Devlin’s – Brighton Center, Brighton, MA

Located right smack in the middle of Brighton, Devlin’s Restaurant has a menu that exceeds your normal neighborhood bar. The selection of dishes on the diverse American menu will blow you away.

I’ve always thought of Devlin’s as a place to go during the summer; there’s an awesome outdoor patio around back with a full bar, decorative string lights, and big screen TVs. Even though it was winter, the restaurant was just as festive with Christmas decorations lining the walls of the restaurant – a nice feel for the holiday season. We arrived on a Wednesday night and it was reasonably crowded there, but no wait needed for a table for two.

Now… for our dinner! Samantha winged it and placed a small order of sweet Thai chili chicken wings. There were 7 wings total, served with ranch dressing and a side of coleslaw. The sauce was tangy and sweet and worth trying for that reason alone. The chicken was tender and the wings were a nice size. There were a few other wing sauces to choose from that we were interested in trying, including maple sriracha.

I knew exactly what I wanted – a Devlin’s burger, and I was completely satisfied with my order. The Devlin’s burger is topped with blue cheese crumbles, crispy shallots, bacon, smothered in garlic aioli (can’t go wrong with garlic aioli) and lettuce, with brioche bun that sandwiches everything. The Parmesan truffle fries that we ordered as a side were just as good as the burger.

There were plenty of other interesting things we wanted to try. They had some great Wednesday specials including duck fat tater tots, charcuterie pizza, honey chipotle chicken tacos all sounded amazing. I hope they have it next time we’re there!

TL;DR: Devlin’s is your Brighton neighborhood pub with exceptionally great pub food. You’ll be surprised at both the amount and variety of menu choices that Devlin’s has to offer.

Gustazo – Waltham, MA

Looking to go somewhere different, we found Gustazo on the old Google machine. The menu looked amazing so we decided to check it out on a Saturday night!

There was definitely an older crowd at the restaurant- it seemed like there were a lot of Waltham locals. Older families too, not necessarily with young kids but more like parents of college students and sons and daughters in their 20s.

Appetizers at Gustazo come one at a time as they are made in the kitchen. Our waiter (who was very friendly and attentive) would just pop out with appetizers as they were made.

The appetizers we ordered had us craving for more after we finished. They weren’t big in size, but damn they were delicious – and frankly, not easily found elsewhere.

The first appetizer we ordered, the bacon wrapped sweet plantains, were unbelievably good. The menu description hooked us into trying them – it just sounded so unique! When it was served, the smell permeated through the air. It tasted even better than it smelled. The orange slices served added sharp contrast of tartness to the goat cheese that was served over the plantains. This was a petite appetizer, but heavenly and so worth ordering.

Yet another interesting appetizer that we just had to try was the ox tail. Served in a bowl, the braised ox tail meat was mixed in with warm creamy polenta and grilled avocado. The ingredients perfectly complimented each other, making it another outstanding order. No regrets here.

After splitting two appetizers, we needed to fill up a meal. We ordered the Arroz Con Pollo a la Chorrera – a Risotto-style Cuban rice with chicken thighs, grilled asparagus, soft poached egg, maduros and rice. Chicken and rice combo was money, and the plantains were awesome too. Samantha agreed, adding that said she wanted to “marry these fried plantains”. The grilled asparagus was lightly salted and was great addition to the meal. I ate all of it and loved every bite.

We decides to indulge with what would be our first affogato ever. As a restaurant that doubles as a cafe, we figured Gustazo would be the right place to give it a go. The espresso was great and the French vanilla ice cream was creamy. It was just the right amount of dessert to split, and we were so glad it was on the menu.

The whole Waltham area has such a great food scene with a diverse selection of restaurants to dine at – Gustazo certainly held its own.

TL; DR:Gustazo has great Cuban dishes with a unique and modern take. With the selection of dishes to choose from, you literally can’t go wrong.

The Back Eddy – Westport, MA

Westport is a small town with limited dining options to choose from. We were down there for the grand opening of the Zambezi Grace showroom (check out their leather belts and more online!) a client I work with. Because it’s an hour and a half drive from where we live in Boston, we wanted to extend our day trip and end it with a delicious meal. Many people I talked to at the event highly recommended The Back Eddy for delicious seafood by the water. So we took them at their word and had a bite to eat after the event.

River views from the patio or the warm dining room draw fans to this inventive seafood-centric spot. This was the view from our table.

It was around Halloween when we went to check it out. Of note: the Back Eddy closes from January-March, so we were glad to eat there before the winter months. The wait staff was dressed up in full for Halloween. Our waitress was a sprinkled donut. You have to love the Halloween spirit (yes, I realize it’s nearly Christmas).

Now, for the food.

