Welcome to The Best Things the Eater Boston Team Ate and Drank This Week. Every Friday, we each share one dish that really hit the spot in the past week. Given the current circumstances, we’ll be discussing delivery and takeout options, as well as drinks.
Want to share your own favorites? Join our Facebook group — we open up a discussion thread each week to go along with this post.
May 8: Incredible fried chicken, proper Manhattans, and the survival of the neighborhood restaurant
We procured a bottle of Bulleit bourbon — and we still had a little sweet vermouth left on our now very sparse bar cart — so we drank proper Manhattans (not the scotch variety) as the work day wound down on Wednesday. I like my Manhattans with equal parts vermouth and bourbon, and with an extra splash of bitters than is ordinarily recommended. I also like my Manhattans doubled. Fortunately, exactly four ounces of sweet vermouth remained in the bottle.
Be sure to stir, not shake, your Manhattans. You don’t want to aerate them; you want them to be smooth and somewhat syrupy. If you have cherries, use to garnish. We always keep Luxardos on hand. They’re great for cocktails, and they’re great for general snacking, too (they taste like adult fruit snacks.)
Serve them in chilled glasses — especially Champagne coupes if you’ve got them. We don’t, so we just drank them from whiskey glasses.
We’re all out of sweet vermouth now, so no Manhattans this weekend. Onto the trusty Old Fashioned, I suspect. —Terrence B. Doyle
“This gives me hope,” my husband said as we dug into our Highland Kitchen takeout this week. I was too busy shoveling gnocchi into my mouth to ask what he meant, exactly, but I’m going to assume it was something about the survival of neighborhood restaurants, or humankind, or maybe both.
Highland Kitchen has been our go-to for all moods and occasions over the years; we’ve lived in various places over the past decade that all seem to be a half-mile walk away. Give me a burger; give me some of that scotch bonnet-infused ginger beer on its own or in a cocktail; all is good.
We were thrilled with the dishes we ordered from the current limited menu — jambalaya, gnocchi, grilled Iggy’s bread with roasted garlic. (The burger — one of the Boston area’s best — is also currently available.) Also, definitely order a quart of the Bolognese; it’s legit and will last you several meals. It brought us right back to Bologna, where we spent several beautiful, food-filled days right before the pandemic hit. If you’re looking for the gloppy, tomato-based meat sauce that many Italian-American restaurants call “Bolognese,” this is not that. This is a chunky, meaty ragu, not a tomato in sight, that will take whatever pasta you’ve got in the pantry to the next level and is much more reflective of what you’ll actually eat in Bologna. (There’s nothing wrong with the American spin on Bolognese, mind you; I’ll happily eat a tomato-y meat sauce any day. But this is something different.)
This week also included what was quite possibly the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I’d long heard tales of chef Alex Sáenz’ fried chicken at Bisq, but life kept getting in the way of my trying it, so when I heard that Bisq was reopening for limited takeout — call between certain hours on Tuesday and Wednesday to pick up between certain hours on Friday and Saturday; keep an eye on Sáenz’ Instagram account for the menu each week — I blocked off space in my calendar to make the call and the pickup.
Everyone was right. All you fried chicken enthusiasts who’ve been raving about this chicken forever were totally right. Not that I doubted you; the pictures always looked like what you’d expect incredible fried chicken to look like, and I already knew I loved the chef’s cooking. (Back when he was chef de cuisine at Puritan & Co. across the street, I ended up there on my birthday one year and had the most perfectly cooked scallop dish I’d ever had.)
I don’t know how to describe perfect fried chicken: It was impossibly crispy on the outside; does that convince you to try it? It was juicy on the inside. Sorry; I almost used the word moist. Only cake is moist. Get the salsa macha on the side.
