Where to eat in Boston this weekend?
May 28, 2014 10:25 AM   Subscribe

We love to be surprised by cheap and delicious food, or awesome specials that only locals know about. No dietary restrictions.

We'll need breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Things we love coming across:
- Great food trucks / hole in the wall type places
- 25c martinis with the purchase of an entree (that was a fun afternoon!)
- Finding out through a friend that a super fancy restaurant has a $20 prix-fixe 4-course lunch menus, when we wouldn't be able to afford one dinner entree there normally. This was not advertised on their website!
- 1/2 price gourmet pizza with $3 wine between 5-7 pm
- Really good seafood that doesn't cost an arm and a leg
- A local telling us "if you sit at the bar instead of a table you get an amuse-bouche personally delivered by the chef"

Things we don't love:
- Trendy overpriced restaurants.

If you have suggestions for restaurants, specials, happy hours, or tips on where to eat well in the North End area (or nearby) to get the most out of our money, please let me know! We don't have budget restrictions, we just want to spend as little as possible on delicious food. We'd be happy with a delicious $3 Vietnamese sandwich, but would also splurge on a halibut cheek dinner. You can Me-Mail me if you don't want to post about your secret spot :) If you can recommend where to get a good cup of coffee and a quick breakfast to go, that would be very appreciated too.

Thanks in advance! I have looked around the other Boston-food-related questions, but they are all 4-5 years old, so I am hoping there are some new eats to discover!
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (27 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Saus Boston. Best fries around, great waffles. Not far from the North End, right by Quincy Market.
posted by carmel at 10:32 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

OOOH! The Family Thumbscrew was JUST in Boston for a road trip, and we had several awesome finds:

- The Shops at Porter Square has a little indoor food court full of independent Asian restaurants, all of which are good, SOME of which are awesome - we ate sitting at the counter at Cafe Mami and it was delightful and delicious.

- I was reared in South Jersey, Land of Diners, and I have eaten in many diners across this land, and the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown absolutely charmed the bejesus out of me and my entire family. The food was GREAT and just a lil' unique, too (they have poutine and blue cornmeal flapjacks!).
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mike and Patty's is my perennial recommendation for awesomely wonderful hole in the wall. It can get crowded on weekend mornings when the weather's nice, so I recommend getting there early. It is worth it, get the Fancy.
posted by telegraph at 10:54 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a local and julthumbscrew's suggestions are surprisingly good. Saus is also great.

A few local food trucks have been so successful that they have recently opened brick and mortors. Clover is by far the most successful of these with a handful of locations - it's all vegetarian food in a fast food style (pretty much all sandwiches served on pitas) but they have THE BEST rosemary french fries, make all their own sodas, and are just a solid lunch or dinner choice. I haven't been to Mei Mei Street Kitchen (hm, maybe I should go this weekend...) or Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese yet, but I want to. None of those options will be $3 banh mi, but will be relatively inexpensively for some interesting food.

(Note: There will be no happy hour recommendations - sadly, you are not allowed to discount alcohol in Mass. No, I do not know why.)
posted by maryr at 10:57 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, sorry, one more - KO Pies. Australian food. Get the beef stew pie, and ANZAC cookies, and a lamington.
posted by maryr at 11:01 AM on May 28, 2014

If you go to SOWA markets, you get entertaining shopping (craft market, antique/vintage market, and farmers market) as well as 25 food trucks all gathered in one place on a Sunday afternoon.
posted by aimedwander at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

At RedBones, if you sit at the counter in front of the kitchen, you get the occasional free plate from the chef. "amuses-bouches", sure, that's it.
posted by mkb at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2014

Maybe a little out of your way, but Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square has an unadvertised drink that's popular in my peer group. Belly up to the bar and order an Old Overholt Manhattan - it's $6, versus the more typical $10-$12 if you go to a bar in the area and order a no-whiskey-specified Manhattan. Plus, their tater tots are really good.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you're in Chinatown and need a quick bite, get some bau at Maxim Coffee House on the corner of Harrison and Beach streets. They have these pork-filled bau about as large as a softball, easily a filling meal for one person. I think they were $1.50 each.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2014

Anna's Taqueria has a few locations and is a particular favorite of mine.

(Granted, Boston is not known for Mexican food, and if you have lived someplace else that is particularly well-known for Mexican you may be underwhelmed. Regardless, it's the good, fresh kind of Mexican versus the "gummy starch and nondescript meat drowned in brown sauce" kind of Mexican.)
posted by usonian at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2014

Weekend breakfast to go: Cutty's in Brookline Village has excellent bagels on Friday and Saturday mornings only. Try the pretzel bagel with honey-rosemary cream cheese. But you have to get there early or the bagels will run out!

Sofra, near Mount Auburn, has wonderful Turkish-influenced pastries (Meyer-lemon-and-pistachio doughnuts, that kind of thing) and a great $10 pick-your-own-meze plate. I'd go in the afternoon -- breakfast there is great but also very, very crowded. Oleana is the fancier sister restaurant.

If you see a big orange taco truck, go there and get the fried avocado tacos. Speaking of tacos, Dorado in Coolidge Corner is very good, and has Mexican grilled corn and great watermelon-mint agua fresca.

Sweet Cheeks is on the more expensive side, but you can sit outside! It's a barbecue place with especially great sides -- try the fried okra, the farm salad, and the biscuits.

I think the food is generally better and cheaper as you get father from downtown, but closer to downtown: Flour is a local bakery with two or three locations and famous sticky buns. There's one near Copley Square. The lamb-and-tomato-chutney sandwich is good too. India Quality, in Kenmore Square, is very good (and meets your "hidden gem" criterion; I'm pretty sure the decor hasn't changed since the 80s).
posted by ostro at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2014

Chacarero. Yum. I wish I could have one right now.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lots of awesome recommendations above! Will add that the North End spills out onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway (a beautiful park that is the result of the Big Dig), and loooots of food trucks park along the greenway. In the North End, Bricco Panetteria is literally hard to find (down the alley, down the stairs - follow the smell of awesome bread). They have great focaccia topped with prosciutto and other tasty things if you get there in the morning hours (they tend to sell out at lunch). I learned about it through Boston Foodie Tours, which you might enjoy (full disclosure: before I got to the waddling stage of pregnancy I led tours for them).
posted by hungrybruno at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2014

I live in cambridge/somerville and will be moving away soon. here are the places I want need to visit again before I go, in somewhat descending order:

Yume Wo Katare
Blue Ribbon BBQ
Pinocchio's Pizza
Beijing Tokyo (only ever ordered delivery, but food is consistently awesome)
Tasty Burger
Bon Chon (chain but DON'TCARE)
Flour (seconded)
posted by ghostbikes at 12:47 PM on May 28, 2014

Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square. So good!
posted by lakemarie at 12:53 PM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

OH more: neighborhood. amazing breakfasts.
green street. neat spot, great food and drinks.
amsterdam falafel in davis square
falafel palace in central
posted by ghostbikes at 12:53 PM on May 28, 2014

last one
baraka cafe is truly a hole in the wall - has no liquor license but the food is worth it.
posted by ghostbikes at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I worked in South Boston, my co-workers and I would sometimes go out for breakfast at My Diner.
posted by tckma at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2014

I totally second both Sofra (amazing amazing amazing and unlike it's equally amazing but far more expensive sisters Oleana and Sarma, affordable) and Punjabi Dhaba if you're in either area of Cambridge. These are two of my favorite restaurants.

Yume Wo Katare is near the food court in Porter Square that julthumscrew mentioned - I've yet to go, but it has a line most of the time. Flour is also great. I like Bon Chon as well as anywhere (besides the aforementioned Clover and maybe Crema Cafe, which is a coffee shop) in Harvard Square, but it looks like they have locations in NJ, so you might want to check those. Neighborhood Restaurant is a good brunch, but I don't know that I'd put it on my list from out of town. Baraka Cafe is.

(Just to back up those recommendations.)
posted by maryr at 3:01 PM on May 28, 2014

I have been eating cheap (and trying to date affordably) in Boston for years. My two pennies:

The best only-in-Massachusetts-type experience you'll find is Life Alive. Kickass, very filling vegetarian/vegan + juices, and there's really nothing else comparable. I don't even know what type of cuisine this is, but I've been here a hundred times and it's very cool.

If you want a little taste of Palestine - Andala Cafe. Traditional Middle Eastern coffees and teas [and dinners], in a layout that is less "restaurant" and more "your uncle's palace."

If you're in a rush and want to try something different, or want to see a place that is almost literally hole-in-the-wall, try Jugos. They only serve juice, but one serving is a complete meal.

Pho Pasteur if you dig Vietnamese, Punjab Palace if you dig Indian, and Bartley's if you've never been (classic touristy Boston thing, but also very good quality and very affordable).

As for food trucks, I'm not too hip to that game, but there are a range of them every afternoon in Dewey Sq, and I can vouch for Clover.
posted by sidi hamet at 4:18 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Clover, Punjabi Dhaba, and especially Sofra. Sofra is life-changing. Go at like 3 pm, though. There will still be a line, but it won't be as bad.
posted by woodvine at 7:38 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to Sofra expecting to get takeout. (And pick up a morning bun and a chocolate-hazelnut baklava for me, would ya? Thx.)
posted by maryr at 7:42 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

*high-fives woodvine*
posted by maryr at 7:42 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oooh - check out Algiers Cafe in Harvard Sq. Excellent lunches or late night eats
posted by darsh at 6:44 AM on May 29, 2014

Larry J's BBQ Cafe - the most unprepossessing restaurant in Boston; there's no indoor seating, it looks like a public restroom or something, and weekend hours are 1-7 on Saturday only but if you can get there before he runs out of burnt ends, you will be happy.

Best Banh Mi in Boston (and yummy lunchboxes too) is at New Saigon Sandwich on Washington St. near the Chinatown McDonalds.
posted by mskyle at 9:36 AM on May 29, 2014

I forwarded this question to my friend Drew Starr, who was in the restaurant, bar, food-retail industries for years and recently began writing for boston.eater.com. He asked that I give his name and his twitter, @TheDrewStarr, and post his reply-- and let me add that I've never known him to overstate any acquaintances or name-drop; he's really in love with the business of food:

Of course I'm going to talk about Boston food when asked. This is a complete brain dump. Consider this the product of a 15-year resident of Boston who loves his city's food, as opposed to the product of someone who gets paid to write about food. While the latter is true, this is unedited kvelling. Also, this is why I've never joined ask.mefi and only lurked, because I would write something this long every time.

First off, the places I absolutely must second based on the criteria you gave: Mei Mei (truck or restaurant. They catered my wedding. We chose the venue only because we could bring in Mei Mei), yume wo katare (the only food I wait in line for - and a style of ramen that is not seen in the US outside of this one shop), India Quality (my gold standard for Indian food, and secretly home of the best service in Boston), food trucks at SoWa (In addition to Roxy's,try Stoked -- best and nearly the cheapest pizza in the city, and they're on a food truck. They're started by a guy who used to be in Letters to Cleo and play w/ Weezer. Get the ground pepperoni and ask for basil), Saus (only people in Boston who know what poutine is supposed to be -- also the only food in the tourist trap that is Faneuil Hall / Quincy Market worth eating), Green Street (ask for the BIG cocktail menu, and if it's slow ask someone to tell you the story of how it all began - as that was an early home to Boston's cocktail revolution). Take the water taxi from anywhere in the Harbor to KO Pies in East Boston -- the fare is subsidized, and if you tell the driver you're in no hurry, they'll drop other people where they need to go first and you'll get the cheapest possible harbor tour. If you go, ask if Sammy is there. If so, tell him I sent you -- Australian ex-pat, and one of my favorite people. Flour and Sofra are both great recs for your breakfast and coffee to go. Anyone else I'm not mentioning that was already mentioned is because I've either not been or would not recommend those places to you based on what you asked for.

As someone else noted, there are no alcohol discounts in MA. There are happy hours with half-priced apps during the week when work gets out -- I don't recommend any of those. I do recommend late night menus at places like Eastern Standard, Alden & Harlow, and jm Curley. In the witching hours, these excellent restaurant/bars offer a handful of dishes at prices way below what they usually command. They tend to be funkier than what is on the already very inventive menus. While my wife and I are regulars at all 3 at all hours, I think their late menus would best avoid setting off your overpriced and trendy alarms (truth be told, Boston's pretty expensive -- it's rare that I have someone come in from out of town from places other than NY, LA, and the like and they don't experience at least some sticker shock at the places most of us consider reasonable). They are also all top tier cocktail bars.

As to a fancy place doing food cheap but not crazy late at night -- get to Ribelle in Brookline before 6:30 on any night (make a reservation) for their 3 for $30 shotgun menu. The same amount of food would usually be about twice that. This is the best reviewed new restaurant in Boston in years. It's a take on Italian from Tim Maslow, a Momofuku alum. Stellar wine program with funky, affordable choices.

I recommend any/all places Josh Childs is involved with: Silvertone, Audubon, Trina's. All kill it with service and have high value, tasty food and drink. They don't show up on any national listicles, but the people in Boston whose places do make those lists all go visit Josh on their nights off.

Cheap seafood? Well, I'm loathe to recommend any place serving fish that I'd also call cheap. No Name (North End location) is an option. They get fresh as hell fish, barely season it, and give it to you. That's it. For a step way up the ladder, also in the North End is Neptune. Of the divine seafood experiences in the city (sadly, there are fewer than you'd think), they are probably the most affordable. Get the johnnycake, and the lobster roll. Their super-high value wine list should help. Avoid everywhere else in the North End without proper guidance. There are only a few truly great restaurants in the neighborhood despite its reputation. Row 34, in Ft. Point, is a new and fantastic seafood place. You can spend a lot there, but if you stick to say a smoked fish plate (each component of it is presented as a mini-dish, not just as a pile of smoked fish, although that would be worth it) and a couple beers from the most highly curated menu in the city, it won't be that bad. Oh! Nearly forgot -- East Ocean City and Peach Farm in Chinatown are where you go for EXCELLENT live-tank Chinese seafood. Pull up Boston chowhound boards on either. These are other places chefs go after work to absolutely gorge themselves on awesomeness. Really, I could write a novel on places to check out in Chinatown if cheap eats is your chief concern. Get yourself soup dumplings at Dumpling Cafe (ignore the line outside of Gourmet Dumpling House -- brilliantly named restaurant, and they make some good dishes, but their dumplings are inferior.

You didn't mention the bastion of cheap great food - the taco. My go-to is a place called El Pelon (a photo of my wearing when of their sweatshirts while proposing to my now wife hangs in both shops) where I usually get a burrito or a torta. They're in college areas so don't have offal as proteins -- for those, check out the excellent Taqueria Jalisco in East Boston -- or almost any taco joint in East Boston. Prices in Eastie are also very low as they are catering to the immigrant community that lives there.

The entire Allston neighborhood is full of gems. Fish Market has a great omakase pricing -- they charge you per intricately prepared item the same cost as if it had just been a piece of sashimi ordered a la carte. So that lightly torched scallop with uni, tobiko, and truffle that came as part of your omakase costs as much as the guy next to you who ordered a spicy tuna roll that he supplemented with the scallop. Also in Allston: S&I Thai (order off the board in the back. just ask them to bring it to you. you might have to beg), Kaju Tofu House, and so much more. That's another neighborhood to search chowhound for, so you can find the kind of place that resonates with you.

Final recommendation: Sunday brunch at Commonwealth in Cambridge. Really honest food at prices that are hard to find in new restaurants. They do $1 oysters all day (if you don't eat a couple dozen oysters while you're here, you've made a mistake), and cheap mimosas. At $10, their cocktails are as cheap as you get in Boston and have them still be excellent. Anything below that average pricepoint and you're drinking sour mix. Get the pastrami hash -- the pastrami is made by Moody's in Waltham, which is the darling of smoked and cured meat lovers around here, and it comes with English muffins from a local company called Stone & Skillet -- 2 guys who make the most amazing English muffins you've ever had and nothing else.

Disclosure, I guess: I'm friends with almost all of the people involved in owning the operations I've mentioned. But those friendships all started because I admire what they do.

Feel free to tweet at me for questions. Enjoy your stay! Don't dare step food inside of a Legal Seafood or Cheers, please!
posted by Sunburnt at 10:44 AM on May 29, 2014 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: So many good places to eat! I am so sad we will only be there for 3 days. Thank you everyone for your recommendations.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 4:01 PM on May 29, 2014

« Older Places to put out a call for submissions for SF...   |   Don't try so hard, but don't NOT try either! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.