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Boston Restaurant Blog -- April, 2006

Below are blog entries from April, 2006. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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APRIL, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006
Beta Version of New and Improved Blog Page Is Up and Running

We are in the process of updating the Boston Restaurant Blog to make it more interactive and user-friendly. Some new features include links to the RSS feed for the blog, and links to the exact, permanent URL for each blog entry (also called permalinks). Most important, however, may be the capability of the posting of comments for each blog entry. In other words, now you can reply to any of our blog entries with comments of your own that are related to the entry. These comments are moderated by yours truly, so only those comments that are related to the entry will get posted (in other words, no spamming or selling of stuff!).

I am very excited about this upgrade to the Boston Restaurant Blog, which will be put in place very soon. In the meantime, we have a beta version of the updated pages if you would like to try it out. Feel free to post comments or use the RSS feed for the blog. The beta version is actually the December, 2005 Boston Restaurant Blog page. Check the page out when you have a chance, and post comments if you would like. The rest of the blog will be updated soon, so stay tuned!

Related Blog Entries: restaurant blog, RSS feeds

Friday, April 21, 2006
Outstanding Comfort Food at the Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain

We took a drive down to Jamaica Plain last night to check out the Centre Street Cafe last night, and honestly, this is perhaps the best Boston restaurant I have been to so far in 2006 (with all due respect to Orinoco in the South End and Green Field Churrascaria in Allston.)

photo of the Centre Street Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA The Centre Street Cafe is a funky little restaurant in the heart of Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood filled with quirky, unusual shops and restaurants. The restaurant is small but attractive, with art lining the walls and a staff that really seems to care about the diners who come here. The food we had at the Centre Street Cafe was nothing short of spectacular; I actually had a salisbury steak, a dish that brings back memory of school lunches. But this was no school lunch; the salisbury steak at the Centre Street Cafe was all-natural, with no hormones or additives, and incredibly tasty. And the mashed potatoes that came with it were excellent, as well.

Other standouts from last night at the Centre Street Cafe included a delicious potato leek soup; a chicken salad that blew away those of many other restaurants we have been to; and outstanding wines, including a vina borgia from Spain that went perfectly with the salisbury steak (if wine can, indeed, go with salisbury steak--not sure about that one).

I would love to include the Centre Street Cafe as one of our featured dining spots in Boston's Hidden Restaurants, but it may be just a bit too popular and well-known to be considered hidden (although perhaps it isn't known as well outside of Jamaica Plain). But that is one reason for this blog; to bring to light some of the best restaurants in Boston that, while perhaps not famous like Pizzeria Regina or Legal Sea Foods, are also not little-known places, either. Kudos to the Centre Street Cafe for being such a great neighborhood restaurant--it is one Boston restaurant that I cannot wait to return to very soon.

For those who want the address for the Centre Street Cafe, here it is: Centre Street Cafe, 669 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; the phone number is (617) 524-9217.

Related Blog Entries: Jamaica Plain restaurants

Sunday, April 16, 2006
The Twilight Zone? No, the Red Barrel in Essex, MA

I had a rather bizarre experience at the Red Barrel on Route 133 in Essex, MA, last night. We were on our way back from Rockport and decided to hit the first restaurant we saw in Essex. It turned out to be this cozy looking English restaurant and pub set in a wooded location just over the border from Gloucester. I was pretty excited, especially coming off a really nice meal (with amazing beers, too) at the British Beer Company in Pembroke a few weeks back. Well, the Red Barrel turned out to be something quite different from the British Beer Company, or any other restaurant, for that matter.

We should have know it was going to be an interesting night when we tried to order clams and the waitress (perhaps the owner?) told us there were no clams there. As she said that, I thought back to the huge "CLAMS" sign I saw in the parking lot of the restaurant. We changed up our order and were halfway through it when she started to walk away. I told her that I hadn't ordered yet, so she came back and took it. Then we proceeded to wait about an HOUR for our meal--no bread, no soup, no salad. We were not the only ones, however; I kid you not, patrons were going behind the bar, helping themselves to beers and sour mix to make drinks. And even if they were regulars, this just seemed a little freaky to me.

About 45 minutes into our wait (and about 15 songs into the jukebox, which included songs from Bobby Vinton and Helen Reddy), I got up to go to the rest room. Covered on the walls of the rest room were old pages from British newspapers, including a couple of pages with photos of Page 3 Girls, wearing large smiles and nothing else. For some reason, by this point of the night, I was not all that surprised that there were pictures of women without clothes on in the rest room, so I sauntered back to the table and casually mentioned it while waiting for my salad that never came.