Sorry to you phone-hating millennials (I am one), but you are going to want to plan ahead and lock down this order. Watch Instagram for the menu and make the call. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
May 1: A giant sushi feast and a reliable grocery store
Sushi from JP Seafood Cafe
730 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, Boston
There are few things my fiancee and I like to do more than sit down at the bar at JP Seafood Cafe, order as much sushi and katsu as we can shove into our faces, and drink local beer from Turtle Swamp and loads of sake. Of course, we can’t do that right now, but JP Seafood Cafe is still doing takeout and delivery, so that’s what we ate for dinner Thursday night.We ordered ten rolls — indulgent, sure, but this shit is hard enough and depressing enough as it is, so YOLO — gyoza, miso soup, and kimchi, and we damn near ate all of it in one go. We also tried to recreate the vibe by pairing it all with some local beer — we had some Notch and Jack’s Abby in the fridge — though we didn’t have any sake on hand. (Boxed wine was however a fine — if completely off the mark — substitute.) No Zoom party or noise app can recreate the feeling you get from eating at your favorite restaurant, but we were happy to eat some of our favorite food anyway. We’ll be a lot happier when we can do so while getting loaded at the bar again. —Terrence B. Doyle
Everything I need from Reliable Market
45 Union Sq., Union Square, Somerville
We exclusively cooked at home this week; we’ve had no takeout or delivery since last week’s edition of this column, although I’m counting down the hours until my Bisq fried chicken pickup, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about that here next week.
So, I don’t have any restaurants to mention here this week, but instead I’ll give a shoutout to one of my favorite local markets, Reliable, Union Square’s excellent (and yes, reliable) Asian market. It’s been so essential to my household’s social distancing strategy. We typically end up doing delivery or takeout once or twice a week; we’ve been getting produce and a few other items delivered by Imperfect Foods twice a month; and we do very occasional giant grocery store visits only when we’re really running out of everything, probably every three weeks or so. In between, if we need anything, Reliable is there — it’s never uncomfortably crowded, and it has everything we ever need: every kind of rice and noodle imaginable, plenty of meats ideal for stir-frying, lots of freezer dumplings and other snacks to store for later, some produce, giant bottles of green tea, and a really incredible local beer selection.
If you live in Union Square and somehow haven’t ever been to Reliable Market, check it out. If you don’t live nearby, I encourage you to explore your own local markets and corner stores. These past weeks, I’ve found small local markets to be significantly less overwhelming than big grocery stores. You might not find every single thing you need, and you probably won’t find bulk amounts of toilet paper or cleaning supplies, but you’re definitely going to find a few things you didn’t know you needed! —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
April 24: All the carbs
Look, sometimes you just need carbs — and a lot of them. It was a no-frills kind of a week, with lots of home-cooking and very little takeout or delivery. (Shoutout to the neighbor who dropped off some incredible homemade matzo ball soup for us!)
On the restaurant front, we got bagels, and we got pizza. Both are among our usual standbys; both were excellent, as expected.
We’ve been obsessed with Goldilox Bagels since about a year before its late 2019 opening in Medford (although I’m embarrassed to admit I somehow missed the “lox” pun in the name until very recently). One of the owners and my husband cross paths in the Boston music world, which means I crossed paths with quite a few test bagels before the opening and fell in love.
The Goldilox team has been refining its online ordering process each week and offering weekend pickup (curbside available) of bagels, cookies, lox, and spreads. I ordered last week, and yep, I’m going back for more tomorrow. The rosemary salt bagel is the best, but I’ll give an honorary mention to the everything, pictured above. As you can see, the toppings cover virtually every part of the surface of the bagel — a true thing of beauty. Make sure you have floss on hand.
For reliable, cheap, New York-style pizza, we’re a Newtowne Grille and Armando’s household, generally alternating between the two Cambridge shops. Newtowne Grille is not offering takeout or delivery during the pandemic, so we’re on an Armando’s streak for the time being. Nothing beats a simple pepperoni pizza, although eating it at home doesn’t feel quite the same as devouring it in the shop, sitting in one of those old-timey wooden booths. Well, at least it was an opportunity to continue my Battlestar Galactica binge.
It was a good week for carbs. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
April 17: Afghan cuisine delivered from Brighton
Bowlawni kaddo, mantu, and more from Ariana
384 Western Ave., Brighton, Boston
Last week, I turned to a tried-and-true favorite, the Pammy’s Bolognese, for takeout; this week, I wanted to try a restaurant I’d never been to. Ariana, the Afghan restaurant in Brighton (formerly in Allston), has long lurked on my list of restaurants to try, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it until now. I’m not especially familiar with Afghan food — I’ve been to the Helmand once or twice over the years, but that’s about it — so was eager to try anything and everything on the menu. Pumpkin plays a starring role on the menu, and we got it in the form of the excellent bowlawni kaddo: fried pastry shells stuffed with pan-fried baby pumpkin, onions, garlic, and other seasonings, with mint yogurt.
