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Highlights from the Boston board. Restaurants, bars, food stores, and more.

Hippies Who Make Great Pizza

In a town where “great pizza” generally means red sauce and New York–style thin crust, Zing Pizza is getting some board love for its unusual pies. The hound favorite seems to be the Blue October: butternut squash sauce, mozzarella, spinach, caramelized onions, and blue cheese. “The butternut squash ‘sauce’ was really just butternut squash puréed to a saucelike, spreadable consistency. Something about the technique just really works. Instead of having chunks of squash on the pizza, you get a nice underlying and consistent squash taste across the whole pie. Tasty,” says franksnbeans.

Although it may seem like an odd thing to have at a pizza joint, the roti is also above average. gini tried the chicken roti, with squash, potatoes, green beans, and chickpeas. “The roti was fresh made to order and the curried filling delicious,” she says.

What caserole calls the restaurant’s “hippie vibe” is also in evidence, with recycled to-go containers, a compost can, natural sodas, and laid-back, friendly employees. “Very Cambridge,” says caserole, without a hint of a sniff.

Zing also has something that will set celiac disease sufferer’s tails to wagging: a good gluten-free pizza. caserole, who is very sensitive to gluten, has found that even restaurants with gluten-free options still cause problems, as cross-contamination is frequent. But caserole tried the gluten-free Blue October and found it “delish.” Although it was “quite pricey,” it was also big enough that caserole had half left over for the next day, and “most celiacs seem willing to pay a premium to eat out with our friends.”

It doesn’t have a permanent menu yet, but if you want to know what’s available, you can check the Zing blog for updates.

Zing Pizza [Cambridge]
1923 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
617-497-4300

Board Link: Zing Pizza, Porter Square, Cambridge - yum!

Springtime is Hot Dog Time

“Spring has sprung; first Speed’s dog,” says enhF94 poetically about Speed’s Hotdog Wagon, the legendary food cart whose dogs the Wall Street Journal called the best in America, and Chowhounds talk about the way pious Catholics talk about the True Cross.

Wedged into a triangular parking lot in a bleakly industrial section of the Roxbury neighborhood and offering only a couple of picnic tables in the way of ambiance, Speed’s is a draw solely for its signature dog, which owner Ezra “Speed” Anderson marinates in apple cider and brown sugar before grilling it over charcoal and sliding it into a toasted bun, with everything: raw onions, mustard, no-bean beef chili, and a pungent, housemade red sauce. It’s so delicious that at lunch a line forms, with diners waiting patiently as each dog is lovingly, individually grilled. And since Speed’s is only open when the weather is nice (i.e., spring, summer, and early fall), the craving for a dog tends to build up to fever pitch during winter.

Blumie just tried Speed’s for the first time. “I was nearly quivering with excitement as I crossed the street back to my car,” Blumie relates. “What a great piece of work! A delicious dog! As far as the toppings go, I could not taste the mustard or relish at all. The ‘special sauce’ struck me more as a bbq sauce than a ketchup, which is a good thing, since I hate ketchup on a hot dog.” The dog was a little big for Blumie, but others are happy to dig in.

“Then there’s always the sound one makes while eating a Speed’s dog … om om om om,” says Bob Dobalina. “Don’t forget the noms, mister dobalina,” reminds Prav.

Speed’s Hotdog Wagon [Newmarket Square]
54 Newmarket Square, Boston
617-839-0102

Board Link: Speeds dogs

Wish Upon a Mango

After a long winter of eating bananas, oranges, and everlasting apples, you can understand why the mere mention of mangoes caused a small skirmish to break out on the boards.

First joebloe asked if anyone had yet seen any of the legendary Indian mango varieties, Kesar or Alphonso. Among the replies that followed, Chris VR innocently mentioned that “Ataulfo/Champagne mangoes” were now on sale at Costco, $5.59 for a six-pack.

That wasn’t good enough for joebloe: “I bought a six-pack of Champagne mangos from Costco and they’re just mangos; nothing compared to the Alphonso or Kesar.”

