Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion on little-known Boston-area restaurants that took place on Thursday, July 8, 2010. The panel included Christine, the National Community Manager and Boston Editor for http://citysearch.com; BostonTweet; RichardPF from http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com; Patrick Maguire, author of Server Not Servant blog (http://www.servernotservant.com/) and forthcoming book; Aaron from @eatBoston; and others. The first half hour or so focused on the panel talking about little-known Boston-area restaurants, while for the last 15 minutes or so, the discussion was opened up to viewers, who asked questions for the panel--and other viewers--to answer. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0710.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Good morning, all, and welcome to this live panel discussion on "hidden" restaurants in the Boston area! We have a panel of several folks from around the area who will be discussing little-known dining spots over the next half hour or so, and we'll follow it up by taking some questions from those of you who are viewing this discussion. The Q&A will go from about 11:00 to 11:15, and if anyone on the panel wants to stick around for a few extra minutes, we may extend the Q&A a bit.
Marc H.: Before beginning with the discussion, I'd like to give the folks on the panel a chance to introduce themselves. Feel free to include your backgrounds, any websites you run or are a part of, your connections with the Boston restaurant scene, etc. Who wants to start? Actually, I guess I will! I'm Marc, the founder/owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk. Ok, who's next? :-)
Patrick Maguire: Good morning everyone. Patrick Maguire here. Former bartender. I love discovering great food and meeting the people who cook and serve it. I've also been known to chat up a fellow barmate or two... I author a blog called, "I'm Your Server Not Your Servant," which advocates for service industry professionals. Thank you for joining us this morning. http://www.servernotservant.com/
NorthShoreDish: Hi Marc, I am Kristen from North Shore Dish, a blog that covers all things food-related north of Boston.
Christine Liu: hey all! it's christine from citysearch boston. i'm not shy about what i like to munch on -- and why. would love to answer and and all questions about neighborhoods -- i'd say my specialty is cambridge and somerville.
BostonTweet: Morning Marc and thank you for the invitation. I'm Tom, also known as BostonTweet, and I tweet about the social side of living in Boston.
RichardPF: Good morning, RichardPF here, writer of Passionate Foodie Blog http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com, columnist for Stoneham Sun newspaper, and recent Certified Sake Professional.
@eatBoston: I'm Aaron, I write @eatboston on Twitter and Facebook and put on events from time to time.
Rich O: Hey guys. I'm Marc's co-pilot and running mate on many of his food trips. I know many by reputation only.
Marc H.: Hi, all! Thanks for being part of the panel! Any of you hit any good restaurants this week? We went to a place called Milestone in Wellesley last night, and it was really good. Excellent Greek cuisine....
@eatBoston: I was in DC last weekend and got to Founding Farmers and Honey Pig. Neither of which is very unknown, I don't think, or in Boston.
Marc H.: I love DC's restaurant scene. Some great ones down there, that's for sure.
Christine Liu: @ldgourmet and i "got sconed" at atomic bean cafe in central sq last week - free unlimited wifi and they even have board games!
RichardPF: Good morning, I have been writing lately about some restaurants in San Francisco.
Patrick Maguire: I went back to Douzo last night for the 2nd time in 3 days for the Hamachi kama. Go try it. It's broiled yellowtail collar with spicey diacon radish, scallions and ponzu sauce. Paul, the bartender is back. Great guy.
Marc H.: Ok, I think we'll get started. What I want to focus on today is the fact that in this era of chain restaurants and generic dining spots, there are also a lot of independent restaurants in the Boston area, with a number of them being under the radar and unknown to most people, except for perhaps those who live in the neighborhoods where the spots are located. The main mission of the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site is to find these hidden gems in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, and while we have found a few hundred such spots, there are plenty more out there, including some, I'm sure, that you on the panel know about.
Marc H.: I often get asked about local favorites and/or little-known spots in touristy areas around Boston, so perhaps we can start with those. Why don't we start with one spot that gets more tourists than nearly any other place in Boston, namely the North End. What are some decent restaurants that tend to get overlooked there?
RichardPF: I think Nebo doesn't get enough credit, maybe due to its location. You rarely hear people talking about it when discussing North End places.
