We are moving soon from San Diego to Boston and just went to Boston to find housing and schools and know now that we will live in Watertown.
Obviously we will go through old posts here and on Chowhound (and other sources) to start creating long lists of different restaurants we might be interested to visit but I also thought it would be great if people here in Boston could help me to start filling in such lists with their favorite restaurants. I have separated the list in different countries and would be curious to see what restaurants people would recommend for the different countries (and I am aware that most countries have strong regional differences but I didn’t want it to be too complicated but please add if you have restaurants covering a special region). Also I know traffic in Boston can be tough but we are often willing to drive for good/interesting food in San Diego and LA so please mention restaurant all over the Boston Area.
High end restaurants (we like tasting menus a lot and often set some up with chefs):
Pizza (especially looking for Napolitanean style):
Japan (including sushi):
Steakhouse (we rarely eat much meat but what are places with high quality (grass-fed preferred) meat):
Cocktailbars (we love good cocktails):
Beer (SD has one of the best beer scenes in the world and we hope there are places in Boston with a great beer selection):
Okay, I guess I owe you some feedback due to your good humor and congenial attitude.
Unfortunately I am a relatively poor person with little discretionary income who never eats at the expensive places. For instance, the closest I’ll get to eating at O Ya is that I used to work with a woman who was going out with one of their cooks. I’m pretty good at discerning value for some of the others, especially ethnic dives.
Chinese: Gene’s in Woburn (and also downtown) are my most frequent splurge (yes, $10 is a splurge…) especially for spicy food. # 4 noodles and # 10 soup (both ordered extra spicy) are my drugs of choice. I got some noodles for lunch today and was chatting with Mrs. Gene about the new Sichuan Gourmet in Burlington. That’s my segue to one of the Boston area’s strengths: all the Sichuans are good. The Gourmets in Framingham, Billerica, Sharon and Burlington, and the Garden in Woburn are a cut above. Mrs. Gene also likes Chili Garden in Medford; I’ve never been.
Gelato: I’m a ten-year fan of Dolce Freddo in Methuen. I just brought back a brick last Monday for some friends (8 scoops for 10.99 in a Styrofoam coffin that travels decently) with some of their classic flavors: chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio and caramel brownie. Methuen is maybe a bit far for you, and I hear great things about Morano Gelato in Chestnut Hill, which is much closer to Watertown. Chatting with the owner at Dolce Freddo last week, he said Morano’s owner has the same equipment as him, and she was making stuff at his shop while waiting for her own equipment to be set up. He said their baseline mixes are a little different, and that he can’t always sell the slightly more exotic flavors in the Merrimack Valley that she can in Newton. Someday I would like to do a side-by-side taste testing.
Other good-value ethnic cuisine: Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham, Chen Ya Thai in Watertown, Hong Cuc in Lowell for banh mi, Heng Lay in Lowell for Cambodian (and many other good places in Lowell). Dorchester is a little closer for you, and has many good bahn mi and Vietnamese places, though I’ve only tried Ba Le.
Thanks, Kunegunde. I shouldn’t have put the tasting menus first. Even though we like them we are equally interested in small hole in the wall restaurants.
Interesting that you mention a taqueria - everybody in San Diego somehow recommended to us to fill in on Mexican food before moving to Boston. What type of tacos do they have, lengua, cabeza, tripa, gobernador ?
Your list is far too long to address, however happy to provide recommendations for any specific requests as they come up. A few clear favorites to get you started:
Tasting Menus: The Table At Season To Taste (Cambridge); Tasting Counter (Somerville)
Pizza: Pizzeria Regina (original North End location only!) is my favorite ordered stretched and well done.
Gelato: Morano Gelato (Chestnut Hill)
Sushi: Cafe Sushi (Cambridge) for omakase. Try to go during the week for a more relaxed experience and interaction with the chef. O Ya (Boston), go once and then never again. Your first experience will be sublime, but after that it will seem like a gouge and you will realize that the menu is not seasonal or based on what is fresh.
Cocktails: Cafe Art Science (Cambridge) for some of the most inventive cocktails around served by masters.
Ana Sortun’s Oleana in Cambridge and Sarma in Somerville and middle eastern cafe Sofra on the Cambridge/Belmont border are amazing.
Watertown has a newish restaurant Branch Line with an interesting wine list, excellent roast chicken.
Spanish, Dali in Cambridge has been there for decades and isn’t great. Estragon in Boston, Taberno el Haro in Brookline, Barcelona in Brookline, Toro in Boston. There are two Peruvian places in Somerville near Union Square, but I don’t have much experience with them or with the Journeyman restaurant there (tasting menu).
