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Boston Restaurant Blog -- March, 2006

Below are blog entries from March, 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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MARCH, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006
Burgers at The Mission Bar and Grill, Brigham Circle

We went to the Mission Bar and Grill in the Brigham Circle section of Boston the other day. I had heard from more than a few people that the burgers at the Mission Bar and Grill were some of the best in Boston, so we just had to try the place. The verdict? The burgers were indeed excellent.

photo of the Mission Bar and Grill, Boston, MA The Mission Bar and Grill is in a part of Boston that is a bit away from it all. Surrounded by hospitals and near the Harvard Medical School, Brigham Circle is a bustling area during the day, but gets a bit quieter at night, since it is not really a destination for shoppers, diners, or tourists. But this may slowly be changing, as Huntington Avenue has the potential to be a grand boulevard, much like Commonwealth Avenue is today. And the Mission Bar and Grill is the first of probably many restaurants in the area that caters to people looking for a more upscale dining experience without being too pricey or snooty.

Getting back to those burgers at the Mission Bar and Grill...they are juicy, char-broiled hunks of beef that are well worth the money. And the fries that come with the burgers are excellent in their own right. To top it off, the Mission Bar and Grill has a fantastic beer selection, including Ipswich Ale and several great British beers and ales.

So will we be featuring the Mission Bar and Grill on our Web site? Well, it is rather hidden, and the food and drink we had were terrific, but we would like to check out some of the other meals at this Brigham Circle restaurant before we add it to Boston's Hidden Restaurants. But I must say, things look pretty promising for this attractive spot a few minutes southwest of downtown Boston.

For those who want the address of the Mission Bar and Grill, here it is: Mission Bar and Grill, 724 Huntington Avenue (Brigham Circle), Boston, MA 02115; the phone number is (617) 566-1244.

Related Blog Entries: American restaurants, Boston restaurants, hamburgers

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Information on Boston for 2006 Boston Marathon Runners

The 2006 Boston Marathon is only a few weeks away, so we created a new page on Boston's Hidden Restaurants that can help both Boston Marathon participants and visitors to Boston alike to learn more about our city. Included on this Boston Visitor Information page are descriptions of cities, towns, and neighborhoods to visit, as well as things to see and do, recreations areas in the Boston area, and, of course, restaurants to visit.

Good luck to all those who are running in the 2006 Boston Marathon! And if any runners have questions on specific places to eat in the Boston area, don't hesitate to contact us.

Related Blog Entries: Boston Marathon

Sunday, March 19, 2006
St. Patrick's Day Weekend Restaurants and Pubs

Well, Saint Patrick's Day has come and gone here in Boston, and I actually broke my promise not to go to a pub on March 17. After a decent meal at the Inn at Bay Pointe in Quincy, I met up with some people at Spirit near Porter Square in Cambridge. Spirit just went through some renovations, and what was once a somewhat appealing, though slightly trendy bar, has become a cozy Irish pub, complete with red and black walls, comfortable seating, and, on St. Patrick's Day at least, some great traditional Irish music piped through the speakers. It's amazing what a few renovations can do to a place. I've always felt that Spirit was a decent bar worth going to, but now I like it enough to consider it a regular hangout from this point on.

On Saturday, we headed down to Walpole to have a really good lunch at Jimmy's Pizzeria in the eastern part of town near Bird Park. Jimmy's looks a bit like a typical sub shop from the outside, but the small dining room inside is a lot nicer than what you would find in your average sub shop (the lack of fluorescent lights really helps the atmosphere), and the Greek pizza is about the best in the Walpole area. In addition, Jimmy's has some great lunch and dinner entrees on its menu, including an outstanding chicken parm and some delicious sandwiches.

On Saturday night, we went over to North Cambridge for a very good meal at Ristorante Marino near the Arlington border. Marino's has been around for a long time, and it still gets the crowds. Much of their food is organic (they bring it in from Lookout Farms in Natick, which they own), and everything at Marino's is fresh and wholesome. My cannelloni dish was not quite as good as the one I always get at Al Dente in the North End of Boston, but it was still very, very good.

The South Boston parade is over, the green beer is all gone, and the traditional Irish bands are probably taking a few days off to rest. It was indeed a great weekend of food, pints, and music. And just think: Next year, St. Patrick's Day is on a.....Saturday. Now THAT will be an interesting night. We have about 360 days to prepare for it; my guess is, I'll probably be back at Spirit, breaking another promise not to go out on St. Patrick's Day.

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs

Friday, March 17, 2006
St. Patrick's Day in Boston

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to everyone in Boston! St. Patrick's Day is a special day in Beantown, as it is perhaps the most Irish of all cities in the United States (with all due respect to New York City). Some great annual events are held over the weekend in Boston, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the political roast in South Boston.

As far as today is concerned, Don Imus is in town for the annual Kiss Me I'm Imus show from the Ritz Carlton in Boston, complete with Imus, Charles, Bernard, and the rest of the gang, as well as regular guests such as Mike Barnicle, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Jay Severin. And for music entertainment this year, the show has a terrific traditional Irish group called Cherish the Ladies performing haunting Irish songs for Imus and his fans.

Being that it's St. Patrick's Day, you would think that this would be a great day to head to an Irish pub somewhere in Boston and enjoy a pint or two. Well, yes and no; while the pubs will have good entertainment, lots of traditional Irish food, and plenty of Guinness and Harp, most of the pubs will be jammed with people. If you like crowds, by all means head to an Irish pub somewhere in the city today. But I did my celebrating last night at The Burren in Somerville, and plan not to fight the crowds today or tonight.

If you must go to an Irish pub or restaurant in Boston today, here are some suggestions for places to go: If you are simply looking for a pint or two, The Field and The Druid in Cambridge are simple, basic Irish pubs. If you want food with your Guinness, try MJ O'Connor's in Park Plaza, The Kinsale in Government Center, Kennedy's near Downtown Crossing, Doyle's in Jamaica Plain, or Matt Murphy's in Brookline. If you want to hear some Irish music, a few of my favorites are The Burren in Somerville, The Skellig in Waltham, The Green Briar in Brighton, and The Kinvara in Allston. Finally, if you want a good Irish breakfast, check out Gerard's or McKenna's in Dorchester.

As much as I enjoy everything that goes on in Boston this weekend and love going to all the Irish pubs in the city, all the festivities get me thinking about heading back to Ireland to visit great towns such as Clifden, Dalkey, Kenmare, Kinsale, and so many other places over there. I'd love to go back to Ireland later this year, perhaps to Belfast, Antrim, and the Giant's Causeway. We'll see if it happens, but for now, Boston aint such a bad place to enjoy a Guinness Stew and a pint of Harp.

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs

Sunday, March 12, 2006
Restaurants in North Conway, Glen, and Epsom, NH

Just got back from a snowshoeing and hiking weekend in the North Conway area up in New Hampshire. Actually, there was little of either since there was so much mud in the White Mountains (even in Pinkham Notch). But it's always fun going to North Conway, Glen, and Jackson, and, of course, there are lots of restaurants to try in the area.

We arrived around lunchtime and stopped at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company in North Conway for a quick lunch. The Moat, as some call it, has excellent food and even better beer. The chili with brisket was delicious, as was the flatbread with hummus and the bison quesadillas. Moat Mountain is family-friendly, so if you're going up to North Conway with the kids, this is a great restaurant to check out.

After some snowshoeing and hiking in Pinkham Notch, we wandered around North Conway for a bit (Zeb's General Store in the center of town is a really fun place to go!), then headed up to the little town of Glen for dinner at the Margarita Grill (formerly known as Margaritaville), a Mexican restaurant across from the Red Parka Pub just west of where Routes 16 and 302 intersect. I used to like Margaritaville / Margarita Grill a lot, but our meals were average at best this time around. Hopefully it was just an off night for them.

photo of the Circle Restaurant, Epsom, NH On Sunday, we had a great breakfast at the Cabernet Inn, which is where we stayed. The Cabernet Inn, which is really a nice place to stay, is only a few hundred yards north of the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery; both are about a mile and a half north of the center of North Conway. After leaving the Cabernet Inn, we drove down to Wolfeboro, but the town was mostly closed for the winter months, so we continued to Epsom, where we had lunch at a dining spot called the Circle Restaurant. Now the Circle doesn't look like much--it has a huge sign that towers over the traffic circle where Route 28 meets Route 4, and the interior of the restaurant has a lot of turquoise (chairs, walls, etc.). But the food was excellent and dirt cheap, including an open-faced turkey sandwich and a roast beef dinner, both of which were around 6 or 7 dollars. The turkey was some of the best I have had in a long time.

So basically we hit two great restaurants on our trip to New Hampshire and one that disappointed. I know that I'll definitely be going to the Moat again soon, as it is in a convenient location and the beer selection alone makes it worth going to.

Related Blog Entries: New Hampshire restaurants

Thursday, March 9, 2006
Restaurants Around Porter Square, Cambridge

We went to Ali Baba Tandoor, a terrific Afghan restaurant (with some Pakistani and Indian cuisine offered, too) near Porter Square in Cambridge last night. As we were walking down Mass. Ave. after our meal, I was struck by the number of good restaurants and pubs that make their home in the Porter Square area. Starting at the corner of Walden Street and Mass Ave. (where Ali Baba Tandoor is), and ending at the edge of Cambridge Common and Harvard Square, here are some of the restaurants we walked past:

Elephant Walk, an excellent Cambodian and French restaurant; Spirit, a friendly little restaurant and Irish pub that has some good dishes; Andy's Diner, a decent little place for comfort food; Newtowne Grille, a hole in the wall that serves cheap beer and great pizza; Christopher's, a cozy restaurant that features organic food, including excellent burgers that are also healthy; Passage to India, a wonderful Indian restaurant that has been around for ages.

Still with me? We're just past Porter Square now, where we find Seoul Food, a tiny Korean restaurant with a great reputation for delicious entrees; Indian Club, a decent Indian restaurant that, while not quite as good as Passage to India, is worth checking out; Boca Grande, an outstanding (and dirt cheap) Mexican restaurant that is popular with students and families; Changsho, one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Boston area; the Forest Cafe, a restaurant that looks like a dive but serves excellent Mexican food; and, last but not least, Cambridge Common, a classic restaurant and bar that is a good place for a burger and a beer.

Quite a list, isn't it? This stretch of Mass. Ave. has an amazing number of restaurants from which to choose. I'm not sure I could choose a personal favorite around Porter Square, since I like so many of these restaurants, but I guess I do find myself going to Spirit, Christopher's, and Cambridge Common more often than the others.

Related Blog Entries: Cambridge restaurants

Sunday, March 5, 2006
Some More New York City Restaurants

I just got back from Manhattan with a full, happy belly, thanks to some of the restaurants I went to when I was in the city. I have a huge list of restaurants that I want to try in Manhattan (as well as the other boroughs--Brooklyn especially), but there are only so many meals in a day...still, this was one of my better New York trips as far as restaurants are concerned.

photo of the Diamond Dairy of New York Restaurant, Manhattan, NY On Friday, I started out by having lunch at a very usual place in the Diamond District (near the Theatre District, on the edge of Midtown Manhattan). We walked through an old jewelry store on 47th Street, got to the back of the store, walked up a flight of stairs, and voila! A fabulous restaurant overlooking the jewelry store. The Diamond Dairy of New York Restaurant is a place that could only be found in New York; as we ate our potato pancakes and cheese blintzes, and downed our vegetable soup, we looked through the plexiglass window at all the jewelers below, wondering if this amazing little kosher restaurant might just be the most hidden of the hidden gems in New York City.

After an afternoon and evening of wandering through the Upper West Side and Greenwich Village, we ended up, by accident, actually, at an old Italian restaurant in the Village. Cucina Stagionale, an attractive spot on Bleecker Street near 7th Avenue, is a classic Southern Italian restaurant with absurdly cheap prices. Many of the pasta dishes are actually under 10 dollars. Just try to find that in Manhattan! A rarity, indeed. The meat lasagna and the chicken marsala were both excellent at Cucina Stagionale, as was the gourmet salad. We were pretty full after all the Italian food, but found room for dessert at nearby Pasticceria Bruno, also on Bleecker Street. Bruno's has some of the tastiest desserts in Greenwich Village, and it has some pretty good hot chocolate, too, which is key on a cold winter night in the city.

photo of Cucina Stagionale, Greenwich Village, New York Saturday was another day of good eats in New York City. I started off by having a bagel at H and H Bagels on Broadway in the Upper West Side, after a long walk through Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, and Greenwich Village. Later in the morning I had a second breakfast at the terrific Manhattan Diner, just down the road from H and H Bagels on Broadway. Then it was off to the Met for a few hours, then off to Mimi's Pizza on Lexington Avenue near 84th street in the Upper East side for my final meal before heading back to Boston. Mimi's has some great pizza, though it isn't quite at the level of the best pizza places in Manhattan. Pretty darn good pizza, though, and huge slices at reasonable prices.

I plan to head back to New York City in the late spring or summer to check out more restaurants, and maybe catch a ballgame at Coney Island. Perhaps while I'm out at the game I can head to di Fara, a Brooklyn pizza joint that is supposed to have some of the best pizza in New York City, if not the entire Northeast. Stay tuned...

Related Blog Entries: Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants

Wednesday, March 1, 2006
A Reminder About our Irish Pubs in Boston Page

Just a quick reminder that we have an Irish Pubs in Boston page up on our site, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

We tried to include a number of lesser-known Irish pubs in keeping with the theme of the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site. Let us know if you can think of any others that we missed!

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs