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Boston Restaurant Blog -- October, 2010

Below are blog entries from October, 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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October, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Our New Random Photos Section

Several months ago, we added a new "food photos" section to the Boston's Hidden Restaurants website. And as much as that feature has expanded over the past few months, we also had a number of non-food pictures that we were unable to add to the section, yet nevertheless were still relevant pictures focusing on the restaurant scene in Boston, New England, and in some cases, beyond the area. This is why we recently created another new section that focuses on random photos, including pictures of new restaurants, dining spots we haven't been to yet, food shops and stores, offbeat pictures, and more. If you would like to look at the new section, it can be found at the link below:

Currently, we are trying to add a few new photos to this section each week, so expect to see more pictures within the feature over the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Breakfast at the Robinwood Cafe and Grille in Jamaica Plain

Jamaica Plain tends to be one Boston neighborhood I find myself in a lot these days, whether it be for walking in the Arnold Arboretum, having a drink at Doyle's Cafe, or dining at any number of spots along the main drag and beyond. JP has a lot of restaurants, including one fairly new place that I have been trying to get to for awhile now--the Robinwood Cafe and Grille on Centre Street. Well, we finally checked it out over the past weekend, and while it was not a stellar experience as far as food is concerned, I rather liked the place and wouldn't mind heading back there at some point.

photo of the Robinwood Cafe and Grille, Jamaica Plain, MA The Robinwood Cafe and Grille is located along a stretch of Centre Street that is perhaps a bit more residential than commercial, as it is a little north of the main business district and just south of Hyde Square. From the outside, the restaurant has the look of a greasy-spoon diner, and in a way, that's what it is; the interior includes a counter with seating, a small grilling area behind the counter, a rather worn out tiled ceiling that tends to be sagging in spots, fluorescent lights (some of which are on--they are off in the part of the dining area that has hanging cylindrical lights), and a wooden floor that ups the noise level a bit. The space does have some nice touches, with the aforementioned hardwood floor looking shiny and new, the hanging lamps adding a bit of warmth to the dining area to the right, and the tables being spaced apart enough so that you don't feel squeezed in.

We arrived at the Robinwood Cafe and Grille toward the late morning and ended up having several breakfast items. The bagel was a little on the soft side and didn't have a ton of taste, while the corned beef hash seemed like it may have come out of a can (though it was nicely salted and cooked just right). The Grecian Delight omelette was fairly good, but the order was messed up, as a request was put in for no onions and it came to us with a lot of onions, some of which seemed almost raw. The home fries were pretty tasty and were served as round slices rather than diced potatoes, but again, some of the onions mixed in seemed close to raw. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy and the rye toast was fine, though the coffee was harsh and bitter. Our server was very friendly and made sure to keep checking back with us to make sure everything was ok even though she was hustling from table to table throughout. Prices were downright cheap, with our bill being a good amount less than I thought it would be. The clientele appeared to consist of locals and regulars, with the workers seeming to know at least a few of the patrons fairly well.

I can't say I was overly impressed with our breakfast at the Robinwood Cafe and Grille, but I would like to try the place for lunch and/or dinner before forming more of an opinion on it. I do like the overall feel of the restaurant, as it is a totally unpretentious spot that wouldn't seem out of place in a small town two or three hours from Boston. If I get back there again, I will be sure to post an update, so stay tuned....

If you would like the address for the Robinwood Cafe and Grille in Jamaica Plain, here it is: Robinwood Cafe and Grille, 536 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA, 02130. Phone: (617) 524-7575

Related Blog Entries: breakfast places, diners, Jamaica Plain restaurants

Thursday, October 14, 2010
Another Fall Trip to Central Vermont

About this time last year, I spent a couple of days in the Ludlow, Vermont area, checking out the fall foliage and trying a few restaurants. This past Columbus Day weekend brought about a similar trip, with one more day added on, a handful of dining spots (most of which did not overly impress, actually), and side trips to a few cheese places (more on that later).

