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New to Boston - the good and the bad so far

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Hi all,

My family and I recently moved from Vancouver BC to Boston. We've been out and about dining, following Chowhound's advice, as usual. In my travels for work, this has always taken me to great places. So far, we've found some great stuff in Boston, but also had some bad surprises.

We've been to some really fantastic places:

Myers + Chang - Fantastic food, fun drinks, really great service. Our comfort food in Boston now.

Cragie on Main - Just remarkable - especially at the bar.

Drink + B-G Oysters - Totally top notch meals - service, drinks and food.

62 (Salem) - Amazing, fresh and creative Italian. Price to match, but really worth it.

A + J Kings (Salem) - Some of the best bread and (especially) pastries anywhere, suburbs or no

We found many of these places via Chowhound. But then there are places, also highly recommended on the boards, that are just surprisingly bad to us. A few examples:

Artu in Beacon Hill - we had an early dinner here that was awful. The 'crostini' appetizer was supermarket bread with chopped grocery store tomatos with almost no seasoning. Gnocchi with tomato sauce (a main) was equally bad - gummy and flavorless gnocchi with a sauce that tasted out of a jar. The bread brought during the meal was again that supermarket bread that disintegrates when it gets wet.

Antico Forno - the pizza here was OK, but really nothing special. The mozzarella was tough and stringy like pre-shredded store cheese, rather than soft fresh mozzarella. And it might be a style thing, but the crust was so fatty that it left your mouth feeling greasy. We're probably little pizza obsessive, but given the hype, this place just totally disappointed.

I always brag to my travel mates that Chowhound never lies, but my pleasant surprise ratio for Boston has been lower than other places. Is this just bad luck? Or is there a tendency particular to Boston for places to cruise on reputation?

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

A J's Restaurant
1365 Main St, West Warwick, RI 02893

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  1. Hmmm. As for artu.... I only go for the Porchetta or roast Lamb sandwiches. Sorry your other choices were disappointing. Keep at it! You'll find a wealth of knowledge on this board. And welcome!

    3 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      second and third the lamb sandwich at Artu - also very good rotisserie chicken for takeout.

      Sometimes we need to remember "downhil alerts" Antico Forno is (to me) not the same since they enlarged the place. Often, bigger is not better. I have taken it out of the N.E. rotation for a while.

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

      1. re: Northender

        I would say, and I have (see link elsewhere on this thread), that Artu has suffered a similar decline since it, too, grew bigger.

      2. re: yumyum

        Finally got take out from Artu today. The lamb w/ marinated eggplant was good but not terrific for us.The eggplnt component was the best thing about it, and the lamb was rare, but so thin that it's easy to dry out, even though chef doused it w/ broth before heating. Sub roll was bland and lacking; would have been better warm. With garlic aioli and maybe sauteed mushrooms this would be much better.

        So glad another CH raved about an eggplant parm/chicken parm combo he regularly asks for. Now THIS was delicious. Eggplant shone right through and the tomato sauce was a true Roman one.and the chicken was moist. yuMMY.

      3. I always thought Antico Forno had anti-hype hereabouts: don't a lot of hounds hate that place? I like their lamb sandwich (lunch only), but that's about it.

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

          Welcome to Boston! Maybe Jenny's post and mine will help.

          And, I only go to Antico Forno for the mussels. I think that there are hidden gem menu items in some places. I'm sure you had a few of those spots in your last home town.

          Penny
          http://www.bostonzest.com/

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

        2. well that is disappointing to hear. I have a couple of thoughts:

          -- it would be good of you to list the bad experiences beyond the 2 you mentioned(after the 5 you liked)because you will be helping all of us. if you don't have time to explain much, just be really brief.

          -- because restaurants can change so much and so quickly, i almost always post a CH question like what should i order? or what do you think of bbbbb? before i go somewhere. Not always; sometimes there has been a really recent CH post that motivates me to try a place, but only after the restnt's menu has wowed me. Maybe you already do this or you don't want to bother, but i have good luck with this system.

          Welcome to Boston . We've gone to Vancouver for restaurants and gardens about 12 times in the last 15 yrs.and it is my fav place in the PNW. I know you must miss it terribly but i hope you come to enjoy boston more and more, and that your food experiences here will improve.