@eatBoston: I'm a dessert man, myself. People love talking about Mike's, but I like Bova's.
Marc H.: I go to Bova's a lot, actually. You gotta love a place that is open 24 hours.
BostonTweet: One of my favorite North End restaurants is Cantina Italiana on Havover. There's plenty of tables, hardly ever a wait, not popular with tourists, the food is affordable and they have the best neon sign in Boston.
Jackie Church: @LDGourmet here..I was impressed with Atomic Bean and Nebo both.
Marc H.: Hi, Jackie!
@LDGourmet: Good morning!
Patrick Maguire: Carmen. I love the zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and the atmosphere and service are great. I used to enjoy Marco when it first opened which was under the radar.
Christine Liu: neptune oyster above all! for more budget-minded peeps, i think the pies at ducali pizzeria are ace, taranta is really inventive, and caffe vittoria will always charm me :)
@LDGourmet: @eatBoston are they still 24 hours, Bova's? Says so on website but I called last night and they didn't answer.
@eatBoston: I don't know if they're still 24 hours. I've always been treated rudely there, so I don't know if they just decided not to answer the phone. I don't think rude service is charming, but I can tolerate it for the amount of time it takes to buy something chocolaty... Alternately, they could just be on vacation.
Patrick Maguire: Really miss the old Sage.
Christine Liu: @eatboston -- i raise your bova's with modern pastry all the way
@LDGourmet: I'm a Modern girl too..Patrick where is Marco?
Patrick Maguire: On the 2nd floor on Hanover street above _____, someone help me! Bricco maybe?
NorthShoreDish: Modern over Mike's any day, IMHO.
Rich O: Has anyone been to Lyndell's in the North End yet?
Rich O: I know the one in Ball Square feels more like a North End bakery now.
Christine Liu: there's also the 3rd lyndell's in central sq, replacing the old carberry's bakery.
Patrick Maguire: Lyndells, yes + loved it. No wait and super-fresh eclairs. Now that's one the tourists don't know about. Good call.
Marc H.: Let's move on to another busy, touristy area of Boston, namely the Back Bay. Are there any hidden gems there? And no, I don't want to hear about places in the South End that folks can walk to!
@eatBoston: Can we talk about places in the South End people can walk to?
Marc H.: Ha ha! Yes, the Back Bay is a tough one, isn't it?
Patrick Maguire: Lucca-Back Bay is definitely under the radar. Casey is doing a great job on the bar and Anthony Mazzotta is kicking ass in the kitchen. Anthony worked at French Laundry for 3 years. Hospitality is great and food is excellent.
Christine Liu: the courtyard at the boston public library (for the escapist environment, mostly), espresso royale caffe (they have barismo beans!), cafe l'aroma, cafe jaffa, otherside cafe (beer! pie!), bristol lounge, the farmer's market in prudential plaza
Marc H.: I agree on Espresso Royale (great bagels from Bagel Rising there) and Cafe Jaffa.
BostonTweet: Not sure about the food but I love the upstairs at Solas on Boylston Street for a Guinness. It's quiet, charming and overlooks the street. Also, I know it's sort of the South End but I'm a huge fan of Delux for not only cheap beers but also a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
Marc H.: Solas has an upstairs? How long has that been in place? I've been at street level a few times.
BostonTweet: Look for the stairs as soon as you walk in the Boylston Street (not Lenox Hotel) entrance.
Marc H.: That's great to know. We were actually talking about Solas last night. Nice little spot....
Patrick Maguire: Do you need to know the secret handshake to get to the 2nd floor?
Marc H.: Heh, that sounds like Symphony 8's speakeasy, Patrick!
Christine Liu: okay, if you're going to mention delux, i HAVE to mention anchovies! townie bar of my dreams.
Marc H.: Ok, and I'll mention Picco, which is close to the Back Bay, LOL!
Christine Liu: coda is adorable and sort of lost in the shuffle.
Patrick Maguire: I guess erbaluce is a Back Bay stretch, but what a great place. Agree on Coda. They're doing a great job there.
Christine Liu: anyone been to the new zocalo that replaced stix on stanhope? that seems promising for good back bay eats.
Marc H.: I can't wait to try the new Zocalo. love the one in Arlington.
