Reader Q&A

Restaurant critic Devra First took your questions

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June 18, 2008

Are you curious about dining out in the Boston area? What's affordable? What's new that's not to be missed? The Globe's restaurant critic Devra First took your dining questions on Wednesday, June 18. Catch up here.

The transcript follows.

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Devra_First: Good afternoon, everyone. How've you been? Eaten anything good since our last chat?
Zhukov12__Guest_: We just moved out to Hopkinton. Do you know of any good restaurants in that area?
Devra_First: I don't know the area that well. The first place that comes to mind is Stone's Public House in Ashland. I haven't been since Matt Murphy left (a while ago!), but it's a nice atmosphere, and it used to be great. There's Tomasso Trattoria in Southborough; again, haven't been since a chef change. There's also Oga's sushi and Sel de la Terre in Natick. If anyone else has any suggestions, please chime in.
kristen__Guest_: could you recommend a good mexican restuarant in or around boston?
Devra_First: I really like Angela's Cafe in East Boston. Have you been? In Cambridge, you could try the new Olecito; in Somerville, there's Taqueria la Mexicana. For slightly fancier, you could try Tu Y Yo, also in Somerville. For Salvadoran that might scratch the same itch, Tacos Lupita is right outside Porter Square. Do you have any places you like?
Devra_First: Also, here's the link to today's Cheap Eats review of La Siesta, a Mexican place in Winthrop.
pizza__Guest_: I recently read about grilling pizza. Sounds delicious! Can you recommend a good spot that serves grilled pizza? Or, if not, what's a fantastic pizza place worth checking out? Looking for something a bit unique ... thanks!
Devra_First: Mmm, grilled pizza. Is it lunch time yet? Try Cambridge 1; I like the Harvard Square branch best. Very thin crust. I like the basic one, with tomato and fontina, and also the potato version. If you don't mind a drive to Providence, try Al Forno sometime. They're the grilled pizza masters in the area.
Devra_First: Here's a link to the article the poster mentions, if anyone's curious:
Devra_First: Other places for good, if not grilled, pizza are Pizzeria Regina, Antico Forno, Santarpio's, Gran Gusto, and Emma's. (Though nothing ever really tops the pizza of my youth, a slice of corner Sicilian at Sal's in Mamaroneck, N.Y.) Anyone else have any suggestions for great pizza?
foodie__Guest_: What do you think's the best Vietnamese food place around? Why? Thanks.
Devra_First: I really love Xinh Xinh in Chinatown, and I've recently had great experiences at Anh Hong in Dorchester. Xinh Xinh is just great food, very fresh, very flavorful, served by super-nice people. The avocado shake is amazing. Anh Hong is the only place locally that I know of to offer 7 Courses of Fish, which is exactly what it sounds like. The roll-your-own fresh rolls platter has such a nice array of herbs, as well as slivers of green apples, which are just fantastic as part of the flavor combo. Do you have a favorite?
ambiance__Guest_: I'm bored. I'm looking for something with amazing atmosphere. Something fun, maybe a little romantic, just something really memorable. Any ideas? Naming a few places would be great - thx!
Devra_First: Have you tried Hungry Mother, near the Kendall Square Cinema? The food is great, Southern-French, different from the usual. The place is fun and a little romantic, with cocktails involving Dr. Pepper.
Devra_First: Also in Cambridge, there's Baraka Cafe, Algerian-Tunisian and North African food in a tiny, cozy, sort of romantic/bohemian space.
Devra_First: I think Toro in the South End is fun and not boring. You might also enjoy Myers + Chang down the street.
Devra_First: Any of those sound good? Are there places you can think of that are similar to what you're aiming for?
cawfee__Guest_: So can you ever drink a cup of coffee not roasted now? Any favorite coffee shops around?
Devra_First: Oh, absolutely. One can only afford to be a minor snob when really in need of caffeine! Simon's in Cambridge is good. I also like Uptown Espresso in the South End. I have to say, I'm a little underwhelmed by our coffee shops and tend to prefer homemade. I wish our cafe scene could rival that of Portland, Oregon. Why doesn't it?! What are your favorite cafes?
chowfamily__Guest_: I really like Angela's Cafe as well. There are so many interesting things happening in neighborhoods lately. Quincy, with Little Q, Fuji, Beni Cafe, the little Mediterranean felafel take-out, Fat Cat and others is another example, and it's great to see the Globe covering the new and local.
Devra_First: Quincy is a great place for eating these days. What's the latest with Little Q? Is it still there? The city is running a road through that building, sadly. I love Little Q!
ac__Guest_: i live in somerville and have been slowly eating my way around here and in cambridge. i've been to some great places but i really haven't explored central square yet... any "must try" places?
Devra_First: In Central, I'd try Rendezvous, Central Kitchen, and Green Street, three of the best neighborhood restaurants in the Boston area. Salts is there, too. Craigie Street Bistrot will be on Main Street come fall. I'm not a huge fan of the Indian places there, unfortunately. You should also head to Inman Square, just up the road, where there are many great places, including East Coast Grill. I also have a soft spot for Punjabi Dhaba -- not the very best Indian food, but so cheap, and a fun atmosphere.
ac__Guest_: I really enjoyed the ribs and the grits at Hungry Mother but I wish they had fried green tomatoes on the menu :(
Devra_First: Ah, but they often do! There's an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with tomato water and a toast with chutney.
SoupForLunch__Guest_: .
Devra_First: Hey SoupForLunch. For some reason your question came through blank. Want to resubmit?
Bellisimo__Guest_: What are your favorite new restaurants?
Devra_First: Hungry Mother, Benatti, and Persephone. How new is new? I'd add Highland Kitchen and Shiki to the list, if we can go back a bit. How about you?
KD__Guest_: Anything in near northwest Boston to recommend that's new? Arlington, Lexington, Burlington?
Devra_First: Daikanyama is a new(ish) Japanese place in Lexington; I keep meaning to try it but haven't gotten around to it yet. Have you tried it? In Burlington, L'Andana's not particularly new anymore I suppose, but it is good.
ac__Guest_: any good places for fried chicken in the cambridge/somerville area?
Devra_First: Coast Cafe outside of Central Square near River Gods.
am__Guest_: Hi, any thoughts on Boston/Cambridge restaurants with outdoor terrace that will take reservations? I like Dante but need to stick to a slightly less expensive budget. Pops and Rocca are first come, first serve.
Devra_First: That's a tough one; I'm not sure who takes reservations for outdoor seating at a less-than-high price point! Anyone?
oleanarocks__Guest_: Hi Devra - any recommendations for food in Brighton (esp. Pizza)? Hard to come by good stuff in that area
Devra_First: Jasmine Bistro!! It's French-Hungarian, really good. I don't have a pizza recommendation near there, and that area could really use a great, nicer place for sit-down pizza and microbrews. Sheryl Julian, the food editor, recently wrote a Cheap Eats of Esperia, a Greek place she really liked. In Allston, there's YoMa (Burmese) and Aneka Rasa (Malaysian).
KQ__Guest_: Have you had any good eating experiences in the metrowest area (Waltham, Newtonish) I've been here forever, but wonder if you had any hidden favorites?
Devra_First: I don't really have any hidden favorites, I'm afraid -- they're all discovered. Have you tried Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham? (One to add to the list of Mexican restaurants from earlier.) On the other end of the spectrum is 51 Lincoln in Newton; very good.
Devra_First: You must have some hidden favorites, living in the area. What are your go-to spots?
oleanarocks__Guest_: Devra - any recommendations for affordable sushi?
Devra_First: For affordable sushi, you can't really beat Blue Fin in the Porter Exchange building.
chowfamily__Guest_: Out-of touch highway project is still on. Little Q is supposed to hang on at least through the summer. I fervently hope they will relocate locally. They must be a bit cynical at this point since the town put them through the arduous permitting process for all their improvements, without informing them of the highway plans. I love the food there, and love having it nearby. Hpefully the town will realize how much all these new restaurants are bringing to the area and help them relocate.
Devra_First: Amen. I would be really sad if Little Q didn't relocate. I'd imagine it will, as I believe the owners very specifically targeted Quincy as their location.
SoupForLunch__Guest_: Does anyone know whatever happened to Salts in Cambridge? It used to be so good - it's still there, but the quality has gone way down.
Devra_First: Is this a downhill alert? I haven't been in a bit, and the last time I was there it was still very good. Any other recent experiences, good or bad?
4ssa__Guest_: Hi Derva - any scoop on what is going on with the old Copia space in C-town? I had heard Petite Robert but it has been empty for so long now!
Devra_First: I believe, though could not swear, that the Petit Robert thing is no longer happening. I don't know what's going in there. My only news for that area is that Tangierino is expanding and will now have -- wait for it -- hookahs! There will be a hookah lounge and a cigar bar. Smokers rejoice.
Devra_First: Oh, and belly dancers.
pk__Guest_: mangia in canton offers really delicious pizza!
tc__Guest_: Any good restaurants in watertown?
Devra_First: Have you tried Molana and Casa de Pedro? There's the Deluxe Town Diner, Strip T's, and Shangri-La for Chinese (that might be just over the line in Belmont, though).
Devra_First: See you later, gators. Thanks for the questions. Enjoy the nice weather and the Celtics afterglow.

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