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VISITING BOSTON? General Information about Boston's Culinary Profile, Recent Trends, Strengths and Weaknesses

opinionatedchef Apr 26, 2011 03:48 PM

* Our oldest and largest ethnic communities(mid to late 19th c.) are Irish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese Azorean, and Armenian/ Lebanese/Turkish. We also have a wealth of more recent ex-pat communities with restaurants doing traditional cuisines of their homelands, mostly for their fellow emmigrants. Of these, the largest groups are: Brazilian, Salvadoran, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese, Haitian, Dominican, Guatemalan, Colombian, Somali. Within an hour's drive there are larger communities and restaurants for South Indians, Cambodians and Cape Verdeans.

*Thanks to our many world-famous universities which draw large numbers of foreign students and professors, and our strong sector of biotech, high tech, and medical companies, our range of Asian cuisines has grown much richer recently with Punjab,Pakistani, Bengali / Bangladeshi), Gujarati, including some more high-end places, joined by traditional Sichuan and Taiwanese spots.Boston's love of sushi has grown exponentially.

* Boston is famous for our very old Italian section, the North End, which has, in recent years, grown beyond its traditional tourist-driven red sauce orientation- to include the regions of Abruzzi, Lugano, Rome and Tuscany.

* Boston is proud to be home to some very significant figures in the growth of food appreciation in the U.S. In the 1960‘s Joyce Chen introduced America to Chinese-food-beyond-chop suey and particularly Szechuan. Julia Child is, of course, Julia Child. Our local public TV station, WGBH, brought Julia Child to America, and they have also introduced America to local restauranteur/chefs like the Romagnolis, Todd English, and Ming Tsai.

* Though Boston is often identified with seafood, we do not have as many excellent seafood restaurants as our reputation might suggest.

* Similar to some other small cities like Seattle, Portland OR., Berkeley, Philadelphia, and Portland ME., Boston continues to have many independent chef-owned small restaurants doing New American Cuisine, with more recent emphasis on seasonal and local sourcing. This is probably the Boston dining scene's greatest wellspring of creativity and value in fine dining. We also have a handful of well-regarded small restaurant empires headed by semi-famed chefs. They typically started with one fine-dining place, and have since branched out with more mid-range and even some lower-end spots. These chefs include Jasper White, Lydia Shire,Chris Schlesinger, Barbara Lynch, , Ken Oringer, Michael Schlow, Ana Sortun, Marc Orfaly and Todd English (though English has mostly abandoned Boston to build a larger national empire.)

*The gastropub movement is probably the most significant trend of the last year, mid-range places doing a lot of in-house craft: salumi and charcuterie, whole-animal butchery, pickling, etc.

* Boston has a strong craft cocktail movement, a solid core of serious Golden Age revivalists. A second generation of folks who trained at these are fanning out to other bars and restaurants. Our top craft bars rank with the best in the country.

* Once the purview of local colleges, the city of Boston itself has just this year become friendlier to food trucks, so there is a mini-surge in that format, many different quality foods being served on wheels. Most trucks are located in central Boston- Downtown, Government Center, the Financial District. Haymarket is Boston's traditional outdoor weekend produce market of stalls and trucks, located next to Quincy Market. Outdoor weekly local Farmer's Markets have grown greatly in both city and suburb and are most active June through October. A large indoor Farmer's Market is in the works for the future.

* Vegetarian and vegan options are improving steadily, driven largely by the large student population. More restaurants are catering to folks with other dietary preferences or restrictions: gluten-free, seafood-free, vegan, halaal, etc.

* Trendy? For 2011 it is “upscale Mexican restaurants with 100+ tequilas behind the bar” replacing previous years’ surges of Italian bistros and Steakhouses. Time will tell.

* Boston still has some big holes: Jewish deli, good diners,traditional regional Mexican, German, Czech, modest izakayas, Laotian,and so on. We lack world-class high-end dining;our best restaurants might rate a single Michelin star. No one is seriously doing molecular
cooking, though there's some dabbling here and there. We have far too many national luxury steakhouse chain outlets and while we have a number of top notch bread bakers, we have no excellent French style savory and sweet bakeries. But when you look at the entire dining spectrum from high to low; Boston has a very rich and diverse food scene for an American city our size, and we feel very lucky for that.

The above written by MCSlimJB, with some additions from opinionatedchef

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