Below are blog entries from May, 2010. 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.)
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Dinner at The Wok in Wellesley
Years ago, I used to frequent countless Chinese-American restaurants (often late at night), pigging out on chicken fingers, spare ribs, lo mein, teriyaki steak, fried rice, and moo shi pork. These days, I find myself going to more authentic Chinese dining spots more often, but every now and then, I'll end up dining out on comfort food, Chinese-style, much as I did one night last week at The Wok in Wellesley.
Located in a squat commercial building on what basically amounts to an on-ramp onto Route 9 near Route 128 and the Newton border, The Wok is in a rather odd spot that is nearly invisible to folks driving on this often-hectic road. The building itself has a slightly tired and old look from the outside, though the interior is relatively pleasant, with carpeting, large booths, and lighting that isn't overly harsh. Partly because of its location near several mostly residential suburbs, and also because of the large tables inside the place, The Wok seems especially popular with parents looking for a place to go with their children. The menu at The Wok seems to focus on Chinese-American food, with an emphasis on Szechuan fare.
On our visit to The Wok last week, we arrived early in the evening and the place was nearly empty (though by the time we left, it was very nearly full). We were promptly seated at a window table and started out with a couple of soups. The hot and sour soup was thick and goopy, with more sweetness than heat coming from it. Oddly enough, the hot and sour wonton soup seemed better balanced, with a nice amount of heat within the soup and tender wontons filled with tasty pork. Just as we were finishing our soups, our main dishes arrived, with the moo shi chicken being the highlight of the entire meal by far. The pieces of chicken were tender, the shredded vegetables tasted fresh, and the plum sauce added a rich, sweet flavor to the veggies and the meat, which were stuffed into ultra-thin pancakes. Unfortunately, the angel hair rice noodles with chicken and vegetables was bland, with no heat and little in the way of seasoning. And the clumpy pork fried rice was the type I remember from so many late-night Chinese takeout places, with a good amount of soy sauce giving the rice that signature brown color, and the pork having the red glaze that typically comes from using Ah-So sauce. Prices for our food were moderate, and service was mostly friendly and efficient.
The Wok more or less filled a need for Americanized Chinese food, though I'm not sure it really stood out among all the Chinese-American restaurants out there. I would certainly go back for their moo shi chicken, and perhaps would try some of their other dishes, but I'm probably not in a huge rush to return to the place.
If you would like the address for The Wok, here it is: The Wok, 180 Worcester Street (Route 9), Wellesley, MA, 02481. Phone: (781) 235-0238
Related Blog Entries: Chinese restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 25, 2010.
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Friday, May 21, 2010
Mac and Cheese (and More) at The Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
Last year, a couple of us went on a food-based road trip to northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, finishing up at the outstanding (and very well known) Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH. Everything we had heard about their food was true, as it instantly became one of our favorite diners in all of New England. Well, there happens to be another Red Arrow Diner out there, and while it doesn't quite have the classic feel of the original Red Arrow, the Milford, NH, version of the diner features food that is every bit as good, based on a recent visit to the place.
Unlike the Manchester location, much of the Milford Red Arrow Diner's charm can be seen from the outside, as it has a welcoming neon sign perched on its shiny red roof, and the squat but attractive structure in which the diner resides is perched above the scenic Souhegan River on the northern edge of the center of town. The interior of the diner includes a basic counter area to the left, a small dining section in the middle, and a separate dining room a few steps below to the right. As mentioned before, the inside doesn't really have the charm of the Manchester location, but it is clean, brightly lit, and relatively comfortable. As is the case with the one in Manchester, the Milford Red Arrow is open 24 hours.
We tried several items at the Red Arrow Diner in Milford, with the macaroni and cheese perhaps being the highlight. The creamy, gooey dish was even better than what I remember having at the Manchester location, as it seemed more firm in texture and was equally buttery and rich in flavor. As I mentioned in the earlier blog entry about Manchester's Red Arrow Diner, I am generally not a huge fan of boiled macaroni and cheese with cheese sauce on top, as it can get a bit watery, but this was a simply tremendous dish. The open-faced roast beef sandwich was nearly equal to the mac and cheese, with lean, warm slices of meat on top of thick bread slices, all covered with a savory dark gravy. The mashed potatoes that came with the dish were rather bland (even with the gravy on top of them), but the "chippers" (crunchy, round waffle fries) were delicious. Finally, the "sloppy moe" was certainly a heart attack on a plate, with a char-grilled burger smothered in lots of chili and cheese sauce, and it was indeed so messy and greasy that it had to be eaten with a knife and fork. But the high-quality beef used and the hearty chili helped make this a great meal that I would not hesitate to try again. Desserts were a mixed bag, with the Boston cream pie being overloaded with a runny and unpleasant-tasting custard, while the chocolate eclair was much better, with a perfect mix of sugary cream and rich chocolate. Prices were cheap (as expected) and our server was sassy and funny from start to finish.
It is nice to have two Red Arrow Diners within an hour of the Boston area. I definitely prefer the atmosphere of the Manchester location, but the Milford one is a bit more roomy and it seems like there is less of a problem with parking and crowds. I'm not sure which of the two Red Arrow Diners I'll hit next, but I'm certainly looking forward to it already.