To me, nothing beats Bacon-wrapped scallops, so that was my order. The scallops were doused in delicious spices and wrapped in smoky applewood bacon and accompanied by a potato and spring vegetable hash, corn and lemon-dressed greens with some pesto sauce. Delicious!

Samantha ordered the raw bar sampler, which is really designed to be an appetizer to share for two (but no judgment, right?) It came with an assortment of little necks, oysters and shrimp, all of which were so fresh they tasted like they were literally caught five minutes before they were served.

Whether you’re down there for a vacation or for a client meeting like me, The Back Eddy is definitely worth checking out for a top-notch seafood meal with a great view!

Boston Burger Company — Harvard Square, Cambridge

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There are a lot of burger places in Boston — probably too many, if we’re being honest. But the Boston Burger Company is a cut above any of the other burger joints in the city. We’ve been hearing a lot about the BBC’s over-the-top burgers, loaded fries, and crazy milkshakes for a while now, and we finally got the chance to try it for ourselves.  And let us tell you, it was worth the hype — like, SO worth it.

There are three Boston Burger Company locations — one in Davis Square, one downtown, and one in Harvard Square. We headed to the Harvard Square location — it was small and really crowded (mostly with students, but they were pretty well behaved considering it was a Friday night) with cool Boston-themed art that really set the vibe.

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After perusing the menu and regretting not being able to order one of everything, we decided to start with a “Freak Frappe” because you only live once, and being an adult means having the freedom to eat dessert first even though it inevitably will spoil your dinner.  Each frappe — they have everything from classic Oreo to a S’mores Frappe that has AN ACTUAL SMORE ON TOP!!! — looked outstanding, and the pictures in the menu made the decision even harder since it was impossible not to want to try them all. We debated between the S’more Than You Can Handle frappe (a fan favorite at Boston Burger Company) and the November flavor-of-the-month, which was pecan pie-flavored and came with an actual slice of pecan pie on top.

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I will repeat that in case you didn’t catch it the first time — the frappe came with an actual whole piece of pecan pie on top.  The frappe itself was sweet and creamy, with a vanilla custard undertone that complemented the flaky pie crust and the sweet potato fries and candied pecans that adorned the glass.  How could we possibly be expected to care about spoiling our dinner when our “appetizer” was this amazing?

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The burgers are on a whole other level.  Every single one sounded incredible.  It was almost overwhelming looking at the menu of 30 burgers all decked out with extravagant toppings — from the Kitchen Sink, which comes decked out with fried egg, ham, bacon, sautéed peppers, mushrooms, onions, American cheese, cheddar cheese, provolone cheese, and house-made BBC sauce, to the Rundown, which comes with fried pickles, potato sticks, horseradish sauce, cheddar cheese, pickles, and BBQ sauce.   The hamburger itself doesn’t even matter here.  It’s all about a ton of seemingly unrelated toppings coming together to form the perfect dining experience.

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Nate went with the 4:20 Burger, which came with fried mozzarella sticks, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, fries, bacon, sweet golden BBQ sauce, and American cheese all on a grilled, butter bun.  It was pretty much a heart attack-on-a-bun and quite possibly will take a few years off your life, but it was also completely and totally worth it.

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I went with the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which came topped with juicy pulled pork, creamy mac & cheese (seriously great mac & cheese — like I could have just eaten that on its own and been totally happy), a giant fried onion ring, pickles, and sweet BBQ sauce.  It was delicious, slightly more healthy than Nate’s choice (probably not, but maybe…?), and more than satisfied Nate’s and my never-ending quest for good barbecue in Boston.

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Obviously dessert was off the table since we started our meal with a literal pecan pie milkshake, but we decided to head over to Miracle Bar, the holiday pop-up bar in the lobby of the Klimpton Marlowe Hotel along the Charles River in Cambridge.  Open now until Christmas, Miracle is small but very festive with a plethora of cheeky and spirited holiday decorations (including a single, lone menorah…go Chanukah!).  We tried three cocktails:  the Bad Santa, which was a mix of mulled wine, tawny port, orange liqueur, spices, and golden raisins served hot in a winking Santa mug; the You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out, which came with pumpkin spiced rye whiskey, Budweiser, marshmallow syrup, and egg;

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and the Christmopolitan, a mix of vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth, spiced cranberry sauce, rosemary, lime, and absinthe mist.

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The rest of the menu features similarly punny cocktails and with plush couches, table-toppers that look like the tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas (they just need a little love), and an endless loop of funky and classic Christmas music playing in the background, Miracle is a must-visit spot for anyone in the mood for a classy Christmas treat.

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Between the burgers, the frappe, and the holiday bar, it was pretty much a perfect night.

TL;DR:  For some of the biggest, best, most unique burgers that the city has to offer, visit the Boston Burger Company…but be sure to bring your stretch pants.  

