Last Tuesday, I posted an entry about ten places where the Chili family likes to go to eat. Kizz pointed out that every single spot I mentioned last week is a chain restaurant, and she encouraged me to make a list this week of ten local places we’ve frequented.
At first, I didn’t think I could do that – we really do tend to end up in chains – but I did a little thinkin’ (it’s amazing what a little thinkin’ will get ya) and found out – well, what do you know! – I CAN come up with ten local places! As a matter of fact, I could probably come up with ten more places, but these are the spots we go to most often (oh, and just so we’re clear, we Chilis DO eat at home every once in a while….)
The thing is, though, I’m trying to hold on to the shred of the illusion of anonymity here, so I’ve changed the names of the places so that you can’t Google them and find out where I live. Trust me when I tell you, though, that I’ll do my best to give you an idea of what these little spots are really like.
1. T.J.’s. This is a little sub shop in University Town that Mr. Chili likes to hit for lunch. Formica and vinyl booths, a bar with tall stools in the center of the place, and an order-at-the-counter format make it a perfect lunch spot, but only if you get there early enough to beat everyone else who wants a steak bomb for lunch.
2. Bagel Mania. This place is almost like cheating – it used to be a chain of five shops ten or so years ago, but has since contracted back to one. They make probably 15 or 20 varieties of bagels right there in the back, and then offer them up in a whole whiteboard’s worth of permutations, along with soups, salads, and quiche of the day. Mr. Chili’s favorite is the turkey ruben on a whole wheat bagel (extra dressing), and mine is the lasagna bagel on onion with just a little bit of light garlic and herb cream cheese and a little too much salt sprinkled over the melted provolone. Yum!
3. The Laughing Pea Pod. This is another bit of a cheat – there are three of these shops scattered around the general area – but it’s still very, very local. It’s a sandwich shop that specializes in home-baked breads and real ingredients. They make their own soups (the recipes for which they will share neither with me nor with Bon Appetit) and I’m desperately in love with their turkey dinner sandwich on apple-cranberry bread with just a little extra cranberry sauce. Take out some of the black pepper and I’d be mainlining their cream of mushroom soup, too…
4. The Brick Oven. This is a pizza place in Small Coastal City that we’ve been fond of for years and years. It’s actually two restaurants; the more fancy, full menu place is at street level, but if you head down a narrow set of steps into the old stone basement, you’re treated with a brick oven in which gets made some of the yummiest pizzas to be had in all the land. I’m particularly fond of their garlic bread, which is twists of pizza dough practically dipped in butter and slathered in garlic. Mmmm.
(My biggest gripe about Small Coastal City restaurants is that parking is a bear…)
5. Up the street from the Brick Oven (assuming you can find a parking spot) is another two-or-three-of pizza shop that we’ll call The Crunchy Crust. Their specialty is also brick oven pizza, but they make the added claim of being all healthy and organic. While I don’t put as much import on organic as others do, I cannot and will not deny that they make some YUMMY pies. Their onion and garlic pizza is particularly scrumptious.
6. Lucy’s Bar and Grill. This is another University Town eatery, and it’s one that we hit when we’re not quite feeling up for the subs at T.J.’s. They’ve got a really nice sandwich menu, they make a mean chicken finger salad, and I had their onion soup last week and it was pretty darned respectable. They’ve got a whole page of dinner entrees, too, but we’ve never gone in for dinner, so I can’t speak to their quality. If we’re making assumptions based on their lunch performance, though, I’d be willing to give dinner a shot.
7. Penelope’s. This is another sub shop (it seems that most of our local joints are either sub or pizza places, doesn’t it?), but this one’s in the town where Boywer and Tonks live. DEAR GODDESS IN HEAVEN, but they make the best tuna I’ve EVER HAD. EV-ER. Once I figured out how good the tuna was, I’ve not bothered with anything else on the menu. It’s that good.
8. The Croissant. Xena turned me on to this place. It’s a teeny-tiny little bakery/sandwich shop in the upper square of my home town that makes yummy little bits of lunch and fantastically delicious pastries and cakes to be savored afterward. Really, you could just skip the sandwiches and go straight to the cannoli, but that’s just one woman’s opinion…
9. Frankie’s Falafel. I LOVE this place in the spring and summer. It’s literally ten by ten hole in the wall. They’ve crammed four tables inside and have three or four little plastic tables and chairs outside on the too-narrow sidewalk. They offer wraps and salads and gyros and some of the yummiest falafel I’ve ever had (not that I’m a connoisseur or anything, but you know what I mean). I like my wraps with mild sauce, lettuce, onion, pickles, hummus and just a little tahini. The little old Greek man who takes your order, makes your lunch and cashes you out is just delightful – always smiling and nodding – further adding to the experience.
10. University Pizza. Really, if I’m going to be honest, I’ve got to tell you that this place is a dive. It’s not particularly clean, it’s not particularly classy, and it’s not particularly good, but when I’m in the mood for greasy pizza and too-bubbly soda, my thoughts bend to University Pizza. It’s kind of nostalgia for me, really; they serve Greek style pizza, which is what made up most of the pizza of my youth (we usually got our pizzas from a place called Lena‘s, if that tells you anything. We’d also go to Bianchi‘s in Revere, which is NOT Greek pizza, but was equally as dreadful/wonderful). Also, when I was a student at Local U., I would occasionally pop in there for their “two slices and a soda” lunch specials. Mmmm.
*edited to include: we went to University Pizza for lunch today. Behold, a small extra cheese and a tuna sub. Yum!
Now I’m hungry again.
Happy Tuesday, Everyone!