“Sorry they don’t meet your standards,” shot back Chris VR. “I still enjoyed them very much. I’d certainly be interested in trying the mangoes you’re discussing, but for others who are searching out Ataulfo mangoes … I’m simply pointing out that Costco has them.”

Well, maybe those mangoes will have to do for now, because it turns out that the hound-approved source for Indian varieties, Shiva Bazaar in Norwood, won’t have them until next week at the earliest (according to joebloe, who called to ask).

In the meantime, here’s StriperGuy talking about a great Indian mango he had last year: “I only intended to eat half and save some for later. Hah. What a remarkable, fragrant, tasty mango. Luscious, sexy, a bit acrid, I can still taste it on my tongue and in the back of my throat. I’ve not had mango that good since I was in Africa, and maybe never.”

joebloe also happened into a great bunch of Kesars last year: “It cost me $25 for a case of 10, which is five times the price of the other mangoes. The sweetness and the aroma was so incredible I can’t imagine eating any other kind of mango ever again, including the Alphonso mango.”

Sounds like Shiva Bazaar’s going to get a lot of phone calls this week.

Shiva Bazaar of India [Norwood]
914 Washington Street, Norwood
781-278-0848

Board Links: Indian mangoes?
Superb Indian Mangos in Waltham - Way Long Post

Green Beans on a Sandwich?

Everyone’s cock-a-hoop over the magnificent sandwiches of Chacarero. Let’s have Blumie break it down for us: “The basic sandwich is chicken and/or beef with Muenster cheese, fresh tomatoes, steamed green beans, salt, pepper, homemade hot sauce, and avocado spread on wonderful homemade bread. Although it may sound like a weird sandwich, unless there is an ingredient you affirmatively do not like, I (and most of us) encourage you to order it with everything (or, if you particularly like spicy food, order it ‘extra hot,’ in which case a second, spicier hot sauce is added).”

Blumie even gives instructions for the ordering process, which starts with a wait in line with other sandwich-lovers. When you get to the front you are asked “small or large?” and which meat you want (chicken, beef, barbecued chicken, barbecue beef, a combo of any or all of the above, or scratch all the meat for a vegetarian sandwich). You pay, you get a receipt that you follow to the sandwich pick-up spot, where you’re asked (yes, another question) how you want the sandwich. Tell the sandwich-maker you want “everything” or “everything, extra hot.”

Chacarero is only open during nine-to-fiver hours so don’t bother with a weekend visit. And fair warning: “Even the small sandwiches at lunch will have you wishing for a nap at around 2–3pm,” says MC Slim JB.

Chacarero [Downtown Crossing]
26 Province Street, Boston
617-542-0392

Board Links: Must-try restaurants near Omni Parker House?
chilean sandwiches, downtown crossing

Tiger’s Tears and Two Soups

Southeast Asian food is big business in Boston, where you can’t fling a pair of chopsticks without hitting a Vietnamese or Thai place. But Cambodian food, which uses many of the same ingredients as Vietnamese or Thai food and hews to a similar sweet/sour/salty/hot balance, was new to a crowd of hounds who swung by Floating Rock in Revere for a nibble.

fredid raved about a number dishes, including spicy pork with chiles, chicken with ginger, and two soups: the combination vegetable soup (somlah kako) with pork, squash, green beans, and thai eggplant in a lemongrass broth thickened with ground toasted rice, and the sweet and sour (somlah macho yuon), with chicken, tomatoes, pineapples, and tiny lotus roots in sweet tamarind broth. The table also loved two beef salads: board favorite tiger’s tears, made with thinly sliced beef and bird chiles; and beef salad with mint (pleah saiko), which has minced beef with lemongrass, mint, basil, bean sprouts, and red onions in a dressing laced with lime.

NoNatto seconds fredid’s emotions, calling out the “wonderful blend of flavors of textures” in the tiger’s tears, and the “satisfyingly addictive” spicy pork, which needed a side of rice to tame its heat. The only dish the crowd seemed iffy about was the curried pickled fish with coconut milk (prahok k’tiss), which SuzieCK nervously calls “truly funky.”

