Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion on restaurants, which took place on Monday, April 30, 2012. As always, the panel included some panel members, with food writers and media people participating. The hour-long chat included talks with the panel about new restaurants in and around Boston, along with some of their favorite dining experiences so far in 2012 and where they hope to go over the coming days and weeks. And once again, the chat included some viewer participation. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0412.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hello, all! Welcome to another live online discussion on food and restaurants. This is actually our first panel discussion since January, as I have had several one-on-one chats over the past few months. Before we begin, perhaps we can start with some introductions--I'm Marc, the founder and owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants as well as the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk. http://www.bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com
MC Slim JB: I review budget-priced restaurants for the Boston Phoenix and fine-dining restaurants for Stuff Magazine. Links to my pro reviews are on my blog: http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/, where I also write occasional essays on the Boston food and drinks scene. I'm on Twitter, too: @mcslimjb
Marc H.: Hello, Gary! Hey, MC!
Richard: Hi Marc! I'm Richard from Boston Burger Blog, co-owner of The Skinny Beet, a catering and personal chef business, and I also write the column "Man Food" for Boston Magazine.
Marc H.: Good afternoon, Richard!
Walt: Hi Marc, thanks for setting this up. Hello all
Marc H.: Hi, Walt! Feel free to introduce yourself!
Gary/PigTrip: Hi Marc. I'm Gary, and I review barbecue joints across New England and greater NYC on the www.pigtrip.net site, with frequent burger reviews as well.
Patrick Maguire: Hello, Everyone. I author a blog and forthcoming book titled, "I'm Your Server, Not Your Servant," advocating for customer service industry workers. http://www.servernotservant.com/ Full disclosure, I also manage a few nights a week at jm Curley in Downtown Crossing.
Marc H.: Hi, Patrick! How goes...
Walt: Walt Perkins, Sports Director at WBZ News Radio. Friend of food.
Patrick Maguire: Sorry, just learned the pic option. How obnoxious. Thought it was small!!!
Marc H.: I kind of like the picture option, actually. Few people tend to use it with these chats.
Walt: Nobody wants to salivate all over their keyboard. :-)
Marc H.: So we may have even more folks on the way, but at least a couple of them will be showing up late, I believe...
Patrick Maguire: Any friend of food is a friend of mine.
Walt: Most excellent.
MC Slim JB: Food thinks I'm its friend until I get close to it.
Marc H.: Ha ha, good point, MC.
Marc H.: So today's discussion will have a less rigid format than some of the previous ones, as we'll mostly be talking about new restaurants in the Boston area, dining spots our panel has been to so far in 2012 (including first-time visits), and places that the panel members are looking forward to trying soon. In addition, we'll probably finish up with various items, including any food/restaurant events that may be coming up, news stories in the food world (openings/closings, renovations, menu changes, new chefs, etc.), and anything else that the panel may want to talk about.
Marc H.: A quick note to our viewers: Please don't hesitate to chat with us at any time during the discussion, but for the most part, I will be talking first with the panel for each topic, then we'll open up the discussion to you if you would like to ask or answer any questions.
Aaron K./Eater Boston: Hi All, Aaron Kagan from Eater Boston here.
Marc H.: Hello, Aaron!
Marc H.: Wow, we do have a lot of people today, don't we? :-)
Patrick Maguire: Incredible turnout @ The House of Blues on Saturday for the Bacon & Beer Fest to benefit Lovin' Spoonfuls and Community Servings. Congrats to Adam Kagan and all of the volunteers who did a great job.
Marc H.: And it's Bacon and Beer Week right now, as well, with events happening all week long. I think you meant Aaron Cohen, by the way. Unless Aaron K., you were helping as well?
Patrick Maguire: Yes, Aaron Cohen. Thank you.
Aaron K./Eater Boston: I wish!
Marc H.: Why don't we start by looking at some of the new restaurants in the Boston area. Have you been to any new spots over the past several weeks?
MC Slim JB: The most squealing-like-a-little-girl moments I've had at a restaurant this year have been at Thai North in Brighton. The traditional Northern Thai on their blackboard menu is so novel and amazing. I can't tell you what's on the farang menu, as I haven't touched it.
Gary/PigTrip: Good to know.
Marc H.: Darn, you beat me to that place, MC. We almost went three weeks ago, but ended up somewhere NW of the city instead. Is it almost all traditional Thai, or are there some more Americanized dishes as well?
MC Slim JB: I think the regular menu at Thai North is classic Southern Thai, the more familiar regional cuisine to most Americans, but I don't expect it to be as traditional as at places like Dok Bua or S&I. It's for the unadventurous white people, I'm pretty sure.
