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.  

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.

Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar — Coolidge Corner, Brookline

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If there’s one thing in this world that I love, it’s sushi. In fact, I could eat sushi three meals a day and never get sick of it. It’s an obsession, really.  Luckily for me, Boston has no shortage of sushi restaurants — large and small, upscale and basic, funky and traditional — and my goal in life is to try them all.

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Recently, Nate and I decided to visit Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar, a relatively new Asian fusion restaurant in Coolidge Corner that boasts a giant menu of both Chinese favorites and, more importantly (at least in my opinion), dozens of different kinds of Maki, Nigiri, and everything in between.  

The sushi menu featured traditional rolls that any sushi restaurant usually serves — there were a few veggie options for people who don’t love the idea of raw fish, as well as standard maki featuring different combos of salmon, shrimp, crab stick, or eel with avocado or cucumber.  The highlight, however, was the specialty maki menu, featuring interesting and intricate ingredient combos (like the Sweet Lobster Maki — sweet potato tempura topped with lobster, mango, avocado, flying fish roe, and mayo — or the Spicy Baked Scallop maki — served with crab stick, mushroom, flying fish roe, and mayo).  There were also tons of different options for sushi platters and combos, making Jin’s not only a nice date night spot, but also a great option for larger groups.

Nate and I decided to split three different kinds of rolls:  Philadelphia Maki, which came with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, and scallion; Rainbow Maki, which is a traditional California maki topped with slices of tuna, salmon, squid, and avocado and then garnished with multi-color flying fish roe; and Volcano Maki, which came with eel, shrimp, avocado, and cucumber rolled together and topped with spicy tuna mixed with flying fish roe and crunchy tempura flakes.  

The Philadelphia roll was exactly as expected — the combo of the smoky salmon and the cream cheese with the starchy rice tasted like the Japanese version of a bagel and lox.  The Volcano maki had a slight kick to it, but not enough to really qualify as “spicy” — the avocado and cucumber helped to counteract the spiciness of the tuna, and the tempura flakes gave each bite a nice crunch. The Rainbow maki was easily my favorite — immensely fresh and flavorful, the tuna, salmon, and squid complemented the sweetness of the crab stick. And the green, red, yellow, and black flying fish roe was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also gave the roll a delightfully pleasant texture that elevated the flavor of each bite. (Also flying fish roe is basically Japanese caviar — pinkies up, everyone).  

Portions were on par with most sushi restaurants — each order came with six to eight pieces, so three rolls were enough for two people to split without breaking the bank (although some of the maki options on the menu get very expensive depending on what you choose).  We left satisfied with all of our menu choices (if not wishing that there was such a thing as dessert sushi — someone invent that, already!!) and wanting to return for another visit to try more off the menu.

TL;DR:  Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar is a great option if you’re looking for fresh and flavorful sushi in a casually elegant setting.

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.

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar — Back Bay

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Samantha and I wanted to change things up this time and go to a Greek restaurant. There aren’t too many Greek restaurants in Boston, but we settled on Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar in the Back Bay.

The atmosphere is a reason in itself to visit Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar. The restaurant is filled with contemporary art and colorful decor. It’s certainly stylish, but not in a flashy way, but in a more simplistic way. The space inside is big – there are tables and booths that surround a big bar located in the center of the restaurant.

Doretta is like many restaurants around the back bay or downtown area – it doesn’t pretend to be this lesser, more casual restaurant. That means you’ll get smaller portions that cost more, but the quality of dishes are top notch.

The dinner menu is split into raw, mezze (smaller plates), and larger plates. I had never had grilled octopus, so we started with an order of that. Again, a small portion (and even smaller since Samantha split it), but so. Damn. good. The order came in a bowl and in that bowl, along with grilled octopus, came with capers, onions, and parsley.Doretta TavernAfter splitting a mezze, we also ordered a larger plate to split. While the branzino and lamb shoulder both sounded great, we ultimately went with something a little more affordable, that sounded just as great – the lamb burger. We were not disappointed. The lamb burger was topped with whipped feta, spicy cucumber, and tzatziki sauce. The burger came with a side of awesome homemade potato chips which we also thoroughly enjoyed. We also found a foodie hack and dipped chips in the tzatziki sauce that fell out of the burger and onto our plate, and that was a truly delightful experience for my taste buds.Doretta TavernIf you’re looking to change it up from the typical bar and grille, Doretta fits the bill as an elegant restaurant downtown with fresh, authentic Greek food – a very solid place for a date night!