Make sure you take some time for neighborhood exploration when you visit as the surrounding shops are a wonderland of specialty Southeast Asian foods such as kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, curry leaves, and fresh bird chiles at $1 for a big bag.

Floating Rock [Revere]
144 Shirley Avenue, Revere
781-286-2554

Board Link: Floating Rock - Whew!

What to Order at Modern Pastry

rep123max wonders why there are always long lines at Modern Pastry, a North End bakery that belies its name by specializing in old-school Italian treats like cannoli. Every time I go to the North End, I tell myself to get something from Modern, but I instinctively go to Mike’s.” Avoid both, says RichardinJP: “Both Modern and Mike’s lack authenticity and are there for the tourists not the folks who appreciate real Italian bakeries.”

chicken pot pie has hated everything at Modern: “There is nothing worth getting at Modern aside from cannolis,” says chicken pot pie, who has tried the chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake, and strawberry shortcake. StriperGuy strongly disagrees, advising chicken that anything American is to be avoided at Modern. “Do yourself a favor and try something ITALIAN at the ITALIAN bakery,” he snaps.

So what does one try? Various hounds call out their favorites:

• florentines
• almond macaroons
• torrone
• zeppole di San Giuseppe, a deep-fried, filled doughnut topped with cherries and/or cherry jam that’s made only around St. Joseph’s Day (March 19)
• ricotta pie, particularly the Easter season version made with wheat berries
• pine nut cookies (amaretti con pignoli)
• chocolate truffle bars
• the small, round lemon cookies packaged in clear bags in front of the store

But most everyone agrees that the lines at Modern are terrible, and the setup makes things move more slowly. “Once you can finally see what they have, you can’t tell what it is. So you have to wait until your turn to figure out what everything is and then decide,” sighs rep123max. Be a better line-waiter: Have your order ready when you step up. The people behind will thank you.

Modern Pastry [North End]
257 Hanover Street, Boston
617-523-3783

Mike’s Pastry [North End]
300 Hanover Street, Boston
617-742-3050

Board Link: Modern Pastry

Have a Bad Meal, Stiff the Waiter?

Ten Tables, long a popular French spot in Jamaica Plain, has opened up a Cambridge location in the spot recently vacated by Craigie Street Bistrot. Early word is that the food in the new location is just as good, particularly the winter greens salad, which dianalim describes as “incredible,” and the roast chicken with cabbage, white beans, and smoked bacon, of which dianalim says “the chicken was plentiful and delicious, with a perfectly crispy, salty skin and a nice ratio of light to dark meat.”

Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends: dianalim says she and her husband arrived to find a crowd standing around at the front area, and that they were ignored by the host for at least five minutes. They were seated a half hour after their reservation, and found the crowd loud (“conversation was a chore,” she says), and scene-y. “I’m sure weekday dining would mitigate some of our complaints,” dianalim concludes.

“The attitude of the place may be expected since it is still very much in the honeymoon stage,” says Bob Dobalina. “Plus, geez, saturday night—whaddaya expect?”

joebloe suggests cutting the tip down to 5 to 10 percent, which opened a can of worms. “Tips are servers’ salary,” says jajjguy. “Just because they didn’t do a great job doesn’t mean they weren’t working.”

“Why does the American tipping system exist, if not to give the diner some discretion?” asks nfo.

No matter, says dianalim: “Low tips tend to suggest that the diner is stingy, rather than the experience was bad,” she says—a point that’s echoed by CHOW’s own Table Manners etiquette column on this topic.

Ten Tables [Jamaica Plain]
597 Centre Street, Boston
617-524-8810

Ten Tables [Cambridge]
5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge
617-576-5444

Board Link: ten tables cambridge…unimpressed

Garbage Cake, Yum!

While stopping by Eldo Cake House in search of an after-dinner sweet, y2000k was startled to catch the unmistakable smell of durian fruit. Turns out that the durian cake is not on the menu, but Eldo will make one by request.

“Ugh!” said a chorus of Chowhounds. “I liken the smell of durian more to a super-concentrated, extremely potent fart, and I am being totally serious. Yuck, and why why why?” asks kobuta, while mwk wonders why we should bother special-ordering a cake when, “All you’d need to do is take some old, dirty gym socks and bake those in the oven on low heat for a while, and PRESTO.”