@eatBoston: Not fine dining, but I like that all the beef at B.Good is locally sourced now.
RichardPF: I agree on Erbaluce!
BostonTweet: Anchovies (as Christine says) is fantastic for a hole in the wall with huge Italian food portions. Also, agree with Patrick on Coda - great food, cheap drafts and it's owned by Moxley of the Common Ground in Allston.
Marc H.: Ok, moving on, what about areas within Route 128 that are treasure troves for interesting little-known dining spots? For instance, I find that Lynn and East Boston have a terrific variety of restaurants that most diners rarely get to.
Christine Liu: oh wait... can i squeeze in one more hidden gem in the back bay? the SALON at l'espalier. it's their de facto lounge, and it has gorgeous views of boylston street from above, and you don't have to shell out an arm and a leg. get a drink, a couple oysters and nibbles, and you feel like royalty.
RichardPF: Kyotoya in Stoneham, good sushi, killer tempura, inexpensive prices. Stoneham also has very good Thai at Taste of Siam.
Marc H.: Richard, you and a couple of others told me how good Kyotoya was, and you were sure right about that. Outstanding spot.
RichardPF: Stearns & Hills Bistro in Melrose has superb Shepherd's Pie & surprisingly good pizzas.
Rich O: I'll roll the credits to our moderator on this one; Monte's in Lynn. Great pizza in a local dive sort of spot.
RichardPF: Donut City in Lynn, great little independent donut shop.
Marc H.: Stoneham and Lynn are definitely two places that have many hidden gems.
Patrick Maguire: Sorry, I can't help much here. I'd love to try Angela's and a few other spots in Eastie. I used to really enjoy Turner's in Melrose.
Rich O: Not sure if we have any North Shore Roast Beef lovers but I hit a place called Anthony's in Reading where the beef melted in my mouth.
Marc H.: All right, let's get into specific foods from places that are often overlooked. Everyone seems to love pizza, yet certain chains around the area seem to always get the crowds while places that have much better pizza go unnoticed. To those of you on the panel, any favorites out there?
RichardPF: For pizza, Nebo in the North End.
BostonTweet: Il Mondo in Brigham Circle is one of my favorite pizza places in Boston.
Rich O: Gran Gusto in N Cambridge. Seems like no one in Somerville or Cambridge knows about it when I ask them. Killer thin crust pie.
Patrick Maguire: I'm really enjoying Coppa's pizzas lately. The nod to Pepe's, the white clam with bacon and vidalia onion is my favorite.
Marc H.: I wish Coppa didn't have such long lines. I'm dying to try it--I miss Dish, which used to be there, but have heard so much about Coppa.
Christine Liu: my pizza likes: picco, cambridge 1, stone hearth, beauty's (i lived on that stuff, sadly, in grad school), pinocchio's (ditto, for college) -- and 2nd on gran gusto
RichardPF: Coppa does have excellent pizza, love their blood sausage pepperoni.
Marc H.: What about places for burgers and/or hot dogs that folks might be unaware of? I'll start this, as there is a fantastic hot dog joint in Mattapan called Simco's that has been around for many decades, yet still seems unknown to many. Any others?
Christine Liu: burgers! craigie on main, russell house tavern, miracle of science, neptune oyster (with fried oysters on top)
Rich O: Wow, Neptune Oysters for burgers? Go figure.
Patrick Maguire: The Neptune burger with fried oysters is legendary.
BostonTweet: The burger(s) at R.F. O'Sullivan's on Beacon Street in Somerville will change your life.
Marc H.: I've only been to O'Sullivan's about 200 times (no joke). Can't get enough of their burgers.
Rich O: I'm a sworn RF O'Sullivans guy but someone told me Bull McCabe in Unions Square in knocking out some great burgers recently.
Patrick Maguire: I had a great burger at Sel de la Terre on Boylston over the weekend. The bun-to-burger ratio os perfect. Sucks when the bun is too big. They'll also throw a fried egg on top if you ask nicely. The fries with rosemary are great.
Christine Liu: minibar (in the copley sq hotel) does $2 kobe beef sliders on certain days/hours. they're actually quite tasty.
@eatBoston: The burger at Bull McCabe is pretty good made better by the proximity to my house.
