Below are blog entries from July, 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.)
Monday, July 28, 2008
Review Some Restaurants for Us!
As many of you know, Boston's Hidden Restaurants not only has hundreds of unique and little-known dining spots featured on the site, but also has a number of interesting looking restaurants throughout the New England area that we have not been able to review yet (though we are slowly working our way through some of these!). We have added a form at the bottom of each unevaluated restaurant page, allowing our readers to give their own reviews of these dining spots. And now we are starting to incorporate a rating system to each page so our readers can rate the restaurants from 1 to 5 stars. Bear with us while this addition is being made, but in the meantime, here are a couple of restaurant pages that have this update:
-- The Barn Restaurant (Pawlet, VT)
-- Autentica (South Hadley, MA)
We have also added a number of new restaurants to this section over the past couple of months. Here are two dining spots that we have recently included:
-- Peg's Diner (Whitinsville, MA)
-- Crossroads Restaurant (Warren, RI)
Please remember that we will not include reviews that have bad language or seem like personal attacks on restaurants. Also, if you own or manage one of the restaurants in this section, please refrain from reviewing your own restaurant (thanks!). Below is a link to the main page of this unevaluated restaurants section. We look forward to reading your reviews!
Unreviewed Boston and New England Restaurants
Related Blog Entries: New England restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on July 28, 2008.
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Saturday, July 19, 2008
Trip to Chapel Hill and Asheville, NC
This month, I finally made it back to North Carolina for the first time in more than 15 years. And while my first trip was more of a "roughing it" journey with few restaurants along the way (paying off college loans was more important than dining out back then), this trip was an exciting mix of sightseeing, relaxing and, yes, dining out.
We flew into the Raleigh-Durham Airport on Saturday morning and headed directly to Chapel Hill where we had breakfast at a Chapel Hill institution called the Carolina Coffee Shop. Considered the oldest original restaurant in Chapel Hill, the Carolina Coffee Shop has loads of character with its dark wooden walls and booths, exposed brick, and blue and white tiled floor, as well as some interesting art pieces on the walls. The food and service, however, did not quite match the atmosphere; the smoked salmon plate was tasty enough and the country ham was better than I've had up north, but the hash browns were bland and the iced tea didn't match some of the sweet tea I would have later in the trip. Our server was mostly efficient, but she rarely smiled and seemed a bit distant at times. The atmosphere was indeed tough to beat, though, which helped make this a decent overall introduction to North Carolina.
After breakfast, we headed over to Raleigh to meet up with some folks, spending the afternoon in a particularly quiet and serene part of the city. We eventually headed back to Chapel Hill and stopped for dinner at a place called the Carolina Brewery. It was a pleasant night, so we opted to dine outdoors along the sidewalk area, enjoying the interesting people-watching along Chapel Hill's main drag. We started off with a nice artichoke and beer cheese rarebit, the moved on to some pub grub that was quite good, including beer-braised hot dogs with beans and a char-broiled mushroom swiss burger. But the star of the night was the microbrewed beer itself; the Alter Ego Altbier was a tremendously flavorful fruity brown ale, while the West End Wheat had a light, sweet, and slightly spicy taste to it that was truly something special.
On Sunday morning, we left Chapel Hill, having an excellent breakfast buffet at the Siena Hotel before heading west. Originally, I had been hoping to hit one of the many BBQ joints between Chapel Hill and Asheville, but the ones I really wanted to get to were closed on Sundays, so we continued on, driving nearly to Asheville before stopping at a restaurant in a small shopping center in the scenic little town of Black Mountain. I hadn't been expecting to have lunch at an upscale bistro, but as it turns out, the food at Que Sera was about as good as we had on the entire trip. After debating whether to sit outside (and deciding against it, with black clouds moving toward the area), we grabbed a table in one of the two rooms that made up this rather spartan but attractive dining spot. I started with a glass of sweet tea (perhaps the best I had on the entire trip), then we quickly received our main dishes--country ham and eggs with red-eye gravy and bralant potatoes, and banana french toast with fruit salad. The country ham was extremely salty but perfectly cooked, with the pieces of ham having an extraordinary amount of flavor. The banana french toast was also delicious, with the sweet flavor from the bananas blending nicely with the maple syrup. Our server was friendly, funny, and, well, a bit goofy at times, but she was always there when we needed something, and displayed that terrific Southern hospitality that I so often hear about.
