One of the more unusual recurring destinations I have with my day job is National Technical Systems (NTS) in Boxborough, MA. It’s an engineering service place that does all sorts of engineering testing: shaker tables (exactly that: they shake something really hard to see if it breaks), temperature testing, etc. But the Boxborough area is surprisingly rural for being relatively close to Boston, and basically I can count the number of places to eat during the relatively short lunch break on one hand (and that’s including the Massachusetts-mandatory mini-Dunkin Donuts at the gas station). But during a recent visit, an equipment change gave me and my coworker Eric a larger-than-expected lunch window, so I was finally able to drive just a bit further for lunch and check out a quirky nearby place: Nancy’s Airfield Cafe.
Like always, a trip down to the NYC area almost always involves a pit-stop in either southern VT or western MA for breakfast. Luckily, both Brattleboro, VT and Greenfield, MA have quite a good selection of places. In Greenfield, one places has been calling our attention for a while; The Brass Buckle. Located on Main Street just west of the main corner of downtown (Rte 10 and Main), the place itself is quite simple: it’s a quiet little breakfast coffee shop. But since it consistently gets good online reviews, and often has a line out the door when we come by, on this visit, we got there early enough to avoid a rush (and being a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowd).
We actually rather enjoy going to Northampton, MA. Located in the west of Massachusetts in the Pioneer Valley, it’s a rather pleasant college town, with a really nice rail trail (the primary reason for our visit), several nice art galleries, a nice downtown, and even an outpost of Dobra Tea. But after a day of biking around, we were looking for a nice, substantial dinner, and that’s when we found Hungry Ghost.
A recent work trip down to Billerica, MA left me passing through Lowell around breakfast time, and a quick trip through the Lowell area quickly led me to The Owl Diner. I’ll fully admit to having a weakness for classic Worcester Diners, and the relatively busy parking lot showed that the Owl was definitely popular with the locals. So I decided it was indeed time for breakfast, and headed inside.
While I occasionally make a few exceptions to this rule, I generally don’t review cocktail bars that are just cocktail bars. And indeed, that’s the case with Drink. Located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, downstairs from Sportello (which I reviewed in 2012, and is owned by the same folks), Drink is primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have a limited bar menu. And while that bar menu has a few gems, that’s not why I’m reviewing them; instead, it’s one particularly off-the-menu item that drew my attention.
Several years ago, we bought a Mini Cooper from Mini of Peabody in Peabody, MA, and as a result, had several trips down to the area (until recently, they were the nearest Mini dealer). And along the way, we discovered quite a few gems down that way, including Kelly’s Roast Beef in Saugus, Billy’s Famous Roast Beef in Wakefield, and Richardsons Dairy in Middleton. But one of our greatest finds was a small place on Route 1 with a giant 7′ sausage on their sign, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen. Inside Karl’s was a European wonderland of both excellent sausages and European groceries, and they became a regular stop of mine (indeed, they became my primary suppliers of Curry Ketchup and Feuerzangenbowle zuckerhuts). But I never wrote them up here, since they didn’t serve food onsite. Until a magical event happened in 2012: the packed up and moved from their old shop in Saugus up to a brand new location just off Route 1 in Peabody, MA. And, more importantly, now included a cafe with German food and beer. So when I was in the area for work, I had to make it a point to check them out.
I recently found myself doing a lot of testing for work down in the Northwest Boston suburbs. Driving down there from NH generally, well, sucks, unless you can time things to avoid rush hour (which is actually the better part of three hours long). This means that I have to time things to arrive either before approximately 7am, or after 10am. For those times that I need to be someplace at 8am or 9am, that usually means getting down there early, and finding someplace interesting to get breakfast. In this case, the place was Vic’s Waffle House in Tewksbury, MA.
My extended weekend in Boston also provided me with a good opportunity to check in on a fairly recent discovery of our: Coda, in the Back Bay neighborhood (a short walk from Back Back Station). Coda is basically the little sibling of the more recognized The Salty Pig around the corner. While the Salty Pig focuses on “Salty Pig Parts of All Varieties”, with other menu items, burgers, and cocktails also available on the side, Coda is more relaxed, and is basically a “cocktail bar with a decent food menu.” Indeed, we first discovered Coda when rendezvousing with relatives in Back Bay, wanting to seek out a nice cocktail while we waited, and Coda was the find. But seeing the food emerging from the kitchen, I figured it was worth a revisit for some food.
When I was in Boston a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to go find a burger spot I had been looking for in Cambridge. But this was not your usual burger spot. I first found this place when looking for a cocktail in Cambridge, having gotten a recommendation for “Brick and Mortar” along with an address of 567 Massachusetts Avenue. Heading there, however, I only found Central Kitchen, a fairly well-recognized dinner establishment, and no cocktails. But…. see that unmarked door next to Central Kitchen? Through that lies Brick and Mortar, one of Cambridge’s Speakeasies, known for interesting cocktails and good bar food. Brick and Mortar is actually a rather cozy little bar (which makes for a pleasant drinking experience during the early evening, but by late evening the place quickly becomes crowded, with a long wait list to get in). The cocktail list at Brick and Mortar is quite impressive, and they are definitely in on the current trend of using bitters, gins, and other botanicals to make some very interesting cocktails. Past victuals that were particularly pleasing include the “Lido Shuffle” with Cocchi, Aperol, Chartreuse, and Lemon, or the “Gail Collins” with Mezcal, Sloe Gin, and Bitters. But on my first two visits, it wasn’t just the (excellent) cocktails drawing my eye… I noticed that several of the other diners had ordered burgers, and the burgers looked quite good indeed. So this trip, while I did get a “Sister Mary” (with Tequila, St Germain, Aperol, and grapefruit) my primary goal was to get a burger.
One of my annual traditions is volunteering at one of the local FIRST Robotics competitions, usually as a Robot Inspector or a Judge. This year’s volunteer assignment was for the New England District Championship at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, and that gave me another opportunity to check out some of the Brookline area dining options. One particular place had caught my eye since I had walked by it several times on last year’s “Death March” (my annual tradition of walking ~20 miles through an urban area, exploring neighborhoods and eateries that I normally wouldn’t visit). That place is right in central Brookline in the basement of a building: Roast Beast.