HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


El Centro: Awful. Boston, terrible food city.

Terrible. Had tacos al pastor and 3 other tacos. Overstuffed tacos with wet bland goop. All of them tasted the same - soggy.

Wife had beef in molacetes. Very salty and with oddly dry beef floating in a onion tomato sauce.

Michelada was the high point. Smoky and spicy with right amount of lime - the beer, to its credit, was cold.

Overall a terrible mexican meal.

However, not surprising - this is Boston after all. On a related topic, I've lived here since 2008 and I've had only four meals worth the parking expense - Strip T's 2X and Ribelle, maybe erbaluce. This is just an awful food city. I lived in Philly and Bklyn before. Great restaurants in every neighborhood, at least one gem. I have no idea why a city with this much wealth and relatively cosmopolitan culture can breed such awful middling cuisine. I'm done. I'll eat out every 3 months when I can travel back to NYC or Philly.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Haha, sucks about the bad Mexican meal, but you're about to get blasted for coming on here and saying such inflammatory stuff about Boston and its food as a whole, especially comparing it to NYC. ;)

    So, I'm willing to bet there's at least "one gem" in every neighborhood in Boston/surrounding area, too. What have you tried that's been so awful?

    Can't wait to see this.

    1. I would not look for great Mexican food in Boston. That said, there is an incredible variety of great food to be had in the restaurants in this city. Boston is a great food city!

        1. re: c oliver

          Correct spelling is molcajete. It is the Mexican version of a mortar and pestal that is heated to over 400° and filled with chicken, beef,chorizo, Mexican cheese, nopales (cactus) peppers and onions in a delicious sauce spiced to your preference. It is usually served with home made tortillas and rice and beans. I live in California and there are several restaurants in the are that serve this dish. It is delicious, and if your in the Salinas area try the version at Casa del Saizon. That said I am a frequent visitor to Boston and the food scene has never disappointed me. Returning this summer after a 2 year break and already making my list. Will be wearing my Boston sweatshirt tomorrow and hoping for a safe marathon.

          1. re: villadeste92

            Have a wonderful day tomorrow!!!!!

            I'm familiar with molcajete :) Just checking with OP. Love it. We live a Tahoe and have a great place for the dish in Reno. Thanks for the Salinas rec. Boston food is terrific.

            1. re: c oliver

              If the restaurant this guy went to used that spelling no wonder his meal was so terrible. Thanks for the tip on Reno. If you have a chance pass the restaurants name along. Can you believe all the responses from this post. My email has been blowing up with all the notifications. I'm in California so did not run today. Just wore my shirt to support a city I love. Cheers.

        2. sak, i have no interest in throwing daggers or anything. and i am sorry you had such a bummer experience. I have long been a vociferous critic of Mexican food in boston, and i am a big fan of Ribelle(as are many Boston CHs.). But i must say- i wish you had picked some other restnt to instigate your rant. I myself have posted, non-glowingly, about El Centro, and iirc there was one very positive and other not so positive CH reviews of same. Did you not do a CH search before eating there? If not, then it would be an obvious comment that you played into your own demise, yes?....

          As critical as i can be about the Boston dining scene, I am perplexed how your experiences over 6 years could only have been good at Ribelle,ST's and Erbaluce. Can you rattle off a list of well-reviewed restnts that have been awful? or is it possible that you have not been reading CH and/or other reviews, and simply choosing badly?
          or maybe you haven't eaten out much in boston?....I see that you live in one of Boston's many hinterland/suburban culinary wastelands. Well, I do too (up north in winchester) but am fortunately closer to Somerville/Camb/Boston than you.Still, we have to drive 30-45 minutes, on average, to get to our fav places.

          Good restnts are a joy for most of us and it would be a shame for you to continue to feel so badly about the food in your current home. Hope we can help you with some Boston spots you may like.

          1. You have a number of Metrowest posts. Yes, Metrowest certainly can be a food wasteland ( see the Acton thread!) but it's the suburbs, it's not Boston. Second, don't trash an entire city based upon one crappy meal! Here's hoping you were just po'd after the crappy meal and just had to let fly one rant.

            1. Let's help the OP out (no, I don't mean "out of town.") by starting a list of neighborhood gems. The rules: you actually eat there and you love it enough to travel to it and park. Here's mine:
              Allston, Shanghai Gate, JoJo Taipei, S & I Thai, Carlos Cucina
              Brighton, Esperia
              Brookline, Ribelle, Lineage, Washington Square Tavern, La Morra
              East Boston, Angelas
              South End, Myers and Chang, Toro
              North End, Prezza, Taranta
              Back Bay, Asta, Erbaluce, DeuxAve, L'Espalier
              Chinatown, Xian Xian, Q, Windsor, Best Little
              Dorchester, Shanti, Lucky's Chinese Barbecue, Pho Le, Sunset Café
              Kenmore, Eastern Standard, Island Creek, Hawthorne Bar
              Cambridge, Catalyst, Alden and Harlow, EVOO, Oleana
              Don't know JP or West Roxbury too well, or the Beacon Hill Area but I'm sure other posters do.

              3 Replies
              1. re: teezeetoo

                Ill add a few more:

                North End- Regina, Neptune

                Chinatown- Shojo

                Downtown- JM Curley

                South End- Toro, Myers and Chang, Picco

                Cambridge- Hungry Mother

                Somerville- Highland Kitchen

                1. The fact that you need to find parking when you go to dinner makes me wonder if you really do "live here" or if you're suburban instead. I think suburbanites miss a good deal simply by not really being in the city.

                  1. Everyone is being so polite.

                    OP, I have no idea what your position is on seafood but neither Philadelphia or Brooklyn (or for that matter Manhattan) have anyplace that can touch Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34, B&G Oyster, or (if you can deal with the 'tude) Neptune Oyster.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Carty

                      Sorry, Carly, but you're wrong about that.

                        1. re: Carty

                          I'm a big fan of ICOB, and not a fan of Boston-bashing (for a small city there are fantastic restaurants if you know where to look, which it sounds like the OP very willfully doesn't), but if we're including Manhattan, are you really trying to argue that Aquagrill "can't touch" ICOB? Or that ICOB could touch Le Bernardin?

                          1. re: cjd260

                            can we just get over this already? We aren't New York, we are Boston. Some of us used to live in New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, whatever. Some of us have visited great restaurants in China, Malaysia, Tokyo, Spain, India, etc. Some of us know real barbecue because we grew up in NC, Texas, TN, whatever. And we have a really really short growing season, and we can't get some ingredients here.

                            I live in Boston because I am glad to be here for many, many reasons. And the food scene is so much better than it was, say, in 1989. We have Watertown and all the Armenian stores, we have little ethnic enclaves where we can find lots of stuff if we search for it, and if you need a huge amount of blackberries for a great Italian custard dessert, and you can't afford Whole Foods, there's Haymarket. We have great bread. We have some great cheese shops. We have some great seafood markets.

                            Maybe I'll move to Toronto some day, but for now, I love living in Boston. I still miss NC BBQ, and lots of other stuff. I make my own Mexican and I"m glad I can find the chiles here.

                            Let's help each other find we what want and need...retail and restaurants...

