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.  

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…).

Naco Taco – Central Square, Cambridge

Tacos are nature’s perfect food — what could possibly be better than a holy combo of meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces all wrapped up in a warm tortilla?

We’ve been on a bit of a taco kick lately, and we ventured to Naco Taco in Central Square to satisfy the craving. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. The taco menu is full of fresh ingredients mixed together in funky flavor combos and each taco comes on a warm, slightly spongy homemade corn soft corn tortilla (ground and pressed in-house daily). The best part? The most expensive taco is $5, meaning you can order more than one without breaking the bank (we’d recommend 2 or 3 per person).  The menu also features tortas served on homemade corn telera, salads, and a variety of small plates and snacks meant for sharing.

While pretty much everything on the menu looked enticing, we were able to eventually make a decision after what seemed like hours of deliberation.  I went for the Bistec taco — tender and juicy grilled flank steak with avocado, crispy onions, and a slightly spicy chimichurri sauce — and the Duck Confit taco — a generous portion of duck covered in a perfectly sweet pomegranate molasses and topped with crunchy sweet potato sticks and shaved cilantro.  Nate went for three different takes on pork — the Al Pastor, a sweet and savory taco that came with charbroiled pork, onion, and cilantro all mixed with juicy burnt pineapple; the Cochinita Pibil, a combo of pulled pork, radish, and onion with a cilantro crema and a spicy chile de árbol glaze; and the Chorizo, which came with baby yukon potatoes, cilantro, and onion topped with a charred chipotle and tomatillo salsa.  All five tacos were incredibly flavorful and fresh and my only regret is that we couldn’t order every one off the menu so we could try the rest of the flavors in one sitting.

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We also decided to split a half order of the Street Corn off the Cob — sweet corn niblets topped with crumbles of cotija cheese, tangy chile de árbol, a dash of lime juice, and cilantro.  It was the perfect addition to an already delicious meal (and honestly, if that’s what street food looks like in Mexico, then why are we still living here? I propose we all move South of the Border asap…)

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The menu isn’t the only great thing about Naco Taco, either. With walls covered in trendy murals, a cool outdoor patio tricked out with twinkle lights, live music, and a great location (right on Mass Ave. in Central Square), the restaurant has a funky, unpretentious, and relaxed ambiance that fits right in with the vibe of the neighborhood.

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TL;DR:  If you’re in the market for delicious, outside-the-box tacos, Naco Taco is a perfect spot for a quick snack or a full meal that is sure to satisfy.

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.

Bottega Fiorentina — Coolidge Corner, Brookline

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When it comes to Italian food, Boston has no shortage of delicious options — from casual slices of pizza to fine dining to cannoli, the North End alone offers a taste of nearly every region of Italy. But, you don’t always have to make the trip to the North End to get authentic, delicious, and homemade Italian food.

Nate and I recently made our way to Coolidge Corner to try Bottega Fiorentina, an intimate and cozy Tuscan restaurant with a small but diverse menu full of antipasto plates, salads, sandwiches, and handmade pasta in a myriad of sauces both traditional (i.e. Alfredo, pomodoro, bolognese, etc.) and unconventional (i.e. the Boscaiola, a tomato sauce with prosciutto, mushrooms, pine nuts, and red pepper; or the Paradiso, a cream sauce with zucchini, mozzarella, and garlic).  The menu is perhaps best distinguished by its extensive list of daily specials, all of which are made to order, are offered only once per week, and sound so good that I seriously would consider eating at Bottega Fiorentina every day for a week just so I could try them all.

After perusing the menu and trying to decide what we wanted to order, Nate settled on the Prosciutto di Parma sandwich — a generous amount of paper-thin prosciutto topped with fresh mozzarella rounds, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.The sandwich came on an Italian sub roll that was the perfect ratio of crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  And, the saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the smoothness of the mozzarella made for an excellent meat lovers’ take on the traditional caprese sandwich.

I went with a pasta special — we went on a Friday, which meant that they were serving their homemade pesto sauce. So, I got an order of spinach gnocchi topped with the pesto (that’s what people mean when they say they want to go green, right?). The order was small, but each individual dumpling was packed to the brim with a deliciously creamy spinach filling. The pesto — made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese — was creamy and thick, coating each gnocchi and adding a tangy punch to every bite. The whole dish was topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and served with a side of crusty Italian bread. It was a small portion, but the heartiness of the spinach gnocchi combined with the cheesy, creamy texture of the pesto left me full and satisfied (if not wishing I had a little more left on my plate).

In addition to the dine-in and take-out options, Bottega Fiorentina also sells imported Italian grocery specialties, including pasta, cookies, chocolate, and different varieties of coffee and espresso. Combine that with the unpretentiously casual dining area (complete with a communal wooden picnic table, tricked out with a large umbrella and white string lights) and you’ll feel more like you’re dining al fresco in a cafe in Florence than inside a storefront in Brookline.

TL;DR: One of Coolidge Corner’s culinary gems, Bottega Fiorentina offers delicious, homestyle Italian food without the hassle of North End traffic and crowds.