Craigie On Main – Central Square, Cambridge, MA

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Just a five-minute walk from Central Square T-stop, Craigie on Main is an upscale, French-inspired restaurant that features innovative dishes that push the limits in terms of bold ingredients that somehow seem to compliment perfectly together.

One thing that was evident right away was the outstanding service from the entire staff. From the moment we walked in, the staff was nothing but friendly and accommodating. Throughout the night, we literally never lifted a finger to pour water out of the carafe on our table.

As mentioned, Craigie on Main is an upscale French-inspired restaurant, and the decor certainly reflects that. Where we were seated, there had to have been 8 different types of mirrors with antique-style frames. This, in addition to the dimmed lighting, created an intimate aura, making Craigie on Main a prime date spot. The spot even featured an open kitchen!

The dinner menu offers plenty of new dishes that you’ll have to go out on a limb to try. I admit, we didn’t know some of the ingredients listed on the menu, but in asking our waiter, he was able to explain the ingredients and what we could expect in terms of taste for each dish we quizzed him on. Our appetizer, for instance, was squid ink chitarra pasta, topped with manilla clams, roasted tomatoes, pork belly, uni butter. While the squid ink gives off a strong aroma, it worked in harmony with all the other ingredients, particularly the clams. It had a garlic-lemon undertone.Next was the main course. We decided on the Pennsylvania Dutch country chicken. Let me tell you about this entree. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender. It’s unclear what it was braised with, but it was delicious. Along with the chicken, were green beans, fennel, and raisins, with a very tasty mole verde sauce that had a mild kick to it.

To cap off our order, we ordered the milk chocolate cremeux. The only way to describe this was that taste was the only sense that existed in that moment, and all other senses ceased to exist – at least until we finished eating. The combo of milk chocolate, feuilletine, and walnut ice cream was just unbelievable and left me drooling for more.

We were very pleased with our experience at Craigie on Main, and would highly recommend going for a date or special occasion.

TL DR: With outstanding service, Craigie on Main in Central Square is a top notch upscale gourmet restaurant – but it’s about quality, not quantity here.

Panza – North End, Boston

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There’s nothing better than Italian food and, luckily enough, Boston is home to some of the best Italian restaurants this side of the Atlantic. We recently took a trip to Boston’s historic North End with our friends (and visitors from Washington, DC) Nicole and Jasmine in tow for some authentic Italian food at Panza.

Panza is located right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Hanover Street and its small storefront makes it easy to walk right by it.  That, however, would be a big mistake since Panza — a cozy, relaxed, and homey space with mismatched plates on the wall and an open kitchen — has a menu full of classic (and reasonably priced!) Italian dishes that will satisfy pasta lovers, meat lovers, and seafood lovers of all varieties.

I went with the Butternut Squash Tortelloni — oversized, handmade dumplings filled to the brim with a slightly sweet and delectably savory roasted squash purée and topped with a rich brown butter sage sauce. The tortelloni had just the right ratio of pasta to filling and the sage butter sauce — which was flavorful without being too heavy — had an undertone of cinnamon that complemented the savory creaminess of the squash stuffing.Nate got the Potato Gnocchi Bolognese — small potato-filled dumplings in a classic beef and pork ragu. The gnocchi were flavorful and light (despite the fact that the combo of pasta and potato can sometimes make for a rather large post-meal food baby, these gnocchi had just the right amount of starchy goodness) and the meat sauce enhanced the flavor of the pasta even further.

Nicole and Jasmine both gravitated toward the poultry portion of the menu and went for the Chicken Saltimbocca and the Chicken Parmesan, respectively. The Saltimbocca came with salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella cheese, and roasted veggies, all topped with a light and flavorful white wine sage sauce.  The Chicken Parmesan was exactly as expected — the chicken was slightly crisped and smothered in gooey cheese and delicious homemade red sauce.Both dishes came with a small bowl of pasta that was not wholly necessary considering the large portions, but was nonetheless greatly appreciated because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love pasta?

We left totally full but still completely in the mood for dessert, so we stopped for cannoli at Bova’s (which, pro tip, has amazing cannoli but never has the same long line as the more touristy Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry). We shared a cappuccino, chocolate chip, and classic plain cannoli — all of which were perfectly crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside.All in all, a perfect Boston night in one of the city’s most uniquely fun neighborhoods.

TL:DR:  Panza is the perfect place for a traditional Italian meal without the high prices usually found in most North End restaurants. Be sure to make a reservation to avoid the long lines!