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Boston Restaurant Blog -- July, 2012

Below are blog entries from July, 2012. 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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July, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012
Dinner and Drinks at Doyle's Pub and Grill in Brockton

I've been hearing some good things about the food at a place in Brockton called Doyle's Pub and Grill, so I gave it a try earlier this week. There were certainly some highs and lows during my visit there, but overall, it seems like a spot that is worth going to, as long as you know what to order.

photo of Doyle's Pub and Grill, Brockton, Massachusetts From the outside, it is difficult to tell whether Doyle's Pub and Grill is a takeout place, a restaurant, or a dive bar. It is probably a bit closer to the latter, with a dark front room dominated by a wraparound bar along with a few booths, a small and slightly tired-looking back room that serves as a dining area, and an outdoor deck further back that has a surprisingly private feel thanks to the relatively high walls that fence it in. This place is not related to Doyle's in Jamaica Plain, by the way; word is, it may have been connected to Doyle's Bar and Grill in Easton, though I believe this may no longer be the case.

It was a nice evening weather-wise when we went to Doyle's, so we sat out on the back deck and had it mostly to ourselves (at one point we were the only ones out there). Our server took our drink order (a round of Blue Moon beer) and put in an order for a couple of appetizers. The chili was just ok, with the tomato base being a little watery with a slightly harsh acid taste, while the potato puffs were crunchy, not greasy at all, and quite tasty (as tater tots tend to be). Our meals came out before we finished the apps, with the lobster roll being outstanding and the steak and cheese calzone being a disappointment. The former was overstuffed with tender lobster meat and had just a touch of mayo, while the latter was, to put it bluntly, a greasy mess that could not be finished. While we were eating our meals, our server brought over our next round of beers and got one of the orders wrong (another Blue Moon instead of a Guinness), but this was a minor issue and she was great for most of our meal, being friendly and funny throughout. Prices were fine for the most part and the atmosphere was really quite interesting, with the clientele ranging from young couples to construction workers to barfly types to roughnecks to office workers, to name a few.

Though our experience at the place was certainly mixed, I do plan to return to Doyle's in Brockton again, this time ordering what others have said are their best dishes--the burgers, steak tips, and wings--while avoiding the calzones, chili, and pizza (which I heard is just ok). And hopefully when I return the weather will be good once again, as their back patio really is a nice place to spend some time.

If you want the address for Doyle's Pub and Grill, here it is: Doyle's Pub and Grill, 327 North Pearl Street, Brockton, MA 02301. The phone number is (508) 588-3450.

Related Blog Entries: Brockton restaurants

Thursday, July 26, 2012
July 2012 Trip to Vermont

I recently took a trip up to Vermont to return to the Vermont Cheesemakers' Festival in Shelburne, and went to several restaurants along the way, including mostly "repeat" spots as well as a couple of new places that replaced dining spots that I had been to in the past. A few places that I returned to included Eaton Sugarhouse in Royalton (a classic roadside spot that seems to be frequented by farmers), Foxfire Inn in Stowe (a cozy Italian spot north of town that greatly impressed once again), 158 Main in Jeffersonville (an excellent farm-to-table restaurant that has some outstanding breads), and American Flatbread in Waitsfield (one of my personal favorites in all of New England, with an outdoor dining experience that is unforgettable). And now, on to the new spots that took over now-closed places....

photo of Crop Bistro and Brewery, Stowe, VT a few weeks before my trip to Vermont, I learned (much to my dismay) that The Shed in Stowe had shut down. A new spot did recently move into the space, however, and much like the landmark eating and drinking establishment that it replaced, Crop Bistro and Brewery is a fun and slightly funky restaurant that has some excellent food and drink. We went to Crop for lunch after the cheese fest, and had to wait a bit for an outdoor table, spending some time in the bar area while waiting. Crop didn't have their own beers ready yet, but the ones that they did have were quite impressive, with brew from the Alchemist, Chimay, and Abita being just a few favorites on their list. We chatted with the bartender (who really knew his beers) for awhile before being brought over to our table on the outdoor patio, and we promptly ordered a couple of sandwiches, with the buffalo chicken wrap including a delicious (and not too spicy) marinade and the turkey club including real turkey and a fresh multi-grain bread (the greens on the side tasted like they were just picked, while the pasta salad was slightly greasy but very tasty). Our server was every bit as friendly as the bartender and the host, and the upgraded patio and interior of the restaurant seemed quite a bit nicer than the comfortable though slightly tired atmosphere of The Shed. It is tough to judge a dining spot based on a quick lunch, but our experience at Crop was a positive one from start to finish, cheering me up a bit over the loss of The Shed, which I had been going to for many years.

photo of Family Table, Jeffersonville, VT Another Vermont restaurant that I had been going to for a long time was Jana's Cupboard, a roadside eatery that was a favorite among both truckers and skiers (as well as real outdoorsy types in the summer). Jana's closed a few years ago, becoming a spot called Peggy's Cookin' but that also closed, and now another place called Family Table resides in the space. We tried Family Table for breakfast on our way out and while our meals were about as good as those from the old Jana's Cupboard, the place itself seemed to have lost some of its charm. The old skis and sleds that used to hang on the walls have been taken down, and not a trucker nor an "outdoors" type was in sight. But our server was laid-back and friendly, the eggs, home fries (which were odd little chip-like discs), and waffles were all fine, and the prices were quite reasonable. I'm not sure I would take Family Table over the marvelous 158 Main (which is within walking distance), but it was certainly a decent place to get a quick breakfast.

Another trip is being planned for Vermont fairly soon--either later this summer or early in the fall--so stay tuned for more reviews of dining spots up there, most likely in the central and/or southern part of the state.

Related Blog Entries: Stowe VT restaurants, Vermont restaurants

Friday, July 20, 2012
Five Places to Get Good Steak Tips

photo of steak tips from Cronin's, Quincy, MAIt seems that when people talk about good restaurants and bars to go to for steak tips, the Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea is mentioned more often than not. But what about other places for steak tips? Well, there are a number of spots in the Boston area that serve up excellent versions of this dish, including a few that rival those of the Newbridge. So which restaurants and bars other than the Newbridge Cafe have steak tips that are well worth checking out? Below is a list of five such places, in no particular order:

1) Sadie's, Waltham
As is the case with many good places for steak tips, Sadie's is a classic Boston-area dive bar that looks a bit intimidating from the outside. But this spot, which is located just west of Moody Street (Waltham's "restaurant row"), is frequented by everyone from families to couples to nearby workers, and it features outstanding steak tips with a basic or teriyaki marinade. A final note: Their pork tips may be even better than their steak tips.

2) Cronin's, Quincy
When a place's website address is steaktips.com, you know there's a pretty good chance that their tips are going to be all right. And this is certainly the case with Cronin's Publick House in Quincy, a neighborhood spot near the old shipyard that has a number of excellent food options. The steak tips here are particularly tender and come with a zingy marinade that comes close in quality to that of the Newbridge.

3) Salem Wood Cafe, Malden
More than a few people have said that if anyone equals the Newbridge Cafe in quality when it comes to steak tips, it would be this little Italian-American joint a short distance east of downtown Malden. Their marinade tastes a lot like that of the Newbridge, possibly making one yearn to do a quick "taste-test," eating the tips here and then driving a few minutes east to its competitor in nearby Chelsea.

4) East Side Bar and Grille, Cambridge
Not quite as dive-y as the first three places listed here, the East Side Bar and Grille is more of an old-school family restaurant that focuses on Italian food. And while their menu includes many excellent options (including their wonderful pizza and delicious eggplant rollatini), it is tough to pass on the steak tips here, which are house-butchered and feature a zesty sauce that has a bit of a bite to it.

5) Conrad's, Norwood
Often considered the Newbridge Cafe of the southwestern suburbs of Boston, Conrad's is a spacious, comfortable spot that attracts everyone from families and retirees to group of folks who want to catch some games on TV. And it seems that many, if not most people who come to this bustling Norwood Center eating and drinking establishment order the steak tips, which have a full, robust flavor with a nice bit of smokiness to them.

There are a number of other places that we could have added to this list (including Conley's in Watertown and Barefoot Bob's in Hull), but think of this list as a "starter" to get you pointed toward some of the better spots in the Boston area to get tips. And as always, if you have any favorite places for steak tips, please let us know!

Related Blog Entries: steak tips

Thursday, July 5, 2012
Weekend Trip to New Hampshire (and Western Maine)

I spent a few days up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire recently, and as was the case last fall on another trip to the region, I was able to try a few restaurants for the first time, along with repeat visits to some dining spots with which I was familiar. All of the meals turned out to be good, though there were definitely some standouts.

Before getting into the first-time visits, I'll briefly mention a few places that I returned to. On the way up to the White Mountains, we stopped once again at the Pizza Barn in Center Ossipee, and as always, the pepperoni pizza was quite delicious, with loads of pepperoni on top and a lot of greasy cheese adding much flavor. (Their Caesar salad was very good as well.) Later that evening, we had dinner at the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, and sat in their back room, which seems to be a three-season porch with peaceful views of the woods and meadows just beyond the restaurant. The artichoke dip and mushroom ravioli were both every bit as impressive as on the previous visit, and the chicken cutlet dish with mushrooms, provolone cheese, and marsala sauce was fantastic, with nicely-seasoned chicken going well with the slightly smoky sauce. Finally, we had breakfast at Yesterdays in Jackson, and while the food was terrific as always, the service was a bit spotty, with no one coming to greet us for a good five minutes--and one of our servers seemed rushed and distracted for much of the time. But the house-made corned beef hash and hearty toast were flawless, while the fluffy eggs and savory home fries were certainly satisfying.

photo of Smokin' Good BBQ, Bethel, ME Our second day in the White Mountains found us heading up north....way up north, getting awfully close to Canada before veering right and heading into Maine. We eventually made it down to Bethel in the early afternoon, stopping at a roadside food truck called Smokin' Good BBQ. The mobile restaurant, which resides in the parking lot of a food store, has a large smoker next to it that comes from Southern Yankee BBQ Smokers in Indiana, and on the day that we arrived, they were using oak in it (they also use apple wood and other types of wood, depending on the time of year, available supplies, etc.) On the day we were there, the weather was pretty steamy, but fortunately a few picnic tables are set up under tall pine trees, so we were able to stay in the shade. Out food turned out to be very good, though not the best I've had in New England, with the brisket, pulled pork, baked beans, cole slaw, and corn bread being decent if not exactly memorable. The brisket was ordered with a "wild" sauce, but it really wasn't all that hot, while the pulled pork was supposed to be North Carolina style, but it had little, if any zing coming from the vinegar-based sauce and tasted perhaps a bit more like Texas BBQ. The baked beans were better, with a rich sweet taste coming from the sauce, while the corn bread was not sweet at all, making it one of the most authentic versions that I've had in New England. The person behind Smokin' Good BBQ was as nice as could be and chatted with us (and others) the whole time that we were there.

photo of White Mountain Cider Co., Glen, NH We returned to the Jackson/Glen area after lunch, spending some time at the Jackson Falls and the Saco River before having dinner at the White Mountain Cider Co. A combination country store/cider mill/restaurant, I had been to the first two in the past, but never to the restaurant itself. And what a restaurant it was, with a rustic and cozy atmosphere, a terrific waitstaff, and the best food that we had during the course of the entire trip. We started with a half order of the house-made chips with garlic aioli, and to say this was an impressive dish would be an understatement. The perfectly-cooked chips gained a big boost in flavor from the aioli, but not a harsh boost by any means, as the garlic had a mellow flavor from being roasted. The half order of the chips, by the way, was huge, making me wonder exactly how many people the full order was geared toward. While waiting for the main course, we sipped some excellent drinks, including a slightly sweet hibiscus daiquiri and a strong but tasty "Shaker Lady," which was a citrus-based drink that included bourbon, fernet, and an ice cube about the size of a hockey puck. Our meals came to us a few minutes after we finished with the chips, and both dishes were absolutely marvelous. The grilled salmon was prepared on a bed of cous cous and also came with corn, bacon, and an earthy pesto that greatly added to the flavor of the fish. And every bit as good as the salmon, the freshly-made gnocchi came with creamy goat cheese, a complex-tasting ratatouille, and a North African chermoula sauce that was both smoky and spicy. We had just a bit room for dessert, trying a black and white cake with double chocolate ganache and some berries. Even though it had ganache in it, the dessert was almost delicate and not overly filling, which was good because we probably would not have been able to finish it otherwise. Prices weren't exactly cheap at the White Mountain Cider Co., but the quality of the food certainly made paying the extra few dollars worth it.

photo of Peach's, North Conway, NH Our last day in New Hampshire began at a North Conway restaurant that I must have driven past more than 100 times over the years, but had never been to before. The breakfast and lunch spot, called Peach's, resides in what looks to be a home (or what used to be a home) just south of the center of town, with a steep wooded ravine behind it. The dining spot includes several seating areas, including an outdoor patio out front and an enclosed porch in the back that overlooks the ravine. We were seated in this back room and perused the menu, also running out front for a moment to take a peek at the specials. While it was difficult to choose from the traditional (and not-so-traditional) breakfast plates, we finally decided on the quiche lorraine and the chocolate-stuffed French toast. The French toast was about as decadent as you would expect, with creamy chocolate, sweet-tasting raspberries, and real maple syrup making for a tasty and yes, filling, treat. The quiche lorraine had a wonderfully smoky and nutty taste coming from the bacon and cheese, and it was a bit heavy on the onions, but not terribly so. One little quibble was the coffee, which seemed harsh to the point of being not too far off from your basic gas station variety, but perhaps it was just a bad batch the day that we were there. Service was friendly and prices were definitely reasonable.

The obvious highlights from our trip to New Hampshire (and briefly Maine) were the atmosphere at the Thompson House Eatery, the food and atmosphere at the White Mountain Cider Co. and yes, the pizza at the Pizza Barn. But Peach's was also a very nice spot, and one that may be my go-to place for breakfast if service at Yesterdays continues to be inconsistent. No more trips are planned to the White Mountains for the foreseeable future, but I'd like to get back sometime this winter; if I do, expect reviews of some more restaurants in the region.

Related Blog Entries: New Hampshire restaurants

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Ten Classic American Dishes from Boston-Area and New England Restaurants

photo of franks and beans from Al Mac's Diner, Fall River, MAJuly 4 is tomorrow, and with it, folks will be picnicking, dining out, grilling, etc., with the emphasis for many being on classic "American" dishes. Many specific food items seem to be particularly big on the 4th, including burgers, fried chicken, potato salad, and strawberry shortcake to name a few, and we have decided to take a handful of such dishes--along with other classic American foods--to create a kind of "classic American" food slideshow based on ten items from restaurants around the Boston area and elsewhere in New England.

Click the link below to get to this latest slideshow, which includes dishes at dining spots from South Boston all the way to Southern Vermont. Have a happy 4th of July, all!

Slideshow for Ten Classic American Dishes

Related Blog Entries: slideshows