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Are you making a specialty food? Tell us about it

Getting so bored -- new ideas welcome

knclouse Mar 3, 2012 10:57 AM

I'm getting so bored with our usual line-up of restaurants and would love some new ideas. We live in Cambridge, like yummy food but are not fancy, and tend to steer away from Asian food because of food allergy issues.

For a casual dinner, our usuals are:

Downstairs at the Cellar
Miracle of Science
Corner Tavern
Olde Magoun's
River Gods
Green Street Grille
Parish Cafe
the bar at Chez Henri

For a slightly nicer option, our usuals are:

Vinny's at Night or Lil Vinny's
Pops (well, not anymore, RIP)
the bar at Radius

I'd love some new ideas to mix things up. Thanks so much for your suggestions!

  1. opinionatedchef Mar 10, 2012 09:05 PM

    clouse, so many people have responded but not you. tried any new spots yet?

    5 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef
      knclouse Mar 29, 2012 08:07 AM

      Thanks so much, everyone, for all of your feedback! I have to say that most of the places mentioned are places I had already tried at one point or another, but I definitely have some new places on my list that I haven't yet explored (if only work would let up a bit so I get to have dinner before kitchens close), like Casa B, Foundry on Elm, Strip T's, Abigail's, and Catalyst.

      Your suggestions also reminded me of some places I really enjoy but that I had forgotten about, like the Druid, Hungry Mother, Gran Gusto, Bondir, and Highland Kitchen.

      On a semi-related note, I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I'll go on record that I have generally been less than wowed by Central Kitchen and Craigie on Main. Am I alone in that opinion?

      1. re: knclouse
        mkfisher Mar 29, 2012 09:06 AM

        Definitely not alone on Central Kitchen. Their prices are laughable for the quality of food they're putting out.

        1. re: mkfisher
          hotoynoodle Apr 2, 2012 01:31 PM

          my recent dinners at central kitchen have been uneven, unlike the consistently good meals i have had in years past. wine list remains full of great values.

          just had a very good lunch and some great cocktails at area four. cannot wait to go back.

        2. re: knclouse
          jpeezey12 Mar 29, 2012 09:39 AM

          I've been to Craigie multiple times and have never had a bad meal. In fact it might be our favorite restaurant in Boston/Cambridge. Bummer it didn't meet your expectations.

          One of my other favorite places, though maybe not the type of dinner you are looking for is Tasty Burger. Cheap and fun.

          I went to Foundry on Elm randomly last year and it was a very enjoyable meal. I had no expectations for it (didn't know much or read about it) but I came away thinking that's a place we should go to again.

          Some love should also be given to Russel House Tavern. Been multiple times and have never had a bad meal. Good for date night or with a group.

          Surprised no one mentioned Garden at the Cellar. Another place I have always had a good meal.

          1. re: jpeezey12
            knclouse Apr 2, 2012 12:27 PM

            I've only been to Craigie on Main once, and I can't remember what my entree was, but I will not ever forget that salad -- the greens were so tough, it was actually unpleasant to eat. Maybe I just hit it on an off-night for lettuce. We have a gift certificate so I know we'll be giving it another try.

            The Cellar is one of our favorites (just wish they took reservations upstairs), as is Tasty Burger. I've enjoyed brunch at Russell House, but maybe we'll give it a try for dinner too sometime.

      2. l
        lgss Mar 10, 2012 03:11 PM

        Life Alive (Central Sq)
        Asmara (Central Sq) (Ethiopian/Eritrean)

        1. MC Slim JB Mar 6, 2012 12:11 PM

          Possibly not so run-of-the-mill, and mostly not Asian:

          Suya Joint -- casual Nigerian in Roslindale.
          Casa B -- Central/South American tapas in a beautiful Union Square (Somerville) setting
          Strip-T's -- yeah, go there. At dinner. It's in Watertown.
          Baraka Cafe -- Algerian/Tunisian, very homey.
          Kika -- pretty good tapas in a lovely Kendall Sq setting.
          Vee Vee -- seafood and vegetarian-friendly mid-priced indie in JP.
          Trade -- Med-hopping small plates and wood-fired flatbreads on the Waterfront.
          My Thai -- vegan-ness in Chinatown hopefully obviates food allergy issues.
          El Embajador -- good casual Dominican with some nice seafood options in JP.
          Blue Inc. -- New American with some molecular weirdness in the FiDi.
          El Centro -- best of the new upscale Mex joints, in the South End
          Jasmine Taste of Persia -- fine casual Persian in Watertown.
          Brick & Mortar, The Hawthorne, Backbay -- eat many little plates alongside excellent craft cocktails.


          15 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB
            T.Clark Mar 6, 2012 12:31 PM

            I think it should be pointed out that Trade does not use wood in their gas pizza oven. Nitpicking I know, but an important distinction for some food geeks (like me).

            1. re: T.Clark
              MC Slim JB Mar 6, 2012 12:51 PM

              Thanks for the correction! I sat right in front of that thing on a couple of different nights, too. It's a Wood Stone brand oven, and they make wood-fired ones, but the Trade one is indeed gas-fired. And I got it wrong in my Stuff review, tsk!


              1. re: MC Slim JB
                T.Clark Mar 6, 2012 12:59 PM

                I saw it in your Stuff Review, it's why I tried it out. Didn't really care for much there (except gas-fired flat breads). Some colleagues find it convienient so I've mingled a few times since my dinner but I don't order food.

                1. re: T.Clark
                  MC Slim JB Mar 6, 2012 01:09 PM

                  I think the flatbreads, sides and small plates are the way to go at Trade. I was less impressed with the larger plates.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    hotoynoodle Mar 6, 2012 01:35 PM

                    nobody is allowed to build with wood-fired ovens anymore. fire codes. any in boston were grandfathered in.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      MC Slim JB Mar 9, 2012 06:52 AM

                      Whoa! When did this happen? Lucky for Picco, I guess.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        T.Clark Mar 9, 2012 11:24 AM

                        It is not against Boston Fire code to install solid fuel appliances like a wood burning oven. However it is ridiculously expensive to vent/fire suppress this type of equipment especially in a multi-floor location. To retrofit an older building is almost impossible. I'm sure that Picco, being in a new(er) building, made it easier to pull off. I'd love to see more solid fuel used like wood and charcoal, I like the taste it adds. I really don't get the faux use of these types of ovens (Trade, Scampo) because in reality it adds no flavor and a much more efficient method could be used to cook the food. It's for show I guess. Similar to the fake fireplace my grandma had, powered by a 100 watt bulb.

            2. re: MC Slim JB
              Taralli Mar 6, 2012 01:27 PM

              If you go to Suya, see if they'll lighten up on the salt. I like salt, but several dishes were just too salty for a number of us. The moi moi's, however, were wonderful.

              1. re: Taralli
                yumyum Mar 6, 2012 04:16 PM

                Hey Taralli! When did you go and what did you eat at Suya? I am very curious about this place... would love to hear more.

                1. re: yumyum
                  Taralli Mar 9, 2012 06:24 AM

                  We had beef & chicken suya , which seemed dry , acara, meat pies, spicy cow foot, moi moi, goat pepper soup, mango seed stew with beef, peanut stew with chicken, and yam & casava fufu . The casava fufu was a hands down favorite w/its tangy, injera-like flavor. The cow foot was really only enjoyed by one in our party, who's really into that tough, rubbery texture - the fiery orange-colored sauce, though, was tasty & good for mopping up with fufu. The broth for the goat pepper soup, though nice & savory, had a lot of bones and was way too salty for many of us. The peanuts in the peanut stew were ground smooth, lest you're looking for whole, crunchy peanuts. The owner/chef stopped by to chat and was happy to see we'd ordered almost the entire menu. When she mentioned a dish of a whole goat head, we said we would hav ordered it if we'd known - think this is one of those order-in-advance dishes. Oh, and it was the fufu I was raving about, originally, not the moi moi.

                  1. re: Taralli
                    gourmaniac Mar 9, 2012 07:24 AM

                    I thought the moi moi were the best thing on the menu. Otherwise agree. I thought it authentic enough to be downright strange. Meat overall was poor quality (i guess this is also authentic) but sauces were interesting with spices I haven't had elsewhere (Mango seed). Teranga by comparison is very accessible. I canceled a dinner with friends at Suya based on lunch as non-hounds may not get it. Inexpensive and the owners are very nice.

                    1. re: Taralli
                      Aromatherapy Mar 9, 2012 10:39 AM

                      Two of us enjoyed the cow foot. The goat head dish (Saturday only) IIRC was described as softly scrambled brains with poached meat folded in, in a sauce similar to the cow foot sauce (which was great). I loved the moi-moi, which had a distinct chili kick, but the cassava fufu didn't do it for me--though maybe if I'd tried it before I was stuffed... The bones didn't put me off but the stew flavors, while different and interesting, didn't really grab me. This seems to be a cuisine that values a mucilaginous texture (makes sense, sticks to fufu) that isn't my favorite. We wanted to like it more than we did--but hey, they'd only been open a week. Worth trying for yourself.

                      1. re: Aromatherapy
                        MC Slim JB Mar 10, 2012 09:29 AM

                        I didn't dig that gluey texture, either, but the okbono (African mango-seed stew) was the only dish I tried in which it was really pronounced; I didn't expect the strong smoked-fish flavor in it, either, which was odd with chicken in there as well.

                        The moi moi I had was quite mild, got most of its flavor from corned beef. I really liked the suya, but it's the first I've ever sampled. The taushe (peanut stew) was probably my favorite stew, the cassava fufu the best of the fufus.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          Aromatherapy Mar 10, 2012 02:50 PM

                          Forgot we ordered the moi-moi sans meat, which might be a factor.

                      2. re: Taralli
                        galangatron Mar 9, 2012 01:06 PM

                        loved the moi moi, spicy cow foot, and goat pepper soup. the stews weren't quite as flavorful but they weren't horrible either. the suya, however, was terrible. if you ever had the delicious suya at the late african cuisine in hyde park then don't bother ordering it at suya hut

                2. m
                  maxinboston Mar 6, 2012 11:27 AM

                  Second East by North East, Muqeuca, Bergamot, Casa B with mixing things up in mind. Amazing spots, all of em.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: maxinboston
                    justbeingpolite Mar 6, 2012 12:15 PM

                    Lots of good choices
                    2nds for East Coast Grill, Craigie, Oleana, Hungry Mother, Bergamot,

                    Other Cambridge choices that tend to get overlooked or not yet mentioned:
                    Ten Tables
                    TW Food
                    Trina's Starlight Lounge
                    Gran Gusto

                  2. m
                    mvi Mar 3, 2012 04:05 PM

                    Area Four
                    Veggie Galaxy
                    The Blue Room
                    Hungry Mother
                    The Helmand
                    The East Side Bar and Grille
                    Craigie on Main
                    Russell House Tavern

                    and lots more in nearby Somerville.

                    1. opinionatedchef Mar 3, 2012 03:24 PM

                      kn, you must have seen all the Strip T's flurry. Pick up that phone, kiddo>> Boredom be gone!

                      1. l
                        LeoLioness Mar 3, 2012 02:55 PM

                        Highland Kichen (casual) and Bergamot (nicer).

                        1. Karl S Mar 3, 2012 02:07 PM

                          Abigails. The menu is designed to allow you to go from simple to fancy and everything in between. The craft cocktails include some winners.

                          1. viperlush Mar 3, 2012 11:32 AM

                            Sticking w/ Cambridge
                            Area 4
                            Hungry Mother
                            Lord Hobo
                            Blue Room

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: viperlush
                              hotoynoodle Mar 3, 2012 12:41 PM

                              mead hall, central kitchen, backbar/journeyman, bergamot, evoo, lala rokh, bin 26, beacon hill bistro, teatro, jm curley's, scholar's.

                              most of these are very red line accessible.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                teezeetoo Mar 3, 2012 01:43 PM

                                cambridge only - east by northeast, east coast grill, all star sandwich bar, courthouse seafood, abigails, red house

                                1. re: teezeetoo
                                  viperlush Mar 3, 2012 03:34 PM

                                  Muqueca, Tupelo, The Druid, The Plough and Star, Basta Pasta, City Girl, that Greek Place on 3rd?

                                  1. re: viperlush
                                    hotoynoodle Mar 3, 2012 05:55 PM

                                    how is the food at the plough? have only been for live music.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                      viperlush Mar 4, 2012 10:56 AM

                                      It's been awhile since we have been, but we always enjoy what we get. Vaguely recall the cubano and french fries being good.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                        yumyum Mar 4, 2012 12:43 PM

                                        The food at the Plough is "better than it has to be". The cubano is great, the gumbo is good, and the pints are properly poured. Been a few years since I got over there for brunch but I remember it being very good as well. Only drawback, it takes an awfully long time to get the grub, which makes it tough for a week-day lunch.

                                        1. re: yumyum
                                          hotoynoodle Mar 4, 2012 02:35 PM

                                          good to know! we go there sometimes for music and can be scrambling for dinner beforehand.

                                      2. re: viperlush
                                        Moopheus Mar 4, 2012 10:54 AM

                                        The Greek place is Desfina. No Asian leaves out places like Mulan and Similans. What about Indian? Is the OP okay with Indian? We've got that.

                                2. v
                                  VintageMolly Mar 3, 2012 11:28 AM

                                  Strip T's
                                  Russell House Tavern
                                  Hungry Mother
                                  R.F. O'Sullivan's

                                  1. s
                                    Swankalicious Mar 3, 2012 11:09 AM

                                    Craigie on Main
                                    Foundry on Elm
                                    Boston Burger Co.
                                    Highland Kitchen
                                    Temple Bar
                                    Casa B

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