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Boston Restaurant Blog -- July, 2007

Below are blog entries from July, 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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JULY, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Friday Night at Beckett's, Walpole

I met up with several family members at Beckett's in Walpole a couple of Friday nights ago. Beckett's is an Irish pub and restaurant on Route 1A, just south of Walpole Center, and seems to be completely, utterly unknown (at least as of July, 2007). I recently did an Internet search of Beckett's and came up with...nothing. Strange, since it isn't a bad place at all, with decent food, a pleasant atmosphere, and lots of room inside.

photo of Beckett's, Walpole, MA We grabbed a table in the back room at Beckett's, which seemed a bit more conducive to conversation than the front room or the bar area. We grabbed an order of onion rings (very tasty) as an appetizer, and I had a pint of Harp, which is one of my favorite beers from Ireland. The entrees soon came to the table, with most dishes being better than what you might typically get at an Irish pub in the Boston area; the Guinness beef stew, broiled schrod, chicken quesadillas, and pizza were all very good to excellent dishes, with perhaps the schrod being the best dish on the table. My dish--the beef stew--was served in a bread bowl and was brimming with tender beef and veggies. Prices were good, with all entrees being under $20.

Beckett's didn't quite match some of my meals at Spirit in Cambridge or James's Gate in Jamaica Plain, but this Walpole pub proved that just because a dining spot is completely unknown doesn't mean that it's not good. All in all, Beckett's is a good, solid Irish pub that, while not a destination spot, is a good option for people living in or near Walpole.

For those who would like the address and phone number for Beckett's, here it is: Beckett's, 1065 Main Street (Route 1A), Walpole, MA 02081. Phone: (508) 668-1191.

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs, Walpole restaurants

Thursday, July 19, 2007
Restaurants With a View

photo of Silvermine Tavern, Norwalk, CTAs I get ready to head up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for the weekend, I have started to think about some of the restaurants up there that are set in spectacular locations. A couple that come to mind right off the bat are the Stonehurst Manor in North Conway and the restaurants at the Mount Washington Hotel, but there are many more in that particularly scenic part of New England. And there are a lot of other restaurants throughout New England that also have memorable settings, whether it is stunning mountain scenery, breathtaking ocean views, placid scenes of farmland, or peaceful lakeside locations.

A good number of restaurants featured or blogged on this site just happen to be in scenic locations. One of my personal favorites is shown here--the Silvermine Tavern in Norwalk, Connecticut. This restaurant is set in the middle of what can only be termed Currier and Ives country, with rolling hills, rivers and waterfalls, towering trees, and winding lanes. (If you would like to read more about the Silvermine Tavern, including a larger view of this photo, go to the Silvermine Tavern review.)

Below I have listed some other restaurants in scenic locations (some of which are mentioned on this site). The ones I have listed are all places that I consider to have good food, so certain unnamed restaurants did not make these lists. I have broken them down into specific categories, so if you have a favorite type of scenery, hopefully this will help:

For restaurants in scenic mountain settings, you might want to check out the aforementioned Stonehurst Manor in North Conway, NH, the Austrian Tea Room at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT, and the Pilsen Pub in North Hatley, Quebec (not New England, but a short trip over the Vermont border).

For restaurants with terrific ocean views, look into going to Eastwind Lobster in Buzzards Bay, The Barnacle in Marblehead, the Lobster Pool in Rockport, the Dock and Dine in Old Saybrook, CT, Barnacle Billy's in Ogunquit, ME, Quito's in Bristol, RI, Tony's Clam Shop in Quincy, the Mill Wharf Tavern in Scituate, and Eastern Pier II in Boston.

For restaurants in rural settings (woods, farmland, fields, and so on), consider checking out Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, NH, the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, the Foxfire Inn in Stowe, VT, Eaton's Sugar House in Royalton, VT, and the Wayside Inn in Sudbury.

For restaurants in lakeside or riverside settings, a few options include the Old Mill in Westminster, Lake Pearl in Wrentham, Lady Killigrew Cafe in Montague, the Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grille in Chester, CT, the Pilsen Pub in North Hatley, Quebec, the Loaf and Ladle in Exeter, NH, and Salvatore's (Sal's) in Lawrence.

If you can think of other New England restaurants that fit into any of these categories, please don't hesitate to post a comment here. I'm looking forward to adding onto this list!

