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Some recent Merrimack Valley eats / lunch

I've been spending some time up north during the work week, so I thought I'd post about some of the places I've grabbed a bite to eat. I'm usually solo, so I tend to just grab n go.

Lowell

Nhu Y Sandwich Shop. This is my favorite place for a banh mi anywhere. It's more of a convenience store that happens to sell sandwiches and egg rolls. I've tried just about every option, but the chicken is my favorite. It seems to be just steamed shredded chicken, but they stuff the sandwich a little more than most and the price is around $3. It might have creeped up to $3.50 recently, but still a great deal. Only negative is that they sometimes stop selling sandwiches if the wife is sick or traveling. Luckily there are many other options in the area.

Hong Cuc Sandwich Shop. This seems to be a favorite on here and Yelp. It's very good, but for my taste, not as good as Nhu Y. The staff is very friendly and they have many more food options (fried balls of dough w/ sesame seeds, fresh summer rolls, boba tea, snacks, sausages, etc). I don't care for the chicken banh mi as much here. The chicken has some kind of a sweet sauce on it. I usually stick to the beef or cold cuts here, although the Nem was really good as well.

Methuen

Thwaites Market. This place makes awesome pocket pies. Not sure how else to describe them except that they are small individual pies stuffed with all kinds of goodness. They always have the chicken and pork pies in the warmer, but also carry 5-10 other hot varieties at any time as well as frozen pies to cook at home. I like the standard chicken and pork, but think the turkey is great. This place is also a deli / butcher. Not sure if they will make sandwiches, but apparently the sausages are made in house as well as corned beef and other options. Nice mom and pop old school market feel to it. I think it's cash only.

Lawrence

Tacos Lupita. This place has been covered a lot on here. Great tortas and burritos. I go after the carnitas or al pastor. The pastor reminds me of taco stands in Mexico with the sweet pineapple on top.

Jacqueline's. This is a corner store that happens to sell awesome fried chicken as well as other treats (empanadas, baked chicken, fries, what looked like chicharones, etc). Price is great ($1 per piece of chicken). For $4 you can get 3 decent sized pieces of crispy chicken and some fries. I need to try some of the other offerings. Language barrier can be a little tough, but just point and you will be fine. You order from a woman on the left as you come in and pay the guy on the right.

Tripoli Bakery. I like the pastries and bread here, but the pizza isn't my thing. Apparently sweet sauce is a north shore style and the sheet pizza here gets great reviews. I think it's OK, but wouldn't go out of my way for it. I don't think pizza should be sweet.

Italian Kitchen. Across the street from Tripoli and only open a few days a week I think. This place seems to only sell arancini and crispelli. I think the arancini is a little bland. I prefer Domenic's in Waltham or the recently closed Salem Foods on Moody St.

I've grabbed subs at a few other places in Lawrence but can't place the names. It definitely helps to speak Spanish when grabbing takeout in Lawrence since a lot of the small shops speak very little English. I usually have to point or have another customer help translate for me. Tacos Lupita usually has someone at the register who speaks perfect English, but the guy you order from responds to pointing better :)

If anyone has some other suggestions for quick takeout in the area I'd love to hear it. On my list to try is Korbani's Bakery in Methuen for Lebanese. I hear the Syrian bread is good. Not sure if they offer hot food or wraps, but I'm sure I could put a meal together with various items. Also want to try Pollo Tipico in Lawrence. Read some decent reviews on that place as well. The Cambodians at work have given me a lot of suggestions for Lowell, but I always end up with a banh mi.

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  1. ali, this is so great; there's hardly anything on CH about this area, except for Lowell.

    I havd a THING about meat pies/empanadas etc. Would you plse describe those at Thwaites- what ethnicity? rather plain English flavors, or spicy cumin or...? Are they like regular round pies, or like crescents/patties/empanadas?

    Could you also describe the empanadas at Jacqueline's?
    It's a Latin place, maybe Dominican?(menu sounds like La Fe in Lynn which is Dominican) Is the chicken very salty? (they use Saison a lot, major msg/saltsaltsalt)

    Thx so much, a. wish I had something to pass on, but I'm following your lead here.

    oh yeah, I'm also an arancini lover. don't know if this would ever be of use to you, but:
    --Il Casale in Belmont has the best arancini I have had in boston.(they cook their rice in meat stock; serve small ones as an app.) Those at 62 Wharf (Salem) and La Morra are good. Umberto in the No End has the big ones w/ tomato, peas, meat inside that some CHs love.

    4 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      The pies at Thwaites are English meat pies. They are round and the crust is firm but flaky, similar to a chicken pot pie. Baked, not fried. The standard flavors are chicken and pork, but they must make around 15 different flavors. The pork is hard to describe. It's like lightly seasoned ground pork, almost like a sausage out of the casing. Delicious. They also have scotch eggs available once in a while, which is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage and fried. For some reason they close at noon on Wednesdays, so keep that in mind if you plan to stop by.

      I didn't try the empanadas at Jacqueline's, but it looked like there were some smaller ones and some larger ones available. Not sure of the filling. I'm pretty sure this place is Dominican. The chicken wasn't very salty to my taste, but based on the color, they might use some Sazon.