First, a quick note on a few places we returned to--we did try some restaurants for the first time, but also hit some "repeats," including The Farmers Diner in Quechee (slow service, inedible French onion soup, decent grilled cheese and bacon, and very good deep-fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs); the Pot Belly Pub and Restaurant in Ludlow (friendly service, excellent ham, cheese, and asparagus sandwich, terrific meat loaf, good entertainment); and The Hatchery, also in Ludlow (perhaps the best meal of the trip, with outstanding house made corned beef hash, delicious cinnamon French toast, and hearty home fries with perfectly cooked onions). We also tried to return to Alice's Restaurant in Chester, but it was closing up for the night. And now on to some "first-time" restaurants....

photo of Trappers, Ludlow, VT On Sunday morning, we headed into the center of Ludlow to have a quick breakfast at Trappers, which is technically not a new restaurant for me, actually, since I had been to for lunch a number of years back. It is a classic breakfast and lunch spot, with a U-shaped counter in the middle of the main room, lots of Vermont-based memorabilia along the walls, and a large, goofy-looking moose in a flannel shirt on one side of the room. To the left of the main section of Trappers is another slightly smaller dining room. We sat up at the counter in the main room and ordered some basic breakfast items, including a good version of French toast (though The Hatchery's was much better), corned beef hash that was a bit mushy, eggs, and home fries that looked a bit shriveled but tasted pretty good. Service was a little slow at times, and it seemed as though they weren't quite prepared for the crowds that were there for the long weekend. Prices were very reasonable, just as I recalled from my last time there. I would say that The Hatchery (which is next door) seems to have better food, but Trappers is a decent spot with a bit more of a classic greasy spoon atmosphere than that of its neighbor.

photo of Ramunto's Brick and Brew Pizza, Bridgewater, VT After checking out some foliage and a farmers' market in nearby Belmont, we drove through the beautiful central lakes region north of Ludlow, ending up in Bridgewater where we stopped at Ramunto's Brick and Brew Pizza. Probably the best part of Ramunto's is the atmosphere, as it is housed in an old mill building with tons of character, including wooden floors, exposed pipes along the ceiling, and lots of nooks and crannies. Our pepperoni pizza was billed as New York style, though it was thicker than what I am used to in the Big Apple and the crust was doughy and had little in the way of taste, while the tomato sauce was slightly sour and rather acidic. The beer selection at Ramunto's was quite impressive, however, and we enjoyed some great local brews, including a Long Trail Blackberry Wheat and a very mellow Long Trail Harvest. Service was good overall, and the prices were not too bad, especially considering the size of the pizza.

photo of the Fullerton Inn, Chester, VT Sunday afternoon was spent mostly in Woodstock and Plymouth, and, eventually, Chester in the evening. We had toyed with the idea of returning to Alice's Restaurant in the center of Chester, but since it was closing for the night we ended up at the Fullerton Inn, which is on the other end of the small but attractive business district. The Fullerton Inn is an elegant country inn that is housed in a beautiful structure from the late 1800s. The inn includes a rather basic-looking tavern as well as a quiet, comfortable dining room, which is where we had our dinner. And the dinner was a good one, with the corn bread with cranberries and walnuts being a great start to our meal, and the flaky fig and mascarpone purses with sliced tart apples and sweet pomegranate molasses was a nearly perfect appetizer. Our meals were generally very good; the panko-crusted veal schnitzel had a spicy whole-grain mustard sauce, and the veal was mostly tender, though there were a couple of tough sections within it, while the panko-crusted chicken contained a savory bacon and broccoli stuffing and a creamy maple sauce. Beers included a Rock Art Red Ale and an Otter Creek Brown Ale, both of which were very satisfying. We did have a dessert, but it was disappointing, as the house made pumpkin cheese cake had almost no pumpkin flavor at all. Service was about as good as we had on the entire trip, and the prices, while a bit high, were not outrageously so.

