If it’s true that every town gets the restaurants it deserves, a remark made to me by Ruth Reichl, which is true and succinct, then what kind of restaurants does Boston have that describe its character? Which of these excel? Let’s focus on the positive! Let’s be nice! Let’s not decry the lack of great Italian or Japanese…wait…stop right there!
Boston has more pizza parlors than NYC at this point and many of them are pretty good. Why, just today I had two gooey cheese slices at Armando’s, my neighborhood place. While eavesdropping on Snootsville, USA, at the next table, I dug in, enjoying utterly the droplets of orange grease on my white paper plate. Snootsville, you wonder? What made it so? Well, it just so happens that it was a table of little girls and one said to the gathering, “What’s your favorite food?” Why, “sushi,” of course! You had to ask. Doesn’t every seven year old crave raw fish?
In fact, Boston owes a real debt to its college students. Thanks to them we have first-rate pizza at Pinocchio’s, the aforementioned Armando’s, Cambridge One, Iggy’s, Ernesto’s, Haymarket Pizza, Regina’s, Santarpio’s, and the truly world class Galleria Umberto.
We also can boast of dozens of little Chinese places where for less than $7, you can enjoy plates piled high with delicious fried pork, chicken, or beef atop mounds of boiled white rice.
It’s summertime, when things slow down, and I’ve been enjoying quick bites.
The two best places I’ve enjoyed this past week are:
Sichuan Gourmet, in Brookline, where, if you skip the Usual Suspects menu and go instead to Sichuan items, you’ll find spectacular versions of cold noodles topped with ground pork; fried strips of beef with peppers; fried chicken with red peppers; and, great pea shoot greens as well as sauteed eggplant slivers. I broke into a soothing sweat while eating there on Wednesday and, happy as can be, returned the next day to order the same food. To quote DMX, my guru on life’s complexities: “Bring it, we right here!”
Then there’s this Halal Pakistani or Indian place inside the old Super 88 on Comm Ave in Allston: First rate pakora and samosa.
Yes, everything in town is fried or covered in cheese, but let’s be pleasant, shall we?
Here’s what’s missing, since you asked: Simple, ingredient driven food. There are a few mega high-end places–Clio, O Ya, L’Espalier–that try to do that sort of thing, but unless you’re Mr. or Mrs. Deep Pockets, the idea of $250-500 for dinner per couple–variation depending on wines–these won’t appeal.
OK, there are great exceptions meant for weekly, convivial dining: The Monday Bar in Upstairs in the Square, Henrietta’s Table, Casablanca, Harvest, Russell House Tavern, Rendezvous, East Coast Grill, Oleana, Craigie on Main, Scampo, Rocca, Ginger Park, Market, Grill 23, Bistrot du Midi, and Picco. Not bad, really.
But what typifies our town: Food for college kids and food for the parents in town for a visit.