Christine Liu: oh how could i forget the TORO BURGER?!??! insane. that is all.
Patrick Maguire: The "extra messy" burger at Toro is tremendous. The top the burger with the same wonderful aoili love that they put on their corn.
Marc H.: We've concentrated mostly on the immediate Boston area up to now, but I'd like to look at areas a bit further out. Are there any real hidden gems for any kind of food between Routes 128 and 495?
Marc H.: Also, how about places that are worthy of a road trip (or as part of a road trip), perhaps an hour or two from the Boston area? I'll go first again on this one--there is a food truck on Route 2 in Gill, MA, called Skip's Roadside Diner that has some outstanding Polish dishes. It's just east of Greenfield and perhaps an hour and a half from the area, but definitely worth hitting if you're in that area.
Patrick Maguire: Road trip: Rein's NY-Style Deli in Vernon, CT.
Rich O: Not sure if re-opened but Lawtons in Lawrence has deep fried dogs to die for.
Marc H.: Lawton's has indeed reopened.
@eatBoston: The Creme brulee at Pot au Feu in Providence is on my list of top 5 things I can get at any restaurant anywhere.
@eatBoston: That is... The top 5 things offered at any restaurant.
RichardPF: A second for Reins deli.
Rich O: Someone mentioned Pepe's earlier and it's well worth the drive.
Rich O: and my favorite dog joint anywhere Al's in naugatuck ct is awesome.
Christine Liu: in great barrington in the berkshires: route 7 grill (bbq place where nearly everything is sourced from a local farm) and soco creamery (ice-cream to die for)
Patrick Maguire: Sorry, I jumped the gun. Rein's deli for a pastrami sandwich followed by a visit to the Pepe's outpost in Manchester, CT a little further down 84. The pizza doesn't suffer at all, despite the fact that it's not New Haven. Tremendous double-header.
NorthShoreDish: If no one has mentioned Fred's Franks in Wakefield, he is definitely worth a visit!
Marc H.: Ok, that's about for this part of the discussion. Before we move on to a Q&A with our viewers, I'd like each member of the panel to mention a personal favorite restaurant of theirs that might not be well-known.
Marc H.: I'll go first! I'll pick Alia in Winthrop, which is a tremendous little dining spot near the water that features a mix of Moroccan and Italian cuisine. And the owner is about as warm a person as you'll meet.
Rich O: Pastalina, Medford. Fresh pasta, BYOB.
BostonTweet: Carlo's Cucina Italiana is a great little Italian restaurant in lovely downtown Allston.
NorthShoreDish: Bella Verona in Salem is terrific. Small intimate Italian place with great food and wine.
Christine Liu: the peruvian chicken charcoal grill in union sq -- splurge for the 'familiar' -- i always burn my tongue because i'm so impatient. towering pile of wonderfully roasted meats: chicken, chicharrones, steak, tripe, every bit of the animal
RichardPF: Le Patissier, in Troquet restaurant. Some of the best desserts in the city. Killer souffles, seasonal menu changes. Pastry chef Sarah always on duty.
Patrick Maguire: Despite the fact that Metropolis restaurant is in the middle of "Restaurant Row" in the South End, many people only think of it as a brunch place. The haddock with quinoa is my new favorite dish. I also love Green Street in Cambridge, well known for cocktails, but the food is excellent. Recently had calves brain from the "offal of the day" on the menu.
Christine Liu: that calf's brain is divine. only my sister, who is a neurosurgeon, freaked out when i told her. figures.
Marc H.: Thanks to all of you on the panel who have participated in this discussion! Now it's time to open it up to questions from our viewers. I expect a lot of questions, but I'll post as many as I can over the next 15+ minutes. All right, viewers, bring those questions to us!
Patrick Maguire: Has anyone been to B.T.'s smokehouse in Sturbridge?
Mary Ann Nuzzolilo: B.T. Smoke house is awesome.
BostonBurgerBlog: Are you trying to tempt me with all this burger talk??
Mary Ann Nuzzolilo: I am looking for a good chinese near Charles playhouse.
Mary Ann Nuzzolilo: Does anyone know of a restaurant that serves really good fresh lobster in the North Shore area?
