A past winner of Boston magazine's Best Pool Hall award, Flat Top Johnny's complements its felt-topped tables with home-cooked food and a laid-back atmosphere. Games of billiards ($12 an hour/table) at any of a dozen tournament-size pool tables send balls bouncing while several old-school pinball machines mutter nervously nearby. Fuel a rousing game of eight-ball with an appetizing bowl ($3) or cup ($5) of homemade chili, complemented by Johnny's house-made corn bread, or with a crew of sandwiches, wraps, and snacks from Flat Top Johnny's menu. Johnny's can stuff grilled chicken and feta cheese into a corner pocket of ciabatta bread ($6), or mix pork, beef, or veggie sliders with two other identical sliders (three for $7). Toast an evening of trick shots and twisted dough by hoisting a beer mug filled with pretzels ($3), chased by a shot of mustard.
At The Depot Sports Grille’s onsite smokehouse, pitmasters slow-smoke racks of ribs, piles of pulled pork, and bundles of brisket. Flavored with housemade rubs and sauces, each meaty main course is served with corn bread and from-scratch sides such as pulled-pork chili or smoked baked beans. Barbecue flavors permeate many of the eatery’s other dishes, from barbecue-chicken quesadillas to specialty pizzas topped with smoked sausage or house-barbecue spices. Feasts unfold inside The Depot’s spacious dining room, where each booth is equipped with its own flat-screen TV.
Though he’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America whose resumé spans stints across the U.S., Brian Treitman has never lost his affinity for one food—roadside barbecue. At B.T.'s Smokehouse, Brian pays homage to multiple styles of Southern barbecue, starting with dry rubbing each cut of meat, from the pork shoulder and beef brisket to both types of ribs, in a blend of spices. He then places the slabs into a Southern Pride smoker, where the velvety plumes from local apple and hickory wood slowly cook the meat for up to 14 hours.
The cuts emerge with a crisp, blackened exterior surrounding a juicy, fall-apart-soft interior, and are plated with cornbread and sides such as collard greens and mac ’n’ cheese. Brian's approach has earned him a loyal following, a spot on Worcester'sBestChef.com's 2011 People's Choice Awards, and at least two awkwardly long hugs from diners.
Across from Boston University's west campus, the cooks at Angora Café fill their cozy storefront with the aromas of Europe. Drawing from a stock of imported ingredients, the culinary team incorporates Mediterranean flavors into roll-ups with fixings such as oven-roasted chicken and daily-changing hummus. Atop pizzas, they not only sprinkle classic toppings like mozzarella, but also unorthodox options such as mango and tofu. They also prepare low-carb wraps or low-calorie flatbreads crowned with turkey and spinach.
On the sweet side, the café's beverage concocters blend fruits, juices, and frozen yogurt into creamy smoothies. Scoops of low-fat frozen yogurt even serve as foundations for desserts like the chunky monkey, chocolate fro-yo smothered in peanut butter and Butterfingers.
Three Dogz Diner serves up traditional American diner fare and Southern cuisine for breakfast and lunch in a cozy, kid-friendly diner environment. Smoking specialists layer beef or pork barbeque ($5.99) and turkey sandwiches ($5.99) with thin slices of meat that has been seasoned with special dry rubs and sauces, then slowly smoked on-site over the objections of hoarse smoke detectors. The steak and cheese loads almost a pound of brisket grilled with veggies and american cheese onto an 8-inch roll ($8.39), and daily specials add edible unpredictability throughout the week. For breakfast, sample the biscuits and gravy, with two homemade biscuits bobbing in a sea of homemade sausage gravy accompanied by a pair of eggs any style ($5.79). Sneaky chefs poach the finest eggs from Faberge farms for the eggs benedict, then stack them on english muffins, add succulent ham, and smother the steaming stacks in hollandaise sauce ($6.79).
The American BBQ, which was featured on "The Phantom Gourmet," has its cooks dry-rub each cut of their meat with a house blend of spices and seasonings before placing them in a wood smoker for up to 16 hours. Sliced beef brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken fill sandwiches or rest on plates next to sides such as southern greens or homemade potato chips. Classic memphis-style pork ribs arrive at the table in a third rack, half rack, or full rack, which diners can fashion into makeshift xylophones after their meals. Inside both locations, rustic adornments dapple the walls, from vintage Coca-Cola signs to weathered road signs.