Kelly’s Roast Beef – Saugus, MA

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Labor Day marks the official end of summer, and while fall does have a lot to offer in terms of fun (Apple cider donuts! Leaves changing! Halloween! All pumpkin everything!), I’d be lying if I said that I’m not clinging to the last minutes of summer the way sand clings to your feet after a day at the beach.

So, in an attempt to get one more summery activity under our belts, Nate and I decided to go full-on New England and head up to Maine for the weekend. On the way, we stopped in at Kelly’s Roast Beef in Saugus, the second of five locations of the classic Massachusetts-based chain that originated on Revere Beach in 1951. A family-owned and operated business, Kelly’s has won a slew of awards for their lobster rolls, roast beef, and clam chowder. And after our visit this long weekend, it’s easy to understand why.

First of all, the menu is gigantic. The roast beef is only the tip of the iceberg — Kelly’s also serves everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to fried seafood platters to barbecue pulled beef (there are also salads if you want to be that person, but honestly if you’re coming to Kelly’s, you’ve already lost the battle when it comes to calorie counting).

Nate and I decided to go for the classic Kelly’s staple — the roast beef sandwich. The roast beef was thinly-sliced and juicy and it came on a grilled sesame-seed roll. Nate got a large sandwich with mayo and barbecue sauce, while I opted for the small roast beef meal, which came with French fries and thick-cut onion rings.

There wasn’t much of a difference size-wise between the large and small sandwiches, and where my meal came with the fries and onion rings and a fountain drink of my choice, it seemed like the better deal even though it cost a couple dollars more.

The best word I can use to describe the sandwich was perfect — the warm, tender roast beef combined with the slight crunch of the grilled roll and the savory smoothness of the mayo made for a delightful, no-fuss version of the classic roast beef sandwich. After trying one, it’s no wonder that Kelly’s has been in business for six decades.

TL;DR: With seriously delicious roast beef sandwiches (not to mention a menu chock-full of other beachy favorites), Kelly’s lives up to its reputation as Massachusetts’ authority on the best roast beef.

Blue Ribbon BBQ – West Newton, MA

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Nate and I have been getting very into House of Cards lately, and real talk: those scenes where Frank Underwood goes to Freddy’s BBQ Joint to get ribs and unwind after a day of political deception and double-crossing have been getting to us. In other words, two seasons and twenty episodes in, we’ve been finding ourselves thinking more and more about finding a place in the city to eat good barbecue than about Frank and Claire’s depraved quest for political power.

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So, we hopped in the car and headed to West Newton, home of Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, for some down-home Southern-style comfort food. And let me tell you, if Frank Underwood was eating here instead of at Freddy’s, he’d be too full and satisfied to be so angry and devious all the time.

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The storefront itself is very small — there is only counter seating available (other than a few tables and chairs located on the sidewalk outside) — but the atmosphere is fun, homey, and exactly what you’d expect from a Southern BBQ joint.With a full wall of pickled veggies surrounded by a bevy of out-of-state license plates, kitschy neon signs, a menu full of classic Southern sandwiches and platters, and a barbecue sauce station with a myriad of flavor combos, Blue Ribbon is a casual and fun slice of the South located in the heart of Newton.Nate got the North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich — made from pork shoulder smoked for 14 hours and mixed with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce traditional to North Carolina. The pork was tender and juicy and the sauce was tasty but there needed to be more of it (the BBQ sauce station came in handy since the sandwich needed extra sauce for dipping in order to bring out the full flavor of the pork). Each sandwich comes with two sides and Nate chose the mashed potatoes (garlicky, creamy, and flavorful) and the baked beans (which came smothered in a sweet, tangy, and thick molasses-based sauce that made the beans irresistibly delicious).I decided to go a little off the beaten path and get a dish I had never heard of before — the Kansas City Burnt Ends, beef brisket smoked for 14 hours with oak and hickory and then chopped and cooked in sweet BBQ sauce until the meat is caramelized. I’m not usually a huge fan of Southern BBQ brisket, but the Burnt Ends were otherworldly. Each piece was unbelievably tender (to the point where there weren’t even whole pieces of brisket on the plate — it was just a pile of sweet, juicy, stringy, fatty goodness) and the portion was so big that I hardly made a dent in it.  I chose to get a platter instead of a sandwich, which meant I got to choose three sides.  I went with the mashed potatoes, baked beans (which I devoured), and the cornbread, which had a dense, almost cakey consistency.Blue Ribbon has a location in Arlington as well as Newton, but despite the fact that the restaurant has been in business for over 20 years and is such a household name that they even sell their sauces online, the restaurant has the feel and technique of a roadside barbecue joint (the meats are all slow-cooked at low temperatures over oak and hickory hardwoods to ensure that every piece of meat comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful).  Along with Tennessee’s Real BBQ in Braintree, Blue Ribbon BBQ is one of Massachusetts’ best pieces of proof that good barbecue isn’t just a Southern tradition.