Marc H.: Ok, we have two questions, one from Mary Ann and one from Sue. Mary Ann, I'd say it's probably best to walk over to Chinatown, which isn't far at all. Hong Kong Eatery and Taiwan Cafe are both great. Sue, the Lobster Pool and Roy Moore's, both in Rockport are excellent for lobster.
Rich O: I second Roy Moore.
NorthShoreDish: I've heard good things about Lobsta Land in Gloucester as well as Passports. The new Market restaurant in Annisquam is excellent too. The Landing in M'head is okay, but has a great view and the lobsters are fresh off the dock right there.
Christine Liu: the answer would be: anywhere but pf chang's! you're 5 minutes' walk from chinatown. try peach farm, winsor dimsum or taiwan cafe.
everymoms: @maryann. My suggestion is to go to Chinatown which is not far from there. Try Peach Farm, my favorite.
Dan: Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown.
Patrick Maguire: 2nd Gourmet Dumpling House.
everymoms: I agreed with your comment on Pizza Chain Restaurants getting all the business while better pizza can be found at other lesser know places. Can we go back to that question with some answers from the panel or you?
Marc H.: Hi, everymoms. We can definitely get back to that question. What are some other favorite little-known pizza places in the Boston area?
BostonTweet: For pizza I like il Mondo in Brigham Circle, Crazy Dough Pizza at Berklee and Harvard Square and Ernesto's on Salem Street.
Rich O: Not sure it's "little known" but I love Armando's in Cambridge and Pinocchio's Harvard Sq.
Marc H.: Armando's is indeed little-known, except for those who know it (does that make sense?). Folks in Huron Village sure know about it!
NorthShoreDish: Bill's Pizza in Newton does great Greek style pizza.
Huey: Pizza King in Lawrence, MA. The best Italian style pizza in Andover area. The crust is the highlight for me. Very crispy, thin yet chewy at the same time, to die for (think New Haven style). They use a fresh tasting homemade sauce. Cheese is very high quality as well. Marc, I have told you to go here. Have you ever visited it?
Palo Alto: Amelia's in Teele Square and Angelo's are less known than Armando's. Armando's, Pinocchio's, and Gran Gusto might not be as known as Regina's, but get patrons from all over the area.
Patrick Maguire: @Palo Alto- We can explain how clam chowder at places like Neptune and B&G are made to order with local clams vs. the chains who use frozen ingredients in big batches from Chef Sysco.
Palo Alto: What can bloggers do to highlight traditonal regional foods? Obviously some get lots of press like fried clams and ice cream. But what about clam boils, clam fritters, stuffed clams, baked stuffed. Marc does a lot to call out these, but what do the other bloggers advocate? What can you say about the influences (portuguese, greek, italian)?
Grover: Hello Marc, With all this no mention of Eat at Jumbo's I would just like to invite you and the rest of the panel in for lunch... I built this place to be a hidden gem and depend upon bloggers in internet folk to talk about it... thanks for the invite i plan on checking a couple of these places out.
Marc H.: Hi, Grover! Welcome to the discussion!
Christine Liu: grover! hey! how is the bang-bang sauce doing?
everymoms: @Eat at Jumbo, can you post your address, for those of us who don't know where you are located....
Rich O: Grover will there be circus peanuts?
Grover: Always is circus peanuts, and the boom boom great with onion rings
Patrick Maguire: Grover- Welcome, and thank you for your gracious invitation. I'm on the team.
Grover: As many of you may not know I serve Poutine the Real way with Beef Gravy and VT Cheddar Cheese Curds yes curd! the address is 688 Broadway Somerville MA please Thank you and that wasn't meant to be posted so i wasn't trying to score a plug here.
Rich O: Didn't know Eat At Jumbo had poutine. I'm there man!
Michelle: Hi Its Michelle @funfearlessbean - What are your suggestions for great dim sum in Boston?
Christine Liu: dim sum -- BEST hidden gem is gitlo's in allston. then hei la moon, winsor dimsum (menu order), china pearl (push-cart). go when there's lots of chances for turn-over.
@LDGourmet: Dim Sum - hands down is Hei La Moon. when you seat 400 and double your space to handle the traffic you know you're doing something right.
@LDGourmet: Christine - I totally agree with you on the Neptune burger and many of your other recommendations.
