When Valerie Beck was in kindergarten, there was only one way to get her to drink her milk: mixing in chocolate. As she grew up, her passion for the sweet treat only deepened. During a five-year stint living in Europe, she sleuthed out the most delectable chocolate shops and bakeries, eventually bringing friends along with her on trips to chocolate hot spots. After returning to the United States, she broadened her scope to create Boston Chocolate Walking Tours, focusing on the city’s increasing number of premium chocolatiers.
Valerie’s team of tour guides reveals Boston's best chocolate spots to guests on 2.5-hour tours around the Newbury Street neighborhood. They embark from Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, walking or canoeing across the city's historic chocolate canals. The tour changes daily, hitting five–six spots, such as DeLuca's Market and Emack & Bolio's, though the Lindt shop is always on the list.
Vinny's Ristorante encapsulates the notion of a hidden gem—upon arrival at the address, customers often first think they're lost, as it appears they're mistakenly at a convenience store. The Italian eatery is tucked in the back of this store, so once customers spot red-checkered tablecloths, along with "the vaguely Sopranos-esque clientele sucking down pasta fazool," it's clear they've made it.
Boston magazine reviewers—who observed the Tony Soprano lookalikes when they deemed Vinny's worthy of the Best of Boston list for affordable Italian in 2006—highlight the restaurant's antipasto bar and "massive" portions of handmade pasta as the major draws. And although the word's been out for some time about this secluded Sicilian hotspot, Vinny's marinara and handmade mafalda noodles, impressive Zagat rating, and ceiling fans modeled after da Vinci's helicopter blueprints continue to captivate loyal regulars.
Inside Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant, companions gather around a traditional mesob, a table woven from colorful straw, for a communal dining experience. Upon the mesob’s concave surface, servers nestle a broad platter that holds a family-style meal neatly scooped out onto a foundation of spongy injera bread. Diners dive in together, tearing scraps of injera, which they use to pinch turmeric-spiced bites of beef, lamb, poultry, and veggies from the menu's selection of specialty dishes. Between bites, patrons can sip tej, a wine fermented from hops and raw honey that is served hot or cold. After meals, rounds of warming coffee signal the repast's end as clearly as the gong that sounds at the end of a Shakespearian soliloquy.
The Dave behind Dave’s Fresh Pasta has spent more than 20 years perfecting the art of pasta making, so it’s no surprise that he doesn’t mind having an audience as he works. He and his staff cut fresh fettuccine, spaghetti, and handmade ravioli right in front of customers. From there, diners take their meal's conception into their own hands, choosing from any of Dave's fresh, house-made sauces––puttanesca, vodka cream, and basil pesto are just a few of the choices available on any given day. But despite the name, pasta isn’t the only draw at Dave's. The grocery store brings together a tantalizing spread of homemade items—croutons, crostini, pestos, dressings—with a curated selection of cheeses, chocolates, olives, cured meats, oils, vinegars, craft beers, and wines. Customers looking to try something new will find plenty of samples to enjoy as they browse, while grilled paninis, fresh soups, and ready-to-eat pasta dishes await anyone in desperate need of a quick meal or ammunition for an office food fight.
Situated at the core of Davis Square, Diva Indian Bistro brims with the aromas of a menu that borrows from the culinary traditions of regions from Bangalore to Bombay. Beneath a bubbly goldenrod ceiling that looks like a collection of soft-lit skylights, patrons settle onto plump black benches to munch samosas and peruse offerings of lamb, seafood, beef, and tandoori dishes soaked in the warmth of the traditional clay oven. Saffron- and cardamom-scented basmati rice stars in biryani dishes, and dosas, a type of crepe crafted from rice and lentils, enclose chicken or veggie fillings alongside coconut chutney and lentil soup. The wall behind Diva’s bar mimics the ceiling’s rectangular bubble pattern in white, with a long row of blue glass bottles bisecting the surface. High black and chrome chairs slide up to the brushed-silver bar, where patrons murmur over cocktails and ice clicks occasionally like a tap dancer having a nice dream.
There's only one way to describe the drinks at Cantina La Mexicana: colorful. The bartending team specializes in fresh fruit margaritas, which they blend together and serve on the rocks with 30 different tequilas, instead of one tequila with 29 nicknames. They also squeeze limonada, melon, and other seasonal juices, serving up sweet counterpoints to the zesty cuisine.
That cuisine is inspired by a combination of family recipes and Boston-area chefs. On command, the kitchen springs into action to cook homemade chicken mole, pulled pork, and grilled chicken with pickled cactus, pairing these entrees with rice, beans, avocado, salad, and corn tortillas on the signature "Mexican Plate." At lunch time, the focus turns to satisfying meals such as chalupas and fish tacos.