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Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2010

Below are blog entries from September, 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.)

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September, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Discussion on New England Restaurants for Fall Foliage Trips

I hosted our fifth live online food discussion late last week, with this chat focusing on New England restaurants that are worth checking out while on fall foliage trips. The setup of the talk was similar to the past couple of discussions, with panel members talking about specific topics, followed by our viewers participating.

To see a replay of the live discussion on New England restaurants to check out while on foliage trips, go to this link:

And for a written transcript of this discussion, please check out this link:

There will likely be another panel discussion sometime in October, so check back on our Boston's Hidden Restaurants Facebook page or our Hiddenboston Twitter page over the coming days to see what we might be talking about!

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Excellent Food, Outstanding Views at Tavern on the Hill, Easthampton

I have some friends who are real foodies, and they often tell me about restaurants in the Boston area and New England that I need to check out. Well, we went to one of these places last weekend, and as good as the food was at Tavern on the Hill in Easthampton, the views were spectacular, perhaps among the best views from an outdoor patio in all of New England. Add to this terrific service and surprisingly reasonable prices, and we are indeed talking about a truly memorable overall experience here.

photo of Tavern on the Hill, Easthampton, MA Tavern on the Hill is at the top of a steep, winding road (Route 141) between the downtown areas of Easthampon and Holyoke in the Pioneer Valley. It is basically located on the shoulder of Mount Tom, a broad mountain with many cliffs that towers over Easthampton. The restaurant looks out over the small city far below, with views of the Berkshires in the distance as well. The interior of Tavern on the Hill is quite spacious, with a small dining room to the left and a bigger dining room (with two partitioned sections) and bar to the right. A wood-burning fireplace is also inside the restaurant, adding to the rustic, cozy feel to the place. The aforementioned outdoor deck is further to the right, and includes a small outdoor bar that almost has the feel of a tiki bar.

We had reservations for dinner at Tavern on the Hill, so we were seated immediately. Our table was out on the patio, and the views were absolutely incredible, especially since the sun was just starting to set when we arrived. We started out with a round of beers (including a deliciously spicy Southern Tier Imperial Pumpkin Ale) and an appetizer of baked brie puffs drizzled with raspberry and apricot sauce. The soft and gooey brie puffs were browned perfectly, and the fruit sauce added a nice sweetness to the salty, savory taste of the puffs. We were also served salads that were full of fresh veggies, and soon, our main entrees arrived. Both dishes were impressive, with the stuffed sole having flaky and tender fish along with a sweet and rich crab meat/vegetable stuffing, and the marinated grilled flat iron steak being tender and seared nicely on the outside, though it was closer to medium than medium well on the inside. The horseradish mashed potatoes that came with the steak were smooth and buttery, but there wasn't much of a kick from the horseradish, as it added more of a subtle taste than any real heat. We also ordered flights of beers with our meals, but out of the eight microbrewed beers we tried, we liked very few of them (I did like the Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale quite a bit, though). For dessert, we ordered a rather sinful brownie sundae that was served warm and came with freshly made ice cream from Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream shop in Easthampton.

The jaw-dropping views alone make Tavern on the Hill worthy of a road trip from the Boston area. And the food was quite good as well, with the prices for what we had being a lot less than what you might pay for similar dishes at some Boston restaurants. I may try to return to the place later this fall or during the winter, as a seat by the fireplace seems rather enticing, and even though the outdoor deck will be closed for the season, the views from the inside of the spot will certainly be every bit as good.

