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Reader Q&A

Restaurant critic Devra First took your questions

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July 16, 2008

Are you curious about dining out in the Boston area? What's affordable? What's new that's not to be missed? Devra First, the Globe's restaurant critic, took your dining-related questions and comments on July 16 at noon. Miss the chat? Catch up here.

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Devra_First: Hi chatters. What have you been eating since we last chatted? Anything good?
adagio__Guest_: Hi Devra. With the Red Tide here this summer, where are the clams coming from these days? Also, what's your favorite seafood restaurant on the North Shore?
Devra_First: The red tide has largely abated, and flats have been reopened on the North Shore and the Cape. So clams should again be local. On the North Shore, I'm partial to the Clam Box in Ipswich. Where do you go for North Shore seafood?
Derek__Guest_: Have you dined at Boxk 109 yet? I'm a bit concerned that its locale isn't conducive to long term success.
Devra_First: I haven't had the chance to eat there yet. I sometimes try to wait a bit after openings so restaurants can get their acts together. Have you eaten there? Did you like the food? What particularly concerns you about the locale?
Devra_First: (What concerns me most is the name! Why is it spelled like that?)
Derek__Guest_: Are you aware of any place in Metro Boston that serves authentic Chicago style hot dogs?
Devra_First: Alas, no. Are you a native Chicagoan? We do, however, have many fine non-Chicago-style hot dogs. Speed's in Newmarket Square, Boston, comes to mind. Simco's can be fun, too. And if you head to Rhode Island, you can try the native "gaggers." You may not love 'em, but they're the height of regionality.
cookies__Guest_: Devra, warm cookies. any kind. for dessert. not a bakery. thinking after dinner. oh, and cookies with view. Thanks!
Devra_First: Well, this seems like a leading question. Cookies with a view pretty much equals Top of the Hub. I didn't love the cookies, I have to say. Tasted like they'd been reheated in a microwave. But the view is definitely there. Scampo has cookies too, slightly better but not great. Anyone else know of good warm cookie plates?
emerson__Guest_: Hello Devra- I'm looking for a non-touristy restaurant in the QUincy Market area to take my mom and a group of her colleauges. (They're pretty adventurous)
Devra_First: Is there such a thing as a non-touristy restaurant in Quincy Market? Would you consider heading to the North End? It's not far, and the food is much much better.
eatintout__Guest_: Great place for brunch north of Boston (Salem~area)?
Devra_First: I don't know the Salem brunch scene well. I had a decent diner-style breakfast at a place called Red's once. Can anyone chime in?
emerson__Guest_: Zon's in JP has KILLER ice cream cookie sandwich towers.
Devra_First: Ah, yes, we spent a good portion of our weekly Food section meeting yesterday talking about those.
Ann__Guest_: Abe & Louie's has a good warm cookie dessert. It comes with a mini chocolate fondue for dipping. Pops in the South End is also rumored to have a good cookie plate. No view aside from people watching, though.
re__cookies__Guest_: a water view is great, doesn't have to be a high-up view, but any view worth viewing. If not, good cookie tips work, too. Thanks!
Devra_First: I think you'd like the Zon's sandwich, cookies, unless you're a cookie purist and don't want ice cream in the mix.
hugesunglasses__Guest_: Hi Devra. Why do you think that banQ in the south end hasn't been a breakout smash success?
Devra_First: Hasn't it been? It may not be quite the level of insane shark-frenzy craziness it was right after it opened, but it still seems plenty busy every time I go by.
southend__Guest_: Hi Devra, I know there was a lot of buzz about the Beehive when it first opened. Do you think it's lived up to all the hype? In general, how would you describe the current Sound End restaurant scene, and how would you compare it to other sections of Boston? Thank you.
Devra_First: I think the Beehive's food is not all that, but it can be a fun place to go for a drink and a snack. During the week it tends to be a more diverse, local crowd. On the weekends, as with many other South End restaurants, the guests tend to skew more toward folks from the suburbs who've driven in for the night. I don't think it lives up to the hype as an excellent restaurant, but I've always found that group of folks' restaurants to be that kind of place: the food's OK, but it's fun to hang out there. That's how I feel about Pho Republique, too. (Though I think the food's a bit better at Pho.)
