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Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2007

Below are blog entries from June, 2007. 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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JUNE, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A Trip to the Pioneer Valley

A couple of weeks ago, we headed west to the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts to check out some of the sights, including, of course, a few restaurants. We ended up having a terrific lunch and dinner, with a leisurely snack in between.

photo of Skip's Roadside Diner, Gill, Massachusetts As we traveled west on Route 2, we started looking at some restaurants along the road. Route 2 has a number of old-fashioned dining spots, and it was tough to choose which one to try. We ended up going to Skip's Roadside Diner in the small town of Gill, just north of Turners Falls. Skip's ended up being an outstanding stop, as the Polish cuisine that we tried was about as good as I've had in New York or Boston. The kapusta, kielbasa, and pierogies were all top notch, and the prices were ridiculously cheap. And Skip and his family are really good people; we got to talk to him for awhile while dining at one of the outdoor picnic tables. All in all, a very nice experience was had at Skip's. By the way, if you would like to read more about Skip's Roadside Diner, go to the link above, as we have a featured review on the restaurant.

photo of Lady Killigrew Cafe, Montague, MassachusettsAfter lunch, we drove around Turners Falls, impressed by all the changes made to this gritty but interesting community, then took a side road over to Montague, which is home to one of the best secrets in all of Massachusetts: The Montague Bookmill. Located just outside of the center of town along the Sawmill River, the Montague Bookmill is an old gristmill that has been converted into a used bookstore, along with a restaurant, a cafe, and a music store. And it is the Lady Killigrew Cafe that we sought out, as we felt like relaxing with a dessert and a drink or two while enjoying the sights and sounds of the river below. So we ordered cupcakes to go along with tea and beer (yes, beer!) and spent a good amount of time just staring down at the river while people all around us were either reading or on their laptops (the mill is set up for wi-fi). Getting back to the beer for a minute, Lady Killigrew happened to have Hennepin Ale that afternoon which is one of my favorite beers on the face of the planet, so I couldn't resist enjoying one with my cupcake.

photo of Chef Wayne's Big Mamou, Springfield, Massachusetts We eventually dragged ourselves away from the Montague Bookmill and spent some time in the surrounding area, including Sunderland and South Deerfield, where we enjoyed some great views from the summit of Mount Sugarloaf. Then we wound our way down through Whatley, Northhampton, and Holyoke before coming to our final destination, which was Chef Wayne's Big Mamou in Springfield. Now for those of you who don't know about this local institution, the Big Mamou is a tiny restaurant that features Creole and Cajun cuisine, with dishes that you don't often find in New England. We started with the incredible Southern-style spinach and chicken Cakes, which were gone in a flash (the mix of cream, nutmeg, hot pepper, and bread crumbs made this dish into something truly special). We then moved onto the our main entrees, which were the New Orleans red beans and rice (a hearty, delicious dish that was so filling that I got two full meals out of it) and the chicken Mississippi (too many ingredients to name, but it was basically sliced chicken mixed with spinach fettucine, along with a ton of herbs, veggies, and spices). We were pretty full after the meals, but did end up trying the bourbon pecan pie, which was easily the best pecan pie I have ever had (no contest!). In retrospect, Chef Wayne's Big Mamou was everything I thought it would be, which is saying a lot, since there has been a lot of hype about this great little restaurant.

I can wholeheartedly recommend all three places that we hit in the Pioneer Valley two weeks ago, and I would surely go back to all of them at any given time. Perhaps next time I may try a sandwich at the Lady Killigrew Cafe, and perhaps even bring my laptop out there so I can write more about it as I sit there, listening to the rushing river below the window. As far as Skip's and the Big Mamou, well, I hope to get out to both places later in the summer as part of another food trip.

Related Blog Entries: cafes, diners, road trips, Springfield restaurants

Friday, June 22, 2007
A Reminder About Our RSS Feeds

It seems funny that RSS feeds have become such an integral part of the Internet. Just a few short years ago, it seemed that RSS feeds represented a technology that only true techno-geeks would ever use, and that it wasn't all that important for webmasters to learn. How times have changed...nowadays, it seems that if a Web site doesn't have RSS feeds, it is seen as an old, outdated site.

Boston's Hidden Restaurants first got into RSS feeds about a year ago, and has slowly increased the use of this relatively simple, but vastly useful, technology. I won't get into details about what RSS is and how it works (for that, go to our RSS Information Page). Instead, I will list the useful links here that can allow you to take advantage of RSS feeds on our site.

For our blog, we have a restaurant blog feed that can be used in either standalone or online feed readers, as well as newer browsers that can read RSS feeds. We also have an online readable blog feed for those who would like to view the RSS feed in an attractive, easy-to-read format. And we also have similar feeds for our forum, including a restaurant forum feed for feed readers or newer browsers, and an online readable forum feed in the same easy-to-read format as the readable blog feed. Finally, we have a latest updates page that includes links to the latest reviews, blog entries, and forum threads, all on one page. This page is basically a combination of three different RSS feeds, all rolled into one page.

We hope that these RSS feeds can help make it easier for you to find the latest pages on Boston's Hidden Restaurants. And as always, if you have any questions on how to use RSS, contact us and we will do our best to help you out.

Related Blog Entries: RSS feeds

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
More Manhattan Restaurants Last Week

Only two short weeks ago, I was in Brooklyn, visiting family and enjoying some terrific food; and as it turns out, a few days ago, I found myself back in the New York City area, this time in Manhattan. As was the case two weeks ago, I was visiting family, though this was a shorter trip than the one to Brooklyn. And while I was there, I ended up going to several more restaurants, three of which are worth discussing in greater detail.

photo of Grano Trattoria, Manhattan (West Village), New York After stopping for lunch at a serviceable restaurant in the Upper West Side called Utopia, we spent the afternoon sauntering around Chelsea (where we went to the always-interesting Chelsea Markets) and the West Village. Around dusk, we headed over to the corner of East 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue in the West Village to a bustling Italian restaurant called Grano Trattoria. And while the place was a bit too loud for my taste (the tile floors and low ceiling didn't help), my overall experience at Grano Trattoria was fabulous. The atmosphere was charming, the service was just about perfect, and the food was as fresh as could be. I started with a terrific arugola, carrot, endive and radicchio salad, then moved on to my entree, (casarecci pasta mixed with pesto and green beans). This dish was simply superb; the twisted and rolled pasta was chewy and delicious, and the pesto sauce added more goodness to the dish. The montepulciano wine was wonderful, too, with a mild taste that pleased the senses in a subtle manner.

We were pretty stuffed after our meal at Grano Trattoria, but we were only a few blocks from Pasticceria Bruno, one of my favorite places in New York for pastries and cappuccino, so we walked over to Bleecker Street to grab a table at this always-crowded Italian cafe. And once again, they did not disappoint; the lobster tail was perfect, with the center filled with sinfully good hazelnut cream, and the cappuccino, while not as good as my favorite (Cafe Vittoria in the North End of Boston gets the nod there), it was pretty darn good.

photo of Bubby's, Manhattan (Tribeca), New York I woke up on Friday still feeling full from our night of overeating, so I decided to take a long walk through the South Street Seaport and the Financial District, then I came back and had a light breakfast, downing a tasty bagel from Fairway on Broadway in the Upper West Side. The rest of the morning was spent relaxing in that neighborhood before taking the subway to Tribeca for what would be our next round of sheer gluttony. Bubby's has the feel of a place that has been around for a long, long time, with ancient-looking hanging lights, attractive hardwood floors, and lots of pictures that look like they were taken decades ago. The food was very good at Bubby's, with both the hamburger and turkey burger being grilled to perfection. The handcut fries were also excellent, and the Spanish rice was a decent side dish. But the macaroni and cheese took the prize, as the sharp cheddar cheese in it really made for quite an amazing dish. And then there were the pies. Bubby's is known throughout New York for their wonderful homemade pies, and they sure were good. Both the chocolate peanut butter pie (creamy without being too heavy) and the sour cherry pie (a favorite at Bubby's) were delicious and fresh.

photo of Gray's Papaya, Manhattan, New York We had seriously overeaten at Bubby's, so we stayed away from food for several hours, enjoying a boat ride to Staten Island, wandering through Lower Manhattan, and finally ending up back in the Upper West Side, where I got myself ready to head back to Boston. But before I did, I finally tried Gray's Papaya on Broadway for a quick dinner on my way to the Port Authority. I had heard a lot about the all-beef hot dogs at Gray's Papaya, and they were as good as I had expected. They were also incredibly cheap, as two hot dogs and a drink only set me back about $3.50.

