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Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2008

Below are blog entries from September, 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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Friday, September 26, 2008
Greenhills Irish Bakery, Dorchester: Outstanding

As we get ready to launch a bakeries and pastry shop page within the special features section of our site, I have taken the opportunity to sample some goodies from various bakeries and pastry shops in the Boston area over the past couple of weeks, including Iggy's in Cambridge, Lyndell's in Somerville, Bova's in the North End, and Greenhills Irish Bakery in Dorchester. And it is perhaps this last one that impressed me the most, as I firmly believe that this old-fashioned bakery in the Adams Village section of Dorchester might just make the best scones in the Boston area.

photo of Greenhills Irish Bakery, Dorchester, MA Greenhills Bakery is a real throwback (much like the Adams Village neighborhood itself). Indeed, longtime residents of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Quincy seem to populate this place, including the one and only Tom Finneran, the former Speaker of the House who brings scones and other goodies into the WRKO studio every week when he does his morning talk show. But for all the talk about Greenhills Irish Bakery on Mr. Finneran's show--and for all the advertising the bakery does on Boston radio in general--Greenhills remains a bit of an unknown place, as Adams Village is not exactly on the road to anywhere (it sits just off Gallivan Boulevard on a fairly quiet street).

We arrived at Greenhills Bakery last Sunday morning before the Patriots game to get a variety of items. It was crowded, with a number of folks ordering at the counter and several others sitting at the handful of tables in the place. We bought some scones, a loaf of brown bread, and a loaf of soda bread. The scones, as I mentioned, were nothing short of spectacular; sweet, crumbly, and rich, these were the types of scones that I have only had in Ireland, and even there, I had relatively few that were this good. The brown bread was hearty and also had a rich, full flavor, while the soda bread had that unique taste that only bread with baking soda instead of yeast can have, and it was every bit as good as the brown bread, though a bit lighter tasting, of course (brown bread is basically soda bread made with whole wheat flour). I also wanted to order some of their Irish beef stew for the football game, but sadly they were out of it.

Greenhills Bakery has instantly become one of my favorite places for baked goods in the Boston area. I want to go back there as soon as possible to try their cookies and cobbler squares as well as some of their sandwiches. It may be awhile, as I will be on the road for a bit starting this weekend, but I'll be counting the days until I can get back to this place. I can certainly see why Tom Finneran and other area locals love Greenhills Bakery so much--they are lucky to have it near them.

If you are looking for the address for Greenhills Irish Bakery, here it is: Greenhills Irish Bakery, 780 Adams Street, Dorchester, MA, 02124. Phone: (617) 825-8187.

Related Blog Entries: bakeries

Monday, September 22, 2008
Fresh Fast Food at Green Tomato 2, Somerville

I've been going to a number of take out restaurants of late, as we are hoping to add a section on good "to go" restaurants over the coming months. And ironically, one of the best take out restaurants I've been to over the past several weeks was a place that we actually sat in and dined, rather than taking the food to go. Either way, though, Green Tomato 2 in Somerville was pretty impressive, and it is a place that should be a big a hit with all the nearby students who are nearby.

photo of Green Tomato 2, Somerville, MA Green Tomato 2 (the original is in Reading) resides on Elm Street at the edge of Davis Square, heading toward Porter and Union Squares. The building in which it is housed feels like a mix of an auto repair garage and a warehouse, with a corrugated roof acting as a ceiling, lots of pipes up above, and a concrete floor. But since Green Tomato will likely cater to folks on the run, the relative lack of atmosphere shouldn't be a big deal to most. The setup is closer to a cafeteria than a fast-food joint, and the food seems fresher and healthier than what you might expect.

I started with a very wholesome, delicious barley soup that included meat and a lot of vegetables in a dark, thick broth. For our meals, we tried a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (fresh-tasting, and with slices of real turkey meat), a baked stuffed eggplant with ziti (mouthwatering rolled eggplant with cheese inside, but rather watery and limp pasta), and a side of butternut squash (chunky, spicy, and flavorful; perhaps the best item of the night). For all the food we had, we spent very little money, as the vast majority of the items offered at Green Tomato are less than $10. Service was friendly and efficient, which is typically unheard of at a fast-food place, and pretty rare at a cafeteria-style restaurant as well.

I feel that Green Tomato 2 is onto something with their unique concept of fresh, healthy cafeteria-style/takeout dining. They should do very well in their Davis Square location, especially if they can keep their prices down during these inflationary times so that college students have extra incentive to walk the couple of extra blocks past the heart of the square.

If you would like the address for Green Tomato 2, here it is: Green Tomato 2, 187-193 Elm Street, Somerville, MA, 02144. Phone: (617) 591-2223.

