Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: Southern Proper

Southern Proper opened this March in a new space on Harrison Avenue in the South End. The space is filled with large pine beams meant to be reminiscent of tobacco barns in North Carolina; the source of inspiration for Chef Jason Cheek.

Earlier this year EaterBoston shared beautiful photos of the space which has a ceiling filled with upside down hanging table lamps and eclectic furnishings. Although the look isn’t one I can relate to – I appreciate the thought and effort that went into making the space uniquely their own.

Southern Proper’s menu is divided into several sections including: Snacks which range in price from $5-$16 and include items like Deviled Eggs, Hushpuppies and BBQ Bone Marrow; Farmhouse which range from $12-$16 and include options like Grilled Corn on the Cob and Charred Broccoli & Kale Salad; Meats & Chicken, which are actually two separate sections but self explanatory, ranging in price from  $9 – $34; Seaside with three options ranging from $21-$25; and finally sides which are all $7 and include items like Mac & Cheese, Buttermilk Biscuits and Crispy Corn Bread.

south end dining

Southern Proper’s Broccoli & Kale Salad $14

Sergio and I were lucky enough to get two bar chairs at the end of the long, wrap around bar, which gave us a great view of the space and provided ample people watching. We started our dinner with drinks followed by the Broccoli & Kale Salad, which was delicious but I don’t think it had any kale. The grilled corn and citrus-dressing was excellent and a great first plate.

Southern Proper’s Pulled Pork ( $14)

The next two plates that came out (which Sergio and I shared) included the half order (which by the way is HUGE) of pulled pork served with pickles, pickled onions and cole slaw (shown above) and the Mac & Cheese (shown below).

Of the two plates, I preferred the pulled pork, which the Improper Bostonian raved about and EaterBoston described as “the version to beat” in Boston. The Velveeta used in the Mac & Cheese wasn’t Sergio’s favorite but I enjoyed when accompanied with the pulled pork, but in hindsight, everything probably would go well with Southern Proper’s pulled pork.

Southern Proper’s Mac & Cheese $7

I’m happy to see a Southern cuisine restaurant opening to provide more variety to the neigbhorhood, but the menu options and vibe isn’t really my scene. Having said that, I wish Southern Proper much success.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

Southern Proper
600 Harrison Avenue ||  (857) 233-2421
www.southernproperboston.com

Anoush’ella restaurant review

affordable south end dining

Photo Credit: Boston Showcase Company

Last September the South End welcomed Anoush’ella; a family owned and operated Eastern Mediterranean restaurant that serves Armenian and Lebanese cuisine. The casual dining restaurant is a welcome change to the $30+ a plate restaurants that dominate the South End and as you can see from above the space is well designed and very comfortable.

Most of the menu focuses on flatbreads, wraps and bowls, which you order at the counter (everyone is very patient and is happy to explain the menu). Once you’ve ordered find a seat at the bar, communal table or individual tables in the back.

south end dining, armenian cuisine in bostonShakShuka ($9.75) and Walnut Harissa ($3.50) 

While the restaurant is very popular for lunch and dinner and has a brisk take out business, I have have started visiting Anoush’ella for breakfast on Saturday mornings. With the average price point for breakfast, lunch and dinner ~$15, you can afford to visit repeatedly if you like.

Above is what has become my “go to” breakfast: Shakshuka which is diced tomatoes, onion, olives and red pepper with za’atar (a blend of oregano, basil & thyme), cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic cloves, topped with cilantro, two poached eggs and labne (Greek yogurt). I also get a side of the Walnut Harrissa which is made with red peppers and adds a bit of heat. The pita bread is made fresh to order, and I use it to scoop the food. They also have sweeter options for those who may prefer something a tad less savory including: Nutella chocolate with strawberry, banana, cinnamon, honey and granola as well as some more traditional Armenian options like Kenefe, which is made with crushed filo dough and cheese wrapped with sesame seeds and served with orange blossom syrup.

Anoush’ella is open seven days a week. Monday through Friday 11AM – 9:30PM and Saturday and Sunday 10AM – 9:30PM and serves beer and wine.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Anoush’ella
35 West Newton Street  || (857) 265-3195
www.anoushella.com

Restaurant review: Milkweed in Mission Hill

People line up for a table at Milkweed for breakfast on weekends

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Joe for breakfast in his neighborhood, Mission Hill. This tiny Boston neighborhood (less than a square mile) is not on a lot of people’s radar but its proximity to downtown makes it easy to get to.

In recent years, Mission Hill has seen gentrification change the landscape of the neighborhood and Milkweed which opened at the end of August in 2017 is a shining example of that gentrification (meant in the best possible context). Located in the former space of a neighborhood grocer, this bright and friendly restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

mission hill restaurantWhile I cannot comment on their lunch or dinner menu, I think Milkweed may have the most interesting breakfast menu I’ve seen in recent memory including everything from shakshuka to lucky charm pancakes (but more on that later). As one might expect the menu prices are very affordable with breakfast plates ranging from $6 – $14 (a quick look at their dinner menu shows main plates ranging from $16 – $22).

For breakfast Joe opted for the rather decadent “lucky charm pancakes”, which cost only $8 and was served as a stack sprinkled with extra lucky charms and powdered sugar. Although the photo doesn’t show it, the lucky charms are incorporated into the pancake batter. I cannot imagine the sugar high one has if they were to eat the entire stack. Joe put a pretty good dent into the pancakes but didn’t quite finish the plate.

Milkweed cafe, Mission Hill dining, Mission Hill restaurantsI opted for something a tad healthier after our friendly waitress, Holly, explained that along with their shakshuka plate, the “Power Bowl” is a signature breakfast plate. The power bowl which is $13 is a melange of ingredients including quinoa, greens, two sunny side up eggs, roasted sweet potato and beets, avocado, candied pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, chick peas, and dressed with an avocado-lime vinaigrette. What this picture doesn’t do justice is how much food is included, but I “powered” through and ate most of it and leaving quite full.

Milkweed is owned by David Cawley and Ben Johnson and it has a beer and wine license. They are open seven days a week. Breakfast is served from 8AM – 2PM on weekends and holidays – reservations are not accepted for breakfast.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Milkweed
1508 Tremont Street  ||  (617) 516-8913
www.eatatmilkweed.com

Review of Godfrey Hotel’s Ruka Restobar

Godfrey HotelLast year I raved about Ruka Boston in my restaurant review, but Sergio was not able to join me so when we found ourselves at the Godfrey Hotel’s second anniversary party recently, it was an easy decision to see if we could get a table at Ruka. This restaurant is part of the COJE Restaurant Group, which also owns and manages, Yvonne’s and Lolita. The over-the top design aesthetic and embellishments that are a hallmark of their other restaurants is on display here with pan-Asian themes running throughout this space that offers a fusion of Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese cuisine.

We were lucky to have a table open in a cozy corner just as we walked in and were promptly seated with a great view of the dining room and bar but away from the bustling aisles that are filled with runners either bringing out or collecting plates. The small plates menu of Japanese-Peruvian cuisine referred to as nikkei really makes their menu unique in Boston so on this visit I opted to order some of my favorite plates from our last visit and try a few new plates.

Ruka Boston, Godfrey Hotel BostonSince Sergio and I were only ordering from the small plates menu the food came out quickly, which was good because by the time we sat down we were famished. First to come out was one of my favorite dishes from my previous visit, the plancha broccoli is served warm with curry, peanuts and topped with broccoli stem fritters. The plate was equally satisfying a second time around. The salty plate is what I would describe as a crowd pleaser and probably one I will continue to order on future visits.