After these two trips to New York City, I am feeling pretty weighed down from all the food It looks like it's time to go back to the gym for a spell--at the very least, to get back in shape before I ruin it all once again in New York City. But it was certainly worth it, having gone to three excellent dining spots within a 24-hour period.

Related Blog Entries: Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants

Monday, June 11, 2007
Breaking News: Boston's Hidden Restaurants Has a Newsletter

Perhaps it is not exactly breaking news, but Boston's Hidden Restaurants has quietly been putting out a restaurant newsletters for the past year and a half now. Viewers who have signed up to be on our newsletter list have been the first to know about our quarterly newsletters as they have come out, but we have not done much to publicize it, other than to print out a small amount of newsletters every quarter and post them around the city.

Our restaurant newsletter includes teasers to a handful of our latest restaurant reviews, as well as general updates about the site. Other features include a question from the editor that can be answered in our restaurant forum, important links to our site, and a featured page from our special features section.

If you would like to sign up to be on our email newsletter list, please send us an email through this link or go to our contact us page to get in touch. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Food Trip to Lawrence, Lowell, and Merrimac

Last year, a friend of mine and I did a memorable food trip to Connecticut, hitting some of the greatest roadside dining spots I have ever been to. And earlier this year, we did a short trip to south of Boston that was also an interesting food trip. Well, yesterday, my friend and I decided to do a food trip to the Merrimack Valley, including Lawrence, Lowell, and Merrimac.

photo of Napoli Pizza, Lawrence, Massachusetts We started the trip off by grabbing a couple of slices of Sicilian pizza at Napoli, a tiny pizza place on Common Street in Lawrence's "Little Italy." Now I had been to Napoli many times over the past few years, but my friend hadn't, and he was greatly impressed by these incredibly cheap ($1.25) squares of pizza. And while I like the pizza at Tripoli Bakery (which is across the street) a little better, Napoli certainly holds its own, with a sauce that is slightly less sweet than that at Tripoli, but nearly as delicious.

Our first meal done (at 11:15 AM, by the way), we drove across the Merrimack River to Sal's Pizza on Merrimack Street. I won't get into details, as we have a feature on Sal's, but I will say that the pizza was as good as ever, which is to say, very, very good stuff indeed.

photo of Lawton's, Lawrence, MassachusettsAfter Sal's Pizza, we drove across town to Lawton's, a rickety old hot dog stand on Canal Street that sits precariously on a sidewalk overlooking the canal in Lawrence's historic district. And when I say it sits on the sidewalk, I do mean it literally SITS on it; in the middle of the place, right where people place their orders, sits a fire hydrant (no joke). We walked past the hydrant and ordered a couple of hot dogs. The folks behind the counter cook the dogs in a rectangular tin that is filled with oil, and it appears that they add some secret ingredients to the oil as the hot dogs cook. And while the dogs are not technically "rippers," they do come close to bursting open in the oil. We grabbed our orders and took them back to the car. The result? Perhaps one of the top 2 or 3 hot dogs either of us have had anywhere.

photo of Skip's Snack Bar, Merrimac, Massachusetts Leaving Lawrence, we knew that it would be tough to top Lawton's, but Skip's Snack Bar on Route 110 in Merrimac came mighty close. As we pulled into Skip's, the first thing we noticed was the cheesy but oddly appealing neon sign announcing that we had indeed arrived at Skip's. Once inside the place, we ordered burgers and fries, grabbed a table in the rather Spartan dining room, and proceeded to have the type of griddled burgers that most snack bars can only dream about making. These burgers were high quality meat, and had just the right amount of grease to make them absolutely delicious. The curly fries were also excellent, though some were a bit undercooked. After we finished, I wanted to grab an ice cream there, but somehow had the willpower to resist, knowing that we still had more food to eat before the day was done.

