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Looking for breakfast (Woburn to Somerville).

I'll be up to Boston for a conference towards the end of May; I'll be staying in Woburn, and the conference is in Somerville.

I'm looking for a good breakfast place. For me, this means omelets or scrambles--pancakes and waffles don't really do it for me (they might make me feel full, but not satisfied). Best of all is a place that does NOT rely on the usual suspects: the western omelet, or spinach/feta, and so on, or what I sort of consider a cheat: "choose three ingredients...", especially if it's just the standard selection.

I like creative stuff, surprises; an example of one extreme is Dotties in San Francisco, where I had a rosemary-lamb sausage, roasted garlic, tomato, spinach, and goat cheese omelette with homemade buttermilk-dill toast.

I'm a coffee nut, so good coffee is a big plus (or at least a second place to stop by and pick some up).

I suppose I'll be driving down 95 from hotel to conference, but anywhere roughly along the way would be good. Probably easier if its closer to my hotel (in Woburn), and non-crazy parking would be a big help.

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  1. I've done brunch at Masa in Woburn and enjoyed it (ignore the strip mall location), and seen a couple of other recommendations here for the same.

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    Masa
    348A Cambridge Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

    1 Reply
    1. re: L2k

      thanks, but they don't serve breakfast; they don't open until 10.

    2. I believe Woburn is about 30 square miles. So, whereabouts are you staying?
      And trust me, for breakfast, there aren't many options in Woburn. But, I had a great Tomato, basil, cheese omlette at Soundbites in Somerville a few years back. However, I don't know if you will get any place like the one you described in your post. Dotties sounds amazing. Good luck.

      9 Replies
      1. re: mcel215

        That's only about 5x6 miles, isn't it? Maybe 10 minutes in any direction at most? I'm not averse to a little drive--and anywhere along the corridor down to and around Washington St in Somerville.

        Looking around, I found these:
        http://www.ballsquarecafe.com
        http://www.theneighborhoodrestaurant....

        The Ball Square Cafe seems to fit the bill, if anyone has feedback on it.

        A wrench in the works: the conference seminar on Saturday may meet somewhere other than where I thought (the hotel in Somerville); I'm checking on that.

        I also saw this place:
        http://www.christophersreading.com/
        though that might be too out of the way.

        1. re: Scott_R

          scott, thanks to one consistent CH voice I have recently become very interested in trying Soundbites. They really do have a terrific menu and i will be trying it very soon. take a look at this. Nice eh?:

          http://www.soundbitesrestaurant.com/m...

          let me know where you're going to be staying in woburn and i can give you good 'the back way' directions.

          1. re: Scott_R

            Sound bites and the Ball Square Cafe are next door to each other. The chef at Ball Square used to be the chef at Sound bites. The owner and chef at Soundbites had a big blow out a couple of years ago and the chef left opening a place right next door. I have heard that the better of the two is Ball Square Cafe.
            If you aren't going into Somerville, it still may be worth your while as it's at least got some dishes that are a little gourmet-ish.
            I've not been to Christophers in Reading. If I do go out to breakfast, I go to Pignone's Cafe in Stoneham. But, while it's good, it's not a standout.

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            Ball Square Cafe
            708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

            Pignone's Cafe
            319 Main St, Stoneham, MA 02180

            1. re: mcel215

              I'm a big fan of Ball Square Cafe. The eggs Benedict with Artichokes and tomatoes are delicious. Also try the fried mashed potatoes.

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              Ball Square Cafe
              708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

            2. re: Scott_R

              Go to the Neighborhood and get the Portuguese fisherman's breakfast and choose the cream of wheat. You can thank me later.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                And then walk down the street to Bloc 11 or Sherman's Cafe for the good coffee you crave. And I agree with Bob. One of these mornings you should go to the Neighborhood. It is a unique breakfast experience, and you will leave full and satisfied.

                p.s. why won't this let me link to the Neighborhood Restaurant?

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                Bloc 11 Cafe
                11 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Another big fan of Neighborhood Restaurant. Good food, and really nice people. Bring quarters for the parking meters.

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Bob something to note is the handwritten brunch page with the large plates is really a Sat/Sun thing at the Neighborhood (and its different between the days and the Portuguese breakfast changes from time to time). They seem to be pretty flexible when they have the ingredients available, but I believe the weekday breakfast is really the smaller egg/pancake menu so no guarantee they will do the full Portuguese breakfast.

                  2. re: Scott_R

                    I've been to Christophers, Ball Square Cafe and Soundbites. I much prefer Soundbites to the others, but Ball Square is a close runner up. As you have learned there is a good deal of overlap between the two joints for all kinds of reasons. As they are next to each other you can poke your head in and see which one appeals to you, or which is less crowded. The eggs benedict at SB is some of my fave in town and I love the "no place like homefries". Ask for them crispy.

                    Christopher's is a nice casual comfort food joint, and they serve great lunches. Breakfasts are more on the traditional side and you will do better with your "interesting" omelet request at the Somerville options.

                    Note parking in Ball Square isn't always easy. But you should be able to find a meter spot within a few blocks of the breakfast wars.

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                    Ball Square Cafe
                    708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                2. Not sit-down breakfasts but worth mentioning:
                  For great bread, Mamadou's in Winchester.
                  Muffings & coffee, Gingerbread Construction Co. in Winchester.
                  Winchester is one town over from Woburn.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705122

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                  Gingerbread Construction Co
                  562 Washington St, Winchester, MA

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: three of us

                    Thanks, but muffins don't appeal to me; I just don't see cakes and pastries as being a meal. I don't have a sweet tooth; if I'm going to substitute a snack for a meal, I'll just grab an apple or the like.

                    The news about the connection between Ball Square and Soundbites explains the similarity in the menus (the mushrooms+boursin omelet, and "the Green" and "Celtic Green" omelets, etc.--either of the latter two seemed especially interesting).

                    I'll be staying at the Fairfield by Marriott, 285 Mishawum Rd, Woburn

                    On a totally different note, I'm looking at the Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q in Arlington for dinner the night I arrive.

                    1. re: three of us

                      mamadou's makes fine french bread, agreed, and nice to support such good folks.
                      Gingbrd- I completely disagree. i live a block away and wouldn't eat their product if you paid me. But then again, they are just one in the millions of crummy American bakeries that support the ginormous wholesale muffin batter business, putting out dry cloyingly sweet product. i'm saying nothing new; it's my regular rant: 99% of American bakeries put out total junk, and the American public supports that. end of rant.

                    2. Friendly Toast in Cambridge will give you wacky. I think I personally prefer some of the other options, but it will not bore you with the menu.

                      I think the best espresso in the area is pulled at Simon's Coffee House on Mass Ave (near Porter Sq). The coffee at Bloc 11 and Diesel Cafe is good too.

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                      Simon's Coffee House
                      1736 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                      Bloc 11 Cafe
                      11 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                      The Friendly Toast
                      1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: emannths

                        That Friendly Toast looks really good! I hope the news about where I'll be that Saturday brings me closer.

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                        The Friendly Toast
                        1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                      2. Just a note to clarify things: I'll be involved in a seminar starting at 9 AM, so it really must be a breakfast sort of place--typical brunch times are out.

                        1. I would normally steer folks to ethnic breakfast options (there are some decent Brazilian on your route but its not really eggs -- fried savory pastries and juice). However, something which is a bit off your route that you might consider is Henrieta's Table at the Charles Hotel. Good ingredients, not super inventive, it is expensive (dunno if you are out of pocket or travelling on expense). Parking is easier on the early side in the underground garage nearby and they have added some street parking in front of the hotel, plus they validate (neighborhood of $5) in hotel garage. Crema is also nearby for coffee. (And if you go to Christopher's you should definitely go to Simon's, although I am not a Christopher's fan.)

                          To add another egg oriented place to your list there is the Lighthouse in Medford just off the highway, but I am not certain if they do weekday breakfast or only weekend. If they are open Mystic Valley Coffee Roasters is nearby and across from where you will probably end up parking.

                          Restaurant Montecristo a salvadoran place is decent for a central american egg oriented breakfast. Its not perfect (there is a better salvadoran breakfast in Chelsea), but its on your route. There are a few other greasy spoon options, Paul Revere in West Medford, Donut Villa in Malden (eggs, burgers in addition to donuts), the diner on Washington in Somerville (and Two Dad's _may_ be serving breakfast again). Not certain any of these are what you are looking for, but they have egg specials and are on the route.

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                          Crema Cafe
                          27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                          1. depending what part of somerville you're heading toward, The Breakfast Club on western ave might not be too out of the way for you. its right off storrow/memorial drive, so easily accessed when driving down from woburn. Its a classic diner car with an 80's theme, but they have some really creative specials - I enjoy it quite a bit.

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                            Breakfast Club
                            270 Western Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                            1. scott, when you've found out where the conference is, and you've had a chance to look things over and decide where you want to do brkfast, if sound bites is a choice, let me know and i'll post the back way directions for you. we went today and had excellent food and fun time. here's the link to my review:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777401

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                Thanks. I think I'll be pretty OK with directions: my car has a navigation system and all. Interesting review, especially the bit about the home fries--definitely NOT what I would have been expecting.

                                I'm leaning towards splitting the visit--I'll be there on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with the seminar on Saturday only and heading back to Long Island early on Sunday, Maybe Sound Bites one day and Ball Square the next, or one of those two one day and Friendly Toast the next (I like the sound of the herb omelette). Anyone know anything about FT's homemade toast? I usually skip toast--it's often basically just pre-sliced stupidmarket bread--but this sounds promising.

                                1. re: Scott_R

                                  (those 'homefries'- just a reminder- they ARE among the best mashed potatoes you will ever have.)

                                  they have excellent bread at FT; interesting flavors. it is a very funky jam-packed w/ 50's kitsch environment;dark not the bright sunny spot that is sound bites, just fyi. I alw order, at FT, Le Petit Monstre . i 've never even seen an omelet there so can't comment on them.

                                  they have 2 locations; this review was for the portsmouth n.h. one:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/729867

                                  for driving, my suggested route would be mishawam to washington st to playstead rd to harvard st. to boston ave to broadway. 20-25 min for you .this is very direct and will keep you off rt 93 which is v. tough, mornings.

                                  you mentioned blue ribbon bbq. it gets consistently positive comments on CH and i too have enjoyed it in the past. if you decide to eat closer to 'home' that night, Parson's Table in Winchester is an excellent spot; the chef has also been consistently well reviewed in the boston press for the past 5-6 yrs.Broader menu too, duh!

                                  btw, the food in the hinterlands(woburn, winchester, reading and towns north of them)is NOT advisable if you have a choice to travel. the more south you go, closer to boston, the better the food- in general. Parson's Table is that exception.

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                                  Parsons Table
                                  34 Church St, Winchester, MA 01890

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Is 93 also tough on weekend mornings?

                                    I'm going up solo for the Saturday seminar; I don't know that Parson's Table looked like the sort of place you can feel comfortable dining alone.

                                    1. re: Scott_R

                                      i never drive up from the south; i drive south from the north. it is wicked busy that way but nothing like weekdays prime time.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        Just to clarify: I'll be driving up to Woburn on Friday, but once there, driving south on Saturday for the seminar (and, presumably, breakfast). Early on Saturday: I'll be leaving by 7:30 or so (seminar starts at 9, and I want time for a non-rushed breakfast). Should that be OK for traffic on 93?

                                        Re-reading the description of Sound Bites "better than home fries," I don't think that's for me. I like home fries with some crunch to them (even better, with caramelized onion); I don't like stuff with a lot of cream (including sour) and butter. That might tip things back to Ball Square for me.

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                                        Sound Bites
                                        704 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                                        Ball Square Cafe
                                        708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                                        1. re: Scott_R

                                          > I like home fries with some crunch to them (even better, with caramelized onion);

                                          Yeah, good luck with that in this area. I rarely go out for breakfast since moving from NY because of the lack of good home fries. Bland boiled potatoes quickly thrown on the grill with some butter (even salt and pepper seems to be verboten, nevermind some onions or <gasp> a sliver or two of green pepper) while your eggs are cooking are par for the course at most breakfast places. The mashed potatoes with a crust at SB are probably some of the best breakfast potatoes I've had in the area. Quit while your ahead and head to Soundbites. ;-)

                                          1. re: LStaff

                                            I have only been to FT in New Hampshire,but if the Cambridge one is as good, then its our fave breakfast place ever. And the Anadama toast is memorable, althogh with the molasses your non sweet tooth may prefer anotherbut they are all thick and homemade. All the breakfasts are big and creative and homemade. Good vegetarian options if that appeals, like veggie bacon and sausage..The NH one is definitely quirky kitchy hippies atmosphere.. On sunday, the china pearl near your hotel has dim sum but dont know how early, or if you want chinese that early.. If time or traffic becomes an issue and you just need an easy standard but comfy and above average quality than North Ave Diner Wakefield, CHristophers, or The Restaurant in Woburn would all do..

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                                            North Ave Diner
                                            247 North Ave, Wakefield, MA 01880

                                            1. re: chompie

                                              Chompie,

                                              I went to The Restaurant once and found it awful. Typical cafetaria style food. Have you tried Pignone's in Stoneham? A much better choice in my opinion.

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                                              Pignone's Cafe
                                              319 Main St, Stoneham, MA 02180

                                            2. re: LStaff

                                              I don't even butter my bread; the thought of butter (and sour cream) in mashed potatoes makes my nose wrinkle. How are the Ball Square Cafe potatoes? From what I've seen about the accusations centering around the similar menus, are they the same style as Soundbite's?

                                2. All right, the post-game:
                                  Saturday lunch at the Ball Square Cafe. Nice place, enjoyable breakfast (an omelette), if nothing spectacular.

                                  Sunday: breakfast at Friendly Toast. Excellent breakfast! Cashews in an herb omelette? Never heard of it, but the whole worked really well. And the anadama bread toast was so good, I ordered more to go.

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                                  Ball Square Cafe
                                  708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                                  The Friendly Toast
                                  1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                                  1 Reply