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Boston Restaurant Blog -- August, 2008

Below are blog entries from August, 2008. 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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AUGUST, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Where to Find Cheap Eats in Boston

I can tell that the end of the summer is nearly here already, as I see more and more college students in the Boston area with each passing day. And perhaps this year more than any will be a year of students looking far and wide for cheap eats, since the economy is so poor and the price of education keeps skyrocketing.

For those students (and anyone else for that matter) in need of good, cheap food, our site has a couple of places where you can look. In our special features area, we have a Cheap Eats in Boston page that lists a handful of dining spots that are both good and reasonably priced. Each listing includes a description of the restaurant, along with the address and phone number. One other place that may be of help is in our search section of featured restaurants. Our Search for Cheap Eats page has several excellent dining spots, including a few that have almost ridiculously low prices.

A big welcome back to all returning college students, and to those of you who are freshmen from out of state, welcome to Boston! And if any of you find any great hidden gems while you are here, please let us know about them. Perhaps we will add them to the site.

Related Blog Entries: cheap eats

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Dinner at Viola Restaurant and Wine Bar, Braintree

A few months back, I was excited to hear that a new Italian restaurant was coming to South Braintree. One reason is that the section of Braintree that Viola Restaurant and Wine Bar opened in is a rather restaurant-poor area (with all due respect to Sintra and a couple of others). But after making the trip over to Viola, I'll probably keep looking for places around South Braintree, as I was a bit disappointed in the place.

photo of Viola Restaurant and Wine Bar, Braintree, MA From the outside, Viola looks promising, with an attractive sign in front of the nicely renovated building it is housed in. And the inside of Viola is pretty nice, too, with a dark, modern feel to the place. (I wouldn't quite call it cozy or romantic, but it is appealing enough.) Unfortunately, the atmosphere was probably the highlight of my experience at Viola, as the food just wasn't anything special. The minestrone soup that I started out with was decent enough, with fresh vegetables mixed into a tasty tomato-based broth. But the margherita pizza was practically inedible, as it came to the table with a greasy film on top which gave it an unpleasant texture and taste. The crust wasn't much better, as it was thick and doughy with almost no salt or seasonings, and the sauce was just so-so. The veal bracciolettine was a little more palatable, though the pasta didn't taste all that fresh and the veal was tasty but rather tough in places. Desserts looked very nice, though we didn't have enough room to try any of them.

Service was just ok, with the person waiting on our table handling our orders with little passion. But she was quick and efficient, and was by no means unfriendly--just a bit distinct and distracted at times. As far as prices, they were mostly reasonable, especially compared to prices at a similarly mid-upscale restaurant closer to Boston.

It is possible that the folks at Viola are still working the kinks out and that the food will be more consistent as time goes on. But until I hear that this is indeed the case, I'll probably hold off on going back there, especially since we discovered an outstanding Italian restaurant called Ecco, which is not too far away from Viola in Weymouth. Stay tuned for a report on them soon...

If you would like the address for Viola, here it is: Viola Restaurant and Wine Bar, 1209 Washington Street, Braintree, MA, 02184. Phone: (781) 848-8980.

Related Blog Entries: Braintree restaurants, Italian restaurants

Friday, August 15, 2008
Weekend in Upstate New York and the Adirondacks

A couple of weekends ago, a few of us went on yet another summertime trip to Upstate New York and the Adirondacks. The weather was so-so, but the dining was very fine, and I got to try a few new places along the way as well as a couple of old favorites.

photo of Hot Dog Heaven, Albany, NY I made a beeline out to Albany early on Friday as I had to get to the Rensselaer train station by early afternoon. I made it with plenty of time to spare, so I ended up exploring the rather funky and offbeat Lark Street section of Albany, enjoying the open spaces and interesting architecture west of the main drag before heading back to Lark Street itself for lunch at a greasy spoon called Hot Dog Heaven. I was intrigues by the cave-like entrance to the place and the arrow-shaped sign saying "This way to heaven." It turned out to be a real throwback, with counter seating only and workers snapping at each other while dishing out food to the handful of patrons there. The hot dog I ordered was pretty good (albeit rather basic), with a lightly buttered and grilled bun soaking up some of the grease of the dog. But the burger was another story; it had the unpleasant taste of the patties you might buy in mass quantity for a big barbecue. I was barely able to finish it, and was kicking myself for not going with a second hot dog instead.

After lunch I went to the train station, then we continued west to Utica, where we got off the Thruway and headed up to Old Forge, which would be our base for the next couple of days. After an hour or two of settling in, we all went over to the rustic village of Eagle Bay for dinner at the Hardtimes Cafe. This is maybe the fourth time I've been to the Hardtimes, and it was as good as ever, iceberg-lettuce salad buffet notwithstanding. The walnut-crusted trout was tremendous, with the strong, rich flavor of the trout being nicely complemented by the nutty, crusty coating. The other dishes, including a broiled haddock dish and a steak and scallop plate, were also excellent. Our server was a bit cranky at times, but she was fine for the most part, and the prices were as reasonable as ever.

photo of the Big Moose Inn, Big Moose, NY After a rather uninspiring breakfast at the hotel we were staying at, we made some stops in Old Forge and Inlet before heading up to the tiny hamlet of Big Moose, which is a few miles north of Eagle Bay on a remote, winding road. We took some time to relax at the beautiful Big Moose Lake before heading into the Big Moose Inn (a grand old Adirondack lodge) for lunch. We had to wait some time for a table, so the host brought us some delicious battered mushrooms to keep our appetite in check while we were waiting. Finally, we got a table by a window that gave us an unforgettable view of the lake. Unfortunately, our experience at the Big Moose Inn was marred by the fact that they were out of many items, including a soup I wanted to try as well as rolls. So we made do by getting salads and cream of mushroom soup, as well as a BLT and fish sandwich. The BLT was quite good, with lots of thick, crisp bacon mixed with cheese and tomatoes and buttered and grilled toast. And the fish sandwich was substantial and delicious, with a big hunk of white meat battered perfectly. The staff apologized repeatedly for being out of so many items, and the food that we did have was satisfying, so I would say that the bad was probably outweighed by the good at the Big Moose Inn.

