Toronto Hound Coming For 2 Weeks
Hey there fellow Chowhounders. I'm coming to Boston on May 5th for over 2 weeks. Will have tons of free time and plan on eating a lot.
Looking mainly for things that aren't common or readily available in Toronto and I tend to gravitate towards ethnic and offal but am open to all suggestions. I've spent a fair bit of time pouring over threads here and have come up with a rough list and would appreciate any comments and/or additions.
The Publick House
Cambridge Brewing Company
Butcher Shop (seems to get mixed reviews - could someone comment further?)
Craigie's on Main
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Uni (for ramen and/or sakebomb 4 course meal)
Pizzeria Regina (in North End)
Eastern Standard Kitchen
There seems to be a plethora of Latin options that I'm interested in exploring - if someone could comment/add to/refine these selections it would be greatly appreciated:
La Reina Cafeteria or Mi Pueblito for pupusas
Taqueria El Amigo
South End Buttery
If someone could recommend a good Middle Eastern grocer I would appreciate it. I am cooking for family members and need to find some ingredients.
If you feel I've missed something important please add!
Thanks in advance! :)
Many good choices. 2 cents (that's 1.5 Canadian) worth:
Sofra is definitely worth it for breakfast. Shakshuka, Turkish breakfast, most pastries, coffee and sharbats all unique in my N. American experience, and just delicious. Lunches astonishingly ordinary by comparison.
Pavement Coffee is up there in quality with the best (on a good day, not all baristas equally good) -- a step above Voltage tho the atmosphere is less buzzy.
I'd give Island Creek the edge over Neptune, which was long a favorite in the old days. Neptune does just one thing too many to the dishes, so it's hard to taste the fish over the ragout, pistou, beurre monté, and Maytag Blue. Neptune's greater creativity just comes at the cost of its really being a seafood restaurant. For my taste, ICOB is the right balance of fish/seafood and novel preparations. Sorry your experience wasn't so good, service-wise.
On Spanish, I thought Estragon was badly overrated: we are regulars at Taberna de Haro and no dish was as good at Estragon as at TdH (formerly owned by Julio Haro, the current Estragon owner). TdH is a bit lower priced too.
Tried out Strip T's, Giacomo, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Mike's, Modern, South End Buttery, Salumeria Italiana and Formaggio in the past few days. I'll try to give a more detailed breakdown but in short:
Strip T's - excellent. Great price point for portion size and quality of preparation. Had the cauliflower, sweetbreads, chicken 'n waffles, crab okonomiyaki and chocolate shitake pots de creme. Chicken a tad on the dry side, sweetbreads were a bit of a miss but other than that all excellent and our server was quite funny.
Giacomo's - pass. Didn't really enjoy anything here. Had a pasta special, the papardelle with sausage - pasta bland, swimming in lukewarm 'sauce' if you can call it that. Veal piccata was over salted, over lemoned, and tough.
ICOB - service was very rushed, seemed as though they were trying to turn tables very quickly. Ate a lot of seafood - oysters, littlenecks, ceviche, clams, etc. All very good, clean, fresh seafood that I enjoyed but didn't feel like it was anything I couldn't get elsewhere. Ceviche was a tad on the bland side. Gorgeous room and very clever marketing strategy though.
Much preferred Modern to Mike's. In a word Mike's was stale. Sfogliatella at Modern was pretty tasty.
Had two cocktails at Drink after a Harpoon tasting. Went with two negroni's with differing vermouth's. Very personable service. Lots of drink history and evolution of cocktails being discussed. Really enjoyed our bartender there. Like the atmosphere as well but can understand why people would be annoyed later in the night as it gets crowded. I went at opening because of this.