Durian does have its defenders, however. nasilemak says it has a “great smell, texture, rich creamy taste.” Eatin in Woostah loves durian shakes: “That sort of rotting garbage/old onion smell combined with a sweet, custardy, creamy taste and texture … I love them. “

Eldo Cake House [Chinatown]
36 Harrison Avenue, Boston
617-350-7977

Board Link: Durian cake at Eldo

Cheap, Delicious Chinese Food

Shanghai Gate, an unassuming little place in Allston that serves terrific, authentic Shanghai food, is getting a lot of love on the boards. Scoffing at someone who’d gone to a pricey Chinese joint, teezeetoo says Shanghai Gate is “half the price, and twice or three times as good. If you want to pay for the furnishings and the location, be my guest.” Oooh, burn!

teezeetoo went on to confess being “smitten” with Shanghai Gate: “Every time I go in I have a good, inexpensive meal that seems to me to be made with taste and creativity.” kimfair1 agrees, saying it’s the best Chinese food he’s had in Boston.

What to order? Try the pickled radishes, any soup with the “startlingly good” noodles, and the steamed pork buns, which teezeetoo says are the “best in Boston.” BarmyFotheringayPhipps says the lion’s head meatball was swell. When it was set before him, “I gazed upon it with a look that said ‘Hello, old friend.’” The Paradise Mountain Chicken, stir-fried with peppers, the diced spicy chicken with peas, the spicy sizzling beef plate, and the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are all flavor-packed. Avoid the spring rolls, however, which according to kimfair1 are “undercooked and not very tasty.”

Fish lovers should also check out the braised fish tail, says barleywino, which is called “fish in brown sauce” on the menu. “On a good day it’s really tender,” says barleywino, who adds that the rich brown sauce calls for an extra order of rice to soak up.

Service is swift, maybe even a little too swift: kimfair1 complained of feeling rushed at one meal. But others spoke up for the friendly, efficient servers, who bring delicious dishes and then whisk them away smoothly and bring more.

Shanghai Gate [Allston]
204 Harvard Avenue, Boston

617-566-7344

Board Links: Shanghai Gate: A repeat paean
Myers+Chang

Gargoyles Under the Microscope

Venerable Somerville bistro Gargoyles on the Square has freshened up its menu, putting a new emphasis on small plates and hearty mains that provide a lot for the price. Word is that Chef Jason Santos’ food is still good.

“Wow,” says natecsd, who particularly liked the black truffle arancini over a cauliflower purée: “Perfectly fried arancini that were rich, tempered by slightly pickled veggies and a yummy purée.” The half chicken over preserved lemon polenta with “a wealth” of wild mushrooms was “also fabulous … These were substantial portions, with nary an off-note. Probably the best table of entrées I’ve had in the Boston area in a while (allowing for a superstar entrée here and there), and for an average of $20 per entrée, an amazing value,” says natecsd.

Avoid the lobster tacos, which are getting no love on the boards. “Just OK,” says kate used to be 50, while natecsd says they are “strangely not as flavorful as expected.” Instead, order the tomato soup, served with what the menu calls a “flight of grilled cheese” but kate terms “three small grill cheese on rye (my preferred bread especially with grilled cheese).” nate also champions the scallop appetizer, “with a heavenly and hefty slice of slab bacon in the middle.”

Drinks are not up to the pristine cocktails of Eastern Standard, Craigie, or Drink, advises nate, but the Rob Roy and Gargoyle’s Vesper are both good. To end the meal, nate suggests the butterscotch fondant with black truffle ice cream and the “simply enormous” cheese plate: “Two cheeses, a pile of poached, jammy figs, a large portion of candied nuts (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts), a larger portion of grapes, and a very yummy dish of truffled honey. This plate alone would have fed our entire table.”

Oh, and one last thing: the new bar menu does still have the duck fat french fries.

Gargoyles on the Square [Somerville]
219 Elm Street, Somerville
617-776-5300

Board link: Gargoyle’s new menu?