After lunch, we arrived in Asheville and checked in to the place we were staying, then explored the city for a few hours. I had been in Asheville years ago, but never got to see much of it, so it was mostly new to me. Dinnertime soon came around, and we walked over to a place called Salsa's, a bright and colorful restaurant with a rather uninspiring name, but with anything but uninspiring food. This tiny dining spot features Mexican and Caribbean cuisine, with a few dishes I had never seen before in Boston. We opted for some items that were a bit more on the familiar side, starting with a couple of rich and hearty fried papusas, then moving on to a Jamaican jerk enchilada that included what seemed like a hundred different ingredients, and a pork empanada that had some wonderfully flavored meat (and a lot of it). The food was delicious, though some of it was so rich that it was admittedly a bit tough on our stomachs. Service was downright comical, as our waiter was exceedingly mellow, and seemed to like the word "bummer." The clientele was equally quirky, with more of a funky San Francisco feel than a Southern feel. Stomach issues aside, I liked Salsa's a lot, and would love to have a place like it in the Boston area.
On Monday, we checked out a few of the sites around Asheville including Biltmore Village and the old Woolworth building (which is now a place where artists can display their works) before stopping at the Jerusalem Garden Cafe for a quick lunch. It was another nice day, so we decided to eat outside, though I did get a quick glimpse at the inside and was impressed by the exotic atmosphere. We had a rather light lunch at the Jerusalem Garden Cafe, ordering a falafel sandwich with hummus and a pickle in pita bread along with a side of fries, and a veggie combo plate that included hummus, grape leaves, and falafel. The falafel was meaty and full of flavor from the chickpeas mixed in, while the fries had a nice mix of sea salt and black pepper on them. The hummus was smooth, creamy, and delicious, though the grape leaves were just average. The sweet tea that I ordered was good, though not quite up to the level of Que Sera the day before. Prices were cheap and our waitress was very professional. I would have liked to have gone back to this restaurant to try some of their substantial meals, as our lunch was very good, but perhaps I can get back there the next time I'm in Asheville.
After lunch, we continued to tour the Asheville area, spending a good amount of time at the Grove Park Inn as well as the grounds of the place we were staying. Then it was back to the center of Asheville, where we had a rather unusual but very memorable dining experience at the Flying Frog Cafe, an Indian and German restaurant that was as quirky as Asheville itself. The restaurant has an outdoor dining area that seemed popular with young couples and groups, but once inside, we were led downstairs into a completely different type of space; a sultry, exotic room that had a number of tables hidden behind white curtains. With the soothing sounds of classical music in the background, we proceeded to start with some Highland Oatmeal Porter and an unusual variety of foods, including a rich and hearty mushroom soup with venison stock, an excellent ceviche with red grouper, and fresh sourdough bread with a spicy oil dip. For our entrees, we tried an Indian dish (chicken saag) and a German dish (schnitzel plate). The saag was nothing like what I've had in the Boston area, as the chicken was sliced into large pieces rather than cut up, and the sauce was tomato-based (much like chicken tikka masala) with relatively little spinach. It was very good, however, as was the schnitzel plate, which included four cuts of chicken and veal, all of which were about as good as I've tried in the Boston area. Service was fine (though our waiter was rather quiet and reserved) and prices were not too bad. The downstairs was nearly empty from start to finish, but perhaps this is because it was such a nice evening and most folks were dining outside. This was perhaps our "nicest" meal out, as the place was classy and slightly upscale, and the food was prepared and presented well.
Our lunch the next day couldn't have been more different from our experience at the Flying Frog Cafe. After spending the morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we drove down Route 215 and soon entered Waynesville, a community that is about a half hour west of Asheville and has done a nice job of renovating its downtown area. We had lunch just outside of the center of Waynesville at a place called Fat Buddies Ribs and BBQ. I was looking forward to having my first true barbecue in North Carolina, but unfortunately, Fat Buddies didn't quite deliver. The black-eyed pea stew was very satisfying, with a buttery, rich taste, but the pulled pork sandwich didn't taste all that fresh and the sauce seemed a bit plain. The turkey sandwich was also rather average, and the fries were nothing special. Our waiter was personable and friendly, however, and he checked back with us several times to make sure everything was ok. And the atmosphere....well, it was quite a stunner for a lifelong New England such as me. The hanging lights were made from car rims, the walls were adorned with all kinds of NASCAR-related items, and some of the servers were wearing camouflage caps. This was not the best dining experience I had on the trip, but it was surely an interesting one, and I am kind of glad we went, at the very least to get a feel for the less-touristy areas west of Asheville.