Also enjoyed CBC but I was there for an event which probably clouded my judgement just a tad :)
All in all so far - yummy! Let the adventure continue :)
i'm so psyched that you caught the soft shell crab okonomiyaki. I would guess you don't see soft shells on Toronto menus? I wish you'd try the lobster/short rib noodles chanterelles dish, and the biscuit, at ICOB( i know i know, i'm a broken record...but then again, you have done so much reading and have so many details in your head, I don't want you to forget! ) And that sfogliatelle- at Modern- isn't that fascinating? Aside from being tasty, I think the pastry technique alone makes it worthwhile to study (before devouring)!
Yeah, soft shell crab doesn't appear much on menus - a light peppering here and there. They are more commonly found at a purveyor.
You know I looked at that dish at ICOB and it didn't really interest me. It says "Lobster Roe Noodles" - does it actually have roe in it? If I'm in the area I'll try to stop in for it.
For sure, great technique there. :)
yes, the noodles are made with the roe. they mostly just have a good strong flavor of the sea. what's fascinating for ME about the dish - is the way the rich beef demiglace works with the pasta and the lobster itself (and the shortrib, but that's a given.)And the chanterelles add another unctuous note. And i would not be stretching it to say that I have been a lifelong naysayer about "surf 'n turf " (Except when the 'turf' is bacon!)
Thanks for the quick report. RE pastry, try Maria's in the North end while your here. As good as Modern but a little homier. RE Italian over all you probably won't do better than you have in TO (given its huge Italian population) and nothing in the North End. If you need Italian, try Sorellina for high end and Trattoria Toscana for as close to real Tuscan that we have. Neptune Oyster should still be on your list. Also, I just took a couple of TO emigres to taqueria jalisco (East Boston) and we all loved it. Something you won;t get back home.
Guess you arrived today, so Welcome! This info might look overwhelming at first, but since you'll be here 2 wks, i hope it will be helpful:
Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:
Also, some extra Boston food profile info for you:
shopping for Boston food souvenirs:
Of your listed spots, I would steer you away from (all for food reasons) : Orinoco, Estragon, teranga,ESK, taqueria el amigo, mike's pastry,sofra(but i love Oleana), rino's(huge portions of good food but noth. memorable.)
Happy to see these on your list! hope you get to them:
Neptune Oyster- crowded tiny always a line, top quality inventive seafood along w/ trad.
Island Creek Oyster Bar- the BEST service, large room but intimate, more trad but some inventive
Strip T's (in a 'suburb', 10 min cab from harvard square) for serious foodies; Momofuku chef; great inventive Asian inspired but also best fried chicken and burger in Boston
For brunch, you cannot have more fun than at East Coast Grill in Cambridge. A real locals' fav for all ages; latin, mexican,bbq and and seafood; Bloody Mary bar; great vibe.
Boston Magazine 11/11 issue: 50 Best Boston Restnts. This list is a very comprehensive and convenient reference list for brief restnt. descriptions, essential info, website links of the 50:
As you've probably already discovered due to your diligent research, Estragon has gotten some much better reviews since the owner took back over the kitchen. I am sad to say I haven't been there recently so I can't comment personally. I've only been orinoco once and I did really like it, but then I'm very interested in south american food combinations of all types.
might be better to trust the word of someone reliable who has eaten there recently: MC Slim as I recall already had this discussion with opinionated chef who has not eaten there in too long to offer a current opinion. See MC's discussion with OC on this very same matter and make up your own mind. I find it very good indeed but it's all in whom you trust.
realized no one has specifically replied about Sofra, though if you've searched here, you've seen the highly varied opinions.
Personally I love Sofra....the counter ordering system, the seating, the space, the prices are all problematic. However, you will find middle eastern pastries there like nowhere else in Boston, can't comment on Toronto, sad for me!
I'll repeat what others have said while not being able to compare to Toronto...Arax and adjacent markets in Watertown are superb for fresh and pantry ingredients.
check in with us as your stay progresses...hope it's a good trip for you.
Hey Radiopolitic another former Toronto resident in Boston here. Great list so far, would add a few more for you to check out:
- S&I Thai in Allston
- Oleana in Cambridge an unique take on Eastern Mediterranean
- Istanbul'lu in Somerville for great Turkish.
