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Best of Brookline - 2011 Edition

We recently moved to Brookline from the other side of the Charles (yes, we went from Cambridge to Brookline, does that make us yuppies instead of hipsters now?) and would love get some help in the culinary department.

Back in 2008 there was a thread about the "Best of Brookline" but three years is a long time in the food world, so I am curious what folks might say is the "best in Brookline[ish]" now.

The reason I put the "ish" is there there are some places in Boston, Allston, and Brighton that are really adjacent to Brookline, but aren't technically Brookline addresses (that whole area by St. Mary's - I can't figure out where the Brookline town line is exactly, for example, as well as strips of Comm Ave that seem to be both Brookline and Boston depending on who you ask).

So far we've eaten at Brookline Family Restaurant (Turkish), Chef Chow's, Khao Sarn, Ginjka (sp) Sushi, Zaftig's, El Dorado Fish Taco, Bok Dua, Orinoco in Brookline Village (we've also eaten at the South End outpost, which we preferred, actually), Xenna's, Rami's, Rani's Indian, Curry House, and Zaftig's. We've picked up bagels at Kupel's and gotten to-go from Brown Sugar Thai and Mr. Quan's (both on Commonwealth) - but the last two may technically be Boston (again, I am not sure where the town line is). We buy bread and pastries from Clear Flour every weekend (that may be the culinary highlight of our move so far).

What we miss from Cambridge/Somerville: Greek food (we used to go to Greek Corner), relatively cheap and flavorful Indian food (are we missing something? Rani's and Curry House left much to be desired - one was fairly pricy for substandard fare, the other was uber bland though cheap -- this was an area that Cambridge really excelled), and restaurants that are conducive to having a relatively nice meal without breaking the bank. We're not looking for another Craigie on Main (which we love, btw), but is there anything else? I didn't realize how blessed, food-wise, we were in Cambridge until we left (and yes, I know it's possible to still eat in Cambridge, and we do and will, but there is something to be said for convenience, traffic, and parking stress/bus-waiting-time-in-the-cold).

Anyone have any suggestions? Apparently there is a tapas place down by St. Mary's that is pretty good? Are there any hidden gems we're missing? Lineage is also on our to-do list, but I am not sure what else we're ignorant of, and to make this more than just about us, I've broadened the conversation I hope!

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  1. A couple of other places off the top of my head:

    Washington Square:
    -Washington Tavern for a great burger/pub food
    -Cafe Fixe for great coffee/espresso (although they are a bit persnickety)
    -Athens (I think the pastries are great but those more versed in Greek cuisine may disagree)

    Brookline Village:
    -Sichuan Gourmet
    -Cutty's (sandwiches)
    -Matt Murphy's for a cozy drink (although I think it lost a little cozyness in the most recent redecorating)

    Not Technically Brookline:
    -Jo Jo Tapei
    -Pho Viet @ Super 88 (Bahn-Mi)
    -Audobon Circle (solid, cheap bar food)

    I've been meaning to try both Lineage and Cognac Bistro myself, both of which have their supporters on this board. I still tend to drive to Cambridge/Somerville for upscale or interesting menus and you may as well, but I do think Brookline has a lot to offer in terms of the places you want to go to weekly.

    1. I live between CC and the Village.

      Sichuan Garden and Sichuan Gourmet. The latter can be too authentic for US tastes; I had ma pa tofu last week that was drenched in Sichuan pepper, a taste unfamiliar to Americans and one you adapt to over time to like the quantity they dump on stuff in places like Xian. Chef Chow's is old school. I haven't eaten there in years.

      For good Indian food, I go to Allston, either Indian Dhaba or JMP in the Super 88 food court. Same for Cantonese: I get it at Kantin in the food court. (Also good roast duck and other roast meats you can buy on their own.) For Thai, I also go to Allston, to Brown Sugar for eat-in or one of the places, like S&I, for takeout. For Vietnamese, I prefer Le's and the place in the food court (especially for their tofu banh mi). In a sentence, Brookline has more upscaled ethnic food but it isn't always better or what I want. For example, Pho Lemon Grass in CC is fine but I don't like it as much as others. I would, however, go to Michael's Deli over any other in the area.