                            1. re: Madrid

                              YES, madrid, YES! A rational voice in the crowd.....

                            2. re: cjd260

                              Are ICOB and Le Bernadin even in the same price range? I had always assumed that Le Bernadin was in one of those rarified price points, reserved for extra, special occasions.

                              1. re: smtucker

                                bernadin is a 3 star michellin restaurant and is in a different league than icob in price and standards. That said, i like ICOB; there is a place for both in my heart.

                        2. re: Carty

                          Dunno know about that...Had a fun and a more than decent meal at Lobster Joynt in Greenpoint Brooklyn last year.

                        3. If you're out in the burbs, you're missing Sycamore and Lineage before getting out your grave digging shovel.

                          1. Go to Antojitos in Waltham and try the Gorditas or the tamales. And get the heck out of Metrowest where the food really does suck.

                            Heck, try Shangri-La, Taiwanese, in Belmont, or Gustazo for Cuban.

                            1. I think that nearly every neighborhood in Boston can equally claim to have great restaurants and, often, gems. I've had terrific meals in Boston and awful meals in NYC, and vice-versa. I'm sorry that you've had poor experiences, but although NYC has some of the greatest food in America, Boston is the furthest thing from an "awful food city".

                              If nothing else, at least in Boston, I can use credit cards when I eat out :)

                              1. having lived in Chi-town and gone to school - for a very long time - near SF, The East Coast is for some reason not great for Mexican food.

                                That said, there are some good restaurants - Uni Bar, Craigie, Helmand, East Ocean Seafood.

                                Hey, Boston is no NYC but there are some reasonable places. If i am looking for high end, I spend my money in NYC (or Chicago or SF).

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                  "having lived in Chi-town and gone to school -for a long time - near SF, The Eas Coast for some reason not great for Mexican food"

                                  I don't understand what the significance of where you used to live or went to school would be why Boston doesn't have a lot of good Mexican food, other than maybe you just like opening post this way?

                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                    i had opporunity to eat mexican food in chicago and in SF and have had the chance to compare it with what is available here in Boston and NYC.

                                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                      I still don't get what any of that has to do with why there is no good Mexican in Biston, and why wouldn't you rec what you consider the best new restaurant in Boston, ASTA?

                                      1. re: Infomaniac

                                        i do recommend ASTA.

                                        This information was added to compare the Mexican restaurant scene in NYC and Boston with that in Chicago and SF. From reading Bourdain's book, Kitchen Confidential, it appears that there are lots of Mexican cooks - at least in NYC - why the Mexican scene is not better is a conundrum, which has been mentioned on the NY board.

                                2. Folks, we realize the original post is pushing people's buttons, but we'd really ask that you either skip the thread (you're not obligated to offer suggestions to posters you don't like) or keep the focus on the food, rather than on calling out the OP for hating on the Boston food scene. Thanks.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                    The poster isn't asking for suggestions, the poster is making a pretty deliberate rant.
                                    Kinda unfair to penalize those who react to a rant designed to provoke reaction, and not the provocateurs themselves.

                                    1. re: cringle22

                                      Except the mods generously let the discussion go on largely unfettered. I agree that the OP's initial broadside carried a distinct whiff of trolling, but I still thought there was plenty of useful discussion from Hounds who chose to interpret the OP's intentions as sincere.


                                  2. i realize number of posts made by an op have no bearing on how much browsing time has been spent on here, but the dearth of good mexican is a common lament. we simply have too few mexican immigrants for that food niche to take hold.

                                    but... am thinking you don't read or do much searching on here at all.

                                    so your crap meal (at a place hardly anybody likes) must mean all the food here sucks and you should piss in everybody's cheerio's on patriot's day. well done.

                                    have a nice day.

                                    1. Obviously playing the provocateur. I would agree, however, that El Centro is not a good dining experience based on my meal there. Although Boston has much to recommend in the way of restaurants, I do place it behind both Chicago & New York as a restaurant town.

                                      24 Replies
                                      1. re: carneyvore


                                        this again?

                                        nyc with a population of 8+ million.

                                        chicago with a population of 2+ million.

                                        boston with a population of 650,000.

                                        yup. about as even a playing field as one could hope.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          So, just because a city has more people means its food scene will be that much better/more diverse?

                                          If that's the case, Jacksonville is not discussed enough...

                                          1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                            I dunno, this seems a little disingenuous. A much larger population isn't a guarantee of a better food scene, but it DOES increase the chances of 1) having enough people with enough disposable income to better support a wider range of spendy restaurants, and 2)having enough people of (fill in the blank) ethnic group to 2a)start some good (fillin the blank) restaurants and 2b)support same. That seems like a valid generalization. And then, if you're getting down to a specific type of food, then maybe you will find other reasons why it's not well represented in a particular city (as with Boston and Mexican food). If a lot of Mexican people decide to move here, I'd expect that to change, but meanwhile, it strikes me as being moany about something that's the way it is for a perfectly understandable reason.

                                            1. re: LilBrownBat

                                              as i mentioned above, there are plenty of mexican cooks, at least in nyc, so what is going on?

                                              i like tenoch though wish there were more specials.

                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                this is not nyc and i know i have answered exactly this from you before. our kitchen workers tend NOT to be from mexico but from south and central america. colombia, brazil, peru. el salvador, guatemala, honduras. i have worked with very few mexicans.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  I'm glad you said this. I thought this was the case in NYC also. If one looks at a map, it's pretty easy to see that immigrants from Mexican are less likely to wind up in the NE USA.

                                                2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                  Um...NYC isn't Boston? What am I missing here? I'm really not trying to be dense, I just don't see what you're getting at. This is Boston. It does not have a substantial Mexican population. Why would anyone expect it to be a good city to get Mexican food? I also don't look for Burmese or Indonesian or Scandinavian food in Boston, for the exact same reasons. Does this not make sense?

                                                  1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                    Although ironically, there used to be an outstanding Burmese restaurant here, until they inexplicably decided to go vegan.

                                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                      Throw the daggers all you want, but i would not use 'outstanding' to describe that burmese restnt, and that is based on the n=2 that includes the place in San Fran. on Clement (or that area.) Moot point anyway.

                                                    2. re: LilBrownBat

                                                      Does every tourist/student/local in the Boston area know that it doesn't have a substantial Mexican population? Even if it doesn't, does that mean good Mexican food can't exist? Would you eat at a touristy restaurant in Mexico City?

                                                      Guess I should stop getting a slice in Manhattan because I can't recall the last time Italian was spoken in one of those places...

                                                      1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                        When traveling I try to play to a destination's strengths not weaknesses. That's why, when in NYC, I'll go for Salvadoran rather than Mexican.

                                                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                          I'd think that anyone who didn't just fall off the turnip truck can figure out fast enough that Boston doesn't have a large Mexican population, but isn't that beside the point in any case? Suppose you don't figure it out. Suppose you travel to an unknown city, pick a restaurant purely based on its serving a cuisine you like (with no information whether that specific restaurant is good, bad or indifferent), and have a not-great meal. Are you going to be disappointed and angry because you figured you could pick a restaurant, without any information whether it was any good, and have a good experience? Or is this the time to say, "Hmm, maybe that wasn't the best way to pick a restaurant", shrug and get over it?

