them to use Cocodan's doctor's prescription ;). I'm sure if I recommended the BK stacker and the best bite around, people would ignore anything else I said.

                                  Winedude, I really appreciate your suggestions. I have been to every place you mention. Ten Tables is good and I have enjoyed both good and bad dishes there. Clear flour is a bakery with a consistent product. Regina's makes the best pie in Boston in my opinion. I do appreciate your understanding of the point I was trying to get across.

                                  1. re: fishmanator

                                    Burlington is tens of minutes away from the Boston city limits. Waltham is even closer. Tewksbury is a lot further. Perhaps it would help the discussion if there were some clarification. Are you limiting your range to Boston proper? If not, which adjoining cities and towns are you considering?

                                    Far be it for me to put words in anyone's mouth, but my guess is that mediocre does not convey enough information to be the basis of much understanding or discussion. Maybe you enjoy food that is very authentic or perhaps you are looking for special twists on authentic preparations; or it could be your unhappiness stems from something else. The more we know about why you don't like X, the better chance we have of directing you to a version you may enjoy.

                                    Finally, an observation about Boston and the ways of the people who live in the metro area. Yes, as you say, the Boston area is home to many universities, educated people, and a significant number with the money required to enjoy the finer things. However, a lot of those people live (and eat) in towns that, from the sound of it, are not within the area that you wish to consider. For example, I live in Belmont, which is very close to Boston but I rarely go into Boston to eat. There are plenty of good choices that are even closer to my home and easier to park near. I doubt I am alone in this, and this may help explain at least part of what you are experiencing.

                                    1. re: fishmanator

                                      This seems absurd. Yes, I like R.F. O'Sullivans. Maybe you don't. That's fine. To assume that this implies that you won't like any of my suggestions seems silly. I doubt anyone can find a prolific Chowhounder with whom they never disagree. If you automatically discount everyone's suggestions you'll be left with nowhere to try. Lot's of good suggestions have been offered in this thread --- I hope you get the opportunity to try some of them, which may yield a renewed appreciation for some of the hidden treasures around the Boston area.

                                      1. re: fishmanator

                                        Not that I completely disagree w/ your statement about Burlington (obviously it isn't part of Boston, but it certainly is part of the Greater Boston area) - but if you lived in manhattan would you be upset if someone recommended a place in brooklyn or queens as being a NYC restaurant? Because really, we're talking about the same sorts of distances here.

                                        Look at the geographical footprint that other cities are allowed to enjoy when one talks about their dining destinations and then compare it to Boston. IMO at least, we should give some leeway here for allowing suburban joints into the discussion (and I say this as a major pro-city snob)

                                  2. re: fishmanator

                                    "I think I should start a foodie group of other frustrated people and we could go try places, criticize everything, go home and make better stuff."

                                    You mean go to restaurants intending to have a bad time, just for the pleasure that comes with complaining afterward? I'll, um, pass, thanks.

                                    1. re: fishmanator

                                      "Gran Gusto (very expensive)"

                                      Really?

                                      1. re: fishmanator

                                        if you live in dorchester and want to stay there, can't imagine that you haven't tried the plethora of fine vietnamese restaurants (very inexpensive) which provide everything from great banh mi to superb can chua. Cafe Polonia isn't expensive and it's very good. I'd be happy to have Ashmont Grill and Dbar in my neighborhood. I like Sweet Tooth Bakery in Southie, just down the street from you, and there's some great chinese and clam shacks in quincy too. As to seafood, while New Deal is fabulous, I also like Court House, Captain Mardens and Cynthia the fish lady who comes to Brookline weekly. My NY friends tell me they can't get fish at the quality or the prices I pay. As to bagels, it's darn hard to get decent ones in NY so it's no surprise that Dorchester doesn't have them. I grew up in NY, have traveled through most of Europe, and I don't waste my time comparing what I don't have to what I can get today. I'll happily head to Arax and Severn, pick up my bread at Clear Flour, buy my cheese at Formaggio or Russos, my eggs and chicken at Mayflower, my fish at New Deal, lots of Italian supplies at Salems in Waltham, my corned beef from Michaels, Thai food from S & I, chinese food from Shanghai Gate, and count myself a lot luckier than most folks. As to inexpensive in NY, unless you're talking about Astoria or Northern Boulevard, beats me where you are finding great cheap food in Manhattan.

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

                                        Cafe Polonia
                                        611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

                                        Ashmont Grill
                                        555 Talbot Ave, Dorchester Center, MA 02124

                                        Captain Marden
                                        279 Linden St, Wellesley, MA 02482

                                        1. re: fishmanator

                                          I think you're onto it. I kind of agree--my budget precludes the high end, so I can't say a thing about that. But I find many restaurant meals in Boston disappointing.

                                          That being said--we've got amazing fresh seafood, local veggies and fruits to die for (particularly in the six month farmer's market/CSA season), every earthy crunchy hippie ingredient you'll ever need, ditto just about every ethnic ingredient short of fresh durian.. According to the Globe, you can even get that Plymouth wood fire bread in town on Washington Street.

                                          So put down your cursor, pick up a skillet. You seem to know how you like your burger. Myself, I can't point you in the direction of a good potato roll. But maybe someone else on this board can.

                                          1. re: femmevox

                                            Hi Rise makes great potato rolls and loaves, although the rolls are probably a bit small for a burger.

                                        2. re: itaunas

                                          Zafferano was great...RIP

                                        3. Fishmanator, you need to account for the fact that Boston, unlike most cities in this country, is densely settled and only absorbed some of its historical neighbors. To disqualify establishments in Cambridge, Brookline, or Somerville as not being 'in Boston' is silly. By any urban standard in America, bakeries like Clear Flour in Brookline, Iggy's and HiRise in Cambridge, and others would fall within the main city limits. Each bakery has strengths and weakness, but each bakery consistently produces very good bread.

                                          As to French bistros, Troquet is very good, and so is Ten Tables, both superior to Oleana in my experience, though i like Oleana.

                                          I think you do not have enough experience in the town to knock the whole culture. Your comment on ice cream says enough about that. it is true that if your standard is say Mexican, then yes, you will be disappointed. but the town has a range of excellent ethnic foods and lots of real fine dining establishments.

