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A Tasty Education in Boston Dining

By Kathy Lin
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Kathy Lin ’05 shares some of her favorite local destinations in a five-part series this week. Part 4 of 5.

I love food, so I naturally love restaurant-hunting in any new city I go to. As you start your search for your new favorite restaurants, give these a try:

Chinese Food

Taiwan Cafe

34 Oxford Street

Boston, MA 02111

Although Royal East and Mary Chung’s offer temptingly close Chinese food, the best is not surprisingly in Chinatown. Try out Taiwan Cafe, which is frequented by many MIT students. The food is authentic and cheap; I’ve spent $12 for a filling meal for two, tip included. Grab your nearest Chinese speaker before you go, though, as their English is not so good. (And if you look vaguely Asian, expect to be spoken to in Chinese.)

After your meal, head one block west on Beach Street and up the stairs at the corner to the juice bar, which makes fresh smoothie-like bubble tea.

Thai Food

Smile Thai Cafe

16-18 Eliot Street 2nd Floor

Cambridge, MA 02138617-497-8288

http://www.smilethaicafe.com/

The Boston area has surprisingly many Thai restaurants, most of which are quite tasty and classy. My favorite is Smile Thai Cafe in Harvard Square, where the wait staff is exceptionally friendly. I always try dishes named after the restaurant, and the Smile Noodles lived up to all my hopes. Also try the Fried Ice Cream and the Thai Iced Coffee.

Italian

Maggiano’s

4 Columbus Avenue

Boston, MA 02116617-542-0456

http://www.maggianos.com/

Maggiano’s serves the best restaurant pasta I’ve had (though nothing is quite the same as Mom’s), and it does so consistently at reasonable prices. The Garlic Shrimp and Shells and the Rigatoni D are my favs, along with the Stuffed Mushrooms. Believe the wait staff when they tell you that their portions are big, too; a “full-size” portion, generally about $15, is more than enough to stuff two people — quite a deal for a nice restaurant.

Sandwiches

Au Bon Pain

Both Kendall Square and Central Square

http://www.aubonpain.com/

For soups and sandwiches, the best place in the area is Au Bon Pain. Their sandwiches are simple but tasty; my favorite is Chicken Tarragon. Plus, there’s an ABP at almost every T stop, and more.

Quick Bites

Boston Market

245 Massachusetts Avenue

Boston, MA 02115617-236-4447

http://www.bostonmarket.com/

It’s a national chain, but I love it, and so should you! If you haven’t been to Boston Market before, imagine eating Thanksgiving dinner — but better — all year round. Plus, all the mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and cinnamon apples that you could wish for are just a 20-minute walk away, a little past Boylston Street on Mass. Ave.

The Wrap

137 Massachusetts Avenue

Boston, MA 02115617-369-9087

http://www.thewrap.com/

The Wrap is a local chain that serves, well, wraps. They’re tasty and varied, making them a good option when you want warm food fast.

Ice Cream

J.P. Licks

352 Newbury Street

Boston, MA 02115617-236-1666

http://www.jplicks.com/

Perhaps the most famous local ice cream store, J.P. Licks (short for Jamaica Plains) boasts dozens of fresh, delicious ice cream and frozen yogurt flavors and enormous cones; I eat there about once a week. My favorite flavor is coffee oreo, with the seasonal peach running a close second. Check your mailboxes for the Collegiate Coupon Book, which usually includes a $2-off coupon (making the rather large kiddie cone a mere $0.24).

Fancy

Petit Robert Bistro

468 Commonwealth Avenue

Boston, MA 02215617-375-0699

http://www.petitrobertbistro.com/

A quaint new restaurant on Comm. Ave., Petit Robert Bistro has rapidly become my favorite fancy restaurant. The owner circulates, engaging in casual conversation, and the chef is the nephew of the chef at my former favorite restaurant, Maison Robert, which closed last year when he retired. Everything I’ve had there has been heavenly, particularly the dessert. Definitely save room for dessert.

Breakfast

Mike’s City Diner

1714 Washington Street

Boston, MA 02118617-267-9393

Mike’s inspired a constant pancake craving in me, and it’s everything you could ask for from a diner. Just watch out for the meal called Emergency Room — you could end up there, but at least you’d die happy.