      There are a gazillion choices - over 100 in a mile radius of my house - and much depends on personal preference. I'm not a big fan of Yasu, but I know people who like it a lot. Others like Zenna Noodle Bar. We cook a lot and well so our eating out interests differ from many.

      Taberna de Haro is quite good, especially on a warm day when you can sit outside. It's much better when you drink and take your time.

      1. To add a few more- Japonaise Bakery, Shawarma King, the Spa, Beacon Tavern, Matt Murphy's, The Abbey, the Busy Bee and Audobon (over the line but almost in Brookline)..

        1. I live near St Marys and I get my indian fix from India Quality. Not Brookline but close enough, they deliver, and the food is great.

          Tatte has really good sandwiches, coffee and desserts.

          Publick House and American Craft for great beer selection and solid pub food.

          1. I'll add:

            La Morra
            Shiki (japanese)
            Bottega Fiorentina (sandwiches and pasta)

            It also depends on where in Brookline you live - that will direct you towards Allston/Brighton, Newton Center, or JP/West Rox.

            You won't starve.

            1. Greek: I haven't yet tried Esperia in Brighton Center but it's on the list.
              Indian: Darbar in Brighton is Pakistani but might fill that slot, worth a try in any case.
              Nobody's mentioned Cognac Bistro.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Aromatherapy

                many "dittos to the great suggestions above, and I'm glad to see Shiki for a different take on Japanese. Within Brookline proper, for relatively up-scale and reasonable food, Cognac Bistro, Washington Square Tavern, and Fireplace qualify. Lineage is very good but a pit pricier. Within Brookline, I'm not a fan of the Indian food, though a number of friends like Tamarind Bay. I also think India Quality is the best Indian nearby, but would urge you to go outside of Brookline and try YoMa for Burmese, S & I for thai, Le for vietnamese, Shanghai Gate and Jo Jo Taipei for first-rate and not at all cookie cutter Chinese, Esperia for Greek and Garlic 'n Lemon for takeout middle east. . Definitely include "over the commonwealth ave." line in your "Brookline" thinking and you'll add a great world of ethnic (try Bon Chon chicken for yummy Korean fried chicken for example and most of the Super 88 food court restaurants for inexpensive Asian/ethnic.).

              2. I'll put in a plug for one my faves: American Craft on Beacon near Washington Square. Great burgers and eclectic American, excellent beer menu as well.

                8 Replies
                1. re: DrMag

                  alas, i hear they are c losing.

                  1. re: teezeetoo

                    Nooooo! Do you have any details?

                    1. re: DrMag

                      They are being replaced by a tapas place which is a regional chain from CT. Called Barcelone Wine Bar.

                      1. re: lergnom

                        how many iterations does this make in that spot since it was vinny testas?

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            oh dear -- Walters! Old school Italian, lovely waiters, so 1950's in a good way! Haven't thought about them in years. Walter's anchored one end of Brookline Italian and Capucino (I think it was spelled that way) anchored the other. Sort of miss them both.

                            1. re: teezeetoo

                              what is the deal there? foot traffic, right on the cleveland circle line, i know the neighborhood hated the smoke from the bbq place but it seems to be a pretty decent spot, maybe just a touch too far from washington square? bad mojo or weird landlord?

                              1. re: hyde

                                It wasn't the neighborhood; they put in a smoker and an air handling device and then closed it up, probably for economic reasons. My guess: they overextended, first with the retail store they closed and then with 2 large spaces. They may have been pushed financially or as managers or both.

                2. I made that move twelve years ago from Harvard Sq to Coolidge Corner. Missed the Cambridge places a lot at first but am now quite happy with the offerings on this side of the river. Just last night I was thinking of how lucky I am to be so close to so much, not just in Brookline but in Allston, as I was putting together my meal from two places in the Super 88 food court.. Allston is as far from me now in CC as Inman Sq was to me in the Square. Great Korean fried chicken, Garlic and Lemon, Lee's, Soul Fire. Places not mentioned in CC yet are The Daily Catch, Kareem, and Gari, Clear Flour, Serenade Chocolate and New Paris in the Village. Also Kenmore Square is also close with Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard, Citizens Public and now Sweet Cheeks (haven't tried that yet).

                  I do miss the Greek Corner and do go back for that. I don't find Esperia comparable.

                  Also plenty in JP to try.


                  1. New England Soup Factory

                    Taberna de haro

                    Han River

                    Eagle Deli

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      Another Coolidge Corner pedestrian checking in:
                      -Tastiest Chinese/Inexpensive: Shanghai Gate on Harvard St, just over the Allston line
                      -Best Japanese/More expensive: Shiki (quality of fish and elegance of presentation has consistently been excellent over the years, service is pleasant).
                      -Excellent grocery source (though you didn't ask): Cyndi the Fish Lady has fantastic fresh fish at When Pigs Fly on Beacon Street on Tuesdays.

                      I also like Cutty's in B. Village for sandwiches, live on Clear Flour Bread and wish I could find decent pizza.

                      1. re: WilderPenfield

                        The closest decent pizza is a few blocks from the Brookline border, at Inbound Pizza on Comm Ave, just around the corner from Harvard St./Ave.

                        I'm another transfluvial immigrant, having moved eight years ago from Union Square, Somerville to north Brookline, not far from Allston. At first I bemoaned the lack of international variety that I had been accustomed to (Union Sq has not just restaurants but also markets specializing in Portuguese, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Brazilian, Mexican, Indian and more), but as others have mentioned, the quality and variety of such offerings in Allston has boomed in recent years.

                        Our current restaurant favorites actually in Brookline are Cognac Bistro and Taberna de Haro. Second tier are Khao Sarn, Lineage, Gari and Regal Beagle.

                          1. re: BobB

                            When we lived in CC, we always got pizza from T. Anthony's...but that was 7 years ago. Mabe they're no good anymore?

                            1. re: gimlis1mum

                              No, they're still OK, especially if you ask for extra thin crust, well done. But Inbound is closer to Brookline (at least my part of Brookline). Plus it's run by Turks so they have specials like lahmejune pizza.

                              1. re: BobB

                                T. Anthony's is ok, but really no more than edible. Can anyone else clarify the Inbound Pizza situation? -It has horrible yelp reviews, and that's not usually a picky crowd. Has the management changed recently?

                      2. Won't repeat what others have said, but I'm shocked - shocked, I say - that no one has mentioned Super Fusion sushi in W Sq. love the sushi there. Also like the sandwiches at Virginia's in B Village, which rarely gets a mention here.

                        1. I have friends who live in Coolidge Corner, so I get to Brookline a lot for dinner. My favorites in the past year were Dok Bua, Taberna de Haro, Dorado Tacos & Cemitas (esp. for the cemitas), Rami's, King Fung Garden II, Cognac Bistro, Sichuan Gourmet, Brookline Family, The Abbey, Washington Square Tavern, Khao Sarn, Martin's and Cutty's.

                          Decent if not memorable were Yasu, Golden Temple, and the Regal Beagle. I was dragged to Zaftig's, and once again regretted it. Places I haven't been back to lately but have enjoyed in the past include Tashi Delek, Rod Dee, Olecito, and Jerusalem Pita.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I have seldom encountered ruder disinterested service than at Jerusalem Pita. We absolutely wont go back.

                          2. Lots of good spots mentioned. I'll add Pino's for pizza (in Cleveland Circle) and Ginga for sushi.

                            1. I'm not sure if it has been mentioned by Family Restaurant for Turkish food, across from Cutty's for good sandwiches. I'm not a big fan of the dinner versions at Family Restaurant but I love their sandwiches, particularly the grape leaves one.

                              1. For pizza I like Pizzeria Dante.

                                Try Stoli in Brookline Village for tasty Russian food & house infused vodkas.

                                I second all the other suggestions too, esp Darbar, dok bua, Anna's Taqueria, super fusion, gari, zaftigs, Sichuan Garden, Bottegga.......whats Cambridge??? :P

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jcess7

                                  Dante has great pizza. Switched to them after the labor issues with Upper Crust, and I'll probably never go back.