A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in Brookline
Brookline might be better known for Frederick Law Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace and its laundry list of famous residents: The Kennedys, the Bradys, and the O’Briens (Conan, that is). But over the last decade, this once sleepy hamlet has developed a bona fide culinary scene. No longer is Brookline the gateway to suburbia, but a diverse and bustling gastronomic destination that is fostering some of Boston’s best up-and-coming talent.
Beyond the Ribelles and the Barcelonas though, Brookline has held onto its quaint neighborhood roots: the kosher bagels and pastries of Kupel’s, Gerald Finnegan’s outstanding bistro cuisine at Washington Square Tavern, and cozy La Morra’s hearty northern Italian fare.
That’s why we asked two longtime Brookline residents, Jason Cheek of Sam’s at Louis (formerly Merrill & Co.) and Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Pastry Chef winner Jared Bacheller (L’Espalier), to lead us around their booming neighborhood. (And due to their endless love for Sicilian pies and chicken and waffles, we let them stray from the ‘hood just a teeny bit.)
Cheek: You can’t go wrong with anything involving the pastrami, including the Pearl Frank, which is draped in a tons of pastrami. But I always go for the classic Reuben. Hands down, Michael’s has the best Reuben.
256 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-738-3354 or michaelsdelibrookline.com.
The Brookline Spa
Bacheller: This is my go-t0 sandwich shop. They have great Buffalo chicken and I always order the chicken salad on a bulkie roll with bacon, lettuce, and tomato. I typically do a lot of running, so I’ll go by Brookline Spa whenever I’m trying to bulk up, because the sandwiches are so big and filling. They also have this awesome thing called a cheeseburger sub, which is like a regular hamburger with American cheese and lettuce, but stuffed into a giant sub roll. This is the stop when you’re hungry and want to just pig out.
75 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-566-6060 or thebrooklinespa.com.
Cheek: Rich Morin does a great job over there. He changes the menu all the time, so it’s hard to just pick one or two things. Everyone will tell you to order the spicy lobster tacos, but he changes the menu so much and there’s always something really special, like the Nantucket Bay scallops that he’s currently serving. I always look forward to the wintertime when he has the wood-fired oven going. It makes everything, like the Bell & Evans chicken breast, so much sexier.
242 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-232-0065 or lineagerestaurant.com.
Bacheller: This one is in Allston, but just on the Brookline border, and only a five-minute drive from my house. It’s an all vegan ice cream shop which is cool in itself, but the kicker is that the ice cream is incredible. It has better flavors and texture over most traditional creameries in Boston. I love the coconut magic bar and the matcha white chocolate chip. A girl that I date is vegan, and I wouldn’t have even gone in there if it wasn’t for her. She had the hardest time getting me to go the first time. Now whenever I’m craving ice cream, I go to FoMu.
481 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-903-3276 or fomuicecream.com.
Cheek: Seven Subs is so great! It’s not a sit-down spot, it’s this off-the-beaten-path pick-up place with two guys at the counter just banging out sandwiches. I always go there before I go on road trips to grab some sandwiches and hot dogs. Order the Unforgiven, which is the big, messy roast beef sandwich with potato salad, cheese, and barbecue sauce. It’s impossible to stay clean, but so delicious.
1364 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-232-7070 or eatsevens.com.
Bacheller: Temptations is my almost-daily coffee shop. They serve up fresh-made breakfast sandwiches and they carry George Howell coffee. We also serve George Howell at the restaurant [L’Espalier], I’ve been to a couple of events with George, and I’ve visited the roastery a few times, so I have a deep appreciation for that product. Most of their breakfast sandwiches follow that standard egg, cheese, and meat on and English muffin formula, but they’ll accommodate any variation. I always go for one with egg, cheese, tomato, and avocado on multigrain bread, something semi-healthy. This is another place where I’ll load up on food after an early morning run.
1350 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-739-4400 or temptations-cafe.com.