                                          -----
                                          Troquet
                                          140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                          Oleana
                                          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          Ten Tables
                                          5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: cecilturtle

                                            And what is your standard for quality ice cream?

                                            I think good milk/cream, quality flavors, no stabilizers, freshness and good technique are required. What company meets those expectations in Boston?

                                            1. re: fishmanator

                                              Curious about your assertion that quality ice cream must contain "no stabilizers". While commercially made products certainly have taken the chem closet to great lengths in the search for shelf stability, I am perfectly fine with judicious use of products intended to improve texture &/or flavor. Some of your finer restaurants are using various hydrocolloids in ice cream bases (often sous-vide custards frozen via paco-jet or liquid nitrogen) to achieve their desired results. Fresh cream ice cream with no adjuncts is best served quickly, which to me, means cranked at home on a nice summer afternoon. Perhaps you should leave the shops (which have to overcome the realities of commercial service) alone and just enjoy your "pure" ice cream at home.

                                              1. re: loper

                                                I used to produce ice cream in a commercial environment. Stabilizers (in a non-molecular gastronomy sense) are used as a shortcut, they are a sign of a lack of skill and of quality ingredients.

                                                Stabilizers and bases are what mcDonalds uses. If haagen daaz can make ice cream without them, so can a city with 150 universities (or how ever many). They are used to replace butterfat content, proper manufacturing technique, increase shelf stability (always great in fresh products!) and decrease food cost. Many ice ceram producers do not use nor need them and are better for it. You are incorrect about the "realities" of commercial service.

                                                I don't know if you wanted an explanation, but you got one.

                                                1. re: fishmanator

                                                  It's all molecular. Egg yolks, and the lecithin therein, are a stabilizer. That someone should seek to improve an ice cream using a different stabilizer shouldn't immediately remove them from the "quality" debate. All I meant.

                                          2. You failed to recognize that the population density of Boston is 1/2 of NYC's. You refuse to travel to the burbs, yet you had no problems navigating through cities that are rural or more than twice the size (Dallas is 4x) . On top of that, you accuse us of not having a food culture because this fine and "wealthy" city does not work around your limitations (both in terms of budget and """"distance"""").

                                            Next time you move to a new place, I recommend you don't start a discussion on their board talking about getting $3.99/lb lobsters from any supermarket.

                                            1. I suggest you do some 'jewel hunting', here's a start, get some excellent Peruvian street food at Limone Rincon in Eastie, almost everything is under$20 are pretty delicious.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: treb

                                                I do enjoy most of Rincon Limeno's dishes.

                                                -----
                                                Rincon Limeno
                                                409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                                              2. Boston is a bit of a hard nut to crack, so I can understand your frustration. Overall (and I know I'm making sweeping generalizations here) the city's culture is surprisingly provincial for one of the nations' major metropolitan areas, especially with the highly educated population. There is a lot less libertine experimentation and sensuous culinary glee than one might find in many other areas, and, yes, there are a lot of people with fairly pedestrian palates. Chicken parm subs do well here.

                                                That said, every place does some things well, and I think you might want to check your attitude at the door and do a little exploring. No, Boston won't have everything you like just as you expect it, but there is a lot to discover. Generally, my impression of Boston is that the real strengths are sandwiches, ice cream, coffee, and Portuguese and Brazilian food. I'd argue that the Vietnamese is as good as many places, with Pho 2000 and Xinh Xinh sanding out. Side note, but in my opinion, several spots in Lowell (which there is no way to argue is part of Boston) beat any in Boston. Indian and Thai are not at their best, but there are acceptable example in each genre. Mexican is dismal overall but there are some good moments, Angela's Cafe in East Boston is my favorite. For seafood, not even remotely cheap, but I'd rather eat at Neptune Oyster than just about anywhere I've been world over. The Clam Box in Ipswitch, similarly, is a singular destination that competes with anything anywhere. Muqueca in Cambridge is worth a visit if you haven't tried it. Not cheap, but Taranta in the North End has been both excellent and adventureous every time I've been.

                                                But Boston is Boston. If you are going to do what I think you are doing - arguing with yourself about why other people aren't more adventurous or daring, you will dig yourself a deep and bitter hole. Almost every list of great food items in Boston ends up including Hot Dogs or Meatloaf or Burgers or deep-fried something. Don't get me wrong, those things are all excellent and worth of a try, but that's the stuff that flies the highest here. Still, look a little bit and you will also find some real and less-predicatable gems that you won't find anywhere else.

                                                -----
                                                Neptune Oyster
                                                63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                                Xinh Xinh
                                                7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                Pho 2000 Restaurant
                                                198 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: andytee

                                                  " you will dig yourself a deep and bitter hole."

                                                  yup.

                                                  In all seriousness, you are grasping exactly what I am saying ("a hard nut to crack"). Hit the nail on the head with the parm sub comment. Pho 200 is my favorite but most of their other dishes are lacking. I agree with your Lowell finds and I enjoy the Clam Box as well. Neptune Oyster is quite good, if a bit pricey. I drive down the South Shore once in a while to get my oyster fix.

                                                  I have a favor to ask and since there in no PM option, I'll ask it here. Would you offer up a list of places that you consider to be great? I have tried every place you mentioned but you must have others.

                                                  Please andy , SHOW ME THE LIGHT! (P.S. What store did you find that Handy Rye at? I have a whole case of the regular Sazerac Rye coming in for me as I couldn't find it in stock in Boston.)

                                                  -----
                                                  Neptune Oyster
                                                  63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                                  Clam Box
                                                  789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                                                  1. re: fishmanator

                                                    Yeah, sure. Disclaimer, tho, I'm a former Boston resident, not a current one - I'm living in Western MA right now. I don't have time for it right this minute but I'll get back on here later and post a few more favorites. Some may have gone downhill or closed, so take my endorsements with a grain of salt.

                                                    Handy Rye I got out here as well.

                                                    And believe me, there's some good food out here with the country living, but I would love to spend a week with the options I used to have in Boston, limited as they can seem.