We spent our last afternoon in North Carolina traveling through some of the more rural areas west of Asheville, then drove back to Black Mountain to see that charming little town one more time. Then it was back to the inn, and down into the northern part of Asheville where we had dinner at the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, a place I had heard much about over the past several weeks. This unusual dining spot, which has the feel of a garage or a warehouse inside, features pizza, microbrewed beers, and movies. And while we did not catch a movie on the night we went, we did enjoy some decent pizza and excellent beer. As we enjoyed the artwork on the walls and our table (our area had a distinct Star Wars theme to it), we munched on a rather basic Greek salad and a pizza that had a slightly undercooked crust, but both were tasty enough, and the Rocket 77 (a mild lager) and Houdini ESP (an aromatic pale ale) beers were outstanding. Our waiter was pretty goofy (we had a lot of that on this trip for some reason) but he was very nice, and the prices were downright cheap, with the total bill coming to about $25. The Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company is certainly another place I'd love to come back to (especially to see a movie), so it will likely be on my short list of places to go the next time I am in Asheville.
Between the charming and hospitable people, the incredible scenery, and the terrific lodging and dining experiences, my trip to North Carolina was one that I won't soon forget. I would like to give a special thanks to the folks who run the Crooked Oak Mountain Inn in Asheville for introducing me to one of the best places I have ever stayed at in this country. I will surely be back to the area, and will undoubtedly be staying at the Crooked Oak once again. And hopefully I will discover a few more good dining spots in the area, this time perhaps leaning a bit more toward classic BBQ joints. Can't wait to get back!
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on July 19, 2008.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008
Outdoor Dining at Khushboo in Lexington
The past few weeks have been extremely humid in the Boston area, so there have been relative few days to dine outdoors comfortably. We did manage to find one of those rare days a couple of weeks ago, however, and took advantage of it by going to Khushboo in the center of Lexington.
Khushboo is an Indian restaurant that resides in the space that Bel Canto used to be in years ago. Bel Canto was one of my favorite restaurants, not only for their excellent deep-dish pizzas, but also for their 2nd-floor patio that overlooked Lexington. The restaurant is gone, but the patio remains, though it looks a bit worse for wear these days, as I discovered when we grabbed an outdoor table the other night. The interior of Khushboo looked a bit tired as well, with its overall feel being less inviting than other Indian restaurants I have been to in the Boston area. But the food was very good; we started with the delicious Punjabi tikki (fried potato patties with carrots and radish) for an appetizer then moved on to the entrees, with the chicken dosa having an excellent mix of flavors (and being about the size of a small baseball bat) and the chicken dilrooba having a truly exotic taste, with a fine mix of mushrooms, herbs, and spices.
Service was a bit of a mix, as one of our waiters was cheerful and friendly, while the other was the complete opposite (it seemed like he was having a very bad day). They occasionally went missing here and there, but were mostly efficient. Prices were pretty reasonable, though perhaps just a touch higher than I'm used to paying for Indian food (but this is Lexington, where everything indeed seems a bit more costly). And even though the patio has seen its better days, it was great sitting outside above street level and taking in the mild breezes as we ate.
I can't say that Khushboo is my favorite Indian restaurant in the area (that might go to Kashish in nearby Belmont), but it really wasn't bad at all, and is certainly a good option for outdoor dining on a warm summer night.
Related Blog Entries: Indian restaurants, Lexington restaurants, outdoor dining
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on July 10, 2008.
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Thursday, July 3, 2008
Early Summer Food Trip South of Boston
Last weekend, a friend of mine and I went on a last-minute food trip, this time going south of Boston. We went to two places that I have been to before, and two places that neither of us had been to. And by the end of the trip, we were extremely full but very happy, since each of the four places offered some good eats.
Our first stop was at Emma's Pub and Pizza in West Bridgewater. I had been to Emma's a couple of times over the winter and fell in love with their bar pizza. And once again, the individual-sized pizzas were fantastic, with the cheese and sauce extending all the way to the edge of the slightly chalky crust, with lots of oil adding to the goodness of the pie. We also happened to hit it right, as the small cheese pizzas at Emma's were only 99 cents on the day we went. So our two pizzas and two drinks came to a grand total of $6.00, more or less. Not a bad start to the day, indeed.
