Although the North End is thought of as the go-to for Italian food in Boston, it certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on authentic pastas, housemade sausages, and imported olive oils. Perched far from clamoring tourists on Main Street in Medford, Bob's Italian Foods—a 2012 Medford Patch Readers' Choice winner—has been dishing up and importing traditional Italian foods for more than 70 years. Under the guidance of the DiGiorgio family, its butchers craft their own italian hot, sweet, and fennel pork sausages each day and slice quality meats, such as Angus sirloin and new york strip steaks. The deli counter wraps up to-go foods ranging from eggplant parmigiano with meatballs to hefty prosciutto-and-provolone subs. Shoppers also wander down aisles filled with imported goods including virgin olive oils, Italian cheeses, and pastas shaped like spirals and lock-picks. In addition to equipping customers for their own lunches or dinners, Bob’s helps them feed guests during parties with catered buffets.
When Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, and The Boston Globe's resident foodies all flock to a restaurant—praising the Hot Mess, Mac Attack, and The King, respectively—you know it’s a hit. That's the Boston Burger Company, whose founders have created a destination burger joint to rival the best of America's burgeoning burger scene.
Of their 24 burgers, all but three boast an eight-ounce certified Angus burger patty. But even their veggie, conch, and turkey burgers get the same creative, careful preparation—they can be beer-battered and fried or rubbed with Cajun seasoning, but all are cooked to perfection. Each burger is crowned with some inventive and surprising toppings, including balsamic mayo, fried bananas, and mac and cheese, to name a few. These seriously imaginative recipes have garnered a lot of attention, winning Rachael Ray's Battle of the Best Burger competition, Boston Magazine's Battle of the Burger, and a place in Guy Fieri's heart on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
The burgers are not the menu's only notable edibles, however. Besides creating a collection of classic salads and chicken sandwiches, chefs also fry up boneless wings tossed in one of eight sauces—including honey barbecue, garlic parmesan, or terodactyl sauce, a tangy fusion of teriyaki and barbecue sauces.
Cafe Barada invites diners to sample a rarely experienced side of Lebanon with a menu that won Boston magazine's Best of Boston 2007 for Middle Eastern fare. Owners and chefs for more than two decades, the Salameh family named the restaurant for the Lebanese village that nourished their ancestors, filling plates with favorites passed down through several generations. Flavorful favorites such as stuffed grape leaves rolled with ground beef ($11.95) pay homage to Lebanon's famed steak vineyards, while vegetarian-friendly pumpkin kibby layers ground pumpkin, cracked wheat, spinach, and chickpeas ($13.95) to provide a colorful feast for the senses. Ardishokee showcases tender lamb and artichoke hearts simmering in a savory tomato-based stew that blends in seamlessly with the restaurant's rich, paprika-hued walls ($13.95). Or go green with slices of flaky, cheesy spinach pie ($13.95) or a plate of meshi flefli, a baked green pepper brimming with rice, tomatoes, and ground beef and topped with a garlicky tomato sauce that doubles as a repellent for vampire skunks ($13.95).
Tradition is a powerful force at Passage to India. Running 25 years strong, the Zagat-rated eatery embraces the culinary techniques developed over millennia across the Indian subcontinent. Chefs draw on time-honored cooking methods such as slow-roasting chicken, lamb, and shrimp inside a coal-heated clay tandoor ovens—a practice that speaks to the restaurant's refusal to cut corners when preparing their menu of familiar Indian comfort foods.
The chefs make their own cheese in-house for dishes such as the Bengali staple, Rasgulla—cheese balls soaked in syrup—or the northern Matter Paneer blended with peas and spices. At the same time, they create crepe-like dosas filled with potatoes, herbs and spices to show their appreciation for southern Indian cuisine.
This dedication to the vibrant and varied flavors of Indian cuisine is evident throughout Passage to India's décor. The salmon-pink booths and mahogany chairs complement the wall art, a melange of bold swaths of crimson and saffron-yellow hues. Overhead, ceiling fans waft fresh air throughout the room and dangling pendant lamps gently light each of the tables.
Tex-Mex culture influences every aspect of Sunset Cantina, from the distinctive Southwestern cuisine to the selection of more than 110 tequilas that helps create classic frozen margaritas—named on Boston magazine's list of 30 Best Cocktails. These icy oases offer tongues much-needed respite after they explore an expansive menu of Mexican comfort food, Texas-style barbecue, grilled new york strip steaks, and other cookout cuisine. Chefs create signature beer-bathed burgers—perhaps their centerpiece—by searing half-pound patties of ground sirloin on a steam grill. These treats as well as 38 beers on tap are available throughout the day and well into the night, as the kitchen stays open and cooking until 1 a.m.
The high-ceilinged dining area combines the scattered booth seating of a roadside diner with the intimate lighting and ambiance of a neighborhood bar. Metal lanterns hang over each table, framed collections of beer-bottle labels decorate the walls, and flat-screen televisions entertain patrons with sports and endless footage of the United States’ secretary of education playing Trivial Pursuit.
At the age of 16, Matthew "Matty" Hughes became the youngest-ever licensed captain in the port of Boston. Funneling his passion into a career, he founded Boston Harbor Cruises in 1926 to lead tours up the Charles River. What began as a two-man, one-boat operation has grown tremendously throughout its more than 90-year history, now encompassing a 21-boat fleet and more than 250 employees who transport more than 2 million passengers.
The Boston Harbor Cruises's staff handles all things nautical, from whale watching and speedboat tours to wedding receptions and celebrations for special occasions. Because dolphins are hard to saddle and refuse to obey verbal commands, Boston Harbor Cruises also navigates the waters with ferries and harbor cruises that explore the historic and romantic sights of Boston.
Though the leadership has changed, Matty's grandchildren Rick and Chris Nolan still perpetuate the traditions of Boston Harbor Cruises, furthering one man's obsession with the harbor and inspiring future generations to create their own memories on its calm waters.