                                                          1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                            I love this. My parents, adventurous eaters but not always discerning, always maintained that you could do this in NYC-- walk in anywhere and have a great meal. Several visits to the city in my 20s were very disappointing for me until I realized how ridiculous this premise was. Thank god we live in the age of the internets where you can walk around a new area and do your research at the same time!

                                                        2. re: LilBrownBat

                                                          i think that ASTA is attempting to do new Scandanvian food and is doing it well.

                                                          The chowhound board in NYC also complains about the lack of good mexican - with less justification - it seems to be an East Coast issue as Anthony Bourdain has said that there are plenty of Mexican cooks in NY. That is what makes it so puzzling.

                                                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                            your entire premise is based on one kitchen "represented" in a 14-year-old book? what is your obsessive insistence about mexican kitchen help?

                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                              my obsessive insistence about mexican cooks is why in nyc without all those mexican cooks is mexican food not better.

                                                              or perhaps you are right and bourdain is out of date and mexican cooks have moved on.

                                                              there are mexican american neighborhoods in nyc, and i think that by and large NYC offers the best restaurant experience in the country.

                                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr


                                                                "Just a generation ago, Mexicans were a rarity in the Big Apple.

                                                                But now they are New York City’s fastest-growing Hispanic group, numbering well over 300,000 and comprising more than 12 percent of the city's Latino population."


                                                                "Hispanics and Latinos make up 27.5% of New York City's population. According to the American Community Survey, there were 2,287,905 Hispanic or Latino Americans residing in New York City. The Hispanic/Latino population is categorized with four groups, "Puerto Rican" (785,618 or 9.4%), "Mexican" (297,581 or 3.6%), "Cuban" (42,377 or 0.5%), and "Other Hispanic or Latino" (1,165,576 or 14.0%)"


                                                                "more than 60% of Mexican New Yorkers reside in Brooklyn and Queens." (are they ALL commuting to manhattan to work in restaurants?


                                                                "Spanish Harlem has the largest Mexican community in Manhattan, around 116th Street and 2nd Avenue, though it is still small compared to the area's predominant Puerto Rican population"

                                                                the mexican population in nyc is a drop in the bucket compared to puerto ricans and dominicans. even so, to support your theory, nearly all of them would be boh restaurant workers as opposed to also filling trades like construction and hotel work.

                                                                14 years ago, bourdain may have had mexicans working in his kitchen. friends/siblings/cousins got each other jobs. that happens. your extrapolation from one book and one kitchen is badly clouding your judgement when statistics clearly show you are mistaken.

                                                                as far as boston:


                                                                most zip codes in the ENTIRE state have under 1% of their population as mexican. i have written on this very board, to you, countless times that there simply are not very many mexicans working in kitchens because we don't have many mexicans. it's that's simple.

                                                                when those few mexican immigrants become more financially stable and secure in the language, do you really think they all want to open restaurants? or perhaps move on to work that is less grueling and also provides greater financial security?

                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    Relevant metric: 2013 GDP ($MM). Cities in Boston GDP range. Bureau of Economic Analysis

                                                    7 Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington, PA–NJ–DE–MD MSA: 364,009
                                                    8 San Francisco–Oakland–Fremont, CA MSA, 360,395
                                                    9 Boston–Cambridge–Quincy, MA–NH MSA, 336,232

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      Well, Portland ME is smaller than all these places and I would rank their food scene right up there. I'm not sure the population size argument is the best one.

                                                      Oops...I just continued reading this thread and realized I repeated winedude's comment about Portland.

                                                      1. re: digga

                                                        I agree, although I am long overdue for a food trip to Portland Maine so have no current recommendations.

                                                        1. re: digga

                                                          Wait. You are saying Portland, Maine is on par with NYC and Chicago food wise.

                                                          Is it just as good as Tokyo, Rome and Hong Kong also?

                                                          1. re: ac106

                                                            Yes, that's my opinion - Portland can definitely hold its own against NYC and Chicago. Almost uniformly, I have had some great eating weekends up North. Of course, I love the food in NYC and Chicago (lived there for 4 years in a Mexican neighborhood, which had spectacular mom-and-pop places).

                                                            I've eaten very well in both Tokyo and Hong Kong (never been to Italy) but I wasn't making that comparison. Those cities are cut from completely different cloths than US cities, food-wise.

                                                            I don't want to detract from the original discussion...

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          To further support hn's point:
                                                          Wiki v helpful w/ statistics:
                                                          <This is a list of communities known for possessing a community or a large number of Mexican Americans. About 61 percent of Mexican Americans live in just two states, namely California (36%) and Texas (25%).[1] According to the 2010 census, the distribution of Mexican Americans in the United States by region is: 51.8% live in the West, 34.4% in the South, 10.9% in the Midwest, and 2.9% in the Northeast.[2]>


                                                      2. I pretty sure that a similar thread can be found on all the regional boards. I think we just get bored with where we live and what is offered. Maybe people need to travel more and relocate more often to really appreciate what they have at home. I know my yearly visits to the Treasure Coast of FL make me very grateful of what we have in Boston, nostalgia makes me miss England, NJ, Bmore, DC and a couple weekends in Chicago made me jealous.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: viperlush

                                                          those of us who remember Boston in the 1960s/70s/even 80s (and, for that matter, who remember NYC) have no cause for complaining about Boston's status relative to other cities. As a New Orleanian, of course, I have a view that I suppose could be called jaded.

                                                          1. You picked the weakest ethnic cuisine, in Boston, to post on. Being here from '08, you seem to have a limited experience. Check out some topics about smaller ethnic restaurants in the surrounding area. I also noticed that this is only your 5th post on CH.

                                                            1. You paid to park at Strip T's and Ribelle? And where did you eat before Strip T's was transformed and Ribelle opened. Looks like Ribelle had a nice Boston Marathon party.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                The only way to pay for parking at Strip-T's is to get a ticket for parking illegally, like in front of a hydrant.


                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  Sometimes in Boston it's difficult to find even an illegal parking space.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    Yes, that is true. Bay Village can be a bitch to find legal or illegal parking. Much easier finding legal free parking in Watertown and Brookline. Well you might need a handful of quarters in Brookline.

                                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                      If you're the sort of person who lives here for six years and finds almost no worthwhile restaurants, you might also be the sort of person who drives into Bay Village expecting to find parking.


                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        and ... we're done being polite.

                                                              2. If you can't find great meals out in Boston, you're not getting around enough.


                                                                1. On one level, I empathize with your disappointment in the scene here and can relate to the feeling when I'm traveling in another city at one of their "best" restaurants and think to myself, "why can't Boston be at this level?"

                                                                  That said, there are bad restaurants in every city around the globe, hence the need for food guides, local friends with good taste, and websites like chow, yelp, etc. Further, bad restaurants outnumber good ones. That's just the facts of life for a food-lover. The majority of people just don't care that much about food as most of us do and most people can't be bothered to either research or go out of their way to get the absolute best.

                                                                  I've had good to great meals at Strip T's and Ribelle but if those are the only two places that you deem worthy, it's not that you're a snob, it's just that you clearly haven't gone to very many restaurants in Boston.

