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Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2011

Below are blog entries from May, 2011. 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, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011
Saturday Night at Trinity Brewhouse in Providence

Over the past couple of months I have been spending a good amount of time checking out the impressive restaurant scene in Providence, and this past weekend was no exception as I joined several others for dinner and drinks at a restaurant and brewpub on the western edge of the downtown area. And there were indeed some real highlights to our trip to the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, but shaky service and inconsistent food ultimately made for an experience that didn't match up to those that I have had in the city over recent weeks.

photo of Trinity Brewpub, Providence, RI The downtown area of Providence has a lot of character, with a number of 19th-century buildings mixing nicely with modern buildings, many of which are very attractive. The building in which the Trinity Brewhouse resides certainly seems to be in the former category, with loads of rustic charm found in its two dining areas and bar on the ground floor. The left dining section is particularly nice, with a beautifully-done wall mural of famous people who are no longer with us, and a massive chandelier giving off dim lighting that adds an almost romantic touch to the place. The very visible beermaking area in the back never lets you forget that this is a true brewpub, with beer indeed being made on the premises. Down in the basement of the Trinity Brewhouse is a bar/lounge area that seems like a private club, with a low ceiling, a pool table in the middle, and a small bar that is much quieter than the one upstairs. For those who like to dine (and drink) al fresco, a fairly decent amount of outdoor seating is available during the warmer months.

Our trip to the Trinity Brewhouse was timed so that we went just before the first WaterFire event of the year in Providence, so most of the restaurants near the canals downtown were jam packed, with Trinity being no exception. We had made a reservation, however, and therefore had no problem being seated right way in the left dining section near the mural. We started out with a round of drinks (the light and slightly bitter Kolsh and the citrus-flavored Belgian white ale were both tremendous), then put in an order for appetizers, followed a few minutes later by our dinner order. The apps soon came out, with the pulled pork nachos containing a good amount of moderately smoky pork along with a lot of cheese, while the fried calamari was mixed with banana peppers (a common way of preparing it in Rhode Island) and the calamari was tender, though the dish seemed to become quite soggy after a minute or two. Unfortunately, our meals came almost immediately after our appetizers, making for an incredibly crowded table since there were six of us in a booth that was probably better suited for four. The meals were a mixed bag overall, with the chili cheeseburger featuring deliciously juicy ground beef and the lobster macaroni and cheese having the focus more on lobster and pasta instead of cheese (which seems to happen so often in restaurants these days). But the steak tips were dry and tough, the turkey burger was bland, the reuben contained cold corned beef, and the fish and chips were awfully greasy (the breaded fish was shiny when the dish first came to the table). One of our party ordered a mixed drink about halfway through the meal, but our servers seemed to forget about it until one of them was reminded at the end of the meal of it. None of us had room for dessert, so we decided to pass on it, instead heading out to get a prime spot at WaterFire, which was getting ready to begin.

I liked the cozy atmosphere of the Trinity Brewhouse, and our servers were very friendly throughout. And the beer and some of the food was very good--especially the lobster macaroni and cheese. But based on our visit there this past weekend, I'm not sure I'll be back anytime soon, unless it's for a drink at the bar. It is possible that we hit the place on a bad night (as I said earlier, WaterFire really brought the crowds into this place), but I just don't know if I'm willing to have dinner again there at this point.

For those who want the address and phone number for the Trinity Brewhouse, here it is: Trinity Brewhouse, 186 Fountain Street, Providence, RI, 02903. The phone number is (401) 453-2337.

Related Blog Entries: Providence restaurants, Rhode Island restaurants

Friday, May 27, 2011
Five Hidden Restaurants on Cape Cod

photo of Flying Fish Cafe, Wellfleet, MA Well, it's Memorial Day Weekend, and the weather looks absolutely perfect for heading to Cape Cod and other seaside destinations. It is bound to be extremely busy on the Cape with the weather being so warm, which means that many, if not most of the restaurants there could get incredibly busy, especially the ones along Route 28 from Hyannis east toward Chatham and on Route 6 in Eastham and Wellfleet. So what are some dining spots that folks might not know about? There are actually quite a few of them, with some places on side streets, others in the tiny villages scattered throughout the Cape, and still others that only the locals tend to go to. To give you a taste of what's out there, below are five relatively little-known restaurants on Cape Cod that may be worth checking out if you don't want to deal with the crowds.

