Restaurants/cafes around Orient Heights Community Center
I play volleyball at the Orient Heights Community Center (86 Boardman St, East Boston) on a weeknight. Depending on workload and traffic, I sometimes find myself in the unfamiliar neighborhood a bit early with little clue as to what's around. I'm looking for recommendations for (1) cafes to work in (wifi preferred but not crucial) and (2) casual restaurants. I'll be with my car so a short ride away is fine, although I'll likely be around there during rush hour. Thanks.
I have lived in Orient Heights for a number of years now, and given your parameters there are not a lot of options that I would recommend. Zafferano's is long gone, Victory Pub is closed (though I'm not sure I would have recommended it when it was open...), Italian Express closed, Cafe Italia II closed, etc. Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years.
E. Umi Sushi is respectable (corner of Bennington and Saratoga - the old Italian Express location), but is very much a take out place, you probably would not want to linger there long at the few tables they have.
Day Square has many, many more options but, while not far mileage-wise (~2 miles), at rush hour would be a pain. Bennington at rush hour is just a nightmare.
The only option I would recommend for you is El Kiosco, at the rotary where Boardman Street begins, right down the street from OYCC. There is a bar side and a small restaurant side, and the food is solid South American (Columbian I believe), no frills, friendly, and worth a visit.
Actually, there is also a Mama Blanca on Saratoga a short distance from Bennington heading towards Winthrop, but I have only had take out a couple of times and it was good, so that might be another option.
El Kiosco is indeed Colombian, and a favorite of a Colombian friend of mine; been on my to-try list for a while.
I used to be a fan of (also Colombian) restaurant El Paisa, but haven't been back in some time.
Mama Blanca in its original incarnation over by Logan's back gate was a very good Salvadoran place (meaning it also had a big Mexican menu), but I haven't hit its new Orient Heights spot.
RIP, Tawakal Halal Cuisine, the Somalian restaurant that only lasted a few months. Fond memories of Zafferano and Carmen's Kitchen, too.