This summer I renovated my kitchen. Actually, it's not totally done yet (sigh) but the important thing is I’m cooking again. In the beginning (July) I was optimistic about the opportunity to get eat out more. I like to eat out but on average that happens 3 or 4 times a month tops both for budget reason and because I’m such a cocky home cook that I really do think my food is better then a lot of restaurants. So eating take-out multiple nights a week for 10 weeks was a big change for me. I also learned pretty quickly that the take-out I may crave as an occassional treat vs. take out as my day to day sustenance were very different things (i.e. heypielady loves veggies and cannot live on pulled pork sandwiches and burgers alone.) So cast in that light, and striving to keep take-out under $20 for two, here is where I ate all summer long:
Rivergods (Cambridgeport): Ok, this wasn’t take out but this is our neighborhood spot. You can get beers and dinner for two for around $50 including tip. My standby is the chicken sandwich with avocado and side salad with peanut chili dressing. I could put that dressing on everything. They sometimes have interesting specials as well. The highlight this summer was zucchini purses stuffed with cheese and mushrooms. It was light and delicious. The last time we were there (September 29) they had a new special of braised pork loin with mushrooms. They waitress asked Mr’s opinion on it because they were thinking of making it a regular menu item. It was really delicious and I hope it does become a regular item. The pork was melt in your mouth tender.
Yoma (Brighton): We went here specifically for the salads. I love the green mango salad and the beef salad is also good. Mr. ordered and they asked him how hot he wanted it. He knows I like spicy food so he asked for it “7 on a scale of 1 to 10.” Ok, that was too spicy for me if all three dishes we ordered are the same pungency (not Yoma’s fault). I actually wish they hadn’t asked though. How spicy is the dish suppose to be? Then that is how spicy I want it. I’d rather not just have red pepper flake liberally applied at the end.
Genki-Ya (Fresh Pond): The new Genki-Ya recently opened in Fresh Pond in July. The sushi is fresh but nothing to go out of your way for (like say Oishii in Chestnut Hill). This was a real price performer if you know how to order. They have all kinds of deals on their website for 10% off if you order online and a $10 dinner special with 2 8-piece rolls, a salad, and a miso soup if you pay in cash. If you just show up at the restaurant at dinner time though you can’t get any deals and it would end up being way overpriced for just average sushi.
Emma’s Pizza(Cambridge/Kendall Sq.): We ordered from Emma’s a bunch of times mostly because it was comforting. The pizza with rosemary sauce, red peppers, and caramelized onions is my favorite. Add a green salad to that and I’m eating something close to what I would have made for myself anyway. We also got sandwiches there once (BLT and chicken sandwich) that were quite good. (they roast the tomatoes on the BLT so it seems to be a good winter BLT, the bacon was great) They sandwiches were also priced much better than say All Star Sandwich Bar whose sandwiches have just been a huge disappointment lately.
Guru the Caterer (Somerville/Teele Sq): I LOVE this place. I like the lamb and the chicken dishes a lot. The shrimp was pretty good but after you’ve had my Aunt’s coconut shrimp curry, you too would have a hard time having anything else. I wanted to like the goat curry but I got a lot of bones and not much meat in that order. The chicken keema (ground chicken with spices) is my favorite. This is also a price performer. I can’t finish a whole meal by myself. I think splitting one meal and an order of samosas would be the perfect amount of food for two people...but Mr. doesn’t like to share and can eat more than me.
Brown Sugar Cafe (BU/Comm. Ave): Man, I used to love this place. This was my go-to delivery option prior to this summer. We order Moo Yang Nam-Tuk (grilled pork with red onions,mint,scallions, coriander and sticky rice) Fresh Rolls, and chive dumplings. We spent close to $30 on this meal which just wasn’t worth it for two apps and a entree. I used to love the Moo Yang Nam Tuk but the pork this time was gristle-y. The serving seemed smaller but the price had gone up (from $11.95 to $13.95). The fresh rolls were ok, the chive dumplings were mushy. I won’t be back.
Red Lentil (Watertown): This was my favorite find the whole summer. It’s not cheap but it is worth it IMO. I thought the eggplant caponata was just great. The millet loaf was pretty good. The sesame crusted seitan strips were yummy and savory although perhaps overcooked for those of you who don’t like a little char. I love burnt bits though so it didn’t bother me. The veggie chili was good too. The mizuna salad was nothing exciting and the most disappointing item was beet potato latke. It sounded so promising. Maybe it would be better at the restaurant but it just wasn’t working for me... it was kind of slippery and boring.
Jo Jo Tapai(Brighton): We ordered the 3 cup tofu, scallion pancakes, and ginger eggplant. The tofu is one of my favorite things there. The other food was good too. And carried us over into lunch the next day.
Oleana (Cambridge/Inman Sq.): Wait, what is this doing on the list? It was our anniversary mid-renovation so this was our celebration dinner. We sat outside in the court yard and had a lovely meal of hummas in basturma, olives, sultan’s delight (tamarind glazed beef with eggplant custard), grilled octopus with chorizo (outstanding!), striped bass with blacked eyes peas and almond cremolata for dessert which was really gilding the lily after the food and wine.
Central Bottle (Central Sq.): What can I say? As the weeks went on and my contractor nowhere to be seen I just gave up on food and hit the bottle... jk. We did enjoy plenty of wine from CB but they also have a great selection of cheeses, olives, meats, and bread so some of my favorite dinners were iggy’s bread, burrata, finocchino or wild boar sausage supplemented by some green zebra tomatoes from the Belmont Farmer’s Market.
Ken’s Ramen (Brighton): There was one rainy night in August that we got miso ramen and it was perfect. I think its close to $9 for a ramen though. $18 for soup for two is kind of on the pricey side if you think about it. But I really like it! Next time I might get the vegetarian which is a little cheaper because I’m there for the noodles and broth.
Arax Market (Watertown): This place became a godsend in the dog days of summer. It was like 95 degrees out. I didn’t mind not having an oven and I just wanted something fresh. Highlights were the Nivik (chickpeas and chard), hummas, and black eye bean salad. I also had a good lima bean salad there. I tried the fava bean, tomato and artichoke casserole but I guess I’m just not an artichoke person. I try them again every couple years to see if my taste buds change but its doesn’t do anything for me. Stick to the basic bread. I had a Zaatar bread that looked good but was really dry.
Blue Asia Cafe (Brighton): On recommendations from my fellow hounds we split the chicken cutlet, sweet and sour cabbage, and pan fried dumplings. Damn, that cutlet is good! I will defintely be back here.
Green Street (Central Sq.): Needed a cocktail and went to Green Street. It had been a long time since I had dinner here and I was pleasantly surprised. I had a special of Camembert ravioli with mushrooms. It knocked my socks off because when it arrived it turns out they were chicken mushrooms! What a treat. Mr got angel hair pasta with clams which originally I thought was a risky order. Angel hair can be so overcooked and boring. These were quite the contrary. Totally fresh and toothsome noodles and clams full of flavor. We also split an order of mussels in white wine/ lemon/ fennel sauce. I even had a slice of tres leches cake for dessert. I will put out this caveat: Green Street loves to put lemon juice on their food. So if that turns you off then it might not be for you. I am liberal with lemon juice in my own cooking so I was right at home.
Basta Pasta (Cambridgeport): I think the sauces at Basta Pasta are really good. I especially like the puttanesca. Its significantly spicier than I make it but a nice alternative. They throw in some whole anchovy filets which is ballsy. But the pasta! Why or why can’t Basta Pasta cook their pasta just a little less so that its al dente? Now that my oven is back I’d love to buy just the sauce and make my own pasta to my liking.
All Star Sandwich Bar
1245 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139
319 Western Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Brown Sugar Cafe
129 Jersey St, Boston, MA
585 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139
Guru the Caterer
1297 Broadway, Somerville, MA
600 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472
196 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115
Blue Asia Cafe
113 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134