Tl;DR: If you want delicious barbecue and don’t have the time to take a trip down South, Blue Ribbon BBQ is the next best thing to being there.

Amber Road Café – Canton, MA

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Nate and I recently found ourselves in Canton, where we decided to stop in at the Amber Road Café for some lunch.

The Amber Road Café is a homey, cozy spot located right in Canton Center — a bit of a drive from the heart of Boston, but definitely worth the ride. It boasts a large menu of breakfast and lunch options featuring a wide variety of fresh, creative, and seasonally-inspired gourmet dishes that make it seem more like you’re eating in someone’s home rather than in a restaurant.

While the lunch menu was seriously tempting — there were a plethora of salads, sandwiches, paninis, and wraps that I would have loved to try — the breakfast menu won out in the end for us. So, we decided to do our best impression of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson and indulge in some breakfast-for-lunch.

Following the Golden Rule of Relationships™ (i.e. always share food), we decided to split two dishes:  the Nutella and Banana Crepe and Kristina’s French Toast.  The Nutella and Banana Crepe came deconstructed — the eggy, thin-as-paper crepe was flayed open with a pile of banana slices, a generous lump of Nutella, and plenty of powdered sugar all on top. 

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The DIY nature of the crepe was a pleasant surprise because it gave you control over how much of the precious Nutella was included in each bite (and, as anyone who has ever eaten Dunkaroos can tell you, the ratio between the savory base and the sweet topping is of tantamount importance). Because of the inclusion of bananas, the crepe was a perfect “breakfast” for someone who is clinging to the idea that fruit makes everything healthy but who really wants to be eating dessert.

The highlight of the meal was Kristina’s French Toast, a house speciality at Amber Road. It’s two slices of thick-cut, old-fashioned French toast stuffed with gooey brie cheese and topped with a homemade apple-cranberry-walnut chutney.  

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There really are no words for how good this dish is.  The French toast is buttery and sweet and the melted brie in the middle gives it a dynamic and unique flavor that is utterly satisfying. The homemade chutney — which I could eat a pound of on its own, that’s how delicious the combination of the sweet cinnamon apples, tart cranberries, and toasted walnuts is — sinks into the top layer of French toast and makes it slightly soggy, slightly tart, and wholly delicious. I think Nate would agree with me when I say that they should throw a ticker-tape parade in Kristina’s honor and quite possibly declare a national holiday celebrating the contribution that this French toast has made not only to the world of breakfast foods, but to society itself (is that an over-exaggeration…? I don’t think so…)

We resolved to try something off the lunch menu the next time we stop in, but I have a feeling that Amber Road might become my mainstay for all-day breakfast.

TL;DR: The Amber Road Café has a large menu filled with creative options sure to satisfy any customer who happens to find themselves in Canton!

Article 24 – Brighton, MA

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Nate and I recently found ourselves hungry and in Brighton, so we decided to stop in at Article 24, one of Brighton’s newest and coolest restaurants.

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The restaurant is worth checking out for the ambience alone — exposed brick walls covered in trendy pop art by local artists, songs you’ve never heard of but would like to hear again playing from the speakers, multi-colored ceramic plates that go together specifically because they don’t match each other. In short, Article 24 is trendy with a bit of a hipster vibe, but in an unpretentious and approachable way.  

The menu can be described in the same way:  it’s full of classic pub food, sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and other familiar dishes that all have a decidedly modern twist.

We decided to start with a bar snack and got an order of Pigs-in-a-blanket. These weren’t your average frozen cocktail franks, though. Article 24’s take on the classic hors d’oeuvre consisted of a perfectly grilled, all-beef hot dog wrapped in a flaky, buttery phyllo dough and drizzled with a satisfyingly spicy dijon mustard.

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With five “pigs” on the plate, they were perfect for sharing (or for shame-eating an entire plate on your own…no judgment here).