      Forgot about the arancini at Il Casale. It's been a while since I've been there. Stella in the South End does a good job as well. If you are in Wlatham, Tara Restaurant on Moody has a good baked empanada with beef, onions and raisins. They also have the smaller fried options, but I typically get the chacarero.

      1. re: Ali G

        Here is a picture of Jacqueline's fried chicken.

         
        1. re: Infomaniac

          Thwaites pork pie and baked beans.

           
        2. re: Ali G

          excellent helpful details, ali; and info's photos complete the picture! will def head up there v soon. (and THANK YOU for the wed early closing info. I surely would have gone on a Wed afternoon!)

          yes, i liked those waltham Tara emps- a few diff kinds. Striper reported on those awhile ago. My fav emps are from Tango in Arlington. Only the beef ones. They freeze well and we keep supply in frzr.

          that chicken looks just like the chix at La Fe.

      2. Great reviews, Ali.

        Korbani's is excellent, but even more than the bread I like their "deli" items. The store is smaller than George's bakery (also in Methuen) but what they do have is awesome. Their olive selection is superb, and they have a great selection of halloumi, kefir cheese, etc. They're very friendly and helpful.

        Thwaites in Methuen is one of my fave shops ever. They have super blood sausage, typical English savory pies (pork, steak n kidney, but also variations like Chinese sausage, chicken parm, spinach and cheese)....all fresh and lovely. Great deli/meat counter, too.

        Also in Methuen, try Borrelli's deli's arancini. Very good.

        If you're in Haverhill, there is a Tacos Lupita market right on 110 that I like even better than the Lawrence locale...but both are great.

        1. Nhu Y Sandwich Shop. I have a very high tolerance for dicey little ethnic places, but something about this joint said "do not eat here". The food prep bins looked pretty grungy, and I'm not usually put off by such things. There also was little or no food in the bins, suggesting that they don't do much business. But, maybe I'm just partial to Hong Cuc.

          Thwaites, Tacos Lupita, Jacqueline's, and Italian Kitchen were all regular stops when I worked in Andover, and before everyone in the family decided to go on diets.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dinsdale45

            Honestly, I must have eaten 25 sandwiches here over the last year or so and have never had an issue. The husband and wife always wear gloves and food always tastes fresh. Seems like they do more business selling scratch tickets and cigarettes, but it's still my favorite banh mi around. They were growing hot chile peppers last summer and gave me one to eat along with the sandwich. Hot as hell, but nice touch.

            1. re: Ali G

              Update - I stopped in to Nhu Y last week and the woman there said they no longer make sandwiches. :(

              She was rolling some egg rolls and they still had a small covered pan of them on the counter like most places, but it looks like Hong Cuc and Yummy Express are the places to go now. I had struck out the last few times I went there, so it seemed like the writing was on the wall (guy didn't deliver bread today, wife is traveling and she makes the fillings, etc). Oh well, I enjoyed them while it lasted.

          2. Here is a good thread on the Lawrence area that will be helpful.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3469...

            I have some commercial properties in Lawrence so I spend most of my week there, and some of those little Latin markets and bakeries have some amazing chow coming out of them like Jacqueline's, and a few of the places on Rte. 28 heading towards Methuen. Korbani's and George's Bakeries are a must, as well as Pollo Tippico and el Tippico just up the street.
            There is a fairly new Dominican place across the street from Jacqueline's that has some good luch specials, and next door is T&N Pho, but I would stick to Lowell for the Pho.

            From Jacqueline's heading toward downtown Lawrence, just before you cross the river on the right is Mounir's Kitchen for Lebanese and Three Dogs Diner (for some in-house smoked turkey and brisket) is the left across the street by the falls.

            On Rte 110 in Methuen on the river as you are heading to Lowell is Norm's White Horse which is a great place to stop for lunch.

            If you want pizza, head to Pizza King. It's a little hard to find if your not familiar with the area, but he makes a nice thin crust pizza (not sweet sauce), and great eggplant subs or calzone. Spicy meat pie is pretty good too.

            I think there is a new place next to Caribbean Bakery in that I was told was the place to go for empanadas which I'll try to check out next week.

            1. Great post, Ali. I'm not in the area much and haven't made a Thwaites run in a while. I forgot they have frozen pies so I need to stop and pick up a few to stick in the freezer. Thanks for the reminder!

              1. Info & Pine, thanks for the suggestions! We don't make it out as much as we use to, so I like to explore different spots at lunch. Sounds like I need to hit some of these bakeries.

                I forgot, I did grab a Cuban sandwich at the Caribbean Bakery in Lawrence a while back and also once of the empanadas from the warmer. Empanada was OK. I liked the sandwich, but I haven't been back.

                1. I'd add PJ Pizza on rte 28 in Methuen, really good Italian meat pie. Also, in Methuen Piro's Italian Bakery and Korbani's Bakery for fresh Lebanese pita bread and other goodies. Haven't to Café Azteca for Mex in a while but, it was always very good.