Related Blog Entries: Somerville restaurants, take out restaurants

Thursday, September 18, 2008
Burgers, Dogs, and Roast Beef at Banjos, Weymouth

The roast beef kick that I've been on continued a short time back with a trip to Banjos Restaurant on Route 3A near the Hingham border. We had noticed this place for awhile now, but were always going to another restaurant while in the area, but we finally did get to try it. The consensus? Not bad, though I was a bit disappointed in the roast beef.

photo of Banjos Restaurant, Weymouth, MA Banjos looks a lot like a fast-food joint, and for good reason; it was a Burger King in a previous life. The outside still looks a bit generic, as does the interior, but it did seem clean and was well-lit. We had a bit of trouble deciding what to order, so we ended up ordering a variety of items to see what stood out. It definitely was not the roast beef, which was rather bland and came with sauce that had no real taste to it. (After my near-religious experience at Nick's Famous in Beverly, it was certainly a letdown.) The griddled burger was better, as it was juicy, seasoned just right, and very tasty. The fries were just ok, while the onion rings were better than average and seemed to be handcut. But it was the foot-long hot dog that stood high above everything else, as it was an all-beef Hebrew National that was juicy, greasy, salty, and absolutely perfect. It was squeezed into a bun that just as long as the hot dog, and was grilled to perfection.

I liked the hot dog and onion rings enough to give Banjos a positive review, but would like to try some of their other dishes before making a more final decision on whether I want to make this a regular stop. The menu had some interesting items on it, including a Louisiana meatloaf, a pig-roast pizza, a slow-roasted turkey, and a splitter (hot dog with Carolina bean mash), so perhaps I'll try one of those the next time I am there. But I will probably not be getting the roast beef again anytime soon, which is a bit ironic, since Banjos seems to be positioning themselves as more of a roast beef joint than anything.

If you would like the address for Banjos, here it is: Banjos Restaurant, 655 Bridge Street, Weymouth, MA, 02191. Phone: (781) 337-7700.

Related Blog Entries: roast beef joints, Weymouth restaurants

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Another Food Trip to the Pioneer Valley

Last summer, I took a leisurely trip to the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts that just happened to include a few dining spots, and discovered some great restaurants along the way. It was such an interesting trip that I decided to do a second Pioneer Valley trip this past Labor Day, this time making it exclusively a food trip.

A friend of mine and I got a fairly early start, making it to the area by noon, at which point we stopped at a restaurant I had gone to on the last trip (and subsequently featured on this site). And Skip's Roadside Diner greatly impressed once again, with outstanding homemade pierogies and perfectly grilled hot dogs with bacon on top. It was a lot busier than when I went last year, which is great to see because I always worry about little roadside stands such as Skip's, especially in a poor economy that keeps people from traveling through areas such as this. But happily, the place seems to be doing very well.

photo of Tom's, Whately, Massachusetts From Skip's, we took a quick side trip to the Montague Bookmill, then headed over to Routes 5 and 10 where we stopped at a little roadside stand in Whately called Tom's. Located in a humble-looking shack in a rural field and wedged between Route 91 and Routes 5/10, Tom's didn't look like much, but it was very busy (always a good sign), with people ordering hot dogs, hamburgers, and seafood dishes. I ordered a hot dog and fries while my friend went for the cheeseburger, also with fries. We went out back to a tent that had picnic tables and ate our meals swatting away lots of irritating little flies. My hot dog was all right, but nothing all that special, and the burger was about the same. The fries were terrific, though, with a good amount of salt and seasonings making them taste better than any fries I've had in many months. Tom's probably was my least favorite place on the trip, but I still thought it was pretty good, and if it had been the only stop we had made all day, I would have been satisfied in going there.

photo of Packard's, Northampton, MassachusettsWe were soon on the road again, heading south for a few miles until we hit the quirky city of Northampton. We drove around a bit until we found our destination, an improbably interesting place called Packard's that turned out to be the highlight of the trip. Packard's has the feel of a New York City speakeasy (Chumley's comes to mind) or perhaps an old-Boston political hangout in the vein of Doyle's or JJ Foley's. Either way, this was a classic old place with incredible charm (classic neon signs and other memorabilia, old wooden floors, well-worn booths and church pews, pool tables, countless nooks and crannies, and so on). I really wanted to try one of Packard's famous burgers, but was starting to fill up by this point, so I ordered a "shepherd's pie potato claw," which was basically a huge baked potato stuffed with ground beef, corn, and cheese. It was delicious, though it probably had more calories than the burger I had decided against. My friend had a BBQ chicken potato claw, which was every bit as good as my dish, if not better. We washed our meals down with some good beer (I had a very nice locally-brewed beer called Holyoke Dam Ale), then hit the road for our fourth and final stop.

photo of Cindy's Drive-In, Granby, Massachusetts Packard's was going to be tough to beat, plus we were very full at this point, so I had the feeling we were going to have a letdown at our last stop. But Cindy's Drive-In in the farming community of Granby turned out to be a memorable place, and while we were unable to eat anything other than ice cream at this point, the burgers and dogs at Cindy's looked great, the surrounding area was absolutely beautiful, and the drive-in itself was the classic type that you almost never see anymore in Massachusetts. I went with a junior-sized black raspberry chip ice cream while my friend ordered a nice-looking flurry with chocolate covered bananas and Snickers bars mixed in. We took our orders around the side of the drive-in where we could enjoy the bucolic views from the tables set up alongside the place. It was indeed a relaxing ending to another interesting road trip.

The more I travel to the Pioneer Valley, the more I like it; the scenery is very nice, the cities and towns are mostly attractive and appealing, and the restaurants (at least the ones I have been to) are varied and interesting. Hopefully over the coming months I can get out there again, and if I do, perhaps I can try one of those burgers at Packard's and/or order some food at Cindy's and sit outside again if the weather is nice.

Related Blog Entries: hot dogs, ice cream stands, road trips

Thursday, September 4, 2008
Movies and Food at the Mendon Drive-In

Last weekend, we made our annual trip down Route 109 to the Mendon Drive-In in Mendon. We ended up seeing a really funny movie (Tropic Thunder) and a really unfunny, almost creepy movie (The Rocker). And yes, we ordered way too much food from the drive-in's snack bar, which is actually seen as a place to get some very good food. And once again, the snack bar did not let us down.

photo of the snack bar at the Mendon Drive-In, Mendon, MA We ordered all kinds of items from the snack bar, starting with a burger, hot dog, fries, and popcorn chicken before the first movie, and ice cream and tacos (yes, a strange combination) between the two movies. The best item were probably the burger, which was griddled to perfection and was huge--much bigger than the roll it was in. The popcorn chicken was also very good, as each piece was deep-fried and crispy. The hot dog was basic but tasty, and the taco (with hot sauce) was pretty good, but it fell apart before I could even take my first bite. The fries were decent, though it tasted like the oil needed to be changed. And finally, the ice cream was heavenly, especially after all that greasy food, and even though I had almost no room in my stomach to eat it at that point, I did manage to somehow find a way.

It is funny that more than a few people go to the Mendon Drive-In not just for seeing movies while in the great outdoors, but also for the food at the snack bar. And while I'm not saying that the food there is worthy of a special trip, it is a lot better than you might expect at a place like this. I can't wait to get back there next year!

Monday, September 1, 2008
Another Very Good Meal at Siam House, Quincy

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and liked it a lot, then gone back a few more times and liked it just as much, but then forgot all about it? Well, that is exactly my experience with Siam House in Quincy Center; I first went to this plain little Thai restaurant several years ago and really liked what I had there. Then I returned to it a couple of times, liking it very much each time. But then I completely forgot about it. But last week, we finally ended up back at Siam House, and it was as good as ever.

photo of Siam House, Quincy, MA Siam House isn't much to look at, with plain-looking carpeting and walls and a basic setup of tables in a squarish room. A lack of music (at least on the night we were there) didn't help the atmosphere, either. But what Siam House lacks in attractiveness it seems to more than makes up for in food and service, based on our experience there. All of the food we had was delicious, from the sweet and tangy tom yum soup to the mild but tasty tofu soup to the surprisingly addictive mango fried rice to the hot and spicy drunken noodles with beef. I liked the fact that the tofu soup was filled with ground chicken and rice noodles, making it more interesting than other tofu soups I have had in the past. And the mango fried rice was a real winner, with the sweetness of the mango pieces adding to--but not overwhelming--the mix of chicken slices, fried rice, and vegetables. The term "service with a smile" definitely applied to Siam House, as all of our servers were friendly and kind, and the both the soups and the entrees came out at exactly the right time.

Once again, there was very little not to like about Siam House in Quincy (I was definitely able to overlook the rather plain atmosphere because the food and service were so good). I guess the question is, Why haven't we featured Siam House on this site? A good question, and one that may be resolved over the coming weeks...

If you would like the address for Siam House, here it is: Siam House, 1472 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA, 02169. Phone: (617) 770-4030.

Related Blog Entries: Quincy restaurants, Thai restaurants