                                                                  There are a lot of mediocre, overpriced places in Boston as there are in SF, NYC, London, Paris, Singapore, etc. and DEFINITELY Philly (granted their food scene has improved dramatically since I left almost a decade ago).

                                                                  The point is, no matter where you go in the world, you have to research if you want to find great restaurants, and even then, you're going to eat at a few duds. If you can't be bothered to research and instead expect every restaurant you go to to blow you away, good luck to you, that's an expensive, losing proposition.

                                                                  1. I agree with the general response here that the post is a bit of a mish-mash of topics, as it somehow conflates bad Mexican food with Boston being a "terrible food city."

                                                                    I'm not a big defender of Boston as a food city. It has disappointed me many times, alas. I have high standards, having lived in SF and NYC (and this *is* relevant, despite what others say here, because, at least in my case, it reflects that I had ample opportunity to "tune" my taste buds without simply sampling the highlights that may be frequented by well-heeled visitors).

                                                                    And it's not just a size of the city or income thing. I don't know what it is, actually. But I do know that Portland Maine has way more good restaurants, at all price points than Boston, and I have no idea why that is, except they seem to have hit a critical mass of folks who care.

                                                                    Having said all of that, there are many more good places than the OP states, including Ten Tables, Sycamore, Catalyst, Bergamot. Picco, Regina, Area Four, Helmand, Toscanini's--all places that I'll brave the parking to visit.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: winedude

                                                                      Portland Maine is an *amazing* scene, and perhaps per-capita (or something) blows Boston and most other major cities away but "I do know that Portland Maine has way more good restaurants, at all price points than Boston" strikes me as hyperbolic.

                                                                      1. re: Carty

                                                                        i just had 3 great meals in portland 2 weekends ago.

                                                                        the statement above is utterly hyperbolic.

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          Where? Where? Did you post about them on the Northern NE board?

                                                                          Ohh I have to go check.

                                                                    2. Getting bad Mexican food in Boston is kind of like getting a bad lobster roll in San Diego.


                                                                      Live and learn.

                                                                      1. Apologies to those I have offended on today’s Patriots Day, particularly on this emotion laden anniversary marathon day. As some of you rightly guessed I was pretty steamed after spending a rare “date night” on the abomination that is el centro (… hyperbole is my specialty). And that did trigger a less than nuanced critique of the boston dining scene – a rant, if you will.

                                                                        Although worded inartfully, the post does capture the degree of frustration I feel as a dining consumer in Boston. What I could have said was: At a mid tier price point (i.e. not Menton or Daniel in NYC, etc.) I think the probability of having an awful dining experience in Boston is higher than in other cities (vs. for example, Brooklyn or Philadelphia). That’s more accurate in the particulars, though not in sentiment.

                                                                        Which is to say, there are of course great dining experiences to be had in Boston- you just have to pay for it in expense of the meal or investment of time in research. On the higher (but not highest) end, you could get the same quality of dining experience in my comparators at a lower cost (again in dollars or effort).

                                                                        So you can have a lovely meal at Erbaluce among the top tier of Italian dining here in Boston, but that same quality can be found at a neighborhood joint in Park Slope – which in my case was Al di la or Convivium Osteria. These are not the Babbos or Del Postos of NYC, just neighborhood restaurants that don’t take reservations and that you can walk into. It’s not an event – it is (or was) a routine night out.

                                                                        Or you can have a banging slice at Otto in Cambridge, but that’s like 1 of maybe 5 places that serve a decent slice (another emotional /controversial topic, no?). I have to drive into Cambridge to get it and avoid the Greek pizza monstrosities that abound. Back home in New York…. well you know… great pizza falls from the sky like manna. Not really, but I’m talking about the relative measure.

                                                                        On the personal side, many of your comments were on the money. I’m in Metrowest and have to drive into the city. Like many folks, I spent my formative foodie twenties and early thirties in the “City” and returned to the burbs to breed (like a salmon). I never lived in Boston as the “city”, just experiencing it as a harried suburbanite with toddlers.

                                                                        I don’t have time to surf Chowhound to find the best find. My expectation is that if I find a place with decent enough reviews from the established sources (El Centro was the 2013 & 2012 Boston Magazine winner for best Mexican, which I now gather is like being voted the prettiest Hansom Brother); I have a fairly high probability of not being underwhelmed. Indeed…. I don’t want to work for it, because based on my experiences in more adept “foodie” cities – I shouldn’t have to.

                                                                        So when I say “Boston is a terrible food city” I simply mean that enjoyment per unit of effort/resource is lower than in other cities. And that I’m annoyed that I have to invest more to achieve the return I am accustomed to. Just doesn’t’ have the same ring to it, does it?

                                                                        That’s just my two cents, or buck fifty given the angst this has all caused.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: sak2011

                                                                          We're retired, have loads of time and travel a good bit. I get almost every rec, any place in the world, from CH. The other things are sometimes LCD (lowest common denominator) food.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            thanks for the nicely written apology, especially given the timing.. I too have trouble with the high prices for a great meal ratio and tend toward local places (north of boston), but I am happy with pedestrian blandish food if done well..and I have family in Metrowest and cant ever figure out where to eat with them.. but I would suggest to you that if you are going to take the time to read Boston Mag. reviews and drive to Boston and find parking, that you may find a much better time investment in checking out reviews here or other places with tastes similar to yours.. I find it helps to find a review of a place that you are in total sync with and search their other reviews to see how in sync your tastes are and pick from their places.. It might be a smaller but more lucrative amount of time that you spend to get closer to what you want.. Also, if you give a little list of meals you have loved, we could play match game and try to tell where we have had similar.. btw, we have a new Ottos practically next door, so now I will have to try it..Good luck!

                                                                          2. re: sak2011

                                                                            The places you listed tend to be outside my usual price range (or at least firmly in the 'special occasion' category), but here are a few of my favourites that I hope can bring some joy - and maybe even save you a bit of cash in the process!

                                                                            * L'Impasto (Cambridge/Arlington border): Spectacular homemade pastas at a weeknight-affordable price. If you're looking for that neighbourhood-Italian joint like you mentioned above, give this a try immediately. It's small and doesn't take reservations, but I've never had a problem during the week.

                                                                            * Tupelo (Inman Square): Our second home. The food's delicious and the service is awesome. Their Thursday night 'date night' specials are fantastic too: two people share a starter, app, main, and pie (oh, the pie) for $30. It's absolutely enough food for two (we often don't even make it to dessert, and we can eat), so it's a great way to have a treat dinner for not much more than the cost of a pizza and salad. Also: brunch.

                                                                            * Alden and Harlow (Harvard Square): A new addition, and at the higher end of what we can pay (verging into special occasion for sure), but ohhhhhhhhh so good, and such a beautiful space as well. Scelfo killed it. I would count this as destination dining for sure.

                                                                            * Sichuan Garden (Brookline): It's been on my radar this week because of another CH discussion, and I'm realising I haven't been in WAY too long. The Sichuan/Szechuan dishes are incredible; avoid the rest of the menu, but that's not hard. Get the dan-dan noodles and dance around with joy.

