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Boston Restaurant Blog -- April, 2008

Below are blog entries from April, 2008. 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, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Great Chow, Quincy: Basic Chinese-American Food

After being very impressed by the new-ish Great Chow in Abington a few months ago, we decided to head over to the original Great Chow in the Wollaston section of Quincy a couple of weekends ago. And it turned out to be quite a different experience from the one in Abington, to say the least.

photo of Great Chow, Quincy, Massachusetts I knew going in that the Great Chow in Quincy would be a lot smaller than the enormous space in Abington, and assumed that there would be no teppanyaki, no sushi bar, and no extensive Pan-Asian menu, but what I did not expect was a menu that reminded me of the Chinese-American takeout joints in the suburbs that are a dime a dozen. I had assumed that Great Chow would be a mix of authentic Chinese and Chinese-American cuisine, but it definitely leaned more toward the latter. This is not to say it was bad; the scallion pancakes were fresh-tasting and delicious with a particularly hearty scallion taste, the hot and sour soup had a good kick as well as a nice beefy flavor, and both the Singapore noodle and the lemon chicken were decent enough (though the gloppy sauce that came with the lemon chicken was almost stomach-turning). But it turned out not to be the type of place where you could get the exotic dishes you might find in Chinatown or in some other Quincy restaurants.

Overall, I didn't mind the dining experience we had at Great Chow; the atmosphere was pure old-school Chinese with lots of hustle and bustle, the semi-open kitchen behind the counter gave the place more the feel of a restaurant in a large city, and the prices were mostly very reasonable. And yes, the food, while anything but authentic, was pretty tasty for the most part. But I think I still prefer the Great Chow in Abington, with its sleek, elegant atmosphere and sprawling menu. My guess is, the next time I go to a place called Great Chow, it will be that one rather than the original in Wollaston.

If you are looking for the address for Great Chow in Quincy, here it is: Great Chow, 15 Beale Street, Quincy, MA 02170. The phone number is (617) 328-8918.

Related Blog Entries: Chinese restaurants, Quincy restaurants

Sunday, April 27, 2008
A Tale of Two Pizzas

Those who know me realize that I have a near-addiction to pizza, which makes me enjoy even average, everyday pies. But I had one over the weekend that even I had trouble eating, and unfortunately it was at one of my favorite restaurants: C.F. Donovan's in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester. But the scales were balanced later in the weekend with my first taste of the wonderful pizza at Abbondanza in Norwood.

First, a brief description of the disappointing pizza at C.F. Donovan's--I ordered a bianco pizza there, which I assumed would be a tasty white pizza with a hearty garlic and basil taste to it. What I got, however, was a nearly inedible pie with a bland, undercooked crust and cheese on top that was dried out and burnt. And to top it off, the pizza actually had a layer of tomato sauce between the cheese and the crust. Looking back, I should have complained and returned the dish, but sadly I didn't. I'm really worried about C.F. Donovan's, as they have gone through a disturbing number of chefs over the past year or two, and the menu no longer has every dish that it once had (including the chicken curry, which I loved). Here's hoping they can get their act together and once again become the great neighborhood restaurant that it once was.

Now for the good--the day after my subpar meal at C.F. Donovan's, I was at a family gathering south of Boston that included several pizzas from an Italian restaurant in Norwood called Abbondanza. I wasn't really in the mood for pizza after the bianco disaster from the night before, but my mind changed the minute I took one bite into a slice of pepperoni. The pizza from Abbondana reminded me a little of the pies at The Paddock in Somerville, which is indeed a good thing. The pizza was more or less traditional Neapolitan, with a fairly thin crust and a good amount of tomato sauce under the cheese. The pepperoni was slightly burnt and curled on the sides, which is just how I like it, and the crust had a heckuva lot more flavor than the crust at C.F. Donovan's. I tried a pepperoni, a spinach and eggplant, and a cheese, all of which were delicious. This is a pizza I could definitely get into eating; if it were closer to where I lived, I would consider ordering it at least a few times a month.

It was indeed a strange weekend, beginning with lousy pizza at a place I love and ending with excellent pizza from a place I had never heard of before. Not that I'm completely pizza'd out, but I'll probably take a few days off from pizza before getting back into one of my favorite foods of all time...