Bamboo Thai Restaurant – Brighton, MA

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In case you haven’t noticed, we are big, big fans of Thai food. Like, such big fans that if we could travel around Boston just eating Pad Thai and writing about its merits, we probably would.

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So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of our favorite things to do is visit the Thai restaurants in our neighborhood and see how they measure up to one another. This week, we popped into Bamboo Thai Restaurant in Brighton. Small and charmingly decorated with traditional Thai paraphernalia, modern artwork, and a seriously awesome fish tank that features nearly all of the stars of Finding Nemo, Bamboo is a neighborhood gem with an inviting vibe and a menu full of Thai dishes that are sure to satisfy.

We decided to start with the Lollipop Wings — crispy chicken wings coated with a tangy sesame sauce.  The wings were tender and juicy with the just the right amount of the delightfully fried, crispy coating.  Each wing came smothered in the sesame sauce, which was sticky and sweet with a slight kick to it (not to mention so good that if my impulse control hadn’t kicked in, I probably would have started just licking the plate with reckless abandon).  

We also got an order of Crab Rangoon.  Each of the bite-sized dumplings had the perfect ratio of crispy fried wonton to creamy crabmeat filling, and the homemade sweet and sour sauce further enhanced the flavor by adding a little tang to the otherwise mild rangoon.

To top the whole meal off with some carbs, we decided on the House Pad Thai, which came with chicken and shrimp, as well as fried egg, turnip, scallions, bean sprouts, and peanuts.  Bamboo’s Pad Thai is one of my favorite iterations of the classic Thai dish in all of Boston — it has a hearty, peanutty flavor without being too greasy, it’s light enough that you don’t feel guilty after eating it, and the generous portion of shrimp and chicken take on the flavor of the noodles and bring the whole dish together so that it is substantial enough to stand on its own as a meal.  

Because no meal is complete without dessert, we decided to split a dish of green tea ice cream.  It was simultaneously sweet and savory and the perfect cherry on top of a very satisfying meal.

TL;DR:  Bamboo Thai Restaurant has an expansive menu filled with some of the best Thai food that Boston has to offer and is more than worth a trip on the B-line out to Brighton.

@Chilli Thai Bistro – Brighton, MA

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If there’s one thing that Nate and I love, it’s Thai food. It’s flavorful, it’s light, it has a ton of variety, and, most importantly, it’s centered around our favorite thing in the entire world — carbs.  Since we’re almost always craving Thai food, we decided it was about time we try @Chilli Thai Bistro, a cozy spot on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, right near BC’s campus.

@Chilli has a huge menu featuring everything from classic Thai restaurant staples (chicken satay, dumpling soup, Pad Thai, etc.) to more inspired fare that thinks slightly outside the box (like the Thai beef jerky or the Som Tum, a Thai street food-inspired salad with green papaya, shrimp, carrots, tomatoes, and crushed peanut all tossed with a chili lime dressing).  Many of @Chilli’s signature dishes have some sort of spicy kick to them (appropriate for a restaurant named after Prik Chi Fa, or the Bird’s Eye Pepper, a mainstay of Southeast Asian cuisine with a heat level similar to the most pungent jalapeño peppers), but there are also plenty of options for pickier eaters like me who can’t handle spice.

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We decided to share an appetizer and two dishes. We started with the Golden Puffs — four giant crispy triangles filled with a deliciously aromatic blend of potatoes, onions, scallions, and curry powder.  The outer shell was thin and crispy, the perfect complement to the gooey, savory, curry-infused paste on the inside.  The Golden Puffs came with a slightly thick, very sweet chili sauce that further enhanced the flavor and consistency of the puffs.

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We also ordered Nong’s Fried Chicken — Southern Thai fried chicken topped with fried garlic and garnished with fried shallots.  Thai fried chicken is a popular street dish in many areas of Thailand, and after one bite of @Chilli’s version of it, I can understand why.  The chicken was crispy, juicy, and tender with a pleasant garlicky undertone that puts most Southern BBQ joints to shame. Plus, portions at @Chilli’s are huge — we got a small order of the chicken thinking that we’d both just get a taste to see what it was like, and the order came with a half-chicken on the bone, fried to perfection and smothered in garlic and shallots.

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We closed the meal off with Pineapple Fried Rice, which came with shrimp, chicken, egg, grilled pineapple, and a melange of vegetables (including onions, peas, carrots, and sweet corn). The rice came tossed with curry powder, which gave the dish a slight, but perfectly manageable kick.  

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The sweetness of the pineapple combined nicely with the savory flavor of the rice and veggies and further helped to prove my point that the addition of grilled pineapple makes literally everything better.

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We left there satisfied and extremely full, and justified the fact that we had no leftovers by saying that we were burning calories by walking home instead of taking the T (#logic?)

TL;DR: If you’re looking for authentic and delicious Thai food that strays from the beaten path of most Thai restaurants in the area, then @Chilli’s Thai Bistro won’t disappoint!

P.S. – If you’re looking for a great place in Brighton, Tasca Restaurant is right down the road on Comm Ave!