Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Transcript of Online Panel Discussion with Chefs, July 29, 2010

Topic: Little-Known Restaurants in the Boston Area

Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion with restaurant chefs/owners on little-known Boston-area dining spots that took place on Thursday, July 29, 2010. The panel included Joanne Chang from Myers and Chang in Boston's South End and Flour Bakery and Cafe (various locations); Rachel Klein from Aura Restaurant and Tamo Bar & Terrace in the Seaport District of Boston; Sam Putnam from the upcoming Foundry on Elm in Somerville; Paul O'Connell from Chez Henri in Cambridge; and Brian Poe from Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake in Boston's Back Bay. The first half hour or so focused on the panel talking about little-known Boston-area restaurants, while for the last 30 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: and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]

Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hello! Just waiting for Brian at this point. Let's get going, just in case he's running late. Welcome to a discussion on little-known restaurants in the Boston area, as well as some other topics. This is our second discussion, and this time, we have a panel of several chefs and restaurant owners from the Boston area who will talk about restaurants with me for the next half hour or so. After that, we will take questions for another half hour, so if you have any questions, feel free to post them once the panel is done chatting (somewhere around or just after 10:30).

Marc H.: Before starting, maybe this is a good time for the people on the panel to introduce themselves. Feel free to mention the restaurant(s) you are involved with, background info, and any other items you'd like to let folks know about . First, let me mention who I am! I'm Marc, the founder/owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk.

joanne chang: Hi Everyone! I'm Joanne, chef/owner of Flour Bakery+Cafe and Myers+Chang.

Rachel Klein: Rachel Klein Chef at seaport Hotels, Aura restaurant, Tamo Bar & terrace and Hotel In room dining.

Sam Putnam: I'm Sam Putnam, Exec. Chef at Foundry On Elm, we are opening in Davis Square in September. I was last the chef at the Ashmont Grill from 2006-2010.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Hi Paul O'Connell..Chef owner of chez henri.

Marc H.: Hi, all. Thanks for joining the panel today!

Marc H.: As with the last discussion we had with media people and food bloggers, I'd like to focus mostly on independent restaurants in the Boston area that people might not know about, and which are viable alternatives to the chains and more touristy spots. I asked the last panel about lesser-known restaurants in one of Boston's most popular (and touristy) areas, namely the North End. What are some decent restaurants that you know of that might be either a bit off the beaten path or simply overlooked among the countless restaurants on Hanover and Salem Streets?

joanne chang: I rarely get to the North End unfortunately but a few weeks ago friends took us to Mare and we had a delicious meal. The seafood was incredibly fresh and well cooked and the room was beautiful - it was a nice day so the windows were all open and it sort of felt like sitting outside. Without really sitting outside.

Marc H.: A friend of mine has a family member who used to work at Mare. It sounds really nice.

Rachel Klein: I was just going to say Mare as well and I have enjoyed Bricco in the past as well.

Sam Putnam: I think Mare is terrific, Greg jordan is producing great food over there!

Rachel Klein: I would like to try the raw food restaurant that opened last year. I forget the name.

joanne chang: Rachel I think it closed! I forgot the name too.

Marc H.: Rachel, are you talking about Grezzo? If so, they recently closed, unfortunately.

Sam Putnam: Grezzo, but I think it closed.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Carmen is a really small place that is right by the Paul Revere House. Very simple food that reminds me of the old Olives...

Marc H.: I've been meaning to get to Carmen in the North End for awhile now. Sounds like a great little place.

Rachel Klein: We can't forget Taranta. Jose Duarte always doing a great job and really working at converting his restaurant to be green / eco friendly.

Marc H.: Harvard Square in Cambridge is another very busy area, and unfortunately, it has gone from being a funky, quirky neighborhood to becoming a little more generic. But among the chains and popular restaurants, there are a few independent places that seem to be more under the radar. Do any of you have any favorite spots you like to go to around Harvard, or perhaps in nearby Central or Porter Squares?

joanne chang: Omg Jose at Taranta of course. Amazing food. Rendevous is a favorite. I haven't been to Russell House but I hear great things. Garden in the Cellar definitely.

Sam Putnam: Tacos Lupita of course! Ten tables on Craigie st. Central Kitchen is very nice for Lunch.

Marc H.: Tacos Lupita, which is behind Porter Square in Somerville, is one of my faves. Great Salvadorean food....