We didn't finish lunch until well after 2:00, so we had little time to do much between lunch and dinner (plus, it started to rain). So I went off on my own to hit a few shops in Old Forge, then we all met up and drove down Route 28 for yet another trip to the Buffalo Head in Forestport Station (just outside of Adirondack State Park). I almost always order a steak when I go to the Buffalo Head, as they are outstanding here, but this time I opted for the roast turkey dinner. Others also opted for non-steak meals (including chicken pesto and seafood newburg), and in fact only one steak was ordered at our table. But it was all very good, and the atmosphere, as well as the overall goofiness of our rather loud and boisterous but friendly waitress, made for another great experience at this classic dining spot. By the way, I did have a little bit of red meat at the Buffalo Head in the form of a wonderful prime rib barley soup that was on special that night. It almost made me want to change my order to a prime rib dinner, though I opted to stick with the turkey.

photo of the Silo Restaurant and Country Store, Queensbury, NY Sunday morning came too soon, and it was time to head back to Boston. But two of us took the long way home, taking Route 28 and some other roads back to Route 87 and the Rensselaer train station. We made a quick stop at the White Pine Bakery in Inlet for a few mouthwatering pastries (including a maple doughnut and a chocolate chip muffin) before heading through the classic Adirondack towns of Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake on our way back. We decided to make a quick lunch stop before getting to the train station, so we stopped at the Silo Restaurant and Country Store for some food. Crafted from two old barns and a silo that was moved to this spot, the Silo had loads of character, complete with a country store both upstairs and downstairs and a dining area in the middle of the lower floor. I ordered a beef barley soup that was hearty and quite tasty, and a huge open face roast beef sandwich that was sinfully good, but just about did me in for the rest of the day.

It was another whirlwind trip, and I would have liked to have had at least another day in the area, but it really was a lot of fun being back in the Adirondacks. I'd like to get back there this fall--if I do, I'll surely add another entry within this blog, hopefully with more restaurants to talk about.

Related Blog Entries: Adirondack restaurants, New York restaurants

Thursday, August 7, 2008
Wednesday Dinner at Something Savory, Arlington

Last week I finally got over to the eclectic Something Savory in Arlington Heights. I probably go past the place two or three times per week, so it is strange that I hadn't been there before. But last Wednesday we gave it a shot, and it turned out to be quite good.

photo of Something Savory, Arlington, MA Located in the heart of Arlington Heights, Something Savory is a tiny place, with only a few tables inside. But it is rather attractive, with bright yellow, orange, and green walls, a colored tile floor, several plants, exposed brick, and pleasantly dim fluorescent lights all giving this dining spot a fun, festive feel. Our server was friendly and very helpful in explaining some of the items on the menu. And I did have some questions, as much of the food at Something Savory features is Caribbean influenced (the chef started out in the Virgin Islands) and I was a bit unfamiliar with a few of the items.

I started with a hearty cup of ham and bean soup, which had a nice, thick broth and a good amount of ham. Our entrees were a salad trio (three different salads on one plate, including a terrific orzo salad and a decent beet salad) and a pan-seared catfish. The catfish was prepared quite nicely, with the skin kept on the bottom to keep in the moisture, and a sauce that was a complex (perhaps too complex) mix of pineapple pieces, hot peppers, tomatoes, plantains, and lime juice. The sauce reminded me of a sauce I tried last month at a Caribbean place in Asheville, NC, called Salsa's, and in that case as well as this one, my stomach didn't seem too happy about all the ingredients. The collard greens that came with the catfish had a taste not unlike sauerkraut and was too harsh for me to finish. The vegetable rice was much better, with a number of different spices working together very nicely. For dessert, we tried an outstanding lemon cake with butter cream on top and lemon curd inside. The other desserts also sounded good, but I figured I could wait until the next time I came here.

While I liked Something Savory very much, I tend to think that the place probably isn't for everyone. I guess I can almost compare it to a group of top session musicians who decide to form a band; most folks will sense the talent and appreciate the uniqueness and originality, but in the end, perhaps only a small number of people will truly comprehend the greatness of it all. In short, Something Savory seems to be a niche restaurant that puts out some great food, but probably will never become a household name among the general population. In other words, this place could be considered a hidden gem of sorts, so stay tuned, as perhaps it will be featured on this site once we get to try some of the other dishes there.

If you are looking for the address for Something Savory, here it is: Something Savory, 1312 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA, 02476. Phone: (781) 648-0333.

Related Blog Entries: Arlington restaurants

Friday, August 1, 2008
Participate in Our Questions and Answers Section

Just a reminder that the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site includes a questions and answers section for Boston and New England restaurants section that replaced the Boston Restaurant Forum last year. In this feature, our readers can answer existing questions (or ask new ones) about Boston and New England restaurants. No registration is needed to post questions or answers (though all postings are moderated by the site, just in case any vulgar or off-topic issues are posted).

Below are the main topic areas for the questions and answers section. Please don't hesitate to join in on the fun; we hope to see your questions and/or answers soon!

Hidden Boston and New England Restaurant Questions
Boston Restaurant Questions: General Topics
New England Restaurant Questions: General Topics
Restaurant Questions: Miscellaneous Topics