For me, shows and food go hand-in-hand. Any good night out to see a band should be accompanied by a good meal. In the greater Boston area we’re blessed with some of the best music, clubs and restaurants in the country which makes it difficult to make a bad choice. With my top ten list of restaurants to visit before a show I’ve tried, in most cases, not to pick the most obvious choice. Instead, I prefer the gems that you may have to work a little harder to find or get to. You can trust me that they’re worth the effort.
Church, Boston (www.churchofboston.com) – A trip to the House of Blues in Boston cannot be complete without a visit to Church. It’s a bit of a jog from Kilmarnock Street to Lansdowne Street so you’ll want to plan time for the walk, but what’s better than a brisk walk to work off a good meal? Church’s menu is an eclectic mix of American fare featuring food from local farms. My menu favorites are the Pressed Cuban sandwich and Chicken Breast “under a brick” with sweet potato tater tots. Throughout the year Church features specialty dinners of various themes, often tied to the seasons or beer and spirit tastings. Did I mention that Church is a music venue in its own right? With one of the best small club sound systems in the city, Church is also the perfect place to check out an up-and-coming local or national act.
Central Kitchen, Cambridge (no web site) – Entrees at Central Square’s Central Kitchen can be a little pricey and their small dining room fills up quickly but despite these draw-backs it is one of the best places to start a night out to the Middle East or T.T. the Bear’s. Their limited but scrumptuous menu makes the choices simple and their top-notch beer selection will satisfy any thirst.
Green Street Grill, Cambridge (http://greenstreetgrill.com) – Green Street is another choice in the Central Square area of Cambridge and another oft pricey and busy pick but, like Central Kitchen, the dinner is worth the extra cash if you’re looking for something more than a slice of pizza at HI-Fi Pizza. I suggest starting with their always interesting Artisanal Cheese Tray before diving in to their fantastic Macaroni & Cheese, with tomato and bacon. (Note to reader – I’m not responsible for your cholesterol problems if you decide to follow this recommendation)
Ricardo’s Café Trattoria, Lowell (www.ricardoscafetrattoria.com) – Before we even get to the menu let me mention—when you leave a message to make reservations, it’s Ricardo that returns the call—when you show up for your table, it’s Ricardo that greets you at the door. If you’re looking for a neighborhood feel, you can’t beat that kind of welcome. The menu is traditional Italian fare, complete with lots of pasta choices. Ricardo’s is a great choice if you’re heading north of the city for a show at the Tsongas Arena or Boardinghouse Park.
Blue Taleh, Lowell (www.bluetalehlowell.com) – If you’re in the mood for Asian food and sushi while in Lowell, Blue Taleh is the only choice as far as I’m concerned. Their sushi creations are impeccable and their Thai/Japanese cooking have enough variety to satisfy any taste. If you’re visiting during the warm months choose a seat on the deck overlooking Lowell’s canals. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to begin your evening.
Sugar and Spice, Cambridge (www.sugarspices.com) – Heading out to the Lizard Lounge or another club in the Porter Square area? The best Thai choice, in my estimation, is Sugar and Spice. The only drawback is that you may be overwhelmed by the bazillion menu choices that they offer. The good news is that you could simply close your eyes, open to any page and blindly drop your finger on the menu. There’s nothing on this menu that doesn’t taste fantastic. Sugar and Spice can take even things I don’t like and make them taste wonderful.
Sunset Grill and Tap, Allston (www.allstonsfinest.com) – I won’t even try to comment on the Sunset Grill and Tap’s beer menu. Suffice it to say that if it’s not on their menu, then it probably doesn’t exist. I’ll focus instead on the food. By way of selection and variation, the best comparison is to the encyclopedia that they slap in front of you at the Cheesecake Factory. I use this comparison not to defame the Sunset Grill and Tap but to instead give you an idea of how many selections you’re going to be faced with. If you’re visiting the Paradise Rock Club on this outing plan extra time, not only for the walk to the club, but also for the time it takes to make a choice from their extensive menu. I always find their home cooking selections the most satisfying.
The Independent, Somerville (www.theindo.com) – Heading to Somerville for a show? Try The Independent next time. You’ll be surprised by their eclectic twist on the traditional Irish pub. I know it’s not exactly an Irish specialty but I feel compelled to recommend the Mexican Hot Dog—a bacon-wrapped hotdog accompanied with avocado, refried beans and pineapple salsa. Yikes!
Redbones, Somerville (http://redbones.com) – It’s not exactly a secret that Redbones has some of the best barbeque in the greater Boston area. If you’re headed to the Davis Square area of Somerville, Redbones is the obvious choice in this regard. Grab a stack of napkins and Hand-i-wipes and dig in. My only caution is to order the spiciest things on their menu at your own risk. The last time I ate one of their Jamaican Jerk sandwiches I felt it for nearly a week afterwards.
Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, Boston (http://lolitaboston.com) – I almost left Lolita off the list because of its location. Nestled between Newbury and Boylston Streets, it’s not exactly convenient for most show-going nights. But—given the fact that I ate there just a few weeks ago before seeing David Wax Museum at the Arlington Street Church—I figured I could justify its inclusion. You’ll be glad that I did. The experience alone is worth the trip. Dinner starts off with their signature “palette cleanser” of shaved ice and grapefruit doused in tequila and ends with a bucket of cotton candy. In between you are treated to some of the best high-end Mexican fusion cooking I’ve ever had. Plan for an early dinner because Lolita is a trendy nightspot at which hipsters line up around the block for entrance as the night gets later.