- The bar at Clio for cocktails. Todd Maul runs an incredible bar program and its more of a quiet setting than the others on your list (which are all great as well)
- Voltage Coffee in Kendall Square is another to add to your coffee list.
re: Matt H
Eastern Standard Kitchen, Coppa and Toro all have great offal dishes. La Voile makes fantastic sweetbreads but call and check if it is on the menu (not always offered). Your list is great and has lots of board favorites: Yoma is a standout and our Thai food is very good: S & I is my favorite but there are others and you might wander through Dorchester if you have a yen for great Vietnamese food. Hope you enjoy it all and the weather clears for you!
The OP expressed interest in good beer and cocktails, and Green Street is one of the few places that excel in both areas.
The Hawthorne is a glaring omission from the original post. I think its the best cocktail bar in town right now.
This saturday is Cambridge Brewing Company's 23rd anniversary party. Which means they will have 23 different varieties of their beers on tap(they usually have about 10). It is by far the best brewpub in the area so make sure to check it out.
re: Matt H
Wanted to add a couple more that came to mind. You could try some Puerto Rican, Haitian or Cape Verdean food as well, since as far as I can remember none are available in Toronto (or at least difficult to find)
Puerto Rican- Cafe Latino (Government Center)
Haitian: Camie's (Central Square, Cambridge)
Cape Verdean: Restaurante Cesaria (Dorchester)
re: Matt H
Thanks for the suggestions Matt H!
The last three sound interesting.
Oleana and Istanbul'lu don't really interest me as I'm from the Middle East and eat that food on a very regular basis.
Started the day going to Dewey Square for the Mobile Food Fest. Tried some good lobster bisque. The taco truck was meh - pretty bland. An okay grilled cheese and a fairly tasty lamb skewer.
Great architecture downtown in the financial district. Loved walking around with my gf. She made me matzo ball soup as a surprise so I was pretty stuffed from that. Stopped by Bauer Spirits on Newbury for a Tanteo tequila tasting - that Cocoa infused tequila was a huge hit - before having a beer at the bar at Top of the Hub (for the view). Saw Beethoven's 9th and followed it with a cocktail at Clio (Thanks Matt H) before heading downstairs to Uni for some late night ramen. Pretty good. Had the traditional and umami flavours - not the best but certainly quite tasty.
We shall see what tomorrow holds - gonna start with the SoWa market and go from there. Have tickets to the Celtics game. Gooooo Boston!
I did look at it. It's leagues better than the vast majority of Middle Eastern restaurants that mostly serve falafel, shawarma etc. but ultimately doesn't interest me. That's just the normal food we eat.
I've also worked as a chef specializing in recreating dishes from the Ottoman palace archives and am a Middle Eastern food historian so I will admit when it comes to this type of food I'm generally very very particular.
wow, do you have a web site or some other way we can learn more about your chef creations and food historian discoveries? I love the food and history from this area and I'm always looking to learn more though I am a rank amateur (I'm also really interested in the Spanish cultural intermingling before the Jews and Muslims "left" and in Sephardi food in general). You are so lucky that this is the normal food you eat.
Before the mods throw this off or transfer it to homecooking, thanks for responding and do please keep us updated on your Boston adventures. You eat so well at home, I'm afraid you won't find much that's really entrancing here.
You should check out my nephew's website ottomanfoodmap.com
He is getting a doctorate in Turkish history and is totally taken by the food in that ares. This site tracks middle Eastern food both thru both history and different countries, whether it has different names and preparations in different locales, etc. It's a cooperative site, so I'm sure he'd also be interested in your feedback.