If you would like the address for the Milford location of the Red Arrow Diner, here it is: Red Arrow Diner, 63 Union Square, Milford, NH. Phone: (603) 249-9222.
Related Blog Entries: diners, New Hampshire restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 21, 2010.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Pizza at Franco's in Waltham
I go to Moody Street in Waltham every now and then for food and drink, but typically head to the lower half of the street (by the river), where a number of restaurants can be found. A couple of weeks ago, however, I went up the hill to do takeout at a local neighborhood joint called Franco's and was greatly impressed by their thin-crust pizza.
Franco's Pizzeria and Pub (not to be confused with Franca's, another pizza joint just off Moody on Felton Street) is a real townie place located beyond much of the hustle and bustle of the lower part of Moody Street, with a no-frills takeout area to the left and an old-school bar and dining area to the right. The bar/dining area has entertainment at night, including karaoke and live music, and it also has video games, pool tables, darts, a jukebox, and Keno. The menu at Franco's includes all kinds of subs as well as salads, Italian dishes (lasagna, ravioli, chicken parm), pub grub (steak tips, chili, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers), and calzones, in addition to pizza.
The pizza that I brought back from Franco's was a classic New York-style pie, with freshly-made pizza dough used to make a thin, foldable, and slightly chewy crust, zesty homemade tomato sauce, and a decent amount of golden cheese on top. It seemed to compare favorably to Sabatino's, another spot in Waltham that features very good thin-crust pizza (and which also has locations in Arlington and Brighton). I'm not ready to say that the pizza at Franco's stacked up to the pies at Regina's in the North End of Boston, but it really was quite good, probably being one of the best New York-style pizzas I've had in the western suburbs of Boston.
If I need to do takeout around the Waltham area once again in the future, Franco's will definitely be on my short list of places to go (along with Sabatino's and the outstanding Carl's Steak Subs on Prospect Street). Perhaps next time I'll try one of their Italian dishes as well, or maybe a calzone, but it will surely be tough to ignore their excellent pizza.
If you would like the address for Franco's, here it is: Franco's Pizzeria and Pub, 714 Moody Street, Waltham, MA, 02453. Phone: (781) 893-7775
Related Blog Entries: pizza places, Waltham restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 18, 2010.
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Friday, May 14, 2010
Good Signs, Bad Signs: A Collaborative Article
A little while back, a Denver food writer (who used to live in Boston) got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in collaborating on a blog post dealing with signs that a restaurant may be good or bad. I thought it was a great idea for an article and gladly joined in, giving her some ideas for the post.
The article was just put up on her blog today (which is called Denveater), and it includes material from myself as well as two other food writers--MC Slim JB, a local restaurant critic, and the person behind the Denver-based blog Denver on a Spit.
A link to the blog post can be found below:
Good Signs, Bad Signs (You Know We've Had Our Share): A Deconstructionist's Guide to Gauging Restaurant Quality
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 14, 2010.
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Friday, May 7, 2010
A Springtime Trip to Manhattan
After a weekend trip to Brooklyn over the past winter (including a brief stop in the Upper West Side and Greenwich Village), I got around to doing a quick two-day trip to Manhattan early last week. While in the city, we hit a couple of breakfast and lunch favorites, while also checking out two other restaurants for the first time.
On Monday afternoon, we started out by grabbing a late lunch at Viand Cafe on Broadway in the Upper West Side, with the omelet being as good as ever at this local favorite, while the open-faced reuben was absolutely sinful but also quite delicious, with a good amount of corned beef topped off with lots of cheese. We had eaten so late that dinner came upon us rather quickly, with our dinner place being an old-school Italian joint in Greenwich Village called Rocco Ristorante. Located on a quiet section of Thompson Street toward the southern edge of the Village, Rocco has been around forever (well, since the early 1920s, anyway) and the interior reflects this, with a cracked mosaic floor, a tin ceiling, and soft lighting in its two cozy rooms. The servers were of the old-world type, with one constantly coming over to top off our waters, while the other speaking to us in broken English while going over the various items on the menu. We started with an offering of tomato and onion bruschetta as well as a couple of glasses of a mellow, buttery montepulciano wine. Soups were next, with the minestrone having a good amount of vegetables in it, while the meat tortellini in chicken broth was decent, though the broth was a bit thin. Our entrees soon arrived, and the Tagliolini alla Rocco (homemade square spaghetti with shrimp, arugula, and tomatoes) was wonderful, with a rich sauce that put the dish over the top, and the veal cutlet with fontina cheese, prosciutto, and bolognese sauce was equally good, with a hearty and meaty sauce similarly adding a lot of flavor. The prosciutto in this dish, by the way, was crispy and more flavorful than about any I've had in recent memory. We were too full for dessert, unfortunately, so we paid the bill and headed out for a stroll through the Village.