                                                    MC Slim JB tends to be pretty on the mark in my book - with the caveat that since he writes about food professionally he doesn't really have the option to be a curmudgeon or to criticize Boston as a whole. My suggestion would be to check his posts out and listen to what he says - you guys might disagree on some things but he is more than worth listening to.

                                                    1. re: andytee

                                                      Ok, first stab at a list of places I'd want to go if back in the Boston metro with some time to eat and drink - probably skewed heavily towards the Somerville / Cambridge side of the river because that's where I lived. It's been 3 yrs so places may have closed or gone downhill, take this with a grain of salt but since OP asked..

                                                      East Coast Grill was good sometimes but too inconsistent and overpriced to really recommend, but I really liked All Star Sandwich Bar as a lunch spot. Not amazing, just interesting and generally really good, I can't think of many comparable places in other cities I've lived in.
                                                      Angela's Cafe, East Boston - I love Mexican and the scene overall is pretty bad, this place made me happy but only in the context of Boston, nothing that would last in the Southwest or West Coast.
                                                      Highland Kitchen, Somerville - recently opened when I was moving, interesting gastropub menu, great cocktails, affordable, friendly
                                                      Muqueca - for fish stew on cold nights (did they close?)
                                                      Neptune Oyster - I think once I had a not-great dish there but the standard of quality was typically excellent.
                                                      Taranta - interesting, always really tasty, daring but rooted in tradition, plus I have met the chef and he is really nice.
                                                      Icarus was really good for fancy meals, they closed though, right?
                                                      I already mentioned Lineage
                                                      Breakfast in Somerville - Renee's near Davis was my favorite, also liked Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Sq., food was actually not amazing but there were some pleasant intangibles.
                                                      Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis was a spot I loved for sandwiches and take-home pasta stuff.
                                                      Crema Cafe in Harvard Sq had excellent espresso drinks and baked goods.
                                                      Watertown - Sevan's Bakery and the others are a real gem not found in most places. Fastachi nuts, same area, also worth a visit. At first, it's like, "so, just nuts?" but they are really good.
                                                      Watertown Diner is really not that special but it works fine if you are on a shopping trip, there is a pretty good (not amazing) kebab place (don't remember the name) across the street from Sevan's too.
                                                      Barada, near Porter Sq, was not great but definitely good middle eastern, I developed a fondness for it over time.
                                                      Baraka and Pho we have already touched on, I liked Peach Farm well enough too.
                                                      Rendezvous in Central was pretty excellent for fancy dinners.
                                                      Same for Ten Tables in JP.
                                                      Pizza, I liked Regina's, but locations vary. Santarpio's is worth a visit, but overhyped, I think that the fact that it is a dive and out of the way breeds loyalty. Still, the grilled meat on the menu was always excellent even when the pizza was just ok. Sometimes the pizza was excellent too. But there is no Frank Pepe's in Boston. Emmy's was just ok, to my taste. I liked their hippy-funky toppings (leek+sweet potato) but the crust and sauce we're bland and just not what I like. I still ate there from time to time without complaint.
                                                      The Brazilian places are worth poking around on the boards for info about. I don't have any particular loyalties, and nothing I tried was incredible, but it's a cuisine you don't get everywhere and it's good.
                                                      For Indian, Namaskar (Davis) was fine, not excellent, and Bukhara (JP) was passable the small handful of times I tried it.
                                                      My brain is kinda sputtering out at this point, there is more, I know. I'll post again with whatever else I think of.
                                                      Have you been to Journeyman in Union Sq, S'ville? They used to do an excellent supper club out of their home, I have not been back to try the restaurant, but I can attest that they are excellent cooks with a sense of adventure entirely intact. Not cheap, I know.

                                                      I generally though there was lots of great coffee and ice cream to be found. It sounds like we may disagree on that point so I won't belabor it.

                                                      Another thing I think Boston did pretty well in general is cocktails, Slim JB or others on here could better attest to which spots are hot right now.

                                                      Boston is a pretty traditional city, and being happy there means you have to make some sort of peace with that. In general, it's a city that doesn't need a lot of frou-frou. So yes, it can be bland and boring, and a lot of excellent stuff doesn't fly or never even comes to pass. But if you look for the strong points, they are there.

                                                      -----
                                                      All Star Sandwich Bar
                                                      1245 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                      Peach Farm
                                                      4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                      Neptune Oyster
                                                      63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                                      Baraka Cafe
                                                      80 Pearl St, Cambridge, MA 02139

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

                                                      Dave's Fresh Pasta
                                                      81 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                                      Muqueca
                                                      1010 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                      Highland Kitchen
                                                      150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                      Crema Cafe
                                                      27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                      Fastachi
                                                      598 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA

                                                      Ten Tables
                                                      5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                      1. re: andytee

                                                        yumyum's list, below, seems to all be pretty good stuff too, and he reminded me of macchu piccu in union sq. there's a chicken place that's excellent and a sit down restaurant that has some good dishes, some bad. but the aguadito de pollo at the sit down place was always revelatory when i would eat there.

                                                        it probably goes without mentioning, but formaggio kitchen is a gem deserving recognition the world over. i miss that place.

                                                    2. re: fishmanator

                                                      Hold on, did I read that correctly? You couldn't find Sazerac Rye? You're kidding, right?

                                                      1. re: robwat36

                                                        At least one retailer I rely on said he was having difficulty getting the Saz 6 year old, one of my standby American straight ryes. Oddly enough, Rittenhouse 100, another one I like that has been a tough bottle to find for a couple of years, has been easier to come by lately.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Weird. I'm pretty sure I saw it at Downtown Wine and Spirits in Davis yesterday.

                                                        2. re: robwat36

                                                          The distributor was playing favorites and wasn't shipping to many stores in the area. That guy has been fired so the supply should open up.

                                                          1. re: robwat36

                                                            The comment was about the Sazerac Thomas Handy Rye, which is their "antique edition", a limited bottling and can be hard to find. But yeah, even here in Western MA, both the Baby Saz (6yr) and Rittenhouse 100 went through a spell where I could not find them anywhere.

                                                          2. re: fishmanator

                                                            No need to leave Dorchester for an oyster fix, you have the Ledge Kitchen. They serve Island Creeks and given your budget you can get them for $1 an oyster on Mondays. Also venture out a few minutes into Quincy and you will find a really nice fish market, Burkes.

                                                            1. re: Pegmeister

                                                              Don't know current info on this, but a while ago, Lineage in Brookline had an oyster "happy hour" with dollar oysters. It was a nice spot, also, has a wood oven. Never did a full formal dinner then, but would sit at the bar with a mess of oysters and a glass of Chenin Blanc, and then order a thing or two off the menu when hungry. I think they had a pretty excellent burger too.

                                                              Edit- just checked their website, yep, $1 Island Creeks at the bar, every night from 5:00-7:00.

                                                              1. re: andytee

                                                                That is a nice place to grab oysters and I have been there. It is quite an attractive restaurant.

                                                        3. In some ways I agree, it's not easy finding good food at a reasonable price in Boston. One of my biggest issues has always been the quality of service in Boston. Unless you go to the extreme high end, like L'Espalier, service in Boston tends to be mediocre at best. As for complaining about not getting good BBQ, or ethnic food, that's lame to me. You don't go to New Orleans for clam chowder, you don't go to San Fran for roast beef on weck and you don't go to Boston for gumbo. Enjoy the local specialties.

                                                          -----
                                                          L'Espalier
                                                          774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                            Clam Chowder and Roast beef don't count as specialties in my book and the fact that they are considered "specialties" is, again, the point I am harping on.

                                                            1. re: fishmanator

                                                              If clam chowder is not a specialty, then you should expect to get great clam chowder in Omaha. Honestly, I don't.

                                                              For my part - and I have lived in NYC and traveled quite extensively - it is not about what is difficult to find here, it is about all the really good meals that one CAN have here. Do take a look, as andytee suggests, at some of MC Slim JB's recommendations. Try them and see what you think.

                                                              1. re: fishmanator

                                                                What about deep dish pizza, cheesesteaks, beef on weck, various regional bbqs? Are these too low brow to be considered specialties? I don't understand your post. At what price point is an item considered a regional specialty?

                                                                1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                  Yeah, I'm with everyone else on this - Roast Beef and Chowder are regional specialties. That means almost everyone is doing them and there are a lot of fairly mediocre, sometimes even dismal, variations out there. But some people are doing them awesome, and it's worth making peace with the situation enough to give it a try when you find those people.

                                                                  Ultimately, eating good food by it's nature involves eating a lot of bad food along the way.

                                                              2. Just out of curiosity, which Turkish places do you like in NYC compared to what we have here? As someone who has lived in NYC and has spent alot of time in Turkey, Istanbul'lu blows anything I have had in NYC out of the water.

                                                                Also if you like Singh's, have you tried Ali's?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Matt H

                                                                  Dinner at Istanbul'lu was only OK but I need to return to try their breakfast as it looked more promising. I did not like family restaurant or the one on comm ave across from super 88.

                                                                  In NYC I have had great meals at Hanci and Balkanika which is not only Turkish food.

                                                                  Yes, i have tried Ali's, also a tasty place. It was a while ago and I think I actually ate a roti then walked up to Poppa B's to try a platter there.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Poppa B's
                                                                  1100 Blue Hill Ave, Dorchester Center, MA 02124

                                                                  1. re: fishmanator

                                                                    I have been to Hanci and it was actually pretty tasty, but nothing about Istanbu'lu has ever been "OK" for me, either Brunch or Dinner.

                                                                    I think that its possible that you may have different taste from many of us here (not more refined or discerning, just different) because Istanbul'lu has been about as close I have personally gotten to what I have enjoyed in Istanbul itself.

                                                                    An Ali's Roti and Poppa B's platter? Quite the appetite. Seriously though, you should give it another try I find them superior to Singh's in every item outside of the Doubles.

                                                                2. @fishmanator —

                                                                  THANK YOU! This post is what I've always wanted to say about Boston but never could before. I practically grew up in that town, and I cannot for the life of me think of a good meal that I've had. There's a good lobster roll in a deli in Newton, and that's about it. I've tried lots of incredibly expensive restaurants that got RAVE reviews from the Globe that would have shuttered in three months in Philadelphia.

                                                                  Even the supposed good ethnic finds in places like Waltham are, in my honest opinion, crap. For example, ask many people about the Elephant Walk on Main St, and they'll rave and rave and rave. I have no idea what they're so excited about.

                                                                  My honest assessment is that everything in Boston is WASP food. Bland, mildly attractive, and drenched in butter for flavor. Even the ethnic food fits this description, and it is upsetting. Boston has all the necessary ingredients for good food, but it never succeeds.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Elephant Walk
                                                                  900 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215

                                                                  20 Replies
                                                                  1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                    Well, your first problem is that you were listening to people who rave and rave and rave about Elephant Walk. Whereas the general feeling about that place round here seems to be more along the lines of "There's a few things on the Cambodian side of the menu that don't entirely suck."

                                                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                      Agreed — on the other hand, the last time I had to spend any serious time in Boston was 8-9 years ago, which was well before Chowhound or before I knew of Chowhound. I admit a lot of my experiences are somewhat dated, but they still seem valid. A lot of the places that I've been back to that people have spoken highly of I don't think would survive in more competitive markets.

                                                                      A number of the restaurants that I remember people speaking highly of are probably dated, but I remember people raving about a Vietnamese place that had a number of locations (in Cambridge Square and on Newbury St, that I recall) that was mediocre at best. I also remember high praise of Coconut Café (blech) in Newton Centre, which also had the perennial favorite Sweet Tomato Pizza ... which is also, in my opinion, not the world's best pizza and certainly worse than one can find elsewhere in New England.

                                                                      Dok Bua Thai on Harvard St. in Brookline also got rave reviews when it opened (I remember lots of comments about their small Thai produce section), but I don't recall any dishes that surpassed standard American Thai.

                                                                      I'm trying to wrack my brain to remember where else I used to go that got high foodie recommendations, will try and post back when it's not so late.

                                                                      1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                        Oh, also had a number of late night meals at South Street Diner on Kneeland. I remember them being one of the very, very few places open past the 2 am cut off. They had awesome chocolate frappes.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        South Street Diner
                                                                        38 South St, Westborough, MA 01581

                                                                        1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                          Ah. So you're basing this blanket dismissal of ALL food in Boston--"everything in Boston is WASP food. Bland, mildly attractive, and drenched in butter for flavor. Even the ethnic food fits this description, and it is upsetting. Boston has all the necessary ingredients for good food, but it never succeeds"--based on vague memories of local chains and Americanized places way out in the burbs, and all of this information is 8 or 9 years old.

                                                                          Noted.

                                                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                            Hmm ... if you want to call Brookline "the burbs," you're welcome to. Or Cambridge. I, for one, don't, especially since a lot of the Boston food people I know point to Waltham or Watertown as "good places to go."

                                                                            And yes, I agree some of my memories are old, but if you'd like to disagree, point me in the direction of Boston restaurants that stand up on their own rather that just as the "Best of Boston." And my dismissal is not blanket, I am pretty clear to state that it only covers places I've been to. And up until two years ago, I ate out a LOT in Boston. And I, for the life of me, cannot remember any meals that really knocked my socks off. There was a lot of decent food, but nothing great — and that compares poorly with places with Portland, ME or even New Hampshire or Vermont, where I can point to a number of great restaurants.

                                                                            I remember Lala Rokh fondly on Mt. Vernon. In fact, it was the first time I tried Persian food. But it seems to have gone downhill since I was there last, which is not a general comment on Boston food, but a source of a general lack of excellence.

                                                                            Oga's Sushi in Natick is quite good. I was told about it by a Japanese businessman friend of the family, and a Japanese family member also quite likes it. I've found the fish to be generally of high quality, and the omakase dishes quite inventive. It is, again, not in Boston — but it is probably the best meal I can recall having in Greater Boston. Unfortunately for OP, I don't think it is at all T accessible.

                                                                            I think my general comment stands, however. There are a number of cities far smaller, with a still smaller yet clientele base, that have a thriving food scene and culture. Burlington, VT and Charleston, SC spring to mind, along with Northern Virginia and Portland, OR (among others). What I find sad about food in Boston is that even the highest rated, most exclusive restaurants still do not have anywhere near to a high profile because — and I say this with respect — are not pushing the boundaries or making extremely high quality food. I think the tenor of this discussion attests to that, when one poster mentioned that Boston does "ice cream and sandwiches" best. If that is what the country's tenth largest city does best, I think that says a lot about the city's food standards.

                                                                            I think restaurants in Boston get a slide because, in my experience, the Boston public hasn't either started its own good food businesses or asked the pre-extent restaurants to increase their standards.

                                                                            But that is my take, from a former Bostonian.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Lala Rokh
                                                                            97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                                                            1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                              So you speak as if you are an informed source, but use 9 year old data. While I did not live in Boston 9 years ago, I did visit quite often and there is a huge difference between then and now when it comes to food.

                                                                              If you praise Portland, OR and Charleston, SC for their thriving food scenes now, then why dont you afford Boston the same courtesy? Because trust me Portland 9 years ago was a culinary wasteland, much different from where it stands today.

                                                                              1. re: Matt H

                                                                                I would politely disagree with just about every one of STTL's assertions. Unmerited Globe raves? Leaving aside the fact that a new (and better, in my view) critic took over the role four years ago, what do food nerds care about professional reviews, except as something to kick around on Food Media and News?

                                                                                Burlington, VT? Lovely little city, great restaurant scene for a town of 40K, but comparing it to Boston, starting in terms of the wealth of traditional cuisines we have access to, is just absurd. Dok Bua, standard American Thai food? Wow, my experience there is really different, but I've been perhaps three dozen times.

                                                                                I don't buy many of these premises, starting with this notion of "WASP food" as some kind of underlying culinary aesthetic. Yes, we have a lot of bad fake-Irish pubs. Yes, upscale comfort food has been done to death (not exactly a problem local to Boston). Yes, there's a great swath of the populace that is content with the mean (another not-exactly-local problem). But I think the rest is easy to debunk if you work from not-badly-dated information. Even eight years ago, Chowhounds could have recommended superior alternatives to every one of the blah examples cited, and there are many more now.

                                                                                But it is true that if you aren't a dedicated Hound, aren't willing to explore and dig and get around a little bit, and if you take your cues from carelessly-chosen amateurs and some professionals, it's indeed easy to eat dull food here. I'd say that's not a reflection of Boston food culture, but of American food culture, and a huge reason that this board exists.

                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                1. re: Matt H

                                                                                  Yes, my data is old, and if the situation has changed, that is tremendous.

                                                                                2. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                  Yes, some smaller cities have better food cultures, especially per capita, but they are the exception, not the rule. Charleston is wealthy and has a long and interesting food history (same for New Orleans). Portland is where young people go to retire and where the percentage of people working in the service industry is much higher than other cities. It also doesn't have much zoning regulations, so it's much easier to open a restaurant. I think it's a better food city than Boston, but it's also a better food city today than almost anywhere except NY, Chicago, and SF.

                                                                                  How do you feel Boston compares to other metro areas of its size? What about Houston, Miami, Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Phoenix, San Fran, Riverside, Seattle, Twin Cities, or other smaller areas like San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa, Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh? Except for SF, DC, and regional specialties in some other cities (like St. Louis), I think Boston stacks up remarkably well.

                                                                                  I wish food here was better, but comparing it to the truly great food cities is a waste. It's not the best city for food, but it's certainly not bad.

                                                                                  My main problem with the Boston food scene is not the lack of quality, it's the relatively high prices. I think a lot of that has to do with overly restrictive and expensive permitting laws (and high rents, of course). It's harder for a small, independent restaurant to open here with a liquor license and not charge a lot to survive. I think easing the BYO regs would help in that regard.

                                                                                  And we're definitely missing depth in certain cuisines, such as Mexican, Ethiopian, Greek, Turkish, and non-sushi Japanese, but I think we are getting better. I also wish we had a more high-end seafood focus than a high-end steakhouse focus. Boston definitely has an undeserved reputation as a premiere (the premiere?) seafood city - I only enjoy a couple higher-end places, the Clam Box, and Farnhams.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Clam Box
                                                                                  789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                                                                                  1. re: DoubleMan

                                                                                    But Boston also had has a long and interesting food culture. There aren't many Western cities that you can point to and say "a number of dishes originated here!" Whereas Boston has a whole seafood cuisine unique to it. Although I think the food in San Francisco is marvelous, I cannot off the top of my head come up with a dish that originated out of SF like chowder or lobster rolls in Boston. What I think is sad is that that heritage has been left to flounder somewhat.

                                                                                    I think Boston pales significantly in comparison to Seattle and Denver, and is probably on par with Baltimore (those being the only cities on that list with which I am familiar). No one is saying, least of all me, that Boston only serves BAD food. But that for a city that is so diverse, and supports such a large student population, the food culture is sadly lacking.

                                                                                    And while it is true that not every city can be NYC/SF/LA/Chicago in terms of food, Boston has all of the ingredients to be truly fantastic and yet still does not figure on the map, as it were. There are tons of nearby farms for a local food movement, a pre-extent food culture, tons of immigrants, and tons of students and professionals to support them.

                                                                                    I admit my information is old — it has been a long time since I ate out regularly in Boston, if it has changed, GREAT! — but in general I was surprised by how little quality was expected from the highest end restaurants in the city. And the restaurants that did seem to be very well regarded were almost uniformly high-end-dark-leather-and-wood-pannelling steak houses.

                                                                                    1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                      "I cannot off the top of my head come up with a dish that originated out of SF like chowder or lobster rolls in Boston."

                                                                                      Cioppino.

                                                                                      Sourdough.

                                                                                      Also, believe it or not, Irish Coffee

                                                                                      1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                        You think Boston pales in comparison to Seattle? That's surprising. I was thoroughly underwhelmed with the scene in Seattle on a couple recent trips, except for Salumi, which has my favorite sandwich ever (porchetta) and Zig Zag (which isn't for food, but is just so so so awesome). I've never been to Denver, but when I think of restaurants in CO that receive national attention, they are in Boulder.

                                                                                        I may have misspoke, but I think a place like Charleston has a pretty well-developed style of cuisine, not just a few signature dishes. Boston definitely has a few famous dishes, but even the broader term "New England fare" does not conjure up a coherent style of food like the low country and SC islands do.

                                                                                        I agree with you that Boston could (and probably should be better) given the wealth and diversity here, but I think there are other problems that keep it down - like rents and strict regulations, as I said above.

                                                                                        I think the demand is here, though. Maybe the city and state will start to recognize that things like food trucks, BYO, and more flexible permitting are better for the region's tourism and local economy. Back Bay Restaurant Group (or whatever their new name is) wouldn't be happy about changes like that, though.

                                                                                        If I had won the Mega Millions a few weeks back, I would be in the process of opening a couple places right now, but alas.

                                                                                        1. re: DoubleMan

                                                                                          Did you make it to Le Pichet in Seattle?

                                                                                        2. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                          And right here we have the problem with your outdated data. Not one of the current very well regarded restaurants in Boston--I'm thinking off the top of my head of Ten Tables, Craigie On Main, Hungry Mother, Bondir and the like, and others no doubt would chime in with other faves--existed 8 or 9 years ago, and not one of them is a "high-end-dark-leather-and-wood-pannelling steak house." Nor does that description apply to truly high-end places like Menton or O Ya, which also didn't exist 8 or 9 years ago. (For that matter, the recent explosion of neighborhood farmers markets and CSAs was only starting 8 or 9 years ago.)

                                                                                          Boston is simply not the food city it was 8 or 9 years ago. For example, if I asked you to guess where probably the single densest concentration of inexpensive but solid ethnic restaurants was, you wouldn't be able to answer, because not one of these restaurants existed 8 or 9 years ago, and it's a neighborhood that had practically nothing to offer in terms of decent chow back then.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          O Ya
                                                                                          9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                                                          Hungry Mother
                                                                                          Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                                                                                          Ten Tables
                                                                                          5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                                          Menton
                                                                                          354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

                                                                                          Bondir
                                                                                          279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                            I'd guess Dorchester, along Dorchester Ave. Could be wrong, though.

                                                                                            1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                              Harvard and Brighton in Allston.

                                                                                          2. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                            I only know Denver anecdotally, but a good friend, a full-time food writer who knows the two scenes intimately and is now based in Denver, thinks Denver pales next to Boston across the board -- except for Mexican.

                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                              I haven't spent that much time in Denver, but found a lot of great, cheap hole in the wall places there. Can't say anything about its fine dining scene.

                                                                                              Perhaps sneakily, I was also including Boulder in my assessment of Denver.

                                                                                          3. re: DoubleMan

                                                                                            Neptune, Cognac Bistro, and Island Creek Oyster Bar are great seafood places. Istanbulu and Family are very good Turkish. Shiki is good non-sushi Japanese. Kouzina is somewhat Greek but I don't know of a classic Greek restaurant here. I don't feel defensive about Boston's food: I just enjoy what I can find, which includes very good Thai (Dok Bua and S & I for me), very good Chinese (Shanghai Gate, Jo Jo Taipei, Windsor Cafe are just some options), excellent vietnamese, good burgers, good pizza, good Italian, good eclectic (East Coast Grill and Eastern Standard Kitchen) and the list goes on. I don't really understand the discussion: I suppose Boston could be more innovative, but if you are talking high-end, we do ok with Jody Adams, Lydia Shire, Barbara Lynch, Tony Maws, the chef at Erbaluce, O Ya's, etc. If you are talking inexpensive ethnic, I think we do better still. I like the Portland Oregon food scene but I'm there as a tourist so I go to the 3 or 4 places that my friends love and I have no idea how easy it is to eat interesting and inexpensive food two or three times a week. I love the high end in Chicago, but again that's a tourist's take. I think we have better cheap and quality ethnic food than Manhattan, but not than Queens which is a treasure trove of small ethnic gems, but then we're not nearly as eclectic an immigrant population or as large a market. Bottom line: this is where you live. Enjoy it. Explore it. Or, I suppose, cook at home.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            O Ya
                                                                                            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                                                            Eastern Standard
                                                                                            528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                                                                            Shiki
                                                                                            9 Babcock St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                                                            JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                                                                                            103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                                                                            Kouzina
                                                                                            1649 Beacon St, Waban, MA 02468

                                                                                            Erbaluce
                                                                                            69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                                                                            Island Creek Oyster Bar
                                                                                            500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                                                                                            Cognac Bistro
                                                                                            455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                                                          4. re: SouthToTheLeft

                                                                                            I return to your original statement: "everything in Boston is WASP food. Bland, mildly attractive, and drenched in butter for flavor. Even the ethnic food fits this description, and it is upsetting. Boston has all the necessary ingredients for good food, but it never succeeds"

                                                                                            I'm sorry, but that's the very definition of a blanket dismissal.

                                                                                  2. One little thing I would point out, fishmanator -

                                                                                    In your original post, you cherry-pick things in other cities that are better than what you can find in Boston: "better Vietnamese in Denver, better French in Austin, better bagels in Oregon, better Mexican food everywhere else, better Turkish in NYC and the list goes on. Chinese, even with the large population is hit or miss. Dallas has better Dim Sum." etc. etc.

                                                                                    So you are looking for a better everything in Boston but what about these other places? Does Denver have better dim sum? Austin better bagels? I hope you can see my point -

                                                                                    It's not entirely fair to look for everything in Boston and then compare it to the one good place in another city that trumps it. May as well say you'll get better French in Paris.

                                                                                    My two cents is that you can find very good items of an incredible variety that you would be hard-pressed to find in other cities of this size. So maybe instead of looking for the superlatives, focus on the variety?

                                                                                    Coming from a childhood in the suburbs, I think it's pretty awesome that I can live in Cambridge/Somerville and have a nightly choice among very good - excellent Thai, Indian, Chinese, Italian, burgers, pub food, and several chef-driven places, etc.

                                                                                    Finally, I think you should be optimistic to keep looking for good places to suit you. I had a great burger in Hanover NH (Murphy's Pub) this weekend - better than RFO'S and any other that recently come to mind - but it ain't going to stop me from looking for the next one!

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                      You are right, of course. And I don't know if it is evident by my posts or not (certainly not to some) but I HAVE tried a large number of restaurants in the metroplex and most of the places mentioned in this thread. And I will continue to keep trying new places and revisiting old ones.

                                                                                      The point of my thread was to start a discussion about food culture here and for the most part I think that goal was achieved.

                                                                                      It is not fair to only focus on Boston's shortcomings and AndyTee put it right when they said that even though central Mass has good mainstream food, he would enjoy the options available in Boston. And you are right about the diversity here.

                                                                                      It has also been interesting seeing how defensive people can be about keeping the culinary borders of Boston so large. Queens may be 20 miles from the North Bronx but you will pass 9 million people on the trip there, not a fair comparison in the least.

                                                                                      In the end, I have to disagree with one of your points. And that point was the idea behind this thread. The idea that Boston has better options than other cities of it's size. Without a doubt you are correct when considering the fine dining scene.

                                                                                      But I again state my belief that for everyday fare, Boston falls far behind other similar or smaller cities, both in value and in quality. And especially so considering the metroplex's resources. I don't consider this a "food" city and don't understand those who do. It might be improving, but every other city in the country is as well, and in my opinion, most are moving faster.

                                                                                      I really appreciate yours and other's points and hope to continue to benefit from the suggestions I have been offered.

                                                                                      1. re: fishmanator

                                                                                        I think the typical Chowhound simply resists the notion of defining Boston by arbitrary geographic standards like city limits. You can get to Waltham from downtown easier than you can to parts of West Roxbury (Burlington, not so much). At the very minimum, not including Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline north of Route 9 in a definition of Boston's core food scene makes no sense to me.

                                                                                        I think DoubleMan put his finger on some real soft spots in the scene, and correctly notes that prices here are always shocking to newcomers. But also as noted, there are some cost burdens here (real estate, liquor licensing) that are inflexible.

                                                                                        Our lack of a good central farmer's market is criminally dumb, needs fixing badly. In that sense, we are not yet a serious food town, and for one to happen, city government needs to get on board. I hear rumblings there, but don't see a lot of action.

                                                                                        But again, I wonder which comparably-sized US cities you're talking about that have some huge edge on Boston's overall dining scene. Alpha cities like NYC, LA, and Chicago obviously have some scale advantages, but I see many more cities within ten slots of us population-wise that are markedly worse off.

                                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                          Just as an aside, what about Portland, ME? They're much smaller than Boston, but have many of the type of restaurants that I, and I'm sure fishmanator, crave; small, caring, fairly priced, inventive, locally-sourced places. And at least a few higher end spots that are the equal or better than anything in Boston. Also, there are more than a few great bakeries, with wood-fired ovens. Sure, their real estate is much cheaper (I presume), but I'm at a loss to explain the difference.

                                                                                          And, as a further aside, I attribute part of the "problem" with Boston cuisine to be an emphasis on food quantity. Many of the best meals I've had elsewhere have been on the "small" side, and that's fine with me--I understand that the actual food costs drive the pricing, and I'm much happier with a finely prepared small meal than a mediocre (there's that word again) large one.

                                                                                          That's why I love Ten Tables--the plate sizes may be on the small side, but every bite is delicious. Why aren't there more places like that?

                                                                                          1. re: winedude

                                                                                            Portland, ME is a terrific little city for food, no doubt, exactly as you describe (wonderful places at its top end, and bakeries). And it's a pretty easy day trip from Boston.

                                                                                            I lament overlarge portion sizes, too, but that's another problem I see across the US, not just in Boston.

                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                              Portland is the capital of New England dining, so far as I am concerned. While it's a nice day trip, it's too far merely to go do dinner - the ride each way would be longer than dinner itself.

                                                                                            2. re: winedude

                                                                                              yeah, why?

                                                                                              ;)

                                                                                              1. re: fishmanator

                                                                                                re Portland, ME: could it be tourism's dominant role in local economy, cheaper cost of doing business, less (or just simpler) alcohol regulation? just a guess... I agree that the "food culture" of portland is extremely good.

