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Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2005

Below are blog entries from December, 2005. 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, December 29, 2005
Good Dinner at Tantawan in Watertown

We checked out Tantawan, a Thai restaurant in Watertown, last night. Tantawan is located in what looks suspiciously like an old diner; the one room in the restaurant is long and narrow, with large windows by each table on one side, and a wall with no windows on the other, and the restaurant is a few feet above ground level, so it feels like you are on a train.

The food we had at Tantawan was very good. The chicken and vegetable dumplings were fresh and tasty, and both the spicy basil noodles with chicken and the basil fried rice with chicken were excellent, though I still like the tremendous basil fried rice at Sala Thai in Arlington Heights better. Tantawan is family-owned, and they are very nice there. Their children were at the restaurant, with one youngster actually waiting our table for most of the evening.

While Tantawan is not the best Thai restaurant in the Boston area, it is surely worth a visit, as the food, the reasonable prices, the diner-like atmosphere, and the nice people there make this restaurant a place I'll definitely want to return to in the near future.

For people who are looking for the address for Tantawan, here it is: Tantawan, 356 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA 02472; the phone number for Tantawan is (617) 926-8371

Related Blog Entries: Thai restaurants, Watertown restaurants

Monday, December 26, 2005
Shanti: Taste of India, Dorchester

Went to Shanti: Taste of India in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester recently. This intimate Indian restaurant on Dorchester Avenue is a really nice place. The atmosphere at Shanti is cozy--almost moody--with lots of dark colors and low lighting. We ordered the murg shaag (chicken with spinach and spices) and Tandoori chicken kebabs, both of which were delicious. In addition to the great food, the waitstaff at Shanti was gracious and helpful, and the prices, while a bit high for the amount of food we received, were really not all that bad considering the quality of the food.

So will Shanti: Taste of India be a featured restaurant on the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site? Well, at this point, it is a distinct possibility, but I want to try Shanti a couple more times before making a final decision. In short, though, Shanti: Taste of India is a fine choice for Indian food, and one of many great restaurants that make their home in Dorchester, a section of Boston that is really starting to attract the attention of food lovers in the Boston area.

For those who want the address for Shanti: Taste of India, here it is: Shanti: Taste of India, 1111 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02125; the phone number for Shanti is (617) 929-3900

Related Blog Entries: Dorchester restaurants, Indian restaurants

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
New Year's Eve, Boston: Where to Dine?

New Year's Eve in Boston is quickly approaching. It's amazing how quickly time goes by. And with New Year's Eve comes that age-old question: What to do that night? For many of us, we head out to a restaurant in Boston (well, maybe not IN Boston, since the crowds are so huge), then back to see a movie, the Three Stooges, or the scene in Times Square.

One problem is, many restaurants, both in Boston proper and in the suburbs, charge a ton of money for dinner on New Year's Eve. You might find yourself spending $50, or even $100 each for a meal that would ordinarily cost $20 or $30. Is it worth it? Well, it depends on the restaurant, the occasion, and the person or people you are with, of course. But there are still many decent restaurants that do not jack up prices on New Year's Eve. If you would rather go this route, definitely call around as soon as possible before restaurants fill up with reservations.

So what restaurant am I going to for New Year's Eve? Well, I'm not telling! (At least until I make a reservation there!) But it is a restaurant that keeps the same prices as that on other nights, has great food, and offers specials for New Year's Eve. Sound too good to be true? It isn't; do some searching around the Boston area,as you should be able to find a similar situation at a number of Boston-area restaurants. But don't wait too long! And have a happy New Year...

Related Blog Entries: New Year's Eve restaurants

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Our Restaurant Forum is Up and Running

Our Boston Restaurant Forum is now set up, and it is starting to attract viewers. Categories in the forum include a general discussion forum on Boston restaurants, a general discussion forum on New England restaurants, and two other categories, including one on hidden restaurants and one one other topics.

The forum is open to everyone, and guests are allowed to post to it. Go to our special features section to access it. Have fun, and let me know if you have any questions or comments on it!

Related Blog Entries: restaurant forum

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Good Meal at Zaftigs Delicatessen

I went to Zaftigs Delicatessen in Brookline yesterday, and honestly wasn't expecting much, as I have had rather ordinary meals at Zaftigs in the past. But this time, Zaftigs was a pleasant surprise, as the deli food we had for dinner was delicious.

We started with chicken soup with matzo balls. The soup was good, though I've had better matzo ball soup at Rubin's, which is on the same street as Zaftigs in Brookline. The bagel chips they brought us were very tasty, however. I quickly filled up on those, though I left enough room for the extra lean corned beef sandwich and kasha varnishkas, both of which were better than Rubin's, in my opinion. The hot pastrami was excellent, too.

Overall, Zaftigs Delicatessen turned out to be a good choice on a really cold night that was made for the comfort food that this Brookline deli serves. Zaftigs does not compare to the great delis of Manhattan, but not too many delis in Boston do. I'll definitely be going back to Zaftigs, probably to try their potato pancakes next time.

For those who are looking for the address of Zaftigs, here it is: Zaftigs Delicatessen, 335 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446; the phone number is (617) 975-0075.

