32 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Just like some blog posts, sometimes, a meal has to be quick and dirty. You’re pressed for time, you have a group of hungry stragglers, you need to eat in proximity to your next destination – there isnt always time for the best find, the well researched location, or the perfect stop. Sometimes, you need places like the Border Cafe.
Stepping off the T from Logan at Harvard Square, I found myself still quite a ways from my destination, but starving. Skipping lunch on the airplane had seemed like a good idea at the time, but combined with a few delays, I definitely didn’t have the energy to haul my luggage across Boston for another hour. My companion points out a popular college spot just up the street – a small regional chain called Border Cafe. “It’s not the best, but it’s edible”. I would’ve settled for McDonalds at this point, so Border Cafe it is.
You know what Border Cafe is – almost every town has one. “Tex Mex”. It serves all the classic favorites – fajitas, burgers, beer, margaritas. It’s Chili’s, but a little more diverse, and a little less “McModified”.
The Border Cafe in Cambridge is in the heart of Harvard Square, which makes it a very popular destination for college students. The location is huge – and tables are fairly tightly packed together. If i was to estimate, i figure the capacity was at least 350 to 400 people. On two floors.
Villa Mexico Cafe
296 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114
Lunch counters and gas station corners were home to some great food in the past, and are experiencing a come back. Low rent, high traffic locations, they seem like the ideal kinds of places for cheap, tasty eats. The idea of food in a gas station always reminds me of Crete Souvlaki in Calgary – one of the best tzatziki in town served out of a gas station.
Villa Mexico Cafe is located in a gas station in the swanky district of Beacon Hill in Boston. If you’ve ever walked around Beacon Hill, you’ll understand how different this is than the rest of the neighbourhood. The only indication that burrito’s are available inside, is a small sandwich board pronouncing the greatness within.
I don’t mean to carry a West Coast bias, but when it comes to burritos, I find that the East Coast just typically cannot compare. The East Coast has some great upscale Mexican eateries, but most of the time, I like my Mexican food fast and cheap. That means tacos, burritos, tamales, tortas.
553 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116-6306
For the most part, I value good food over service. I used to say to people that “food is all that matters – service is irrelevant if the food isn’t good”, but i’ve since backed off such a polarized view. After all, i realized that great service often colors one’s view of the food (it can be hard to separate the two – since you *want* to like the food more). And really good food with lousy service, sometimes isnt worth it. Depending on the situation of course.
A pricey, well regarded South End bistro with a special Sunday Brunch menu, Hamersley’s Bistro continually draws rave reviews for their food and service. Seemed like a nice place to meet up with family for a tasty meal. Especially when meeting the new “boyfriend” for the first time.
The inside of Hamersley’s Bistro has a nice, though formal feeling to it. White linen, columns, high arching ceilings, there is a tremendous amount of light that makes the space feel comfortable, yet a bit formal for my preference.
Maria’s Pastry Shop
46 Cross Street
Boston, MA 02113-2201
I’ve always wondered if there actually exists a gender-based predisposition towards sweets, and if there is, whether it is environmental, or genetic. Most huge sweet fans I know are mostly women. Now I have guy friends who love their sweets too, but they are few and far between. All this really means to me is when a member of the fairer sex tells me there’s a great bakery I *MUST* try, because they have the best cannoli ever, I don’t question it, I just go.
Located in Boston’s North End right off of Haymarket Station, Maria’s Pastry Shop is in an area that boasts a lot of pastry shops of reputation. Both Mike’s, and Modern are in the same vicinity, making for a great selection of pastry goodness.
O Ya Restaurant
9 East St
Boston, MA 02111
There has been a lot of talk, some criticism, and a lot of discussion about the sushi philosophy of some of our writers. While many people would classify me as traditionalist, or a purist, i still believe there exists flexibility and latitude for the itamae to do creative things with sushi. Creativity in blending ingredients works as long as it is done within the context of better presenting the flavours and textures that make sushi great, not masking inferior product with a variety of overpowering flavours.
This creativity is the foundation of many fusion, modern, or new school sushi restaurants, many of which i’ve not enjoyed. Even though my first high end sushiya experience happened at Matsuhisa in the mid 90’s, and was thoroughly enjoyable, I never really bought into the idea of modern sushi. Yet, here i am at O Ya, a place many consider to be the top modern or fusion sushi in North America, hoping to better understand the potential of modern sushi.
I’ll let the photos tell the story…
O Ya is hidden on a side street in the Financial District near South Station.
63 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113-2273
Ever walk by a place and just get a good feeling? In Boston’s North End, I was walking down a side street after having indulged in a Maria’s cannoli, and saw a small, stately window that read “Neptune Oyster”. I popped my head in, hoping to try and oyster or two, but was told the wait would be 20-30 minutes, at 6pm! I left as I had other dinner plans, but resolved to make it there someday.
I finally made it back a few days later. Really, I just came back to eat. In the interim, I had looked into more about the restaurant – and realized it was lauded as one of the best seafood restaurants in Boston by many different boards and publications. A true temple of seafood that represented the local catch quite well. I was determined to try as much of it as possible.
The space itself is tiny. A row of tables along one wall, and bar seating at the other. There are no reservations, so you have to come early, or expect to wait a long time. Bar seats are usually all that are open. Be prepared for a lot of bumping if you sit there.