          1. It's curious that you picked up an overall positive impression of Artu from this board. I don't remember raves about the restaurant (either location) in the last year or so. People have praised particular dishes (the lamb and eggplant sandwich, the thin crust pizza, etc.) but have not praised the restaurant as a whole. In fact, there have been criticisms. I know, because I've made some myself (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708938 ).

            I've found the Boston board to be generally reliable. There are some very kmowledgeable people here, with very good palates. You have to make sure you look for more recent reviews, and also crosscheck a poster's opinion against other things he/she has posted.

            6 Replies
            1. re: FoodDabbler

              In fairness to the board - I've looked a couple times for "MGH" because that's where I work. So I might have shot myself in the foot by looking in a constrained area that's not the best food neighborhood. I'll have to walk farther for lunch, I think.

              1. re: jcarroll42

                That area is definitely one of the weakest areas in all of Boston for decent food.

                With regard to Artu, I only get the lamb sandwich.

                Gosh, head to Allston, or Chinatown, or the South End, or the North End, or Dorchester, or East Boston, or Chelsea, or...

                1. re: jcarroll42

                  We're colleagues ... and yeah, the immediate area here isn't particularly rave-worthy in any regard. If you constrain your searches to things like 'MGH', you'll likely be finding people recommending things as being the best bet in the vicinity but that doesn't mean that they're worthy in comparison to the whole city.

                  A lot of people are looking for something close to MGH because they're coming to the hospital for a visit, staying at the liberty, or some other reason why they'd not be inclined to take venture all that far. For those people, the recs are worthwhile. For someone living here, not so much.

                  1. re: jcarroll42

                    On a really nice day, when you have some extra time, pack your lunch and then walk down to the Garden (or take the Charlestown shuttle bus and get off at North Station). Walk down the side street that is to the right of the Garden, towards the river - Google maps says it's called Beverly Street. Once you get past the Garden there is a walkway leading over the locks...there are some benches (or at least, there used to be) where you can sit & watch the boats go by. Just across the river is Paul Revere Park if you're in the mood for a little greenery.

                    1. re: gimlis1mum

                      Awesome, thanks - I commute by North Station so this is a nice tip. If there's not great lunch spots around, I can do a nice picnic at least!

                    2. re: jcarroll42

                      you have rcvd lots of good suggestions here so far, but also you may want, in the future, to enter search terms like "beacon hill", "government center", "charles street", "north end". it's hard learning all the new place names in a new city but when i'm doing a search here, i try to keep in mind the various names that an area can have; if a particular town name doesn't yield much, i might check 'metro west' or 'north shore' etc.

                  2. Hmmm, here is the latest and moderately lengthy thread on Antico Forno (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756988). The feedback is certainly mixed if you take a read through. Also, save a few select items I have missed the raves for Artu here.

                    Perhaps your experiences are due in part to only doing cursory research? Also, in time you will identify the posters with similar tastes to yours and that will help refine how you select restaurants based on board feedback.

                    Welcome back.

                    1. Welcome. We were in Vancouver in August and loved your fair city. Near MGH, my favorite is Grotto. You'll see many favorable CH comments and I believe they also do lunch. As others have mentioned your two Italian places have mixed reviews on this site. Now that warm weather is here, walking to Govt Center for the Pernil at Cafe Latino. MGH is a 10 min walk to either of these. As others have suggested the roast lamb and eggplant sandwich or the porchetta sandwich is the way to go at Artu. Unfortunately, the Mexican place across Cambridge Street (Grampy's Gulf Station) is closed I think.

                      -----
                      Cafe Latino
                      2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                      25 Replies
                      1. re: gourmaniac

                        Yah, Grotto and Cafe Latino, spot on!

                        -----
                        Cafe Latino
                        2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                        1. re: gourmaniac

                          I'm pretty sure Villa Mexico is still open. I haven't gone down there in a few weeks but considering they were just tweeting today I think all is well. :)

                          -----
                          Villa Mexico
                          296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Thanks jgg. That is good to know. I refer the OP to latin and mexican places because they are a relative weakness in Vancouver's strong culinary scene.

