Beacon Street (Continued)|
BY RUTH TOBIAS
Hey, you missed a spot ...
The list of eateries on Beacon Street is practically as long as the street itself. Here, in a nutshell, are a few more.
• Chef Chang’s House. Though the frilly décor is stereotypical, the menu takes the occasional risk of incorporating unexpected ingredients like lamb, pine nuts, and tomatoes.
• Café Han River. Korea’s greatest hits play at this little blip on the Beacon radar, from bul go ki ($7.50) to bi bim bap ($6.90).
• Via Via Café. Trust the equipment — a brick oven and a rotisserie — and go for pizza or chicken at this casual family place.
• Temptations Café. A sort of bargain basement for wraps and smoothies.
• Atrium Café. Hotel-bar fetishists will get a kick out of this lobby café, which gives off a ’70s vibe complete with umbrellas, light-strung trellises, and retro specials like Ritz-crumb-dusted scrod.
• Jae’s. Sequestered in a condo lobby on an otherwise strictly residential block, Jae’s keeps a low profile. But on the inside, it exudes tranquil romance in a green-hued, dimly lit setting, where its popular mix-and-match approach to pan-Asian food endures.
• Boca Grande Tacquería. Cheerfully decked out in yellow, red, and green. Choose tamales ($3.25), a rare treat this far north, or burritos wrapped in freshly griddled tortillas ($3.25–$3.75), and fill them with just-grilled chicken rather than chewy pork.
• Chinatown Seafood. At this plain but personable Coolidge Corner restaurant, you can experiment with ingredients you seldom see beyond Beach Street: sea conch, abalone, shark’s fin, bitter melon.
• Boston Daily Bread. The fat-free muffins at this Coolidge Corner bakery, always moist and intensely fruity, are saviors when the triple-chocolate loaf is singing you its siren song.
• Gourmet India. Way-cheap fast food with a few surprises, including the reshami kebab ($5.95) — tandoori chicken marinated in cream and mint rather than yogurt — and spinach naan ($2.85), one giant step toward saag paneer pizza.
• Rod Dee. Lavender walls and a bottle of sri racha on every table — what more could you want from a Thai luncheonette?
• B&D Deli. Despite menu quirks like frankfurter omelets, the B&D has attracted sizeable brunch crowds for years.
• Café Nicholas. This eager-to-please pizzeria and sub shop has a sandwich named for its own neighborhood — the ham, turkey, and provolone–laden Washington Square.
• Dalia’s. Dalia’s picks up where Duckworth Lane left off, luring bistro and wine-bar habitués to its cosmopolitan lair of dark wood and gray plush — now blessedly free of the flea-market art it once inexplicably boasted.
• Emack & Bolio’s. The creamery has been around for ages, collecting a veritable menagerie of exotic flavors like brown-cow ice cream and grasshopper-pie frozen yogurt along the way.
Likewise, what Shawarma King, your basic formica-and-fluorescent snack bar, lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for not only in congenial service, but also in a seriously savory repertoire. From the first bite onward, it’ll be the King’s hummus or no hummus at all for you — supremely creamy and extra-lemony, it makes an even bigger splash with a scoop of crispy-fried ground lamb and lots of olive oil ($5.49/$8.95). The veggie grape leaves are similarly succulent — silky on the outside, tart and tomato-y on the inside ($2.99/$5.99). While the flatbread called zaatar ($2.75) — in reference to the mixture of sesame seeds and thyme that tops it — is a bit dry on the edges, at its olive-oil-drizzled heart it’s a subtle, intriguing answer to, say, rosemary focaccia. And to wash it down, you’ve got the downright fascinating jallab ($2.75), a sort of grapeade splashed with rosewater and sprinkled with slivered almonds. Jallab makes cola look foolish.
Actually, Beacon Street is dotted with such holes-in-the-wall all the way to Washington Street. There are the old stand-bys like Anna’s Taquería (the only place in town an Albuquerque-born friend of mine trusts with green chilies) and Lucky Wah, whose mellow-yet-tingling Yu Hsiang eggplant in garlic sauce makes for the guiltiest of pleasures ($5.75). And there are newcomers like Thai Garden, a demure spot hung with portraits of robed ladies toting parasols, in harmony with the unusually mild food.
You’ll find such modest digs in Washington Square, too, interspersed with more gentrified joints like Athan’s, a superior Greek-inflected sweets shop, and the Fireplace. In the past year the new place has proven true to its name, as Brookliners have really warmed up to the polished yet easeful space, with an accomplished seasonal menu to match. Yes, for every neat, simple, quiet place like the Indian Café — where the tandoori mixed grill ($13.95) is overly dry but the chicken tikka masala ($10.95) is voluptuous, both velvety and piquant, and the cushy naan is exemplary ($2.50) — there’s a high-profile Anam Cara. Call it panache, aplomb, je ne sais quoi; whatever star quality is, it’s manifest in the cheery-by-day, eerie-by-night décor of this eclectic Irish pub, with long tables and pews, mirrors, and even crosses obtained from old New England churches; red-velvet curtains and red-bulbed chandeliers; and arched doorways and windows, some with stained glass. But it’s also in the menu: chef Scott Robertson makes a thinking man’s bar food, from plump, scrumptiously salty crawfish-and-andouille fritters ($9) to grilled scallops enhanced (rather than overwhelmed) by hoisin glaze, served with sautéed bitter greens — the perfect foil for their sweet flesh ($8). For those who want more than a nibble, there are sandwiches and a few entrées as well, and if your server asks, "You want fries with that?", be sure to say yes, because they’re thick, hand-cut beauties ($3).
Don’t expect such refinement from Cleveland Circle, however. Here at the end of the line — it’s the last stop for the Beacon Street trolley — you’ll find just what you’d expect this close to Boston College: noisy bars and no-frills pizzerias. Presto and Pino’s, for instance, are peas in a pod — small, plastered with sports posters, and crammed with booths crammed with students and neighborhood regulars, the kind who trade insults about "Eye-talians" and begin stories with, "So I says to him, I says ... " (I’m not making that up). As for the pizza, it’s the stuff of Saturday Night Fever — huge, meaty, thick-sauced, and thick-crusted slices dripping with cheese like the ones John Travolta wolfs down as he cruises the city streets. (At both places, a regular slice is $1.70; Sicilian-style costs $1.80.) For equally huge and meaty burgers and breakfasts, there’s Eagle’s, a classic greasy spoon (if that’s not a contradiction in terms). Last but not least is Bangkok Bistro, which does take a stab at decorum, although the pink-and-green color scheme is more amusing than comely. Still, it’s been around since the late ’80s for a reason; or rather, several of them, including punchy drunken noodles ($8.25) with a sweet-hot sheen; rich, homey nua sub ($8.25) — a gravied beef-and-noodle dish that wouldn’t be out of place on a country buffet; and fine renditions of all those exhilarating Thai salads that glitter with lime and mint, including nam sod with chicken ($8.95), yam nua with beef ($8.95), and larb with either ($9.25).
And from here? Sure, Beacon Street continues past Chestnut Hill Avenue into ritzy Newton Centre. But it’s the Brookline stretch that really shines, in spirit if not in appearance.
Ruth Tobias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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