I'm in Arlington (MA) and I need food and beer wicked bad!
March 5, 2008 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Do you know Arlington, Massachusetts? I need some help finding the best stuff.

So I moved to Arlington Heights a while ago and I'm having trouble adjusting to a few things. Most everything is fantastic, we love the neighborhood and the walkability, but we're having only fair luck with food.

We've got the pizza thing covered: a few people recommended Nicola Pizza and it's very good italian-style pizza, awesome salad dressing, and it's going to be walkable when the weather warms. Any other places worth checking out, keeping in mind that I don't tend to like Greek-style pizza?

The other places we've found in Arlington Heights/East Lexington that we're pleased with: Sala Thai for thai, Bollywood Cafe for Indian. Any places you prefer over those?

Here are the things I specifically need help with:

SUBS: We're really close to "I Chef" and my wife and I agreed that what we got was merely decent (mine was tasty but way too soggy). I got a sub from Rick's Place in East Lexington tonight and that was awful. Who's got the good subs?

MEXICAN: We're near Ixtapa in East Lexington. Man, is that bad. You have to reach to be a little worse than Alcapulco's, but they did it somehow. We're big fans of Sol Azteca in Newton. Do we have to suck it up and drive back there?

BEER: My quest to find the region's Best Packie is an Ask Metafilter work-in-progress. But where do I go very locally? I've been to Berman's in East Lexington (weak selection, overpriced), the Kappy's out at Fresh Pond (weaker selection), Busa's in East Lexington (don't get me started) and that really awful place on 2A near the Burlington Mall.

My local place in Newton (Upper Falls Discount Liquor) was reasonably priced with a decent selection. Did I just get lucky?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
posted by Mayor Curley to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know much about the Arlington area, but in terms of the Best Packie question, give Colonial Spirits in Acton a shot. Here's their Beers of the World list.
posted by jeremias at 5:29 PM on March 5, 2008

You know about Blue Ribbon, right? They're not as good as Redbones, but still quite good.
posted by pombe at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Huzzah, welcome to my awesome town! I'm in East Arlington, so my recommendations might be skewed geographically, but:

Mexican: Ole Mexican Grille on Broadway (authentic mole sauce)
Thai: You've found Sala Thai, which we like too.
Pizza: Sabatinos in East Arlington makes great traditional NY-style pizza. Good subs too.
Beer: It's hit and miss, but I tend to visit the no-name liquor store on Route 16 near the former Wild Oats-slash-future Whole Foods. They have a huge walk-in fridge.

I strongly recommend subscribing to the Arlington List, which is a surprisingly active mish-mosh of local politics, neighborly griping, and Ask Metafilter-style Q&A.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:32 PM on March 5, 2008

Don't know much about the Arlington area, but in terms of the Best Packie question, give Colonial Spirits in Acton a shot. Here's their Beers of the World list.

Oh, Jesus. I should have recognized that people wouldn't read the link and just left that separate. But thanks for barely skimming.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:34 PM on March 5, 2008

Come down Broadway to Davis Square to hit up Downtown Liquors. They're a bit pricey, but not by much for their selection. On your way there (assuming you bang a right on Holland) you'll pass some decent Mexican at Rudy's and a decent bar at Pj Ryans (which has a surprising draft selection). Of course, once you're in Davis, you know all about Redbones for BBQ.

A bit farther up Broadway in Ball Square (near where I live) is Ball Square Wine and Liquors. Smaller selection, but the guys who work there will fall over themselves to order what you want.

If you're considering going back to Newton for Mexican, consider the joys of Inman Square's Ole. While you're there, you could also gorge yourself at the Midwest Grill (Brazilian BBQ, the sort where they bring out swords of meat until you burst) or drink at Bukowski's (afternoons only - too many kids on your damn lawn in the evenings).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2008

You know about Blue Ribbon, right? They're not as good as Redbones, but still quite good.

I don't eat meat, but my wife is very excited to have Blue Ribbon nearby. These are the kind of answers I'm looking for!
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:42 PM on March 5, 2008

You should check out Za for pizza. Definitely not your average pizza place.
posted by FlyByDay at 5:52 PM on March 5, 2008

We lived in Arlington for a year or two when we moved to Boston in the mid-90s and continue to frequent a number of places in Arlington because out where we live now is a complete wasteland.

I would definitely agree with the recommendation for Sabatino's for subs and pizza, even though it's at the other end of town for you. I can't think of any place in the Heights or East Lexington that's worthwhile.

A BIG second for Ole Mexican Grille. They're Oaxacan, so the dishes aren't just the standard burrito-enchilada-taco fare. Also check out Jose's Mexican Bar & Grill in North Cambridge.

For Thai, do try Sweet Chili in Arlington Center. I like it MUCH better than Sala Thai.

Also, you MUST MUST MUST eat at Punjab, also on Mass Ave. in the town center. It is one of the best Indian restaurants in the area. In fact, Arlington Center has a whole Indian vibe going for it because of Punjab -- they opened a market/cafe on the opposite side of the street and the Regent Theater started showing Bollywood films one night a week. Keep your eye on the Regent's event calendar, because we have managed to see some fun shows and special events there over the years.

I know you don't eat meat, but two doors down from Punjab, in Punjab's original spot in fact, is a decent Brazilian BBQ place called Rio.

In East Arlington, Flora is popular and the chef won a bunch of major awards a few years ago, but I don't think it's as good as it used to be and it's overpriced. Meanwhile, closer to the center of town is a tiny place called Prose on Mass. Ave. (near the big Walgreen's) that is basically a one-woman show and worth the visit.

I heartily disagree with the assertion that Blue Ribbon is not as good as Redbones. I would say they are pretty damn near equal.
posted by briank at 6:06 PM on March 5, 2008

Are you willing to cross 16 into North Cambridge? If so, there you'll find Jose's, close to almost nothing but train tracks and serving good Mexican. I second Briank on Punjab.

I'm not a drinker, but I prefer Cambridge Wine & Spirits (an answer in your Best Packie post) to Kappy's any day. For more esoteric stuff, I head to Downtown in Davis Sq. as mentioned above.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:17 PM on March 5, 2008

Ole on Broadway is now Zocalo. It's really good and is the same family from Ole in Inman, if you've eaten there (they make the guacamole at your table).

I love the subs at D'Agostino's in the Heights. It's a no-nonsense kind of place, so there aren't a lot of extras, but they've got great bread and I loved the eggplant parm sub (though I do think there's meat in the sauce). The small place in that same block has a good breakfast (Classic Cafe, maybe?).

I'd second Downtown in Davis for alcohol, but I know there's a new(ish) beer & wine store on Broadway in E. Arlington which may be worth a shot. Belmont's got the beer & wine thing too now and there's one in Cushing Sq that has loads of wine and some beer (has Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale which I appreciate).

Other places in town that I'd recommend even though they're not the specifics you mentioned:

Quebrada in East Arlington. Really great coffee and baked goods.

Second Blue Ribbon. It's the place I miss the most from my neighborhood. Even if you don't eat meat they've got great sides and I think would be very cool about telling you what was cooked with meat. When the cheesy potatoes are on special, try them. And the cornbread pudding.

To feel like you've gone back in time, have dinner at Jimmy's some night. The menu is somewhat limited, but you get a pretty solid (albeit old school) meal.

One or two more: go to Wilson's Farm in Lexington for really great fresh veggies, baked goods, etc (prepared meals too). They have excellent milk from a local dairy. Oh and Busa Farm on the Heights/E. Lexington line has organic veggies and may still have "the fish ladies" (I swear they called them that) who'd buy off the pier in Boston on Friday mornings and drive right to Busa to sell it. I think they're also at the Farmer's Market (in the parking lot in the Center) once it starts in April or so.
posted by jdl at 6:22 PM on March 5, 2008

Something Savory in Arlington Heights, is fantastic.
posted by folgers crystals at 6:28 PM on March 5, 2008

I used to love the D'Agostino's in Winchester, so I imagine the one in Arlington should be good.

As for good Mexican, Sol Azteca is the best one I can think of that's kind of close, but that's in Newton center.

In other genres: As mentioned above, the newly renovated Punjab has good Indian food. Khushboo in Lexington is another good option. The red table clothed Buona Vita in Arlington center has affordable and respectable Italian food. Tryst, nearby, has haute cuisine type food (and haute cuisine type prices).

Classic cafe is pretty good for breakfast.
posted by justkevin at 6:39 PM on March 5, 2008

I'm fairly new to Arlington, and coming late to the thread, so I'm mostly repeating what other people have said, but here goes.

For beer, I like Cambridge Wine and Spirits, next to the Whole Foods in the Fresh Pond mall, which I think someone mentioned above. They don't have the largest beer selection in the world, but what they have is good.

Sweet Sue's is a good casual place for breakfast--they've got good brunch on the weekends, and good coffee.

I'll also second other people's recommendations of Blue Ribbon (which personally I think is much better than Redbones), Punjab, and Prose (which has the absolute best food I've eaten around here).

Thanks for asking this. I'm looking forward to trying out some of the Mexican suggestions.
posted by moss at 7:20 PM on March 5, 2008

If anything, briank understates the urgency with which you must go to Punjab. And, as cocoagirl has already pointed out, Cambridge Wine and Spirits is even closer than it was last time I suggested it, and newly expanded to boot.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:28 PM on March 5, 2008

Oh, also, Lakota Bakery makes fabulous cookies and other baked goodies. Their butterscotch cookies are well-known in the area and go fast.

But the Greek bakery across the street from the Capitol Theatre is also worth a visit. I think the name of the place is actually something innocuous like "Arlington Bakery", but their awning says "ZAXAROPLAXEION", which is the best name for a bakery EVAR.
posted by briank at 7:53 PM on March 5, 2008

I heartily agree with Zocalo, Punjab, and Blue Ribbon - which I think actually beats Redbones hands down. We also like Toraya - the sushi is ordinary, but there are some specials that circulate onto the white board that are great, like the silky-smooth hot savory custard that has several kinds of seafood and unusual Asian veggies in it, the monkfish pate, and, believe it or not, the flan for dessert - and I don't even like flan.

Also, if you haven't seen the Virtual Suck Tour of Arlington, Massachusetts, it's puerile web humor, but darn funny puerile web humor.

Also-also, looks like we'd have critical mass for an Arlington meetup...
posted by daisyace at 5:44 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mifune is excellent.
posted by mkb at 6:44 AM on March 6, 2008

I was going to chime in and say that Ole's had changed it's name, but someone beat me to it. I agree with most people here on most food recommedations, though I prefer Namaskar in Davis Sq. for Indian over Punjab or the other Indian place around the corner, and I've ordered delivery from Bollywood Cafe, and it's my least favorite of the areas, but hey, they deliver. And I hate Jose's and Sabatinos, we use Olympic pizza for our subs and pizza ordering.

There is a good little Himalayan fusion place on Mass Ave in East Arlington that I can't remember the name of, but it's on the corner of Egerton and Mass Ave., one block closer to the Capitol Theater than Za's (which is also good when you are craving weird pizza like mac and cheese pizza or more frufru pizzas). Quebrada is awesome, though if you are slow-pokes like my husband and I, they run out of some stuff on weekend mornings by 11am.

I used to love Asiana Grill and one of my saddest realizations the other day was that it's now a new restaurant. My fondest hope is that it's Asiana with a new name but I don't think it is. Anyone know anything about it?
posted by JonahBlack at 7:37 AM on March 6, 2008

Kathmandu Spice is the name of the Himalayan place, and it's very good.
Za is great, but has very nontraditional pizza, so it's not for the frat-boy crowd. It's more for the... Metafilter crowd.
The Arlington Diner, which is close enough for me to walk to in my jammies, has good breakfasts. I especially like their hash browns.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:41 AM on March 6, 2008

I live in East Arlington too, so my suggestions will be a big skewed in that respect. For a true, big ol' booze run, my favorite is Kappy's in Wellington circle. That's been my fave for 10 years, whether I lived in Somerville, Medford, or Arlington. It's more of a drive, but you'll make it less often.
For subs, you might try the S-hop, Steve's House of Pizza, in Arl. Ctr. While you won't like their (Greek) pizza, you might like the sandwich offerings, and their onion rings are SOOOO GOOOD.
Speaking of right there, the coffee place "Jam'n Java" (everyone hates the new name) has good bakery items and good coffee. Try the "hekla" - it's like a non-gooey cinnamon roll.

I'm not on the main Arlington list like Saucy Intruder is, but I am on the Arlington Parents list, and it's been noted there that we all agree that Arlington Center tends to have a lot of Asian Fusion options; somewhat out of proportion to the other food options. Asiana Grille was my favorite in this category, but I've tried and really liked Mifune.

I 2nd briank's suggestions of Sweet Chili and Punjab. Punjab is very popular; they recently moved to a bigger space, and the food is delicious.

From what I've heard about Rio, it's not a good spot for vegetarians; apparantly, they walk around with giant hunks of meat that they peel off for you tableside. That's what I've heard.
Flora is pricey, and not the greatest-ever for the price.
Za has really creative salads and pizzas, but not exactly "normal" fare.

Of course, this stuff is all on the other side of Stop and Shop from you, so might be a relative hassle. If Mass Ave is looking hairy, try sneaking down and taking Summer St. as a shortcut across town. (or Rte.2)

ALSO, Wednesday afternoons in the summer, there's a Farmer's Market in the parking lot in Arl. Ctr. This is important to know for parking reasons, even if you don't care about the market. But it's a nice little market with fruit, veggies, cheese, and sometimes a knife-sharpening-guy, for all your knife-sharpening needs.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2008

The Broadway Diner, which is jammy-located for me, is an offshoot of the Arlington Diner; it was started by one of their waitresses. They don't usually have the crowds of the Arlington, and they are very generous with their portions of fruit.

That said, you'll probably want to find your own jammy-located diner on your side of town.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:05 AM on March 6, 2008

It's not Mexican, but I would be remiss if I didn't suggest one of my all-time favorite restaurants, which just so happens to be located in Arlington.

Tango, on Mass Ave right near the Rt. 60 intersection in Arlington Center.

Tango, Tango, a thousand times over TANGO!

Some of the best beef I have ever had. Especially the Medallion Rocquefort. Who ever thought a filet mignon smothered in blue cheese could taste so good. Certainly not I, until I tried it.

They also have a delicious side-dish called pure poteno, which is a mixture of mashed squash and sweet potatoes. Outrageously good.

The restaurant just expanded over the last year, so its not as hard to get a table as it used to be. Go. You won't regret it.
posted by diggerroo at 3:08 PM on March 6, 2008

(On returning to the thread) Oh my God, yeah, how could I forget the virtual suck tour?

Also, did someone say meetup?
posted by moss at 6:46 PM on March 6, 2008

Oh hai from Arlington Heights! Hope you're still reading!

Most of my favorites have already been mentioned (Sweet Chili, Zocalo, La Buona Vita, Blue Ribbon, Lakota Bakery) but two that haven't are:

--Bella Moto bakery, in a tiny storefront on the corner of the Blue Ribbon block. I can recommend the flourless chocolate cakes, the cupcakes and the brownies, though the owner (who does all of the baking) also makes fancy cakes and pies.

--Scutra, a European/Continental restaurant near the corner of Summer and Mill Streets. Pricey for everyday dining, and I've heard friends complain that the portions are too small (though I think they are just right!), but nice for a special night out. The chef is very accommodating, and if you have specific requirements (allergies, substitutions, etc.) he will come to your table and talk to you about how he plans to modify the dish.

Here are a few Arlington-food-related links to check out if you are so inclined:

Arlington Bites is a fairly new web site devoted to Arlington restaurants and food businesses. There is still a lot that needs to be added, but the site owner adds new content regularly. Here's the page for Vegetarian and Vegan Offerings.

Ann Marie Seltzer writes a monthly (I think) column for the Arlington Advocate newspaper called Food and Thought with restaurant news around town -- new restaurants, menu changes, etc. You can go to the Advocate's site to read it online.
posted by initapplette at 10:10 AM on March 12, 2008

« Older What goes on at one of Andrew W.K.'s parties?   |   I am a human being! Not a tape recorder! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.