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Boston Restaurant Blog -- April, 2011

Below are blog entries from April, 2011. 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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April, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Four Often-Overlooked Cities for Dining Out

photo of Frank's, Brockton, MA A big part of the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site centers around exploring communities that aren't considered "hot spots" for dining in order to find some real hidden gems that few know about outside of their respective neighborhoods. Indeed, there are entire cities in the Boston area and Eastern Massachusetts that aren't on the radar for many folks, as the communities are either considered dangerous to go to, lacking in restaurants, or simply uninteresting places. I tend to be on the other side of the spectrum, taking rides into these areas to find out about some great dining spots that are often neglected by diners and restaurant critics alike. A number of cities (and towns) in the area could be included here, but I'll keep it to the following four:

1) Brockton
This old shoe-producing industrial city of nearly 100,000 people is one of several communities south of Boston that have plenty of restaurants, yet don't get mentioned all that much. Too bad, as there are a lot of places to eat in Brockton, from the Back Bay Bagel Company near the Easton line to Frank's near the Stoughton line (great hot dogs) to, of course, the Greek restaurant Christo's just east of downtown, which is perhaps the one place that many folks seem to know about in this city. Other spots that may be worth checking out include Cape Cod Cafe, which features bar pizza; George's Cafe, an old family-owned Italian restaurant; Daora Sushi for Japanese cuisine; and Paradise for Jamaican fare.

2) Chelsea
It is hard to believe that a city bordering Boston could be nearly completely ignored when it comes to dining out, but its tough reputation as well its somewhat inconvenient location (connected to the downtown area of Boston by a single toll bridge) probably has a lot to do with this. There are so many dining spots in Chelsea that it is hard to know where to start, but personal favorites include the Brown Jug (good pizza) on the Revere Beach Parkway and the NewBridge Cafe near the Everett and Revere borders, along with a very good bagel place in Katz Bagel Bakery, which is just east of downtown. Some others that you might want to consider include Fusion Foods, an Asian restaurant on the edge of downtown; El Santaneco, a Salvadoran restaurant also near downtown; the Chelsea City Cafe, a place for coffee, tea, and mostly lighter fare north of downtown; and Tijuana Mexican Food, a Mexican restaurant located downtown.

3) Lawrence
Formerly an industrial powerhouse, the city of Lawrence is now a struggling city that nevertheless has a lot going for it, including interesting historic sites, scenic waterways, and many good restaurants. Some dining spots that we have reviewed within the city include Tripoli, a bakery in the "Little Italy" section of the city that boasts some of the best Sicilian pizza in Eastern Massachusetts; Napoli, which is across from Tripoli and also has excellent Sicilian pizza; and Cafe Azteca, a downtown Lawrence spot that rivals the best Mexican restaurants in the Boston area. With its large Hispanic population, Lawrence also has a lot of Caribbean and Central American eateries, including La Tambora on the western edge of downtown, Pollo Tipico north of the downtown area, and Rio Bar and Grill just south of the common.

4) Lynn
Most people probably know the "Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin" poem, but this old factory city is actually a rather fascinating place, with a huge wooded conservation area, a beautiful coastline, nicely restored homes near the water, and countless dining spots. Some of our favorite eating places in the Boston area are in Lynn, including the Italian restaurant Antique Table on the Swampscott line, an old-school neighborhood restaurant (with great bar pizza) near Swampscott called Monte's, and the Blue Ox, an upscale eatery in the downtown area. For roast beef lovers, there is Mino's and Superior, both of which are near Sluice Pond, and for ethnic cuisine, diners can choose from many spots, including Pho Minh Ky on the eastern edge of downtown for Vietnamese food and Rincon Macorisano in the same section of the city for Dominican fare.

If you love to explore like I do, the four cities above really are quite interesting places to go for dining out, especially if you like ethnic cuisine. For those of you who have any favorites in these cities that I didn't mention, please post some comments on this page, telling us about them, thanks!

Related Blog Entries: Brockton restaurants, Chelsea restaurants, Lawrence restaurants, Lynn restaurants

Thursday, April 21, 2011
25 Bar Pizzas That I Have Had

photo of bar pizza at Buddy's Union Villa, Easton, MA Those who know me realize that I have a real "thing" for bar pizza, even though it is not actually my favorite style of pie (to me, there's nothing like a traditional thin-crust pizza when it is done right). Over the past several years, I have tried a number of these little individual pizzas at various restaurants and bars around Boston--mostly on the South Shore, to be more accurate, as bar pie is generally found south of the city. I know that I am missing at least a few spots that I have been to, but below is a list of 25 places where I have had bar pizza:

1) Alumni Cafe, Quincy
2) Brown Jug, Chelsea
3) Buddy's Union Villa, Easton
4) Cafe Venice, Norwood
5) Christo's, Brockton
6) Coop's Bar and Grill, Quincy
7) Cronin's Publick House, Quincy
8) Doyle's Bar & Grill, South Easton
9) Doyle's Cafe, Jamaica Plain
10) Emma's Pub and Pizza, Bridgewater
11) Halfway Cafe, Holbrook
12) Highland Cafe [CLOSED], Malden
13) La Hacienda, Somerville
14) Liberty Grille, Hingham
15) Louis' Crossing, Quincy
16) Lynwood Cafe, Randolph
17) Martini's Restaurant, Weymouth
18) Monte's, Lynn
19) Newtowne Grille Food & Spirits, Cambridge
20) The Paddock [CLOSED], Walpole
21) Pleasant Cafe, Roslindale
22) Poopsie's, Pembroke
23) Town Spa Pizza, Stoughton
24) Varsity Club, Quincy
25) Woody's, Boston

So which ones are my personal favorites? Well, the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph has to be on the list, as well as the Alumni Cafe in Quincy and Monte's in Lynn. To be honest, most were very good, though there were a few duds (Martini's in Weymouth comes to mind).

I'm always looking for good bar pizza, so if you know of any that are not on the list above, please let me know via the comments section here, thanks!

Related Blog Entries: bar pizza

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Dinner at Citizen Public House in Boston's Fenway Neighborhood

Although most of the restaurants that I go to these days are lesser-known, hidden spots (obviously!) that tend to fly under the radar, occasionally I will hit a more popular restaurant here and there, including places such as The Publick House in Brookline and Highland Kitchen in Somerville. This week I ended up at another such spot, namely the Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar near Fenway Park. I was mostly impressed with the Citizen, though in retrospect, it doesn't seem like the kind of place that I would personally go to on a regular basis (more on that later).

photo of Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, Boston, MA The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, which first opened last October, is connected with other restaurants around the area, including the Franklin Cafe on Shawmut Avenue in the South End and Tasty Burger, which is across the street from the Citizen. Closer to the upscale Franklin Cafe than Tasty Burger in overall theme, the Citizen Public House has the feel of a real "foodie" spot, with pig roasts, Fernet Branca on tap, and duck fat-fried game hen all indicating that this is not your typical neighborhood tavern. The interior of the place is very dark (large windows do brighten up the spot during the day) and has a somewhat rustic feel, with the old-looking beamed ceiling lending a nice touch. A U-shaped bar dominates the space, while booths, bench seats, and tables are set up around the bar. The room is very loud, even on nights when it isn't all that crowded, as was the case on our recent visit. On the night we went, the clientele was an interesting mix of young hipster types and formally-dressed older couples, with no children anywhere in sight. Music in the background included Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield, indicating that perhaps the restaurant is aiming for a slightly older crowd (the baby boomer generation, perhaps).

We arrived at the Citizen Public House around early to mid-evening, and as I just mentioned, there were plenty of empty tables (by the time we left, it was still nowhere near full, perhaps because the Red Sox game had been rained out). We started out with drinks, including a Smuttynose Porter (excellent) and a shot of Fernet Branca. The Fernet, if you've never had it, is a rather complex spirit, with a large number of herbs and spices used to make it; to me, it was just a bit on the harsh side, almost having a wintergreen taste, and it seemed like something that would perhaps be best to have after a meal (as a digetif). I switched to beer after the Fernet, opting for an outstanding Pretty Things Saint Botolph's Town (a dark ale) and we soon were nibbling at a wonderful appetizer of prosciutto with roasted beet carpaccio, baby greens, orange creme fraiche, and sea salt. The prosciutto and beets eaten together had an amazing mix of tastes, with the only downside being the relatively small portion, making this dish disappear very quickly. For our main course, we had a seafood risotto and a ground sirloin burger, both of which were top-notch (with one caveat concerning the former). The beautifully-presented risotto was delicious, with clams in the shells and shrimp mixed with the rice, though again, the portion was tiny, with not nearly enough food to satisfy any hunger pangs. The burger was much more substantial--though the bun was rather flat and thin--and mine came with English stilton cheese (creamy, crumbly, and mild) and glazed bacon. The handcut fries that came with the burger were nicely browned and salted liberally. For dessert, we tried the English toffee bread pudding, which may have actually been the best item of the night, with the soft and moist cylindrical-shaped treat absolutely covered with a rich and decadent toffee sauce. Service at the Citizen was mostly good, though our server seemed to disappear for a bit toward the end of our meal, and the prices were fairly high, especially considering the size of a couple of the portions.

