When we exchange our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or when friends ask me about my favorite restaurants here and in Boston, I come up with a list.
Here’s that list:
For Chinese, you can’t do better than Sichuan Garden in Brookline or C.K.’s Shanghai in Wellesley. Sichuan Garden is the real thing: Varying heat and textures, so hot you sweat, and delicious, vegetable driven dishes. C.K. is simply a great chef and his food has pure flavors with a sure, delicate touch, which, in my experience, is unusual for this cuisine.
For hamburgers, Mr. Bartley’s in Harvard Square is the standard. Casablanca, while boasting of its Syrian and Palestinian food, does a better bacon cheeseburger than hummus.
The best bakery in New England? Hi-Rise.
Iggy’s, a bakery, sells wonderful thin slices of pizza. Armando’s, a pizzeria, sells wonderful pies and thick, Sicilian slices.
Going up the ladder, Craigie on Main and Rendezvous in Central Square are wonderful. Dining in the bar area at Craigie can’t be beat. While Rendezvous isn’t nearly as good a restaurant, it has a neighborhood feel and, as an American bistro, is the type of restaurant Boston could use more of in every part of town.
Harvard Square has Tory Row, best voyeuristic spot in town; The Monday Club inside Upstairs in the Square; Small Plates, a cute tapas place; and, Harvest, serious and thoughtful and a tad precious, but with good fare, as they say.
Boston has Scampo: Italian food as interpreted by a lively, whacky bunch. My new favorite place in the city and I’d be even happier here if they used better pasta, which they do not, and it’s obvious. To compensate, the breads and sauces are delicious.
The South End has Ginger Park where Patricia Yeo is running a kitchen that turns out extremely flavorful dishes inspired by Southeast Asia; Flour, home of the world’s best BLT; Toro, which has the atmosphere of a good Spanish bar; B & G Oyster; Hamersley’s: dependable; and, Pico, where you can find great pizza.
Other spots in Boston worth your time and money: 390 Post, which I just wrote up in the Boston Globe (appearing tomorrow); Via Matta, pricey, but good Italian food; Rocca, where the pastas are very good; Galleria Umberto, the best square pizza in America, helmed by brothers Ralph and Paul: “Hey, how you doin’? Everything OK?”; Santarpio’s, great pizza, again, with toppings hidden; Legal Seafoods–best fish/shellfish collection of restaurants in the country.
I would include, if you’re hungry and want places a cut above and don’t care if they aren’t that great, but know that they are better than many other places: In Cambridge–West Side Lounge, East Coast Grill, Pinocchio’s pizza, Oggi pizza, Oleana, and The Friendly Toast. In Boston, you won’t be disappointed by eating at: Union, Charlie’s, The Butcher Shop, Brasserie Jo, Grill 23, and Brown Sugar.
Hmmm…of 36 places listed, 8 are about pizza. What does that tell you about dining in Boston?