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Affordable Food in and almost-in 02143


Restaurants & Bars 53

Affordable Food in and almost-in 02143

smtucker | Oct 11, 2013 08:24 AM

Inspired by a recent thread, I am starting one to encompass food in 02143, and a few other spots that are almost in this zipcode. We all have those days. You finish your work day and for whatever reason, making dinner is just not feasible. It isn't a special night out with friends. It is just a Tuesday and you need some supper before you log into a client server to update their files. For me, these nights need a "cheap" eat that doesn't take too much time. We don't drink as a general rule so the cocktail or beer selection is irrelevant. We are there for the food.

My criteria are as follows. The food must be worth eating. I only get so many calories per day, and I want them to be worthwhile. Though my budget used to be under $10 per person, lately that number has been creeping up and can go as high as $20. Consistency is important. We need to be able to tolerate the noise levels. As working classical musicians, we find really loud voices and/or music too annoying to tolerate. Since time is important, we aren't willing to circle blocks repeatedly. We have a Somerville parking permit on our car, so Somerville locations often win out. Any place where the blackboard specials that are all shellfish only stay on the list if there are menu items for me since I was born with this darn allergy. And finally, we are both accomplished home cooks, so we prefer food that offers something more than what we could prepare easily at home.

We feel that the number of "go-to" spots has been dwindling. This could be because we eat out so seldom that we are putting too high a value on consistency and not exploring enough. It could be because Mr. SMT reverts to the burger too often. I hope that others will point out some spots [listing your must eat items] that we have missed or forgotten.

The List

The Independent. Eh. They have a decent burger, but the options in our price range drop pretty quickly from there. The chicken sandwich was about 4oz of chicken to 8 oz of bun. The French Onion Soup was watery without enough onion flavor topped with way too much cheese. The two times I ordered and ate the Mesclun Greens, I was sick that evening. The fish and chips had some bright spots, like the fish, but the spicy tartar was absolutely awful. Throwing a few red peppers into thick mayonnaise is NOT tartar sauce. For me, at $16 there isn't enough value there.

Machu Pichu Charcoal Chicken. This spot does a really nice chicken, but it really never makes the cut. Not because it isn't good, but instead, I can make this at home and do. Spending $16 for a chicken doesn't make sense for us. It will make sense for others.

The other Machu Pichu. I don't get this place. I tried to head there for dinner one night and they wanted to charge me a cover to hear a band that I wish wasn't there. The one meal I did have here was just not that good. The knife cuts for the ceviche were so sloppy that the cure was uneven. I remember really salty corn. The rest has faded from memory.

A4. Just isn't ever going to be on our radar for a quick, value-based supper. Though we enjoyed our food on our one visit [one pizza and the lentil salad,] the cost of an individual pizza is higher than I want to pay for pizza. I did love that lentil salad. Since eating here I have recreated that salad at home. It was a pretty standard bistro-style preparation.

Highland Kitchen. Here is where the CH-gods will strike me down. I don't love this place. I enjoy the ambiance. I enjoy the wait staff. The jukebox selections are terrific. I find the menu lackluster. Has it every been changed since the place opened? The Cuban was delicious the first few times I had it, but then it got really nasty. The short ribs are tasty and very rich but priced so I didn't want to order a second item. The entrees are also above my quick, bite out threshold. The specials are almost always shellfish, so I don't find that there is enough variety. The bluefish cakes are delicious. The fried chicken is pretty good, but the collards are like drinking a bottle of vinegar. My Georgia-born-and-raised husband much prefers what I make at home for both of these items. Same with the pulled pork. We want a mustard-based sauce, so don't order this out around here. I wish I liked this place more. I really want to.

India Palace. This place fell off our list when I was ill and their food made me even sicker. Not their fault since it was the tomatoes and onions in any food that triggered the attacks. Now that this body part has been removed, I only recently decided to try it again. The Kid likes their Chicken Tikka Masala. What I generally crave is tandoori proteins. Their tandoori lamb and chicken are almost what I want, but not quite. Not enough lemon in the marinade for my taste, but it is a passable version. Their dal makhani is insipid and we don't really care for the nan bread. At this point, an order from here would mean I am making both dal, dry-fried vegetables, and nan bread at home. Not the answer for a quick meal.

Mandarin Chinese Restaurant. Just not good based on my limited experience. I just looked at YELP and there are really good reviews! What am I missing here?

Red House Chinese Restaurant. Ordered some soup here once, a long time ago, and decided that this was drunk food. It was oily and flavorless. If there is something worth eating from here, I would like to know what it is.

Dosa n' Curry. I really like the food here but don't consider their food to be a good value. Each item is about $10 with a small portion size. We go here when my sister, a vegetarian, is in town but otherwise, it isn't a huge attraction.

Pho N' Rice. We tend to use Pho N' Rice as a lunch spot since the entree prices are so much lower earlier in the day. Ordering food here by phone is risky. For some reason the language barriers are increased on the phone, but eating in the restaurant seems to reduce that barrier. When their Pho is good, I think it is very good, but often it heads towards the sweet which I don't care for as much. The lunch Duck with Tamarind sauce is very good, and includes a lot of vegetables. Husband enjoys their Pad Thai on occasion. He doesn't mind the Americanization of this dish, though he does plead for spicy.

Taco Loco. This is one of the few actual cheap eats in the area that we have enjoyed consistently. I get two tacos, sometimes with pork sometimes with beef, which comes to $4.00. Husband always gets the beef burrito. There is some variation in quality, but at these prices, we are forgiving. It has never been bad. I find the pinto beans under seasoned. The tamales can be quite good, but I haven't eaten them with enough frequency to comment on those in detail. Parking in this area has been quite a challenge during the construction, but we do manage to find a space.

Vinny's At Night. The shear amount of food on the plate, plus the second plate for the pasta, is unseemly. No one needs to eat that much food at one time. Since you know you will be taking home 2/3 of your meal, you have to select something that can be re-heated successfully. I do like their lentil soup a lot, but they aren't pleased if you only order soup. We should try their subs for lunch someday, but we rarely eat out at lunchtime.

Potato Freak. I like rostie as much as the next person, but as the only thing I eat for a meal? Not so much. But for me, the biggest problem with Potato Freak is the cream cheese obsession. Almost all of their rostie are stuffed with cream cheese and I don't care for the flavor or the texture. Since learning to make rosties at home where I can use a nice aged Gruyere, Potato Freak has dropped off our list.

Tavern at the End of the World. This pub has lots of things on the menu that I enjoy tremendously. I enjoy their smoked haddock soup, lamb burger, fish and chips [which has a very good tartar sauce] and the Mediterranean Plate. The daily special soups have always been good. My husband is far more consistent and always gets the burger. Sadly, our last two meals he just didn't enjoy the burger at all. It has been a few months since we have headed in this direction. Maybe it is time to try them again?

Wangs Fast Food. I don't like eating in at Wangs. This is not a comfortable space. When we order from here, we do pickup since we have found that our food is better that way. When they are "on," the food can be excellent. The online menu looks totally different than my paper version, so can't list the dishes that we have enjoyed. I always have some of their dumplings in the freezer so I can steam them when I am cooking Chinese at home.

Pini's Pizza. This pizza is two things- consistent and cheap. It isn't bad pizza. It isn't great pizza.

Pescatores. For a number of years, this was our pizza spot. We ordered the Italiano early in the week when they lowered their prices. But, at some point, the quality of the cheese declined, and there was more and more of it. It went from being a well-balanced pie to a gloopy mess. We talked with the pizza folks in the back, but the pie we loved was gone. The one time we ate in the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the sound and underwhelmed by the meal. We have some great fish markets around here, so I was hoping for something more special than what I make at home regularly.

Courthouse Seafood. The Courthouse offers a no-frills old-school place to eat seafood. I love this place. $6.95 for fish and chips. Decent cole slaw that is almost too sweet, but not quite. Wednesday night, you get the BIG fish, enough for two to split. I also enjoy the fish cakes, though still confused why they are served with fries since a fish cake is a lot of potato. The sides of calamari or clams are quite good, though the batter is a bit thick. Husband has enjoyed their shrimp plates which are served with some rice and non-descript vegetables. The cajoun preparations are actually spicy!

Neighborhood Restaurant. This is my mother's favorite breakfast in the area, and that is when I head in that direction. I never go on the weekend. Breakfast at home is the easiest meal to make, and I only eat breakfast for lunch or dinner. I enjoy the cream of wheat and the fresh fruit. Again, I just find the amount of food to be overwhelming. I hate to waste food and with this amount of food on a plate, waste happens. How is their food at other times?

Ball Square Cafe. See above. I don't generally eat out at breakfast so have only been to this spot for neighborhood meetings and I only drank coffee.

SoundBites. I avoided this place for a long time after reading about the eggNazi. I don't respond well to aggressive personalities. But, a friend wanted to meet here. The eggs benedict were pretty good. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked. The hollandaise could have used more lemon juice, but was an acceptable version. The muffin was properly toasted. I liked the bit of fruit on the plate. Very refreshing after all that sauce. Never been back since I don't really eat breakfast out. Are the other meals of the day interesting?

Places we Miss:
Zoe's. I so hope that they re-open. They were our most common go-to spot. Love the spicy green beans, lamb with cumin, salt & pepper calamari, lion head meatballs, dry-fried chicken, and some of the mushroom dishes. Generally dinner here was about $35 with tip, and enough leftovers for the next day's lunch.

Taco Lupita. Still miss those charred meats. I was particularly fond of their gorditas which were a great deal at $4.50. Husband always ordered the meat platter, the most expensive item on the menu. Total bill: $15 with one soda.

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