Related Blog Entries: Brookline restaurants, Delis and Kosher restaurants

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
New York City Trip

Got back from New York City yesterday (actually, Edgewater, NJ, across the Hudson River from Manhattan--thanks again to the Homestead Suites by Hilton in Edgewater for a great lodging experience for a fraction of the cost of a Manhattan hotel). Manhattan was, once again, as interesting as usual, especially so during the holiday season. And, of course, we hit several restaurants, starting with Top Dog, just off Route 1 in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, CT. Great burgers and dogs at a friendly little diner, though I still like the hot dogs at Simco's in Mattapan a little better.

Saturday night, we went to Focacceria on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, which is perhaps my favorite Italian restaurant (along with Via Veneto in San Francisco). We dined on exquisite mushroom ravioli and incredible lasagna, and enjoyed an overall memorable experience at this hidden Manhattan restaurant. I can't say enough about Focacceria. If you head to New York, make an effort to seek out this place.

On Sunday, we had lunch at EJ's Luncheonette on Amsterdam Avenue in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I had a very good monte cristo sandwich at EJ's, as well as a decent chicken soup. I definitely like the lunches better than the breakfasts at EJ's Luncheonette, though either way, the place offers a fun, if slightly hectic, Upper West Side experience. After lunch, we wandered around Manhattan, and eventually ended up back in Greenwich Village for dinner. We tried a new Indian restaurant on Bleecker Street called Mainland India that was actually rather average. The soups were good, but the chicken tikka masala, chicken saag, and chicken kebabs were nothing special. After Mainland India, the three of us wandered into the West Village to Cafe Angelique for some of the best desserts I've had in awhile. Cafe Angelique was our last stop, and we headed back up to the Upper West Side, then back to Edgewater, NJ for the night.

Our final stop on the way back to Boston the next day was the Thru-Way Diner in New Rochelle, NY. This classic old diner, which is just off Route 95 on Route 1, was tremendous; my chicken stroganoff was big enough to feed an army, yet the quality was excellent. The waitresses at the Thru-Way Diner are the types who call you sweetie and honey, and the diners were mostly retirees who seemed to enjoy comfort food very much. The Thru-Way Diner marked the end of a great trip to New York City. I hope to get back soon, this time to try some of the best pizzas in the city.

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

Monday, December 5, 2005
Irish Pubs in Boston

A couple of weeks ago, a group of us went to Doolin, Ireland, which is on the west coast of that beautiful country. Doolin, a small town in County Clare near the Burren, is famous for its rural pubs that feature traditional Irish music. Gus O'Connor's Pub, in particular, is a big draw for Doolin, as it is one of the great pubs in all of Ireland, with several rooms, each of which might have Irish musicians playing jigs, reels, and folk songs on a given night. In fact, one of the main reasons for our trip to Doolin was to hear traditional Irish music at Gus O'Connor's, while sipping pints of Guinness in front of a peat fire. And Gus O'Connor's Pub did not disappoint...

Coming back to Boston, it dawned on me that, while there are some decent Irish pubs in the Boston area, there are only a few pubs that really have the authentic feel of a Gus O'Connor's Pub, or a place like Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughn, a seaside town just north of Doolin. Perhaps my favorite pub in the Boston area is also one that has a truly authentic feel to it: James's Gate in Jamaica Plain. James's Gate, a well-worn, almost primitive pub between the center of Jamaica Plain and the Forest Hills T stop, is a great place for a pint of Guinness and some decent Irish pub food. This is a no-frills pub, which is exactly why I like James's Gate so much.

photo of McGanns Pub, Boston, MA Another pub that has a nice authentic feel to it is Kitty O'Shea's on State Street in the financial district of Boston. Kitty O'Shea's feels like a fine Dublin pub on the inside, with lots of dark wood, decent music, and people reading, drinking pints, and having an overall good time. One other pub that I like very much also has a branch in the beloved town of Doolin: McGann's Pub near North Station and the new Boston Garden. McGann's, much like its sister pub in Doolin, is a laid-back, comfortable pub that is perfect for a burger, a pint, and good conversation.

There are other good Irish pubs in the Boston area, such as The Burren in Somerville, The Field and The Druid, both in Cambridge, The Corrib in Brighton and West Roxbury, and Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village. But none of these, including James's Gate, Kitty O'Shea's, or McGann's Pub, can quite match the warm, cozy feel of Gus O'Connor's Pub in Doolin. And I guess it's best that way, as it gives me something to look forward to, as I'm already dreaming of my next pint of Guinness in this wonderful little pub tucked away in the seaside village of Doolin, Ireland.

By the way, if you or anyone you know is interested in going to Ireland, our sister site has a new Ireland Travel Guide section up and running. At this site, you will find information on towns, photos of Ireland, and scenic drives. I will be adding more pages as time goes on, so hopefully it will be a good source for people looking to go to Ireland.

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs

Thursday, December 1, 2005
Some More Top Boston Restaurants

As I mentioned the other day, we added a 2005 best Boston restaurants page on the site this week. And as I had said, there are lots of top Boston restaurants that are just too popular to include in our list.

I did think of a few more restaurants that are among the best in Boston. For BBQ, there is the Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington and West Newton. For Mexican cuisine, check out Casa Romero in the Back Bay of Boston. If you like Thai food, Khao Sarn in Brookline is one outstanding restaurant. And for those who like Indian food, try Punjabi Dhaba in the Inman Square section of Cambridge.

Don't forget to check out our best of 2005 restaurant list! And please send comments or complaints about the list, or anything else for that matter.

Related Blog Entries: best Boston restaurants