Devra_First: As for the South End restaurant scene, there's a lot going on compared with other sections of Boston, obviously. It's a bit more of a scene than, say, Cambridge, but I often prefer the food at Cambridge restaurants. What do you think of the South End scene? Are the restaurants there as good as they could/should be?
greenmonster__Guest_: Devra. 51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands serves a great fresh baked cookie plate, complete with a small glass of milk. Speaking of which, do you know what became of Mark Allen, who ran Le Soir, which was the prior occupant of the 51 Lincoln Street space?
Devra_First: I love 51 Lincoln. I haven't had their cookies; I'll have to try them. I don't know where Allen is now.
hugesunglasses__Guest_: well it ain't.
Devra_First: How so?
chatty__Guest_: Anything big planned for the local scene in 2009? Any new restaurants opening we should know about? Any old restaurants closing? Thanks.
Devra_First: The big news coming up will be Barbara Lynch's Fort Point project. They're firming up opening dates now and we should have some real news on that soon. I'd like to say the restaurant from Guy Martin, of the three Michelin stars, will be big news, but I have heard rumors that this may not come to pass. Rumors, I stress. I have no concrete info where that's concerned.
Devra_First: Of course, the Mandarin Oriental L'Espalier will be big news.
Devra_First: And the closing of L'Espalier's current brownstone location. The last night is slated for Aug. 30.
ac__Guest_: chicago dogs - they have them at Bad Dawgs in Lowell... maybe Spikes Junkyard Dogs has them too but I'm not sure...
Devra_First: I've never actually eaten a hot dog in Chicago. Should I buy a plane ticket asap? Is it worth it?
Jaime41504__Guest_: Any ideas for a good place to have a rehearsal dinner in the Plymouth area?
Devra_First: I'm sort of stumped. How far are you willing to branch out? (With the caveat that I'll probably still be sort of stumped.)
ac__Guest_: what do you think of Tu y Yo in Somerville? Their menu looks very interesting and different... can you recommend anything (other than the grasshoppers)?
Devra_First: When Tu Y Yo is good, it's really good. I used to order chipotle shrimp there all the time -- fiery shrimp in a citrusy red sauce with beans and rice. Their beans are really good. What, no chapulines? I like their sopes, and anything involving huitlacoche.
Devra_First: There currently seems to be frogs' legs in green mole on the menu, for something different but not as different as grasshoppers. I really like their micheladas, a spicy beer drink. Try any of their specials, too. They sometimes have peppers stuffed with a savory mixture of pomegranate seeds, nuts, goat cheese, and more, but I think that's more of a winter dish.
hugesunglasses__Guest_: what can i say? i just love to chat about food! this is awesome!
Devra_First: Me too.
hugesunglasses__Guest_: Is L'Espalier the only thing going in to the Mandarin, or will there be another bar/restaurant a la the Liberty?
Devra_First: Sel de la Terre will be there as well. Also Asana, the hotel's signature restaurant. According to the website, it'll feature "refined American cuisine and authentic Asian dishes."
ac__Guest_: personally i don't care for Chicago dogs... too many toppings. It is like a salad on top and you can't even see the meat. I like mine simple... all beef with spicy mustard.
Devra_First: Yeah, a fairly unadorned hot dog is a beautiful thing.
Jaime41504__Guest_: Plymouth/Duxbury/Marshfield was the plan...thanks though!
Devra_First: Katie McLeod, a co-worker at Boston.com, has a suggestion. She says Isaac's in Plymouth has great water views and good food. It's spacious and easy to get to off the highway Here's the link: http://www.isaacsdining.com/index.htm. Thanks, Katie!
big_willy__Guest_: where can i get good thai food near south boston or financial district/south end?
Devra_First: Do you want to eat in or take out? It's not the best area for Thai food, but Brown Sugar in the Fenway delivers to the South End. (Cash only.) For some reason, the better Thai food seems concentrated in the Fenway and Brookline: the Rod Dees and Dok Bua.
greenmonster__Guest_: We miss the Claremont Cafe brunch in the South End. Any recommendations for restaurants in the area that serve the same kind of homey brunch?
Devra_First: Not quite the same, but Pops is really good for brunch. Lots of people like Union, but I feel sort of meh about it for brunch.