From Emma's, we traveled north one exit and got off at Route 106 to head over to Montreal French Fries. This, in my opinion, was the highlight of the trip, and is one of those places that truly makes me love what I do on this site. The place is like no other in the Boston area; a poutine stand along the side of the road that looks like a cross between a clam shack and a used car dealership. We ordered a few items at the counter and grabbed one of their metal tables, taking in all the hockey paraphernalia on the walls. The poutine was excellent, with cheddar cheese curds sitting atop tasty fries and all mixed together with dark gravy. The cheese curd tasted just a bit like feta cheese, being a bit milder than I had expected. I also ordered a corn dog and a basic grilled hot dog, with the corn dog being a bit greasy and the grilled hot dog being very good, with the bun pressed in a panini maker just before being served. I will certainly be back to this friendly little roadside spot, perhaps next time ordering the burger with Montreal spice.
After leaving Montreal French Fries, we traveled through Brockton, almost stopping at Cape Cod Pizza, but opting instead for a completely unknown roadside joint near the Stoughton border called Frank's Restaurant. Frank's was basically a dark, rather gloomy place with no personality whatsoever (and its location next to a strip joint make it even more depressing), but they sure had some good hot dogs there. The dogs reminded me a bit of those at Simco's in Mattapan, as they were nearly a foot long, grilled to perfection with plenty of grease on them, and placed in regular-sized grilled buns, making much of dogs stick out beyond the ends of the buns. The folks behind the counter seemed like they had been doing this forever, and the place just felt like a serious (albeit no-frills) place for comfort food. I did notice as we were leaving that the chicken baskets and burgers looked very nice, but we had one more place to stop at, so we left and were soon on the road once again.
We drove through Brockton, Avon, Randolph, and Braintree on our way to our final destination, soon entering Quincy where we stopped at Grumpy White's in Quincy. My friend had never been to Grumpy's and had heard a lot about their boneless fried chicken, so we both ended up getting fried chicken sandwiches. The chicken, of course, was just like that which is in their boneless fried chicken plate (which is to say they are really good), and though we were nearly full by this point, the sandwiches were gone in a flash.
As we left Grumpy White's and called it a day, I knew that this would not be my last time at Grumpy's, or for that matter, at any of these places. All in all, it was a very satisfying day.
Related Blog Entries: Brockton restaurants, hot dogs, road trips
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on July 3, 2008.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Seafood at Schooner's Restaurant, Hull
There is a restaurant at Nantasket Beach in Hull that I have probably driven by hundreds of times, but have never thought of going to. Perhaps it is the slightly tacky, whitewashed storefront that made me believe it might be a rough place, or maybe it is the fact that there are so many other restaurants to go to in both Hull and Hingham. Whatever the reason, it took a long time for me to get to Schooner's Restaurant, and after going there a couple of weeks ago, I can say that it's not a bad place, in my opinion, but I'm not entirely sure it is worth heading back to in the immediate future.
We were a bit surprised upon stepping into Schooner's that the place is more family-friendly than anything else, with not a hint of trouble to the place. (Again, first impressions don't always ring true.) The servers were friendly and talkative, and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be having a good time. There were a number of items on the menu that piqued our interest, and we finally settled on one of the specials (baked barramundi over rice pilaf) and one of the regular dishes on the menu (seafood stew). The barramundi was a mild whitefish that had a nice taste, though a fairly large part of it was so tough that it was nearly impossible to cut into. Still, it was a nice dish, and I enjoyed trying a fish that I had never had before. The seafood stew was not as good, as it was stuffed full of overcooked pasta and a limp, overcooked vegetable that may have been leeks, though it was very difficult to tell. The shellfish in the stew was tasty, but not enough to save this dish.
All in all, I thought that Schooner's was kind of a neat little place; an old-school family-friendly seafood restaurant in one of the last stretches of honky-tonk left in Hull. But our meals were ultimately underwhelming, and while I'm willing to give the place another chance, it will be very tough to drive past the Hingham Lobster Pound or Jake's Seafood Restaurant on the way down there.
If you would like the address for Schooner's, here it is: Schooner's Restaurant, 157 Nantasket Avenue, Hull, MA, 02045. Phone: (781) 925-5200.
Related Blog Entries: Hull restaurants, seafood restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on July 1, 2008.
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