How to Ditch the Crowds on Valentine’s Day, Part 2

Hit up one of these hidden gems to avoid the whole Valentine’s Day rush.

By | Chowder |

Welcome to Hidden Gems, where local food blogger Marc Hurwitz (of Hidden Boston andBoston Restaurant Talk) spotlights off-the-beaten-path, under-the-radar restaurants.

Photo by Robin Birney on Flickr

Photo by Robin Birney on Flickr

Last year, we looked at four romantic restaurants that tend to fly under the radar as good Valentine’s Day options, including Jasmine Bistro in Brighton, Antique Table in Lynn, Sophia’s Grotto in Roslindale, and L’Impasto in Cambridge. And now, with the big day quickly approaching, it seems like a good time to check out four more lesser-known restaurants worth going to with your significant other, especially if you don’t want to fight the crowds.

GASLIGHT
560 Harrison Ave., South End, 617-422-0224, gaslight560.com

The South End is home to a number of some very popular dining spots, but once you get into the SoWa section of the neighborhood, there are some much quieter hidden gems. One such place is Gaslight, a French eatery located in a beautiful old space on Harrison Avenue that has antique-looking “streetlights,” a beamed ceiling, lots of dark wood throughout, and an attractive zinc bar. Highlights on the menu include a hearty French onion soup with truffled beef short ribs, perfectly-seasoned handcut frites, house-made tagliatelle that comes with short ribs, chicken, or other items depending on when you go. Don’t skip the chocolate beignets that are so rich that it can be difficult to finish them off.

GUSTAZO CAFÉ
289 Belmont St., Belmont, 855-487-8296, gustazo-cubancafe.com

Belmont used to be a bit of a restaurant wasteland years ago, but now this western suburb is home to a number of excellent dining spots, including a warm and charming Cuban place called Gustazo Café. Located right on Belmont Street, this eatery is very tiny, but with its dim lighting, large windows, and warm, earthy vibe, Gustazo is a great place to go with that special someone. The Cuban fare is excellent, by the way, with a classic Cuban stew with a variety of veggies, a yucca frita plate with a savory chimichurri sauce, a solid version of a Cuban sandwich with slow-roasted pork, ham, Gruyere cheese, pickles, and spicy mustard, and a tender skirt steak marinated in an aromatic sofrito sauce.

SHANTI
1111 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, 617-929-3900, shantiboston.com

Dorchester Avenue is one of Boston’s longest streets, and it’s known in part for its old-school neighborhood pubs and inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants. It also has a handful of mid-level and upscale dining spots with nice atmosphere, including Shanti, an Indian restaurant in the heart of Savin Hill. The interior of this peaceful place borders on the exotic, with a dark and moody feel to it and a low noise level that allows for quiet conversation. Shanti’s menu tends to focus a bit more on Northern Indian cuisine, with a few items including a wonderful peshawary naan that has a complex mix of flavors coming from raisins, almonds, coconut, and pistachio nuts, a mild but delicious biryani with long-grain rice, herbs, spices, veggies, and meat, and tender Tandoori chicken kebabs in a rich marinade.

BOCELLI’S
374 Main St, Medford, 781-396-7070, bocellisrestaurant.com

South Medford hasn’t changed all that much over the years, with this Italian neighborhood containing a number of old-fashioned restaurants and food shops including Bob’s Italian food store, Bella Ravioli, and La Cascia (which has excellent Sicilian pizza, by the way). One of the few full-service dining spots in South Medford is Bocelli’s, which looks like a basic restaurant and bar upstairs, but a steep and winding staircase to the right takes you down into an old-world atmosphere that feels almost like a private club. Red sauce is the name of the game here, with the chicken parmigiana, baked ziti, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and manicotti all being great comfort food dishes, served in a comfortable, and yes, very romantic space.