If you would like the address for Tavern on the Hill in Easthampton, here it is: Tavern on the Hill, 100 Mountain Road, Easthampton, MA 01027. Phone: (413) 493-1700

Related Blog Entries: outdoor dining

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Lunch at P.J.'s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet, MA

Back in July, we checked out one of the many family-friendly seafood restaurants that line Route 6 on the Outer Cape. And while the food at The Lobster Shanty in Eastham was mostly very good, the service was disappointing and the lack of crowds indicated that there are perhaps better choices along the road. Well, about a week ago, we revisited the area and had lunch at a place further up Route 6 in Wellfleet called P.J.'s Family Restaurant, and everything about the place--from the quick and friendly service to the shaded outdoor dining to the excellent food--made this the perfect spot to go to on a beautiful summer weekend.

photo of P.J.'s Family Restaurant, Wellfleet, MA Like so many of the old-school seafood restaurants along Route 6, P.J.'s Family Restaurant (also called P.J.'s Seafood) is an ultra-casual, no-frills place that is ideal for folks either going to, or coming back from, the nearby beaches. A counter window sits in the front of the restaurant, with a covered outdoor area (complete with picnic tables) to the left and an indoor dining room with another counter area to the right. P.J.'s is blessed with a terrific location, only a few hundred feet from the main road that leads into Wellfleet Center and right next to Cahoon Hollow Road, which leads to some of the most spectacular beaches on Cape Cod.

The food at P.J.'s Family Restaurant has a bit of a Portuguese influence, with such items as kale soup, clams stuffed with Portuguese sausage (linguica), and linguica rolls on the menu. And the kale soup that I tried was outstanding, with a hearty mix of kale and linguica in a rich and salty broth. For lovers of thin-broth clam chowder, the version at P.J.'s is about as good as it gets, with lots of clams and potatoes added to a thin but delicious liquid base. As good as the kale soup and clam chowder were, the crab cakes were even better, as they were light on the filling and heavy on fresh, sweet-tasting crabmeat, and the red pepper remoulade that came with the crab cakes only added to the sweet and savory taste of the meat. A burger rounded out what we ordered at P.J.'s, and it was the type of classic thin griddled patty that you would expect to see at a roadside restaurant such as this. Prices were cheap, service was fine, and the outdoor picnic table that we sat at was relatively clean (and situated perfectly for cross-breezes that came through the patio area).

P.J.'s Family Restaurant is by no means a hidden gem, so it's not a place that we can feature on this site. But it is certainly a good spot--perhaps one of the best choices along Route 6 between the Orleans Rotary and Truro--and one that I would certainly return to the next time I'm in the area.

For those who want the address for P.J.'s, here it is: P.J.'s Family Restaurant, 2616 State Highway (Route 6), Wellfleet, MA, 02667. The phone number is (508) 349-2126.

Related Blog Entries: Cape Cod restaurants, seafood restaurants

Thursday, September 9, 2010
A First Visit to Flatbread Company in Somerville

A bit more than a year and a half ago, I tried the Flatbread Company in Amesbury for the first time, and instantly fell in love with their delicious wood-fired pizza as well as their rustic atmosphere. Well, a new Flatbread Company has opened closer to where Boston, and while the Somerville location doesn't quite have the charming atmosphere of the Amesbury one, the pizza is every bit as good and the place also happens to have bowling.

photo of the Flatbread Company, Somerville, MA The new Flatbread Company in Somerville is located on the southern edge of Davis Square in the space formerly occupied by Sacco's Bowl Haven. To their credit, Flatbread Company retained most of the lanes from Bowl Haven, though the pool room is gone, replaced by an attractive--if rather loud--dining area that has a wood-fired oven along the far wall. Exposed pipes, lots of brick, an old wooden ceiling, and funky lights add some character to the place, and the lanes have been nicely upgraded--but not overly so--giving the bowling area a comfortably retro feel.

Like their original location in Amesbury, the new Flatbread Company in Somerville has an good selection of beers, including Tuckerman, Pretty Things, Mayflower, Watch City, and Wolaver's, of which I had a terrific pumpkin ale. We split a pepperoni pizza, and while it wasn't exactly pretty (the pepperoni they use is nitrite-free, making it look more like a brownish sausage), the thin-crust wood-fired pie was nearly perfect--the only thing keeping it from perfection was the fact that it was just a tad undercooked. Service was friendly and the prices were fairly reasonable, though anyone who is looking to have several rounds of beers with their pizza might get a bit of sticker shock if they are used to cheap no-frills pizza and beer at a place such as Mike's up the street or Newtowne Grille a few blocks away in Cambridge.

I miss Bowl Haven; it was a real piece of old Somerville in a section of the city that is perhaps changing more than any other. But Flatbread Company is to be commended for the work they have done on the place, keeping a piece of the old spot intact while adding some extra appeal to it. And, of course, the pizza is outstanding, perhaps being in my top 10 places for pizza in the entire Boston area. Pizza, beer, and bowling--there is certainly a lot to like about the new Flatbread Company in Somerville's Davis Square.

If you would like the address for the Flatbread Company in Somerville, here it is: Flatbread Company, 45 Day Street, Somerville, MA 02144. Phone: (617) 776-0552

Related Blog Entries: pizza places, Somerville restaurants

Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Discussion on Cheap Eats Near College Areas

Our fourth live online food discussion was held last week, and this one centered around cheap eats near college areas in and around Boston. Areas covered during this discussion (which had a panel of three food experts, plus an audience of our viewers) included Allston, Davis Square in Somerville, Harvard Square in Cambridge, Kenmore Square in Boston, and Central Square in Cambridge. The setup of the discussion was much the same as the previous one, with our viewers participating toward the end of each topic.

If you would like to view a replay of the live discussion on cheap eats, here is the link:

And for a written transcript of the latest discussion, please go to this link:

We will be having a new panel discussion in a week or two, with this one centering around little-known restaurants that are good options as part of road trips through New England (with emphasis on fall foliage trips). For more information on the upcoming talk, check back on our Boston's Hidden Restaurants Facebook page or our Hiddenboston Twitter page over the next several days.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Dinner at The Seashell Cafe, Rockport

I keep finding myself in Rockport this year, having gone there a couple of times in the spring and one more time on a recent trip this summer. The last time I was in this charming seaside village on the North Shore, we went to Roy Moore's Fish Shack in Dock Square, and it was a very satisfying experience, with great food (including delicious lobster) and nice water views from our table. This time, we went literally across the street to a place called The Seashell Cafe, and while there were some highlights to our meal--including spectacular water views--I think that our meal at Roy Moore's Fish Shack was more impressive overall.

photo of The Seashell Cafe, Rockport, MA The Seashell Cafe (formerly The Greenery Restaurant) looks like a little cafe-style dining spot from the outside, with a counter area that includes food on display, some tables by the window, and artwork on the walls. But as the sign in the front window says, there is a back dining room that has the aforementioned views of the water (better views than from Roy Moore's Fish Shack, in my opinion). The dining room is slightly cramped, and depending on where you sit, the ceiling lights can be rather glaring, but the views make up for these fairy minor shortcomings.

We were lucky enough to get a back corner table up against the windows overlooking the water at The Seashell Cafe. Our server promptly came over and we started out with non-alcoholic drinks (Rockport is no longer dry, but I never think to order beers there for some reason) and appetizers. The clam chowder was excellent, with plenty of clams and a broth that was just a bit on the thick side. The chicken vegetable soup was decent as well, though some of the veggies did not seem to be cooked enough, with the carrots being especially hard. Our entrees were a mixed bag, with one dish being outstanding and the other being disappointing. The linguini with seafood was simply wonderful, with a medley of seafood (including big chunks of lobster) and a rich cream sauce making this a particularly tasty dish. The baked scrod was inexplicably watery, however, and the herb crumb topping could only soak up so much of the water. The mashed potatoes that came with the dish were pretty good, though, with an abundance of garlic boosting the flavor. Service was friendly and efficient, while prices were just a tad high, but maybe not so much considering the restaurant's location.

I loved the views from the back room of The Seashell Cafe, with other high notes being the service and that terrific seafood linguini. But Roy Moore's Fish Shack still lingers in my memory, so the next time I am in Rockport, I could very well end up back there--or at their "in the rough" lobster pound just up the street on Bearskin Neck, which seems to receive rave reviews from friends and restaurant critics alike.

If you would like the address for The Seashell Cafe, here it is: The Seashell Cafe, 15 Dock Square, Rockport, MA, 01966. Phone: (978) 546-9593

Related Blog Entries: Rockport restaurants, seafood restaurants