Related Blog Entries: New England restaurants, outdoor dining

Monday, July 16, 2007
Food Trip to Framingham and Hudson

A week ago Sunday, a friend of mine and I went out to Framingham and Hudson to check out three restaurants that I had not yet tried. And while the trip wasn't quite up to par with previous food trips I've done (especially the ones to Connecticut, the Pioneer Valley, and Lawrence and Lowell), it was an interesting several hours, with some great food and some food that was just ok.

photo of Pepperoncini's, Framingham, MA We had initially set off to start at Casey's Diner in Natick, but we had put in "South Street" rather than "South Avenue," and ended up wondering how a classic old diner could be on a deeply wooded road in the middle of nowhere. Giving up on Casey's, we found our way back to Natick Center and headed west to Framingham, where we stopped at a little hole in the wall called Pepperoncini's. Now I had heard that both the steak tips and the pizza were excellent at Pepperoncini's, but they weren't serving steak tips, so we opted for the pizza. And aside from being a great deal ($5.00 for a large pizza on Sundays), it was also delicious, tasting much like a thin-crust pizza you might find in Manhattan. The sauce was slightly sweet, the crust was dry on the bottom, and the cheese had a wonderful texture (and taste!) to it. Most bars in the Boston area tend to serve bar-style pizza, but the pizza at Pepperoncini's was definitely more Italian style than anything else.

After Pepperoncini's, we headed up Route 126 to our next stop, though once again, we got slightly lost as we headed into Saxonville, an old working-class part of Framingham that had just enough intersections to help head us in the wrong direction. As we started to hook up the GPS once again, we saw a huge, empty shopping center, with our next place right in the middle of it.

photo of Hometowne Hotdogs, Framingham, MA This next stop, called Hometowne Hotdogs, was nearly empty when we walked in. The place looked promising right off the bat, however, as there were sports-related pictures adorning the walls and a large mural of a hot dog relaxing while watching the Red Sox from the stands at Fenway. Tearing myself from this rather interesting piece of art, I ordered a dirty dog (a hot dog with chili and cheese sauce) and a Kosher dog (an all-beef frank). The Kosher dog was very good, though it wasn't anything I couldn't get in a supermarket; the dirty dog was not so good, as it was very pink and seemed a bit undercooked, with little taste. I really wanted to like this place (I love hot dogs!), but in retrospect, I decided that there were better places to go in the Boston area for my hot dog fix.

We were starting to get full by the time we left Hometown Hotdogs, so we were happy to see that Hudson was a good 15 miles away from where we were (at least according to the GPS). We drove through some nicer parts of Framingham, arriving at Route 20 in Sudbury, where we soon veered off to the right into charming Sudbury Center. From there, we continued west through some deeply wooded areas into Stowe and eventually Hudson for our final food stop.

photo of T.C. Lando's, Hudson, MA The cliche "saving the best for last" definitely applied to our Sunday trip, as T.C. Lando's in downtown Hudson was even better than I had expected. For those who don't know, T.C. Lando's is affiliated with Carl's in Waltham, which is often considered the best place for cheesesteak in the Boston area. And the word is, the steak and cheese at T.C. Lando's matches Carl's in quality. I have not been to Carl's yet, but I can say that the steak and cheese I got at T.C. Lando's was perhaps one of the three best I have had anywhere. It was about a pound of what I can only describe as steak pellets; short, thin cylinders of delicious steak that looked a bit like hamburger that just came out of a grinder, but it was indeed steak, and not hamburger meat. I wasn't all that hungry when we got to Lando's, but the cheesesteak was so good that it disappeared off my plate within a couple of minutes.

So we hit three new places (for me, anyways), liking two and finding one to be rather average. And the key question is, Will any of these restaurants get featured on this site? Well, I don't know right now, as I do want to try the steak tips at Pepperoncini's before making a decision on that place. And while the cheesesteak at T.C. Lando's was amazing, I also hear that the pizza is very good as well. So perhaps another visit should be in store for both of these places; once that happens, you may see one or both of these eating places featured on Boston's Hidden Restaurants.

Related Blog Entries: Framingham restaurants, hot dogs, road trips

Monday, July 9, 2007
Some Old Restaurant Favorites Around Boston

It seems like these days, I am trying a new restaurant every few days, which is often exciting, but unfortunately, it keeps me from going to some of my favorite restaurants. And a few restaurants have really fallen through the cracks, including a handful that I haven't been to in years even though I like them a lot. What are some of these restaurants? Glad you asked!

One restaurant that I haven't been to in ages and really want to get back to is a tiny little spot in Somerville called House of Tibet. Located on Holland Street in the Teele Square section of Somerville, House of Tibet is a quiet, serene place that has some excellent dishes. I love the dumplings at House of Tibet, as they have both meat and veggie versions. They also have curried dishes as well as a number of stir-fried entrees.