                            1. re: gourmaniac

                              Totally true until last year when a hound-ish Mexican place opened up in Vancouver called www.lataqueria.ca/. We're bummed that we moved when the city finally got a decent taco spot!

                          2. re: gourmaniac

                            jc, for lunch near mgh, gourmaniac mentions 2 CH favored spots- Cafe Latino (Dominican i think)
                            for roast pork etc. (pernil) and Villa Mexico (alive and well)in the gas station on Cambridge St.
                            A number of people also like the pork gyros at Zo, in the same Govt Center big curved building.
                            When and if you walk up to Govt Center at lunch, you will pass 1/2 block away from Grotto, a CH fav for dinner: funky cellar space but exc. No. Ital. food; talented chef. If you like 62 Wharf (i certainly do) i believe you will also really like Grotto. On Charles St., Bin 26 is No. Italian in focus. Lala Rokh(same owners, who are Irani) is a lovely Persian place just off Charles St. I wonder how King and I (thai) is these days.........

                            As you can see by the responses so far, we're all anxious to help. What areas are best for you for dinner ,so we can recommend more?

                            -----
                            Bin 26 Enoteca
                            26 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

                            Villa Mexico
                            296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                            King & I
                            145 Charles St # 1, Boston, MA

                            Zo
                            3 Center Plaza, Boston, MA

                            Lala Rokh
                            97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108

                            Grotto
                            37 Bowdoin St, Boston, MA 02114

                            Cafe Latino
                            2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              PRetty sure that Cafe Latino is Puerto Rican.

                              It's also a short walk over the Longfellow Bridge to all that Kendall Square has to offer, maybe not so much for lunch, but dinner...

                              -----
                              Cafe Latino
                              2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                I'll list out the places I hit up for lunch under a 10 min walk, at least when I'm not just rocking the cafeteria. not saying all are actually good, but I'm also not looking to have lunch at places like Grotto and Lala Rokh, either. I might work at the hospital, but I'm no MD :)

                                Places I go to with any regularity (roughly ordered by how much I like it, but not perfectly so):

                                Zo (pork gyros)
                                Cafe Latino (pernil, sometimes cuban)
                                Uptown Cafe
                                Villa Mexico
                                Felcaro (2 slices & a soda for $5.50 or something, not great but cheap)
                                Annas or Viva Burrito (tie)
                                Cafe Podima (like some of their triple stuffed sandwiches, but have gone downhill over the years)
                                Fill-A-Buster (very rarely now that Zo is around)

                                On particularly rough mornings after particularly rowdy nights, I used to sometimes do the buffet at ShangriLa but it has been closed for a few months now. Probably for the best.

                                There are a bunch of other places I'll walk to for lunch when the weather is fine, but they're all a bit further away. For instance I like going to chinatown, which is about a 15-17 min walk for me. If I'm by myself I can eat quickly enough that I can get back in under an hour.

                                -----
                                Viva Burrito
                                66 Staniford St, Boston, MA 02114

                                Fill-A-Buster
                                142 Bowdoin St, Boston, MA 02108

                                Villa Mexico
                                296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                Cafe Podima
                                156 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                Lala Rokh
                                97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                Cafe Latino
                                2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  Ugggggh, Shangri-La (downtown not Belmont). Dang, ate at that place once, years ago. Still can't get the taste of stale vegetable oil out of my mouth.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    hah. i think one time here I said that everything tasted heavily of regret, or something like that.

                                    Like I said, I'm pretty sure it's better for me that it is gone because sometimes that siren song when nursing a heavy hangover was just a bit too much. I'd smell the fried food walking by, and somehow think, "this time it's going to be better!" and end up there. Even the space was depressing.

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      I remember that "Tasted heavily of regret" post. ;-)

                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                        Who knew that Raymond Chandler was a Chowhound!!!

                                  2. re: jgg13

                                    The slices at The Federal are pretty good, too, if you catch them fresh out of the oven.

                                    1. re: robwat36

                                      I have a personal beef w/ that place. My lack of inclusion reflects that, but as I said, my list wasn't intended to highlight the best eats in the immediate vicinity anyways.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        Oooh, is it something the rest of us should know about?

                                        1. re: robwat36

                                          Nah, nothing that would affect anyone else's experience :) Just one of those things.

