Hidden Gems: Great Restaurants Located in Unexpected Towns
Some of Boston’s neighborhoods are very well-known among locals and visitors alike for their booming restaurant scenes, with the South End and the North End being just two such areas that are loaded with dining spots. And outside of the city are such restaurant-rich communities as Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville, along with Waltham, Quincy, and Salem. Not all cities and towns in the Boston area are restaurant destinations, however. If you look hard enough, though, some of the communities that aren’t really on the radar for dining out do have some good spots, including the four below.
Dorchester and Chinatown have some excellent Vietnamese restaurants, but if you are more into driving than taking public transportation, parking can be a bit of a problem (especially in Chinatown). Well, one of the Vietnamese eateries in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester happens to have a branch in Randolph, which isn’t exactly a dining destination (excluding perhaps the Lynwood Café, which has some of the best bar pizza in the Boston area). The Randolph location of Pho So 1 is every bit as authentic as its parent restaurant a few miles north, and because it is located in a large shopping center, there is more than enough parking. Specialties here (in addition to their wonderful pho—try the one with brisket and flank version) includes steamed spring rolls, shrimp with fish sauce, and vermicelli bowls.
Pho So 1 51 Memorial Parkway, Randolph, 781-961-6500
Face it—Lincoln is a pleasant little town with lots of open space and homes in beautiful settings, but when it comes to restaurants, you have the upscale AKA Bistro and, well, that’s about it. Or is it? Within walking distance of AKA is an auto garage that just happens to have a very good pizza place inside it. Indeed, Country Pizza is one of the most hidden of hidden gems that only locals seem to know about, and the pizza at this tiny eatery within Doherty’s Garage is delicious, though rather tough to categorize (thick pan pies that have a vaguely Greek pizza feel, though more like New London-style pizzas found in parts of Eastern Connecticut). One warning: Don’t go here for the atmosphere, and definitely don’t take a date, unless he or she really, really loves pizza.
Country Pizza 161 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, 781-259-4480 dohertysgarage.com/country_pizza.htm
Even though it borders Boston to the north, Everett is a city that seems to get few visitors when it comes to dining out, though locals do have a few options here and there, mostly for South American fare. The city also has some Italian options (it used to be a heavily Italian community), with one spot being a slightly out-of-the-way place called Abbondanza. A surprisingly large space with two floors of dining, this Main Street restaurant borders on the upscale, with a dark and cozy room on the ground floor and a comfortable room in the basement. Specialties here include butternut squash and amaretto ravioli, cavatelli with sauteed eggplant, lamb chops, frutti di mare, and a beef braciole that isn’t always available, but is truly marvelous, with tender rolled up beef that has a lot of flavor because it is left on the bone.
Abbondanza 195 Main Street, Everett, 617-387-8422 abbondanzaristorante.com
Stoneham is another community north of Boston that doesn’t seem to get much love when it comes to dining out. But it does have a great Japanese eatery in a generic strip mall that folks in the restaurant industry seem to know about. Kyotoya, which is located on Montvale Avenue within sight of Route 93 (making it less than 10 minutes from downtown Boston when there’s no traffic), is quite a bit more attractive on the inside than from the outside. (They are currently undergoing renovations to expand.) Because it isn’t well-known, the place is rarely crowded. Sushi is the specialty here, with excellent versions of flying fish roe nigiri, ume shiso maki (pickled plum and shiso leaf), deep-fried unagi (a “sandwich” that has eel between two pieces of sweet potato), ikura (salmon roe) nigiri, and shitake mushroom tempura maki.
Kyotoya 58 Montvale Avenue, Stoneham, 781-438-9688