FOOD AND DRINK
Around the World in Boston Cuisine
From salty Serbian snacks to filling Afghan feasts, you can eat your way across the continents in Boston
Though Boston is a relatively small city, it’s multicultural. In theory, you could eat your way across the world just by walking the streets of Boston and its suburbs. There’s an especially strong contingent of Central European delicacies here, and, likely thanks to Boston’s large Brazilian population, you’ll find plenty of that country’s food, too.
Here is our list of the best, most authentic and hardest-to-find fare in the Northeast. Again, no matter what cuisine you’re looking for, you can probably find it – but we recommend you start here.
Ethiopia: Addis Red Sea
Addis is Boston’s premier, and arguably most authentic, Ethiopian restaurant. Opened in 1988, it’s going on three decades of unique, tasty African cuisine and homey hospitality. Located in a cosy corner of the South End, the subterranean dining room is filled with colourful décor and traditional circular wicker tables, which allows groups to gather around and share a meal. Ethiopian food is densely herbed and spiced, often stewed, and enjoyed communally and their stewed herbs dishes and bread-forward food is served on that. Plenty of meat and veggie options makes this a fine place for a party that includes a number of vegetarians.
544 Tremont St., Boston, 617-426-8727
Germany and Central/Eastern Europe: Bronwyn
In other cites a German beer garden may not be anything out of the ordinary, but in suburban Somerville it’s a most welcome foreign novelty – one that has quickly established itself as a fixture of Union Square since opening in 2013. There is nothing like Bronwyn within city limits, and the owners have been treated like epic heroes for opening it. Despite the Welsh/Irish name, Bronwyn specializes in hard-to-find German and other Central/Eastern European wines and beers, and offers up the food from the region as well: spatzle, schnitzel, schweinebauch, pierogi, goulash, and the best of the wurst in town. Though it’s heavy on meat dishes, Bronwyn offers a rich array of regional snacks; for vegetarians, there are pretzels and Eastern European-style pickles. Get there for Oktoberfest or at any rate in time for the seasonal patio if you can, although the contemporary-rustic interior makes for a nice atmosphere as well.
255 Washington St., Somerville, 617-776-9900
Many wonder how a Balkan sandwich shop recently found its way into the heart of Inman Square, but Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann's ongoing creative exploration into Eastern European cuisine continues to grow throughout the city (they’re also the couple behind Bronwyn, hence the name). No matter how worldly you are, you may have trouble with some of the words on the menu, but all the ingredients are delicious and homemade. Pljeskavica is the national dish of Serbia, a mixture of pork, beef and lamb; lepinje is a flatbread similar to pita; ajvar is a relish made from eggplant and red peppers; kolache is a pastry that contains fruit and/or meat – and Playska has it all. Oh, and unmatched selection of pickled meats and veggies, too. Your first attempt at Playska may seem like an adventure, but you’ll quickly learn everything here is delicious, and the experience will be hard to repeat if you’re nowhere near Serbia (or Somerville).
243 Hampshire St, Cambridge, 617-864-0170
Poland: Café Polonia
You’ll need to travel a few T stops beyond the city centre to reach an area known as the Polish Triangle, but Café Polonia is worth the journey, especially for lovers of Polish food. Located in South Boston near the Andrew Square stop, Café Polonia offers starters including kielbasa twists, kiszka (blood sausage), beet and beef and beef tripe soup. When it comes to entrées you’ll find a great selection of pierogi, kielbasa and potato pancakes. This is Polish cuisine at its richest and most authentic. The room itself is modest, and prices easy on the wallet.
611 Dorchester Ave., South Boston, 617-269-0110
Courtesy Café Polonia
You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a renowned Afghan restaurant inside a modest stucco building across the street from a shopping mall, but hidden here is a true gem in Central Asian cuisine. With rugs, couches, a festive fireplace on one side and a wood-burning oven used for cooking Helmand’s famed flatbread on the other, the food and atmosphere are hard to come by anywhere else that's remotely near here. Try the lamb and vegetable entrées that fill the menu and, of course, the flatbread.
143 First St., Cambridge, 617-492-4646
Oleana’s room of Turkish treasures hasn’t lost any steam since opening in 2001: Reservations are still recommended, and the rotating menu is so intricate and authentic that there’s a glossary for the uninitiated. Mezze (appetizers) take up a full page of the menu, and include homemade cheese, moussaka and tamarind-glazed beef that melts in your mouth. Entrées include fish and meat options as well as a vegetarian tasting menu. Besides being an acclaimed chef in Turkish cuisine, Ana Sortun and her husband also own a nearby farm where most of their food is grown for the restaurant.
134 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617-661-0505
Lebanon: The Middle East Café/ZuZu
What began as a family-owned Lebanese eatery in 1970 has in time expanded to become multiple restaurants under one roof: There are several eateries – of which ZuZu is the high-end sister – as well as four venues that host entertainment ranging from DJs, belly dancers, comedy and live bands. The venue is lodged deep in Cambridge’s heart and soul, and the Lebanese food has always been an all-day and late-night staple (and the travelling bands get fed on the house). Here you’ll find your hummus plates, falafel, soups, salad, shwarma, couscous and kebabs. Packed nightly with hungry concertgoers, the restaurant is open most of the day and the prices seem to date back to their opening.
472-480 Massachusetts Ave, 617-864-3278
Brazil: Midwest Grill
Cambridge Street may have been a Brazilian boulevard back in the day, but with continued gentrification and more diverse restaurants opening every year, only a few of the old Brazilian staples still remain. Meat lovers should head to the Midwest Grill for Brazilian-style barbecue. With all-you-can eat portions served grilled and served skewered on swords, this is a meal fit for royalty (or just a bit of showing off). Order the famous churrascaria rodizio, which consists of perfectly grilled and seasoned meat delivered and carved tableside by the veteran staff. For committed carnivores there’s no way to make a wrong decision among options that include beef sirloin, kielbasa, pork loin, chicken hearts, lamb, ribs, chicken breast and Brazilian sausage.
1124 Cambridge St., 617-354-7536
Brazil (and beyond): Muqueca
Continue a block down Cambridge Street and you’ll find the charming Muqueca. If you passed up Midwest Grill because of their meat-forward menu, perhaps you’ll enjoy Muqueca’s seafood specialties. Primarily Brazilian with a mix of African, Indian and Portuguese influences, Muqueca offers unique dishes including calamari with passion fruit and fried yucca and fried frogs legs, but the specialty is, well, muqueca. That’s a Brazilian recipe: a saltwater fish stew with coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and some palm oil. The restaurant offers versions with tofu and plantains, shrimp, or mussels.
1008 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-354-3296