Rachel Klein: chez henri :)

Marc H.: Hah! Are you talking the pressed Cuban sandwich, Rachel?

Sam Putnam: I could use a chez henri cuban sandwich right about now...

Rachel Klein: yum! its been too long!

Rachel Klein: love the afgan place towards central square, sofra, craigie and garden in the cellar.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: I live in Somerville and go out for lunch before I head into work at Chez....Porter Exchange has a good selection of Japanese stalls almost. I like the Ramen noodle place...

Rachel Klein: Love Japanoise bakery. I get my bread from there.

Sam Putnam: we go to the asian places in Porter Exchange all the time, they're mostly very good.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Ha Ha Rachel...appreciate it. I like Central kitchen for lunch as well and Tory Row in the Square is coming along...always like Camb. 1 for lunch too.

Marc H.: What are some of your favorite neighborhoods to go to for quiet, lesser-known restaurants? I have a couple of favorites--East Boston, which has a treasure trove of little ethnic spots and old-school restaurants and bars, and Allston, which seems to have nearly every type of restaurant imaginable (including a lot of places to get cheap eats).

joanne chang: Malden has a few great Chinese restaurants- Fuloon and another one that's fancier and the name escapes me but is also really good.

Marc H.: All Seasons Table, Joanne? I go there every now and then. Nice atmosphere!

joanne chang: Yes that's it! We took my parents there and had a lot of fun.

Rachel Klein: There is a tiny italian spot in allston that I used to go to pre toddler and I am spacing on the name.

Marc H.: Carlos Cucina?

Rachel Klein: thats totally it...Carlo's! yum.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: I like Santarpio's if I'm ever early heading to Logan, which is almost never...I went to Fuloon in Malden after my daughter had played basketball. It was a lark, thought I discovered it only to start reading about it all over the place...

Sam Putnam: Gran Gusto in North cambridge is a great little italian place that noone seems to know about.

Marc H.: Yes, Gran Gusto has a wood-fired oven that they brought over from Naples.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: where is gran gusto? Cambridge/ harvard sq. area has a curious lack of Italian sauce places...old school...

Marc H.: Gran Gusto is on Sherman Street near Jose's.

Sam Putnam: It's on Sherman st in North Cambridge.

Rachel Klein: Ramis in brookline.

Marc H.: How about places that are worthy of a road trip (or as part of a road trip), that are maybe an hour or two from Boston? I'll mention one of my faves, which I may be going to this weekend--The People's Pint in Greenfield, a little restaurant and pub that features some terrific sausages as well as a burger that actually has bacon ground into it.

Rachel Klein: providence has great little rivers, la laiterie, farmstead, ama, I can keep going.

Sam Putnam: The Apollo Grill In Northhampton is always fun, and Meze in Williamstown is terrific ( and very green/eco friendly).

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Back Eddy in Westport, MA ....not really in unknown category I guess....great new burger place called "Lexies Joint" in Portsmouth N.H.

Marc H.: All right, a couple of questions that focus more on all of you on the panel. I'm sure a few folks out there are wondering what kinds of dishes you might be known for. What would you consider to be a signature dish of yours? Also, what are some dishes that you really enjoy making more than most others?

joanne chang: At M+C I personally love the pan roasted soy glazed salmon and the hakka eggplant and the tamarind glazed haddock w vietnamese mint, jicama, gfruit slaw. I love the balance of sweet, tart, crunchy, cool, herby, spicy, sour in these dishes.

joanne chang: At Flour the BLT is a signature as well as the banana bread. And of course the sticky buns!

Sam Putnam: I really enjoy making making anything that is fresh, local and in season, last night it was bluefish with sweet corn and cherry tomato salad, the vegetables were from the Davis sq. farmer;s mkt and they were so delicious.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Well I can run but I can't hide from the Cuban Sandwich.....I really love braising meats ect....this time of year going to the farmers market a couple of days a week before work and making up new dishes...just got Amaranth from a Cambodian farmer....saute like spinach w/ garlic and rough chopped tomatoes to garnish Corn Cavatelli dish.....Summer fun!

Rachel Klein: steamed Halibut, carrot puree, vadouvan, snap peas and candied ginger -pine nut granola, goats milk yoghurt.

Rachel Klein: moving towards working with fuller flavors and healthier preparations.

Marc H.: One question that a viewer had once she heard about this chat dealt with recipes. Do any of you have any recipes either online, in books, or that you'd somehow like to share with people?

