Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Reef Cafe (CLOSED)

170 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA 02134
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--- Winner, Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in Boston Area, 2008 ---

Photo of Reef Cafe, Allston, MA The Allston neighborhood of Boston can often be such a confusing place for diners. There are so many restaurants in this bustling area of the city that it can be very difficult to decide exactly where to eat. Well, out of all the dining spots that line Brighton Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, and Harvard Avenue, there are a handful of particularly good places, including Reef Cafe, a Lebanese dining spot that just happens to be one of the best--and least expensive--Middle Eastern restaurants in the entire Boston area.

Reef Cafe, which is family-owned and operated, is a friendly little place that may not look like much (it feels a bit like a sub shop inside, and has counter service only), but it has so many delicious items on the menu that it is a place diners return to again and again in order to sample all the different dishes. And although there are indeed a number of excellent items on the menu at Reef, this writer has trouble getting past what may be one of the greatest sandwiches in the Boston area. Indeed, the falafel sandwich is something special, with hearty falafel balls mixed with pickles, tomatoes, yellow peppers, and tahini sauce, all wrapped inside a fresh pita rollup. Reef Cafe's falafel, by the way, is made with both fava beans and chickpeas (rather than just chickpeas), as is often the case with Lebanese-style falafel. Other top picks on the menu at Reef Cafe are the outstanding chicken shawarma (rotisserie chicken with a variety of spices), the creamy houmos, the flavorful vegetarian grape leaves, and the spicy kibby. Prices border on the ridiculous (in a good way), with nearly everything on the menu--including full dinners--being less than $10, and sandwiches being a little over $5.

Folks generally don't come to Reef Cafe for the atmosphere, and it can sometimes be a struggle to find parking nearby, but lovers of Middle Eastern cuisine should not let either of these minor issues deter them from trying this wonderful Lebanese restaurant. Between the friendly owners and workers, the fresh and delicious food, and the rock-bottom prices, Reef Cafe is a true winner, and one that stands out among the many restaurants that can be found in this interesting and offbeat Boston neighborhood.