Related Blog Entries: Boston pizza, pizza places

Monday, April 21, 2008
Food Trip to the North Shore and Cape Ann

It had been awhile since my last real food-based road trip, so it was definitely time to get one going, which I did this past Patriot's Day. This time, a friend of mine and I too advantage of the nice weather to go on a trip to the North Shore and Cape Ann, stopping by five dining spots along the way. And included among our stops were a couple of roast beef joints, as folks on the North Shore seem to take their roast beef pretty seriously.

photo of Top Dog, Rockport, Massachusetts Before hitting the roast beef joints, we decided to head to a hot dog stand in Rockport. Top Dog, which is located on quaint, charming Bearskin Neck, is little more than a weathered old shanty, with low ceilings, wooden beams, hanging lights, and a few seats and tables here and there. It looks more like a seafood shack than a hot dog stand, but it is indeed a place to get hot dogs, and the juicy, snappy dogs they have here are certainly something special. We both ordered the Golden Retriever, which is a hot dog on a grilled roll with macaroni and cheese laid out on top of the dog and the roll. You can order your dogs grilled or steamed at Top Dog; we both ordered them grilled, and they were cooked to absolute perfection. The macaroni and cheese would have been just ok if it were its own dish, but the combination of hot dog, bun, and mac and cheese was something I won't soon forget.

photo of Supreme Roast Beef, Gloucester, MassachusettsAfter wandering around Rockport for a bit, we hit the road, this time heading along the coast to Gloucester, where we stopped at our first of two roast beef joints of the trip. And while Supreme Roast Beef doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar outside of Gloucester (at least from the lack of coverage seen on the Internet), it sure was a hit to us. The roast beef at this place was tender and delicious, while the sauce had some serious heat. The cheese was half-melted (just the way I like it), and the roll was grilled just right. The interior of Supreme Roast Beef, was a bit dark and gloomy, but perhaps that stems from the fact that it is located in an old dining car with pretty poor lighting. My friend is a big roast beef fan, so when he raved about his sandwich, I knew we had a winner here, but even though it was excellent, the best roast beef was actually yet to come.

photo of Nick's Famous Roast Beef, Beverly, MassachusettsAfter a wasted trip to Ipswich (we wanted to try the Riverview Restaurant for some bar pizza, but it is closed on Mondays), we drove down Route 1 to North Beverly, where Nick's Famous Roast Beef awaited. Upon first glance, Nick's seems like the last place you would want to go, as it is right at a busy, ugly intersection with a parking lot that seems trapped by traffic waiting for the light to turn. And the outside of Nick's screams sub shop or generic pizza place. But it is all about the roast beef here, as we were soon to find out, and it ended up having what may have been the best roast beef that either of us has ever had. Sitting in the generic dining area with the harsh overhead lights, we were in roast beef dreamland, chomping away at beef so tender that it could have been cut with a slice of paper. And the sauce was every bit as good as the sauce at Supreme Roast Beef. The only negative was that the roll was barely toasted, and as I found out later, it seems that you have to ask to have it toasted more thoroughly. But this is a minor quibble, especially considering the quality of the roast beef at Nick's. This is a place that I will surely be going back to on future trips to the North Shore.

photo of Red's Sandwich Shop, Salem, MassachusettsWe continued down Route 1A through downtown Beverly and into Salem, where we stopped at a local breakfast joint and sandwich place called Red's Sandwich Shop. Located in the center of Salem but on a side street with little traffic, Red's seems like the kind of place that every town used to have; a friendly little neighborhood spot with counter seating as well as booths, good cheap food, and a waitstaff that it a bit salty, a bit rough around the edges, but very efficient and quick. I debated trying one of their famous breakfasts, but opted instead for a burger, while my friend ordered a Monte Christo. According to my friend, the Monte Christo was good, but not great, but my griddled burger was just about perfect. This was no 93% lean burger, and the juices threatened to spray everyone near me each time I bit into it. It was delicious, but unfortunately, the fries were every bit as bad as the burger was good. Limp, undercooked, and bland, these were the type of fries that I have one or two of, then stop. So overall, it was a mixed bag at Red's, but I'd like to try the place again, especially since it seems that their real specialty is their breakfast food.

photo of the Kelley Square Pub, East Boston, MassachusettsAfter dining at Red's, we drove to Marblehead to get some ice cream at Coffey Ice Cream, but they were not open, so we continued through Swampscott, Lynn, and Revere, ending up at the Kelley Square Pub on Bennington Street. The Kelley Square Pub seemed like your typical neighborhood watering hold, with a dining area separated from the bar by one of those wood and plexiglass partitions that so many bar and taverns seem to have. There was also another dining area in the back, but it looked like it might be closed for the afternoon. After discovering that they were not serving pigs in a blanket that day (perhaps they only serve them when Eddie Andelman is there), we ordered a couple of pizzas and some beer; the pizzas were very good, though it was tough to categorize them. They were a bit like a bar pizza, though they had a lot of oregano and the outer crust was rather thick and puffy, making it more like a mix of a bar pie and a traditional Italian pizza. Our waitress was very nice, and seemed to be amused that we could only finish a couple of pieces from each pie, but little did she know that this was our fifth (and last) dining stop of the afternoon.

