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Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2009

Below are blog entries from May, 2009. 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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May, 2009

Thursday, May 27, 2009
Memorial Day Weekend in Connecticut, Manhattan

I typically go to Acadia National Park in Maine on Memorial Day Weekend, but two years ago I went to Brooklyn instead, and this year I spent the long weekend in Manhattan. And as is the case with all of the New York trips I've done, we had some great meals at a number of restaurants, including a couple while on the road in Connecticut.

photo of Rawley's Drive-In, Fairfield, Connecticut We took Route 95 down from Boston, stopping in Fairfield for lunch at a classic snack shack called Rawley's Drive-In. Located just west of the center of this beautiful Southwest Connecticut community in a rather plain-looking, semi-industrial area, Rawley's is one of several roadside food joints in town. Deep-fried hot dogs are their specialty, though the burgers, fries, and shakes were all excellent as well. I won't get into too many details here, as Rawley's has actually gotten a featured review on Boston's Hidden Restaurants, so if you want to read more about this place, go to the link for Rawley's Drive-In within the site.

We soon arrived in Manhattan and spent some time wandering around Greenwich Village (including enjoying a happy hour drink at the dark and cozy 1849 on Bleecker Street) before having dinner at Focacceria, which is one of my personal favorites anywhere in the Northeast. And it didn't disappoint this time, as the minestrone soup, Caesar salad, montepulciano and pinot grigio wines, asparagus and mushroom risotto, and chicken ravello were all excellent. And since it was a nice night, we were able to dine outside, viewing the always-interesting street scene. There was easily enough food to keep me full until the next morning, at which point we had breakfast at George's in Lower Manhattan, which is another restaurant I've been to in the past. Unlike the last time I was there, the service was not slow at all, and the food (pancakes, bagel and lox, home fries) was as good as usual, though the potatoes were a bit dry.

photo of Jameson's Pub and Restaurant, Manhattan, New York After breakfast, we made our way up to Midtown for a couple of hours, eventually making our way over to Midtown East (Turtle Bay, specifically) to an Irish pub on Second Avenue called Jameson's Pub and Restaurant. One of countless Irish pubs in the Midtown East area (and one of many along this stretch of Second Avenue alone), Jameson's has the feel of an authentic Irish watering hole with lots of dark wood, exposed brick, a low ceiling, dim hanging lamps, pictures of Ireland, and a moody overall feel to it. To me, the atmosphere was the best part of the place, as the food was just middling to good--the turkey club was all right, and the fries were crispy and tasty, but the char-grilled burger had little flavor and was seriously in need of some seasoning. I would definitely consider returning to Jameson's, but probably more for the atmosphere and drinks (the beer selection is excellent, and includes Boddington's on tap).

photo of Havana Alma de Cuba, Manhattan, New York Lunch was followed by a cab ride down to Lower Manhattan, where we stayed awhile before heading up to the West Village. We strolled around the charming tree-shaded streets for awhile before heading to dinner at a tremendous spot on Christopher Street called Havana Alma de Cuba. The restaurant was a bit more than half full when we arrived, and we were able to get a table within the enclosed back patio rather than the attractive though slightly small front dining room. The patio itself was nearly worth the price of admission alone, as it was a quiet, comfortable spot surrounded by residential and commercial structures, and we didn't hear a single car horn the entire time we were there. The three of us started off with traditional drinks (sangria, mojito, and old Havana, all outstanding) and appetizers (excellent lentil soup, tender and sweet plantains, tasty beef empanadas, and one of the most flavorful shredded pork empanadas I have had). The main dishes soon came and they were fantastic; the wonderful arroz con pollo included chicken still on the bone to give the dish more flavor, while the delicious pollo a la maggie came with a satisfyingly light white wine sauce. Desserts were decadent, including a tasty flan with coffee caramel custard and a dish of fresh churros with chocolate dipping sauce. Service was excellent from start to finish and the prices were pretty reasonable. Havana Alma de Cuba may ultimately go down as one of my favorite restaurants in all of Manhattan--it was that good.

photo of Izzy and Nat's, Manhattan, New York It would certainly be tough to be such a meal as the one we had at Havana Alma de Cuba, but breakfast the following morning wasn't all that bad. We stopped by a deli in Battery Park City called Izzy and Nat's after enjoying the spectacular views of New Jersey from the parklands near the southern tip of Manhattan. The delicatessen (much like Battery Park City itself) seemed like a bit of a hidden gem, and was populated by locals, some of whom seemed to know the staff here. We had a variety of items, including a hand-rolled bagel that was just ok (not much flavor), some potato pancakes that were perfectly cooked (crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside), a kasha knish that was absolutely loaded with kasha, and some hash brown potatoes that were cooked golden brown but could have used more seasoning. Service was pretty good and prices were about what you expect for a New York breakfast. I've had better deli food in Manhattan, but this place was pretty good for the most part.

photo of Lenny's, Branford, Connecticut We hit the road after breakfast, stopping at the always-fun Chelsea Market to stock up on various food items. Then we drove through Brooklyn and Queens, soon making our way onto Route 95. Our lunch stop on the way back to Boston was a seafood restaurant in Branford that a friend had told me about called Lenny's. This place has apparently been around for more than 40 years and is a bit of an institution in the New Haven area. We didn't really get a true feel for the place, as we only had a light lunch and didn't stay very long, but what I did experience was quite impressive. The outdoor deck, for instance, has unforgettable views of marshlands out back, while the food seems to be the real deal (the clam chowder had a traditional thin broth and was delicious, while the filet of sole sandwich was breaded perfectly and had a nice, mild favor). The inside of Lenny's is quite pleasant as well, with a high ceiling giving the place a spacious, airy feel, and the stone fireplace looked like it might make for cozy evenings in the colder months. I do hope to get back to Lenny's to try one of their dinners at some point; when I do, I'll definitely write another entry about it.

So it was yet another fun trip to Manhattan, with perfect weather, lots of great walks around the city, and mostly excellent food. I may be heading back to the Big Apple during the summer, so expect another report on New York City eating places over the coming weeks.

Related Blog Entries: Connecticut restaurants, Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants

Sunday, May 21, 2009
Sunday Breakfast at Leggos, Holbrook

Last weekend we took a drive down to Holbrook for a late breakfast at a place called Leggos in the center of town. And while there was nothing earth-shattering about the place, we were impressed overall by the food, prices, and friendliness of the service.

photo of Leggos, Holbrook, Massachusetts Leggos has been around for about a year or so, and is one of a few options in Holbrook for breakfast, including Smith's Restaurant, which is just down the road. Simple and homey with a bright yellow sign above the front door, Leggos is similar to Smith's in the fact that it is an independent little spot that is known mostly to locals and few others. The inside of Leggos is pretty straightforward, with some of the handful of tables lined up along the windows, affording a pleasant, leafy view outside. There is also an outdoor patio area for warmer days (which Sunday was definitely not).

Our server seemed as if she might also be one of the folks in charge of the place, and she was both efficient and friendly, checking back with us a few times to make sure everything was ok. And it was all indeed ok, as the corned beef hash omelet was hearty without being too greasy, and the cranberry waffles had a nice tart aftertaste from the berries. The home fries were a bit limp and not seasoned all that much, but they, too, weren't overly greasy and were tasty enough. Coffee was all right, though not up to some of the best I've tried around Boston for breakfast (Martin's Coffee Shop in Brookline comes to mind in that category).

I was pretty happy overall with Leggos, especially since it seems to be one of those friendly neighborhood places that locals return to again and again. I'd like to get back there for lunch soon (and hopefully make use of the outdoor patio). If I do, I'll definitely report back on it.

For those who want the address for Leggos, here it is: Leggos, 120 North Franklin Street (Route 37), Holbrook, MA 02343. The phone number is (781) 961-2475.

Related Blog Entries: breakfast places, Holbrook restaurants

Friday, May 15, 2009
Delicious Meal at Myers and Chang, Boston

Over the past couple of weeks, I have gotten to visit two excellent South End restaurants for the first time. Last week, it was Picco Restaurant, a terrific dining spot on Tremont Street featuring pizza and ice cream. And this week, it was Myers and Chang, an offbeat family-style Asian restaurant that greatly impressed.

photo of Myers and Chang, Boston, Massachusetts Myers and Chang feels a bit hip, trendy, and retro all at the same time, but mostly has the feel of a bustling diner, of all things. A tile floor keeps the noise level a bit high, while mirrors along the walls give the small-ish place a more roomy appearance. Counter seating faces the cooking area, and there are a number of tables to the side and by the windows. Humorous messages are written on the mirrors, including one particularly funny one in the rest room ("Man who drops watch in toilet have crappy time").

As I mentioned, Myers and Chang serves Asian food family-style, which is more or less tapas-style with small plates shared by groups of diners. We ordered five dishes to share, including chicken and rapini stirfry (incredible smoky taste with lots of flavor coming from chili oil and garlic); genmai fried rice (a bit dry but decent enough, with brown rice, sesame, garlic, nori, and a fried egg on top); dumplings with shiitake mushrooms and chinese greens (outstanding, with a great mix of bitter and earthy tastes); dumplings with pork and chive (also terrific, with lots of delicious ground pork stuffed into the dumplings); and short rib soft tacos (juicy, messy, and tremendously flavorful with a sweet/savory mix coming from the ingredients, which included pears, radish, and chili-sesame salsa). We washed all the food down with beer, including a can of Porkslap Pale Ale from the Butternuts brewery in upstate New York. And we saved just enough room for a wonderful dessert, namely the flan-like banana creme caramel with black and white sesame brittle.

