You might think we had our fill of incredible food on our trip to New York City just one month earlier. If you did, you probably don’t know us very well. That’s okay, we’re just getting going on the blog. You’ll learn soon enough that I am *slightly obsessed* about finding amazing food at an excellent price everywhere we go. While we’re always seeking low-cost choices, we splurge every now and then.
I attended college in Boston and lived in the city for a few years after graduation. What an fortunate place to begin my lifelong love of dining. Other than an overnight business trip in the nineties, I haven’t returned since I moved away. We were long overdue for a visit to this happening city.
Tim and I spent 6 full days in Boston and I’m sharing our notable food stops. Boston offers a lot of variety at all price points. I’ve done the research and taste-testing so you don’t have to go in blind if you’re visiting. Three were so yummy, we couldn’t resist a second (or third) visit.
Num Pang – Our first full day found us in the Back Bay. We spent much longer at the Prudential Skywalk than we had planned and were famished for lunch at 3PM. Walking around the Prudential complex, we saw a sign for Num Pang. Could this be THE VERY SAME Num Pang we discovered in NYC the past month? THE VERY SAME Num Pang that served my favorite item on the whole food-focused trip to New York? Indeed, it was. The first Boston location opened just a month before our trip. This time, we wanted two sandwiches and I already knew the Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich was one of them. The helpful cashier steered us toward the Roasted Chicken Chimi Sandwich with a side of Charred Broccoli. Thank Goodness we started with the chicken because it was a pale choice next to the Pork Belly. One helluva fabulous sandwich, the Pork is complex and each bite is unique. It’s warm and fatty while cool and crisp. It’s like a pinball machine for your mouth. The bread is fresh and each ingredient lends a starring role. The chicken was fine but it didn’t have a chance. The broccoli was just okay but at least we had a veggie! $23.49 – Amy A+ // Tim A+
Eataly – We stumbled upon Mario Batali’s popular emporium of Italian ingredients and prepared food. It’s a place I enjoy browsing but it’s too expensive for this frugal chica. We spotted one thing we couldn’t resist…a freshly-filled cannolo (note – one is a cannolo, more than one are cannoli). We got the special cannolo which allowed us to pick 2 items to embellish our treat. We went with pistachios and orange peel. I’ve had better but it was a nice sweet goodie on a hot day. Unfortunately, the service was bordering on surly which dulled my impression. $4.92 – Amy A- // Tim B
Toscanini’s – A local friend brought us to Toscanini’s in Cambridge for what he promised was the world’s best ice cream. The signs in their window advertised their accolades. Standing outside, I wasn’t convinced. I’ve had some killer ice cream in my life, but the best? I couldn’t name it. The long lines meant this wasn’t a hidden gem. Tim and I shared a scoop of khulfee and the Triple B (brown sugar, brown butter and brownies). Both flavors tied for the best ice cream I can remember having. EVER. We liked them equally. The khulfee was sublime, with a satisfying punch of cardamom. The B3 combination was much greater than the sum of its three parts. We loved it so much, we took a long (walking) detour to return later in the trip and considered a third visit on our last day but the heat and tight time frame made it too challenging. We debated trying new flavors on our second visit but why mess with perfection? We stuck with our original order. Tim seriously suggested we get another round as soon as we were finished. I have broken this man who has never had a sweet tooth. Toscanini’s has been open since 1986. That means I could have visited the entire time I lived in Boston. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know about it or I’d probably be a diabetic now. $6.88 – Amy A+ // Tim A+
Pauli’s – This casual eatery in the North End is known for their lobster rolls. You can choose cold (with mayo) or hot (with butter). How to decide? Don’t! We got one of each and couldn’t pick a favorite. We were thrilled with the huge pieces of mouth-watering lobster. Pauli was interviewed on camera right next to us and he seemed to be a friendly guy. Worth-It Splurge. $40.64 – Amy A+ // Tim A+
Taiwan Cafe – We met my cousin and his wife for dinner in Chinatown. Before I was 21, we’d go scorpion bowling at one of the nearby Chinese restaurants since they didn’t check IDs. Thankfully, those no longer have appeal for me – too huge and too sweet – but, I have good (drunken) memories. Back to the present! A local friend steered us to Taiwan Cafe, a place that felt very authentic. They have a huge menu filled with an overwhelming number of options. I texted pics of the menu to a foodie friend from Taiwan and she quickly sent back suggestions for our order…Sauteed Pork Belly with Veggie and Pepper, Simmered Chopped Chicken with 3 Essences in Hot Pot and Sauteed A-Tsai with Garlic. They were out of the last dish (whatever A-tsai is) and offered Sauteed Watercress in its place. I’m thankful our consulting friend knew to skip the frog and offal. Throw in an serving of regular dumplings and we were a happy group. PS…My friend strongly urged us to bypass the dumplings but we couldn’t resist. Everything we tried was delicious and highly recommended. Even the dumplings. Tim says it was good but not memorable. $33.00 – Amy A // Tim B+
