To travel to Boston is to be transported into a world juxtaposed between modern and historic. Gleaming contemporary architecture sit by centuries-old brick structures. Monuments to fallen heroes live side-by-side with Hubway bikes. It is a city that has carefully preserved its history yet is undaunted by the future. Always striving to move forward yet never forgetting where it’s been.
Much the same can be said for its cuisine. Classic dinning establishments are revered all the while new innovative eateries are championed. The art of good eating is a vital component of Boston. On my latest jaunt, I acted as if I had been suddenly dropped into the epicenter of this vibrant city and I set off on a little culinary adventurism. Determined to discover old as well as new heroes.
|229 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA|
|Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Cranberry|
|Spinach, White Bean and Roasted Garlic|
|Mashed Potato, Bacon and Scallion|
I stayed at one of the most historical hotels in all of America and I can’t recommend it enough. Opened in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker and located on School Street near the corner of Tremont, not far from the seat of the Massachusetts state government, the Omni Parker House Hotel has long been a rendezvous for politicians.
The hotel was home to the Saturday Club, also referred to as the Saturday Night Club, which consisted of literary dignitaries such as Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Sr. Charles Dickens resided in the Parker House for two years in his own apartments and first recited and performed “A Christmas Carol” at the Saturday Club at the Parker House. The Parker House currently holds possession of Charles Dickens lock and key to his apartment door and also his mirror.
The Parker House perfected the Boston cream pie, which is more of a cake than a pie. Created by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, this pudding and cake combination comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla flavored custard or crème pâtissière. The cake is topped with a chocolate ganache.
The joint effort of a former Californian and a Boston chef, Dorado brings authentic Mexican to Boston’s Brookline area. Dorado tacos are the real deal. Made with soft homemade tortillas, they’re stuffed with your choice of grilled sirloin steak, marinated chicken or perfectly charred veggies. I went for the fish taco ensenada. Beer-battered Atlantic whitefish, cabbage, salsa fresca, pickled onions and Baja crema. Its the crunch of the fish and all those flavours that make this tacos irresistible. I’m still thinking about it weeks later. I also tried the house-made chorizo taco with guacamole and salsa fresca which was equally as delicious and flavourful. And for less than six dollars for two gourmet tacos, how could you go wrong?
Now that Shake Shack is in town, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else for burgers and fries. Located in historic Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard Square Shack’s menu features all the Shake Shack classics (I had the ShackBurger) along with the MInT Chocolate concrete (chocolate custard, mint marshmallow sauce and chocolate truffle cookie dough), the Crimson Red Velvet (vanilla frozen custard blended with a slice of crimson red velvet cake from South End Buttery Bakery) and the Lobstah Shell concrete (Vanilla custard, lobstah tail pastry shell from Boston’s North End, strawberry puree and ricotta cream). Good times in the Commonwealth!
Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe has won numerous awards over the years (most notably for its turkey hash), culminating in the reception of a James Beard Award in 2005.
I’m glad I went. Throngs of people came and went to wish the owner good luck. Asked what he was going to do when the shoppe is closed, he was overhead saying, “I’m going to sleep in.” Very well deserved, I say.
Last year, the owner’s of Mello’s came up with a cool idea to breathe new life into the 70 year-old diner. A permanent “pop-up.” Why not open in the evenings, reinvent the menu and offer new takes on old classics? Steak, burgers, noodles, dumplings and sandwiches have been elevated to a supernatural level, all wonderfully executed and kindly priced. The basic yet envelop-pushing dishes are some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
The word “best” is bandied about so indiscriminately these days that its true meaning has been distorted. “Best” has become slang-fodder for anything that’s remotely good, pleasing or enjoyable. But it should be reserved for a supremely incomparable, truly award-winning and momentous thing or occasion. So allow me to restore “best” to its original luster and speak about something that is world-class, top-grade and truly “the best,” the Mello’s Burger.
Now I’ve seen a lot of things, been to a lot of places and eaten a lot of burgers in my lifetime. Shake Shack, In-N-Out, Craigie on Main…all glorious. But I’ve never ever, NEVER EVER been sent to hamburger heaven as I did that night I visited Mello’s.
A flat-top griddle is used to sear the patty, creating a crunchy caramelized crust and a juicy center. The beef was beefy and each bite oozed with luscious flavour. Served on toasted bread, the burger experience was made all the more memorable with a just-right melding of cheddar, onions, mustard and pickles. This burger, folks, is a thing of beauty.
