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Boston Restaurant Blog -- February, 2006

Below are blog entries from February, 2006. 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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Thursday, February 23, 2006
Another Trip to New York City (and More Manhattan Restaurants to Try)

I will be taking another trip down to Manhattan in a few days, and I can't wait to try some more restaurants in the Big Apple. New York City has countless restaurants, so it is tough to narrow down the choices, but I have a few that I would really like to try. Some of them include Barney Greengrass, a deli on the Upper West Side; Pongsri Thai, an outstanding Thai restaurant in the Theatre District; and Lil' Frankie's, a classic New York pizza joint in the East Village.

Not sure I'll get to any of these restaurants while I'm in New York, but no matter what, I'm sure I'll be eating well while I'm down there! By the way, if anyone knows of any great Italian restaurants in Manhattan that feature fresh pasta and are reasonably priced, send an email through our Contact Us page; I'd love to hear about them.

Related Blog Entries: Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants

Sunday, February 19, 2006
Good Food, Great Beer at the British Beer Company, Pembroke, MA

We headed down to the pleasant town of Pembroke on the South Shore last night, and ended up having a good meal at the British Beer Company, which is on Route 53 just over the line from Hanover. This place was jammed, and for good reason; the British Beer Company is a comfortable, family-friendly place that is also VERY friendly to beer lovers like myself. Fuller's ESB, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Boddington Ale, I could go on and on; the British Beer Company definitely has an impressive variety of beers.

The food at the British Beer Company is decent overall. They serve traditional British pasty pies, which are filling entrees that have beef, turkey, or chicken wrapped in dough. I ordered the pasty with ground beef, and though it was good, combined with the dark beers I had, I probably gained 10 pounds at the restaurant.

Aside from the beer at the British Beer Company, another thing that stood out was the low-key, cozy, attractive atmosphere. The place really does look like a British restaurant and pub, with old-fashioned lights, lots of wood, and a fireplace in the back. On that alone, I will go back, as nothing beats a good beer or two in a place that makes you want to stay awhile.

Here is the address for the British Beer Company in Pembroke: British Beer Company, 15 Columbia Road, Pembroke, MA 02359; the phone number is (781) 829-6999. There are also several other British Beer Company locations; one each in Hyannis, Falmouth, and Sandwich, and two in Plymouth, with more likely on the way.

Related Blog Entries: British restaurants

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Going Old School at Mike's Restaurant in Somerville

Went to the ever-reliable Mike's Restaurant in Davis Square before heading to the Somerville Theatre to see the incredible movie "Walk the Line," which was about the towering music figures Johnny Cash and June Carter. We had little time before the movie started, so we went to the old standby, Mike's Restaurant.

photo of Mike's Restaurant, Somerville, MA Mike's, a humble, old-fashioned Italian eatery in the heart of Davis Square, is about as far from gourmet as you can get, but it is a step above the sub shops in the area. You order at the counter and wait for your meal, much like a sub shop, but Mike's has a huge menu, including pizza, subs, pasta dishes, and chicken dinners. The meatball sub I got was good, filling, and very inexpensive. And we had enough time to get to the Somerville Theatre before the movie started. Sure, Mike's has its detractors, but I've always loved the place, and my friends who live in the neighborhood depend on it for quick, cheap food when they want to avoid the standard sub shops.

Here is the address for Mike's Restaurant in Somerville: Mike's Restaurant, 9 Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144; the phone number is (617) 628-2379

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, Somerville restaurants

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
New Page on Irish Pubs in the Boston Area

Just another note that our new Boston Irish Pubs page is up and running, just in time for you to make plans for St. Patrick's Day. Many of the Irish pubs on this page are not as well known as places like The Burren in Somerville and The Black Rose in Boston, which tend to get packed on St. Patrick's Day.

I tried to have as many traditional Irish pubs included as possible, since, to me, these are the really special, memorable places. And having gotten back from Ireland recently, where the pubs in places such as Galway and Doolin are some of the best in the world, I figured that classic Irish pubs in the Boston area such as James's Gate in Jamaica Plain and Kitty O'Shea's in downtown Boston deserve to be included here.

Contact us if you have any more Irish pubs that you think are worth mentioning. Thanks!

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A Quiet Valentine's Day Dinner at Assaggio in the North End of Boston

We went to Assaggio in the North End of Boston last night for Valentine's Day. And while it wasn't the best Italian restaurant I have been to in the North End, it may have been one of the nicest as far as atmosphere, especially for Valentine's Day.

We sat downstairs at Assaggio, which is quieter and more cozy than the upstairs area. Grapes hung from the ceiling, Frank Sinatra played in the background, and an oil lamp was on each table, making for a nice, intimate scene for all the couples having Valentine's Day dinners in this little-known dining spot. Our meals were very good; the penne with vodka marinara sauce was tasty, as was the chicken with prosciutto and eggplant. But it was really the atmosphere that made Assaggio so special.

As much as I liked Assaggio, I think I may have been spoiled by the meal we had the previous night, also in the North End, at an outstanding Italian restaurant on Salem Street called Rabia's. In fact, I believe that Rabia's was good enough to become our next featured restaurant on this site. Stay tuned...

For those who want the address for Assaggio in the North End of Boston, here it is: Assaggio, 29 Prince Street, Boston, MA 02113; the phone number is (617) 227-7380

Related Blog Entries: Boston restaurants, Italian restaurants, North End restaurants, romantic restaurants

Friday, February 10, 2006
Excellent Pizza at The Upper Crust, Lexington, MA

I had a few slices of pizza from The Upper Crust in Lexington last night. This was the first time I have tried their pizza, as I have never gotten a chance to go to the other Upper Crust locations in Boston and Brookline. I wish I had, since they definitely make delicious pizza. The bottom of the crust is dry, while the crust itself is crunchy. The sauce is chunky, while the cheese is tangy and fresh.

Overall, I would put the pizza at the Upper Crust in the upper echelon of Boston pizza places, though I still prefer Santarpio's in East Boston and Pizzeria Regina in the North End of Boston. I guess it's about at the level of Emma's in the Kendall Square section of Cambridge, in my opinion. I'm glad The Upper Crust is now in Lexington, since that area is lacking good pizza places.

For those of you looking for the address for The Upper Crust in Lexington, here it is: The Upper Crust, 41 Waltham Street, Lexington, MA 02420; the phone number is (781) 274-0089

Related Blog Entries: Lexington restaurants, pizza places

Thursday, February 9, 2006
Restaurant Owners: Boston and New England Restaurant Menu Links Needed

A quick note to those who own or manage restaurants in Boston or other parts of New England: We are getting ready to create a simple, easy-to-use menu links page on our site, and we are looking to add links to menus that are either on restaurant Web sites, or in PDF format.

If you would like a link to your menu on our site, please contact us (use the link at the bottom of this page) and we will try to add it to the upcoming menus page. Thanks!

Related Blog Entries: restaurant menus

Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Orinoco: A Great Venezuelan Restaurant in the South End of Boston

I went to Orinoco, a Venezuelan restaurant on Shawmut Avenue in the South End of Boston last night. The food was incredible. Everything we had, from the domino arepa (tortilla with beans and white cheese) appetizer to the pabellon criollo (shredded beef, black beans, rice, carmelized plantains), and the polvorosa de pollo (chicken in a flaky dough with mixed greens), was fresh and delicious.

One thing about Orinoco that I did not like, however, was that the tables in the main area are packed in too tightly. If you want a quiet, intimate dinner, this may not be the place for you, unless you can get one of the window seats. Also, the service at Orinoco was sluggish last night, but hopefully this was just an off-night for them.

I definitely plan on going back to Orinoco to try some more of their Venezuelan entrees. The place is attractive, and its location on a charming South End street corner makes it almost feel like the West Village of Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights, NY. All in all, Orinoco was a satisfying experience.

For those who want the address for Orinoco, here it is: Orinocoo, 477 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118; the phone number is (617) 369-7075

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Restaurants That Have Closed in the Past Year

The restaurant business is very fickle and ever-changing in Boston (as well as any other city in the United States). Restaurants open and close all the time, and some of the restaurants that close are very good. Over the past year, a number of good restaurants in the Boston area have either shut down or changed hands. Some of these restaurants include:

B and D Deli, Brookline
Bangkok Cuisine, Boston (near Symphony Hall) Buteco, Boston (the Fens)
Carambola, Waltham
Claremont Cafe, Boston (South End)
Fasika, Jamaica Plain
Hu Tieu Nam Vang, Boston (Chinatown)
One Mill Street, Lawrence
Pho Lemon, Cambridge (Kendall Square)
Picante Mexican Grill, Somerville (Davis Square)
Pinang, Boston (Quincy Market)
Rama Thai, Arlington Heights
Saigon, Allston
Trattoria Scalinatella, Boston (North End)

There are many more Boston-area restaurants that have closed in 2005 and the first month in 2006, but, as you can see, there are a lot of good restaurants that have closed over the past year. Perhaps the ones I miss most are Hu Tieu Nam Vang and Buteco, though I do hear rumors that Hu Tieu Nam Vang may re-open in Dorchester.

Related Blog Entries: closed Boston restaurants

Sunday, February 5, 2006
Sicilian Pizza from La Cascia's Bakery, Medford, MA

Got some Sicilian pizza today at La Cascia's Bakery in South Medford. La Cascia's is a throwback of a place--an old Italian market, deli, and takeout place in a neighborhood that is as old-fashioned as they get.

I like going to La Cascia's on the weekends, especially around lunchtime, as you can get three slices of Sicilian pizza for under $4.00, which makes for a perfect lunch. For those who don't know, Sicilian pizza is cooked in a pan; the slices are square, and thicker than New York style pizza or Neapolitan pizza. And the Sicilian pizza at La Cascia's Bakery rivals the best in the Boston area. I still prefer the pizza at Galleria Umberto, a fantastic pizza place in the North End of Boston, but parking is much easier at La Cascia's, and they are open longer hours.

For those of you who need the address for La Cascia's Bakery, here it is: La Cascia's Bakery, 418 Main Street, Medford, MA 02155; the phone number is (781) 396-5041

Related Blog Entries: bakeries, Medford restaurants, pizza places

Thursday, February 2, 2006
Decent Middle Eastern Food at Aceituna Cafe, Cambridge, MA

We headed over to the Aceituna Cafe, a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant in Kendall Square, Cambridge, last night. The Aceituna just recently started opening for dinner, as it has mainly been just a lunch place for the biotech workers, MIT students, and others who are in the Kendall Square area during the day.

photo of Aceituna Cafe, Cambridge, MA After having dinner at the Aceituna Cafe last night, I'd say that while it is a good cafe, it probably will remain mostly a lunch spot, for several reasons: First, the area is desolate at night, as workers are done for the day and there is nothing to keep people around after dark. Second, the Aceituna is a cafeteria, which is ideal for a quick lunch, but not so ideal for people who want a comfortable, leisurely dinner in a quiet place. And finally, there is the physical location of the restaurant. The Aceituna Cafe is surrounded by biotech buildings, and it cannot be seen from the main roads in Kendall Square. And, aside from a few 30-minute parking spots next to the cafe, there is little parking at night other than a few spaces on dark side roads near the place.

I did like the food at the Aceituna Cafe; the grape leaves, falafel, rice and lentils, hummus, babaghannouge, and chicken shawarma were all good, and the price was right. The grape leaves were probably my favorite dish there, as they were firm, fresh, and not greasy, which grape leaves often are in some places.

The Aceituna Cafe is a good restaurant, and one that I would go back to if I worked in the area. But I'm not comfortable going there at night, mainly because that part of Kendall Square just feels too desolate once the sun goes down. Perhaps with the continuing development of Kendall Square, someday the Aceituna will be in the heart of a thriving neighborhood, but for now, it's basically an appealing restaurant in a not-so-appealing spot.

If you are looking for the address of the Aceituna Cafe, here it is: Aceituna Cafe, 605 West Kendall Street, Cambridge, MA 02142; the phone number is (617) 252-0702

Related Blog Entries: Cambridge restaurants, Middle Eastern restaurants

Wednesday, February 1, 2006
The Wild and Woolly Eagle Brook Saloon, Norfolk, MA

A group of us went to the Eagle Brook Saloon in Norfolk, MA the other day, and let me tell you, it's one unusual restaurant. Tucked away in the woods of Norfolk, about 45 minutes southwest of Boston, the Eagle Brook Saloon looks like a watering hole you might find in the backwoods of Montana. It has a big, wooden front porch, a second floor with private rooms and old wooden railings that you can lean over and see the first floor far below. And it has a local following, many of whom can get a bit on the rowdy side. In other words, I love this place; there is no restaurant in the Boston area that is quite like the Eagle Brook Saloon.

I have been to the Eagle Brook Saloon many times, and am often happy with the quality of the food. If you are looking for gourmet meals and bistro cuisine, look elsewhere; this is a place where you get steak, chops, chicken, or any number of other classic American entrees. My shepherd's pie was very good, and the microbrewed beers were outstanding. Everyone else liked their meals, and when the final bill came out, we were happy with that, too, as prices at the Eagle Brook are reasonable.

As I said, the Eagle Brook Saloon is not for everyone, but if you like an old-fashioned, down-home, unpretentious restaurant, the Eagle Brook Saloon in Norfolk is worth checking out.

For those who want the address of the Eagle Brook Saloon, here it is: Eagle Brook Saloon, 258 Dedham Street (Route 1A), Norfolk, MA 02056; the phone number is (508) 384-7312

Related Blog Entries: American restaurants, Norfolk restaurants