Welcome to The Best Dishes the Eater Boston Team Ate This Week. Every Friday, we each share one Boston-area dish that really hit the spot in the past week. Want to share your own favorites? Join our Facebook group — we open up a discussion thread each week to go along with this post.
October 18, 2019
Proper sausage-egg-n-cheese sandwich at Cutty’s
284 Washington St., Brookline Village, Brookline
Cutty’s is probably most well-known for its “Roast Beef 1000” — the one-and-only flame-broiled food television host Guy Fieri loves it, after all — but whenever I find myself in Brookline Village I pop into the sandwich shop for a taste of the “proper” sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. The house-made sausage is slightly sweet but mostly savory; the egg is airy but still has a bite to it; the slice of American cheese is melty and gooey; an English muffin is the perfect vessel for all of it. I add truffle ketchup to mine for an added zing. I worked in Brookline Village for three years and ate far too many of these. Whenever I’m anywhere near the neighborhood these days, a Pavlovian response is triggered — I can’t continue my day without first devouring a “proper” sausage, egg, and cheese. An added bonus: Cutty’s serves coffee from Portland-based Tandem Coffee Roasters, which is exquisite. There are few better breakfast treats in Greater Boston, imho. —Terrence B. Doyle
Quesadilla (solo queso) at Taqueria el Barrio
1022 Commonwealth Ave., Boston (at the Brookline border near Boston University)
Not to bemoan a point made by several local outlets, but Taqueria el Barrio makes good food. And yes, the tacos are the star of the show, but the sleeper hit is actually the cheese quesadilla. The crispy tortilla — loaded with cheese, guacamole, onion, and salsa — becomes the perfect palette for Taqueria el Barrio’s four signature salsas; try them all, it’s worthwhile. —Dana Hatic
Pok Pok’s muu kham waan at Little Donkey (part of a one-off pop-up)
505 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
I’ve been fairly useless this week on the restaurant front; like a proper cat lady, I’ve been mostly curled up at home with my brand new kittens, Sally and Pepe. (Virtual high five if you know why we chose those names!) I did emerge, however, for a spectacular pop-up at Little Donkey last night, featuring Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker. I’m a big fan of the Pok Pok cookbook and have followed Ricker’s work from afar, and the pop-up did not at all disappoint, coming in strong with lots of great flavors of Thailand. Hard to play favorites, but the muu kham waan (grilled pork neck) with iced mustard greens was a standout dish for me.
Given that this was a one-off pop-up and Pok Pok is on the other side of the country, it’s probably not fair that I chose this as my dish for the week given that you won’t be able to eat it locally. So, I’ll use this opportunity to remind you how good Little Donkey is in general. The menu is fusion-y to the extreme — who puts uni rangoons, king crab nachos, Mexican dan dan noodles (what?), and Istanbul-inpsired meat ravioli on one menu? Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer do, and it somehow works. Not just works, excels. I’m not sure many other restaurants would get away with a menu that bounces around the globe quite this much. It’s been a while since I’ve been there for a regular dinner, and a lot of the menu has changed, but the manti and the tuna poke with gochujang are always reliably delicious. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 11, 2019
The Big Tasty at Tasty Burger
1301 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
There’s an In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Boulevard that’s a three-minute drive from LAX, and it’s always my first stop whenever I visit Los Angeles. LA is my favorite city to eat my way through — whenever I’m there, I have to eat dumplings and barbecue in Koreatown, tacos in Boyle Heights, heart attack dogs on the streets leading to Dodger Stadium, and huaraches in Highland Park. I need to get Cuban coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Porto’s, and I need to eat at Night + Market Song. I also need to eat a burger from In-N-Out. The hype is real; it’s one of the best burgers on the planet.