So what was the final consensus of our North Shore and Cape Ann food trip? And what, if any, restaurants might be featured on this site? Well, Top Dog and Nick's Famous Roast Beef were the cream of the crop; I could dine at these places every week if I lived closer to them. Top Dog, however, is a pretty well-known place that isn't exactly hidden, so no feature, unfortunately. Both Red's Sandwich Shop and the Kelley Square Pub were decent enough, though there are items on both menus that need to be tried before making a final judgement on these places (including various breakfast items at Red's, and burgers, steak tips, and pigs in a blanket at the Kelley Square Pub). Supreme Roast Beef has excellent roast beef and is completely unknown outside of Gloucester. the fact that it is a roast beef joint residing in an old diner doesn't hurt, either. So perhaps the bottom line is, one of the two roast beef places we went to might end up being featured. Keep checking for updates over the coming weeks...

Related Blog Entries: Gloucester restaurants, hot dogs, road trips, roast beef joints

Monday, April 14, 2008
Get Automatic Updates for Our Restaurant Reviews

Boston's Hidden Restaurants has a number of RSS feeds that allow our readers to get the latest updates on our blog, unreviewed restaurants section, questions and answers feature, and restaurant closings and opening section. But there is one feed that we admittedly don't broadcast as much as we should; it is an RSS feed that gives automatic updates of our latest featured restaurants. A link to the feed is given below:

Subscribe to RSS feed of our latest restaurant reviews.

For those of you who do not know what RSS feeds are or how they work, please go to our RSS Information Page. This page will tell you nearly everything you need to know about RSS feeds. And of course, if you have any questions on RSS feeds or anything else, for that matter, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Related Blog Entries: RSS feeds

Monday, April 7, 2008
Ristorante Lucia, Winchester: Great Food, But...

Last month, a group of us went to Ristorante Lucia for a Saturday night dinner. I was a bit cautious going in, as even though I love the food at Lucia's, the service has not always been up to snuff. Well, it turned out that the gap between the quality of food and quality of service was wide enough to drive a truck through on this particular night, as we were both blown away by the delicious Italian cuisine, while at the same time frustrated by the surly, seemingly uncaring service.

photo of Lucia Ristorante, Winchester, Massachusetts We arrived at Lucia's in time for our 7:00 reservation, and waited for the hostess while admiring the interesting, if slightly tacky old-world Italian atmosphere that is unlike anything I have seen in the Boston area. We waited and waited, and I tried to make eye contact with the hostess, but she kept looking away each time she walked by. Finally we were able to wave her down, telling her that we had a reservation. She said it would be a few minutes. Well, 10 minutes later, we were still waiting, and wondering if we should just leave when she came up to us, pointed at a table in one of the rooms, and said "That's your table," and walked away. We walked to the table, shaking our heads the whole way, and wondering if this would be the start of a long night at Lucia.

We settled down at the table and looked at the menu, as someone came over and placed bread on our table. Unfortunately, no one had any silverware or plates, and we were unable to flag down the person in time to ask, so we waited another 5 minutes, finally telling someone else what we were missing. Another person came back to the table, dropped the plates and silverware at one end, and walked away without saying a word. At this point, we figured that the service couldn't get any worse, and, well, fortunately we were correct for the most part, as our waiter, while unsmiling and at times surly, was actually pretty efficient. He brought our drinks, appetizers, and salads fairly quickly, and the meals came out shortly after we were done with the apps and salads. And was the food ever good; the veal saltimbocca was simply outstanding, the pollo arrabbiata (chicken with mushrooms and anchovies in a spicy tomato sauce) was absolutely memorable, and the chicken parmigiana, which was ordered by a couple of people, was about the best they have had anywhere. The other dishes were equally good, including even the simple, straightforward spaghetti with bolognese sauce.

So would I recommend Lucia's to diners? Well, I don't know, really; I suppose it depends on your tolerance for potentially poor service. Personally, I would probably go back, mainly because the food was so incredibly good, but I certainly wouldn't go with people who are easily frustrated. It's a shame, really, as this restaurant could be one of the greats in the northern suburbs of Boston. Perhaps someday they will realize this at Lucia's, but until then, my recommendation comes with a very big caution sign attached to it.

If you are looking for the address for Ristorante Lucia, here it is: Ristorante Lucia, 11 Mount Vernon Street, Winchester, MA 01890. The phone number is (781) 729-0515.

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Visitor Page for 2008 Marathon Runners

Hard to believe that the 2008 Boston Marathon is almost here. I personally won't be able to make the marathon this year (first time I haven't been able to watch it in about 5 years), but I just wanted to wish all Boston Marathon runners the best of luck and hope that you meet or beat the finish time that you are trying to achieve.

For those runners who have not been to Boston before, or perhaps have been here but would like to learn more about our city, our site does have a Boston Visitor Information Page that might be useful. In it, we give information on various Boston neighborhoods including things to see and do, and, of course, restaurants that you might want to check out.

Again, good luck to all runners, and let's hope the weather turns out great that day!

Related Blog Entries: Boston Marathon