Another restaurant that I used to love but haven't been to in awhile is Caffe Italia, which is on Meridien Street in the Central Square neighborhood of East Boston. Caffe Italia is an absolute throwback of an Italian restaurant, complete with a little cafe area in the front where people sip cappuccino while enjoying pastries and other items that are offered in this front section. And in the back of Caffe Italia is a charming dining room that has the feel of a North End trattoria. Pastas are excellent here, as are the veal and chicken dishes. I also hear that the pizza is outstanding, but I haven't tried it yet.

A third place that I miss a lot and want to get back to is Spruce Pond Creamery on King Street in Franklin. What makes Spruce Pond so special to me is the fact that you can get both pizza and ice cream there, with both being very good. The flatbread pizza at Spruce Pond Creamery is cooked in a wood-fired oven, which imparts a special taste to the pie. And the homemade ice cream is rich, hearty, and delicious. I live a good distance from Franklin, which is one reason why I haven't been to Spruce Pond in awhile, but I definitely need to make a trip back there soon.

There are many other restaurants that I have not been to in a long time that I yearn to check out once again, but there is only so much time (and my stomach has only so much room). I would be quite happy just being able to get to the three restaurants above; perhaps I can get to them by the end of the year...

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, ice cream stands, pizza places, Tibetan restaurants

Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Lunch at La Cantina Italiana, Framingham

Not to state the obvious, but I absolutely love old-school Italian food. From lasagna to ziti to manicotti to fettuccine to ravioli, I can't get enough of any and all pastas. Because of this, even Italian restaurants that are of average quality sometimes please me. But I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with my meal at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham over the weekend.

photo of La Cantina Italiana, Framingham, MA La Cantina Italiana (not to be confused with Cantina Italiana in the North End of Boston, by the way) is an old-fashioned red-sauce restaurant located on Route 135 just west of downtown Framingham. The place looks the part, both inside and out, with slightly tacky but endearing touches that one might also find at places such as Greg's in Watertown, The Chateau in Waltham, and the Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale. The inside is pretty big, actually, with plenty of two-toned booths and larger tables for families to sit at. And the old photos on the wall are a nice touch, adding a bit of history to this World War II-era restaurant.

I only wish the food had been a little better at La Cantina Italiana, though. There were some high points, including a very tasty minestrone soup that had big chunks of potatoes and lots of other vegetables. And the house salad was excellent, with a homemade dressing that had lots of zing to it. But unfortunately, the entrees were not quite up to par; the pizza didn't have much flavor, with the crust being rather doughy, while the lasagna was decent enough, but it was cooked unevenly, with one side being dry and tough while the other side being one big gooey mess.

I haven't read much about La Cantina Italiana online or in restaurant guides, so I am not sure how the other dishes are there. But if folks can recommend other dishes that they enjoy at this restaurant, I'd like to hear from them, just in case I do head back there one of these days.

Related Blog Entries: Framingham restaurants, Italian restaurants

Sunday, July 1, 2007
Tags on the Way for the Boston Restaurant Blog

As the so-called Web 2.0 continues to get a further foothold in sites of all kinds across the Internet, Boston's Hidden Restaurants has slowly but surely gotten into some of the features that make up this next stage of the Web. RSS feeds, tag clouds of popular search queries, and blog entries with comment capability are just three areas that this site is now featuring. And this last item--blog entries--will soon have an added feature that should make it much easier for viewers to find what they need. This feature involves tags.

So what are blog tags, anyways? Well, they are clickable labels given to a blog entry that allow readers to find other blog entries that are related in some way. For instance, if there is a tag at the bottom of a blog entry titled 'Vermont restaurants,' when the user clicks this link, he or she will come to a page showing links to all blog entries related to restaurants in Vermont. Of course, some tags might have only one or two entries, while others could have fifty or more.

The tags that we have in our blog are colored green, and are part of a line with the header "Related Blog Entries." Also, the tag system used on our site is a bit different from the more complex ones used in such sites as Technorati, Flickr, or Wikipedia, but it does work in a similar fashion. By the way, our latest blog entries do get listed in Technorati, so be on the lookout for them if you are on that site!

We are just starting to add tags to the many blog entries on Boston's Hidden Restaurants, so it will be awhile before this transition is complete. But if you would like to see some tags that we have already added, go to our July and August 2005 restaurant blog page. The entries on this page have tags at the bottom of each.

We believe that this new feature should help make our restaurant blog much more easy to navigate and more enjoyable to our readers. Please let us know if you have any questions about tags; we will try to answer any and all your questions about this exciting new blog feature!