DivaofDining__Guest_: I'm interested to hear what you think of La Morra in Brookline.
Devra_First: I really like it, particularly the pasta. I think the price point's fairly reasonable for what you get. What do you think?
bailey__Guest_: Is the Guy Martin restaurant the one that was to open at Batterymarch on the waterfront in the North End? Do you know of any other restaurants that are going there?
Devra_First: Yes, part of the Regent hotel. I don't know what's happening with that development. And the Martin restaurant may still be on.
hugesunglasses__Guest_: charlie's sandwich shop on tremont is a terrific place for down-home breakfast/diner food!
Devra_First: True! It doesn't have that Claremont "ahhh, it's Sunday morning" feeling, but it's a good option.
DivaofDining__Guest_: I've been there twice and was really impressed -- the pasta is all homemade and the menu was totally different both times. I was also surprised that it was packed both times, given that it's hidden on Route 9.
Devra_First: Hidden on Route 9. That's a funny concept. Yes, that homemade pasta is really good. I'm a total sucker for homemade pasta.
Devra_First: Plus, I think the folks who run it really care, which always makes the food taste better.
chickenbrocandziti__Guest_: Any word on the Publick House and the opening of their BBQ place? Is there a date ?
Devra_First: I almost included that in my list of exciting upcoming openings earlier. The Roadhouse is supposed to open in early August, in the old Vinny T's spot in Washington Square. They're hiring now, if the idea of working somewhere with about a million American craft beers and potentially amazing pit-smoked meats appeals to you.
Devra_First: (Can you tell I'm vaguely thinking of taking on a second job?)
DivaofDining__Guest_: Perhaps, but would you really have noticed that place if you weren't looking for it? I sure didn't.
Devra_First: I was just teasing -- I knew what you meant.
DivaofDining__Guest_: Its interesting you mention that they care - the first time I went was during restaurant week, which can be more of a get-you-in-get-you-out experience with some restaurants. We were there practically all night and there was not pressure to finish up and leave, despite a packed house. A nice change.
SamDonaldson__Guest_: Do you have any idea when Sofra is going to open?
Devra_First: The last I heard was July, but it's July! Do you live near there? And are you the *real* Sam Donaldson?
greenmonster__Guest_: We have never had a bad experience at La Morra. Everyone cares -- from the folks in the kitchen to the servers in the dining rooms.
Devra_First: Lotta love for La Morra on this chat!
Foodie__Guest_: What are some of your favorite new restaurants?
Devra_First: I really like Hungry Mother and Benatti in Cambridge, Persephone in Fort Point. You?
lyndey__Guest_: I'm in a book club that meets monthly in different restaurants. The only requirement is that it's on the T and has to be able to accommodate 5-10 people. has anything opened recently in a moderate price range?
Devra_First: That's a fun idea. Recently, hmm. Well, there's Estragon in the South End, which is a bit of a trek from the T. But there's lots of room most weeknights for a group. The music can be a bit loud. Townsend's in Hyde Park, which I reviewed today, would be a great place -- it's on the commuter rail. Troquet's not new, but it does have a new dessert bar. You could do a dessert book group.
Foodie__Guest_: Going to Hungry Mother tonight! My parents were just at Benatti and loved it. I tend to go to the same old standards so I need help branching out!
Devra_First: That's a good place to start branching. Let me know how you like it.
SamDonaldson__Guest_: Have you tried any good cookbooks recently? I'm always on the lookout for a great cookbook.
Devra_First: Well, as you ask about Sofra, have you tried Ana Sortun's cookbook, "Spice"? It's not new, but it's great. Fairly complicated, but you can pare the recipes back a bit and still get great results. Many of the dishes taste just like things you may have eaten at Oleana.
Devra_First: We're out of time. Sorry I didn't get to all your questions! Come back week after next and ask them again. Thanks for chatting.
SamDonaldson__Guest_: Green Street Grill in Central has solid food, great drinks and plenty of room for a group. And I do live near Sofra, so I'm waiting with great anticipation as I love Oleana! But, alas, I am not Sam Donaldson.
Devra_First: Oh, but one last comment from the other Sam Donaldson.

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