There is plenty of other fare to be had that is equally as delicious. My pals devoured the scallops with chorizo and rosemary cauliflower puree. It was declared a winner! My side-salad was huge, big on flavour and included a creative combo of ingredient (celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.) There is an inventive but affordable take on a braised beef sandwich with fermented chili sauce, daikon sesame slaw and rings. I spied guests devouring the roast pork cubano sandwich, which is made up of ham, spiced mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles. That’s on my list for my next visit. But really, the ultimate champion of the evening, was without a doubt the Mello’s Burger. It was, truly the best!
|Photo source: Ottawa Citizen|
|Salad: Celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.|
|The Clocktower Brew Pub Westboro, 418 Richmond Road, Ottawa|
This new location in Westboro is stellar. It’s also the largest of its four Ottawa locations. We took advantage of a sunny day to sit out on the patio. A big plus of the Clocktower is that they brew their own beer. Their website states that “attention to detail, authentic ingredients, no preservatives, no additives and small batches ensure our enjoyment.” They also have some cool imported beer. I had Kölsch, a lighter German ale. It tasted great.
|House brewed Kölsch is a refreshingly crisp light blonde ale.|
I ordered the Rise & Shine burger. Anytime I can incorporate breakfast items into my meal, I’m in! Eggs and bacon on a burger? Brilliant.
|Rise & Shine Burger had a sunny side egg, crisp bacon and HP sauce.|
One of the crew had a burger with goat cheese, banana peppers and spicy mayo with some soup on the side. His plate was wiped clean so I’m guessing he was pleased with his choice.
|Angry Goat Burger: Herbed Goat cheese, banana peppers and spicy mayo.|
Soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish & chips and steak & frites make up the majority of the menu. You can also find some unexpected items like the Kung Foo Noodle Bowl, the Chicken and Leek Crock Pot and a Hummus Platter. But in the end, my table went with the tried and true pub grub and we all left full and satisfied.
I wasn’t feeling the greatest that day but it was made better by hanging out at a great new spot with some of my fav people. This birthday month is really about spending time with the people in my life that mean the most to me. And if I get to celebrate at a great place like The Clocktower, then I’m all for extending my bday into September!
My family knows how much I dig birthdays. Lucky for me they’re always willing to do it up big. This year’s celebration included gourmet burgers, salads and make your own sundaes. Sweet! My family is pretty fly. I’m a very lucky guy. Check out the party pics below.
|Baseball balloon. Coolest thing ever.|
|Choice of drinks. And no, I didn’t go for the Skinnygirl cocktail.|
|Burger toppings: Guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes and aioli.|
|More burger toppings: Bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms.|
|Burger and salad. A great combo.|
|“Make your own sundae” toppings|
|Sundae in a waffle bowl.|
Have you ever time travelled? Apparently I have ’cause I somehow ended up in the 1950s hanging out at Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip. Now the ’50s certainly wouldn’t be my preferred “Quantum Leap” destination, but I made the best of it while I was there. Dick’s motto is “Welcome back to the good old days.” And he ain’t kidding. I wasn’t around in the “Happy Days” era, but I’m thinking this is what things were like for the Fonz: A neighbourhood malt shop served juicy burgers grilled over charcoal with hand cut french fries on the side while a scary hulking sculpture of a milkshake hovered above the tables.
The burgers were quite scrumptious and tasted decidedly retro. They’re real meat topped with fresh ingredients and cooked to perfection. Nice concept. All beef burgers are Angus Pride beef and come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, aioli, sautéed onions, Dijon or regular mustard, unless you say otherwise.
|Blurry pics of food are my specialty. Sorry about that 😦|
While it was “neat-o” to visit the bygone days when they “rocked around the clock,” I was happy to time-travel back to 2012 when Dick’s ranked #4 in the Ottawa Citizen poll for Ottawa’s Best Burger 2012. But hear me out. I’ve been to the supposed top three haunts, and I can tell you from the bottom of my heart and the top of my palate, Dick’s is #1. But don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself. “Be there or be square!”
|Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip is located at 1485 Merivale Road, near Clyde Ave.|
What is Five Guys Burger?
A U.S. burger chain first opened in the mid 80’s.
Who are the Five Guys?
They are five brothers from the Washington D.C. area.
Where is Five Guys Burger?
It’s in 46 states and in 6 Canadian provinces, including the Ottawa location at Train Yards. An Orleans Five Guys is coming soon.
What’s on the menu?
Hand-formed burgers, dogs, sandwiches and fresh-cut fries. For the burgers and the dogs, you can choose as many free toppings as you want. Munch on salted peanuts in the shell as your wait for your order.
Is the food any good?
It’s not terrible. I had the burger and it was tasty. The price was a little disconcerting. Over $14 for a burger, some fries and a fountain drink. You do get an inordinate amount of fries but it all gets thrown together in a paper bag that gets very greasy. I don’t think I will be going back. In my opinion, you can get this kind of meal at any food truck for half the price. Try FGB and let me know what you think.
If you’re travelling to the west coast of America or to Texas, go to In-N-Out burger. Sweet Baby Jesus that’s the best burger anywhere. How I miss that burger. It makes you weak in the knees. Say a prayer that one day In-N-Out will come to Canada.