Finally, our Portuguese kale soups came, then, eventually, some rolls, then our dinners. And to be honest, both the beef and onion pie and the beef and mushroom pie were very good. As one of the diners brought over a couple of beers from behind the bar to us, I was actually thinking that the food was worth the wait. Then I looked out at the pitch black night and realized that when we first arrived at the Red Barrel, the sun was still pretty high up in the sky. We finished our dinners, paid the $65 for the two dinners, and left the Red Barrel, scratching our heads for a good several minutes as we drove past the wonderful seafood restaurants that line Route 133 in the center of Essex.

Sadly, we were still hungry after our two-hour stay at the Red Barrel, so we ended up drowning our sorrows in lots of ice cream at the excellent Soc's on the Lynn Fells Parkway in Saugus. It didn't quite make up for our strange, slightly disturbing experience at the Red Barrel, but it certainly helped a great deal.

Related Blog Entries: British restaurants, Essex restaurants

Friday, April 14, 2006
Register for Our Restaurant Forum

Just a quick note: Don't forget to register for our Boston Restaurant Forum. This restaurant forum is located within the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site and gives you the chance to talk to other food lovers in Boston, New England, and beyond. Anyone can view the forum entries, but if you want to post new topics or reply to existing topics, you need to register. It is free to register, and very easy to do, so feel free to register when you have a chance.

If you just want to visit the forum and read some of the topics, jump to the Boston Restaurant Forum by going to this link. We hope to see you there! [ED NOTE: We have taken out the links to our forum, as it is now closed.]

Related Blog Entries: restaurant forum

Monday, April 10, 2006
A Few Good Restaurants in Washington, DC

Just got back from Washington, DC; I was in Washington from Friday through today, and while I was there, I was able to check out a number of restaurants in the DC area, some of which were some of the best restaurants I have been to anywhere.

On Friday, we went over to the Taj Mahal in Dupont Circle, in the northwest part of Washington. I had read a little about how good an Indian restaurant the Taj Mahal was, but it was even better than I had expected. They had an amazing lunch buffet there on Friday, and we had outstanding dishes at this classy, attractive spot on Connecticut Avenue. Some of the standouts were the lamb curry, the chicken tikka masala, and the tofu with onion sauce. I ate so much at the Taj Mahal that I didn't really think I would be able to eat anymore on Friday, but ended up having a decent dinner at another place on Connecticut Avenue in the trendy Dupont Circle area. The Odeon Cafe is a low-key Italian restaurant just northwest of Dupont Circle, and while it was not the best Italian restaurant I have been to, our meals were very tasty. Both the pollo gorgonzola and the tortellini panna were above average, and the portions were not huge, as I tend to find in so many Italian restaurants these days.

photo of the Lafayette Room in the Hay-Adams hotel, Washington, DC Saturday was a rainy day in Washington, DC, so we decided to walk to the nearest restaurant for breakfast rather than trek all over town looking for one. We took a short walk down to the White House area, which is just down the street from where I was staying between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square. There, we had what may have been the best breakfast I have had anywhere. Indeed, the Hay-Adams hotel may be better known for its classy, elegant rooms, some of which have views of the White House, but it also has a truly amazing restaurant in the Lafayette Room. Of course, for $35 per person, you would expect breakfast to be good, but I can say without hesitation that I would be willing to go back to the Lafayette Room in Hay-Adams in a heartbeat.

After having a quick, adequate lunch at the Greek Taverna in the Old Post Office Pavillion downtown, we went up to Capitol Hill for a few hours, then made our way up to the rather funky, unusual Adams Morgan district of Washington. This neighborhood, which borders the more bustling (and more trendy) Dupont Circle, feels more like Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village than a section of Washington, DC; African shops, used record stores, and eclectic restaurants line 18th Street, the main drag in this offbeat area. And we decided to go with one of the best restaurants in Adams Morgan, a dining spot called Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant. This friendly, popular spot is considered a must for lovers of Ethiopian food, and we could see why; everything we tried here, including the beef, chicken, lamb, and vegetables, were top notch. We saved enough room for a couple of cold brews at a local hangout called TS Muttly's, then had a nightcap at the cool, hip bar in the Hotel Topaz near Dupont Circle.

