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Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2008

Below are blog entries from May, 2008. 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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MAY, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Food and Fun on Mount Desert Island

A large group of us went up to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park for Memorial Day Weekend, staying in Northeast Harbor on the southern side of the island. I go there nearly every year, so we often go back to the same restaurants, but this year we did try a dining spot on the island that we had never been to (as well as two other restaurants in Maine that were also first visits for me).

photo of Big G's Deli, Winslow, Maine On Saturday morning, we drove up the Maine Turnpike, stopping in Winslow for lunch. The restaurant we went to, called Big G's Deli, was an interesting place, situated in the middle of nowhere in what looked like an old warehouse or storage shed. It was a madhouse when we arrived, with many people waiting in line and many more walking around the place. There was a long dining area to the left and a smaller one to the right, and it seemed like people were making their way back and forth between the two areas. But although Big G's was rather hectic experience, the sandwiches turned out to be excellent. Many of the sandwiches at Big G's have funny names, including the Dr. Johnny Fever, which is the one I ordered. It consisted of hot roast beef and pastrami with provolone cheese, all stuffed between two big pieces of homemade bread. And even though I ordered a half-sandwich, is was so big that I barely finished it. The fries were very tasty, and the pickle was extremely salty, but also extremely good. I'm glad to see that we finally found a good dining option between Augusta and Bangor rather than going all the way to Ellsworth, which is what we often do.

We soon arrived in Northeast Harbor, meeting up with everyone else, and took a leisurely walk around town before heading to the Docksider Restaurant for dinner. I have been to this Northeast Harbor seafood shack countless times, but perhaps never with so large a group. Everyone seemed to like their dishes, which ranged from whole lobsters to fried haddock to fried scallops to tuna melts to everything in between. It was an overall fun experience as usual at the Docksider, and I'm glad to see that the quality of the food is still pretty high there.

photo of the Colonel's Restaurant, Northeast Harbor, Maine After a trip up Cadillac Mountain for yet another spectacular sunset, the rest of the evening was a quiet one. Sunday morning soon came around, and with it nearly perfect weather. We started off the day by grabbing some food at the Colonel's Restaurant in the center of Northeast Harbor and having an outdoor breakfast at the nearby Asticou Azalea Garden. I have never been a big fan of the restaurant part of the Colonel's, as the food has been inconsistent and the service spotty. But I love the bakery part in the front, as they have a variety of delicious donuts and croissants, as well as a number of other pastries, including some of the best hermits I have had anywhere. We stuck with chocolate donuts and chocolate croissants this time around, waiting on the hermits until the following day so that I could take some fresh ones home.

photo of the Tan Turtle Tavern, Northeast Harbor, Maine After spending some time on the other side of the island in Somesville and Southwest Harbor, we drove back to Northeast Harbor where we tried a fairly new place on Main Street called the Tan Turtle Tavern. We had heard that the Tan Turtle has been very popular, so much so that it may be taking business away from The Docksider and other places around town. And when we arrived there for lunch, it was pretty full. The restaurant had a pleasant, unpretentious atmosphere that bordered somewhere between a family dining spot and a gastropub. The food that we had was pretty good, though granted, we ordered pub grub (tasty and spicy chicken tenders, a decent though somewhat mushy Philly cheesesteak, very good fries), which makes it hard for us to truly judge the place. But others in our group who had been to the Tan Turtle a couple of times absolutely raved about both the lobster roll and the steak, so this does seem like a place worth checking out.

photo of the Lompoc Cafe, Bar Harbor, Maine After leaving the Tan Turtle, three of us took a ride to Bubble Pond and Cadillac Mountain before heading to Bar Harbor for dinner as a group of five. Our destination was the Lompoc Cafe, which is one of my top 10 personal favorite restaurants in all of New England. Everything about the place makes me happy, from the mellow vibe to the eclectic music to the outdoor dining and bocce court to the friendly staff to the organic, locally-grown products used. Plus, they serve Coal Porter ale, which is one of my favorite beers, and also Island Ginger, which is another outstanding ale. We sat at a table near the bar and started with beer-battered asparagus (delicious) and clam chowder (almost like a stew) before moving on to the entrees. The falafel wrap was excellent, with freshly made falafel pieces stuffed in pita; the pesto pizza was also terrific, with a nice flatbread crust and plenty of basil and oil; the ham and cheese sandwich was something special, with freshly made bread and the thickly cut ham. And the Southern-style salad was fresh and healthy, with locally grown organic vegetables mixed with chicken. It was all very good, and our servers couldn't have been nicer. There's a reason why I always think about this place when I'm in between trips to Acadia.

photo of the Boothbay Lobster Wharf, Boothbay Harbor, Maine After another quiet night in Northeast Harbor, we to ready to leave for home, stopping once again at the Colonel's for some takeout breakfast food, then drove down to Boothbay Harbor in the Mid Coast section of Maine. For those who haven't been, Boothbay Harbor is a tacky, cheesy place that is geared toward tourists, but its location near the end of a scenic peninsula is tough to beat. And they also have numerous lobster pounds and seafood shacks, especially on the less touristy east side of town, which is where we went. Our lunch spot was the Boothbay Lobster Wharf, a classic Maine lobster pound that had a steamer right at the entrance to the restaurant. We almost opted for the outdoor deck, but the winds off the water were chilly (it was 57 degrees there, as opposed to 80 degrees inland), so we sat in the semi-enclosed dining area next to the deck. Neither of us were up for lobster, so we ordered fried clams (too greasy, but still tasty), a cheeseburger (also too greasy), onion rings (probably frozen, but not greasy at all and very good), and a fish sandwich. I saved the best for last here, as the fish sandwich was tremendous; a huge chunk of mouthwatering fried haddock that the hamburger roll could only partly cover. The fish sandwich, (of which the fish was inexplicably shaped like the state of Florida, by the way), was perhaps the best single item I had on the entire trip, and was the perfect way to end another journey to Mount Desert and Acadia National Park.

Of course I'm counting the days until my next trip to Maine, but it could be awhile. Perhaps a drive to Portland, Kennebunkport, or Ogunquit will be in the works shortly. If so, I'll surely have some more Maine restaurants to talk about soon.

Related Blog Entries: Bar Harbor restaurants, Maine restaurants

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Pleasant Dining Experience at Le's in Allston

Although I frequent Vietnamese restaurants, I've only been to Pho Pasteur once, and until about a week ago, I had never been to Le's, a restaurant that has replaced a few of the Pho Pasteur restaurants. Not sure why this is, because my one meal at Pho Pasteur has been a good one. But after getting over to Le's in Allston recently, I'll probably be making a few more trips to this small chain of Vietnamese dining spots in the future.

photo of Le's, Allston, Massachusetts The Le's that is located in Allston is surprisingly spacious, considering how tiny many of Allston's other dining spots are. There are a couple of dining rooms to the right of the entrance, as well as a narrow dining area that is just about completely cut off from the other two rooms (it looks like the space might have been separate shops in the past). We were led to a table in the middle dining room and took a look at the menu, noticing that it looked nearly the same as the menu at the old Pho Pasteur. We started off with some steamed summer rolls which were pretty standard, but tasty enough, and the peanut sauce has a nice kick to it, adding a lot of flavor to the rolls. Our main entrees were both excellent; the cubed filet mignon had lean, tender meat and red peppers, mild onions, and Chinese broccoli, all mixed with garlic, black pepper, and soy sauce. The grilled chicken vermicelli was also quite tasty, and the chicken was flattened, giving it a nice texture. The total price was a bit high for a Vietnamese restaurant, but still pretty low compared to other dinners I have had of late.

Was the meal at Le's comparable to some of the best meals I've had in the Vietnamese restaurants in Fields Corner? Well, perhaps not, though it was very satisfying. And one thing that Le's has over my favorite Vietnamese restaurants in Dorchester is the fact that the atmosphere is a lot nicer and the space seems to be well taken care of. That, combined with the decent food, will certainly make me consider Le's once again when I have a craving for good Vietnamese cuisine.

If you want the address for Le's in Allston, here it is: Le's, 137 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134. The phone number is (617) 783-2340.

Related Blog Entries: Allston restaurants Vietnamese restaurants

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Great Food, Slow Service at Mango II, Tewksbury

A few of us went over to Tewksbury for lunch a few days ago, after weeks of hearing about a Thai restaurant on Route 38 called Mango II that was getting good reviews from folks on a local forum. Someone I know also raved about the place, so we decided to head over there to get some food.

photo of Mango II, Tewksbury, Massachusetts Mango II is located in a nondescript little strip mall, but the interior of the restaurant was pretty nice considering the rather unappealing exterior. Comfortable chairs and low lighting made the moderately large dining area an appealing place to have a meal. When we arrived, the dining room was pretty crowded, but we were able to get a seat right away. Unfortunately, once seated, it took a long time for us to get our order in, and a longer time for the order to come to our table. Our servers were friendly, however, and apologetic about the wait.

We started with an appetizer of steamed shumai, a type of dumpling with shrimp and chicken ground in. They were quite delicious, and the homemade soy sauce added yet more flavor to them. For our entrees, we had marine cashew nuts (scallops, calamari, and shrimp, scallops sauteed with cashew nuts and veggies in a mild chili sauce), thunder noodles (wide pan-fried rice noodles in a basil chili sauce with ground chicken and a variety of veggies), and pineapple fried rice. My dish--the thunder noodle plate--was fantastic, with a ton of heat yet enough flavor to keep the heat from overwhelming the entree. The other dishes looked good, too, though I did not get to try either one. Once we finished, we unfortunately had to wait a long time once again to get the check. With all the waiting we had to do, what should have been a one-hour lunch turned into something much longer, so I wasn't very happy about that.

Slow service aside, I loved both the appetizer and my main dish at Mango II, and am willing to try the restaurant again. But if the service is slow the next time I go, I may have to think twice before returning for a third time. Stay tuned...

If you want the address for Mango II in Tewksbury, here it is: Mango II, 2171 Main Street (Route 38), Tewksbury, MA 01876. The phone number is (978) 988-9779.

Related Blog Entries: Thai restaurants

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Thursday, May 1, 2008
Nice Lunch at Mill City Gourmet, Lawrence

I used to spend a lot of time in Lawrence, and while there, I would repeatedly go to places such as Tripoli Bakery, Napoli, and Salvatore's for food. But I rarely went to the Mill City Gourmet, which was by far the closest place to where I was in Lawrence back in those days. Now that I am rarely in Lawrence, it is ironic that about the only place I go to these days when I'm back in Lawrence is, yes, the Mill City Gourmet. It is partly because I have friends who work near Mill City, but it is also because I've discovered that the food and atmosphere are both rather nice there.

photo of Mill City Gourmet, Lawrence, Massachusetts Mill City Gourmet is located inside Everett Mills, a sprawling old building in the historic section of Lawrence. Because of its location near many businesses both in the mill and along the nearby canal and the river, the place does quite a business around lunchtime. They are also pretty busy at breakfast as well, but it seems that lunch is the busiest time for them (they are not open for dinner, or on weekends for that matter). I met my fellow dining companions in the restaurant and went up to the counter to place a special order that isn't on the menu; a boneless buffalo chicken Cesar salad. The chicken had a sauce on it that was just about perfect, and the salad itself was fresh and substantial. I had almost ordered the Stone Mill, which is basically a steak and cheese on a ciabatta roll (one of my favorite dishes at Mill City), but figured I would get it the next time I dined here. A friend of mine who was there that day told me that their burgers are also excellent, so I may need to try one of those as well in the near future.

While Mill City Gourmet is a bit of a hidden gem, I'm not sure that it will be featured on our site just yet, as not every meal has been consistently good there, and they have sometimes gotten the phone orders wrong (which has been particularly frustrating to those folks I know who frequent the place). But if they can work the occasional kinks out over the coming months, you just may see the Mill City Gourmet as a featured dining spot on Boston's Hidden Restaurants one of these days...

If you are looking for the address for Mill City Gourmet in Lawrence, here it is: Mill City Gourmet, 15 Union Street, Lawrence, MA 01840. The phone number is (978) 794-0199.

Related Blog Entries: cafes, Lawrence restaurants, sandwich shops