Eater Boston's Top Restaurant Standby list

Survey of local food writers on their top good old standbys, including 6 restaurants from @MC-Slim-JB - Moody’s, Cha Yen, Dumpling Palace, H-Mart Food Court, Estragon, Audobon Boston

Some good recommendations here, nothing new though. There are however, some bum steers. Night Market is under the radar because it is overpriced middling food. The late night ramen at Uni is some of the worst I have tried in the area. Townsman is perhaps the most overrated opening of the past year. The food and consistency at Audubon has nosedived since it changed hands (but hey, it’s now the hip Trina’s team).

Eater is a great source for information and ideas, but I find these local food writer lists to be fairly worthless. It’s interesting to me how certain observations of these local “writers” are lifted directly from other sources and publicly accessible online forums reviews. The recommendations have to be taken with a grain of salt as there is always the requisite butt kissing of insider favorites and affiliated restaurant groups.

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I stand by my love for Audubon Boston, which I’ve visited at least a dozen times in the past year. Not sure how anyone could challenge the notion that the beverage program, especially for cocktails, is immeasurably better under Tyler Wang. The food strikes me as about equal to the old Audubon Circle; still a fine burger, still largely above-average pub food, still quite consistent in its humble way, though of course your experience could be different. That particular question is about standbys, not standouts, which in my case was about the utility of a good, reasonably-priced pre-Sox venue. (I also favor Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and The Hawthorne before Sox games, but I deemed them a little pricey in that context for most Eater Boston readers.)

The assertion that folks are lifting from other sources is a serious one. We all know the kind of articles that are clearly Google-researched instead of actually researched, and they are a pox, but I wonder which specific examples struck you as second-hand, and whose original opinions you think got bit.

Are you suggesting that some kind of commercial tit-for-tat (In the manner of the justly-loathed Andelmans) taints some of these opinions? If so, which ones smell rotten to you?

With the exception of Mark Hurwitz, an old Chowhound hand whose integrity I believe to be beyond reproach, I don’t personally know any of the writers in this group, so I can’t speak to their methods or affiliations. (I’ve never met Luke O’Neill, but I’d bet good money that his hilariously cranky opinions cannot be bought, either. Probably helps that I usually agree with him.) If there’s some ethically-dubious shenanigans going on, they didn’t get my antennae up. What did I miss?

I agree- I don’t think any of these folks are copying anyone. There are some possibilities though:

  1. Uni’s read/heard people voices these sentiments before (either by these critics or by people echoing them). Certainly, just parroting a popular chowhound/yelp opinion does happen.
    Also, knowing people’s internet pseudonyms versus their real names helps as well. If you don’t know that Blumie=Rachel Blumenthal, you would be right think one is copying the other!

  2. The belief that various internet forums discover a place first and then critics write about them. I’ve certainly heard this before and it may well be true- but I have no idea.

Either way, like with anyone’s opinion you have to weigh what that person values with yours. The evaluation criteria can be wildly different and you have to accept that.

My own personal take on these lists is that - should I visit the establishments listed, I should only go on off-hours as their likely to be overrun during prime time.

As for me- here are my standbys:

  1. Shojo, Chinatown. I like it for drinks, the burger, ramen, and the chicken and waffles. Can get pricey.
  2. Blue Asia Cafe, Allston. I like it for the Asian-diner vibe, family run, and the food is good and filling.
  3. Live Noodles, Allston/Brighton. Still exploring the menu, but I like the various noodle dishes here.
  4. Pho Bistro, Malden. I really like the flavor of the broths- it’s much richer and complex than the other Pho joints around town.
  5. Penang, Chinatown. A chance for me to taste my favorite food type- Malaysian/Singaporean. Favorites are the roti canai, chicken satay, singapore rice noodles, mee goreng, and char kway teow.
  6. Orinoco (Brookline, Harvard Sq.,South End): A couple of arepas and I’m happy. Finishing with an espresso of course!
  7. Gracenote coffee. Coffee fanatics running their shop- roasting the beans and brewing them. It’s great to see people who are enthusiastic and excellent at what they do. It is pricey though, but probably in line with Starbucks, et al.

Old favorites I’ve phased out:

  1. Kaju Tofu House, Allston. Used to love this place but it’s always a wait to get in and lately I’ve found the food too oily and heavy. Also can get pricey.
  2. Bon Chon Chicken. Inconsistent product, food is way to caloric to risk something less than spectacular.
  3. S&I Thai, Allston. Can’t get anyone to go with me there following their shutdown. :frowning:

I agree with you on Night Market. I was so excited from the name of the place and the type of food they’d be serving, but was underwhelmed the times I’d been. Unfortunate.
I’ve not tried the others (ramen at Uni, Townsman, or Audobon) and I’m not sure I would due to a critic’s recommendation.

What are your standbys uni? (If you don’t mind my asking!).

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huh, this is not one I knew about. Looks cool from the website (which actually says it’s technically in Brookline Care to elaborate a bit on what you like there?

The places I have found myself at the most in the past year include Kirkland Tap & Trotter (posted about this one in the past few days), Cafe Sushi, Gene’s, the bar at Cafe Art Science, and Babbo. My list is weighted by personal considerations including often having my children along, and convenience to home and business locations. They all share the common thread of never having let me down.

I could see the Backroom at Moody’s becoming a regular place for me in the year ahead, and I have been enjoying Ganko Ittestu quite a bit.

Have you tried the Kaju Tofu location in Harvard Square? I find it much less crowded. I am with you on your Bon Chon take. When it’s good it’s great, but I’ve had more misses than hits and don’t bother anymore.

Hi there! This is a bit of a tangent, but I just wanted to clarify (because it’s come up a few times in the past) that the blumie on Chowhound is not me. I’m blumie the koala over there (and I am more of a lurker than a poster), blumie625 on Instagram, and finally, just plain old blumie on Twitter.

But in any case, thank you for reading Eater! I do keep a close eye on boards like this and always cite where my information came from when reporting news. When it comes to general sentiments, those are harder to cite, of course, and in a small city, I think it can get a little murky where one person’s opinion ends and another begins as we’re all talking about the same places over and over again. It’s certainly easy to fall back onto “well, I haven’t eaten there, but I’ve heard…” and I think that’s fine, as long as you’re open about the fact that it’s not your own opinion. That said, I don’t think that really comes into play in our year-end survey because (hopefully) people are raving about places they actually have personal opinions about.

I think your take on what to make of these lists, and all other round-ups of this kind, is spot on — take them with the necessary grain of salt, and perhaps pay particular attention to voices that you come to learn align well with yours.

The places on your standby list sound great — I definitely want to check those out! Shojo’s the only one I’ve been to, and I’m a fan.

I’ve actually had an outstanding meal at Night Market and was pleasantly surprised by how affordable it was. I’d return.

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I like the lamb kabobs there- plump with some fat mixed in and a healthy seasoning with cumin, they’re much more generous in amount of meat and flavor than either Gene’s or WOW bbq’s.

For noodle dishes, I’ve had several but to be perfectly honest I don’t know what all of them are called (I was given something that the waiter suggested).
Of those I know I’ve tried, the thin noodle soup with lamb, mustard greens, some chili is this one:
Spicy Lamb H-P Thin Noodle 羊拌細面 (I believe it’s marked as a soup if you see the menu at the restaurant).

The Spicy Lamb H-P Flat Noodle 羊拌粗面 dish is recommended by the waitstaff and thought I liked it, I myself prefer the smaller noodles. Every time I’ve been though I see this dish on most tables. The other thing I see alot of are the the larger hot pot style dishes but I hardly ever get those.

If any of you are game for a chowdown here, count me in!

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Oh man! I stand corrected and apologize to both you and Blumie on chowhound for that mix up.
I suppose it reinforces my point that you cannot necessarily tie the account on a board to a person.

I certainly don’t expect everyone to like those places like I do but I encourage folks to try them out and see for themselves. Certainly, people I’ve taken to them have liked them quite a bit- it’s rare but it still happens that there’ll be someone who won’t like one of my faves. And that’s fine- there’s plenty to try and it’s a good excuse to try something new.

If you like live noodles, please make a trip to Watertown and try Home Taste. Better quality pulled and shaved noodles at a better price. Their non noodle dishes are very, well, home style and I’d say would be best made by one’s self at home. Though their sandwich is rather tasty.

Thanks for the tip! I’ve added Home Taste to my list.

What else do you like there?

The Home Taste space replaced my beloved Wonder Cafe, so I have resisted going.

Yes, I know, I know, Wonder Cafe’s chicken and broccoli was dull, as well as their orange chicken, blah,blah blah, but once again, if one could talk to the owner, Sue Chen , or her daughter, Elizabeth Eng, you could get GREAT homestyle Cantonese food for short money.

The lunch special " Tofu with egg and tomato on brown rice" with a side of pickled vegetables, all for 6.99, was the kind of thing I imagine people in Canton would eat when feeling under the weather.

I miss it still.

But white suburb people dont seem to want that.

Gee, I wonder where I can get crab rangoon and a PuPu platter?

Oh, the humanity.

I would love a place in Watertown Square serving squid, five seafood soup, and Phoenix feet.
But I dont see that happening.

If you love Home Style in the Square ,and their noodles, go as much as you can, because, in my experience, LiveNoodle has a better shot at gaining the clientele required to keep a place open for things like,
“Spicy sauce sliced fish soup”, and " pig leg big pot", along with flat AND thin hand pulled noodle irrespective of price.

Also, if anyone hears of the Sue Chen/Elizabeth Eng, mother /daughter team cooking anywhere in the Greater Boston area, please tell me. I would travel some to eat their food.

I’ve had Home Taste’s noodles with ground pork and peanuts (excellent thick wheat noodle, not hand pulled in house), flat pulled “belt” noodles with hot oil (good, just a notch below Gene’s, way less garlic than the Gene’s default style), the chicken and lamb rou jia mo (sandwiches) which I liked. They are always out of liang pi when I ask. The female server who’s usually there used to work the counter at the downtown Gene’s.

I’ve had their dumplings, ma po tofu, a stir fried noodle dish with the flat pulled noodles, and a double cooked pork. These were all pretty crude, served at a cold temperature, etc… hence the “maybe just skip and make it at home” part. Pretty expensive for what you get. Never had the da pan ji or ma la pots there, maybe they would be more satisfying.

For Cantonese rice plates outside of Chinatown, I think Kantin is a really solid option, but of course you need to take out unless you want to eat in the gross food court.

Home taste had been floating around on this (and the other board) since it opened. So today I went.

Loved it. Very happy it is there and much closer than MDM or Gene’s.

I’ll post back in the new year.

Happy New Years funions :wink:


I have a little trouble getting away from Kantin’s " dry fry beef chow foon" when i get there.

And then after I have a Bon Mi at Pho Viet, i need a nap.

while we’re on the subject… other stuff I eat routinely at Kantin

  • bbq pork belly (siu yuk) and soft tofu in brown sauce on rice
  • spicy salt anything (tofu, squid, chicken)
  • siu yuk on rice (their other hanging meats are passable but often the siu yuk is really solid, and they serve rather good white rice)

I think Pho Viet’s is a really good value for comfort food type eats. Especially the tomato fried rice with a chicken leg, and the banh uot kho cha lua (steamed rice noodle with vietnamese baloney). these are about $8-9 and make a decent two meals per order.