A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in Allston
In the grand scheme of gastronomic Boston, Allston certainly gets the short end of the stick. Unless you’re a resident, there seems to be an accepted, haughty dismissiveness regarding its bona fides. Yes, Allston, with its transient student population, sees more than its fair share of cheap drunk food and cookie cutter sports bars. But there is also an unsung level of diversity, with some of the city’s best Japanese shabu-shabu, Taiwanese soup dumplings, shawarma, and even Burmese cuisine. Boston’s culinary black sheep in inundated with enticing finds, as long as you’re willing to look.
To help us on our Allston (with one small detour into Brighton) redemption quest, we’ve enlisted the help of longtime residents Suzi Maitland (Trina’s Starlite, Audubon) and recent Top Chef contestant Stacy Cogswell (Liquid Art House). Over the past couple weeks, the two chefs led us around to all their favorite spots for red sauce and buttery garlic knots, Ddok Bokghi (i.e. the “Korean mac ‘n’ cheese”), and hangover-conquering Mexican food.
The Proper Slice
(UPDATE, August 31, 2016: Sadly, this pizzeria shuttered in spring 2016.)
Maitland: The Proper Slice on Washington Street is an awesome pizza joint in Brighton. They have great traditional slices and a Nutella pizza that’s just sick. Plus, the owners are North Shore boys, and I always like supporting local guys in their adventures.
547 Washington St., Brighton; 617-789-4889 or theproperslice.com.
The Glenville Stops
Cogswell: This hidden gem, located along the side streets of Allston, is great for a shareable meal with a ton of small plates. I’ve never actually ordered any of the entrées because I enjoy all of the small plates so much. Some of my favorites, and there’s a lot of them, include the griddled cheese, the charred octopus, drunken goat cheese, sweet potato dumplings, and pan-roasted brussels sprouts.
87 Glenville Ave., Boston; 617-903-3638 or theglenvillestops.com.
Maitland: The Korean food in this neighborhood is insane. There are a few places that I love like Myung Dong, but that’s more bar food. Buk Kyung on the other hand is great for the overall experience. Everything is good, but I’d recommend the black bean paste noodles, a basket of mini dumplings, the cheese Ddok Bokghi, which is kind of like a Korean mac ’n’ cheese, and, if you’re with a couple of people, definitely the budae jjigae.
151 Brighton Ave., Allston; 617-254-2775 or bukkyungrestaurant.com.
Carlo’s Cucina Italiana
Maitland: My favorite place that I don’t get to enough is Carlo’s Cucina Italiana on Brighton Avenue. It’s a great date spot that’s kind of tucked away. The family behind it is completely hilarious. I mean, the food is always really good and they’ve been there forever, but most importantly, the staff there makes me laugh so hard.
131 Brighton Ave., Allston; 617-254-9759 or carloscucinaitaliana.com.
The Breakfast Club
Cogswell: Far from the greasy spoon you think of when you think diner of food. Plus, in my line of work I sometimes sleep late, and breakfast is served here all day. With a menu with so many good options it’s hard to have just one favorite, but I tend to lean toward their Irish benedict with house-made corned beef hash, or The Basket Case, a big platter of eggs, home fries, French toast, and bacon.
270 Western Ave., Allston; 617-783-1212 or thebreakfastclubboston.com.
Maitland: For dessert, I’m a sucker for everything Southern. At Soulfire my poison is the fried dough with cinnamon, sugar, and honey butter. If you don’t have a sweet-tooth, you could eat your weight in their side dishes like the mac ’n’ cheese, which is good any time of day.
182 Harvard Ave., Allston; 617-787-3003 or soulfirebbq.com.
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Cogswell: Sometimes you just need a grilled cheese, which for me is all the time. I can never get enough of the Allston grilled cheese, made with goat cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, and arugula. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
485 Cambridge St., Allston; roxysgrilledcheese.com.
Maitland: I know BonChon is a chain, but oh my god, their chicken wings are so fricking amazing. Trust me, you’ll be addicted.
123 Brighton Ave. #300, Allston; 617-254-8888; allstonma.bonchon.com.
Cogswell: Deep Ellum is known for their great craft beers and cocktails, but they have seriously fantastic pub fare as well. Some of my faves include the poutine in duck gravy, the root beer braised pork belly, and the classic, yet delicious, steak frites. Its always busy, especially on the weekends, so get there early.
Maitland: For cocktails, there’s no better place in Allston than Deep Ellum. I love “The Man with No Name,” a combo of blanco tequila, agave, peychaud’s, mole bitters, and Chartreuse. They also have an extensive beer list, not to mention a cozy outdoor deck that fills up fast come summertime.
477 Cambridge St., Boston; 617-787-2337 or deepellum-boston.com.
Lone Star Taco Bar
Cogswell: Deep Ellum’s sister restaurant has great tequila and mezcal drinks, not to mention all kinds of outstanding Mexican street food. This is my go-to hangover brunch spot as well. I highly suggest the huevos rancheros, the Mexican blood sausage with poblano grits, and jalapeño corn cakes as a cure-all for whatever woes you. For dinner, I could eat at least 10 tacos in one sitting, one in every flavor, but the chorizo is definitely my favorite. Oh, and the grilled corn with cotijo and chili aioli is not to be missed!
Maitland: I love to bounce back and fourth between Lone Star and Deep Ellum. Lone Star has great small plates like the chili con queso, which I could literally bathe in, it’s so good. They also have this grapefruit salad with jicama that’s really light and delicious. And tostadas. And a rotating selection of spinning frozen drinks on tap. You honestly can’t go wrong there.
479 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-782-8226 or lonestar-boston.com.
Habanero Mexican Grill
Cogswell: A tiny, lesser-known spot, which has fantastic pupusas. They are freshly made to order, very filling, and always super delicious. Get the pupusas revueltas, with pork, cheese, and beans.
166 Brighton Ave., Boston; 617-254-0299
La Befana Pizzeria
Maitland: There’s this really great artisanal pizzeria down the street from Deep Ellum called Le Befana. The owners had run a successful place on Cape Cod before opening in Allston. I’ve fallen in love with their garlic knots, which are buttery and soft, and covered with tons of parm.
15 N.Beacon St., Boston; 617-987-0086 or labefanapizza.com.
Cogswell: With the winter we just had, who wouldn’t want a huge hot bowl of ramen? I am not ashamed to admit that since November I’ve made at least three trips a month to Totto. The spicy ramen bowl will warm you up on even the coldest day. I also love that they also have a lot of add-ons like kimchee, shredded char siu pork, and extra nori to add onto your ramen. The only problem is that it’s cash only, so make sure to stop by the ATM first.
169 Brighton Ave., Allston; 617-202-5075 or tottoramen.com.
Maitland: Lulu’s is one of the neighborhood’s best spots for brunch. Me and one of my sous chefs at Audubon are always talking about Lulu’s White Trash Hash, which is made with braised short rib, tater tots, poached eggs, and hollandaise. I have to change the subject because it’s making me hungry.
421 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-787-1117 or lulusallston.com.