Chinese New Year specials, cafe comebacks, and more food events to check out this weekend

Plus, why I'm excited about both a vegan takeover and Schnitzelfest.

ShùNian drinks for two at Red Lantern
ShùNian drinks for two at Red Lantern. –Red Lantern

Last weekend, I took a quick trip to Providence, R.I., for some quality time spent eating, drinking, and hanging out with friends. A big thanks to everyone who sent recommendations my way — while I wasn’t able to get to all of them because of time constraints, it just means that I’ll have to visit again soon. The highlight, undoubtedly, was lunch at Aleppo Sweets, a much-lauded Syrian cafe in Fox Point serving my now-favorite chicken shawarma, the creamiest hummus, and honey-drenched baklava that I savored while pouring and re-pouring from a pot of ginger, cardamom, and mint tea. Friends and families congregated around sunken couches, communal high-tops, and low tables, and I could have spent hours sipping tea and watching people go wide-eyed over incredible dishes.

Advertisement

If you love cafe culture, something Aleppo Sweets excels at, you will be happy to know that there’s plenty of positive cafe news in Boston, from comebacks to newcomers to temporary pop-ups. I’ve highlighted a few of them below. Chinese New Year also kicks off this weekend; check out some of the food and drinks specials around the city after watching the Chinatown parade. For more weekend food adventures (and a Monday bonus one as well), read on — and please share some of your favorite local cafes in the comments.

1. Cafes: The new, the pop-up, the comebacks

The Italian grinder croissant at Café Beatrice
The Italian grinder croissant at Café Beatrice. —Café Beatrice

First, let’s talk about the comebacks. In January 2019, Haley House Bakery Café — a community space and restaurant in Roxbury — announced that it would close temporarily to reevaluate its business concept. Well, they’re back: Haley House is now in soft open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. as they test out new software and a new menu, with a grand re-opening scheduled for Feb. 1. Go show them some love while snagging a couple chocolate chip cookies.

Also making a comeback: Swissbäkers, which re-opened its Allston location last week after abruptly closing all outposts back in early December. A limited selection of coffee and baked goods is available from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends as the bakery gets back on its feet.

Advertisement

Over in Cambridge, The Little Crepe Café quietly opened with Belgian waffles, sandwiches, smoothies, and, naturally, sweet and savory crepes; the menu is expected to expand in the coming months. And finally, Café Beatrice, the latest concept from chef Will Gilson scheduled to open at Cambridge Crossing later this year, will pop-up next to Puritan & Co. in Cambridge on Saturday, offering breakfast sandwiches, sweets, and more from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. See you there?

2. Chinese New Year

Red 8 at Encore Boston Harbor
Red 8 at Encore Boston Harbor. —Encore Boston Harbor

Chinese New Year begins on Saturday, a festive, family-focused, two-weeks long celebration brought to life in Boston through Chinatown’s annual parade, along with lion dances, cultural exhibitions, and plenty of good food across the city to help usher in the Year of the Rat. At Encore’s Red 8, chef Ivan Yuen is offering a special menu throughout the month, with dishes that convey prosperity and good fortune: braised pork feet with sea moss, billionaire’s Cantonese-style fried rice, and lobster and prawn spring rolls, to name a few. Both Empire and Red Lantern are joining the festivities, with dragon dancing, music, and drink specials on Saturday at the former, and food (steamed whole fish, Peking duck) and drink (baiju cocktails for two) specials on Friday and Saturday at the latter. Bow Market’s macaron shop, Maca, will release limited-editions of its Chinese New Year macarons (think red lanterns stuffed with red bean), along with Pokémon-themed creations on Saturday. And because dumplings are always a great idea, check out this list of 153 dumpling spots (curated by you!) for baskets of Boston’s best soup, pan-fried, steamed, and Taiwanese-style dumplings.

3. Planted Society

Advertisement

I don’t usually kick off a new year by tackling Dry January or attempting the Whole30, though I understand the appeal to revamp your routine — even if it is just for a month. Still, I have been consciously trying to scale back my meat intake this year, which is why I’m intrigued by a Planted Society-hosted event at Lower Mills Tavern. Planted Society, which just launched in Boston, partners with local restaurants and chefs to create limited-time vegan menus — and this entire week, they’re working with Lower Mills Tavern in Dorchester. Available each night until Sunday, you can sit down for an à la carte dinner featuring Moroccan chickpea and barley salad, winter squash fried rice, molasses tofu steak, and pistachio olive oil cake, offered from 4 p.m. to midnight. The regular dinner menu will be available as well, in case you’re coming with a friend who has no interest in veering away from meat — for a month or otherwise.

4. Schnitzelfest at Bronwyn

So that part where I said I was trying to scale back my meat intake? It’s a little hard when Bronwyn is throwing Schnitzelfest, its annual, week-long celebration of the classic Austrian and German dish. There are a few days left until it wraps up on Sunday, with each night featuring an inventive variation: hot chicken schnitzel on Thursday, barbecue schnitzel on Friday, jaegar schnitzel on Saturday, and bauern schnitzel on Sunday. Each $22 plate is served with potatoes and sauerkraut, with the option of adding a $10 liter of beer to your order. Ok, so maybe I’ll have meat one night this weekend.

5. Ramen Pop-up at Fool’s Errand

Ramen pop-up at Fool's Errand
Ramen pop-up at Fool’s Errand. —Fool's Errand

Let’s say your weekend is extending into Monday. And let’s say you’re in the mood for some ramen that day. Behold: Chef Tiffani Faison’s annual ramen pop-up, which she has held at Sweet Cheeks Q since 2014, is relocating to sister restaurant Fool’s Errand in the Fenway. Starting at noon on Monday and available until it runs around, the standing room-only bar will serve smoked tonkatsu ramen for $15, an umami-rich bowl of sun noodles swimming in a broth brewed with chicken and pork bones, kombu dashi, miso, sesame, mushrooms, and charred vegetables, and topped with roasted king oyster mushrooms, a 5-minute egg, spicy bean sprouts, koji smoked pork neck, scallions, and fermented chili oil. Pair it with some shishitos, ginger braised pork buns, and a Japanese beer or sake.