Shabu & Mein – Our first shabu and ramen experience, all rolled into one. This was a messy meal with the long udon noodles leaving their mark on my blouse in multiple places. It was fun and interactive, though. We tried one of their ramen specials, Crazy Pork Ramen, and it was a winner. The shabu was probably a one-time thing for us. We selected two different broths, Kimchi and Tom Yum. Normally, I enjoy kimchi but I wasn’t a fan of the broth. The Tom Yum was much better. We cooked all of the ingredients in the steaming hot broth. Since each item cooks at a different pace, timing was a bit tricky and this was more of a novelty than something I would opt for again. That being said, Shabu & Mein did a great job with a patient server who showed us the technique. $62.43 – Amy B+ // Tim A
Mike’s Pastry – Known for their famous cannoli, we found ourselves walking past the Harvard Square location and were open to a snack. They offer many varieties of filling and I’m a sucker for anything almond-flavored. We enjoyed this one more than the Eataly version, though both were good. $4.75 – Amy A // Tim A
Panza – In my first job out of college, I would often eat amazing Italian food in Boston’s North End so I held out hope that it wouldn’t let me down. OH THANK GOODNESS, it did not. We planned dinner at a restaurant that didn’t take reservations. There was a massive line when we arrived. Tim gets cranky when he’s hungry so we needed to figure out Plan B quickly. We looked up the restaurant across the street on our phone to see what Yelp had to say. Nearly a thousand reviews with an average score of 4 out of 5 and one open table meant we were on board. It was very hot and humid on this June night so we started with the Italian Chopped Salad for 2. Simple, but every ingredient added to the dish. I could eat this salad every day. We try to order just enough food to be satisfied and started with one entree to split, the Veal Saltimbocca. This is classic Italian-American food cooked wonderfully. The side dish of pasta isn’t something I used to care about or even eat. Their red sauce was nicely flavored so we gobbled it all up. With many outrageous bakeries nearby, they don’t offer dessert. No problem…we had get a side order of meatballs for our last course. Thank you, Panza! $73.00 (included a few beers and a glass of wine) – Amy A+ // Tim A
Modern Pastry – After dinner in the North End, we weren’t going to resist the famous bakeries. Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry have their devout fans. We tried Mike’s cannolo a few days earlier so figured it was only fair to give Modern Pastry a spin. I got their Whoopie Pie. Huge and refrigerated. theirs was magnificent. Think of an elevated Hostess Cupcake with just-the-right-consistency-and-sweetness buttercream frosting sandwiched between two piece of chocolate cake. One was not enough. We returned two more times during our trip. It’s (almost) a shame I split each one with Tim. We tried their homemade torrone and a few pignoli cookies – both great but not coming close to their whoopie pie. $2.50 (cash only) – Amy A+ // Tim A
La Famiglia Giorgio’s – When I was in my young 20s and worked near the North End, my coworkers and I would head to La Famiglia Giorgio’s for lunch every so often. Their portions were massive and their pricing was reasonable. Plus, their food was good. Happy to see it’s still around, 25 years later! Their space has been completely remodeled but they still serve a mixed plate of Italian-American food Monday through Friday, noon until 3PM. Each day of the week, they offer 5 entrees for $7.95 at this lovely spot with table service. Sample all five entrees or any combination. Vegetarian options are always part of the mix. It was all scrumptious. Our leftovers lasted us for two more meals (each!). Three meals for 11 bucks? Sign us up! On our way out, Tim exclaimed “I don’t know why anyone would go anywhere else for lunch”. We visited on a Monday and a Friday and tried 9 of the 10 options. Best bargain of the trip. $22 – Amy A+ // Tim A+
It sure looks as though that’s a lot of food. These were the highlights…there are plenty of okay stops I didn’t include. Nearly all of the desserts made it. Mediocre desserts have no room in my life!
We are back home and back to the healthy eating, healthy living lifestyle. I’ve got to admit, writing this up and reminiscing about our delectable eats made me hungry!
How about you? Is good food an important part of your travels? Please comment below!