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: I just posted my recipe....isn't that the new thing...twitter short recipes....

Sam Putnam: I have recipes on how to heroes, and

Marc H.: Ok, I think we're about done with this part of the discussion. Thanks to all of you on the panel who have participated! 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 20-25 minutes or so. All right, viewers, bring those questions to us!

Patrick Maguire: I write a blog advocating for service industry workers, and I'm amazed at how many restaurateurs aren't aware that they can set up accounts on Chowhound and Yelp and respond to posters' comments. Chowhound has restrictions, you can only clarify incorrect information. There are several industry folks who make blanket statements about hating people who post on Yelp, Chowhound,...etc., but not a lot who openly post on those sites to set the record straight. By doing that, you'd put people on notice that you're paying attention, and they might be a little more careful about spewing venom, exaggerating and lying.

Rachel Klein: As far as patriks comment about chowhound and yelp responding to negative postings. Its difficult sometimes to get into a conversation with people on chowhound because sometimes it creates more drama than wanted. seaport marketing team does personally respond on behalf of the hotel.

joanne chang: Rachel I completely agree. I'd love to respond to some people, and in my head I often do, but I don't bcse of the amount of drama it could create. I listen to every constructive piece of criticism and act on the reasonable suggestions but when it comes to certain comments that are inflammatory I feel the best thing is to just ignore. Altho my blood pressure does rise when I read them!

Patrick Maguire: Here's a worthwhile read on the topic of responding to comments on Yelp, Chowhound, etc. via FoodService East: How to Use Yelp constructively for Restaurants

Steve: Which farmers' markets are your favorite for offbeat items?

Marc H.: A good question, Steve. Anyone? I personally like the Farmers' Market in Lawrence, which includes some interesting hot peppers.

Sam Putnam: Arlington has a big one on Wednesday. City hall plaza is huge, Union Square is good.

joanne chang: We just opened a Flour in Central and a former Flour staffer works the Central Sq Farmers Market (hi Caryn!) and she drops of veggies for us. They are gorgeous.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: I go to Union Sq. on Sat am and Harvard/Oxford St Tuesday. The cambodian farmers from the Lowell area always have the most beautiful "off beat" greens and are very friendly and share ways to cook them.

joanne chang: Looking forward to possibility of a year round farmers market too-see today's paper!

Joe Cassinelli: First Root Farm based in Concord is looking for members to join their CSA!

Sam Putnam: Chris Douglass has been working very hard on the GreenMarket- It looks like it will finally happen!

Lynne Baer: Late to the conversation as well, hello everyone! Paul, the Tuesday Harvard market is one of my favorites, and I have some of the Cambodian farmers' greens in my fridge right now.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: I love seeing what Mariposa brings to the farmers mkt at Harvard....pretzels ect....

Rachel Klein: Marisposa is yummy! Good one Paul.

Brian Poe: Hi, better late than never.....right? Regarding farmers markets- I've become a huge fan of the wild stuff from Eva's Garden-not really a market- and I love that Copley is right around the corner from me.

Marc H.: Good morning, Brian! Welcome to the panel! Why don't you tell everyone a little bit about yourself. :-)

Brian Poe: Good Morning! I'm just an old peanut farmer from Georgia that travels a bit and likes to have fun cooking.

Marc H.: Ha ha. For those who don't know. Brian is from Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake.

Michael: What is your favorite shop for hard-to-find spices and ingredients? I was on a month-long mission for amchoor before finding it.

Marc H.: A new question from Michael! Anyone? I like going to Penzey's in Arlington, personally, though Fresh Market in Hingham and Formaggio in Cambridge and Boston are also good.

Rachel Klein: christinas.

Sam Putnam: Christina's, The turkish places in watertown, Hmart.

Rachel Klein: I order all my specialty spices from Kalustyans in NYC

Brian Poe: For ingredients, chiles and spices I am in love with Cristina's at Inman Square.

Lynne Baer: And here I was about to ask Brian if he had a good recipe for boiled peanuts! Michael, it depends on the cuisine - if I'm doing something in the Central American region, I'll wander around the various markets in Union Square (Somerville). They've got a good Korean market there, too (Reliable). Penzey's is my fallback for everything else, as I find it easier to get to than Christina's.

Palo Alto: La Internacional in Union is a great market, but people overlook Broadway. La Sultana for South+Central, Amigo's for Salvadoran, Tony's Foodland for general goods.