                                                                                                I've been resisting the urge to chime in to this conversation. I sympathize with the OP, but I'm not enough of an amateur social scientist to want to speculate as to why things are they way they are here. I do know that since I moved here, restaurants became much less a part of my day to day life and more of a special occasion thing, for many of the reasons others have cited. Price to quality ratio being a main factor.

                                                                                                It continually blows my mind that a meal at an exceptionally good Portland restaurant like Fore St. costs the about the same as one of our not particularly remarkable neighborhood restaurants (my benchmark for averageness being something like James Gate in JP).

                                                                                          2. re: fishmanator

                                                                                            "It might be improving, but every other city in the country is as well, and in my opinion, most are moving faster."

                                                                                            Sorry, just pausing to calculate how many meals in how many restaurants in how many cities you would need to eat in order to support a whopper like that. No wonder you're sticking to $20 or less!

                                                                                            This board, I find, works best when people talk specifics. Trying to make a grand statement about obfuscations like a "food scene" or "food culture," as though it's some unified organism and not a collection of countless experiences refracted through countless subjective lenses, is beyond useless.

                                                                                            1. re: fishmanator

                                                                                              Well, sure. If you are talking in terms of general value, a triple decker in Boston costs >$800K while one in Worcester costs $100K. But then... you have to live in Worcester.

                                                                                              When you say everyday fare, what sort of things are you thinking of? Shopping for food for home consumption? I don't know that much about other cities, but I would pit the markets on Mt. Auburn in Watertown and Russo's against a lot of other places. Of course, you have to get to Watertown. Is that part of the beef? The lack of options in mainland Boston (as opposed to outlying areas)? I might agree with you in that regard. If I did not have a car, it would be much more challenging to a) get to the Watertown/Belmont spots and b) get to my CSA in Waltham for pick-your-own. If I lived in the Back Bay, I might start to echo your food thoughts.

                                                                                              Appreciate the OP and discussion, btw.

                                                                                          3. I moved here from Oakland, CA two years ago and the main difference I've found (besides obvious contrasts - better Mexican in Oakland, better Brazilian in Boston, etc) is value, not quality. Places like Craigie on Main, Hungry Mother, and Ten Tables are on par with many of my favorite SF Bay Area restaurants in terms of quality, but you simply have to pay more in Boston.

                                                                                            What I miss most about the Bay Area is the large number of casual neighborhood restaurants making fantastic food with high-quality local produce and meat. I'm thinking places like Pizzaiolo, Contigo, Pizzeria Delfina, Dopo, Gialina, Nopalito, and SPQR where you can drop in without a reservation on a weeknight and eat some of the best food in town without feeling like you're splurging. In my experience so far, to get this quality of food in Boston you need to spend quite a bit more at a more upscale restaurant. The notable exception to this is Coppa, which I hope is the beginning of a trend here. Their pizza is also the only I've had in the area that compares with the great selection of artisan pizza available in SF and NYC.

                                                                                            Boston has the talent, and it has the raw materials (although it's unfair to compare any city's produce with San Francisco). We just need more of the town's great chefs to bring impeccable execution and product down from "special occasion" food to everyday neighborhood dining.

                                                                                            I recognize that I'm relatively new to town, so please point me to all the fantastic neighborhood food I've missed. FWIW, my neighborhood is Cambridgeport/Central Square.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Hungry Mother
                                                                                            Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                                                                                            Craigie on Main
                                                                                            853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                                                            Ten Tables
                                                                                            5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                                            Coppa
                                                                                            253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: OakTownHound

                                                                                              Some of my favorite neighborhood restaurants are:

                                                                                              Gargoyles in Davis
                                                                                              Machu Picchu Grilled Chicken in Union
                                                                                              Posto in Davis
                                                                                              Gran Gusto in North Cambridge
                                                                                              Vinny's near Sullivan
                                                                                              Pescatore near Ball Square
                                                                                              Highland Kitchen in mid-Somerville
                                                                                              Central Kitchen in Central
                                                                                              Bergamot in "four corners"
                                                                                              ..... gosh, there are lots more. Russell House Tavern, Garden at the Cellar, etc... I think we have a wealth of options in Camberville.

                                                                                              I'm hearing good things about Bondir, and I like ExNE in Inman, but that's not so typical "neighborhoody". Most of these places are pretty easy on the pocketbook too. No?

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Pescatore
                                                                                              158 Boston Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

                                                                                              Central Kitchen
                                                                                              567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                                                              Highland Kitchen
                                                                                              150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                                                              Gran Gusto
                                                                                              90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                                                              Russell House Tavern
                                                                                              14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                                              Bondir
                                                                                              279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                                                              1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                yumyum offers a lot of great suggestions in Cambridge/Somerville, all of which are reasonably priced. I would add the bar or cheap side of the menu at East Coast Grill (for burnt ends, bbq, or brisket sandwiches), Tupelo, where you can usually find something great in the low 10s, and City Girl Cafe, which is really a hidden gem. I think East by Northeast would definitely count as neighborhoody and you can have a bowl of noodles, some dumplings, and a veggie and be out of there for around 20 dollars.

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

                                                                                                East by Northeast
                                                                                                1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                                                            2. While I hesitate to respond to what reads as a rant, I would like to note that real estate is a huge issue: Boston commercial real estate that makes for good restaurants is limited, expensive and - this is important - there's just not enough volume to overcome this (unlike in, say, the lower half of Manhattan, or SF - which also benefits from a milder climate, meaning walking is a more pleasant experience for more of the year). Boston is so dense its available space is limited, but not dense or mild enough to encourage volume to overcome the associated costs.

                                                                                              Boston's real estate situation is not readily comparable to similarly sized metro areas (the Boston-Providence-Worcester-Manchester Combined Statistical Area running about 7.6 million people).

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                Real estate is available, liquor licenses are not. No liquor = No restaurant.

                                                                                              2. We've had to delete a number of posts on this thread that focused on rating the chowhounds instead of the chow. Since it seems to keep lapsing into flames and attacks, we're going to go ahead and lock it.