1) Kettle-Ho Restaurant & Tavern, Cotuit
Never heard of Cotuit? Well, you're probably not alone. This tiny village on the south side of the Cape is actually a part of Barnstable, which also includes the bustling village of Hyannis a few miles to the east. Peaceful and very quiet, Cotuit is a world away from Hyannis, with its village center consisting of little more than a post office, a few houses, and the Kettle-Ho Restaurant & Tavern. The Kettle-Ho is a casual restaurant that is a true local spot, serving burgers, wings, beef stew, mussels and more mainly to folks who live in the immediate area. It isn't easy to find if you don't know this part of the Cape, but it's actually only a couple of minutes south of busy Route 28. Kettle-Ho Restaurant & Tavern, 12 School Street, Cotuit, MA, 02635. Phone: (508) 428-1862.

2) Flying Fish Cafe, Wellfleet
It is easy to pass right by Wellfleet without even knowing it is there, as it is one of the few towns on the Cape whose "downtown" area is not on a main road. And while most of the action in this beautiful community near the tip of the Cape is on Main Street and Commercial Street, there is a restaurant called the Flying Fish Cafe that is located on a tree-shaded side street that is just off the center, yet very easy to miss. The Flying Fish resides in what looks more like a residential structure than a commercial one, and it goes from being a cafe-style spot during the day to more of a Mediterranean restaurant at night, with such dishes as pasta carbonara, clams with kale and linguica, and shrimp with capers and parsley. Flying Fish Cafe, 29 Briar Lane, Wellfleet, MA, 02667. Phone: (508) 349-7292.

3) Jack's Outback Restaurant, Yarmouth Port
I need to give credit where credit is due, and Boston-area food/drinks writer MC Slim JB is the one who first told me about this place in a food discussion I hosted awhile back. While it is located on one of the three main thoroughfares on the Cape (Route 6A), Jack's Outback Restaurant is nearly invisible, hidden from the road down a driveway at the far edge of a parking lot in this charming bayside community. Jack's, which is mainly a breakfast spot (though it does serve lunch as well) is one of those places that tourists simply do not know about, instead being almost exclusively a restaurant where locals go. Their menu includes breakfast sandwiches, waffles, pancakes, omelets, and popovers. Jack's Outback Restaurant, 161 Route 6A, Yarmouth Port, MA, 02675. Phone: (508) 362-6690.

4) Andale Cafe, Harwich
While most towns on Cape Cod are situated either along the water or very close to it, Harwich has its center within the "inland" part of the Cape, and since the Chatham branch of the Cape Cod Rail Trail passes right through the center of town, Harwich Center sometimes feels more like an outpost for hardcore outdoorsy types than a place for laid-back beachgoers and sun worshippers. The town itself is rather sleepy, with a few stores and dining spots, including a Mexican place called Andale Cafe. A family-friendly restaurant with an outdoor patio and a bar, Andale Cafe features items familiar with lovers of Mexican-American fare, including tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, and more. Andale Cafe, 703 Main Street, Harwich, MA, 02645. Phone: (508) 432-0518.

5) Stir Crazy, Bourne
OK, so this spot isn't literally "hidden," being on busy Route 28 a little south of the Bourne Bridge. But a Cambodian restaurant on the Cape? It is indeed true, and doesn't seem to be all that well known, perhaps because Stir Crazy is on a road that people take to get somewhere else (typically Falmouth or Woods Hole), or maybe because, well, it's a Cambodian restaurant in an area where folks might be looking for classic American restaurants and seafood joints. But for those looking to have green chicken curry, fried tofu, bar bong (angel hair noodles with eggrolls), or beef lock lack (steak tips with garlic, onions, and ginger), this place is certainly worth looking into. Stir Crazy, 570 MacArthur Boulevard (Route 28), Bourne, MA, 02532. Phone: (508) 564-6464.