Twin Donuts – Union Square, Allston, MA

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Twin Donuts has been a staple in union square in Allston – the can’t-miss sign on the restaurant roof is almost as recognizable as the Citgo sign (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch). But has been in existence since 2001.

Another unique thing about Twin Donuts is that it opens at 4 a.m. It’s a favorite spot to not only Allston residents, but also to those who get up early to go to work – the everyday man (or woman).

Samantha and I did not get up at 4 a.m. to go eat at Twin Donuts, but rather 11:00 am on a Sunday morning.

It’s your classic diner with a great menu selection. The food is nothing fancy but it sure does the job. A bonus to how great the food tastes is how cheap it is. It’s a real value deal considering how great the quality of food is.

I ordered a breakfast sandwich. The deal with the breakfast sandwiches is you can mix and match different breads and meats. I went with the sausage on a croissant with egg and cheese. I was glad I went with the croissant- it was fresh and buttered up nicely. I ordered a side of corned beef hash (one of my favorite side dishes) and I was not disappointed in the least. Sizable serving too.

Samantha ordered French toast, bacon, scrambled eggs and hash browns. Naturally, she poured over some syrup and added some butter. Again, nothing fancy, but simply delicious.

TL;DR: Twin Donuts is much more than just a restaurant with a cool sign: it’s a diner and donut shop that’s worth your morning and your money!

Sweet Rice Thai Kitchen and Sushi Bar – Charlestown, MA

Do you ever have those nights where you just can’t decide what you feel like eating? Sweet Rice Thai Kitchen and Sushi Bar has a fix for that.

It has two menus full of authentic, delicious Thai and Japanese food. I mean, what more could you ask for? Especially when you’re hungry, indecisive, and can’t answer the age-old question: Pad Thai or sushi?!?

This place has some unique dishes. For example, my personal favorite (which we didn’t get this time, but we highly recommend) is the berry crab rangoon, which mixes the usual perfection of creamy/crunchy crab rangoon with cranberry and blueberry added for good measure.

What we DID get was the Maine Sushi Roll — cooked lobster in spicy mayo with scallions, salmon roe, and cucumber on top. Lobster and sushi is a rare combo that you won’t find many other sushi restaurants in Beantown and we’re here for it.  Another unique sushi roll we tried was the Spongebob Roll (fresh from a pineapple under the sea!). We’re talking coconut shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber top with mango and drizzled in honey mayo sauce. Yes, it tasted just as good as the description of it read.

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And, of course we had to order some Pad Thai (because you can’t go to a Thai restaurant without getting Pad Thai!).  Chock-full of chicken, shrimp, and veggies and smothered with all sorts of peanutty goodness.  In short, this is the some of the best Pad Thai that Boston has to offer.

TL;DR: For an Asian-fusion experience that offers both authentic Thai dishes and unique sushi rolls, Sweet Rice Thai Kitchen and Sushi Bar is worth a visit (or two…or three…).

When in Montreal…

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We recently celebrated our first anniversary and decided to take a little weekend trip to Montreal to rejoice in our complete and utter cuteness.(I’ll pause here to allow you the time you need to let how adorable we are sink in.  We’re also accepting gifts for the occasion…)While in Montreal, we did all of the touristy things — a walking tour of the Old City, a visit to Atwater Market, a turn about the Montreal Observation Wheel, a climb up Mont Royal, even a helicopter ride above the city — but the highlight was (as it always is with us) the food.  A fun, diverse city that seamlessly combines history and tradition with modernity and innovation, Montreal is literally a food lover’s dream.  We came ready to eat and we were not disappointed.

BREAKFAST — Muru Crepe

The best part about Montreal is that even though it is only a 5.5-hour drive from Boston, it’s so European. The cobblestone streets, the architecture, the people assuming everyone speaks French — it’s basically one Eiffel Tower away from being Paris, and I had to fight the urge to put on a beret and neck scarf and start dancing around a la Gene Kelly in An American in Paris.

So, we decided that the best way to start the day would be with a small brunch in a French cafe.  Muru Crepe, a charmingly tiny creperie in the Old City, fit the bill perfectly.

We both started off with a Cafe Mocha, expertly made with the perfect ratio of chocolate, espresso, and foam and beautifully decorated to boot.

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I went for a light breakfast and got Greek Yogurt drizzled with maple syrup (because Canada) and topped with homemade granola and fresh strawberries and blueberries and award-winningly tasty caramelized bananas.Nate got the Trois Fromages crepe, a savory crepe that came with goat cheese, swiss cheese, and mozzarella cheese, bacon, potato, honey, and crème fraîche.  

The crepe itself was spongy and light, with a slight hint of eggy flavor, and the gooeyness of the cheese combined with the smoky bacon, starchy potato, and sweet honey made it clear why Muru is considered one of the best creperies in the city.

