August 11, 2004
Outrageously Cheap Tasty Local Restaurants
The Barking Crab
The name alone begs for fannish notice. Come home with a souvenir T-shirt that rivals Baltimore Worldcon's "I've got crabs" T-shirt souvenir. Located on Sleeper Street on the Boston waterfront, around the corner from Rowes Wharf, over the antique Northern Avenue pedestrian bridge and across the street from the New Federal Courthouse. Closest T stop is Aquarium (Blue Line) or South Station (Red Line) so far; sorry, Silver Line, the closest, is not slated to open until December 2004. On #7 bus line from South Station or Downtown Crossing area. Features fresh crabs, lobsters, clams, mussels, calamari, swordfish, clam chowda, and a goodly beer and cider collection. Menu features daily specials like red snapper, cod, lobster roll. Check out their New England Clam Bake, complete with lobsta or crab, corn on the cob, corn bread, mussels or steamers (local clams). The harbor view isn't bad either. Dinner is at huge communal wooden tables and benches (perfect for large groups of fen) in the traditional New England shore shack mode. Many dinners also feature a live band and no cover charge. The crowd is a cross-section of business and convention attendees, the college-age crowd, families with kids, big dig workers, band groupies, and visiting sailors (Navy and otherwise). They are also open until at least 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends. [Editor's note: I would call this moderately priced rather than "outrageously cheap", but I agree with the rest of the recommendation.]
Located a bit farther down Northern Avenue at Fish Pier (just beyond the sea cruise line terminal at the World Trade Center), this simple no-nonsence place located upstairs in the middle of the right-hand building has a great selection of fried or broiled seafood. The waitrons are a bit brusque, but the good food and cheap prices more than make up for it. [Editor's note: And if you can get a seat by one of the few windows, you can watch the seagulls trying to get at the crates of fish as the fishing boats are unloaded. Great entertainment!]
The Daily Catch
Three locations: in the New Federal Courthouse building on Northern Avenue (great waterfront view), Hanover Street in the North End (locale is a bit too hot and cramped on a summer day for some), and at Harvard Street (main cross street, nearer to Commonwealth Avenue in Allston Village, just west of Boston University). Italian-style seafood is their specialty, no frills. Featured foods: calamari in tomato and hot pepper sauce, squid ink pasta with clam sauce, catch of the day, swordfish specialty. Staff is attentive, but you may feel rushed, since locations (except Allston) are a bit small and the lines long. [Editor's note: I would call this moderately priced rather than "outrageously cheap", but I agree with the rest of the recommendation.]
This Harvard Square icon on Mass. Avenue (just south of the center of Harvard Square, near a lot of excellent book stores) offers a large and very tasty variety of burgers, many named after local and national political and comic celebrities. The place also features veggie burgers that are good. Burgers are huge, and home-made condiments at the table make them even better. Fries, fried fried sweet potatoes, and fried onion rings are superb. Good drink choices: the lime rickeys and the local milkshakes (called frappes in the Bay State; don't order a "milk shake," or what arrives at your table is this watered down, tasteless concoction which will have you running for the powder room). The one down side: this place features NO REST ROOM (really no frills), unless the back alley is your WC of choice. The local hotels and some of the book stores and theatres have "facilities" if "roughing it the natural way" is not to your liking. Seating is also a bit cramped; singles sit at the communal table, which is actually less cramped than their regular seating. On warm days, there is also some outside seating. Check out the political lampoons hanging on all the walls and ceilings, especially if you are one of the ones who confused Boston 2004 with Boston 04 and arrived more than a month after the DNC, feel lonely for the concurrent RNC events going on down in NYC, or are a bemused independent, libertarian or other pol member getting a giggle at Election Year. Loads of fun - as long as nature doesn't call!
The Chinatown Food Court
Love Chinese but don't have a huge pocketbook? Try out this neighborhood food court with booth after booth of Chinese and Japanese specialties located at the corner of Beach Street and Harrison Avenue (near Orange Line Chinatown, Green Line Boylston Street or Silver Line near the New England Medical Center/Floating Hospital stop). While there is no dim sum here, there are a variety of noodle dishes, rice dishes, Pho soups with meat, fish, and body parts that are highly-prized in the far east (that you probably don't want to ask about), and pu-pu platter items. Vendors change periodically, but the food is always good, plentiful, and cheap. Downstairs, there is also a Chinese apothecary, if fannish visitors are are into herbal and holistic medicines.
Dim Sum Places in Chinatown
There are a variety of excellent places in Chinatown (wedged between Downtown Crossing, the waterfront, and south Boston) that feature incredible Dim Sum, snack-like portions of Chinese food specialties such as: pork dumplings, mussels or clams in black bean sauce, chicken feet, tripe, shrimp cakes or dumplings, pork rolls or dumplings, sticky rice with Chinese condiments, bitter green cake, soups - a virtual exotic buffet of choices. The dessert custards are out of this world good as are the sesame sticky bubs and the coconut or mango pudding; steer clear of the jello desserts, which taste of food dye and have a plasticy after-taste. (Or alternately, stop by one of the many near-by sit-down Chinatown bakeries for a slurp of fresh soy milk and a piping hot from the oven Chinese pastry, custard, or moon cake). Dim sum venues that are particularly good are China Pearl (Tyler Street, open for dinner as well as the traditional 10 am - 3 pm hour), Dynasty, and Chow Chau City. A number of new places are opening up as this is being written, so other locals may have other recommendations. These places seat parties at huge tables, so this is good for large fannish groups who can split selections for lower cost between them. Food is obtained either via roving staff in different carts or via a hot table that one goes to with menu voucher in hand for stamping. Some staff, universally pleasant and accommodating, speak English and some not, but pointing usually works when all else fails. Fare is amazingly cheap and incredibly tasty. Be sure to ask for chrysanthemum or flower tea; the usual jasmine or black tea offerings are fresh-brewed and very good, but this variety is special for that very special convention occasion. A person in a small group can eat large for under $20.00; in a large group, the price of the meal may be $10 - $15. MMmmmmm Good!
-- Sally Mayer
August 11, 2004 | Permalink
There's a fairly new place in Chinatown that has great food, and a room that is made for dim sum. It is called Hei La Moon, which I review in the Boston Restaurant Guide that I am a part of at http://www.hiddenboston.com. Hei La Moon is on Beach Street, on the other side of the Surface Artery, so it's actually in the Leather District, I guess, but either way, it is a great restaurant to check out.
Posted by: MH | April 8, 2005 01:02 PM
Actually, the former ongoing violations of the past referred to by Anna Hillier were addressed several years ago at the Barking Crab. They were actually closed for the better part of a week while the Inspectional Services Department supervised the installation of a sewage catch system for their lavs. The old problem of sewerage water being uptaken by their fish tank filtration system has been properly resolved. Just to be sure, ISD conducts frequent undercover inspections during which water in the fish tanks is inspected and during which the surrounding harbor underneath the the lav area is checked with the aid of sewage-sensitive dyes for leakage and contaminents. At press time, ISD has yet to find further reason to lodge such sanitation complaints against The Barking Crab; I happened to be there with a client several weeks ago when such a surprise inspection was pulled. The Barking Crab passed with flying colors (and no, no money changed hands during the process).
Posted by: Sally Mayer | August 25, 2004 09:34 PM
I hate to be a wet blanket about the Barking Crab.
Their shop seems like a neat place. From time to time their food safety lapses and they have been closed for cleanliness violations. Just the way I see it.
Posted by: Anna Hillier | August 24, 2004 02:52 PM