As is the case with Picco, Myers and Chang is very popular and far from a hidden gem, especially since the restaurant does a nice job of marketing via Facebook and Twitter. But even though I concentrate mostly on visiting little-known restaurants in the Boston area, that won't stop me from visiting this wonderful little South End spot again....and again and again and again. It really was that good.

For those who would like the address for Myers and Chang, here it is: Myers and Chang, 1145 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118. The phone number is (617) 542-5200.

Related Blog Entries: Asian restaurants, Boston restaurants, South End restaurants

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Pizza and Ice Cream at Picco, Boston

One place that I have really been trying to get to since they opened was Picco Restaurant on Tremont Street in the South End of Boston. The main reason? They feature two of my favorite foods - pizza and ice cream. So I was excited to finally get over there this week, and it completely lived up to my expectations.

photo of Picco, Boston, Massachusetts Picco is a funky-looking spot located on the ground floor of the luxurious Atelier 505 Building near the intersection of Tremont Street and Berkeley Street. The restaurant is a bit on the small side, but outdoor sidewalk seating in the summer months boosts the capacity of the place. The interior of Picco is very appealing, with a bar/soda fountain area to the right (complete with hanging lights and a big wall mirror) and tables with bright red chairs to the left. When we were there, jazz music was playing through the speakers, adding to the quirky, almost Bohemian vibe of the restaurant.

We started out with a fresh-tasting Caesar salad and a terrific pureed carrot and red pepper soup, as well as a couple of beers from Colorado (a hoppy and slightly harsh-tasting Dale's Pale Ale and a smooth, coffee-tinged Left Hand Milk Stout). Then the pizza came, and what a pizza it was; served in a pizza dish on top of a metal can, this pie was positively dreamy, with a slightly charred bottom (it was cooked in an incredibly hot brick oven), a rich-tasting but airy crust, a zesty and chunky tomato sauce, and thin slices of cheese that bring back memories of the best New York pizzerias. The large pepperoni pizza was plenty big enough for two, and while just a tad expensive at $21, it was certainly worth the price. I was pretty full by the time we finished the pizza, but I just had to try the homemade ice cream at Picco, so I ordered a single scoop of the malt chip which was sweet and rich, but not overly so. Our server then brought us a decent but slightly burnt-tasting coffee and two different types of cookies (gingerbread and meringue), both of which were excellent.

Our night at Picco was easily one of the best overall dining experiences I've had so far in 2009. And while it maybe isn't quite a hidden gem (which is why we aren't sure about featuring it on our site, as much as I'd like to), it is one spot that will become one of the handful of repeat places for me over the coming months. A big thumbs-up for this fantastic little restaurant in the South End of Boston.

For those who want the address for Picco, here it is: Picco Restaurant, 513 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116. The phone number is (617) 927-0066.

Related Blog Entries: Boston restaurants, pizza places, South End restaurants

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
A Quick Note on the Walk for Hunger

Just veering away from the restaurant site for a bit to mention Project Bread's Walk for Hunger, which took place this past Sunday in Boston and other communities. It sounds like this year's walk was a big success which is saying a lot because of the rather shaky economy we are in right now. About 44,000 folks did the walk, raising somewhere around $4 million. I was one of the walkers (this was my 9th walk) and I can tell you firsthand that the weather couldn't have been better for walking 20 miles; it was cloudy (but no rain) with temperatures around 60 degrees, and very little wind. Remembering some of the elements I've had to deal with in the past (90-degree temperatures, rain, high winds), this was indeed a relatively simple walk.

Even though the Walk for Hunger is over, there is plenty that can still be done to help people out via Project Bread. Please check out the links below.

For information on the prevention of hunger:
Ending Hunger

For community-based information:
In Your Community

For donating:
Donate and Shop

For corporate involvement:
Corporate Giving Opportunities

In addition to the categories above, Project Bread has much more information on their site on a variety of topics and issues; they can all be accessed at http://www.projectbread.org.

Congratulations to all those who walked, and let's hope for equally good weather next year!

Friday, May 1, 2009
Reminder About Our Questions and Answers Section

As many of you know, the Boston's Hidden restaurants site has a rapidly growing feature on questions and answers about Boston and New England restaurants. This special section of the site replaced the Boston Restaurant Forum awhile back, and is much more user-friendly than the forum, as no registration is needed for it (please note that postings are moderated, however, which means that it typically takes up to 24 hours to see them on our site).

The questions and answers section has four topic areas which are listed below:

Hidden Boston and New England Restaurant Questions
Boston Restaurant Questions: General Topics
New England Restaurant Questions: General Topics
Restaurant Questions: Miscellaneous Topics

This feature should continue to grow over the coming months as a lot of people are coming to it through our Twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/hiddenboston. Feel free to post questions (or reply to existing ones). Thanks very much!