Monday, October 30, 2006

Best of Boston: Julie’s 28th Birthday Edition, Part 1

If you could spend a long weekend in any city with the express purpose of eating, where would it be? Paris and San Francisco come to mind. I would put Barcelona in the running, and they don’t call New York the Big Apple for nothing. How about Istanbul or Delhi?

Combining any one of these places with a hefty restaurant budget would be a dream. While I wouldn’t pass up a single one of these destinations, the city I’ve been dying to eat my way through for the past two years is Boston. I lived there for seven years, and it is where I met my husband. I went to college there, got my first job (followed by my second, third and fourth jobs), matched wits with mice and landlords in decrepit apartments and finally gave it all up for the year round sunshine and (at the time) affordable real estate of Florida.

I have always been a city girl, and sometimes Fort Lauderdale’s lack of sophistication gets me down. It’s not that Florida is a provincial backwater, but I miss my favorite restaurants. I miss the five minute walk to the neighborhood bars, shopping downtown and world class museums. I miss the gorgeous Boston skyline seen from a cab crossing the Charles River from Cambridge late at night. I miss being a quick “T” ride from anywhere and not needing a car. I miss wearing clothes made with wool and the chill twilight air in October.

For my 28th birthday, Mike gave me a trip to Boston. For the past few months we have been planning our itinerary based on the meals we wanted to eat. We chose our hotel based on restaurant accessibility. We ate healthy in order to indulge later. And now we’re back. I love Boston even more than I did before, and I’ve got a very personal, very subjective guide to The Best of Boston to share with you.

Best Italian/Best Antipasto Platter - Teatro
177 Tremont St. Boston, 617-778-6841

The Italian restaurants in Boston's famous North End has nothing on this place. Housed in a former bank, Teatro is sleek, chic and always filled with a lively, downtown crowd. Gorgeous, cream-colored marble work is everywhere and the prominent design feature is the intricate molding on the ceiling, backlit with blue lights that create a sexy glow. Ambience aside, the food is spectacular and contemporary. The antipasto platter for 2 (pictured at the top of the post) is a must. Always changing, it generally features an eggplant caponata with thick chunks of the fleshy vegetable, garlicky white bean puree, cured meats, cheeses and vegetable dishes like the thinly sliced fennel salad we sampled on our visit. We also ate a beautiful beef carpaccio finished with parmesan cheese, arugula and olive oil and decadent mushroom and white truffle ravioli with porcini mushrooms and a porcini-port glaze (below).

Best Thai (in any city!) - Bangkok Bistro
1952 Beacon St. Brighton, 617-739-7270

I ate my very first thai food here during my freshman year in college, and I have never had better pad thai ANYWHERE. I make my own credible version at home because I cannot order it anywhere else after Bangkok Bistro. They take this over-exposed, abused dish that other restaurants turn into some over-sauced version of Southeast Asian spaghetti and create something truly sublime. They toss together the long list of ingredients with the toothsome rice noodles at the last minute, creating a sweet-sour-spicy gloss that allows you to taste the individual flavors that, together, create one glorious dish (below). Mike and I also recommend the best Drunken Noodle you will every eat. Bangkok's amazing "large flat noodles" are tossed with a pleasantly spicy sauce, vegetables and meat of your choice. Fabulous food and perfect every time.

Best Neighborhood Bar - White Horse Tavern
116 Brighton Ave. Allston, 617-254-6633

This place has pool tables, two bars, good food and huge front windows that open onto a colorful stretch of Brighton Ave. on balmy days. The juke box is always playing rock songs with plenty of 80s and 90s stuff, and there is a good selection of beers on tap including the locals, Harpoon and Magic Hat. As spacious as White Horse is, it always feels cozy, filling up every night with college kids and people from the neighborhood.

Best College Bar - The Kells
161 Brighton Ave. Allston 617-782-9082

Everyone has a story about The Kells, some of which cannot be repeated in polite company. Calling this place a "meet market" is using too generous a term. The days when this bar appealed to my tastes are long past, but those were some fun times... at least the ones I can remember.

Best Burger - Sunset Grill
130 Brighton Ave. Allston 617-254-1331

These burgers are ridiculously moist due to Sunset Grill's patented "beer-steaming" technique. The turkey burger is so deliciously tender, you will not even think about the beef you're missing out on. Choose from about a dozen topping combinations or create your own. We like the Acabura Burger with swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and peppers. Ask for sweet potato fries instead of regular is you want to change it up. Oh, yeah, they also have 112 beers on tap.

Best Street - Quint Ave. in Allston, Baby!
I did not intend to make a pilgrimage to my old apartment, but it was on the way to the bar! My balconey was the one above the funky arches.

Check back soon for the rest of the best!


christine said...

Great post Julie. I can't wait for more! I love, love, love Boston and hopefully will be there for a few weeks next summer. I'll bookmark your posts for the best places to eat.

Lis said...

Happy Birthday, Julie!

Ivonne said...

Happy Birthday, Julie!

You make me want to run out and by a plane ticket to Boston!

Julie T. said...

What a fabulous birthday weekend!

Boston is a great place, and obviously has some terrific restaurants. All of those meals sound divine.

And I love your old apartment building! What a wonderful looking place.

Happy birthday!

Anita said...

Happy Birthday.
And what a thoughtful husband! There's a lot to be said for downtown living - the convenience of walking, whether for groceries or just a cuppa coffee (or more), and actually coming across other people!
Suburban living in the US (including Florida!) is so sad...

Jeanne said...

Hi Julie and happy birthday! Damn - I wish I had known all of this before I visited Boston last month... But maybe it's better that I didn't as we had so little time there, and I would just have been upset at what we couldn't see. Plus a chunk of the time we had was spent watching the Head of the Charles regatta (at my husband's insistence!)

Anonymous said...

Hey, I lived on Quint Ave too, #11.