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Highlights from the Boston board. Restaurants, bars, food stores, and more.

The Red Sauce of Your Dreams

rememberme can’t stop thinking about the red sauce at Tacos Lupita in Somerville. “I just went for the second time … again had the burrito al pastor (grilled pork), and again I’m still dreaming about it a day later. I have almost no experience with Mexican food, and usually can take it or leave it (I’m an Indian/Thai kind of person), but boy, that burrito with sauce is something else!”

heWho agrees, saying he went to Tacos Lupita at least once a week over a three-year period. “The red salsa (as the women working there refer to it as) is the best Mexican sauce I’ve had anywhere, bar none, even in Mexico. Always ask for more.” finlero says the taste is comparable to sauce made with Chimayo chili powder, maybe with some vinegar thrown in. But most everyone seems to agree that the red sauce has the green beat hollow, though starvinginNH says that red and green are each wonderful: order both.

Other menu picks from the Salvadoran-influenced menu: tamales; tacos; cheese pupusas with piquant pickled cabbage and sauce; and the huaraches, flat homemade corn tortillas topped with sauce, crumbled Mexican white cheese, onions, tomatoes, and meat. The gorditas are good too, “especially when they make the tortilla to order,” says smtucker. “I always look to see if the press is open before ordering. Open, I get a gordita; closed I get a taco.”

Tacos Lupita [Somerville]
13 Elm Street, Somerville

Board Link: Tacos Lupita

Chicken, Waffles, Syrup

Chicken and waffles is a Southern combination that sounds weird, but tastes “amazing,” says EpicureanX, who just tried it for the first time at Boston’s Hen House. While the Chowhound take on the Hen House is mixed, the love for the pairing of chicken and waffles seems universal.

MC Slim JB breaks the Hen House experience down: “Good: nicely-fried chicken, especially the whole-piece option; an awesome logo (I want one of those T-shirts),” he writes. “Bad: wimpy waffles, not tough or crunchy enough for fried chicken (though they’d be fine as breakfast waffles in most contexts); fake maple syrup for the waffles (a bad corner to cut); lack of a savory gravy option (there ought to be a Southern-style country gravy available); terrible Sysco-grade sauces for the chicken (these are best skipped altogether); the cleanliness of the dining area (they don’t wipe the tables down nearly frequently enough, which you have to keep on top of in a counter-service place); the pitifully slow and not especially hospitable service (it’s glacial and surly even when the place is empty).”

EpicureanX was also no fan of the sauces, rating them “either too salty or too bland,” and ChickenBrocandZiti admitted, “The Sysco truck parked out front as I walked in made me nervous.” Hounds love the Hen House’s merchandise though, particularly the logo T-shirts and the panties with “tastes like chicken” emblazoned on the butt.

For a more satisfying chicken and waffles experience, several hounds recommended Lucky’s Lounge, a swinging hipster joint in the Seaport district that seems an unlikely locale for down-home Southern food. Debbiedoesfood called Lucky’s version “beyond good,” with moist, flavorful chicken and a breading that put her in mind of corn flakes. The crispy waffle was served too chilly but was nice when accompanied by the lavender maple syrup, “a great way to calm the spice of the chicken.” Several hounds also recommended the scotch bonnet maple syrup, which tallulah says, “had a good level of heat without overpowering the syrup.”

Hen House [Roxbury]
1033 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Lucky’s Lounge [Seaport]
355 Congress Street, Boston

Board Links: Chicken and Waffles=Amazing
Hen House Newmarket Square?
Fried chicken and waffle at Lucky’s Oh my!

Tea at the Library?

Hoping to have high tea to celebrate a birthday on a Friday, tennisboy had a hard time finding the right spot. Taj Boston and L’Espalier both serve their noted teas only on weekends, the teas at the Boston Athenaeum are only for members and invited guests, and tennisboy is unimpressed with the modernized options at other Boston hotels, saying a firm “Nay!” to places with stainless steel teapots instead of classic crockery.

limster suggests Swans Café at Park Plaza, a place tennisboy had spurned because of poor reviews. “The food is very average at PP,” says limster. “But I’ve had carefully brewed teas (temperature, water quality, etc.) there that aren’t so easily found in Boston. Among other things, I had a very high-quality scarlet robe from Wuyi mountains in Fujian that was grown very close to the original bushes, and a very well-aged pu-erh (15 years). If they’re still doing that, and if tea (rather than food) is a priority, it might be worth checking out.”

Ultimately, tennisboy happily chose Novel, the little eatery set incongruously in the Boston Public Library. “Having had afternoon tea all over the world … we are pretty picky when it comes to tea. The actual tea (Earl Grey) was very good, and the scones and accompaniments (cream, excellent raspberry jam, and lemon curd—in most places you usually get cream or curd, so having both was a bonus) were excellent,” says tennisboy. The sandwiches were not as fantastic (“Since when is a slice of cucumber with a mozzarella ball considered a sandwich?” asks tennisboy), and the sweets weren’t up to par. But for the atmosphere, the beauty of the setting, tea, and scones, tennisboy says he’d return.

High tea with sandwiches, fruit, and scones is $19.95; tea with scones is $10.

The Taj Boston [Back Bay]
15 Arlington Street, Boston

L’Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston

Boston Athenaeum [Downtown]
10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston

Swans Café at Park Plaza [Downtown]
50 Park Plaza, Boston

Novel [Back Bay]
700 Boylston Street, Boston

Board Link: New Info on WEEKDAY Afternoon Tea in Boston

Stillman’s Meat CSA Grows

Stillman’s, best known in the Boston area for its popular produce CSA boxes, also offers a meat CSA with chicken, beef, lamb, and pork from its animal farms. Members can purchase quarter, half, or full shares, receiving anywhere from 5–20 pounds of meat a month, with cuts mixed up festively. Now Stillman’s is adding a new pick-up spot in Quincy for its meat CSA customers, joining other pick-up locations in Jamaica Plain, Brookline, Lunenburg, and Cambridge.

“I love the meat I’ve gotten. I’ve gotten lamb (chops, ground); pork (belly, sliced bacon, chops, sausage); beef (ground, stew, steak); chicken (whole),” says keencook1, while TheScribe says: “It seems to me a great way to get grass-fed meat easily. As you know, it’s catch as catch can at supermarkets.” Right, says pasta, who notes: “Many farms finish their animals on grain, which diminishes the health benefits of grass-fed meat.”

The price of meat in a half share averages out to be about $7 a pound.

Stillman’s [MetroWest]
1205 Barre Road, New Braintree

Board Link: Stillman’s Meat CSA: New Pick-up Location/Quincy, MA

Yummy Burgers and Fries at Five Guys

When hiddenboston went searching for cheap eats, he flipped for Five Guys Burgers & Fries, a burger chain with an outpost in Dedham. “Truly outstanding burgers, excellent handcut fries, lousy hot dogs (in my opinion, anyways—thought they had a nasty taste to them),” says hiddenboston, who describes the burgers as “griddled flat patties that are made with fresh beef and have a high fat content.”

You can garnish your burger any way you like at the condiment stand; in fact, you may have to. “My toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mustard) were so haphazardly applied that I had to deconstruct and rebuild the burger before I could pick it up, but once I did, it was a perfectly nice burger in my preferred style,” says BarmyFotheringayPhipps. “After a couple bites, I again dismantled my burger so I could add a touch of salt to the patty, which improved it immensely. I’ll have to remember to salt my burger first thing when I eat here, but having to add a bit of salt is far superior to having it come out of the kitchen too salty. (The fries required no adulterations, though I appreciated the bottles of malt vinegar on the condiment station.)”

Five Guys Burgers & Fries [Dedham]
170 Providence Highway, Dedham

Board Link: Five Guys Burgers; Kilroy’s Pub; Cafe Venice

Order the Chicken at Roppongi

Fried chicken two ways is the star attraction at Roppongi, a Korean restaurant in Allston that recently hosted a lunch table of seven hungry hounds.

NoNatto thought the two chicken preparations were the best things on the table: “The nearly greaseless plain version was very good, but the hot and spicy version had us all grinning in delight while reaching for our water glasses and dabbing at our noses,” says NoNatto. galangatron says that the chicken comes in nice, big pieces, and the spicy sauce goes down a treat.

If the chicken doesn’t fill you up, try the spicy calamari salad, which comes on a bed of greens and is wonderfully fresh, according to fredid.

But stay away from the potato salad, served as part of the banchan, or tiny Korean dishes that come out before the meal. NoNatto calls it “incongruous,” and indeed it may look weird on the table next to kimchee and pickled mung bean sprouts, but it’s actually a pretty typical Korean side dish: “That potato salad is actually a Korean thing (via the U.S. Military) though I wish it wasn’t,” says Aromatherapy ruefully.

Roppongi [Allston]
1243 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston

Board Link: Roppongi - What a gem!

In Search of a Low-Carb Market

foxspirit is interested in doing the low-carb thing but can’t find reduced-carb products in grocery stores. foxspirit wonders if they have to be ordered online and quails when considering the logistics of ordering cereals and bread for daily consumption.

There is indeed a low-carb store in the Boston area, reports almansa, and it’s My Low-Carb Life. GPage is a big fan: “Their prices are NOT for the faint of heart but I’ve found when you are searching for anything with a dietary restriction, no place is! The store carries a brand, Walden Farms, which is calorie/sugar/carb/gluten-free and I’ve been amazed at how good these taste. I have the pancake syrup and more than a few salad dressings in my fridge. I have to stick to a diabetic diet and Walden Farms items have given me some actually good-tasting products so not often available to a diabetic.”

GPage also recommends shopping at Trader Joe’s, which offers a few low-carb options. almansa chimes in with a recommendation for Joseph’s, a line of low-carb lavash, tortillas, and pita breads that are sold in supermarket deli sections.

My Low-Carb Life [Danvers]
136 Andover Street, Danvers

Board Link: Low Carb Market?

Battle of the Cupcakes

ced9 probably didn’t mean to ignite a storm of controversy with a simple post extolling the cupcakes at Sweet. “The cupcakes are just the right size, all natural, and as fresh as possible—not to mention beautiful and well priced!” writes ced9 enthusiastically. “I would put them up against any Crumbs, Billy’s, or Buttercup Bakery cupcake in NYC any day.”

“Meh. Doesn’t touch Party Favors,” harrumphs BarmyFotheringayPhipps.

“Oh come on,” fires back tamerlanenj. “Party Favors? Home of the rock hard ice cold refrigerated cupcakes with the mountain of cheap frosting? I know it’s cool to be against the hip place but Sweet really blows PF out of the water for quality.”

“Or … you could, y’know, not eat it directly out of the refrigerator,” retorts Barmy.

The debate rages on from there, with Sweet fans disparaging Party Favors and vice versa. But SaraASR breaks it down, saying that the places are just different: “Sweet rides the [coattails] of the upscale, trendy cupcake boutiques that are popping up all over the country. Party Favors is the best of the best in terms of traditional bakery cupcakes. End of story.”

Sweet [Back Bay]
49 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Party Favors [Brookline]
1356 Beacon Way, Brookline

Board Link: Best Cupcakes, for sure!

Broth Makes the Pho

There’s a brand new pho place in Somerville: Pho ’n Rice took over the old space vacated by the moved-and-remodeled Zoe’s. Word is that the food at Pho ’n Rice is wonderful. ysb just tried it and was so delighted that “I wanted to come home and post about it.” ysb raves about the pho broth, which is well-balanced and not too salty. “Usually I have to augment broth with either sugar, spice, or lime, but this broth needed nothing,” says ysb. ysb also loved the bun (noodles) with grilled pork, shrimp, and cut up imperial rolls, and the tom yum fried rice: “lots of fresh kaffir lime leaf flavor, lemongrass and nam prik pao (chili paste) the fried chicken on top was crispy and juicy.”

rovingfoodie also recommends the pho tai, Vietnamese rare beef and noodle soup, which had “nice quality beef in a light and beautifully flavored broth.” Prices are low, in the under-$10 range, and the restaurant seems to be gathering a neighborhood following already, judging from the number of butts in seats when rovingfoodie visited.

Pho ’n Rice [Somerville]
289 Beacon Street, Somerville

Board Link: Pho n’ Rice - Somerville

What to Order at an Asian Bakery

Standing in front of the counter at an Asian bakery can be an overwhelming experience if you aren’t familiar with the typical offerings. Everything looks great, but with so many choices and a long, impatient line shifting and grumbling behind you, which do you pick?

StriperGuy has delved deep into the offerings at Yi Soon Bakery in Allston, and picks out the mooncakes, which he says come with some unusual fillings: pine nut and jasmine, orange peel, sweet date. “[M]any varieties, some better then others, some a bit odd to the Western palate, some just downright amazing. Don’t be afraid to ask what is in them,” advises StriperGuy. Yi Soon’s sweet potato buns make a great breakfast when warmed in a toaster oven, and cream puffs are superior when they’re totally fresh (don’t get them if they’ve been sitting a while).

Other picks: According to BarmyFotheringayPhipps the angel light bun, a fluffy creation stuffed with cream cheese and raisins, is delicious, and StriperGuy has an entire list of stuff worth trying, including the red bean mochi bun, plain cheesecake, the coffee bun filled with cream, and the rarely made whole wheat raisin walnut bun.

Stopping in at Bao Bao Bakery in Chinatown instead? Hounds have favorite sweets there too. Try the blueberry cheesecake, the white chocolate cake, the green tea cake, and the red bean buns. The “cute” cupcakes, decorated with figures in neon colors, are a kitschy hound fave, while stradacouple loved the orange cake that “tasted just like a creamsicle.”

Yi Soon Bakery [Allston]
112 Brighton Ave, Allston

Bao Bao Bakery [Chinatown]
77 Harrison Avenue, Boston

Board Links: Notable Mooncakes at Yi Soon
Good Stuff at Yi Soon
Bao Bao Bakery