You know what’s also one of the best burgers on the planet, and indeed might be even better than the burgers at In-N-Out Burger? The Big Tasty from Boston’s own Tasty Burger. I hit the Fenway spot last weekend and enjoyed one with some tots and a couple pints of Fiddlehead IPA. The patties were cooked to a perfect medium, but somehow the exterior was crispy — not burned, mind you — and swaddled by a generous slice of yellow American cheese, which had melted slightly on the flattop and turned slightly burned and lacy. The sauce was creamy and tangy, and the pickles added a welcomed crunch. Unlike most fast-food burgers, Tasty Burger’s version doesn’t leave an eater hungry 10 minutes after eating one.
I’ve eaten this burger a billion times; I will eat this burger a billion more times. We’re lucky to have a fast-food burger this good in the Hub. —Terrence B. Doyle
Tomato goat cheese pappardelle at Semolina Kitchen & Bar
572 Boston Ave., Medford
Not to feed into the idea that all we eat is noodles, but definitely visit Semolina Kitchen in Medford for noodles of note. It should come as no surprise that the restaurant serves delicious pasta, given its sibling and source is Dave’s Fresh Pasta of Somerville, but one of the pappardelle dishes on the dinner menu is truly spectacular. I’m a sucker for anything with goat cheese, and the globs served on this dish melt into a saucy coating to mellow out the pop of roasted cherry tomatoes. Together with garlic and basil, the whole dish is a comfort as the weather gets colder. —Dana Hatic
A5 wagyu at Umami
2372 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge
My evening at North Cambridge newcomer Umami is, frankly, a bit of a blur: Five people, something like 18 courses of omakase, four or five sakes, there may have been some beer...an epic feast with friends, and one in which I probably can’t accurately remember the ingredients for most of the dishes we ate as I was distracted by the sake and good conversation. That’s not to say that the food wasn’t memorable; it was. One standout in particular was the final course before dessert, a just-barely-torched bit of A5 wagyu on rice — a true pleasure for meat lovers.
The restaurant is brand new and is still working toward more of a grand opening, so early visitors should go with a bit of patience as the menu and service stabilize, which they surely will. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Umami ultimately turn out to be one of the best omakase options in the Boston area. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 4, 2019
Biang biang noodles at Noodles King in Longwood Galleria
400 Brookline Ave., Longwood, Boston
When I think about great meals, I don’t think about hospital food courts. (When I think about hospital food courts, I think about greasy fast-food burgers and bad coffee.) At least, I didn’t until I ate the hand-pulled biang biang noodles from Noodles King. Situated inside the Longwood Galleria, this noodle joint is slinging some of the best hand-pulled noodles in Boston. The noodles come served in a white plastic bowl and are topped with bean sprouts, baby bok choy, and red chile flakes. Beneath everything sits a pool of spicy red chile oil. The noodles and accoutrements beg to be tossed with the oil, and you should oblige. The bitterness of the bok choy and the fresh crisp of the bean sprouts are a brilliant foil to the chew of the noodles and the spice from the chile oil. I ate my noodles at one of the high tops adjacent the Noodles King kiosk because they are messy and standing upright and away from the bowl decreased my odds of staining my new sweatshirt. Eat these the next time you’re in Longwood. —Terrence B. Doyle
Curried vegetable pie at KO Pies at the Shipyard
256 Marginal St., East Boston
Far overdue for getting out there but I finally made it to KO Pies in East Boston and demolished a curried vegetable pie. It was a Wednesday, so the restaurant had a pop-up menu going and only a handful of pies available, and mine was a warm, flaky, perfectly spiced thing of beauty. There’s a cartoon out front detailing how to eat your pie, and I highly recommend following it — sure, you’ll be given a knife and fork (you can cut the pie in half if need be) but just pick it up, let the crust flake everywhere, and enjoy. —Dana Hatic
Seared scallop with nahm jim and caramelized duck at Chalawan
How often do you look at a menu and want to try every single dish on it? For me, not as often as I’d like. It happened this week, though, when we reported on the opening of Chalawan, a revamp of Pho House near Porter Square focusing on a broader, modern Southeast Asian menu rather than the mix of casual Vietnamese and Thai that Pho House had served. (The interior has been redone, too, and it looks quite nice.) I knew I had to get there right away.