photo of the Brickskeller, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC Sunday was mostly a day of relaxation in Washington, DC. We started with an adequate breakfast at the Baci Vini Restaurant in Adams Morgan, then headed over to Georgetown for the day. After touring the truly fascinating G and O Canal National Historic Park in the center of Georgetown, we had some excellent mesquite-grilled burgers at a Mexican restaurant called the Alamo Grill. Then it was off to what is one of the best public gardens in the United States--the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, high above the center of Georgetown. Then it was back down to Dupont Circle and a place that beer lovers only dream about (unless they live in Washington, DC). The Brickskeller, which is around the corner from Embassy Row, has the largest selection of beers in America. They stock more than 1000 (that's one THOUSAND) beers in their cozy little restaurant and bar. Needless to say, a part-time beermaker like me lives for places like this, and I must say, it was one of the highlights of my stay in Washington, DC. The only problem is, which beers do you try at the Brickskeller if you are only able to have, say, two or three rounds? I guess that is what is known as a "nice problem," and one that did not bother me all that much. By the way, the food at the Brickskeller was also excellent.

I hope to return to Washington, DC, soon. The city definitely has a great restaurant scene, and I was only able to scratch the surface this time. Hopefully I'll be able to try a few more restaurants on my next trip to Washington.

Thursday, April 6, 2006
A Lack of Good Restaurants in Milton, MA

We ran over to East Milton Square (the town that resides on top of the Southeast Expressway just north of the Braintree split) the other night for a quick meal. Time was short, so we picked the first place we saw, which was Mr. Chan's, a Chinese restaurant that is mostly a takeout place, but with a few tables. I wasn't all that impressed by the food at Mr. Chan's, though I have heard from others that it isn't all that bad.

Looking around East Milton Square, I noticed a distinct lack of restaurants to go to--especially restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a nice dinner. The only places I saw were Java Jo's Coffee House, which is a great place for a sandwich and a coffee or tea, but they don't serve full dinners; Stella Luncheonette which was closed for the evening; Mozzarella's Pizzeria, a pizza place that seemed to be mostly a takeout joint; and Fiesta Mexican Grill a Mexican restaurant that, yes, also seemed to be pretty much just a takeout place.

While I don't know the rest of Milton all that well, the only restaurant that even comes to mind outside of East Milton Square is Newcomb Farms, which is a very good breakfast place. Other than Newcomb Farms and the East Milton Square dining spots, I'm at a loss to think of anywhere else to dine in Milton, and I can't really think of one restaurant in town to go to for dinner.

Sure, there are some great restaurants just over the Milton border; Dorchester has a ton of good eating spots, as does Quincy, and both Braintree and Randolph have several good restaurants, too. But Milton? Nothing comes to mind.

If anyone can think of a good restaurant in Milton that has a dining room and serves dinner, please contact us if you would like. I would be very interested in hearing about the place. Thanks!

Related Blog Entries: Milton restaurants

Monday, April 3, 2006
Good Meal at the Mockingbird Restaurant and Martini Lounge, East Bridgewater, MA

We tried the Mockingbird Restaurant and Martini Lounge on Route 18 in East Bridgewater on Saturday night. The Mockingbird is an interesting restaurant; it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, but it is a classy, attractive restaurant with excellent martinis and decent food.

The bar area at the Mockingbird Restaurant has a modern, hip feel to it, with the bartender pouring all kinds of drinks to people waiting for tables (we got to the Mockingbird at 5:00 and had nearly an hour-long wait, so we were happy that the restaurant had a nice bar!).

The menu at the Mockingbird has a number of traditional American dishes, as well as a handful of Italian entrees. The chicken saltimbocca was particularly good, with strips of chicken breast and ham smothered in a delicious brown sauce. The veal was also very good, and both the soup and the salad were tasty.

Unfortunately, we cannot feature the Mockingbird Restaurant and Martini Lounge on our site, as it seems just a bit too popular to be on Boston's Hidden Restaurants. But don't let that keep you from going there, especially if you like a good martini.

For those who would like the address and phone number for the Mockingbird Restaurant, here it is: Mockingbird Restaurant and Martini Lounge, 838 North Bedford Street, East Bridgewater, MA 02333; the phone number is (508) 378-4911.

Sunday, April 2, 2006
Reminder About Our Area Information for 2006 Boston Marathon Page

Just a reminder that our Boston Visitor Information page is up and running; Boston Marathon runners (or any other visitors to Boston) should take a look at this page to find more information about the Boston area.

Again, good luck to everyone who is running in the 2006 Boston Marathon! If runners, or anyone else, has questions on specific places to eat in the Boston area, please contact us.

Related Blog Entries: Boston Marathon