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Boston Restaurant Blog -- February, 2007

Below are blog entries from February, 2007. 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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Saturday, February 24, 2007
Dinner at Costello's Tavern, Jamaica Plain

We went over to Costello's Tavern on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain a few weeks ago (I haven't had time to write about it until now). Costello's may look a little down and dirty from the outside, but it really is a friendly place that serves good food and relatively cheap beer. In some ways, Costello's feels like a cousin to the classic, long-gone Nick's Beef and Beer House, which resided in Cambridge until a few years back, when they closed their doors forever. Indeed, much like Nick's, Costello's has the simple, time-worn bar on the right side, and an area for diners to sit and eat on the left side.

I had heard a lot about the burgers at Costello's, so naturally, that is what I went for. But first, I ordered an appetizer of the chili cheese fries. Upon looking back, I probably could have made a meal out of that dish alone, as it may have been the best dish of its kind I've ever had (and believe me, I've had some good chili cheese fries). The fries were handcut and heavenly, and the cheese and chili added even more flavor to them. I don't know if it is the best thing on the menu at Costello's, but the folks at Costello's would be hard-pressed to come up with a dish better than the chili cheese fries there.

Now to the burger: It was good, but I made the huge mistake of not ordering it medium rare, as their burgers definitely tend to dry out a lot as they are cooked. My burger was tasty, but had little in the way of juices, so I was a bit disappointed. Still, the meat was of high quality and I can only imagine how good it would have been had I ordered it medium rare.

Basically, Costello's seems like a nice, friendly little neighborhood joint that is definitely worth going to, though it is probably not a true destination spot. I definitely want to go back to try a medium rare burger, though, as well as those exquisite chili cheese fries! There really is nothing like them in the Boston area.

Related Blog Entries: Boston bars, hamburgers, Jamaica Plain restaurants

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Several More Connecticut and Manhattan Restaurants

We took another trip to Connecticut and New York City over the past weekend, stopping at several decent restaurants along the way. We headed down from Boston on Saturday, dining at two restaurants that have been featured on Boston's Hidden Restaurants already, so I won't get into too much detail here. But both the Silvermine Tavern (lunch) in Norwalk, CT, and Focacceria (dinner) in Greenwich Village, NY, were simply terrific dining experiences that got the trip off to a good start. After Focacceria, we ambled over to the White Horse Tavern in the West Village for a drink (the White Horse Tavern is a classic literary pub where Dylan Thomas drank 18 shots of whiskey (resulting in his death) in 1953. After the White Horse Tavern, we took a cab to the East Village where we enjoyed some outstanding Belgian ale at an odd little place called Burp Castle (yes, that is the actual name of the place).

photo of George's Restaurant, New York City, NY We were staying in Lower Manhattan for the weekend (at the little-known but outstanding New York Marriott Financial Center on West Street), which gave us the opportunity to try little neighborhood restaurants that have recovered from the September 11 attacks. George's Restaurant, which is at the corner of Rector Street and Greenwich Street, was just one of many businesses affected by 9/11, and actually had to close for three years because the building it was in had been severely damaged. They are back open now, and are serving locals, businesspeople, and tourists alike from their restored Lower Manhattan diner. It was fairly quiet there Sunday morning, and we grabbed a table by the window without having to wait. The breakfast was very good, as the pancakes were hearty and fresh, the home fries were done more like hash browns and were delicious, and the scrambled eggs were firm and tasty.

photo of Arturo's, Greenwich Village, NY After breakfast we spent some time inside the spectacular Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan, then wandered through the canyon-like streets of the neighborhood. Soon we found ourselves back in Greenwich Village, where we stopped at Arturo's for lunch. Arturo's, which is at the corner of West Houston Street and Thompson Street, is a bit of an institution, and though we arrived just as they were opening up the kitchen, it was packed within a few minutes, and for good reason; the New York-style pizza at Arturo's was wonderful, with a slightly burnt crust from the coal-fired oven, tangy sauce, and lots of fresh cheese on top. The place itself is classic New York, with pictures of Lou Costello and other celebrities from long ago adorning the walls, a tiny area where jazz musicians crank out some great music, and a rest room that for some reason has a bathtub in it. As they say, only in New York!

photo of Moran's, Manhattan, NY After Arturo's we wandered up to Herald Square for a bit, then headed back to Lower Manhattan, where three of us eventually found our way over to Moran's, an Irish pub on Washington Street that, like George's, had been greatly affected by 9/11. Moran's somehow survived the attack with little or no damage, and on the side wall of this charming pub are chilling photos and newspaper articles showing the horrendous destruction that came to this part of Manhattan. It was a humbling feeling dining at Moran's, knowing what they must have gone through, but I am certainly glad we found this place, as the people were friendly and funny, the food was excellent (the salmon wellington, shepherd's pie, and turkey dinner were all delicious), and the environment was homey and comfortable. Moran's resides in what used to be a church, so the atmosphere is definitely appealing. Out of all the meals I had on our trip to New York, Moran's was perhaps the most memorable; I definitely hope to get back there soon.

photo of the Merritt Canteen, Bridgeport, CT Monday morning we stopped once again at George's Restaurant for breakfast (good food once again, though the service was very slow this time), then headed out, eventually reaching the Merritt Parkway once again. We were in the Bridgeport vicinity around lunchtime, so we pulled off the road and went over to a roadside burger and hot dog joint on Main Street called the Merritt Canteen. Though the Merritt Canteen does have burgers as well as other sandwiches, they pretty much specialize in hot dogs; they have everything from a plain dog to an extra spicy chili dog, a red hot dog that is spicy without the benefit of chili, and something called a brutal dog, which is a red hot dog with chili. I went with the extra spicy chili dog, which was plenty hot enough for me. The hot dog was your typical high-quality brand that is often found in this part of Connecticut, and the chili had the seeds of hot peppers mixed in. It was a terrific hot dog; the burger, however, was middling at best.

Another trip to New York City is in the books, but I am hoping to go yet again in March, at least for one night, anyway. If so, I have a couple of places in mind, namely Bubby's, a breakfast place in Tribeca, and Lombardi's, a pizza place in Little Italy. For now, though, it's lots of rest and relaxation (and a boatload of Tums!) in Boston for me for awhile.

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

Monday, February 19, 2007
New Section on Hidden Restaurants in Other Cities

To celebrate the third birthday of Boston's Hidden Restaurants, we have set up a new section that allows viewers to tell us about hidden restaurants in other cities in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states. It will be completely user-based, as we don't know as much about cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia, and would like to find out about some of the top little-known restaurants in those (and other) cities.

This section is brand new, so we would like to start the ball rolling by adding some restaurants over the next few days. Jump to this link if you wish to tell us about a hidden restaurant in Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, DC. We would love to hear from you, and we will try to include your restaurant on our site within a day or two.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Good Food, Good Times at Pastalina's in Medford

I had one of the best overall restaurant experiences of the past couple of years last night at a little Italian dining spot in Medford called Pastalina's Restaurant. This friendly, family-owned trattoria is easy to miss, as it is buried in a block of small stores near the intersection of Routes 60 and 28 near the Malden border. Indeed, we almost missed it last night as we drove through the neighborhood. I'm sure glad we didn't!

I won't get into too many details, as we definitely plan to feature Pastalina's on Boston's Hidden Restaurants in the next few weeks, but I can tell you that both the salad and the entrees were absolutely spectacular. The fresh homemade pasta and the lightly fried veal were head and shoulders above that of so many other Italian restaurants in the Boston area, and better than any food I've had in Medford (high praise indeed, since there are several great Italian restaurants in town). Also, the waitress was kind enough to bring us some of her homemade desserts, which were also excellent.

One thing that won't get into our featured review is something I'd like to mention here; all I can say is, Tuesday nights turn into a bit of a "man pad" at Pastalina's, as we witnessed some hilarious doings by a group of regulars there that, as I've said elsewhere, reminded me of a mixture of Imus in the Morning and Oceans Eleven (though they were truly nice guys who we ended up chatting with for a good while). These folks are there every Tuesday, having the type of guys' night out that I used to participate in at Santarpio's in East Boston for years.

What more can be said...great food, great service, and great patrons. We definitely hit the trifecta last night, restaurant-wise. I strongly recommend anyone who likes fresh Italian food to check out Pastalina's. And if you go on a Tuesday night, tell the Treehouse Gang that we said hi!

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, Medford restaurants

Thursday, February 8, 2007
Another Food Road Trip (South of Boston This Time)

A friend of mine and I followed up on our food-based road trip to Connecticut by going on a shorter (but similar) trip to Rhode Island, then back toward Boston, hitting classic roadside restaurants along the way. On this trip, I went to three restaurants I had never been to, as well as a pizza joint I am definitely familiar with. The pizza joint was our first stop; we arrived at Fellini Pizzeria right at noon, enjoying some of their excellent slices of whole-wheat pizza. Fellini's is featured on Boston's Hidden Restaurants so I won't get into a description of it here, but believe me, it was a great way to start a Sunday road trip!

photo of Modern Diner, Pawtucket, Rhode Island After Fellini's, we spent some time in Providence, checking out various food places for future reference, then we drove up to Pawtucket to have breakfast (yes, we had breakfast AFTER lunch) at the funky Modern Diner on East Avenue. The diner itself is actually on the National Register of Historic Places, as part of the dining spot is a railroad car from the 1940s. We ate in that part of the diner, enjoying some bacon and eggs and a large heaping of good, though slightly mushy home fries. It is obviously difficult to judge a restaurant by breakfast alone (I hope to get to the Modern Diner for lunch one of these days), but I would say that this diner is worth going to just for the historic aspect of the place. Indeed, the Modern Diner definitely has a great overall feel to it.

photo of Wendell's Pub, Norton, Massachusetts We briefly headed into Central Falls, RI, after the Modern Diner to see if Stanley's Restaurant was open (it wasn't), then we veered northeast on Route 123 to what was probably our chief destination of the day, which was Wendell's Pub in Norton, MA. If you have driven by Wendell's and not actually gone into this dark and gloomy place, you may be wondering why this absolute dive would be our main goal. Two words sum it up: Chicken wings. Wendell's has perhaps the best chicken wings in all of Massachusetts; these crispy, immensely tasty morsels are worth the drive from nearly anywhere, and the buttery, heavenly boneless wings are every bit as good. We ordered the traditional buffalo wings extra spicy and the boneless wings 3.5 (which is average in the spicy category). Both were plenty hot, which makes me wonder what "suicidal" and "double dare" (the latter of which isn't even listed) would be like. I'm not about to find out!

photo of Henry's Root Beer Stand, Quincy, Massachusetts After going to wing heaven at Wendell's, we knew that we wouldn't be able to top that meal, and, well, we were right. And though Henry's Root Beer Stand, which was our last stop of the day, wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be, it turned out to be a good alternative to all the fast food places that dot the landscape these days. Henry's, which has several locations (we went to the one in Quincy), is a basic hot dog and hamburger joint that also has a few other items on the menu, including, of course, root beer. And the root beer was something special, as it had a slightly creamier taste than the root beer you might find at the local market. The food, however, was a mixed bag; my cheeseburger was not good at all, as the meat seemed to be of a low quality. The hot dog was terrific, though, bringing to mind the dogs at Sullivan's at Castle Island in South Boston.

Welp, another food trip etched into the record books (with the record perhaps being "strangest road trips ever taken by anyone in New England"). And while this one didn't quite have the oomph of the classic Connecticut road trip of last July, it was indeed a fun time, and introduced me to one restaurant in particular that will likely be featured on the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site (Wendell's Pub).

Related Blog Entries: Providence restaurants, Quincy restaurants, Rhode Island restaurants, road trips

Tuesday, February 1, 2007
Reminder To Tell Us About Your Favorite Restaurant

Just a reminder that if you like to tell us about your favorite restaurant in Boston or New England (or anywhere, for that matter!), jump over to our Viewers' Favorite Restaurants page. You can post information on a restaurant that you like, and chances are, your post will be put up on our site within a day or two.

On a related note, Boston's Hidden Restaurants is on the verge of branching out to other cities in the Northeast, but we will need your help. The site will soon have viewer-generated pages for New York, Montreal, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. These pages will feature some of the best little-known restaurants in each of these cities, as decided by our readers. We are excited about this upcoming feature, and we definitely are looking forward to seeing your picks for restaurants in these cities. Stay tuned, as this new feature should be up and running sometime this month.