Walt: Making a note about that one. With my hours, I would probably be investigating their lunch menu (if they do lunch).
Richard: Not exactly "new" but finally made it to both Trade and Blue Inc last weekend. Good efforts all around, the lamb flatbread at Trade was especially memorable.
Marc H.: Richard, how was the noise level at Trade?
Richard: I found it pretty normal, kept reading about how loud it would be but I wasn't bothered, at least not in the bar area which is where I was.
MC Slim JB: Walt: blackboard menu only. They have helpful wall photos to illustrate, as the English language names aren't very illuminating or familiar.
Walt: Aah. Okay, thanks.
Patrick Maguire: Finally got to Staff Meal Truck at their new location on City Hall Plaza.
Marc H.: I am very interested in getting there, Patrick. What did you think? I keep telling people I know that we have to get to Staff Meal.
MC Slim JB: The Staff Meal guys are really killing it these days, mostly with tacos. But I also got a bag of fried chicken skin, which was amazing but really killed my afternoon.
Marc H.: Didn't I recently read on Facebook that they had ordered a huge bag of chicken skin that weighed a few pounds?
Richard: Staff Meal is great, really need to get back again.
Gary/PigTrip: Though I saw some signs of potential, I was generally underwhelmed at Moksa. I'd say the same about Grass Fed.
Marc H.: Did you have any favorite items at either place, Gary?
Gary/PigTrip: Best thing at Moksa was the papaya salad. The pork belly was a major whiff.
MC Slim JB: Did you try the Uyigur lamb at Moksa? That dish floored me. Love Noon's cocktails, too.
Gary/PigTrip: No, I'll have to check the lamb next time.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: Just jumping in to say hi, I ate Staff Meal today for lunch :)
Marc H.: Hi, Steve!
Marc H.: What did you have at Staff Meal?
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: howdy Marc
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: I had a chinese sausage taco and the shrimp kabayaki... so good
Patrick Maguire: Great guys and great food @ Staff Meal Truck. Food is creative, and both guys are easy to root for. My lunch: Shrimp Kabayaki, Foie Gras Kewpie, Rice Krispies, Jicama, Gochu - $5
Aaron K./Eater Boston: Anyone concerned about The Taco Truck edging in on Staff Meal's turf?
Marc H.: The Taco Truck sounds like it really means business in the Boston area. I think they might try to get a brick-and-mortar spot here at some point, though I'm not sure that is 100% confirmed.
MC Slim JB: I think anything that draws crowds is good for both trucks.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: From the menu I saw, Taco Truck is more traditional, Staff Meal more creative with what goes between the tortillas
Marc H.: Yes, that's the feeling I got as well.
Walt:I don't know how new Habanero's in Waltham is but our party enjoyed our meal and overall experience.
Marc H.: Walt, I've heard some great things about Habanero's. I've been meaning to get over there, actually.
Walt: Food Truck Wars. Is that on the air yet?
MC Slim JB: I had a very fine meal at the new Tonic in Forest Hills not too long ago. Reminds me a bit of the Franklin Cafe: a convivial, modern bar with rather good food at nice neighborhood prices.
Marc H.: Tonic took over an old working-class bar, didn't it? Was it Griffin's?
MC Slim JB: I believe it was indeed Griffin's.
Richard: Excited to try the Mei Mei Truck, anytime you have something called "Pork Bun Sunday" I'm intrigued.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: Oh Richard, you have to have the chinese pork with vermont cheddar in the scallion pancake, with sriracha catsup
Richard: Damn, that sounds great!
Patrick Maguire: Really enjoyed the ramen by Guchi and Co. at The Gallows, speaking of pork buns...
Marc H.: Was it pretty tough getting in there, Patrick?
Patrick Maguire: I volunteered and they fed us after, including a family-sized pork bun the size of a small pizza!
Aaron K./Eater Boston: Duck tongue roti was probably by favorite thing at Moksa.
Marc H.: That sounds like a pretty rich-tasting dish, Aaron!
Michael Robertson: Yet to try duck tongue, is it worth it?
Aaron K./Eater Boston: Roti was a touch dry, but overall I recommend it, especially if you're new to duck tongue.
Marc H.: So to all of our viewers out there--have you been to any new places of late in the Boston area?
Marc H.: By the way, I went to a new restaurant in Providence earlier this month, and as I was telling Devra First on the Boston Globe chat, I can't mention its name yet, as it is in the process of being reviewed for the site, but all I have to say is, their pizza was about the best I've had anywhere in New England (and I've had a lot of pizza).
Drew Starr: looking at the calendar, jm curley's (hi, Patrick) downtown is still new but already feels like an old home. the industry brunch is a revelation
Patrick Maguire: Hey Drew- Thank you. We're having some fun on Temple Place.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: Oh yeah, almost forgot... the Mei mei pork and cheddar in the scallion pancake also has a fried egg in it.... important detail
Marc H.: Wow, very important. That sounds soooo good...
Richard: Agree with Drew, love JM Curley and it always feels like home. Burger is easily one of my favorites already.
MC Slim JB: Been spending a lot of time at China King, the return of the original King Fung Garden owners to Chinatown. Great noodles, dumplings, Peking duck!
Drew Starr: also recently tried the chicken and rice truck. was a bit disappointed in the amount of flavor present, but it was still hearty and fresh tasting. to be fair, I've not tasted it in ny and this might be how it's "supposed" to be and I just like more kick in my food
Marc H.: So why don't we move from new restaurants that you're tried to some of the better restaurants that you have been to so far in 2012. Any first-time visits to spots that have been around for awhile?
Marc H.: And I'll say that the best spots I've been to so far in 2012 are probably Gustazo in Belmont, Cast Iron Kitchen in Maynard, Gaslight in the South End, and Shanghai Gate in Allston.
Richard: Have recently fallen in love with East by Northeast. (speaking of scallion pancake sandwiches...)
MC Slim JB: I rediscovered the Hungry Traveler after a hiatus of many moons. I thought it closed years ago, but new owners took over. They're Korean-Americans, so in addition to the American breakfast/lunch menu, they do one or two Korean specials every day. Very nice, cheap, friendly, fast.
Marc H.: Where's that, MC?
MC Slim JB: Hungry Traveler is near Government Center, tucked away on Court Square, around the corner from Oceanaire, if that helps.
Marc H.: Wow, that's a rather obscure location. I'll have to head over there one of these days.
MC Slim JB: Hungry Traveler is definitely a Hidden Boston kind of spot!
Patrick Maguire: I wish someone would open a great Thai place in the North End. So few good restaurants in my new 'hood. Any recs close to the North End for Thai?
Marc H.: Patrick, I can't think of any good Thai near the North End. King and I in Beacon Hill is ok. Montien in the Theatre District is probably worth the walk from the North End.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: I had a very nice 1st time meal at The Grotto on Bowdoin St
Marc H.: Grotto is a very nice spot. Love their garlic soup...
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: The Potato gnocchi, Short ribs, Mushrooms, Gorgonzola dish was fabulous
Drew Starr: I got to pikaichi in the 88 in allston for the first time. for the value, it was tasty, but I've been spoiled as my first 3 non-instant ramens were from momfuku, guchi's, and uni and it really did not compare to any of those.
Drew Starr: Finally made it to Posto for the first time a few mos. back. Really hard to not keep going back there everytime we get to Somerville, but the explosion of food happening there is insane
Marc H.: Posto is another one of those places that can get really loud, but people seem to love it and it's doing very well, I believe.
Aaron K./Eater Boston: Big East by Northeast fan, as well as Cast Iron Kitchen - great fried artichokes.
Marc H.: Yes, those artichokes are unbelievably good. And the bacon-wrapped dates are great as well.
MC Slim JB: Got over to Nix's Mate in the Hilton FiDi: David Nevins, Neptune's opening chef, back in Boston. Pretty damned good if you avoid the cliche hotel-restaurant-menu items.
Marc H.: Such an odd name for a restaurant. Between that and Barney Fanning's, the Financial District is seeing some unusually-named spots all of a sudden.
MC Slim JB: It's named after a Harbor Island with a sordid past.
Marc H.: And Barney Fanning's is named after someone involved in a riot with firefighters.
Drew Starr: mc slim jb -- did you try the lobster w/ caramel? Buddy of mine was his opening sous for the place he briefly own/operated in CT. That was an amazing dish that makes no sense on paper but just works
MC Slim JB: Drew, I will try that Nix's dish next: thanks for the tip!
Richard: Looks like I've got to run, have a great day everyone!!
Marc H.: Thanks for joining us, Richard! Have a good one!
MC Slim JB: Got back to Deuxave for the first time in a while: a really fine meal there, and I love that dining room.
MC Slim JB: Quite enjoyed the Nigerian food at Rozzie's Suya Joint, a new cuisine to me. Some weirdness, but mostly accessible and delicious.
Marc H.: Nice to see Boston has a Nigerian restaurant once again; there was a Nigerian spot in Hyde Park that closed awhile back.
MC Slim JB: I shouldn't still be contributing to the hype, but I'm still dazzled by the food at Strip-T's. I haven't seen its recent makeover, but I'm excited that young Maslow has effectively taken over the lunch menu, too.
Marc H.: Strip-T's was pretty amazing before all the changes; for them to step it up a couple more notches is incredible. And the place is so small--I wonder if they might move to bigger digs at some point.
MC Slim JB: Strip-T's and Thai North: great reasons to get out of town.
Patrick Maguire: Love the way the Strip-T's dad supported son and explained the changes on facebook.
Drew Starr: not sure if off topic, but probably a good group to ask. anyone know the fate of bhindi bazaar on mass ave? It's the indian place in the building containing the now departed otherside, island hopper, and sleeparama. They've always got a very good lunch buffet
Marc H.: I haven't heard anything, Drew. That section of the Back Bay is really taking some hits, with J.P. Licks, Otherside, Island Hopper closing. And Best Buy is closing as well, which means the area will be even more empty.
MC Slim JB: No idea about Bhindi, but I remember it as a rare place in Boston to get balti, a specialty of Pakistani ex-pats in Birmingham, England.
Marc H.: FYI, we'll be shifting to a new topic in a minute. Any of our other viewers been to any great restaurants so far in 2012?
Patrick Maguire: I shouldn't still be stuck in my old habits, but had another great meal from Metropolis last night.
Marc H.: Ahhhh, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. What did you have there, Patrick?
Patrick Maguire: Chix (of course), gnocchi w/duck confit and brussels sprouts, scalloped potatoes au gratin, asparagus tartare.
MC Slim JB: That potato/cauliflower gratin at Metropolis is one of my favorite side dishes in Boston.
Marc H.: And don't forget the chestnut soup on a cold winter day.
Marc H.: So for the last 10 minutes, I'd like to touch upon any food events, news, etc. that any of you might know of, including upcoming openings/closings, chefs moving to different restaurants, and so on. Anyone?
MC Slim JB: Psyched for Yakitori Zai to open in the South End.
Marc H.: Yes, I was just going to post about that, MC. Rumor has it the place might open late next week.
MC Slim JB: Will Gilson's return with bridgestreet in Inman Square.
Marc H.: I'm looking forward to Back Deck opening in downtown Boston. Whenever a restaurant "introduces" their three grills on their website, you have to be at least a little curious.
Patrick Maguire: Tough name, but I heard good things about the comfort food at the soft opening of Happy's.
Marc H.: Yes, it looks like they are just about ready to open.
MC Slim JB: Tim Wiechmann doing German food in Union Square, Somerville!
Marc H.: Complete with an outdoor beer garden.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: I'm interested to see how the Food Trucks Fests work out this summer. You buy a ticket and basically get samples from the trucks, no actual vending at the trucks
Marc H.: I'm thinking they will do pretty well. The food truck rage continues to build...
Patrick Maguire: Along with Ramen Rage.
Marc H.: Yup, ramen is replacing cupcakes as the latest craze.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: What piqued my curiosity about the Food Truck Fests was that they were doing Groupons to 4 of the events
MC Slim JB: The Aquitaine Group folks opening Cinquecento in the old Rocca space.
Patrick Maguire: Cinquecento, another tough name.
MC Slim JB: Brian Poe's Tip Tap Room in the late, lamented Shangri-La restaurant/brothel space on Beacon Hill.
Marc H.: Brothel? I used to go to Shangri-La during my college years. I never knew about a brothel!
MC Slim JB: In the basement of the Shangri-La. Allegedly.
Marc H.: Wow, who knew...
MC Slim JB: Lithuanian food and art at Liquid Art House.
MC Slim JB: A creative steakhouse concept from the dbar / Deuxave folks in the old Banq / Ginger Park space.
Steve/hubfoodtrucks: Got to run, thanks everyone for making me hungry again :).
Marc H.: Thank you, Steve! Have a good day.
Patrick Maguire: Fried egg on top of everything is pretty popular also.
Marc H.: Yes, even O'Sullivan's in Somerville is doing it now.
MC Slim JB: The Grotto/Marliave team taking over the kitchen at Kitchen, in the former Pops space. Lots of good stuff coming to the South End.
Marc H.: The South End is hot once again, as is Union Square in Somerville. I can't believe how many places are opening there.
Drew Starr: @MC Ramen Rage?
MC Slim JB: That wasn't my comment, though I have had some fabulous ramen recently. Snuck into a Guchi's event: phew!
Marc H.: It's about 4:00, so it's time to call it a day. Thanks to all of you for joining the chat today! I hope you get some good dining experiences in over the coming days.
Drew Starr: oh, sorry, misread, that was Patrick. thought it was the name of a new place, guess he meant trend. thanks for the chat
Patrick Maguire: Great eating, everyone. Thank you, Marc.
MC Slim JB: Great fun as always, Marc: thanks for inviting me!
Gary/PigTrip: Thanks, so many new places to try.