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New Bostonian's wish list

Hey Boston hounds,

I just moved here from Montreal and I need some help to quickly find substitutes for my favorites. I appreciate all of your help!

Some caveats: I am centered in Cambridge but will travel within maybe an hour biking distance for food. I'm not rich and am not interested in super fancy food (which I prefer to tackle in my own kitchen). What I really want are things which are generally better for the price in restaurants. Without further ado:

1) Decent inexpensive Sushi. Firstly, IS there good sushi in this city? This is one area that Montreal sorely lacks in, so I would be glad to find the opposite here. I prefer simple and classic sushi. Perfect fish, perfect rice. I am not interested in super dragon kraken rolls which are deep friend and topped with foie.

2) Indian Thali. Should be cheap and large, preferably with butter chicken.

3) Burger. Nothing fancy here. Just an awesome burger. I hear there is a place across from Harvard which makes a good one. Lemme know.

4) Szechuan. It should be authentic and covered in those little red chilies. No general Tao, thanks! =D

5) Pho. Generally, I like to avoid very sweet pho.

6) Mexican. Tacos, pastor, etc.

7) Banh Mi.

Any and all suggestions are most appreciated!


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  1. Sushi:

    Zen on beacon hill
    Ginza chinatown
    Yoshis in somerville
    Douzo back bay

    These are my favorites in order

    1. You'll enjoy Bartley's Burger Cottage. Sichuan Gourmet, Billerica, Brookline, Farmingham. Search the boards and you'll find it's a favorite. If you go to Brookline(is that Sichuan Garden?) check out the Turkish Family Restauranyt and Cutty's sandwich shop.Pho and Banh Mi are easily found in Chinatown and on Dorchester Ave. Pho Pasteur, Pho Hoa and Pho 200 are all good in no particular order. Ba Le, La Baguette are both good.

      1. Thali: I've heard that Dosa Temple does a good veg Thali (and a good Dosa), but I haven't been. I never seen a non-veg Thali, but then again I haven't had much Indian in Boston area.

        Banh Mi: I like Pho Viet's, which is located in the 88 food court across the river.

        1. I wish there were tacos everywhere. Tacos Lupita in Lynn is good stuff. Also try the Stsff Meal truck for some blends of what you might be looking for. Not traditional but ever so delicious.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lmiggedy

            For a good burger & fries that's T accessable, U Burger on Tremont Street (there's also one in Kenmore) is worth the trip. Go on a nice day & have a "picnic lunch" on The Common - great place to people watch. If the Grillo's cart is out, you could grab a fresh pickle to go with your lunch too.

          2. Most of these are popular topics of discussion, you'll find a lot if you do simple searches. Also, to make a point that I'm sure somebody will, perfect fish + perfect rice is never inexpensive. There are a number of places that have decent value for money, though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Luther

              Totally. I was just hoping for some quick suggestions on a multitude of topics. As for the sushi, let's not say perfect then... let's just say good for the price =D As is, I want to spend $25 on a few rolls and a few nigiri of above average quality for the city.

            2. Irashai (on Kneeland st) for sushi

              weekend lunch buffet at Kebab Factory (Somerville, not far from Harvard sq)

              burger at the bar at Pigalle (Charles st)-- cheaper than similar burgers elsewhere which cost twice as much

              Chengdu chicken (or Chongqing chicken if you want really hot), boiled beef filet, cumin lamb (specify mild or hot) at New Shanghai (Hudson st)

              Xinh Xinh for pho

              1 Reply
              1. re: barleywino

                This is helpful for Chemist (and me; I like the OP's list). I keep meaning to check out that Pigalle burger.

              2. Cambridge has a ton of good restaurants, but for whatever reason, Asian cuisines are not the focus.

                1) Sushi: Hana Sushi on Mass. Ave. past Porter Square, Genki-Ya at Alewife, Snappy in Davis are three that I frequent. Blue Fin at the Porter Square exchange has some fans, although I have not been in years due to so-so experiences in the past.

                You *should* check out the stall restaurants at Porter Square Exchange - lots of different Asian-based chow to be had, at a very reasonable price.

                2) Indian: I can vouch for Dosa Temple on Somerville Ave. - pretty good stuff, all veg. Kebab Factory has a lot of fans - on the cheap end, Punjabi Dhaba, which I like but has some detractors.

                3) Burger: The place you are speaking of is Bartley's - the burgers at the Druid and O'Sullivan's also get many accolades.

                4) Szechuan: Few places on this side of the river do Szechuan - though Dan dan noodles at Mary Chung, if memory serves, get a lot of mention here on the board. You can get some Szechuan-style dishes at Qingdao Garden.

                5) Pho: In Harvard Square, you get pho at Le's (or is it Pho Pasteur) - Pho-n-Rice is just ok - and I am not familiar at all with "sweet" pho - every version I've had in Boston is savory.

                6) Mexican: The place in Union Square is probably your best bet - is there a Mexican place in Cambridge, other than the burrito joints? The best place - Tacos Lupita - was sold a few months ago and is now called Aguacate, and reports are that it is no longer magical - anyone been here recently?

                7) Banh Mi - Go to Strip T's in Watertown (down Mt. Auburn Street) for the banh mi (but not a banh mi joint, so to speak) - otherwise, there is nothing on the Cambridge side of the river.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  ditto the Porter Exchange food stalls-- very popular so go early if you can to snag a seat or be prepared to wait in line (Cafe Mami for Japanese curry/ boneless fried chicken, Sapporo for ramen)

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    By sweet Pho I mean that some places seem to add a large amount of sugar to the broth, resulting in a sweet flavor that seems to increase you get towards the bottom of the bowl. For me, this really ruins Pho.

                    1. re: The Chemist

                      If my tastebuds remember correctly, Pho 'n Rice has a pretty sweet broth, so you'll probably want to avoid it.

                    2. re: Bob Dobalina

                      +1 on the dan dan noodles at Mary Chung's. Most of the szechuan dishes there are quite good.

                    3. I think Sakurabana downtown on Broad has been excellent year after year, and not too pricey.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: The Chemist

                          sakurbana does sushi very well. not a fancy room, but well-priced, well-cut and fresh. been there for years.

                      1. 1. sushi go go: Sakayana in Allston cheap and good; I also like Uni Bar which is very expensive but has great fish. i was a fan of blue fin; their ownership has changed and have not been there recently.
                        2. Indian: Tamarin Bay in Harvard Square
                        3. Best burger: Craigie on Main, ok burger: Mrs. Bartleys in Harvard Square
                        4. Sichuan: Sichuan gourmet, Thailand Cafe
                        5. Pho: not sure
                        6. Mexican: go to SF or Chicago
                        7. Banh Mi: Strip t

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                          NB the Strip-Ts "banh mi" is not a banh mi, it's just a sandwich that happens to include some pickled daikon and carrots. But it's a fun sandwich you should definitely try if you like fried tofu.

                          1. re: Luther

                            Cutty's in Brookline makes a great banh mi. Not perfectly authentic, perhaps, but delicious.

                            1. re: SSqwerty

                              I personally think Cutty's banh mi is far from authentic ...

                              there's a Viet food stall at the Super 88 food court (Packard's Corner), and I think it's decent. There's another stall/hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown on Washington St (I think), but I don't remember the name, nor do I remember how it compares. can anyone chime in on this?

                        2. Welcome my fellow Canadian. I'm going to suggest places in Somerville/Cambridge (given your bike travel) that are very good and convenient but may not be the absolute best in region.
                          1. We don;t do sushi well here either. Near you is Cafe Sushi (Mass ave near Putnam) which i liked years ago and have heard is still good.
                          2, Kebab Factory (mentioned below) is a deal for weekday lunch buffet.
                          3. Sullivans (Beacon Street near Sacramento). Large chargrilled pub burger
                          4.Mulan (Broadway) is Taiwanese, but there spicy side of the menu will scratch our Szechuan itch
                          5. There are frankly all about the same. The is a branch of Le's (Pho Pasteur) in Harvard Square.
                          6. Nothing I can recommend in Cambridge/Somerville (lamenting the loss of Tacos Lupita). Elsewhere, Tacqueria Jalisco in East Boston, Tacqueria Los Amigos in Waltham)
                          7. Bahn Mi Nothing great but if Vietnamese, its a $3.00 experiment. Not of fan of gringo's take on this street snack

                          1. 1) Toroya has awesome sushi and sashimi in Arlington is a lovely bike ride down Mass Ave or the bikepath. Blue Fin is average and of about the same price, it seems.

                            3) Bartley's in Harvard, Lord Hobo in Inman, Druid in Inman - it depends what type of burger you're searching for. I've never been a fan of Sullivan's.

                            5) Xihn Xihn in Chinatown or the aforementioned spots in Dorchester. You can take the redline from Cambridge.

                            7) There's a stand in the Super 88 in Allston or one of the shops near Beach & Washington in Chinatown.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: gini

                              Second Toraya for the traditional sushi that OP is after. The prices are pretty low at dinner, and if you go during lunch, it's comically underpriced. It's tiny and popular though, so be prepared to wait.

                              In addition to take-out from Sakurabana, I'd check out the fish from New Deal fish market (Cambridge) and, to a lesser extent, Ebisuya (Medford, will also make sushi for takeout). It's an inexpensive way to feast on sushi, as it sounds like you might be up for DIY.

                              Also, for Sichuan, I'll second the above recs of Thailand Cafe on Mass Ave and New Shanghai in Chinatown (I'm sure the others are good too, but I don't have experience with them).

                              1. re: gini

                                the stand in the 88 is called pho viet, and is probably one of the better bahn-mi in the city. they do a good job with singapore noodle but their pho is not great.

                                (also as long as you are in the 88 food court, go to the back rear storefront called "kantin" and ask for dry fried beef chow foon, excellent food for not much money)

                              2. Okay, so the strip mall location is not trendy. But I like Genki-ya for good, modestly priced sushi. And my chow-baby loves a bowl of their multi-grain sushi rice with a side of edamame, which is a healthier kid's meal than almost anything else I can think of. And who doesn't need to stop at Trader Joe's every now and then?