Kenmore Cheap Eats
Food Options on the Other Side of the CharlesBy Jumaane Jeffries and Yi Xie
472 Commonwealth Ave.
Open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 12 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. - 12 a.m.
Delivery hours 12 p.m. - 12 a.m. every day
Ankara CafÉ is a small restaurant just east of Kenmore that’s best known for its numerous frozen yogurt options. Ankara’s is the closest to Tosci’s that Kenmore has to offer, with its conveniently priced ($2-$3) 40+ yogurt flavors in addition to its quaint college atmosphere. Its decor includes sports logos, while its small size gives way to very crowded situations, which makes its outdoor eating area pretty appealing.
In addition to serving good frozen yogurt, Ankara’s is also a place to get a substantial meal. Pizzas ($4-$10), wraps ($4-$6), and deli sandwiches and soups (various combinations for $6) make for tempting dining options.
The wraps are huge and by far the best deal. The chicken caesar wrap is surprisingly good with crunchy croutons, crisp fresh romaine lettuce, marinated strips of chicken breast, and bacon bits tossed in for some flair. The chicken contains just the right amount of seasoning.
The deli sandwiches are just as good, and the corned beef sandwich is highly recommended. However, the chicken florentine soup we tried was less than stellar, so we suggest skipping the soup and going straight for the dessert.
With flavors to mix and match, the frozen yogurt is amazing. Ankara’s pulls a neat trick: rather than having ready-made flavors, they take plain frozen yogurt and then blend in whatever you order, be it Twix candy bars, cookie dough, or even an assortment of fruits. Each one is made to order, and the generous portions makes them a steal at $2.49 apiece.
532 Commonwealth Ave.
Open every day 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Typical of your neighborhood pizza joint, Baldini’s has quick service, loud decor, and college students streaming in and out. Disappointingly, though, Baldini’s falls short of even modest expectations. Simply put, the food is bad. Tasting like it had been sitting on the counter all day, the chicken and broccoli calzone I ordered was cold on the inside -- the cheese had already solidified. The “freshly baked dough” was soggy and not at all crisp. Sadly enough, even Lobdell’s has served up better. The only redeeming point was that the hearty pasta marinara was served up steaming hot.
They have limited outdoor seating, but these seats are nice for people-watching. Located next to Fenway Park, Baldini’s gets most of its business before and after ballgames. Pizza ranges from $8.50 to $15.99, and you can get it by the slice. Along with the usual salads and pastas, they also have a few sandwiches and wraps for about $4-$5. Take-out and delivery are both options, though my advice would be to skip this place and try out any of the other Kenmore Square restaurants reviewed here.
642 Beacon St.
Hours 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
To be honest, BurritoMax seems like your typical Mexican snack source, something along the lines of a decent dine-in Taco Bell. However, this Kenmore Square staple really exceeds expectations.
A major hangout, somewhat surprisingly, for BU’s alternative scene (according to one reliable source), BurritoMax is also an unexpected haven for health nuts, as the menu boasts healthy choices from its veggie options to its all-natural ingredients. The colorful well-lit restaurant is even faster than its fast food counterpart.
Going for something out of the ordinary, we sampled both the grilled fish and BBQ pork burritos ($4-$6). Both were of your standard tasty variety, but the fish had something going for it. The fish was actually genuine, even conjuring thoughts of authentic grouper sushi. There’s no processed Filet-O-anything going on here. They don’t add extra oil to their beans, and the grilled fish is always fat free.
However, don’t order too much. The nachos (which are served fresh and hot, topped with a chili that is laden with a generous amount of ground beef and steak) gives much more food than one would expect from an appetizer. Lighter fare includes a variety of tacos (approximately $2 each), but be sure to remind ’em to dress them up -- specify what you want in the taco or you may end up being disappointed.
476 Commonwealth Ave.
Open every day 9 a.m. - 3 a.m.
Perhaps one of Boston’s most happening punk rock dives, Deli Haus is one of the few places in Boston to eat past 1 a.m. The Haus blends old-school diner service with new-school progressive appeal. A dizzying array of suspended flourescents and a miniature jukebox accompany the restaurant’s overwhelming music. The waitresses also fulfill their role in giving Deli Haus that extra attitude, so much so that I feel ashamed just for using a clichÉd term like “attitude.”
The Haus has enough, um, “personality” to serve sandwiches like the Velvet Elvis, which is filled with grilled peanut butter and banana. Or, if you’re looking for something more normal, appetizers run from $3-$5; main courses cost $5-$11, and desserts go for around $4-$6. It’s your standard diner fare; not your first choice for quality, just fairly decent deli and hot sandwiches and dinner plates. Even so, some dishes stand out, like the Kenmore Melt, a delicious sandwich with grilled chicken and honey mustard on rye.
With its selection of larger dishes, such as the chili cheese fries or the bean-buried nachos, it’s a good place to hang out and chill over a $4 appetizer or two. But, most importantly, it’s the only place to go for breakfast now that IHOP’s gone.
484 Commonwealth Ave.
Open Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Yes, there really is a genuine, somewhat formal restaurant in Kenmore Square, and it’s India Quality. Unless you’re severely claustrophobic, you’ll appreciate the pleasantly dim lighting, quaint formal setting, and appropriate light music. The restaurant is just big enough to host a bar, though the size is not necessarily a hindrance if you’re engaged in conversation.
In terms of the kind of flavor you’d expect from Indian food, India Quality is of mixed quality. Of the breads (which range from $3-$5), we tried the Keema Paratha, a bread stuffed with chopped lamb and peas. It was only decent, and desperately needed some spices to kick up the flavor.
The Shrimp Saag lunch plate, while not very meaty, was wonderfully aromatic, with a little spice thrown in as an extra. You can specify mild, medium, and hot for any of their dishes, but use caution, as the Saag we ordered was supposedly on the “mild” side.
In general, luncheon specials cost between $5-$7, and regular dinner plates range from $9-$11. In the rare event that you ever take a more formal dining excursion into Kenmore, this may be your only bet.
1 Kenmore Square
Open every day 11 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
Surprisingly, Kenmore’s Pizzeria Uno differs quite a bit from its Back Bay counterpart. It’s an Italian Pour House! It’s more like a bar than anything else -- the entire setting is similarly reminiscent. Sports and alcohol abound here, in addition to Uno’s renowned Deep Dish pizzas, which -- if served hot -- can really satisfy your craving for Italian food. The single servings go from $6-$8 and the dishes for two or three run from $11-$13.
It seems kind of odd to order something other than pizza from Uno’s. After all, how can you not order the pizza? In the case that you are indeed adventurous enough to do so, then you can choose from the “Standard National Franchise Dishes” portion of the menu. Its pasta offerings ($8-$12) secure Pizzeria Uno’s status as the place for Italian in Kenmore. Or if you’re not in the mood, then perhaps some hearty sandwiches ($7), meaty platters ($8-$14), or various salads ($3-$10) will do.
Go to Pizzeria Uno for, at the very least, the safest bet in casual food dining. Or go for some of the best pizza around.