Mantu was a familiar dish; this particular style of beef dumpling is prevalent in some other cuisines as well, and I’ve had (and loved) the Turkish version on various occasions. While Ariana’s didn’t physically hold up to delivery from Brighton all the way to Somerville, the signature pyramid-ish shape arriving a bit flattened in the box, the flavors were all there and all delicious.
The surprise hit was the challow — Afghan rice — that came with the entrees. Not just a side of plain rice, it was deeply flavorful, and the extra (there was a lot!) made a great breakfast the next morning.
This meal got me excited to dive deeper into Afghan cuisine, and I can’t wait to go to Ariana to dine in once this is all over. And the Helmand, too — I haven’t been there in years. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
April 10: Nostalgic cinnamon rolls and a comforting pasta dish
Pillsbury cinnamon rolls
My mother was an especially talented baker. I’m still chasing the taste of her chocolate chip cookies, and Thanksgiving hasn’t been the same in her absence because no one can make apple pie like she made apple pie. (I’ve tried to make the cookies, and I’ve tried to make the pie. Decent facsimiles; definitely not the same.) Baking ability notwithstanding, my mother also loved Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. As such, I ate a lot of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the ’90s.
Until this week, I hadn’t eaten a Pillsbury cinnamon roll in, like, 23 years. But for some reason — nostalgia, comfort, whatever — I panic-bought a tube while stocking up on groceries at Roche Bros. last weekend. The tube — which contains no fewer than eight cinnamon rolls — lasted less than 24 hours. I won’t go on record saying that Pillsbury cinnamon rolls are the best pastries on the planet, but I will go on record saying that I’m very pleased that I panic-bought a tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. It’s the one thing my mother used to make that I can actually replicate, after all. —Terrence B. Doyle
Lumache Bolognese and garlic knots from Pammy’s
928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Pammy’s lumache here before; it’s one of my Boston bucket-list dishes, one of the dishes I would definitely have to eat again before leaving town, if I were ever to move away. I’ve eaten it at celebratory meals; I’ve eaten it in grief. It’s simple, it’s comforting, it’s a tiny bit spicy thanks to the surprising hit of gochujang.
Ever since Pammy’s starting offering takeout during the pandemic, I’ve been craving the lumache. We reached a good breaking point in our home-cooking routine yesterday, so I leapt at the chance to order Pammy’s. It was like old-school Ticketmaster or Hell Night, trying to get through on the phone (Pammy’s only takes phone orders) — a little frustrating, but exciting when it works out. Fortunately it only took a few tries, and I was on my way to pasta bliss.
I think I would have been happy even if it had been half as good as usual, but the lumache held up remarkably well for takeout; I’d say it was almost as good as eating it in the restaurant. Nothing beats the bustling ambiance there — the hospitality of the Pammy’s team is top-notch — but hey, eating an excellent pasta dish while binge-watching Battlestar Galactica at home isn’t a terrible way to spend a Thursday night. Honorable mention to the ridiculously good garlic knots. (No surprise as the restaurant is passionate about flour and bread.) —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
April 3: Local beer and the fanciest delivery
Jack’s Abby House Lager
I used to live in Allston (I miss you desperately, Rat City), and I used to buy beer at Marty’s on North Beacon St. in Brighton. The beer selection at Marty’s is excellent — a lake’s worth of juicy New England IPAs; a respectable selection of pilsner and kölsch, whether brewed domestically or in some ancient city in central Europe; 30 racks of your favorite light swill; $18 bottles from breweries in Maine that are as impressed with themselves as I am with their labels — but I mostly found myself grabbing a six-pack of Jack’s Abby House Lager.
House Lager tastes like what I imagined beer would taste like when I was nine years old and watching Homer Simpson down a pint at Moe’s. It is crisp and slightly sweet — with faint bitterness on the finish — and it pairs well with literally any food on the planet. (I drank one to wash down chocolate chip cookies the other day, and it was transcendent.) There are better beers in the world; there’s no beer I want to drink as much as I want to drink Jack’s Abby House Lager. I can’t wait for this week’s Zoom party, at which I will drink between six and 11 delicious House Lager treats. —Terrence B. Doyle
Steak dinner from Mooo....
