These places do not serve many leafy greens. They’re restaurants with lines around the block, no matter what the weather, and they serve heaping mounds of ramen noodles, cinnamon-Danish French toast, juicy pork-filled dumplings, and salty, succulent meats. They all have legions of fans and when your friends go, they’re probably filling your social media feeds with phone shots of their dinners. Even if you don’t know them, plenty of people do. They have a cult following.
Whether it’s a taste of childhood you’re after, a midnight snack, or simple comfort food in times of stress (we were all there last week), we come to these places with a purpose: to satisfy a craving. One is weekend brunch. Sunday morning there are lines stretching out the door of popular spots, and if you think French toast is dull, you’ll find exciting variations you never thought of. Another craving is for Brazilian fare at a churrascaria (barbecue restaurant), where several kinds of succulent meats are cooked rotisserie-style. Ramen is a relatively recent craving. After percolating for years in New York and LA, the craze has finally hit Boston. And all things tapas, which used to mean Spanish food, but now applies to anything chefs decide to make in small portions, a fun and luxurious way to dine. And who doesn’t crave a dog or a burger or outstanding fries or a homemade doughnut now and again? From our newest fast food establishments we expect fresh ingredients and house-made everything. And finally, broth-and meat-filled Chinese dumplings. When all else fails, broth is the most comforting of all foods.
At a time when our city is recovering, we count on our favorite places and the good people who work at them to bring a bit of normalcy, and joy, back into daily life. Let’s eat.
Deluxe Town Diner
627 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown
You’ll wait at least 45 minutes on a weekend, where folks pile into vinyl booths for sweet potato pancakes and other treats. “Make sure you get them with pecans,” Joanna Brownstein, another customer, tells us. According to our waitress, there are “tons” of regulars but, “every shift, I get someone in here for the first time.” The day after the Marathon explosions, she wondered aloud to her manager, “Are they going to come out?” It was a quieter morning than usual, but then the regulars began to show up, “They all came — and then some,” she says.
Trina’s Starlite Lounge
3 Beacon St., Inman Square, Somerville, 617-576-0006
Anyone who has spent time waiting tables knows that serving Sunday brunch can be a miserable shift, and a meal that those in the industry rarely get to enjoy. Trina’s offers brunch for chefs and servers Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. It’s a lively crowd, “about 85 percent industry people,” our server tells us. On holidays, the 9 to 5ers show up for chicken and waffles, creamy corn fritters, and brunch cocktails that pack a punch. Before he opened Trina’s, co-owner Beau Sturm says, “My wife and I were out for brunch and just thought, we should give this back to the industry. We thought, we’ll give it a shot and if it doesn’t work out, maybe we’ll pare back and do it once a month. But it just took off, and we never looked back.”
J & M Diner Inc.
969 Concord St., Framingham
When we arrive at J&M, there are a dozen people waiting outside, and a dozen more smushed inside the packed restaurant, waiting for a seat. Jessica Cloutier is here with her husband, John, and two teenage sons. Cloutier, a high-school friend of Karen Fiore, who co-owns the diner with her husband, Jim, raves about the food and says “everyone is just so friendly, and happy to see you, no matter how crowded it gets.” A group of middle-school girls has convinced someone’s mom to bring them after seeing mouthwatering pictures on Instagram. After 40 minutes, we are seated at the counter and inhale lemony eggs Benedict, overstuffed omelets, and Wicked Sinful French toast, large slices of cinnamon-Danish pastry, given the egg treatment, topped with gooey icing, and piled high with fruit and whipped cream. To our horror, we eat every last bite. A very hungry man still waiting for a table is getting a little impatient. “I’ve never been here, but I saw the line and figured it must be good. Is it worth it?,” he asks. Yes, it most certainly is.
373 Main St., Medford, 781-396-8337 www.newoasisrestaurant.com
At Oasis, you have two options: pay by the pound or go with the popular all-you-can-eat option. You make trips to a salad bar for sweet caramelized plantains and several types of rice and beans. Then, most importantly, to the rotisserie, where a server carves beef, pork, sausage, and chicken. A Haitian-American diner at the next table tells us that this food, especially the rice and beans, reminds her of home. When she comes here, she says, she realizes how popular the place is. “I had no idea my neighborhood was so diverse.” Our waitress, Miria Slaviero, thinks only about 10 percent of the clientele is Brazilian, though many Brazilian families fill the restaurant on Sundays after church. Slaviero tells us about the caipirinha, a limey drink made with cachaca; it’s the perfect way to wash down all that deliciously salty meat.Continued...