photo of Elliot's Famous Hot Dogs, Lowell, MassachusettsWe were hoping that after the terrific meals at Lawton's and Skip's, our streak would continue in Lowell. But alas, it wasn't quite mean to be, as Elliot's Famous Hot Dogs on Elliot Street was a bit of a disappointment. The steamed hot dogs at Elliot's were decent enough, but mine had a slightly sickly yellowish tinge to it, and the cheese within the bun was not melted at all. Plus, the fact that we drove for about 35 minutes in order to spend 45 seconds downing a basic hot dog seemed, well, ridiculous in retrospect. On the up side, however, the woman behind the counter was as nice as could be, and the local character at this sad-looking place on a side street near downtown Lowell was something that I won't soon forget.

Elliot's was to be the last stop of the trip, but we decided to do something that probably would cause many folks to scratch their heads; we went back to Lawton's for more hot dogs. In fact, the women behind the counter literally did scratch their heads when they saw us again, but if you have ever had a hot dog at this place, it's not so difficult to explain our rather rash decision. Lawton's was indeed the overall winner on this trip, and will soon be featured on Boston's Hidden Restaurants, so stay tuned...

Related Blog Entries: hot dogs, Lawrence restaurants, Lowell restaurants, pizza places, road trips

Monday, June 4, 2007
Redesign of Boston's Hidden Restaurants Nearly Complete

Our major redesign of the Boston's Hidden Restaurant site is just about done, with only a few pages (including the home page) yet to be worked on. These changes will ultimately make the site sleeker, quicker to download, and easier to navigate.

We are very excited about these changes, as they will hopefully make the viewing experience of the site more satisfying overall, and the ease of navigation should help make it much easier to get to where you want to go now. Hopefully we will get to the remaining pages over the next week or two in order to complete the redesign so we can get back to what we REALLY want to do--writing reviews and general information on Boston and New England restaurants!

Sunday, June 3, 2007
Mesmerizing Seafood at Quito's, Bristol, RI

I went down to Newport and Bristol, as well as other sections of Rhode Island for a family outing the other day, stopping at Quito's Restaurant in Bristol along the way. This was the first time I have been to Quito's in a few years, and I am happy to say that this Rhode Island institution is as good as ever.

photo of Quito's Restaurant,  Bristol, Rhode Island Quito's, which is located at the end of the East Bay Bike Path (which is how I initially discovered it years ago), looks like your typical seafood shack from the outside; the front of the place houses a little market where you can pick up fresh fish, while the right side includes an outdoor patio with just enough shade to keep everyone happy. The main building, which feels like it sticks out over the water, includes a rustic dining room with several windows affording stunning views of the East Bay.

Our meals at Quito's were nothing short of spectacular this time around. The lobster scampi was simply wonderful, with fresh chunks of lobster mixed in with tasty pasta mixed with garlic and oil (and at $15.00, was a relative bargain, considering the prices for lobster in 2007). The crabcake sandwiches were also outstanding, with crabmeat that was much fresher and tastier than you will find at most seafood shacks in New England.

It is no stretch to say that Quito's may be my favorite seafood shack in all of New England (though there are several in Maine that I have yet to try). The seafood is superb, the service is friendly and efficient, and the atmosphere is classic New England. I only wish that Quito's weren't so well-known, since I would love to include a more detailed featured page for the place on this site. No matter, though; if you like seafood and haven't tried Quito's yet, you definitely need to head over Bristol to see why this place is so popular.

Related Blog Entries: outdoor dining, Rhode Island restaurants, seafood restaurants

Friday, June 1, 2007
Please Notify Us of Any Restaurant Closings

We here at Boston's Hidden Restaurants try our hardest to keep up with the ever-changing Boston and New England restaurant scene, but it is sometimes overwhelming, considering the sheer number of openings and closings that happen each year. We try to keep track of our featured restaurants (as well as any restaurants mentioned in our blog, forum, and other special features) to make sure they are still open, but sometimes, as in the case recently of Las Palmas de Cuba in Hanover, the closings occur with such little fanfare that we either find out by accident, or someone notifies us.

If you happen to come across a restaurant on our site that has closed or changed drastically, please contact us to let us know so we can update the site. Thanks very much!

Related Blog Entries: closed Boston restaurants