photo of the White Cottage Snack Bar, Woodstock, VT On our way out of Vermont early Monday afternoon, we made a stop at a place I've been wanting to go to for a long time--the White Cottage Snack Bar in Woodstock. Situated on the banks of the Ottauquecheee River just west of town, the White Cottage Snack Bar is a roadside snack shack where diners order at the counter in front and wait for their name to be called. The restaurant has outdoor picnic tables along the river as well as more picnic tables in two separate indoor patio areas (we ate in the indoor patio to the left, with views of the river). We happened to hit it on the last day of the season for them, so they were starting to pack things up while we were there. While the food at the White Cottage was pretty basic (decent burger, hot dog, and fries, and cornmeal-battered onion rings that had a nice crunch but were rather bland), this is a real slice of Americana that you just don't find too much of in the Boston area. And the views of the river alone made this place a memorable spot that also marked the end of our trip to Vermont.

photo of Crowley Cheese, Mount Holly, VT I did want to add a quick side note on a few cheese places that we checked outon the trip. We went to a total of three cheese factories, including two of the oldest in America (Crowley Cheese in Mount Holly and the Plymouth Cheese Factory in Plymouth) as well as a cheese and maple place whose spectacular hillside location has to be seen to be believed (Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock). My favorite cheese was the Plymouth Cheese from the Plymouth Cheese Factory (word is, Julia Child loved it as well), though the aged cheddars from the other two places and the sage cheese from Sugarbush Farm were also excellent. Perhaps the most interesting building of the three was that of Crowley Cheese (see photo), with its rustic overall feel and its scenic location in the middle of some of the most pristine farmland in Central Vermont.

It was another nice trip to the Ludlow area, and while no restaurants really stood out this time around, we did enjoy some good meals (and excellent cheese!). It looks like more trips to Vermont may be in the works, so expect some more posts on restaurants in the Green Mountain State over the coming months.

Related Blog Entries: Vermont restaurants

Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sunday Afternoon at The Old Spot in Salem

The Boston-area restaurant scene is lacking in a few areas, including traditional English pubs. Sure, the British Beer Company is slowly expanding in Eastern Massachusetts, but there still aren't any inside of Route 128, and reviews of the food at BBC seem to be mixed. That is why a place in Salem called The Old Spot has intrigued me for quite some time now, and after finally getting there over the past weekend, I can say that it does seem to be a decent place for a bite to eat and a beer, though perhaps not quite a destination spot.

photo of The Old Spot, Salem, MA Located around the corner from Salem Common on the eastern edge of the downtown section of the city, The Old Spot is within walking distance of most of the more popular attractions in Salem. The exterior of the place is attractive in an old-world kind of way, with the words "Sustenance" and "Libations" prominently displayed on the bar side of the storefront. The interior is charming, warm, and cozy, with the aforementioned bar on the right and a separate dining room to the left. The dining area includes a slightly raised area that is somewhat partitioned off from the rest of the room, though it is basically one space, and not a very big one at that. Wooden floors, dim hanging lights, and attractive wall sconces add a lot of atmosphere to the restaurant.

We went to The Old Spot toward the middle of the afternoon, and it was still quite crowded with people having late lunches. We were able to be seated right away, however, and started with a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (not my favorite pumpkin beer, but still very nice) and a pint of Tetley's English Ale (almost like a pale ale version of Guinness Stout, with a creamy head and little carbonation). We decided to order an appetizer and a couple of sandwiches, and the appetizer--deep-fried green beans--was perhaps the highlight of the meal. The green beans were heavily battered, almost like onion rings, giving the beans a satisfying crunch, and the creamy horseradish sauce that came on the side was a perfect complement to the dish. Our sandwiches were decent enough, though the toasted reuben was a bit too greasy and the thick slabs of corned beef, while tasty, had some substantial pieces of fat that probably could have been trimmed. The char-grilled burger was thick, juicy and delicious, but the fries that came with it (as well as with the reuben) were limp and greasy. Desserts (including a brownie sundae) and after-dinner drinks (Frangelico, port wine, Irish Mist) all sounded good, but we were pretty full, so we called it a day after our meals. Service was very efficient, with our server juggling many tables at once without much of a problem, and prices were just a bit on the high side for a pub, but still pretty reasonable.

While The Old Spot in Salem won't make me forget about some of my favorite pubs in the Boston area, it is a nice place to go to on a chilly day to warm up with a bite to eat and a drink or two. I get the feeling that I may end up back here this winter with a good book (or perhaps a chess set!), enjoying the cozy atmosphere as well as a pint or two of a decent porter or stout.

If you would like the address for The Old Spot in Salem, here it is: The Old Spot, 121 Essex Street, Salem, MA, 01970. Phone: (978) 745-5656

Related Blog Entries: Salem restaurants

Friday, October 1, 2010
Dinner at The Ledge in Lower Mills, Dorchester

When I am in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester and looking for food, I typically go to the outstanding soul food place Mrs. Jones. But good as it may be, Mrs. Jones doesn't really have any seating, which is one reason why I was happy to see The Ledge open up within the same block of this attractive Dorchester neighborhood awhile back. But other than stops for drinks and to briefly check the place out, I had never actually gotten to eat at The Ledge (which opened a little more than a year ago) until last week. Well, it was well worth the wait, as the food was excellent, the back patio was memorable (more on that later), and the service was professional from start to finish.

photo of The Ledge, Dorchester, MA The Ledge (or Ledge Kitchen and Drinks, which is its official name) is quite a change from the place that used to be in this spot, namely an old-school watering hole called Donovan's Village Tavern. While the former was a no-frills bar favored by folks in the neighborhood, The Ledge is more of a casual upscale eatery featuring inventive comfort food and local craft beers. The inside of the restaurant is quite spacious, with a long bar to the right, a dining area to the left, and a separate room with more tables further to the left. The space has a cavernous, slightly rustic feel with lots of wood and attractive cylindrical lights hanging from the ceiling. In the back is a large outdoor two-tiered patio with beautiful garden areas stocked with all kinds of plants. Umbrellas protect diners from the sun, while a high wall gives the patio a private, cozy feel.

When we arrived at The Ledge, it was fairly quiet as we had shown up at the early end of dinner, so we were able to sit out on the patio without a problem. Our server brought us some tasty rolls to start with as well as local beers that I especially like (Shipyard Pumpkinhead and Long Trail Ale). Then we moved on to appetizers--the French onion soup had a broth that was slightly watery and mild-tasting, but included some delicious gruyere cheese and croutons so big that they were more like whole pieces of bread. The baby spinach salad was better, with a big circular hunk of delectable fried goat cheese on top mixing nicely with the spinach, beets, and craisins within the salad. For our main course, it was mac and cheese along with flatbread pizza, and they were both wonderful; the three-cheese macaroni and cheese was coated thickly on top with light-tasting herbs and nicely-textured bread crumbs, while the flatbread pizza had a slightly pliable and greasy crust along with house-made sausage, a rich marinara, and a combination of mozzarella and gorgonzola cheese. We had very little room after our meals, but I just had to order the house-made cinnamon doughnuts with chocolate sauce, and it was certainly worth it, as the doughnuts were moist and firm on the inside and had a perfect mix of cinnamon and sugar on the outside. Prices were rather high for what we had, with some items being a good amount higher than what I've seen in similar places (for instance, the macaroni and cheese was $14 and the French onion soup was $7).

High prices aside, I was very impressed by The Ledge. The food was made with high-quality ingredients, the server was there whenever we needed her, and that outdoor patio is something to behold on a warm summer night. The restaurant seems to be getting more and more press these days, so I think that it has been "discovered" and may not exactly be a hidden gem any longer, but it still isn't the type of place that will have lines out the door night after night (perhaps because it is at the very southern tip of Boston). I would certainly have to say that lovers of comfort food, upscale pub grub, and handcrafted beers need to check this place out.

If you would like the address for The Ledge in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester, here it is: Ledge Kitchen and Drinks, 2261 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, MA, 02124. Phone: (617) 698-2261

Related Blog Entries: Dorchester restaurants