Sure enough, it wasn’t just the best meal of the week, it was one of the best meals I’ve had all year, and I can’t wait to return to make more of a dent in the menu. It had some of the Thai flavors I’ve been eagerly searching for and devouring around Boston since my trip to Thailand earlier this year, but perhaps even more excitingly, the Chalawan menu delves into other Southeast Asian cuisines that are a bit harder to find around here — flavors of Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, and beyond. Every bite of the meal was excellent, but the best bite of the night was the seared scallop — they’re served individually, at $4 a pop — sitting in a pool of green nahm jim and topped with caramelized duck, scallions, ginger, and crispy shallots. Sour, salty, spicy, sweet; it was all there in a couple perfect bites. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 27, 2019
Banh mi at Banh Mi Ba Le
1052 Dorchester Ave., Savin Hill, Dorchester, Boston
Dorchester is home to a vibrant Vietnamese community. As such, Dorchester is also where you go when you want to eat Vietnamese food in Boston [especially in, but not limited to, the Fields Corner neighborhood]. The Eater Boston team took a research field trip to Dorchester’s Savin Hill and Upham’s Corner areas this week and got banh mi (and various other treats) from Banh Mi Ba Le. At the recommendation of one of the restaurant’s employees, I ordered the grilled beef banh mi. The bread — which is baked in-house — had a shatteringly-crisp exterior and a pillowy soft interior and was the perfect vehicle for the sweet, charred slices of beef and fresh vegetables. Get it made spicy with slices of jalapeno. It’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten in a very long time. My only regret is not washing it all down with a bottle of fresh passionfruit juice. —Terrence B. Doyle
Doubles at Singh’s Roti
692 Columbia Rd., Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, Boston
The doubles at Singh’s Roti are truly a miraculous thing. Two pieces of delicately fried dough come with a pile of spicy curried chickpeas topped with the restaurant’s signature sauce, a mild, sweet, and perfect complement to the chickpeas. The dough is a perfect vessel for shoveling the curry into your mouth, and it’s just chewy enough that you don’t have to wrestle with it to break a bite away. Seems like a simple dish, but it’s hands-down the most flavorful and satisfying thing I ate this week. It’s also something I’d eat every single day if given the chance. Too excessive? Maybe not... —Dana Hatic
Special curry platter at Punjabi Dhaba
225 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge
Well, the problem with going on team food crawls is that we have to fight over favorites, and Dana called dibs on writing about the doubles before I could! I’ll just say that as someone who normally doesn’t enjoy chickpeas very much, I loved the doubles and can’t wait to go back — and I want to buy a bottle of Singh’s house-made hot sauce, too.
In the interest of highlighting a different restaurant, I’ll give a shoutout to Punjabi Dhaba. Despite living fairly close to Inman for the better part of a decade, this was somehow my first time here (and definitely not my last). In the hustle and bustle of the lunch rush, I froze trying to read the long menu and just ordered one of the first things to catch my eye, the special curry platter, which turned out to be exactly what I wanted. For three meals, probably. The huge platter included a mega portion of rice, naan, a samosa, chutney, and two curries, one with chicken and one with vegetables, with each component equally satisfying. Despite an effort I’ll call admirable, I went home with most of it and look forward to digging into the leftovers today. And tomorrow. Pretty great deal for $10.95. I can also see myself grabbing a samosa and mango lassi to go when passing through the neighborhood. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 20, 2019
Hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb at Home Taste
58 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown
Few things bring me more joy than biang biang noodles, which are typical of the Northwest Chinese province of Shaanxi. The noodles are hand-pulled, flat, and perfectly chewy. There are several restaurants making excellent versions of this style of hand-pulled noodle in and around Boston — Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe being the most well-known — and one of them is Home Taste in Watertown, along with its sibling in Arlington (1312 Massachusetts Ave.).
