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So-Gross-They're-Good Faves

You know the places. Formica counters. Smelly regulars. Steamy windows. Depressing lighting. But something on the menu keeps you coming back. Maybe it's a stellar chili. Maybe it's a Reuben that just won't quit. Maybe it's a waitress who always supplies you with an extra tipple of coffee, even when you don't ask for it.

Tell me about some radar-shy, publicist-free restaurants that, for some goddamn reason, have a following.

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  1. Aren't these places somewhat of the point of these boards? Maybe not gross, but certainly the unassuming type of places that wouldn't attract your average diner. I think Wai Wai in Chinatown epitomizes this concept.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kobuta

      yes yes yes!

      now I don't feel so guilty about my greasy cravings...

      1. re: tammyh

        I don't feel guilty about Wai Wai. They serve a delicious plate of rice and cooked duck/chicken/roast meat. They used to offer darn good noodle soups too. Their ginger-scallion sauce is so good.

        1. re: kobuta

          Just wish they would use a better quality white rice...otherwise it's a treat, right down to the unassuming ambiance.

    2. McMenamy's Hamburger House is Easton on Rte 138 sort of fits the bill. Fairly decent burgers, but the place has been updated since around 1952.

      1. These kinds of places are certainly disappearing. (Agree - never gross or smelly - those would probably be dealbreakers)

        But of the quiet, tucked-away, unassuming spots -

        - Hungry Traveler - for the Korean dishes
        - Cafe Delicato
        - Deli One (Arch St.) - classic greasy spoon Greek cafeteria operation - the mac-n-cheese, beef-n-mac and Greek salads are cheap, plentiful and quite decent in their own way.
        - Falafel King at the Winter Street arcade - and you get the falafel dipped in hummus to snack on while your order is being put together.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          Yes! to the Falafel King. Love the chicken kabob roll up. I long for the shish taouk sandwich at a Lebanese place called Nate's from my Cleveland days, and Falafel King's is the closest thing to satisfying my craving.

          1. re: MrsCheese

            I think Deli One took a huge turn for the worse when they moved from Kingston. Plus that part of Arch smells like piss. I avoided Chac there too until the other one closed.

        2. I don't consider it gross or smelly, but it's certainly not going to win any awards for its ambiance, but I like the original Demo's in Watertown. The shishkebab is pretty good and you can't beat the prices. I also like the weird evening service where you place your order, sit down and then they find you and bring your meal to the table without using any numbers or anything.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pemma

            I would add Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale and the Galway House in JP to the list RE decor and pretty good food with excellent value. GH is bad enough that I always get takeout.

          2. The Alumni Cafe in Quincy is a dark and dingy place that sees its share of troublemakers, but man, is their bar pizza ever good. Possibly the best I've had anywhere.

            Also, Franco's on Moody Street in Waltham. This isn't the part of Moody Street that is the "restaurant row." It's near the top of the hill where people tend not to venture as much. Great pizza there as well, though when I go, I feel like I need to give one of the kids out front $20 to keep an eye on my car.

            5 Replies
            1. re: hiddenboston

              I agree. The Alumni has the best grease-bomb bar pizzas anywhere. Great with a couple of ice cold Carrrrronas!!!

              1. re: hiddenboston

                I always thought it was Franca's down the hill by the tracks that was the good one, and that Franco's was no good.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Nope, Franco's is great, one of the best slices around. At least it was one of my favorites in its old location (across and farther down Moody street), I have only been to the new spot once.

                  Franca's was pretty good as well.

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    Agreed, Gabatta. Franco's is a solid pie. It's funny, but there is some good chow on that end of Moody. You can't beat the value for pupusas, etc. at Mi Tierra. There's quality vegan/macrobiotic far at Masao's kitchen. It is a gritty area, though, but I've never felt intimidated there. (I do keep my $20's handy).

                    Franca's was a little thicker and a bit heavy on the cheese, but still very good.

                    I'm hoping that something eventually goes into the Franca's space. It's a shame to have the wood-fired brick oven going to waste.

                2. re: hiddenboston

                  Interesting. I've been meaning to ask about Alumni. I had their pizza for the first time a year or two and really loved it (Town Spa and Lynwood are my usual bar pizza places). Then I had it again a couple of months ago and it was just awful. It was doughy and undercooked and too sweet? Just nothing about it was good at all. Did I just hit it on the wrong night? Is it generally un-even? I don't make it down to the south shore that often, so if Alumni is unreliable I will probably just stick with Lynwood (which is not as good as the magical first Alumni experience I had, but is a million times better than the last time I had it).

                3. dudes, that place closed like 20 years ago!

                  i gotta go with:

                  giuseppe's sub shop,
                  309 Watertown St
                  Newton, MA 02458

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hyde

                    HA! Giuseppe's was the very first place I thought of too!

                    1. re: hyde

                      ha! i was just talking that place up yesterday. giuseppe's italian subs. MMM

                    2. Punjabi Dhaha (get it, ha-ha) in Inman Sq. fits half of the bill here. I get stomach javelins just walking by. Long ago it had some promise, now not so much. Around the corner, the S&S fits half the bill, too. A series of nursing home dining rooms where you can't help but think you are watching lives end. Punjabi is just a unpoliced mess while the S&S with its ghastly lighting and dead-tired menu has its own unique funk. Both to be avoided. More to the point, I'll always have a slice at Armando's even when the tables are uncleared and empty potato chip bags are fluttering across the floor.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: sadflour

                        Man, I used to love the Dhaba. I stopped going a few years ago because of its decline. Anyone been lately, i.e., the past year or so?

                        1. re: Prav

                          Also a fan of the Dhaba, but haven't been for a couple of years. sadflour, if you look past the decor of the S&S- and I totally agree with you about it- they make some of the best Buffalo wings, right up there with Buff's in Newton, close to Duff's in Buffalo. I also love their S&S wings, and French onion soup. But the place can be a bit depressing. We've only had Armando's to go, it's great!

                        2. re: sadflour

                          S&S may be dated, but calling it gross is an exaggeration at best.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            Dated and semi-gross, then. And the food has never been anything to write home about and the breakfast stuff has always be lacking.

                            1. re: sadflour

                              You missed the point of the thread.

                        3. Haymarket Pizza. I can't believe the city hasn't shut them down, but I do love their pizza.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: nightsky

                            Still have the best pizza dough for sale - inflation finally caught up with them - now $1.25 per dough.

                            1. re: nightsky

                              I had no idea they were still around. I haven't had a slice there since the late 80's. Total blast from the past.

                              1. re: chefematician

                                I actually stopped by for a slice a couple of weeks ago & was kinda disappointed on how sweet the sauce was. Liked the cheese to crust ratio (plenty of cheese / thin crust) & it was hot & fresh. Wouldn't go out of my way for it, but it was good for the price.

                            2. Folks, please keep the discussion focused on restaurants that are currently open. Nostalgia can be fun, but it doesn't help anyone eat better today. Thanks!