Plancha Broccoli – $14

Our servers also brought out at the same time the Dan Dan  Noodles shown below. I had not tried this on my previous visit and it was something that caught Sergio’s eye. The plate is one of the larger portions and includes mushrooms, Chinese broccoli and peanuts over a bed of thin Chinese Dan Dan noodles.  While I didn’t find any of the plates we ordered particularly spicy, this did have a bit of a kick, which I believe may have been from the chili oil.

Godfrey Hotel restauarnt

Dan Dan Noodles $13

Slightly more spicy and a pleasant surprise was the Lima Style Calamari. I rarely order calamari but it is a favorite dish of Sergio’s so I wasn’t particularly surprised when he ordered it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ruka’s take on this classic Italian plate. “Lima Style” comes with a lot of garlic butter, red onions and chilies. If you don’t want the extra kick it is easy to pick around the chilies. This was the surprise plate of the night for me. I had little interest in it when served and found myself going back to it again and again.

Lima Style Calamari $14

Our final plate of the evening was also the most filling – the Chao Shou Pork Wontons. Served in chile oil, black vinegar, cilantro and topped with crispy sweet potato crisps, it was as delicious and satisfying as I recalled from my previous visit. Although this proved to be one of the more troubling plates for me to snag one of the slippery wontons with my chop sticks.

Chao Shou Pork Wontons $17

Consistently providing good service and creating plates that satisfy can be a real challenge for many restaurants but on my return visit to Ruka I was impressed by the attentive (but not obtrusive) service, consistency in the plates that I tried for a second time as well as the two plates I tried for the first time on this visit.

I will be back again to try more plates, and I’d recommend you check out Ruka in Downtown Crossing if you’ve never been.

Ruka Boston
505 Washington Street (DTX)
(617) 266-0102 || rukarestobar.com

Restaurant review: Brunch at Bar Mezzana

Bar Mezzana, Ink Block

Photo from Bar Mezzana Photo credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Last spring I shared a glowing restaurant review of dinner at the much lauded Bar Mezzana at the Ink Block. If interested, you can check out that review here, but it wasn’t until last month that Sergio and I managed to get around to trying the restaurant’s brunch.

The brunch menu at Bar Mezzana has more lunch options than breakfast with a handful of pastas, a double-patty burger and other items that are sure to satisfy those who come hungry and looking for a meal. However, don’t fret if you’re like me and looking for breakfast options because there are more than a handful of choices that range from savory to sweet as you can see from my photos below.

south end dining, south end brunch

Soft scrambled egg, boursin cheese and lox crostini –  $13

I gravitated to the scrambled egg with boursin cheese and lox on a crostini, that is listed as an appetizer but is more than satisfying (especially because I knew I’d get a few bites of Sergio’s French Toast – see below). The eggs were extra creamy and the dill topping the plate added that extra something that elevated the entire dish and made it go from good to great.

South End dining, South End brunch

Frittata – $13

My friend Paul ordered the house frittata with fennel, potato and goat cheese. The plate was garnished with parsley and what appeared to be some sort of shaved vegetable. I have to admit the presentation lacked the appeal of my plate but he seemed to enjoy the meal and there was nothing on his plate when our very nice waitress, Jessica, came to clear the table.

South End dinner, South End brunch

Challah bread French Toast with all the trimmings – $12

Fear not if savory isn’t your thing and if you wake up craving something sweeter because Bar Mezzana has a few options but none seemed quite as tempting as their French toast which comes topped with whipped cream, walnuts, cinnamon and quince – along with a healthy amount of real maple syrup. If I were the owner of the restaurant I would also add this as a dessert for two on their dinner menu because this is perfectly satisfying and larger than it appears in this photo.

Overall, brunch was excellent. Service was very helpful without being intrusive and the food was nicely presented and even better to eat. I’d encourage you to try Bar Mezzana’s brunch, but caution you to make reservations so you don’t have to wait. Brunch is served weekly each Sunday from 10:30 AM to 2:00 PM.

BosGuy Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Wicked Awesome.

Bar Mezzana
360 Harrison Avenue  ||  (617) 530-1770
www.barmezzana.com

I’ve fallen in love with Aquitaine’s Michelin Burger

South End dining, hamburger

Michelin Burger is $16.95. Photo provided by Aquitaine Boston

Last weekend Sergio and I went to grab a bite at Aquitaine’s bar. I was eyeing the burger on their menu but at the suggestion of the bartender I tried their new “Michelin Burger” (shown above), which wasn’t officially part of the menu.

I ended up devouring the burger and enjoyed it so much that I asked the bartender to send me a photo if Aquitaine ended up adding it to their menu. Apparently several other patrons liked the burger too, because earlier this week I received a note from the restaurant group thanking me for coming in and letting me know that starting this weekend the burger would be added to their brunch and lunch menu as well as to their bar menu, effective this Monday.

The “Michelin Burger” is made with dry aged ground beef, topped with caramelized onions, Vermont cheddar and truffle mayonaisse and served on a toasted onion roll. I opted to have my burger cooked medium rare but however you like it – I’m sure you’ll walk away both full and satisfied. This is definitely one of the best burgers in town and a must try for anyone who enjoys a hamburger.

Much thanks to the bartender at Aquitaine for going the extra mile, forwarding my comments and contact information so I could get this photo. Now that dry January is over, I’ll come back and try it with a cold beer.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Aquitaine Boston
529 Tremont Street  || (617) 424-8577
aquitaineboston.com

Restaurant review: Ruka Boston

Godfrey HotelWhat happens when you combine Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese cuisine? You end up with a unique dining option in Downtown Crossing called Ruka.

The chic restaurant in Boston’s trendy Godfrey Hotel, has been a hot spot ever since it opened in early December last year. Ruka definitely has it’s own vibe. The overly embellished Asian-inspired decor is too polished to be confused with a Chinatown restaurant and the energy still evident when we left around 11:30 on a Tuesday night is not characteristic of a typical restaurant in Boston and is a testament to how much this part of Boston has changed with more residents now calling Downtown Crossing home than I can ever remember.

The small plates menu is heavily influenced by Japanese-Peruvian cuisine referred to as nikkei; as well as Chinese cuisine and some wonderful sushi options. If I have a complaint about Ruka it would be that the menu can be confusing and there is no telling which options are so small you’re better off skipping (like the blackened octopus – shown below).

BLACKENED OCTOPUS $13

While I thoroughly enjoyed the blackened octopus served with harissa mayo, sesame bbq and  ginger slaw, it was so small that the restaurant should either consider doubling the portion or removing it from the menu IMHO.

Fortunately, what followed were reasonable portions for sharing. The Chao Shou Pork wontons served in chile oil, black vinegar, cilantro and topped with crispy sweet potato crisps was both delicious and satisfying. Although picking up the slippery wontons with chop sticks proved to be too difficult for me, and I eventually succumbed to using a fork for this plate.

CHAO SHOU PORK WONTONS $17

At the same time that we received the octopus and wontons our very capable server brought over the plancha broccoli served with a curry and spicy peanuts (which btw were not spicy at all) and topped with broccoli stem fritters that added a nice texture to a satisfying plate.

PLANCHA BROCCOLI $14

Our final plate was the Acevichado, which according to their menu is described as  their daily cerviche served with leche de tigre, pickled cucumber and sweet potato. This was one of the most satisfying plates both in presentation and taste and went remarkably well with the Sauvignon Blanc I had ordered with dinner.

ceviche

ACEVICHADO $20

If you’ve been to Ruka Boston, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the space and the food you tried. If you’ve not visited this unique restaurant, check it out and then get back to me with your thoughts.

I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be back again to try more plates.

Ruka Boston
505 Washington Street (DTX)
(617) 266-0102 || rukarestobar.com