Tuesday was a beautiful day, so we decided to take a long walk through Central Park. For breakfast, we hit the Manhattan Diner (another local spot on the Upper West Side that I have been to a number of times), enjoying both the whole-wheat waffle with fruit on top and the wild mushroom and goat cheese frittata. Then it was off the Central Park, where we wandered around for a good part of the day. While there, I got to take a peek at the intriguing Central Park Boathouse, which is on a lake in the heart of the park, though we didn't actually eat there. Eventually, we headed over to the Upper East Side, where we had a very early dinner at Indian Tandoor-Oven, a laid-back Indian restaurant on W 83 Street that has been around for a long, long time. Consisting of two small rooms, Indian Tandoor-Oven is a somewhat plain-looking (though comfortable) spot that is just feet away from busy Third Avenue yet is quiet enough to feel miles away from it. We were seated in the first room by one of the windows and started off with a couple of Indian beers as well as vegetable samosas (flaky and slightly dry, but very nice) and tandoori roti (slightly nutty-tasting from the wheat flour used). For our main course, we had the chicken tikka bhoona (mild yet aromatic and a slight garlic taste) and the saag aloo (more chopped than pureed spinach, and slightly dry potatoes). Overall, the food was not quite up to the level of the last Indian restaurant I went to in Manhattan (the outstanding Surya in Greenwich Village), but it was certainly satisfying, and the prices were quite reasonable.
I left New York soon after our meal at Indian Tandoor-Oven, missing the city as soon as I crossed into Westchester County. But I may be heading back to Manhattan soon (possibly next month), and if I do, I'll be sure to post about any other restaurants I get to along the way. In the meantime, it's back to dining out in the Boston area!
Related Blog Entries: Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 7, 2010.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
First Visit to The Publick House in Brookline
In a way, it seems strange that I had never been to The Publick House in Brookline until recently, even though it is certainly my kind of place (cozy atmosphere, a wide variety of beers from around the world, lots of comfort food options). Perhaps it is because the Washington Square eatery and beer bar moved into the spot where one of my favorite hangouts used to be (The Tam) or maybe it is because I tend to spend more time closer to Harvard Street, including Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village. But whatever the reason, I did finally get over to The Publick House, and immediately started kicking myself for not having come to this place earlier.
The Publick House is a medium-sized place just up the hill from the heart of Washington Square (heading toward Cleveland Circle). It is basically broken up into three sections--to the left is a dark, almost cave-like room known as The Monk's Cell, which has a handful of tables along the wall and a bar where serious beer lovers apparently spend their time, while the middle area includes a combination of bar seating and dining tables, and the section further to the right is the main dining area. All three sections are charming in a gastropub kind of way, but the most interesting part is the incredibly atmospheric Monk's Cell.
We arrived at The Publick House toward the start of the dinner rush, and were seated in The Monk's Cell, which was a lot quieter and less hectic than the rest of the place. After having a bit of trouble deciding what to order for drinks--to say the beer list is extensive at The Publick House would be an understatement--we chose a Black Marlin Porter (very nice chocolate and caramel flavors) and an O'Hara's Irish Stout (smooth and creamy, though not quite at the level of a Guinness). Along with our drinks, we started with an order of Monk's frites with a garlic mayo dipping sauce as well as a pesto aioli. Both dipping sauces were decent but rather mild, and in fact if it weren't for the basil aftertaste of the pesto aioli, it would have been tough to tell them apart. But the hand-cut fries were outstanding, as they were golden brown and seasoned perfectly. They also happened to come in a Belgian-style paper cone, which was a nice touch. These fries easily met--or exceeded--some of the ones I have had at various gastropubs in the Boston area over the past year or so, including those from The Local in West Newton, Highland Kitchen in Somerville, and even the Fat Cat in Quincy, which has some of the best fries I have had anywhere in recent memory.
Our entrees soon arrived (along with pints of a slightly sour but tasty Einbecker Schwarzbier and a deliciously fruity Taras Boulba), and both meals impressed us greatly. The stoemp saucisse (deep fried Belgian sausage with mashed root vegetables) was an unusual dish that featured homemade sausage with no real casing to speak of, and in fact seemed almost like meatballs, with their mix of ground beef, veal, and pork with various seasonings. The creamy homemade stoemp went nicely with the sausages, as did the onion rings that were placed on top of the dish and the rich gravy. The other entree--the macaroni and cheese--lived up to expectations (I have heard many good things about their version), with a nice blend of orecchiette pasta, several different cheeses, and a truffled cream option that added an earthiness to the dish without the metallic taste that can sometimes come from truffle oil. With all the rich foods we had, there was no room for coffee, tea, or dessert, so that will have to wait for another time.
Our evening at The Publick House was very nearly a perfect one, with the only minor quibbles being our rather distant, unsmiling server and the slightly bland dipping sauces with the frites. But much like other beer bars and gastropubs in the Boston area (including the ones mentioned earlier), this is a spot that I could spend a lot of time in, particularly in the Monk's Cell section of the place.
If you would like the address for The Publick House, here it is: The Publick House, 1648 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA, 02445. Phone: (617) 277-2880
Related Blog Entries: Brookline restaurants
Posted by MH, Boston's Hidden Restaurants, on May 4, 2010.
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