The Publick House
Cheek: I was there last night, and they just started doing a late-night menu until 1 a.m. I’ve got to tell you, everything I had on there was awesome. They’ve got poutine, jalapeno cheese corn dogs, hoisin-glazed duck wings, Philly cheesesteak spring rolls, and this thing called “Dad’s Beer,” where for $4 you can get a tall boy of Colt 45, Miller High Life, or Schlitz. Nothing on that menu was over $12 and it was all really good. That was one of the only things that used to disappoint me about Publick House: whenever I was getting off of work they would have already stopped serving food. That late-night menu was a hallelujah moment for me.
1648 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-277-2880 or publickhousebeerbar.com.
Taberna de Haro
Cheek: Taberna has the best Spanish tapas in the area. And remember, I worked at Toro. The owner, Deborah Hansen, I think she has one of the most incredible wine lists in the city. Whenever cava season comes around, she has every single one imaginable. During the summer, I spend so much time on that big patio just drinking cava rosé. I love the grilled octopus whenever it’s on special and I always order the whole roasted fish, no matter what it is. Even that rustic potato salad that she makes, which is a beginner’s course or an amuse bouche, is just the best way to start a meal. Whenever you’re talking about very classic Spanish dishes, something I’m very biased toward because of my time at Toro—Taberna really excels at that.
999 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-277-8272 or tabernaboston.com.
Pino’s Pizza (Brighton)
Cheek: Oh man, Pino’s has the best pizza. Just their traditional Sicilian with cheese or pepperoni is one of my favorites in the city. If you go in there, you can order some slices, but if you’re getting something to go, you have to order a whole pie. It’s a huge pizza and totally worth the money. Whenever I can get it when it comes fresh out of the oven, I just love it. They also make a mean veal cutlet sandwich. And if you’re hungry for breakfast, go over there and get their pepper and egg sub. They’ve been around for 25 years in Cleveland Circle, but it still feels like a hidden gem, especially when compared to something like Eagles Deli, which everyone knows about.
1920-A Beacon St., Boston; 617-566-6468 or pinospizza.com.
Cheek: Village Smokehouse has the best brisket burnt ends I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten a lot of barbecue in my day. I like that they have that open pit right there in the middle of the space. There’s always really good beers on tap and the atmosphere is awesome. When you’re looking for some good pulled pork or a really nice barbecue plate, yeah you can go to Soulfire or Redbones or whatever, but Smokehouse is always spot on. They just have really, really good barbecue.
1 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-566-3782 or villagesmokehouse.com.
Cheek: Whenever I have a day off, I definitely stop into Zaftigs because on the weekends, if you don’t get there super early, you’re screwed. You’ll never get in. I’ve seen people wait for two hours trying to get into that brunch. And honestly, I see why they suck it up and wait. You can actually get a beer there, which is awesome because most delicatessens don’t offer that. They also have Dr. Brown’s cream soda and egg creams and all these things you can’t really find anywhere else. Their open-faced sandwiches and hearty matzo ball soup is all very good, but I always go for the smoked salmon eggs benedict on potato pancakes. It bangs!
335 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-975-0075 or zaftigs.com.
Bacheller: This is a regular spot for me to swing in for a slice and a cold beer. I’m a big beer fan and Otto is always rotating through some great craft beer. They don’t carry anything generic or boring. What I especially like about them is that they’re not just a typical pizza joint. They have tons of interesting flavors like a pizza with mashed potato, bacon, and scallions or the spicy pulled pork with mango.
289 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-499-3352 or ottoportland.com.
Bacheller: The staff is super friendly, especially on Mondays when they get in a lot of industry people. In addition, the menu is all really good, like the waffles, fried chicken, and all those homey classics. I always go for the house-made corned beef hash with home fries. The way they do their home fries is unlike anywhere else. They slice the potatoes really thin, so they’re super crispy. They also have vegan options, which is very progressive of them.
431 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-208-8741 or allstondiner.com.
Cheek: I go see my boys all the time at Fairsted Kitchen. Andrew Foster and Steve Bowman are good friends of mine, but I really go because Jason [Albus] does a really good job with the food. I love the old-style, antique-y atmosphere of the place, especially in the summer because they have one of the most quaint boutique patios in the city. They’re kind of like an underdog with big bad Barcelona [Wine Bar] beside them. I love the fact that you can get a perfectly executed pot de crème for dessert and fun little small plates that are so good, they make you want to eat around the entire menu.
1704 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-396-8752 or fairstedkitchen.com.