Welcome my landsman (Toronto, born and bred). You have an excellent list already. If you have time and a car, I would suggest a few chow crawls through different ethnic neighborhoods. East Boston has a few that you've mentioned (Rincon Limeno, Angela's Tacqueria Jalisco) but also Belle Isle Seafood, Betty Ann's donuts and Santarpios pizza. Lowell-Chelmsford corridor have great Cambodian (Simply Khmer) and Indian (Upidi Bhavan) and great buzz on a hand pulled noodle place (Gene's flatbread). Dorchester has our better Vietnamese (Pho 2000, An Hong) and Somerville and East Cambridge has good Portuguese (JJ's, Muqueca) RE Jewish delis, we don't compare to Toronto in my opinion. Also, while Toronto's Chinese is truly excellent, you might want to try some of our Taiwanese (Dumpling Cafe, Mulan, JoJo Taipei) which is a relative strength compared to TO. There are several middle eastern markets around town. Could you be more specific. If you're products include Armenian, the Mt Auburn Street area of Watertown has several nice markets. If you're looking more for Syrian/ Lebanese, I like Saab's market in Dedham.
Nice to hear from a fellow Canuck!
I will definitely be checking out East Boston but Lowell is a bit far. Maybe when I'm back again in June.
I'll check out JJ's and Muqueca - are they different than the Portuguese offerings here in Toronto?
Yeah Taiwanese isn't a strong point of Chinese in Toronto. As mentioned in another response do you have a preference between those joints?
I'm definitely looking for more Syrian/Lebanese. Will need tamarind concentrate/paste, aleppo peppers, sumac, pomegranate syrup, etc. Thanks!
For cocktails definitely check out Eastern Standard and/or Hawthorne. The roast bone marrow at Eastern Standard is amazing, too, since you mention you like offal. Craigie also has great cocktails. Drink is definitely worth it, but far more pleasant Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday than over the weekend, so if you have some flexibility in when to go, do go when it is quiet.
There are a number of Portuguese places in Cambridge that might be worth checking out - I am not the expert but do a search, and maybe someone more knowledgeable will chime in.
For coffee, I also like Crema Cafe in Harvard Square quite a bit, particularly for espresso drinks. Try their homemade English muffin with your espresso. The Thinking Cup is a new place in downtown Boston (right across from the Common) that should also definitely be on your list. To try Barismo coffee, I think dwelltime (their new cafe in Inman Square) is a better option than the roaster/shop in Arlington.
Boston has a number of fantastic Sichuan restaurants (Sichuan Gourmet, Chilli Garden, and Red Pepper are the best IMO) as well as a few excellent Taiwanese places (Jo Jo Taipei and MuLan) and a Shannxi place (Gene's Flatbread Cafe) which I really like but isn't to everyone's liking and has a very limited menu. If you take the time to go, you should work hard to avoid the Americanese swill they're forced to sell to pay the bills.
I've also enjoyed the wood and charcoal cooked fish and steaks at the East Coast Grill.
Mmmm. Yes I did read about these options. Any preference between Jo Jo Taipei and MuLan?
The Shannxi place is a bit too far out for me unfortunately. Would have been nice to pair that with the Cambodian offerings in Lowell. Thanks for the tips!
Are the fish at East Coast Grill served whole or as fillets?
Barry's is great, and sadly Boston is lacking good Jewish delis. Zaftigs in Brookline is another option that's closer to Boston, but it's much more modern that Barry's and the food is less consistent. If I was going for breakfast / brunch, I would actually choose Zaftigs, but the sandwiches are significantly better at Barry's for lunch. Barry's is a hole in the wall, grimy diner type place (which is what their regulars expect), and Zaftig's is a nicer city/neighborhood restaurant. Service is much better at Zaftigs. Hope that helps.
I would skip Sunset from your list above. It's more quantity over quality for the beers. Also, Redbones has good beer, but it's a BBQ joint more than a beer bar. I'd probably replace that with Sweet Cheeks, a new chef-driven texas style BBQ spot near Fenway that also has a nice beer list.
Otherwise, very nice list. Highly recommend Coppa, but it's tiny. Make a reservation.