I got the hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb on a recent trip, and they didn’t disappoint. The noodles were well-dressed by — but not sopping with — a cumin-spiked chili oil and accompanied by tender bits of lamb and vegetables. I ate the whole plate — which was probably the equivalent of eating an entire cup of flour — and a few pan-fried pork dumplings, too. I wish Home Taste had a liquor license, because a couple of ice cold lagers are the only things that could have made this meal better. —Terrence B. Doyle
Lumache with Bolognese sauce and gochujang at Pammy’s
928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
I’ll be honest; I had a terrible week. I didn’t really want to eat much of anything, let alone explore brand new places that we might cover. It was all about comfort food at reliable standbys. (There were definitely some Newtowne Grille [1945 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge] slices in the mix.) Enter Pammy’s, one of my current favorite spots. It’s beautiful, it’s friendly, and it serves one of my Boston-area-bucket-list dishes that I’d have to revisit several times if I ever planned to move away: the lumache Bolognese, hearty and a bit spicy from the gochujang added to the sauce. Eating the lumache and catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple months was exactly what I needed.
And I don’t want to break my own rules with this series and name more than one dish for the week...but I’ll just say that if you want to finish up at Pammy’s and walk just under a mile to Oleana (134 Hampshire St., Cambridge) and try to snag a bar seat for the sole purpose of eating the baked Alaska for dessert, I support that plan. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 13, 2019
Littlenecks in broth with pancetta and mushrooms at Neptune Oyster
63 Salem St., North End, Boston
Last weekend was the first weekend all summer that my fiancee and I were able to spend entirely together and not encumbered by a wedding or a child’s birthday party or a three-hour drive to a cookout featuring overcooked and previously frozen burger patties. We chose to spend part of it waiting in line for two hours outside of Neptune Oyster. No time is an ideal time to visit Neptune Oyster — there’s always a line out the door — but it was especially foolish of us to think we’d get in and out on a weekend during which the city was inundated by incoming freshman and their doting parents, whose tourism dollars demanded dozens and dozens of oysters. In the end it was worth the wait — it always is. We ate plenty, but the standout was a bowl of Duxbury littlenecks served in broth with pancetta and white beech mushrooms. The chew of the mushrooms and clams were almost indistinguishable, only one tasted of earth and the other of sea. The pancetta and broth added richness; parsley provided some needed brightness. I’ve eaten this dish before. I’ll eat this dish again. —Terrence B. Doyle
In a bountiful sea of produce, food, and beverage vendors at Union Square’s Saturday farmers market, turn down the alley near Bronwyn to find one particular vendor who sets up shop inside Field & Vine. Baked goods from Plum Delicious/Rae the Baker should not be missed, especially the incomprehensible pretzel croissant. Plop me down in front of any salty-sweet treat and I’ll be happy, but this one takes it to the next level with all the perfect things needed in a croissant: flaky outside, stretchy and doughy interior layers, and the perfect amount of salt. —Dana Hatic
Lobster bucatini at Orfano
1381 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
Before I get into my chosen dish for the week, I have to take a sentence or two to heartily second Dana’s words. Rae the Baker is a baked goods genius, and I can’t get enough of her pretzel croissants and miso morning buns, among other items. Follow her on Instagram and keep an eye out for pop-up info, but in general, she’s inside Field & Vine on Saturday mornings when the farmers market is happening.
As for my dish of the week, I’ve barely gone out to eat over the past week or so; coming off of a food-filled vacation in Copenhagen and Malmö (ask me about all the pastries I devoured), I’ve been laying low and trying to cook healthy-ish food most days. I did make it over to the brand new Orfano, though, and had a blast. I love the juxtaposition of the classy decor with humorous touches — do yourself a favor and say yes when they ask if you want freshly ground pepper. The lobster bucatini was a standout dish, with generous chunks of lobster and a silky richness that was fully satisfying. I am in love with quite a few pasta dishes around Boston already, but I’m making room in my rotation for this one. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal