Welcome to The Best Thing We Ate This Week, winter 2022 edition. Most Fridays, we share a restaurant dish or two that really hit the spot in the past week. (Check out last season’s edition here.) Want to share your own favorites? Join our Facebook group to give and get recommendations for local dining.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
March 4, 2022: Birria tacos in Magoun Square
Birria tacos at La Posada
505 Medford St., Somerville
What’s that dish that you’ve got to order whenever you see it on a menu? For me, birria tacos are definitely one of them — which means I eat a lot of birria tacos, because they’re pretty much everywhere these days. (When we published this map in late 2020, they were just starting to get popular around Greater Boston; now you’ll find them on the menu at what feels like the majority of local taquerias.)
The quick backstory on birria tacos for those unfamiliar: From the Mexican state of Jalisco, birria is a hearty stew featuring adobo-marinated meat (traditionally goat, but one might also see beef or lamb). Over the past decade-plus, it’s become popular in taco form in Tijuana, sometimes topped with melted cheese, and served with a cup of broth for dipping/drinking. And over the past few years, birria tacos have exploded in popularity in various U.S. cities thanks in large part to the magic of social media. Anyway, they’ve been here for a little while now, and they’re very easy to find (and worth finding).
I was passing through Magoun Square on a bitterly cold afternoon this week and stopped into La Posada, settling in for an order of warm birria tacos with a cheesy, crispy crust along the edges, plus the requisite dipping broth and a little cup of guacamole, too. It was one of the best versions I’ve had recently. Paired with passionfruit juice, the meal made me forget about winter for just a little while. (Had it not been the middle of the day, I may have explored La Posada’s extensive tequila, mezcal, and cachaca list.)
February 25, 2022: Turnips (really!) at a funky wine bar
Chorizo-spiced turnips at Dear Annie
1741 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
My restaurants-to-try list has grown impossibly long, but for a recent, too-rare date night, new-ish Cambridge wine bar Dear Annie — a combined effort by the excellent Rebel Rebel and Field & Vine teams — called to my husband and me with promises of interesting wines, warm vibes, and an intriguing pescatarian menu. If you’re the type of person who needs to have a reservation, elbow space, and standard waiter service, this might not be the spot for you, but if you are a bit flexible and thrilled by the idea of eating shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers at a big, bustling communal table, read on.
Dear Annie doesn’t take reservations and doesn’t have obvious signage. Look for the two big glowing eyes in the windows of the Massachusetts Avenue space; set your coat down on an empty seat, if you can find one; and proceed to the counter to order. There’s a printed wine list, but skip it and dive right into a discussion of your wine preferences with the knowledgeable staff; they’ll hook you up with something as funky or easy-drinking as you’d like. Order some snacks, too, like a red snapper crudo or a “not tinned fish” selection, house-preserved fish like pickled Maine mussels with sesame, ginger, and fermented chile.
The aforementioned crudo, a buttery fish fumet with outstanding bread on the side, and “a very crunchy and herby salad” wowed us as we sipped our wine, but the real showstopper was — I can’t believe I’m writing this — a plate of turnips. (The official description: chorizo-spiced turnips with peanuts, mint, kumquat, and pickled pepper.) The menu’s always changing, so you may not spot this exact dish on it, but it’s a good example of the magic that chef Andrew Brady and his team can make with simple vegetable dishes.
Dear Annie is really, really cool. It can be a little hard to get a seat, but even if that stresses you out a bit — believe me, I’m like that too — it’s worth giving it a shot. Order a fun glass of wine and find a bit of floor space to take up while watching like a hawk for someone to depart. Eventually you’ll find a spot, and you, too, can be surprised at how good a plate of turnips can be.
February 4, 2022: Dough-wrapped meats in East Boston and more
Empanada and cafe con leche at La Sultana Bakery; pantry items from EBO & Co.; beef stew pie at Seabiscuit; fried chicken sandwich from Hot Chix
La Sultana Bakery, 40 Maverick Sq., East Boston; EBO & Co., 110 Meridian St., East Boston; Seabiscuit, 256 Marginal St., East Boston; Hot Chix, eventually opening at 1220 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, but currently popping up at breweries
It’s been a couple weeks without an update, so I’ll include a few different notable meals from recent days.