                                    2. re: jgg13

                                      I am with you on the Shangri-La (they are closed now due to a fire, I bumped into one of the workers the day after outside, after said style evening!), it wasn't good by any stretch, but it was a chinese buffet....and sometimes that's all I need. Just passed it in the same space as Uptown Cafe and the DD's is a new chinese buffet that's not bad, $5.95 a pound for food, and it comes with a miso soup......I like it just fine, I think it's called the YumYum cafe, or some such thing.

                                      -----
                                      Shangri-La
                                      149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

                                      1. re: devilham

                                        I only went in there once, I never seem to make it past the guy taking orders at uptown cafe :)

                                    3. re: opinionatedchef

                                      Brilliant - thanks. So to add to the list - Zo, Villa Mexico, Lala Rokh. I'll try these places out and post impressions.

                                      -----
                                      Villa Mexico
                                      296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                      Lala Rokh
                                      97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                    4. re: gourmaniac

                                      I tried Anna's Tacqueria - speaking of Mexican in the area. It was OK - but pretty plain, and there wasn't a salsa bar (or I missed it) to spice it up.

                                      1. re: jcarroll42

                                        Annas is loved by some but it's really just a mcdonalds type of thing. Quick food pushed out quickly. It's fine for what it is but nothing great.

                                        For what it's worth, viva burrito which is also extremely close to MGH has a salsa bar and feels a little less fast food-y in atmosphere.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          Anna's may not be fine dining, but comparing it to McDonald's is just wrong. Anna's food is made from stuff recognizable as food while McDonald's fare is processed out of all recognition. And Anna's isn't owned by some huge corporation with national TV ads and all the rest of it.

                                          Just because a place is takeout oriented doesn't make it like McDonald's.

                                          1. re: nickls

                                            Me thinks you read too much into my analogy. I was just referring to how it's kind of a quick in/out type of place serving up inoffensive, but generally bland food. Hey, I go there now and then, I'm cool with it. Of course, I also go to McDs from time to time.

                                            However, out of the 3 burrito options within a 5 min walk of MGH, it's my least favorite. Similarly I'd never go to the Porter Sq Annas considering that Lupita is right there. Similarly I don't regularly go to McDs if there are better options around.

                                            1. re: nickls

                                              give McDonald's credit; their coffee is good and cheap.

                                          2. re: jcarroll42

                                            bummer.there have been a number of threads on burritos and i've read that Anna's can be hit or miss depending on the location.For my nearest location, davis sq somerville, i have never not had a great burrito when i order the pastor or the chile verde. but only those 2. muy sabrosa. And trust me, no need for a spice bar with those very flavorful fillings.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/147576

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              I also pretty much stick with the pastor and chile verde. I think they're fine and all but I've never thought they were anything spectacular no matter which outpost I get them at. "very flavorful fillings" isn't how I'd describe them.

                                        2. Some recommendations based on places you've liked:

                                          Since you like M+C, check out East by Northeast for more Asian small plates.

                                          Since you like Drink, stop by the bar at Clio and just let Todd Maul make stuff for you.

                                          Re: B&G--I'm sure you've already seen the jillion recommendations for Neptune and Island Creek.

                                          And because you liked Craigie, you might want to explore some of the other locavore joints in Cambridge and Somerville: Rendezvous, Bondir, TW Food, Ten Tables (I prefer the JP location). I haven't been to Journeyman or Bergamot yet, but you might consider them as well.

                                          -----
                                          Ten Tables
                                          5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                          East by Northeast
                                          1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          Bondir
                                          279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: robwat36

                                            Lunch at Cafe Rustico on Canal Street. Very reasonable, sensible and good Italian.

                                            1. re: robwat36

                                              and as a M + C equivalent, how about OM in Harvard Square?

                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                doc, don't you think maybe better to wait for Patricia Yeo to settle in a bit before recommending OM?

                                            2. I worked in Bowdoin Sq. for 10 years, so I know the area somewhat. For lunch suggestions, you've already heard about some of my favorites: Zo, Cafe Latino, King and I, Fill-A-Buster, Villa Mexico.

                                              Some others: (nearer to Downtown Crossing) Sam LaGrassa's, (great pastrami), Chacarero Chilean Sandwiches, Pita Kabob (great Persian kebabs), Falafel King. There's also Faneuil hall Food Court which has some good food.

                                              One of my favorites of all is Sultan's Kitchen, which is on State St. near the corner of Broad St., on the edge of the Financial District. It's about a 10 minute walk from MGH. Fantastic Turkish food, with a big selection of items.

                                              You are also very close to the North End, and you can walk over to Salem St. and go to Dino's for great pasta and fresh subs, or go to Cross St. to J Pace for their killer roast pork sandwich, or Ernesto's for pizza. Also, on Blackstone St. where Haymarket is, there's a great pizza joint, with really cheap slice prices. Also on Blackstone are two Halal places that have wonderful falafel or shish kebab sandwiches for short money.

                                              -----
                                              Sultan's Kitchen
                                              116 State St, Boston, MA 02109

                                              Fill-A-Buster
                                              142 Bowdoin St, Boston, MA 02108

                                              Villa Mexico
                                              296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                              Pita Kabob
                                              2 Avenue De Lafayette, Boston, MA 02111

                                              Chacarero
                                              101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

                                              Cafe Latino
                                              2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                              Haymarket
                                              Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: mwk

                                                Note that the J. Pace that's closest to MGH (blossom ct) doesn't actually have the roast pork sandwich very often, at least up until I gave up trying. I'm not sure if it was a language barrier or idiot barrier but I got tired of arguing with them about it. They seemed to figure that anything pork counted as their roast pork sub.

                                              2. Thanks everyone for the big list of new spots, I'm excited to try them. And look how clever the board is by pulling them all out of the posts and mapping them all. I'll be sure to keep posting impressions.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: jcarroll42

                                                  You have to be careful with the mapping function, though. It usually works well, but, sometimes, the software links to an inappropriate place with a similar name. In your case, instead of linking to the A & J King Bakery in Salem, it linked to a breakfast place in Warwick, RI! (Which looks like it might be worth a stop, next time I'm passing through...)

                                                2. Finally someone mentioned Chaccarero! A must walk on a nice day. I havent been since its relocation. Is it just as good? The avocado spread + green beans together is yums. Get the combo.

                                                  Kendall is a 10 min walk over the bridge into Cambridge. Some good food trucks line up there, behind the T station, and at Govt Center. Look for the Momogoose and Clover trucks. EVOO (Kendall) is starting to serve lunch next week I think? EVOO, despite its name, is fantastic - farm to table.

                                                  -----
                                                  EVOO Restaurant
                                                  350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                                                    I thought the Chacarero outpost closest to the MGH area closed up, which leaves the one that's an extra 5+ min walk as the only option. It was already a somewhat far walk from MGH in terms of fitting things into a lunch break, but now I'll probably never be able to go.

                                                    -----
                                                    Chacarero
                                                    101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

                                                    1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                                                      Wow, you walk fast! The Kendall Square T stop is roughly a mile from MGH. Two miles round trip doesn't leave much time in a lunch break...

                                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                                        10 mins is definitely doable although for most folks probably not to the area he's talking about w/ the food trucks. I walk over to that area for work now and then and it usually takes me 10-15m. I walk the distance between the two T stops in under 10m so it's just a bit more on either side.

                                                        1. re: Allstonian

                                                          8/10 of a mile, same to Park Street, DTX, Faneuil Hall or beginning of North End really. I mentioned it because: living in Camb, I think Camb; the poster, a recent transplant, might think Cambridge offerings are "too far away", when they arent; and he or she like me, might think an extra 20-30 minutes of exercise and fresh air is a good thing. So for me, I'd do a 20-30 min RT walk with a Clover BLT or Momogoose sandwich in hand every day possible! Many of the same trucks are at City Hall/Haymarket. Might seem closer, but they arent really (*maybe* 1/10 of a mile?), and an inarguably better view.

                                                          1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                                                            Fair enough. I've got a 30-minute lunch break, myself, (many Partners employees are in that boat) and I'm definitely not capable of doing that walk in under 15 minutes each way. Exercise and fresh air are unarguably good things, but for me, at least, this would be an either-or proposition - a lovely but rather brisk walk across the Longfellow Bridge and back, enjoying the river views, OR lunch.