LUNCH — Schwartz’s DeliMontreal is famous for two things: smoked meat sandwiches and poutine, and Schwartz’s is one of the best and most noteworthy spots in the city to get both of those things.  The deli has been serving smoked meat from a special family recipe since 1928 — when Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, first opened the restaurant on the now-trendy boulevard Saint-Laurent (home to tons of artsy murals, small boutiques, and artisan shops).  The meat is prepared with a secret blend of herbs and spices and then marinated for 10 days before being served — and you could really taste the difference.  

The smoked meat sandwich — served on light rye bread with a touch of brown mustard — was easily one of the best deli sandwiches I’ve ever had, piled high with juicy, flavorful, thick-cut pastrami of such high quality that it rivaled the best that New York City has to offer.

And, because a giant deli sandwich is obviously not enough, we also split an order of Schwartz’s poutine, a take on the classic Quebec speciality that had — wait for it — more huge chunks of smoked meat on top.  The smoked meat and gravy soaked into the fries and the cheese curds were delightfully salty and gooey, and it was all so good I forgot to feel guilty about many calories I had just consumed.

After nearly 90 years in business, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Schwartz’s, and the line to even get into the restaurant was so abysmally long we almost decided to skip going entirely and find another place to get a smoked meat sandwich.  Let me tell you — the hype is completely justified and the line was more than worth it.  Seriously, do not visit Montreal without making your way to Schwartz’s at least once.

DINNER — Restaurant Bonaparte

We decided to go all out for dinner — after all, you only celebrate a one-year anniversary once, and after a day of walking around and being touristy we felt like we were entitled to treat ourselves to the fanciest dinner the city has to offer.

Restaurant Bonaparte, located in the heart of the Old City, is really three restaurants in one — there are three distinct dining rooms, all with different aesthetics that add to the restaurant’s charm.  We were placed in the Impératrice Hall, a romantic space decorated in the Empire style of the Napoleonic era, complete with crystal chandeliers, a large fireplace, and French hotel paneling on the walls.  The best part?  Because the staff of the restaurant knew we were celebrating a special occasion, they gave us the best seat in the room — an intimate booth next to a window that overlooked the narrow, cobblestone streets of the neighborhood.

While there are a la carte menus available, Restaurant Bonaparte is famous for its five-course Tasting Menu, and we decided that five courses would give us the opportunity to try literally every type of French food all at once and, really, how could we pass that chance up?

For the first course, Nate got the lobster bisque, which was thick and creamy with a hint of ginger.

Not wanting to fill up too quickly, I opted for the salad, which was a bed of mixed greens topped with toasted pine nuts and the most flavorful parmesan cheese I have ever tasted, tossed with a light vinaigrette.The second course was my favorite.  Nate chose the warm goat cheese and roasted almonds wrapped in flaky filo dough.  

Fulfilling one of my lifelong fantasies, I ordered the duck foie gras, which came with a savory crème brûlée and sauteed apples.  There are no words to describe how much I loved the foie gras — it was creamy and thick without being heavy, and when topped with the crème brûlée it had a melt-in-your-mouth quality that I could not get enough of.  

The third course continued my quest for all things French.  I ordered the escargot — garlicky and delightfully rubbery snails in parsley fricassee served with Provençal vegetables.  

Nate went for the mushroom ravioli, which were smothered in a sage butter sauce and tasted like fall.

Then, because this was the fanciest and greatest meal of all time, they gave us a pear and tarragon sorbet infused with ACTUAL CHAMPAGNE(!!) to cleanse our palates (seriously!!) before the main course, which — big surprise — was also amazing.

Nate went with filet mignon, cooked to perfection and seasoned with peppercorns and cognac.

I went with the duck breast, which was tender and juicy and topped with wild berries and a maple syrup glaze (again, because Canada) that enhanced the duck’s natural flavors with a wonderful combination of tartness and sweetness.

For dessert, we were given a Symphony of Homemade Desserts (which, in plebeian speak, basically is just a sampler platter of mini desserts made in-house by the restaurant’s pastry chef).  The highlight for me was the crème brûlée partly because it was absolutely delicious and partly because by this point in the meal I had turned into a full-on Fancy Snob™.

Was the meal decadent? Absolutely. But it was also probably the best meal I have ever eaten.  And to top it off, the service was impeccable, the staff was friendly and accommodating (not to mention very happy to congratulate us on our celebration), and the restaurant itself was beautiful.  If you’re in Montreal and have a reason to celebrate (or just want to Treat Yo Self), Restaurant Bonaparte is the place to do it.
Leaving Montreal was bittersweet, not only because we wanted more time there, but also because we had both gained a not-so-insignificant amount of weight from having eaten so well.  With a basically unlimited number of restaurants — big and small, fancy and casual — and an unlimited number of cuisines, Montreal is a food lover’s paradise.