When it comes to food, Tomasso Trattoria is a champion of the locavore and farm-to-table trends. The restaurant fuels its fresh Italian dishes with meat and produce culled almost exclusively from New England–area farms. The same, however, cannot be said for the wine. To enhance the feeling that its guests are dining on the Amalfi Coast or the banks of a Venetian canal, Tomasso maintains a wine cellar populated chiefly by Italian vintages representing every region of the country. Every bottle on the list is available for purchase at the adjacent partner shop, Panzano. In addition, wine director Shaun Snow teaches classes for foodies who want to learn about Italian wine customs without having to interview a Sicilian grapevine. The eatery’s menu changes weekly to adjust for seasonally available ingredients, but its commitment to quality never wavers. Chef Josh Brown and his staff make the pasta fresh daily, and gluten-free pasta is available on request. Guests can dine and drink in any of four spaces decorated in rich red and yellow hues, including a bar area lined with leather booths and a more rustic alcove with mottled walls.
Krua Khun Yah's vast lunch and dinner menus encapsulate the many and varied flavors of Thailand's culinary history with dishes such as massaman curry, tamarind duck, and Bangkok beef. Chefs willingly adjust the spice level of dishes based on how many ounces of sweat bead on customers' brows from just the smell. Authentic ingredients include rich coconut milk and native chilies, and fresh ingredients come from local farmers' markets. Meals are also cooked in pure vegetable oil to bring out each flavor, coaxing any shy ingredients out of hiding.
Steeped in centuries of rich tradition, Italian cuisine relies on quality ingredients and simple preparations to yield beautifully bold flavors. Since 1983, the chefs of Nello’s Cafe have drawn on such traditions to fill their extensive menu with Old-World staples such as lasagna and seafood diavolo, which they serve alongside burgers and other American fare.
Ken's Steak House is an improbable success story. Ken and Florence Hanna opened the Lakeside Cafe in 1935, the throes of the Great Depression. Bite by bite, they built a loyal base of customers (who always just called the eatery "Ken's"), and after five years, the restaurant took up residence in a small diner on Route 9, then known as Starvation Alley.
But Ken dreamed of a day when the grimly named strip would flourish. Today, it's known as the "Golden Mile"—and Ken's Steak House itself has mushroomed. The kitchen still serves the salad dressing recipes created by Florence Hanna—now a national line of salad dressings—and Ken's son, Timothy, and his wife are in charge.
Chefs broil and fire-grill prime cuts of steak, marinating the chateaubriand's center cut roast tenderloin in a reduction of port wine, or infusing the 8-ounce filet mignon with the earthy smoked notes of the warm cedar planks it's served on. Seafood options nestle up against their turf counterparts, including bacon-wrapped scallops, a full pound of lobster stuffed with crab and shrimp, and pistachio-crusted Atlantic salmon. Chicken and pasta dishes round out the menu, and diners discover Italian influences and plenty of seafood-pasta plates. The rustic wood paneling harkens back to Ken's Steak House's roots, and the upscale fare and soft light cast from chandeliers make the spot an ideal choice for an anniversary dinner or a piñata's last meal.
“It’s the next best thing to having Greek friends who put a spit in the yard come Easter,” proclaims The Improper Bostonian of Aegean Restaurant. The glowing review should come as no surprise—for one thing, Aegean’s founders Nicholas and Toula Ntasios hail from Greece, and for another, they've been working at it for nearly three decades. In 1972, the pair left their small village to chase after success in America. Their gamble paid off in 1980 when they opened the first Aegean Restaurant. As locals discovered the strip-mall eatery, a spot as deceivingly nondescript as a fortune cookie that contains the president’s phone number, business went from sparse to thriving. In the three decades since, Nicholas and Toula (eventually joined by sons Arthur and Chris) have drawn customers not with glitzy marketing campaigns, but with authentic, personalized food. The Improper Bostonian deems their braised lamb “especially worth the trip,” but Mediterranean influences shine through most in seafood dishes, such as the charcoal-grilled, lemon-kissed swordfish steak.
The staff at Tropical Café patrol the restaurant’s perimeter constantly, spears in hand. They’re not on guard duty, though. Rather, they’re servers, carving off portions of freshly roasted Brazilian barbecue. They stop at every table, offering their savory cargo to diners who have flipped their personal dining card green side up, indicating that they might be in danger of consuming plant matter from the extensive salad bar if more meat does not arrive soon.
The taste of culture doesn’t stop at the barbecue, however. Tropical Café fills weekends with live musical performances of South American and Brazilian folk music. Wednesday evenings are devoted to karaoke, the classic contest made more interesting by participants who sing with mouthfuls of meat.