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!

Putterham Grille – Chestnut Hill, Newton, MA

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If you’ve been craving Greek food, you’ll be impressed by the food and service at Putterham Grille in Chestnut Hill. Putterham has authentic Greek cuisine for either counter-serve take-out or dine-in. In my opinion, Putterham Grille is a really underrated spot that I presume flies under the radar because it’s in Newton and not Boston. But it surely worth the drive if you can get out to Newton – or if you live in Newton, lucky you! You have a new restaurant you’ll want to go to.Samantha had been once before, and she seemed to enjoy it, so we decided to go taste test it.. and to write about it! When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty crowded, but we were seated right away. The sit-down part of the restaurant is very nice, boasting a calm vibe. The dinner menu featured a rather large amount of items to choose from including a nice mix of entrees and appetizers that sounded unique and authentic to Greek culture.We opted for appetizers to share and sample instead of order entrees. One was the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Tenders served with a sesame ginger crème on the side and mandarin oranges. The tenders were so good – they were juicy and the teriyaki sauce that was glazed over them was sweet and perfectly complemented the sesame ginger crème and mandarin oranges. You can also order the chicken tenders as a meal, and after tasting them, we kind of wished we did that. Oh well, hindsight’s 20/20.The other appetizer we split were stuffed mushrooms. They were just as good as the tenders, and bonus points because it looked artsy AF when they were served to us. There were five generously-sized stuffed mushrooms drizzled in a balsamic glaze, which was also artfully dripped on the plate. In the middle of the circle of stuffed mushrooms were greens and shredded carrots, which added to the appeal of the plate. The mushrooms tasted just as delightful as they looked. They were savory and satisfying and had a nice consistency.

TL;DR: Putterham Grille boasts a great menu with a wide selection of unique Greek dishes for anyone to enjoy. The beautiful interior and relaxed vibe make it great date spot if you can get out of the city!

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.

Pigs in a blanket at Article 24

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.

Tuna Tartare at Article 24

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.

Tasca Restaurant – Brighton, MA

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Nate and I are huge fans of the whole “sharing is caring” rule (especially when it comes to food sharing — arguably the best kind of sharing), so the concept of tapas is perfect for us. We recently decided to go to Tasca in Brighton, where we experienced Spanish cuisine at its finest.

We decided to get three items off the extensive menu (seriously extensive – there’s 35 varieties of tapas and ten full-sized dinner entrees), but everything looked so good that the decision was hard to come by. We toyed with the idea of getting the Brie a la Plancha (#29 on the menu), which comes with grilled brie and a tangy-sweet raisin chutney and a grilled garlicky baguette. We were also intrigued by the Confit de Pato (#19) — succulent roast duck leg served over braised red cabbage and apples — and the Costillas de ternera (#31) — braised short rib ragout with root vegetables and creamy horseradish on top. Tasca is the sort of place you have to keep visiting again and again so you can try everything that looks good (aka the whole menu).

Ultimately, this time around we went with the Solomillo (#20; a petit filet mignon served in a red wine sauce with mushrooms and a stack of potatoes au gratin); Salmon ahumado (#34; smoked salmon with red onion, capers, and dill crème fraîche with a side of crispy potato cake); and Fideos con mariscos (#32; Catalan-style roasted angel hair pasta with shrimp, calamari, mussels and littleneck clams baked in a garlic lobster broth).

The filet was perfectly cooked to order, tender and juicy and just the right amount for two people. The cheesy potatoes soaked up the au jus of the steak and were rich and creamy.

Tasca Restaurant

The salmon ahumado was basically the Spanish answer to the traditional bagel and lox — the salmon was just the right amount of smoky, the potato cake was basically a huge hash brown (#heaven), and the creamy, smooth, slightly tangy dill crème fraîche tied all the flavors together in a perfect combination of savory, creamy, fishy goodness.  

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The highlight of the meal for me, however, was the Fideos con Mariscos. The portion was extremely generous for tapas, and the dish was chock-full of enough shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams that Nate and I didn’t even have to fight over who got the bigger portion (although in all fairness I think I might have taken more than he did…sorry, Nate!).  The garlic lobster broth was creamy and flavorful and had undertones of an Alfredo sauce.  The sauce was neutral enough to bring out the flavor of the seafood but simultaneously flavorful enough to stand on its own — even bites with just the lobster-broth coated angel hair pasta were delicious.

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Pro tip: when the bill comes and your server asks you to fill out a comment card, make sure you not only give comments, but provide your email address as well.  I know, I know…spam emails are annoying. But ever since giving my email address to Tasca way back when I first tried it a few years ago, I have never eaten a meal there without some sort of coupon giving me a percentage off my meal. In fact, with the $10 coupon Nate and I used when we went this time around, we basically got two of the tapas we ordered on the house.

The restaurant is also very into promotional events. There are weekly sangria tastings, special holiday menus, and even live music flamenco dancing. Tapas range in price from $5 to $9 and the portions are larger than those found in most tapas restaurants in the city, so it’s definitely a good value. Plus, with exposed brick walls, candle-lit dining, and ample seating, Tasca is a great place for a date night or just a slightly fancy yet also totally affordable meal with friends. A trip to Tasca is basically the next best thing to a trip to Spain. Without having to bring your passport or getting searched by the TSA.

TL;DR: Tasca serves up authentic and delicious Spanish tapas at a reasonable price — with its romantic ambiance and easy accessibility via public transportation, it’s a great spot for dinner dates and more than worth the trip to Brighton!

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.