Guest: I'm always curious about chef / owners' view of Jamaica Plain as a potentially larger or growing market? Is is part of the Boston market, an untapped suburb, not worth gambling on.. Will an upscale, sizable restaurant ever open in JP??

joanne chang: We almost put a Flour in JP- not an "upscale, sizeable restaurant" but I do think it's a terrific market, growing fast.

Rachel Klein: I personally have asked that same question about JP. Not being originally from Boston, JP is one of the neihborhoods I have not wrapped my head around. I hear great things but dont get out there or know where to begin once I am there.

Brian Poe: I'm with Rachel on this one- love JP when I'm with a good tour guide- but I'm still a litte bit confused by the neighborhood.

joanne chang: Me three. Altho about half of my employees live in JP so it always strikes me as a very busy neighborhood- I always hear them talking about meeting here and eating there and doing this and me it's like Allston- I don't know it but I know there are a lot of people there who live there and love it.

Marc H.: To me, JP has taken some hits with the loss of some good restaurants (including Zon's) and it's a bit away from the hustle and bustle of much of the rest of Boston, so I think it can be a tough market in some ways. Having said that, we went to the Dogwood Cafe last night, and it was just another terrific meal from another good place in that area. I do find myself going to JP quite often, actually.

Guest: I have to agree - Zon's was a huge loss!

Marc H.: Yes, although I'm looking forward to checking out The Haven, a Scottish place took over the old Zon's spot.

Rachel Klein: thanks everyone! I am short on time this morning and need to run! Brian, is there a duck tour through JP we can! Bye everyone!

Marc H.: Thanks for joining us, Rachel! Have a great day!

Allison: What do you guys think about the restaurants in Roslindale?

Steve: Favorite bbq meat in Chinatown?

Guest: Favorite menu item in Chinatown, and where?

Lynne Baer: Lamb! I love the lamb sandwich at Flour, but I feel like it's hard to find people doing stuff with lamb elsewhere (except Indian restaurants.) Any favorites out there?

Marc H.: Lynne, the Tuscan lamb ragu at Stellina in Watertown is out of this world.

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Where should I go for lunch in Chelsea ?.....heading to my least favorite place, Restaurant Depot.... Newbridge Cafe it any suggestions?

Marc H.: OK, this is it for questions--one on Roslindale, two on Chinatown, one on lamb, and one on Chelsea from Paul.

joanne chang: BBQ- the little unamed spot next to HeiLaMoon- chicken and rice w the ginger green sauce for $5. I LOVE it!

Lynne Baer: Paul: my husband would say Pollo Campero, and though I generally avoid fast food chains, it is actually pretty darned good fried chicken. Order with horchata and plantains :)

Marc H.: I'll take the Roslindale question. I love Village Sushi, Sophia's Grotto, and Geoffrey's Cafe, all of which are in the square. Jazz Bar is also good (Haitian food) and I like going to Pleasant Cafe on the West Roxbury line for pizza and pasta.

Palo Alto: Chelsea: Arthur's, El Charrito across from Campero, John's pizza

Steve: Thx Joanne, I think it's Quic Pic... I've had their roast pork and duck, good stuff

Palo Alto: In Everett (closer than Newbridge) Broadway Cafe on Broadway and Cake and Cia on Main for real basic Brazilian steak, rice, beans. You lamented red sauce Italian in Cambridge, Abbondanza is open for lunch and easy on the way back from RD

Steve: My mistake, not Quic Pic, that's further up Beach... Best BBQ is the one.

Brian Poe: Sorry for my very brief visit on this chat today- I have to run do staff premeal- but I must say- what a great group of talented chefs to hear from, Paul- I love the Cuban too! Joanne- keep up the magical work! Patrick- thanks for setting this up. Hope everyone has a great day.

joanne chang: Thanks so much for this great discussion! Gotta run. Marc this was really fun. Thanks again.

Marc H.: Yes, it's that time, I'm afraid. Thanks Joanne, Brian, Sam, Rachel, and Paul for being on the panel, and thanks to all of you who joined us!

Brian Poe: and yes- thanks Marc.

Lynne Baer: Thank you, chefs and foodies! Awesome to hear your side of things :)

Paul OConnell, Chez Henri: Thanks everyone...this was fun....I'll check out Abbondanza.

Marc H.: Bye, everyone!