                                                                            Some other thoughts: I grew up in Boston but moved away and spent 11 years in one of the world's great food cities (Sydney... god, the neighbourhood Thai places alone...). When I unexpectedly had to move back, I spent some time on CH as a way to get to know the city again. It didn't take long for me to work out who my most trusted posters were, or how to use the site as a resource. Four years later, CH has introduced me to many of my favorite restaurants and spared me from many more bad experiences. I know you said that you don't have the time to put into researching; but given the amount of precious date-night time you spent at a disappointing restaurant, and time you've spent being unhappy about it since then, I reckon the early investment would have paid off. It has for me, over and over. (BTW, the only 'established sources' - read 'publications' - that I trust are MC Slim in his various journals and some of Devra First in the 'Globe'. And since Slim posts here all the time and Devra's quoted here all the time, I find it's easier just to come straight here.)

                                                                            I know that the Boston food scene has its limitations, but I would argue that good food at reasonable prices isn't one of them; the trick, as with most cities, is knowing where to go and doing some math about what the local specialties are likely to be based on regional food availability, ethnic populations, etc. This is one of the reasons that complaints about Mexican food in Boston can be a sore point: there's no reason there *should* be good Mexican food in Boston, because the population factors that would nurture a Mexican food scene don't exist. The fact that we all keep being disappointed by it is more on us. But we do have, for example, a significant Sichuan Chinese population; and our food scene has reaped the benefit. We also have a strong farm culture in the area, and there are a lot of chefs whose goal is to highlight those beautiful, fresh ingredients. And thanks to all the local dairies, we make the best ice cream in the world (and I will NOT hear arguments against that, y'all. Don't even try).

                                                                            I hope your experiences are better from here on in. There really is good stuff here that won't break the bank, and the small amount of time it takes to track it down will pay off in deliciousness over and over.

                                                                            1. re: TimTamGirl

                                                                              what an awesome post TTG, thanks.

                                                                              1. re: Carty

                                                                                I agree- awesome post here.

                                                                            2. re: sak2011

                                                                              As a born New Yorker who has lived here a fairly long time at this point, I'll just say: give up on Pizza. Don't eat it here, eat it when you go to NY. It's a special occasion food. You'll be a lot happier that way.

                                                                              I will also say this: I used to feel a lot of frustration with the Boston food scene too. Throwing random darts at Boston restaurants ends in a lot more heart break than delicious eating. But CH has been an amazing resource on this front, and directed me to places I never would have found on my own and kept me from places that were terrible. Half of the underwhelming restaurants you would have been steered from entirely.

                                                                              One thing that has made me much happier is to direct almost all of our eating out towards lower end ethnic restaurants and not pub type places. A few of the ones that keep us happy:

                                                                              Kaju Tofu House
                                                                              Garlic & Lemons
                                                                              Golden Garden
                                                                              Qingdao Garden
                                                                              S&I Thai
                                                                              Rod Dee (mostly because this is local for us)
                                                                              Xihn Xihn

                                                                              You'll notice this is pretty Allston heavy. That's because dollar for dollar, Allston is the best food neighborhood in the city.

                                                                              On the higher end of the spectrum, there are a couple of my favorite places it seems like you haven't visited yet. May I recommend:

                                                                              Myers & Chang

                                                                              Come spend some more time in Allston, Cambridge and Somerville. The food is better, and the parking's cheaper.

                                                                              1. re: VintageMolly

                                                                                Hell yeah Allston. Do you have a favorite Rod Dee?

                                                                            3. Some requested specifics. Here you go, for what it’s worth.

                                                                              On the list of the underwhelming:
                                                                              Sorrelina: Bland, expense account dining
                                                                              Craigie on Main: Overdoing it with the pork fat (Oooo I’m going to really get it for this one…)
                                                                              Westbridge: Great. Egg in a jar… then what. Worst desert experience ever
                                                                              Mei Mei: Eh. Still basically truck food despite the efforts. I knew about the lack of wine license but still lame.
                                                                              Moo: Soggy Beef Wellington.
                                                                              Persephone: Now closed. Among my first bad Boston experiences in 09 and a marker of things to come.

                                                                              On the list of the good, but not delivering on the value (too high a price for the level of enjoyment derived):
                                                                              Bistro du Midi:
                                                                              Bondir: delicate. But kind of bland.
                                                                              Erbaluce: down graded from “great w/o reservation” after thinking about Al di la.
                                                                              Island Creek – don’t remember anything too innovative. Simple good seafood – paid through your nose.

                                                                              List of the great with no reservations:
                                                                              Strip Ts
                                                                              Hungry mother: just remembered. Awesome.
                                                                              Sycamore: if we’re including Newton

                                                                              1. A volatile topic. There are many here that feel Boston is a dining destination. The sad truth is, it's not. People cite many places ICOB, Neptune, blah, blah, blah. But in reality at best, Boston is a step over mediocre. Biggest problem with Boston is service. Service as a whole on Boston is fetid wasteland of insipid college students with nose piercings recommending Chileans reds to go with cod. Even if they're not a student the service is hostile, bordering on cruel. Boston is not a dining destination, not even close. For the money charged I refused to deal with the amateurish staff, the bizarre menus and the pathetic service. Portland Maine blows the doors of off anything Boston has to offer..

                                                                                40 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                  Okay, I'm confused. Given that I live here, why do I care if Boston is a dining "destination" or not? I don't understand why I'm supposed to care if people travel to eat here. Or is that not what you mean?

                                                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                    I think you made a really good point. There are cities that are CH-centric and those that aren't. Cities one go to for other wonderful things and the food is secondary. And the opposite. Thanks for pointing that out.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      I can't even imagine having the combination of leisure time, disposable income, and nothing better to do that would cause me to travel to a city primarily for the food.

                                                                                      1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                                                        Well, I don't claim to have limitless :) by far disposable income.... But there are cities I've been to often enough that now it may be the food first and other things second. San Francisco comes to mind cause we used to live there and now visit family in the area. Once you remove the granddaughter ! from the equation, it's about the food. Same pretty much with NYC. And Seattle. We spend a couple of weeks in Rio every year and after a few years we've done the non-food part pretty much.

                                                                                        1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                                                          When Auntie and I travel, we'll travel to eat well first and foremost. We regularly head to Tokyo just for the food and nothing else.

                                                                                          1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                                                            Really? Because there are literally millions of people, restaurant professionals like myself, who do exactly that, all the time. Why did I go to ______ last month? To eat and drink. End of story.

                                                                                      2. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                        wow, jj, i have long been a fan of both portland and the portland food scene, but 'blows the doors off anything boston has to offer'? That I do not get. Plse name names.

                                                                                        1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                          I don't have enough experience with the Portland scene to make any sweeping generalizations, but I'll say that my best meal of 2013 by far was at Hugo's in Portland. And 2013 was a year that included meals at several of LA's best restaurants, WD-50 in NY, and some truly top notch performances by Ribelle and Oleana.

                                                                                          1. re: VintageMolly

                                                                                            Yeah, Hugo's is probably my lovely DC's and my single favorite restaurant.

                                                                                            And Eventide may be number two.

                                                                                            1. re: Carty

                                                                                              I have to say that I don't love the new set up at Hugo's like I did the former. The food's still great, but I don't like the way everything comes from behind you at the bar. Next time you're there, try Central Provisions. Excellent food and drink, another worthy addition to the Portland dining scene

                                                                                              1. re: kimfair1

                                                                                                after plenty of ch and local media raves we had dinner at central provisions a few weekends ago.

                                                                                                the ill-informed waiter was a trial for my patience, despite his earnestness.

                                                                                                the tuna for the crudo was sub-par.

                                                                                                my cocktail was so overshaken it was mostly water.

                                                                                                the MUST-HAVE bread and butter dish... really?

                                                                                                portland sucks. nobody should eat there. ever.


                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                  I'm enjoying the sarcasm, but man, that bread and butter was sooooooo good!

                                                                                                  1. re: kimfair1

                                                                                                    meh. the egg part was great but the butter at troquet is WAY better.

                                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                      We don't even call Troquet by it's name, we call it Butter. As in, should we go to Butter soon? Yes, that dish would be improved by using Troquet's butter, but I loved the egg sabayon.

                                                                                            2. re: VintageMolly

                                                                                              OT i know but (vm, I can't remember if i wanted to cry or rant after WD40 a few yrs ago. I do admire Wiley but there was little to nothing to relish in that meal.)

                                                                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                re: WD-50, I can still taste the ice cream everything bagel with crisp cream cheese and salmon strings that we had there. Also I loved the guys who were seated next to us and their disappointment that the "beef" course was an intense beef broth with gnocchi, and not a slab of steak!

                                                                                                1. re: kimfair1

                                                                                                  Ha! I greatly enjoyed WD-50, although can't remember the specifics of any particular dish. It was amusing, though, to watch the non-fish eater at the next table try to negotiate the menu. It was clearly a preference, not an allergy and she wouldn't just come out and say "I don't eat fish." It was clearly pushing the limits of the waiter's patience. I'm sure there are several scenes like that every night.

                                                                                            3. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                              Can you give an example of what "cruel" service would be? I am seriously at a loss.

                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                maybe the staff walks around with platters of complimentary bites of tuna and lobster and caviar and then turn to you with nose in the air and say, "oh no, these are only for our special guests?" flip their hair and turn their back and gloat on everyone in the restaurant but you?

                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                  maybe the old salt waitress at the local diner realizes that your hungover and says, "I'm sorry, we just ran out of coffee"

                                                                                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                    Maybe when you tell them it's your birthday they write "you're ugly" on the dessert?

                                                                                                  2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                    The server tells you, "Your hairpiece is ill-conceived and obvious, and the same goes for your wife's implants."


                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                      Acknowledges your late-night decaf order, serves you caf anyway.


                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                        Story of my life! I don't think I've ever actually been served a real decaf in all my days, and I've even come to recognize the distinctly mischievous look that will pass over a waiter or barista's face when they realize that they'll have to choose between a "white lie" and disappointing a customer... Even at the finest restaurants, a "decaf" will have me buzzing like a fridge till 4am.

                                                                                                      2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                        inspired by Slim's musings: telling your date they're much more attractive than the last 3 you brought in (I sort of had this happen, where i was the date, but not in Boston)

                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                          The soup nazi can be cruel.

                                                                                                          oooops, my bad, that's NYC

                                                                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                            Slim, there's just no way to compare Boston cruel service to New York cruel service. If I really want to experience cruelty, I go to New York. I've given up on it here in Boston.

                                                                                                            1. re: newhound

                                                                                                              On that note:

                                                                                                              Lets you order and eat without telling you that this is Boston, so there's just no point in dining out here and you should save your money for your four trips a year to New York.


                                                                                                          2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                            Smirks faintly when you order wine, over-enthusiastically says, 'Excellent choice!"


                                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                              Comes by every three minutes, makes as if to grab your entree, asks, "You still pickin' at that?"


                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                Refuses to cut your sandwich in half for it to be shared with your dining companion because it doesn't "fit the chef's vision". (oh wait, that actually happened!)

                                                                                                              2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                Manages to whisk every one of your drinks away when each clearly has two sips left in it.


                                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                  There was this pretty shabby, mostly takeout sandwich-and-sub-and-hot-dish-of-the-day place on Lincoln Street back in the day. The guy taking orders would greet each person who came to the head of the line with, "You, what you want?" If you hesitated or said, "Uhhh..." while peering at the menu, he'd go straight to the person behind you: "You, what you want?" Cruel?

                                                                                                                2. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                                                  I just had a mediocre lunch at Sebastian's. That's it - I'm outta here.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                                                    In eight years of eating out in Boston and vicinity, at both small places and high-end restaurants, I have never received hostile or "cruel" service. Once in a while, I get servers who are new, bored, exhausted, careless, or even borderline incompetent. But I've gotten the worst service of my life in NYC -- at a very very popular restaurant. So, sorry, but I completely reject the idea of Boston being some sort of haven of universally poor service.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                      I think that even a lot of the restaurants that are noted for having bad service don't always deserve their reps. We've eaten recently at both Durgin-Park (with a non-CH friend who just wanted to go someplace touristy near her hotel) and the NE Regina, both of which have decades-long reps for surly waitstaff. Our waitress at D-P was perhaps not Ms. Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, but she was congenial and efficient, which is all I ask. And as always, I found our Regina waitress perfectly charming and downright sweet, especially considering that this was on the late side of a slammed Friday night.

                                                                                                                    2. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                                                      Caring about whether Boston is a "dining destination" is like caring whether other people bought the same car that you did.

                                                                                                                      1. re: jjbourgeois

                                                                                                                        Service issues--a good point that no one has pointed out. I didn't grow up in Boston, but have lived here for 30 years. Still can't get used to service. (Which correlates with driving conventions, don't even get me started.) I'm always refreshingly amazed, when traveling either to other US cities or abroad, how welcoming and warm the service is, like they really want your patronage.

                                                                                                                        1. re: rosiebcook

                                                                                                                          I still contend that a major issue with service in Boston is that we don't have as many people going into service as a career. It's mostly bored college aged students trying to get their weekend drinking money. There's no service culture here, like in great service cities like San Francisco.

                                                                                                                          1. re: kimfair1

                                                                                                                            I agree that we've got broad service issues in Boston compared to some cities, but how many of the worthwhile fine-dining places in town have their front-of-the-house staffed with college kids? I don't really see that here. There are plenty of quality career servers here, just not enough to staff the second- and third-tier places.


                                                                                                                      2. Another aspect of this discussion comes back to the fact that Greater Bostonians, of a certain economic class, (one, i think that is required for sustaining a thriving restaurant culture) just do not eat out that much.

                                                                                                                        One look at the offerings in Sherborn, Dover, Wellesley, Weston, even Newton, some of the highest income brackets (and tax rates) in the country and the places you can get food past eight oclock at night,(if at all) are slim to none.

                                                                                                                        In fact having just eaten in the "Black Cow" in S.Hamilton the other night, a town i can only guess at its median income, I have to say, if this is the kind of muck the OP is encountering on a regular basis, he may well be right.

                                                                                                                        I have no proof of this, just observationally. As most of the places sited in the OP's list of "requested specfics" the average final tab's for two with drinks would be half my weekly take home pay, I do not frequent this level of establishment.

                                                                                                                        Nor, seemingly, do most of wealthy Bostonians.

                                                                                                                        I am more likely to be found happy with my Lions Head meatball from Shanghai Gate, astonished at a speciality dinner at Fiorellas in Newton, or Pointing and nodding at what the family at the next table at Red Pepper is having.

                                                                                                                        Is it high end? No. Is it good food? Damn, i think so.
                                                                                                                        Would I rather spend the money on high quality ingredients and cook myself?

                                                                                                                        Almost always. And there are some DAMN good amateur cooks in those wealthy towns out there, believe me.

                                                                                                                        The service thing is of little interest to me. Bring me my food, hot, and leave me the hell alone. This is not something I claim to know anything about. But if your level of expectation is high it sounds like its going to be a tough meal.

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: hyde

                                                                                                                          sak, I replied to one of your posts, and realized that with the speed of posts here, that I put it way to far up, so hopefully you find it up there several posts up..

                                                                                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                                                                                            OMG, a mid-priced Italian in Metrowest? Please tell me more about F0irella's, TC will consider this a major score!

                                                                                                                          2. some of this has to do with market forces, at least as perceived by the restaurant owners and chefs.

                                                                                                                            For example, Tu y yo in Somerville, near Davis. DH and I used to go regularly years ago, enjoyed the complex sauces (mole and others), the house made chipotle adobo peppers, talking with the Mexican born staff.

                                                                                                                            Can't remember the year, but then they got lots of publicity, crowds upon crowds.

                                                                                                                            After that, when we found the heat and complexity gone way down, we were told by staff that that's how Americans like Mexican food. We asked about the chipotles in adobo, were told, no more, no one wants them. (I make them at home.)

                                                                                                                            They won't serve tortilla chips, burritos, or nachos, but the main dishes bear no resemblance to the former recipes.

                                                                                                                            We went once again in the last few months after several years absence, and found the dishes if anything, more bland than before.

                                                                                                                            Since these traditional Mexican recipes (as noted on the menu, old family recipes) depend on long simmered chiles, you can't just add heat with hot salsa to "correct" it.

                                                                                                                            I really miss the former Tu y Yo, but will never go back.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Madrid

                                                                                                                              Everyone I know has gone there exactly once (often with a Groupon), been sort of baffled by the incredibly bland, flavorless, and not inexpensive food, and never gone back.

                                                                                                                              Given that they serve cricket empanadas and frog legs, I'm not sure why they'd think chipotles are too weird for Americans.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Madrid

                                                                                                                                Yeah, Tu y Yo is sad. We went once and figured we ordered wrong. Went back just recently - again, sooooooo bland. We asked for hot sauce and got something processed by Heinz. Blech. The coconut tamales were good. So was the Sangria.

                                                                                                                              2. A friend of mine who lives in Orlando posted this article in outrage on fb today, which made me think of this thread. http://www.orlandomagazine.com/Orland...

                                                                                                                                We can quibble about the quality of the Boston scene, but at least it's not a place where anyone would rate P.F. Changs the best chinese, Cheesecake Factory as the best desert, Rainforest Cafe as the best place for Kids, Mellow Mushroom as the best pizza, and a whole bunch of other chain restaurants all over the best of list.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: VintageMolly

                                                                                                                                  Had to check best cocktails, yep, almost 100% sweet vodka concoctions. Yuck!

                                                                                                                                2. Oh man, that is funny and sad at the same time. My mother, who is an otherwise CH-worthy person, likes PF Chang's. As I tell her to get her all riled up, PF Chang's isn't Chinese food. It isn't even food.

                                                                                                                                  On topic, Boston should be thankful it isn't some true culinary wasteland like Orlando, so y'all, quit yer moaning.

                                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                                                    As someone who grew up in the midwest, I can definitely say that huge swaths of America-- the majority of it, really -- is what folks in big cities call a "culinary wasteland". Chains like Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, and PF Changs are, for many people, the only 'nice restaurants' they'll see unless they travel. And yes, it's food.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                      We were in Europe recently and overheard an American couple who were looking forward to their first dinner out when they got home. Yep, Olive Garden :)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                        gah. they should have their passports seized and travel privileges revoked forever.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                          It does make sense, because that's what's familiar for them. It doesn't really matter whether your familiar food is Olive Garden or Lineage, if you're away from it for a time, that's what you'll crave.

                                                                                                                                          (spoken as someone who, while in Florida years ago, ate enough excellent shrimp cocktail to get totally sick of it)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                                                                                                            i am entirely unsympathetic to americans who eat les big macs in paris.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                              I never did that. I did have something called "un hamburger royale avec fromage", though. Très French.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                  it is, in fact, much sadder to see the French flocking to McD's. I assure you it isn't only American tourists who exhibit bad taste. There are plenty of articles about the sad demise of bistros as fast food joints take over in France. In fact, most of the Americans I meet when I travel, which is often, are feverishly looking for what's left of "local" cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: LilBrownBat

                                                                                                                                                  Well, it's not what WE crave when traveling. We were with a group for most of the trip and found a great place for lunch. We dragged another couple along with us who were blown away by the wonderful Hungarian soup and (cheap) wine. They said "oh, we're not looking for food when we travel" but obviously were glad that we do :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                                For one very long year, we lived in a town in North Carolina where the Shoney's was the only restaurant with table service. The amount of excitement when an Applebee's opened in the soon-to-be-built Walmart parking lot was astonishing. The nearest decent non-fast food restaurant, if you don't count the Shoney's, was over an hour away on winding back country roads.

                                                                                                                                              1. A few of my formative yrs were spent in No.VA and Shoney's Big Boy was where i first encountered and fell in love with- onion rings (non-batter) and strawberry pie. Never found the latter up here sigh.

                                                                                                                                                1. cd, the only way i have been able to come up with a rational reason that the presence of Latin-born cooks does not guarantee good food from their home country, is this:
                                                                                                                                                  What skills did those people practice in their home land? were they carpenters? cashiers? farmers? seamstresses? unemployed? And were they talented cooks at home?
                                                                                                                                                  Or are they cooking in the U.S. because it's possible to enter that labor market w/o a green card, or , even with a green card, it's easier to get a (low paying) kitchen job than other kinds of work, or that sometimes kitchen work can have more flexible hours that can allow for 'mothers' hours' ? Once they start kitchen work, they will likely be rewarded for hard work and dependability, by being promoted. That promotion doesn't necessarily mean that they have talents in cooking their native cuisine, but they may think it does and they may start their own place with confidence, even though you as a consumer do not think the talent is there.

                                                                                                                                                  Anyway, those are some of the scenarios i came up with.
                                                                                                                                                  Otherwise, I have no answer for why the Mexican and Salvadorean cooks at LaQChara- hand me a platter of tough-as-leather inedible beef, or raw plantains, or dry-as-a-bone grilled chicken....

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                                                                    The "only way" for "a rational reason"?