Patrick Maguire: That's why Christine is now national. I hope she remembers us little people...
@LDGourmet: Patrick - you should make it to Angela's - great spot where you will feel the love. Great food.
Cheryl: Patrick "TORO's" sounds great, where is that?
Patrick Maguire: It's Toro on Washington Street in the South End, very close to Mass Ave.
Grover: Gran Gusto where is that? i think i research every pizza shop in Boston Metro?
Marc H.: Gran Gusto is on Sherman Street in North Cambridge.
Rich O: Gran Gusto is literally next to Comcast...same building even.
Grover: and I live in Somerville and serve N cambridge.
@LDGourmet: anyone ever been to Yankee Lobster? hard to beat for good fresh clam shack food - prices are cheaper than elsewhere, too.
Lily: Where is the best cheapest, heartiest meal in Boston?
everymoms: not sure if it's the best but it is a good deal Mike's Diner.
Patrick Maguire: Mike's is certainly one of the best bang for your buck places. Short money, HUGE portions. This was fun. Thank you, Marc.
@justincancook: I'd like to add Cafe Jaffa as a great hidden Back Bay hidden gem.
@rogershepard: Any favorites for the "middle of the state" people?
@LDGourmet: oh mid state - Blue Heron - Thai sliders were sooo good.
Palo Alto: You don't get a lot of road trip responses but churrascaria aveirense in New Bedford or Columbia St in Fall River are good starts.
@eatBoston: One last question? Where's your favorite place to get a sandwich?
Marc H.: I'll answer that one, @eatBoston. Murray's Deli in Braintree. They will take years off your life, but well worth it.
@justincancook: Mike and Patty's.
Rich O: Nicks Famous Roast Beef, Beverly
everymoms: best sandwich is Domenic's in Waltham.
BostonTweet: Great sandwiches at Cutty's in Brookline Village and Sam LaGrassa's on Province Street in Downtown Crossing.
Marc H.: BostonTweet, could you post more pictures of sandwiches from Cutty's in Brookline? I need something to get my appetite going today!
Patrick Maguire: Love Sam LaGrassa's for pastrami. Go early to avoid the mayhem.
Grover: Well I admire Mighty Sub! I dont know how they pull those subs off and for so cheap!
Christine Liu: sandwich picks: mike & patty's, darwin's ltd, hi-rise bakery, chacarero
NorthShoreDish: Manhattan Sandwich Co. in Marblehead. (They used to be in Brookline years ago)
@rogershepard: Sandwiches: Tori's, TC Lando's, Carls in Waltham, Acton
Christine Liu: yes on cutty's! and also all-star sandwich bar and the cuban sandwich at chez henri is a rockstar on its own
@justincancook: Oh the Cubano at Chez Henri.....so good.
everymoms: I've heard quite a bit about the Cubano @ Chez Henri. Is it better than at the Cuban El Oriental in JP?
RichardPF: Anthony's Deli in Stoneham has great, well-stuffed sandwiches
Lily: best sandwich- Lamberts deli, downtown
Patrick Maguire: Getting very hungry...
Rich O: Great work Marc and everyone. I'm starving now
everymoms: ditto, richO
@eatBoston: Where is Mighty Sub?
Rich O: mighty sub is in newton/needham, right
Patrick Maguire: We are obsessed with food, glorious food!!!
BostonTweet: Marc, here's a picture of the Cutty's roast beef special:
@rogershepard: Sandwiches: Ma Magoo's in Cambridge
Rich O: nice call rodger, I love the steak and cheese with the grease dripping out.
Palo Alto: Lamb and Eggplant from Artu, Sausage and Rabe (used to get at Il Panino Harvard but Artu may have) are among my local favorites but I haven't tried the Cutty's Roast Pork yet.
Patrick Maguire: BT- That looks awesome!!!
Marc H.: Thanks, everyone. We need to end it here, unfortunately. Thanks so much to those on the panel, and thanks to everyone who has viewed this discussion! We'll try to do another one soon!
Have a great day!
Sue: Thanks, Marc. This was great!
@rogershepard: Well done!
RichardPF: Thanks Marc!
Rich O: bravo
@eatBoston: Thanks, everyone
NorthShoreDish : Thanks Marc!