15 Beacon St., Beacon Hill, Boston
I usually hate when restaurant names mess with grammar, punctuation, or spelling, but for some reason I’ve always gotten a kick out of Mooo...., complete with the extra “o,” the four periods (??), and just the sheer ridiculousness of naming a steakhouse — a fancy one! — Mooo.... I should hate it, but I can’t help loving it. Shrug.
My out-of-town coworkers came down hard on Mooo.... and quite a few other Boston restaurant names in the “Name of Groans” competition a few years back; ultimately Mooo.... faced off against another Bostonian establishment, Blunch, in the final round. Blunch took the win (or loss, depending on how you look at it).
Anyway, I love the name Mooo.... and I also love its food; I’ve had a few standout special-occasion dinners there over the years. It’s been interesting to watch the pivot of fine-dining restaurants to takeout and delivery due to the current circumstances, and I wanted to find out if it actually worked. I saw that Mooo.... was delivering — I’m sorry, I’m getting tired of those periods, and Eater’s copyeditor doesn’t like us to include vanity punctuation in restaurant names (hi, Emma!), so I’ll drop those going forward.
So, Mooo is currently offering delivery, and my husband and I deemed it a worthy splurge, in the name of research and enjoying some form of a pandemic “date night,” to get a fancy steak dinner delivered. We were a little skeptical, and we each ordered our steak rare to allow for more room for error: We’d each happily eat it rare, but if it were a bit overcooked and arrived medium rare, that’d be more acceptable to us than if we had ordered medium rare and got medium or, gasp, medium well and beyond.
Both steaks arrived perfectly rare and perfectly delicious. Mooo’s excellent little Parker House-style rolls that start the meal came with delivery too (there wasn’t an option to order them, so I was really hoping they’d show up.) And we went all in on potato: truffled parmesan fries, whipped potatoes. Successful social-distancing date night. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
March 27: The remains of the home bar and Malaysian delivery
Aside from a bottle of Glenmorangie, a bottle of sweet vermouth, a bottle of bitters, and a jar of Luxardo cherries, our home bar is pretty depleted at the moment. I figured I’d improvise one night this week and make a scotch Manhattan. I get it, some of you are thinking, “Why waste a perfectly good pour of scotch on a mixed drink?” or “You’re an idiot!” But just hear me out for a second: Glenmorangie is aged in casks made from American white oak, which were previously used for aging bourbon. This lends the finished product an element of creaminess. And while some scotch is certainly peaty and smoky, not all scotch is peaty and smoky. Indeed, scotch from the eastern Highlands region of Scotland is often fruity and floral and sweet like honey. Glenmorangie is no exception.
Would I have preferred to make my Manhattan with Elijah Craig? Absolutely. Was my Manhattan still good? Absolutely. Will I make another scotch Manhattan in the coming days? Yes, I will make scotch Manhattans until the bottle runs dry. —Terrence B. Doyle
Malaysian food from Sekali
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking the past few weeks — nothing impressive, and mostly pasta more than anything — but I’ve put in a few delivery orders from local spots as well, trying to break the monotony of our dwindling pantry and lend a tiny bit of support to restaurants, which really, really need support right now. (I won’t rehash the stories we’ve been publishing over the last two weeks, but you can see our whole collection here. In short, from the consumer side, you can help a bit via merch and gift card purchases, takeout and delivery orders, and fundraisers, but restaurants really need some rental assistance, loans, and other forms of relief coming from the government.)
Back to this week’s food: I’ve been an avid follower of the Sekali pop-up series on social media for a while now but still haven’t managed to get to one of the team’s events. When I noticed that Sekali was offering home delivery of several dishes (nasi lemak, congee, dumplings, and kaya jam) for one day, I immediately placed an order; at last, I got to try Sekali! It did not disappoint. And, for people like me who always fret about destroying leftovers by not reheating them in the best possible way, there were very detailed reheating instructions included.
Sekali is doing another round of deliveries this weekend with a different menu; it’s already sold out, sorry. But your best bet for getting in on any subsequent rounds — and you definitely should try — is to follow Sekali on Instagram and perhaps enable push notifications. The Boston area barely has any Malaysian food, and that’s a real shame. Hopefully Sekali will be a trailblazer. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal