Archive for the ‘Suuuthern Grub’ Category
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
Like Northeastern college kids pre-gaming on a Saturday night, New Englanders have always been into southern comfort.
For as long as I can remember, restaurants in the Boston area have been pounding out grits, smoking BBQ, and mixing up gumbos trying to introduce a little drawl into the dining scene around here.
Some have tried (and in my opinion) failed, while the successful few have lived on as beloved neighborhood staples that inspire the hearts and minds of local occupants.
Tupelo is one of the latter, y’all.
Over the years I’ve had my fair share of dry and burnt fried chicken, bland attempts at roasted trout from out the ‘crick, and bad deep-fried things of all sorts (with the gut to prove it).
But one brave pastry chef-cum-genius, the owner behind Petsi Pies, decided a few years ago to open a spot that proudly served the food of ‘Nawlins and the deep south with an eye for authenticity and quality.
This is a review of her flagship Cajun-seasoned enterprise a few years into operation.
HINT: Oh, it’s still on in the Tupelo kitchen.
Here’s a run-down of some of my favorite dishes here:
- Pan-fried catfish – a well-seasoned cut of meow-steak over creamy grits and accompaniments that I’ve ordered many a time and always enjoyed thoroughly
- Fried oysters – the perfect snack to enjoy with an Abita brew while waiting for them to clear your table and seat you.
- Pork belly corn-dog – Dear arteries, I’m sorry for accelerating the process through which you will eventually clog up and writhe in pain, however, the organ further south in my abdomen (belly) and taste buds up north schemed with my brain to order this amazing creation. My taste buds said that the slab of pork belly was ever-so-tender on the inside and coated with sweet, soft goodness on the outside with a l’ull kick added by some nice spicy aioli. My stomach willingly received the calorie-laden treat and broke down the glutens and proteins with glee. Yes, it’s true, one Guy Fieri was right when he dubbed this bad boy a “Perfect Storm” on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
- Crawfish etouffee – A more recent add’y to the menu, this deep rich stew is jumping with the slightly meatier, smaller cousin of the shrimp. This dish is complex, spicy, and a joy to eat.
- Cajun gumbo – Have I mentioned that Tupelo is best enjoyed with an appetite? If your pork belly corn-dog appetizer isn’t enough, the etouffee and gumbo will offer generous bowls of goodness that will warm your soul. Tupelo’s gumbo includes pulled chicken, Andouille sausage, and okra.
- Desserts – This is one joint where you will not want to skip the sweets…the post-dinner treats here usually feature goods from Petsi Pies and local ice-creameries.
For my money, Southern-inspired food doesn’t get much better than this in the metro Beantown arena.
So as freshmen hammer down shots of SoCo in their dorm rooms across the river, I’m digging in to my version of down-home comfort – at Tupelo.
Location: Somerville, MA
The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi
All signs pointed to glee – comfort Southern fare, tested restaurant owner, Davis locale, an aeronautical name suggesting meat missiles are on the horizon…but in reality “Meat ‘n Three Sides” was a mixed bag y’all.
The Foodie hates dishing out criticism, but in the spirit of providing a clean and honest review, I owe it to my following to keep you eating well.
Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? I’ll break it down so you can skip ahead to what you want to hear:
THE GOOD NEWS:
- Nice Concept. On a certain level, what’s not to like about a laid-back atmosphere, friendly servers, a large menu of rare and obscure beers served primarily in can format, and loads of gut-growing savory Southern grub being slung out ‘da kitchen? These guys have everything except the twang. They also cleverly constructed all table surfaces and bathroom walls to be chalk-friendly.
- A Few Decent to Tasty Dishes. As you’ll find out, you gotta order skillfully here to enjoy your eating experience. Some plates that will make ‘yer belly say “gurgle gurgle yum yum” include: Fried Maine cheese curds, shrimp ‘n grits, anything pickled (they have a thing for pickling), and mac ‘n cheese. That’s about all I would seriously order.
THE BAD NEWS:
- Many Mediocre to Pretty Bad Dishes. The real bad news about M3 is that their menu is weighted more heavily towards cement-heavy cooking; ill-conceived concoctions, and “just Ok” food that is done better at places like Tupelo, Highland Kitchen, and Blue Ribbon BBQ. Such dishes include the rainbow trout (flavorless), fried chicken (sooooo dry), watermelon salad (lips puckering with vinegar overdose), fried catfish (overly breaded), oyster po’boy (a po’ attempt at a classic sammich) and duck fat burger (sounded good but had my buddy looking pretty ill with fullness all night – like he swallowed a cinder-block).
- Trying Too Hard and Going Over-the-Top. Sure, consumers are a fickle bunch. You really have to try hard to catch people’s attention. But fried fluffernutter? A burger cooked in duckfat and topped with bacon? A mini-hen served with a beer can shoved up its butt? Cornmeal fried frog legs? Such heavy-handedness had even I, an unabashed meat eater who feasted on applewood-smoked-bacon-wrapped-rabbit-loin-skewers” in celebration of a movie involving kids brutally murdering each other while roasting squirrel in the woods, saying “Arrêt.
So there it is, Billy Bob. The true story. The real deal. In the end The Foodie recommends hitting M3 for some late night fried cheese curds and beers or a day-drinking snack. Also give the brunch a shot (haven’t ventured into that territory yet).
But – buyer beware when it comes to dinner.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Ahhh the joys of summer.
Pool parties, margaritas, 90 degree days, short dresses, water polo – and pork sandwiches served out the back door of your favorite local restaurants.
Hungry Mother is now offering lunch service on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30AM until all the BBQ goodness has been exhausted.
Simply stroll up to the dack door of the restaurant and look for this sign:
Inside, you’ll find a couple happy chefs gleefully assembling $9 meatwiches from a red-and-white-checkered-cloth-covered table and a small coterie of diners hunched over their lunches with a couple RC colas or Miller High Lifes in hand.
I scurried back to my place of employment and unwrapped a gift more heavenly than a faun’s whisper – A pulled pork sandwich with house-made BBQ and slaw nestled between two slices of gourmet wonderbread.
Observe below and clear your lunch hour next Thursday:
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi
Barbecue. It’s about as ingrained in the blood of the New Englander as grits, confederate flags, and born-again conservatism. But we try.
First of all, I ho-heartily applaud anyone brave enough to put a pit in the ground north of New Jersey and Sweet Cheeks is a welcome addition to the Boston BBQ Scene.
Others are thankful too – we pulled up on our hogs to eat some hog on a Friday night and the place was packed to the brims. Spacious, wood-toned interior, nice vibe, fun atmosphere. Like the typical roadside Texas smokehouse they don’t take reservations, but we managed to snag a seat in no time.
Sweet Cheeks is all about emulating the authentic experience – think metal trays, pay-by-the-pound options, and huge portions. Naturally, the menu revolves around the meat. Choose from the following formats:
- Tray: Pick one meat, one “cold scoop” and one “hot scoop” ($16-$25 depending on your meat)
- Big Cheeks Tray: two types of meat along with your cold and hot scoop ($24)
- Fat Cheeks Tray: three types of meat with ‘yer scoops ($26)
THE FOOD THESE GUYS DO BEST:
Sweet Cheeks should rename their establishment to pork belly ‘n biscuits, ‘cause those are the menu items that will really wow you more than anything else. Amazing Berkshire pork belly with this nice smoked-cherry-wood-essence to it. The biscuits are humungo and a meal in themselves but are about as comforting as a warm gun on your lap during a Tennessee sunset.
A COUPLE GRIPES:
- Kick the draft beer menu up a notch – let’s see some big IPA’s and rare finds on tap
- Seeking a little more flavor out of the non-pork-belly meats
- Re-engineer the BBQ sauces…the mild sauce came off closer to an Asian sweet ‘n sour and the “hot” was closer to what my local taqueria would serve rather than a southern US meat house
FOR THE SUGGESTION BOX:
You’re right by Fenway Sweet Cheeks. Take advantage of that. If you really want to smoke your way into the heart of the average New England patriot, try to break into Fenway Park during the season. Set up a food truck or food cart or find a way into the stadium.
Southerners figured out years ago that the only thing that goes better with a slab of smoked brisket than baked beans is a baseball.