I really did like the food at the Citizen Public House, with some of it being among the best I've had in 2011 so far. But the noise level was just too much for me and I felt crowded in, with the tables against the back well being extremely close together. And the prices, while not outrageous, will probably keep me from being a frequent visitor to the place. I'm glad I went, though, and will certainly go back at some point, perhaps trying the aforementioned game hen or the pork tenderloin next time.

If you would like the address for Citizen Public House, here it is: Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, 1310 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02215. Phone: (617) 450-9000

Related Blog Entries: Fenway restaurants

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
First Trip to Annabelle's in Hyde Park

For several years, one of my favorite restaurants was C.F. Donovan's in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester. It was a comfortable and unpretentious spot that featured classic American fare, a decent beer list, and friendly servers. When I heard that Donovan's was looking to expand in Hyde Park, I was overjoyed, but things soon fell apart for the restaurant, and not only did C.F. Donovan's never open in Hyde Park, but the original in Dorchester shut down as well. A new restaurant Savin Bar and Kitchen has since moved into the Dorchester space, while another new spot called Annabelle's Restaurant took over the space in Hyde Park where Donovan's had been planning to open. It is this second eatery that we recently went to a few nights ago, and our experience there was mostly a favorable one.

photo of Annabelle's Restaurant, Hyde Park, MA Annabelle's Restaurant is located just south of Cleary Square in a location that seems a bit invisible, perhaps because there is little to see between Cleary Square and Readville, a quiet section of Hyde Park that is well over a mile down the road. A fair amount of on-street parking can be found in front of the place, and a tiny parking lot is situated in back. The interior of Annabelle's is fresh, clean, and attractive, with a bit of a gastropub feel to it, though it seems more low-key and reserved than some of the gastropubs found in the Boston area. A small bar area sits by the front entrance, and it is mostly separated from the dining room that is off to the right. The dining area itself is dark and somewhat romantic, with cozy booths along the back wall, stone arches leading to several window seats in the front (the windows open up to the sidewalk in the warmer months), a wooden floor, and spotlights that (fortunately) aren't too harsh and add a modern touch. There is an upstairs as well, which is used for functions and parties.

Our recent trip to Annabelle's was on a weekend night during the peak of dinnertime, but the restaurant was nowhere near full, so we were able to get a prime window seat. We started out with a round of beers, including a Full Sail Session Black (outstanding) and a Harpoon Raspberry Wheat (too much of a medicine taste), along with an order of fried pickle slices and clam chowder. The chowder was very tasty and just a tad on the thick side, while the fried pickle slices were decent (and helped out by a sweet-tasting mayo on top), though marred by a too-thick batter that took away from the flavor of the pickles. Our meals were quite good; the roasted chicken was perfectly cooked and served with smooth mashed potatoes and not-too-bitter Brussels sprouts, while the macaroni and cheese had a crumbly cracker and bread crumb topping and came with four cheeses that blended nicely with the rotini pasta (and crisp bacon pieces that were added to the mac and cheese added a nice saltiness to the dish). More beers were ordered, including a Long Trail Pale Ale that was just a tad on the hoppy side. Our server was both funny and friendly, and prices were not all that bad, with our meals being in the low teens.

It was indeed a pretty impressive first visit to Annabelle's in Hyde Park. I'm not sure it will make me forget about C.F. Donovan's, and it is certainly tough to top the excellent Townsend's nearby, but for a decently-priced meal in a comfortable environment, this place definitely seems like one to check out if you're in the area.

If you would like the address for Annabelle's Restaurant, here it is: Annabelle's Restaurant, 1300 Hyde Park Avenue, Hyde Park, MA, 02136. Phone: (617) 910-9254

Related Blog Entries: Hyde Park restaurants

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Five Road Trip-Worthy Restaurants

photo of Tavern on the Hill, Easthampton, MA It is nice to see the cold, dark days of winter and early spring being increasingly replaced with milder and more pleasant days. With days like the ones we've had over the past week or so, it seems like road trips to scenic and interesting parts of New England are not all that far off, which leads to the question, "What are some good restaurants to go to while traveling in the region?" Well, countless spots could be mentioned, but I'll narrow it down to places that have decent food and generally nice atmosphere, are within two hours of Boston, and are right in the middle of areas that have lots to offer for road trips. Here are five restaurants that fit the bill, in no particular order:

1) Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, CT
If you ride a motorcycle, or love taking "mystery rides" to nowhere, Route 169 in northeast Connecticut is a dream come true, with its gorgeous scenery and many twists and turns. Indeed, the road is listed as a national scenic byway, which should tell you something about it. There are relatively few restaurants along this mostly rural road, but one place that can be found on it--The Vanilla Bean Cafe--is a true destination spot. Freshly-made (and mostly healthy) food, a good beer selection, and outstanding desserts, combined with a rustic fireplaced interior and a tree-shaded outdoor patio make this a must stop while on Route 169. In addition to simply riding around the area, you can find wineries and antique shops, as well as narrow lanes for biking and walking within a few minutes of the Vanilla Bean. Address: Vanilla Bean Cafe, Corner of Routes 44, 169, and 197, Pomfret, CT 06258. Phone: (860) 928-1562 Our featured review can be found at:

2) The People's Pint, Greenfield, MA
Located toward the northern edge of the Pioneer Valley in west-central Massachusetts, The People's Pint is an absolutely wonderful spot, with farm-to-table food, craft beers, and a colorful, historic-feeling atmosphere. And while it is located in a city that is interesting but perhaps not a place that tourists and other visitors come to in droves, there is a lot to see and do nearby, including the always-fun Montague Bookmill, the spectacular Mount Sugarloaf, and the ever-popular Mohawk Trail (Route 2 from Greenfield west to the New York border). Address: The People's Pint, 24 Federal Street, Greenfield, MA 01301. Phone: (413) 773-0333 Our featured review can be found at:

3) Grumpy's, East Dennis, MA
Route 6A on The Cape is such a lovely road that nearly any restaurant on it would make for a good experience, but if you like local favorites with lots of character (and characters), Grumpy's near the Brewster line is a great spot to check out. The restaurant has terrific breakfasts, sandwiches, and comfort food items, and their muffins can be particularly nice, especially early in the day when they are fresh. This is a perfect spot to go to after a bike trip along the nearby Cape Cod Rail Trail or a relaxing day at one of the small bayside beaches, or simply while meandering down the unforgettable Route 6A. Address: Grumpy's Restaurant, 1408 Main Street (Route 6A), East Dennis, MA, 02641. Phone: (508) 385-2911 Our featured review can be found at:

4) The Ramp, Cape Porpoise, ME
Out-of-the-way watering holes that feel like they are at the end of the world always hold appeal to me, and The Ramp, a dark and colorful spot at the end of the road in this little fishing village, is certainly one such spot. The type of seaside place where you feel like Quint from the movie "Jaws" might show up, The Ramp has an interesting mix of ruddy-faced fishermen, well-dressed tourists from nearby Kennebunkport, and locals from all over the area, enjoying burgers, seafood stew, and fried clams. Its location is so striking (it is literally at the end of the road) that one could simply spend the day here watching the boats go by, but there is plenty to do in the area, including sauntering around the charming villages of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit, or walking the scenic Marginal Way in Ogunquit's Perkins Cove. Address: The Ramp Bar & Grill, 77 Pier Road, Kennebunkport (Cape Porpoise), ME, 04046. Phone: (207) 967-8500 Our blog review can be found at:

5) Tavern on the Hill, Easthampton, MA
Perhaps just a bit more upscale than the other restaurants we have mentioned here, Tavern on the Hill is nonetheless a fairly casual spot that, like the others, is a memorable place to go to while on a road trip. Situated at the height-of-land on Route 141 along the shoulder of Mount Tom in the Pioneer Valley, this eatery is in the running for most scenic location of any spot in New England. The interior is cozy and comfortable, but the outdoor deck is the way to go here, as one can enjoy brie puffs, oven-baked cod, and jambalaya from the eclectic menu while gawking at the stunning views of the valley below and the Berkshires in the distance. Nearby attractions include Mount Tom (obviously), the spectacular Chesterfield Gorge, and the funky communities of Northampton and Amherst. Address: Tavern on the Hill, 100 Mountain Road, Easthampton, MA, 01027. Phone: (413) 493-1700 Our blog review can be found at:

As always, there are so many more restaurants we could have listed here, but these five will probably not disappoint while on road trips from the Boston area. One more note: If you have any favorite dining spots to go to while on road trips within a couple of hours of the city, feel free to comment about them here, thanks!

Related Blog Entries: road trips