If you have any favorite places on the Cape that could be considered hidden gems, please post a comment about it here. And have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Related Blog Entries: Cape Cod restaurants

Friday, May 20, 2011
A List of Our RSS Feeds

As many of you know, a few years ago we started to add RSS feeds to key sections of the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site. Today, there are several feeds within the site, as well as one for the Boston Restaurant Talk blog and another for our Facebook page. The feeds can come in handy, as they display links in chronological order and you can subscribe to them to use via Yahoo, Google, etc., or to simply bookmark them on their own.

The RSS feeds that we have so far can be found below:

Boston Restaurant Blog feed
Boston Restaurant Closings and Openings feed
Boston Restaurant Talk feed
Readers' Favorite Restaurants feed
Questions and Answers feed
Restaurant Reviews feed
Unreviewed Restaurants feed

In addition to the feeds above, an RSS feed for our Boston's Hidden Restaurants Facebook page can be found here:

Boston's Hidden Restaurants Facebook feed

If you have any questions regarding RSS feeds and how they can be used, please don't hesitate to contact us and we will try to help you in any way we can, thanks!

Related Blog Entries: RSS feeds

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Five Restaurants in Residential Areas

photo of Moulton's Seafood Restaurant, Medford, MA As you probably know by now, this site focuses mainly on little-known restaurants that tend to fly under the radar. But we don't always look into why some dining spots aren't that well-known; there are obviously a variety of reasons for this, including one that I'll cover here. Much of the Boston area is made up of neighborhoods, with city, town, and village centers with commercial space for restaurants and shops. And while this section of the country has less in the way of large commercial centers outside of downtown areas, we do have such spots, complete with malls, shopping centers, etc. But in addition to downtown areas and commercial strips, there are also residential areas that sometimes have single businesses scattered about here and there, including restaurants, and some of these dining spots are nearly completely unknown because they are situated in places where folks would least expect them to be. Below are five such restaurants, including at least a couple that most people probably have never heard of.

1) Taqueria Mexico, Waltham
Located on a little-traveled one-way side street that you cannot enter from busy Moody Street, this wonderful authentic Mexican restaurant is simply not one that you just happen to run into accidentally. And yes, there are a couple of other businesses on Charles Street, but this narrow road is really just a mix of homes and apartments, making the small outdoor patio at Taqueria Mexico have the overall feel of dining on the deck of someone's house.

2) Moulton's Seafood Restaurant, Medford
Perhaps the only restaurant within this list that is on an even remotely busy street, Moulton's is nonetheless buried in the heart of a residential section of Medford. This seafood spot is further cut off from other parts of the city by the Mystic River to the north, a hodgepodge of one-way streets to the east and west, and the commuter rail to the south. The often-gridlocked Mystic Valley Parkway to the north doesn't help, either, as it may deter folks from even coming to this neighborhood. This is one not to miss, however, as the seafood can be very, very good here.

3) Louis' Crossing, Quincy
You may have read about this eatery awhile back, as it made it to our Five Very Hidden Boston-Area Restaurants article from earlier this year. There's a good reason for this, as Louis' Crossing is near the end of a long main road that simply peters out as it approaches the tip of the Hough's Neck peninsula. There really isn't much around this old-school restaurant and bar other than houses, water, and some of the most spectacular views in the Boston area.

4) Desfina, Cambridge
Even though Cambridge is often seen as a quirky, funky college city, the "old" working-class Cambridge still exists in spots, including pockets in North Cambridge and East Cambridge that contain little shops, restaurants, and bars in places you might not expect them to be. And it is in East Cambridge that this Greek dining spot is located, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that still has a strong Portuguese influences. Sure, it's only a few blocks from the urban canyons of Kendall Square and the upscale residences overlooking the Charles, but Defina feels like it is miles away from either.

5) Winthrop Arms, Winthrop
Ahhh, there's nothing like an old hotel and restaurant on a quiet side street overlooking the ocean near the tip of a peninsula. Would you be surprised if I told you there was such a spot a couple of miles from the Boston line? Indeed, the Winthrop Arms is one of those places that you would not expect to see anywhere near Boston, but it certainly exists, and the comfortable dining room, rustic bar and lobby area, and classic American menu make the restaurant a particularly nice spot to go to for family or group gatherings.