Late last month, I headed over to East Boston to take photographs of a cool bar that will be opening up soon; stay tuned for that story. Since it’s a bit of a hike for me to get to the neighborhood, I made it a multi-purpose trip and added some food stops along the way; I had a really lovely time eating and shopping.
First, I grabbed breakfast at La Sultana, which I’d been hoping to try since reading about it in Marissa Cardenas’ article late last year on the perseverance of East Boston’s Colombian food scene. I’ve been dreaming of the ultra-crispy, beef-stuffed empanada since then (perfect with a cafe con leche). La Sultana is steps from the Maverick T station: Got a few minutes before your train? Grab an empanada.
Then I headed to EBO & Co., the new convenience store from the East Boston Oysters team, to stock up on some fun sauces and other pantry items from interesting indie brands.
And for lunch, why not more beef and dough? It was time to try Seabiscuit over in the shipyard and find out how it was faring carrying on the KO Pies legacy. I’m so pleased to report that the meat pies — at least the beef stew one I ordered — are just as fabulous as I remember from the KO days. I’m excited to see Seabiscuit come into its own as it introduces a new neighborhood to its baked goods and such (it’s the team from Somerville’s longtime cafe the Biscuit, which closed in 2019), but I’m thrilled that it’s also keeping KO alive so faithfully.
One more highlight from the past couple of weeks: Hot Chix. The Nashville hot chicken business hasn’t opened its permanent location in Cambridge yet, but you can catch the team popping around town at breweries such as Idle Hands in Malden, and you should make every effort to do so, because this chicken is incredible. The biscuits and the banana pudding are must-tries, too. (Don’t be fooled by the Hot Chix Instagram feed, which hasn’t been updated recently: Hot Chix is very much alive. Instead, watch its Instagram story for pop-up updates. The team is back at Idle Hands tonight, February 4, and then at Bone Up Brewing in Everett tomorrow.)
January 14, 2022: Dim sum, delivered
Dim sum from Ming’s Seafood
19 Pleasant St., Malden
There are few communal dining settings as fun as dim sum, sharing endless small plates — buns, dumplings, noodles, more — with friends. Like a lot of folks, I’m not really spending time in large groups and indoor dining settings at the moment, but of course I’m missing that feeling. Getting dim sum delivered isn’t quite the same — ok, it’s pretty much nothing like actually going out for dim sum — but it was a pleasant way to spend a weekend morning, something a little different from our usual at-home breakfasts and brunches, and it got me dreaming of the day I can order this spread again but in person.
Since I moved to the Malden-adjacent edge of Medford last year, I’ve been slowly making my way through quite a few incredible Malden dining options, and I’ve had several dim sum spots recommended to me, particularly Ming’s Seafood (which also has a Quincy location) and Sun Kong. This time around, we went with Ming’s Seafood; some photos had caught my eye on Instagram recently, and I was eager to give it a try.
We went all in on all things crispy and/or shrimp: steamed shrimp dumplings in jet-black cuttlefish wrappers, embellished with a bit of gold (photogenic, if that’s your thing, but also delicious); crispy shrimp in red rice rolls; and crispy shrimp rolls with celery. Salted egg yolk buns, turnip cake, and durian pie were also hits, and our one-year-old couldn’t get enough of the fish balls. (If you’re curious about durian but worried about its infamously pungent odor, try the durian pie; it’s an approachable dish for durian beginners, a flaky pastry stuffed with a lightly sweet, almost melon-like filling, and the smell isn’t anywhere near as strong as that of fresh durian.)
What’s your favorite dim sum dish? Have you bothered with doing dim sum for takeout/delivery, or is it all about the in-restaurant experience for you? Join our Facebook group to share your thoughts.