Welcome back to Five Restaurants to Try This Weekend, a Friday column in which the Eater Boston team recommends, well, five restaurants (or specific dishes) to try this weekend. In each installment, we offer up a blend of old and new spots, typically including a mix of suggestions in Boston proper, Cambridge/Somerville, and farther afield. Sometimes there’s a topical theme; sometimes we just share our favorite standbys or the new places that are exciting us. Bookmark this page for updates; we add new recommendations to the top each time. Can’t hit ‘em all in one weekend? That’s what next weekend is for.
September 14, 2018: The Last-Minute Weekend in Maine Edition
Don’t say goodbye to summer yet — the New England weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend, and it’s the perfect time to sneak in a fast getaway to Portland (with a little stop in Kittery on the way home, perhaps). Good luck booking a reasonably priced hotel room, though. The rest of the world is catching on to a fact New Englanders have already known for quite some time: Portland’s awesome, especially its flourishing dining scene. This small selection of must-eats barely scratches the surface of Portland’s wonders, but if you only have time for a few meals, this is one approach that’ll satisfy.
For one of the best bagels you’ve had in who-knows-how-long: Believe the hype about Rose Foods. This busy little deli, located near the University of Southern Maine and a short drive from downtown Portland, makes incredible bagels. Top one with pastrami nova and call it a day. After buying a bunch more to take home, of course. 428 Forest Ave., Portland, ME
For an excellent lobster roll and some surprisingly funky beer: You can track down Bite Into Maine at its commissary in Scarborough, at the scenic Fort Williams Park on Cape Elizabeth, or at Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland. (Find exact locations and hours here.) Opt for the latter if you’re into beer. You may think you know Allagash based on its ubiquitous Belgian-style wheat beer, Allagash White, but that’s just the tip of the boozy iceberg. At the brewery, try one of the Coolship beers, which are brewed using Belgian-style spontaneous fermentation. There are lots of other interesting experiments going on as well. As for Bite Into Maine, the truck serves immensely satisfying lobster rolls in a variety of styles, pleasing mayo fans and foes alike. 50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME
For that doughnut that everyone talks about, because you deserve it: Sure, the Holy Donut is an easy tourist-friendly pick in the same vein as Duckfat (where you should also go if you have time); everyone already knows about it, but it’s still worth a visit, and a single doughnut won’t eat up too much of your schedule or stomach space, especially since these potato-based treats are light and airy. Pick the Exchange Street location if you’d like to stroll around Old Port and window shop as you eat. Try the dark chocolate with sea salt. 7 Exchange St., Portland, ME
For a really lovely dinner with cocktails to match: Andrew and Briana Volk’s Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, which just turned five years old, is an essential cocktail destination, but on this trip, give its younger sibling, Little Giant, a try. The West End restaurant, which opened last year, also has great cocktails, and the food is stunning. The menu’s always changing, but if you see a grilled hanger steak or a Moxie-braised pork belly on there, try one of those. 211 Danforth St., Portland, ME
For breaking up the ride home with a heartwarming soup (and maybe a bonus cruller and/or cocktail): Cap off your quick Maine weekend with a stop around the midpoint on the way home: Kittery, a treasure trove of dining. There’s a lot to love in Kittery (and neighboring Portsmouth, NH), but on this trip, drive straight to Kittery Foreside and pay a visit to Anju Noodle Bar for a big bowl of khao soi or ramen. Bonus picks: In the same building and from the same team, the Wallingford Dram is a ridiculously good cocktail bar. Might as well pick up a cruller at Lil’s Cafe for the ride home, too. 7 Wallingford Sq. (all three venues are in the same building), Kittery, ME
August 24, 2018: The Fiery, Funky, or Just Plain Good Thai Edition
Boston’s Thai food scene is dominated by Thai-American cuisine, with countless options for overly sweet pad thai, drunken noodles, and the like. But scattered around town — and especially concentrated in the area of Davis and Porter squares — there are a handful of restaurants that offer up Thai dishes that may be a little less familiar to American diners. Here are a few to visit this weekend to break out of that pad thai rut. Get ready for heat and funk and comfort.
For tom yum like you’ve never eaten before: If your usual tom yum is a plastic takeout container of a sort of spicy, sort of sour broth with some lackluster shrimp floating around, Dakzen will make sure you never go back to that. The new addition to Davis Square — one of the strongest openings of 2018 thus far — serves up an actually spicy, entree-sized tom yum soup that’s packed with sliced and ground pork, fish balls and fish cakes, peanuts, egg, and more. Also eat: ba mee moo dang, khao soi. 195 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville
For pork three ways in an irresistible sauce: Also in Davis Square and just a little bit older, Kor Tor Mor (which opened in late 2017) is also helping the neighborhood taste more than just the standard slate of dishes expected at a Thai restaurant in America. The winner here is the khao moo dang — roasted pork, crispy pork, and Chinese sausage, plus a boiled egg, served over rice and topped with a sweet red barbecue sauce. Also eat: khao na kai, boat noodle soup. 24 College Ave., Davis Square, Somerville
For a five-spice broth that will solve all your problems: Nearby in Porter Square, Sugar & Spice has been holding down the fort for over a decade. While the restaurant does brisk takeout and delivery business, it’s also a lovely spot for dining in, and the patio is especially nice. If something is ailing you, soothe it with the guay-jub, a soup full of wide noodles wrapped into cigar shapes, crispy pork, tofu, and a boiled egg. The five-spice soy broth is something special. Also eat: kanom jean nam ngiao, crying tiger. 1933 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge
For a funky and fishy noodle dish with Greenway views: Good news for Boston fans of the acclaimed Cha Yen Thai Cookery out in Watertown — it now has a sibling spot right in downtown Boston, Kala Thai Cookery, located steps from Haymarket and the Greenway. (Translation: good picnicking opportunity.) Try the sukothai — an egg or rice noodle dish (try the egg noodles) with fish cakes and fish balls, a soft-boiled egg, green beans, peanuts, scallions, and cilantro. Also eat: fried corn fritters (which are also available at Cha Yen). 151 Hanover St., Downtown Boston
For some serious heat: This certainly isn’t news to Allstonians, who have been in on the secret for years, but the tiny, no-frills S & I To Go is one of the best Thai restaurants in town. Skip right to the “authentic specialties” portion of the menu — although the rest doesn’t disappoint — and try a searingly spicy dish such as the pad prik khing moo krob, crispy pork with string beans in a curry sauce that may make you cry. Don’t ignore the chili pepper indicators on the menu here. Also eat: pad thai country-style, kai look kaey. 168A Brighton Ave., Allston, Boston
August 10, 2018: The Dreamy Pasta Edition
Perhaps you’ve been shying away from hearty, comforting bowls of pasta during the past few sweltering summer weeks, but there are some absolutely stunning pasta dishes on menus around town at this very moment demanding your attention. Take advantage of the upcoming rainy, slightly cooler weekend to visit — or revisit — these special dishes.
For a new rendition of an old favorite: Fans of chef John DaSilva from the original incarnation of Somerville’s Spoke Wine Bar have been eagerly awaiting his new project, Chickadee, a collaboration with Ted Kilpatrick (No. 9 Park, Cushman Concepts). Now it’s open in the burgeoning Seaport District, and it’s off to an excellent start, serving a menu that marries Mediterranean flavors and New England ingredients. One winning dish (of many) is the squid ink fusilli, studded with spicy little cubes of sopressata and topped with a crumble of olive and ink breadcrumbs, a topping that thankfully carried over from DaSilva’s Spoke days. Also eat: the roasted porchetta with watermelon (including special bits of pickled rind), jalapeño, and colatura. Innovation and Design Building, 21 Dry Dock Ave., Seaport District, Boston
For some late-night luxury: Artscience’s new executive chef Benjamin Lacy has hit the ground running, and his bar menu, available from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., showcases an elegant pasta dish (not to mention a baller truffle- and foie-topped burger). Pair the gnocchi — embellished with miso parmesan and summer black truffles — with any and all of beverage director and partner Tenzin Samdo’s cocktails for a good time. Also eat: any dessert. New executive pastry chef Ryan Boya is one to watch. 650 E. Kendall St., Kendall Square, Cambridge
For an enduring and surprising favorite: This one has gotten a previous mention in “Five Restaurants to Try This Weekend,” but the dish has mercifully remained on the menu (and will hopefully never go away). If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time. The lumache with Bolognese sauce and gochujang at Pammy’s deserves a spot on every Bostonian’s food bucket list. (But don’t wait until you’re leaving the city; go try it now.) The praise heaped on the restaurant by this publication and others is well-deserved, and everything on the menu is solid, but the lumache is sheer magic, hitting just the right notes of al dente, meaty pleasure. The heat of the Korean gochujang — is this the first time that ingredient has appeared in an otherwise Italian-inspired dish? — really takes it to the next level. Also eat: mussels with squid ink arancini and lime leaf aioli. 928 Massachusetts Ave., between Harvard and Central squares, Cambridge
For a silky-smooth coastal Italian dream come true: From crudo to pasta, Bar Mezzana has a lot of hits (are you excited for its forthcoming Tiki sibling, Shore Leave, yet?), but there’s one pasta dish in particular that should jump right to the top of your must-try list: the paccheri with lobster, green onion, and tomato. The versatile pasta shape, a sturdy tubular variety, plays nicely with a wide range of sauces and meats. In this dish, it lets the lobster shine without totally disappearing into the background itself. Also eat: any crudo. 360 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston
For a taste of Rome without throngs of tourists getting in the way: The lucky South End has an abundance of pasta options, including Mida, an energetic carb palace. The menu changes often, so grab the bucatini all’amatriciana while you can. The classic Italian dish combines a power trio of flavors: tomato, Pecorino Romano, and guanciale. Lovely on a rainy day, but lovely any other day as well. Also eat: arancini, focaccia. 782 Tremont St., South End, Boston
Check out the archive of spring 2018 Five Restaurants to Try This Weekend recommendations here.