When you think of Boston, a variety of fun stereotypes probably come to mind. Depending on your familiarity with the city, such stereotypes could include wicked hilarious and/or hard to interpret accents, wicked cold winters, wicked famous clam chowder, wicked smaht colleges, wicked liberals, and wicked witches (of Salem).
Oh, I almost forgot the wicked serious sports fans.
When you grow up in Boston, explore the world, attend college in rural Pennsylvania and move to Washington, DC, you come to realize just how true those stereotypes can be. Sure, Boston is more than just accents, seafood and intense Red Sox fans. There’s history, museums, cobblestones, ducklings, Damons, and Afflecks. But Boston is a beloved subject of popular culture for a reason: it’s a city where Harvard (Yahd) intersects with Fenway Franks. If you’re thinking that Matt Damon’s relationship with Minnie Driver in Good Will Hunting is a good metaphor for this odd hi-lo Boston conundrum, then I’d say you’d be right. Yous a smaht one (translated: you are a smart one).
I could bore you senseless with ramblings about Boston, but I won’t because then I might not get to the food. And the food is clearly what you came here for.
The Otherside Cafe is a charming dive restaurant where the lack of service is part of the supposed appeal (if you’re into that type of thing). The music is loud and of the indie variety, and while it generally appeals to my sensibilities and would be right at home in in the East Village, it’s not exactly appealing to a wide variety of diners. And unfortunately when the ambiance makes your dining companions uncomfortable, the food becomes uncomfortable. Call me an old biddy, but I like to hear my dining companions rather than a playlist that’s sometimes even too indie for me.
As for the food, well, the Otherside Cafe offers a good mix of dive bar food and dive vegan bar food with the odd raw vegan option thrown in.
Mock Chicken Salad (which according to the website is made with ground pecans, cashews & sunflower seeds mixed with cucumbers, celery and tart green apples and served over our simple green salad with lemon wedges):
Vegan Grilled Cheese:
The food is simple, fairly tasty, and yet feels like it’s trying too hard to be simple. Like “oh hey vegans with tattoos (and mind you, I happen to be one), we know it’s hard to find delicious vegan food so we’ll just give it to you without the frills and we’ll make your parents really uncomfortable.” In other words, The Otherside Cafe maybe isn’t the place to bring your proper mama, the one who hopes you attend Harvard. She might make a sour-lemon-puss face when you suggest eating at a restaurant where the servers have tattoos. My impression of such a lady:
My parents live just a hop and a skip away from what is by far my favorite neighborhood in Boston: the South End. Elegant brownstones, funky restaurants tucked into alleys, and bakeries galore. Normally that would mean lots of eye candy for this hungry vegan. Until I found Flour. Flour is like a local Panera on crack, where everything is made fresh and the line is always out the door. And for some reason, they remember the vegans! Imagine that. Each morning they have this lovely vegan vanilla berry muffin top:
And every afternoon they have some kind of chocolate vegan cupcake muffin thing that’s delicious (and unpictured despite the fact I ate them twice over four days). I do wish Flour would branch out and offer more vegan options, but hey, I’m not greedy. Their sandwiches are also wonderfully delicious and two are vegan right off the menu, including the grilled tofu panini with olive and red pepper tapenade, and roasted veggies.
I think you truly can love a sandwich.
There’s not a ton to say about an adorable cafe in the middle of adorable Brookline. After a ridiculously sweaty yoga class at Baptiste Power Yoga in Brookline, anything would taste good. When you bring falafel and iced coffee into the mix, well, things can get really good.
Falafel Wrap with Avocado and Hummus: Yum!
Zocalo was the only restaurant that didn’t cater to vegans at all. With its Mexican cuisine and innovative menu, I had a feeling I’d be fine. I’d been here before and it was my mother’s birthday. So at her request, I let go of my desire to drag my parents to another oddball vegan restaurant and headed to a place where classy people eat instead.
I gotta tell you something: classy people may look technically nicer while they eat. They may wear a lot of white and the ladies sure like to blind me with their giant rocks, but the service at their “nicer” restaurants is just as atrocious as at my divey restaurants. The food? Well, this food, according to my waiter (who did not have tattoos) when I asked whether the salads had cheese were “very, very healthy,” was very, very good. And honestly, I care way more about that than I do about the health factor.
Imagine waiting quite a long time for this dish: ”Ensalada de Jicama” with jicama, cucumbers, carrots, pineapple, oranges, lime juice and chile arbol.
Strawberry Salad with watermelon, pumpkin seeds and arugula.
People, if you’re ever in Boston and in need of a cool meal. Do not go to Legal Seafood. Turn your tourist feet around and head for the Franklin Cafe in the South End, where I had my favorite meal. The restaurant has a retro vibe, but the food is very modern. Unfortunately, cool meant dark and my photos didn’t come out. Sadly you can’t see the wonder that is summer tomato and watermelo gazpacho with avocado croutons (that’s right, avocado rolled in water and tempura batter is pretty much the best and saltiest combination with the cold soup). You also can’t see the mountain of a salad that came with pan-fried beans. I don’t even know what to say about these beans. They were sweat and salty, crunchy on the outside, yet soft on the inside. Couple this with a Hangar One vodka martini with a splash of chambord and lots of lemon, and you’ve got a very happy Bostonian. Even if her sister sitting across the table was munching on steak tartare.
Boston is a place of history. Of accents. Of sports. Of culture. Of families where one sibling is beside herself over avocado croutons and the other is happily eating stake tartare.
Of great family drama made for the movies.