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Then came the entrees. I went with the Papas Tacos — two overstuffed soft-shell tacos filled with crispy home fries, corn salsa, and a generous portion of some of the best guacamole I’ve had anywhere in Boston. The tacos were fresh, flavorful, and filling (but not overly so — it was a perfect portion for lunch). To top it all off, they were accompanied by a small ear of Mexican Street Corn, AKA my favorite thing in the entire world, which was grilled and slathered with cheese and a light, tangy cream sauce.

Papas Tacos at Article 24

Nate got the Tuna Tartare Sandwich, which came topped with spicy green beans, whipped avocado, and fried oysters on grilled wheat bread. It sounds like one of those how-do-those-ingredients-even-go-together type of dishes, but Nate described it as the most unique sandwich he had ever tasted (which is one of the reasons he picked it in the first place). The fried oysters gave the sandwich a dynamic, interesting flavor that combined with the spicy green beans to complement the tuna in an unexpected, yet wholly satisfying way. He kicked the entire sandwich up a notch by adding Sriracha sauce, which brought the dish to another level (and made it so I couldn’t have a bite…thanks, Nate). The sandwich was served with choice of potato — traditional fries, sweet potato fries, tater tots, or waffle fries — or, if you’re totally boring, mixed greens. Nate went with the sweet potato fries, which were the perfect amount of crispy, salty, and savory.

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We left full, contented, and excited to go again and try more of what Article 24 has to offer.

TL;DR: With nightly events — like karaoke, bar trivia, live music, and weekend brunches accompanied by in-house DJs — and delicious food, Article 24 is a welcome addition to Allston-Brighton’s growing landscape of restaurants and bars and definitely worth a visit.

The Boston Eat Party takes it on the road!

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In our opinion, the great thing about traveling is seeing what makes each city unique in its own right. That is the point of traveling after all — to broaden your mind through experiences you may not find elsewhere. Oddly enough, the same thing goes for food.

Forget different areas of the world — there are tons of cities in North America that boast great food culture that you might not otherwise realize by just staying in Boston. Every city or state has an iconic dish or type of food to offer.

So, we took the Eat Party on the road and set out to try some of the most iconic foods in North America, spanning across Upstate New York, the Midwest and Ontario, Canada. Here is a map of our route and all the delicious, weird, and very unhealthy foods we ate along the way.

Finger Lakes, NY

Food to Try: Cheese

History: The Finger Lakes region is well-known for its wine trails, but a lesser known trail in the Finger Lakes is the Cheese Trail, which features a collection of local farms and creameries producing artisan cheeses that range type and age. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is a recent addition to the region, founded in 2010. It was a collaborative effort by local farms to bring bolster tourism in the area.

Where to go: Muranda Cheese Company seems to be the top choice in the region. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon it after doing a wine tasting. There were 16 different types of mouth-watering cheeses sampled.

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Not only were the samples delicious, but the tasting room was a renovated barn that overlooked a farm full of cows.

Muranda Cheese CompanyA few other notable cheese tastings on the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail are Engelbert Farms and Kenton’s Cheese Co. It’s also crazy cheap to go – it was only $3 for a tasting, plus they hook it up with free samples of jelly to put on pretzels afterward!

Buffalo, NY

Food to Try: Buffalo Wings

History: The Buffalo chicken wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo, the co-owner of Anchor Bar.Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NYThe story is that their son came in at 11 pm with a posse of college friends, drunk, demanding food. Teressa needed a quick way to serve up food. At the time, chicken wings were generally used for soups, but Teresa took it upon herself to create It was then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where to go: If you ask any Buffalonian, they will tell you it’s a debate between the Anchor Bar and Duff’s Famous Wings – and it’s NOT both – it’s one or the other. Due to the amount of history tied to it, we went to the Anchor Bar, which is well-known nationally among tourists and outsiders (hey, that’s us!). Duff’s is more popular among the locals who hate tourists and have to prove them wrong by saying Duff’s is better. In their defense, Duff’s has a more expansive list of wing sauces, while The Anchor Bar’s flavors were limited mild, medium, hot, death-wish and BBQ. Still, I’m glad we tried the buffalo wing where it originated.

Buffalo Wings at The Anchor BarWe could see and feel the history inside of the Anchor Bar with endless memorabilia hanging on the wall including autographed pictures of famous people who have popped in (and also one strangely placed portrait of Christopher Columbus for reasons unknown).

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If you’re a tourist looking to get a sense of Buffalo (like we were), it’s a really good choice in my opinion – plus top quality wings. We will have to try Duff’s next time to compare the tastes and flavors.

Cleveland, OH

Food to Try: The Polish Boy

What It Is: Grilled Kielbasa or hot dog in a bun, and covered in layers of french fries, a layer of southern style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and coleslaw on top.

History:  Unlike the stories behind some of the other foods we tried during our trip, there isn’t much to the history of the Polish Boy.  The first version of the sandwich dates back to the 1940s, when Cleveland restaurateur Virgil Whitmore, owner of Whitmore’s Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, created a kitchen sink sandwich consisting of a smoked beef sausage and a bunch of ingredients he had on hand, including coleslaw, French fries, and his homemade barbecue sauce. Other BBQ restaurants around the city followed suit, and the Polish Boy made a name for itself as a Cleveland culinary staple.  

Where to go: We wanted the authentic Cleveland experience, so we headed over to Seti’s Polish Boys, a food truck located in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland and the best place in the city to get a Polish Boy.

Seti's Polish Boy TruckLauded by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Michael Symon, Seti’s take on the Polish Boy is a true Cleveland classic (and it’s an incredible value — $7 for a heaping portion that will keep you full for hours). Served on a perfectly grilled all-beef hot dog and generously topped with French fries and coleslaw slathered in the most flavorful sweet BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted, I can safely say that Seti’s Polish Boy is literally one of the best foods you’ll ever try.

Polish Boy in Cleveland, OHPlus, we got to meet Seti (who makes each Polish Boy to order) and his wife (who runs the truck) — two of the nicest people we ran into during our trip.  Despite having gone to both an Indians game and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while we were in Cleveland, I think Nate will agree with me when I say that this sandwich was definitely the highlight of the Ohio leg of our journey.

Detroit, MI

Food to Try: Coney Island Dog

What It Is: It’s an all-beef hot dog plopped on a steamed bun and topped with chili sauce, chopped raw onion, and a squiggle of yellow mustard.

History: While the hot dog itself got its start in Coney Island, New York (with the first hot dogs being sold at the amusement park as early as 1867), the Coney Island Dog is a staple specific to Detroit — over 500 diners in the Metro Detroit area alone serve some variation of the Coney Dog. The Coney Dog made its way from New York to Michigan in the early 1900s as hundreds of thousands of Greek and Macedonian immigrants traveled to the Midwest after arriving at Ellis Island.

Where to go: Several Detroit diners claim to be the true originator of the Coney Island Dog. We decided on Lafayette Coney Island, a no-frills diner located in the heart of downtown Detroit.  Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit, MITheir version of the Coney Dog came smothered in a slightly spicy chili. The raw onions gave the otherwise soggy chili dog a nice crunch and the yellow mustard added a nice, tangy flavor that brought the whole sandwich together.Coney Dog in Detroit, MI

The Coney Dog was an enjoyable variation on the classic chili dog, but it was a little plain — a little cheese, or perhaps a higher quality hot dog, would have improved the experience.  Simply put, Detroit’s Coney Dog was good but was really nothing compared to Cleveland’s Polish Boy.

Toronto, ON

Foodie Neighborhood to Visit: Chinatown

History: Toronto doesn’t have a specific dish per se, but because it is such a diverse and multicultural city, it boasts a wide variety of authentic international cuisines. Toronto is home to one of the largest Chinatown districts in North America — in fact, there are six Chinatown neighborhoods to explore in the greater Toronto area. Old Chinatown, which is the main Chinatown district located in the heart of the downtown, has no shortage of restaurants to get an order of noodles, dumplings, or any other kind of Asian cuisine you can think of.

Where To Go: There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown, serving food from China to Korea to Vietnam and everywhere in between. After deliberating for what seemed like hours (but was probably closer to minutes), we decided on Ka Chi Korean Restaurant, where we indulged in traditional Korean noodle dishes. I got the Bulgogi — sliced sirloin marinated in a traditional sweet sauce and served over thick, gummy noodles and steamed veggies.

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Nate opted for a spicier dish — the Bibimbap (rice) served with spicy Bulgogi and squid. Both dishes were served on stone hot plates.

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We also shared an order of steamed beef dumplings, which came with a myriad of sides, including steamed noodles, spicy kimchi, steamed greens, roasted potatoes, and a sweet soy sauce for dipping. We left full and satisfied, happy with our choice but also dying to try to some of the other restaurants on the street (there’s always next time, Toronto).

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Because You Always Leave Room for Dessert:  While traveling from Chinatown to the Rogers Centre (where we were going to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, naturally), we stumbled across a small cupcake shop called Cutie Pie Cupcakes, where we tried what can only be described as the greatest dessert you will ever eat — the Unicorn Twist Ice Cream.  It’s amazing — pink champagne and blue vanilla soft serve piled in a rainbow waffle cone, topped with your choice of sauce (I went with dark chocolate, Nate went with Cherry Coke), dry topping (I went classic with confetti sprinkles, Nate went with cotton candy crumbles), and homemade mini whoopie pie (I went with a rainbow swirl because it was SO PRETTY, Nate went with cookies and cream).  The end result was a customized version of Heaven that made me very much wish I lived in Toronto and could visit Cutie Pie Cupcakes on the regular.

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Rochester, NY

Food to Try: The Garbage Plate

What It Is: The “Garbage Plate”, a highly-caloric plate that includes basically combines every type of food you could ask for in a cook-out – either hamburger patties (with or without cheese) or hot dogs, thrown on top of some combination of beans, fries (or home fries), mac salad, along with meat sauce, chopped onions, and mustard.

History: In 1918, Alexander Tahou opened a restaurant in Rochester called Hots and Potatoes. On the menu was a dish that included just about everything the kitchen could cook — meat and potatoes with a few other things thrown in to make a one-plate meal. Alexander’s son, Nick, took over the restaurant operations and updated the name to Garbage Plate. The dish has long been popular among college students in the area. Legend has it that long-ago college students asked Nick Tahou for a dish with ”all the garbage” on it. So, he concocted the garbage plate.

Where to go: When we arrived at Rochester on a Sunday, many of the hots restaurants were closed, including Nick Tahou’s. We settled for Mark’s Texas Hots, which was great, but they only have garbage plates with hamburgers and hot dogs. The size of the plate was pretty big at Mark’s Hots, but honestly no bigger than any other place. For a more expansive menu, try Henrietta Hots or Nick Tahou’s.

Garbage Plate in Rochester, NY

Fun Fact: The University of Rochester’s Sigma Phi Epsilon has a charity event called “the garbage plate run” that starts on campus, and involves running 2+ miles to Nick Tahou’s, eating a garbage plate and running back to campus. Many people actually tag team it, with one or two runners and one eater, but there are “iron men” that actually do it solo.

The Salty Pig – Back Bay, Boston, MA

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Recently, Nate and I decided to duck into The Salty Pig in the Back Bay, where we indulged in some meats, cheeses, and carbs (the holy trinity of all meals).

We were in a bit of a rush and we also just wanted something to hold us over until we had dinner later that night (they say you’re supposed to eat six small meals a day, and like our friends Kevin Malone and Pam Beesly, we decided to take that literally and make the Salty Pig our First Dinner™).

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So, rather than ordering off the full dinner menu, we decided to go with what makes the Salty Pig famous — their charcuterie boards. The charcuterie menu is split into three sections: “Salty Pig Parts,” which includes a variety of beef, pork, and duck selections; “Stinky Cheeses,” which includes goat, cow, and sheep cheeses ranging from mild to completely funky; and “Round Out The Plate,” which is basically a list of wild card spreads, sauces, and snacks that you can add to the meat and cheese you choose.

Nate and I aren’t very handy people — our DIY expertise extends pretty much to changing light bulbs — but we built one heck of a charcuterie board (if I do say so myself). We went with the Pȃtè de Canard en Croûte — I’m a huge duck fan, so any menu that has a duck-related option is good with me, and this pȃtè was infused with sour cherries, almonds, and brandy, which gave it a slightly sweet, very savory, and extremely rich flavor. I could have eaten an entire plate of it and been in heaven. For our cheese, we went the non-stinky route and got a Challerhocker — raw cheese made from cow’s milk and aged 12 months. It had the same sort of flavor profile as a sharp cheddar, but with a nuttier undertone that complemented the pȃtè very well. For our wild card, we rounded out the plate with some fig jam, which was good but not wholly necessary — I would have preferred more cheese and pȃtè. The board also came with wedges of grilled baguette, homemade pickles, and tangy mustard.

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The rest of the menu at the Salty Pig has standard pub fare — pizzas, pastas, and steaks. The charcuterie boards are what have put the restaurant on the map, and with literally dozens of possible combinations, I know I’d like to go back soon and try my hand at creating another one.

TL;DR:  Prices are what you’d expect from a trendy restaurant in one of the busiest neighborhoods of the city and portions are small, but if you’re in the market for the holy combo of meats and cheeses, then the Salty Pig is worth a visit.