As with all of these lists, there are other restaurants that could have been included, but these five seem to be a good place to start. If you happen to know of any good restaurants in residential sections in and around Boston, let us know by posting a comment here, thanks!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Dinner and Drinks at George's Cafe in Brockton

When reviewing a restaurant, it is never a good idea to say "I really wanted to like the place" after going there, as it implies a lack of objectivity (and yes, I've been guilty of saying this a couple of times in the past). But a restaurant we checked out a few nights ago almost had me saying just that, as it appeared to be the type of spot that tends to make me love doing what I do. Indeed, being a lover of old-school, unpretentious townie places that are completely off the radar (and in this case I do mean completely), I almost found myself rooting for George's Cafe in Brockton while there, but in the end, this working-class Italian eatery didn't quite measure up, mainly because the food seemed rather average for the most part.

photo of George's Cafe, Brockton, MA George's Cafe is a very old restaurant, first opening its doors to the public more than 70 years ago, according to their website. In fact, it is the oldest family-owned restaurant in this gritty industrial city south of Boston, which is saying a lot, because there are definitely some old dining spots scattered throughout Brockton, including the Greek restaurant Christo's on the other side of the city. George's Cafe is a sprawling place, with several rooms and two bars, with a small cozy section by the back door that has the feel of an old Italian espresso bar or cafe. The restaurant is rather dark and cave-like in spots, with beamed ceilings, wood-paneled walls, classic old ceiling fan lights, and carpeting that looks like it has seen its share of spilled beer and tomato sauce. Also, there are more than a few picture of local boxing legend Rocky Marciano on the walls, as Marciano was apparently a bit of a regular here. The overall vibe is not unlike The Chateau in Waltham, Villa Rosa in Quincy, Greg's in Watertown, or perhaps the original Mount Vernon restaurant in Somerville, even though the latter is by no means an Italian spot.

We arrived at George's Cafe during the height of dinnertime on our recent trip to the place, being seated at a booth in the room directly facing the back door. Our server (who was friendly, funny, and top-notch throughout) brought us a couple of beers and some decent rolls, then took our order, soon bringing out a cup of Italian meatball soup and a tossed salad. The soup was very salty but the tiny meatballs were delicious and textured nicely, and the inclusion of acini di pepe (tiny little pasta pearls) acted almost like a thickener for the soup. The salad was pretty basic, but the Italian dressing was quite good, with a real tanginess that added a nice zing to the salad. Our meals came out just as we finished the soup and salad, with neither dish being particularly inspiring. The steak tips Italiano came with steak sauce, which was good because the tips had little taste and weren't particularly tender. Not much better was the lasagna with meatballs, as parts of the pasta were dry and crunchy, and the sauce was rather watery and bland. As for the meatballs themselves, they were extremely dense and the meat was smoothly ground, giving the meatball little texture, while the herbs and spices mixed in didn't really stand out enough to add a boost to the taste. Toward the end of dinner, we had another round of drinks, including a Rob Roy that had a perfect balance of scotch, bitters, and vermouth, and a rather generous serving of ouzo. Prices were generally quite reasonable at George's Cafe, service (as mentioned earlier) was excellent, and the parking lot out back seemed a nice touch, especially for those of us who live near Boston and don't generally see many restaurant parking lots.

Overall, I had mixed feelings for George's Cafe; it is certainly the type of old-fashioned neighborhood eatery that I tend to love (and is the type of spot that is becoming increasingly difficult to find) and the service and prices were big pluses. But the dinner entrees just didn't seem to measure up, which makes me think that perhaps it would be best to return here for drinks and perhaps a burger or pizza at some point, soaking up the classic atmosphere while going the simple route, food-wise.

For those who want the address and phone number for George's Cafe, here it is: George's Cafe, 228 Belmont Street, Brockton, MA, 02301. The phone number is (508) 588-4231.

Related Blog Entries: Brockton restaurants, Italian restaurants