Seafood, oysters, lobster, in Boston: Select Oyster, Neptune Oyster, Island Creek, Row 34. I think B&G Oyster, also in Boston, is over rated and over priced. There are several Portuguese restaurants in East Cambridge, traditionally a neighborhood with lots of Portuguese and Azorean immigrants, I have no recent experience. Mexican is not good here, as you have heard, but there are lots of Central American hole in the wall places with pupusas. Istanbul’lu in Somerville is quite good for traditional Turkish and it is across the street from the OK but not great Sabur (Bosnian). I have not been to the Afghan restaurant Helmand in Cambridge. Check out all of MJ Slim JB’s restaurant reviews in the Improper Bostonian and on his site. Bronwyn is a newish German place in Somerville. I’m not wild about German food and it is a bit expensive, but some people like it. I have never heard of any Scandinavian restaurants in the area.
Boston has some Mexican options but it’s not a local specialty :-). Taqueria El Amigo is the only place I’ve found so far that feels to me like a SoCal taqueria; there may be others in East Boston but I haven’t gotten there. They have lengua and cabeza; I like the latter in a torta. The place is small and often busy.
Also in Waltham there’s a higher-end Mexican fusion place called Amuleto Mexican Table (http://amuletorestaurant.com/) which has some creative combinations including tacos de jamaica and (from your list) gobernador. The small chain Tenoch (original in Medford) is also decent.
Chinese: as Kunegunde said, there are many good Sichuan options, each with their own strengths. Since you like cocktails it’s worth noting that Sichuan Garden II in Woburn is known for their bars as well as their food.
The area also has some Shaanxi-style/influenced places. Gene’s remains my gold standard for spicy hand-puilled noodles and, when I can get them, cold-skin/liangpi. If not, the #8 cold noodle dish makes a good hot-weather meal. The #10 dumpling soup is also a favorite of mine.
Hometaste in Watertown (http://www.hometastema.com/) might be a good local option for you. It looks like a standard Americanized take-out hole in the wall but has excellent Chinese burgers (especially the cumin lamb) good hand-pulled noodles (not as toothsome as Gene’s but still tasty), dumplings, and very nice Sichuan-style fried chicken (I think they call it Hot & Spicy Minced Chicken).
Thai: I’ll +1 Kunegunde on Cha Yen (not Chen Ya) in Watertown. It’s another small mostly-take-out place with an excellent chef and interesting options (great mushroom as well as pork larbs, anything with duck, in-house ice cream). The main downside is if you like it spicy you’ll need to make that clear. S&I in Allston is great for spicy items and Thai North in Brighton has very good northern Thai and Isaan specials.
I think you’ll need to go to Lowell for Cambodian; I like Simply Khmer and Heng Lay. Vietnamese is good in that area too.
Cocktails: The Hawthorne in Kenmore is my favorite, but we have tons of top notch cocktail bars, including the aforementioned Cafe ArtScience, Brick and Mortar, Drink, Eastern Standard, and BackBar in Somerville.
Beer: The Publick House for Belgian, and more. The Lower Depths.
Pizza: have yet to try the new Pepe’s in Chestnut Hill, but the New Haven branch is incredible. I also like Regina (North End only), Otto, and Santarpio’s. Many newer spots like Area 4, and Stoked which get good reviews, but I have not tried.
Allston is ethnic food central: Great Allston places include:
Garlic and Lemons (Middle Eastern)
Carlo’s Cuchina Italiana (classic red-sauce Italian)
Mala : great HOT Schezuan cuisine
Esperia Grill (Brighton) Greek
MDM Noodles: Chinese
Bistro type places: Eastern Standard, Branchline (Watertown), Alden And Harlow
Seafood: Island Creek Oyster Bar, Select Oyster, Row 34
As a long-time New Haven Pepe’s fan I tried the one in Chestnut Hill recently and was disappointed. They may be using a great oven and the same recipes but the staff there just don’t seem to know how to make consistent pizza, add garlic (we had to hunt for it) or compensate for wet ingredients (Pepe’s in NH has never served me a soggy pizza even with spinach on it). If I go back to Chestnut Hill Mall it’ll be for Morano Gelato.
In addition to the others you listed there’s Emma’s in Cambridge for thin and crispy crust pizza with interesting toppings. For honkman, a local naming convention: places named [Townname] House of Pizza are generally Greek-style and best avoided, ime.
+1 on Garlic & Lemons (one of the few Lebanese places around I think) and Allston’s other offerings.