                                                                                                                                                    Is gender important for "those people" (or are they some sort of relatively homogenous, semi-processed biomass)? Like, which gender has historically done the cooking in "the home land"? Perhaps this gender has also learned from similarly gendered ancestors? Which gender typically emigrates earlier from "the home land" and starts working outside the home in the US earlier?

                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps the gender historically working in US kitchens and working their way up the job ladder is not the same one as has historically done the cooking in their native countries? Interesting that Anthony Bourdain doesn't seem to mention any female cooks of Central or South American descent in the NYC kitchens in Kitchen Confidential, as I recall.

                                                                                                                                                    Are there cultural reasons why certain gender-specific roles might exist for expected domestic duties and working hours? Are typical dining restaurant hours compatible with familial expectations, both in "those people" and even in many US households?

                                                                                                                                                    Sorry, just thinking out loud and being irrational. I really enjoy La Superior just about every time I go to Brooklyn, but I also like the tacos at Taqueria El Amigo, especially once I take the time and fuel consideration into account. I would like to try Beantown Taqueria, which I wish had opened while I still lived in Cambridgeport.

                                                                                                                                                  2. well, it may not help, but my experience with Boston Latin kitchen workers being mostly from central amer.(mostly Honduras and El salvador) and so. america (mostly Columbia and Brazil)- duplicates your experience. the mexicans i have met have been largely waiters or students.

                                                                                                                                                    1. as far as i know, i never mentioned gender, so i'm guessing that you are riffing with your own tangential thoughts? (OT: As to TB and women, T has made it quite clear that his life in kitchens was a Man's World. Except fpr his travel series, I have only seen him mention women chefs in the context of the media, but maybe his practicing chef contacts have expanded to include many female chefs. But let me be clear that i am nowhere near an expert on TB, though i do admire and enjoy many things about him.)

                                                                                                                                                      1. I confess that Ive eaten at Mikey D's in Venice and Copenhagen just for the hell of it.

                                                                                                                                                        And Dunkies in Barcelona ....

                                                                                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                          I always enjoy poking my head into places like McDonalds and Dunkies when I see them overseas -- it's fascinating to see the differences and unique menu items. Burgers with beets & eggs on them in New Zealand, mango and green tea donuts in the Barbados...

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                                            yeah, and you don't have to eat there.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                            I got a vanilla shake and pommes frites at a Mickey D's drive through way east of Paris and desperate for chow to stay awake for late night driving. I recall they were both pretty darn awesome.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                              I had a green curry with fried chicken at a Bangkok KFC. I rarely eat fast food in the US but I try to check out a fast food place when I'm overseas. It's entertaining!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                Fried chicken at KFC in Japan is more like tempura -- fascinating stuff. Really good!

                                                                                                                                                                Denny's is very popular in Japan, but it's not what you expect. It's an "American style diner" -- they have steak, spaghetti, and barbecue, and it's where Japanese people can go for the experience of eating with knife and fork, just for fun.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                I agree that checking out the "exotic" menu items in other countries is really fun. Would that they offer some of those here!

                                                                                                                                                                I did get a glass of wine at McD's in Paris just for the experience. There were a few days I needed a cheap, fast meal and I got the chili at Wendy's in Madrid where I was studying, until I figured out I could get a vegetable laden meal at the Cafeteria Iowa or the Cafeteria Nebraska. Took a bit longer, but that's how they eat in Madrid.

                                                                                                                                                                Of course, living on street food is also fun.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                  On my first business trip to Kuala Lumpur, my local hosts asked where I wanted to go for lunch. I said I really wanted to try a Nyonya place [serving a sort of Malay-Chinese fusion cuisine not much seen in the States]. They: "Oh. We were planning on taking you to the Hard Rock Cafe." Seeing their obvious disappointment, I said, "No, that's fine!", silently cursing to myself and blaming Americans' reputation as timid eaters abroad.

                                                                                                                                                                  Turns out that this was a big deal for them, a highly desirable place to dine on the exotica that was American food at the time, and better yet, on the expense account, as it was quite costly by local standards. I never saw people so ecstatic to be dining on chicken wings, nachos, and potato skins. (I managed to get plenty of local cuisine on the rest of the trip.)


                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                    That's amusing. It reminded me of the McDonalds in Playa del Carmen MX, with the large play land. On Sundays, many Mexicans make it a family affair and a splurge to spend a couple hours and many pesos there. They see American food as a treat.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                      That's very funny! Just goes to show how relative the idea of a "special meal" is. My in-laws are Malaysian, so I visit KL reasonably often, and the street food culture is so astonishing. Some of the best food I've ever had, eaten by all walks of life, on the street, for a few dollars at most. It's hard to imagine why you would eat anything else. But then, I can see why, if you are used to that, eating an expensive western meal at the Hard Rock would be an unusual treat (not one that I would be keen to repeat).

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jodydavis

                                                                                                                                                                        Agreed: a very rich food culture, with amazing street food. This was a few years ago; I wonder if it would be such a big deal in 2014. American fast food has certainly become ubiquitous in much of Asia.


                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                      We've walked into more foreign McD's than I care to recall, only to get a burger for our incredibly picky son. And we're not talking a Big Mac, but a totally plain burger. Although he did discover steak-frites in France and salted Breton butter, which he still raves about.

                                                                                                                                                                    3. I also wanted to see the differences in the menus.

                                                                                                                                                                      But I admit to actually eating cheeseburgers in Venice and Copenhagen. Not sure why I did it but the one in Denmark tasted about 1000% better than here.

                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                      1. Wow, I have to say, to write off an entire city as being devoid of any good restaurants seems like either a huge generalization or at the very least, a little melodramatic. I am in Philly and NYC frequently and I've had some great meals in both cities... I've had some crappy meals in both cities, too. NYC has shear volume of restaurants going for it.
                                                                                                                                                                        (if you throw a rock at a the side of barn, you're bound to hit something, eventually).
                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not as enthusiastic about Philadelphia. Again, there are some great spots, but Philly doesn't bowl me over as some incredible culinary destination. After all, this is a city whose most famous contribution to the food world involves Cheez Whiz.
                                                                                                                                                                        (Granted, Cheez whiz IS delicious)
                                                                                                                                                                        I'm sorry you had a terrible meal at El Centro. I've never eaten there, so I'm going to take your word for it that the meal was basically inedible. Personally, my favorite places for Tacos are Tenoch Taqueria, Annas in East Boston and I like Dorado Tacos and Cemitas.
                                                                                                                                                                        Perhaps if El Centro knew that the culinary fate of Boston was riding on the success of your meal they would have stepped up their game a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: UnclePH

                                                                                                                                                                          The new Tenoch in the North end is really terrific.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. To the OP: trashing Boston for marginal tacos? You might as well trash the Mexico City food scene for having marginal pierogies.

                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                            I'd feel better if the OP revisited that opinion after trips to Taquerias El Amigo and Jalisco.


                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                              Taqueria el Amigo's pork chili tacos are something to behold.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                                Agreed, especially El Amigo. They both carry good ingredients/fillings/garnishes for tacos, but El Amigo definitely does a better job with meat prep- their carnitas, lengua, and cabeza are much more tender/flavorful than Jalisco's.