Dolphin Bay Restaurant Review

Emmalie Vanderpool

The Greater Boston Area is a hub of unique and traditional restaurants from a variety of cultures. Dolphin Bay, an unassuming Taiwanese restaurant in Allston, harbors an array of deliciously authentic specialties. The decor is ocean-themed, with a large wooden boat protruding from the rear of the restaurant and serving as a countertop for the host and workers. Painted with tropical murals of palm trees, seagulls, and dolphins, the restaurant provides a strange but amusing atmosphere in the wintertime. Visiting Dolphin Bay is an experience, and well worth it for the food. Alongside its cuisine, the restaurant offers an array of specialty teas, slushes, juices, and flavored milk. During our visit, my family favored the strawberry slush drink and the Thai iced tea, which presented two different–but equally refreshing–flavors. 

I coerced my family into trying out the restaurant with me, so I could order all of the dishes that interested me. For appetizers, we got spicy wontons, small fried chicken pieces tossed in a spice mix, and takoyaki. The wontons were similar to dumplings but with a softer wrapper; I loved their silky texture and meat-filled center, paired with the hot oil drizzled overtop. The fried chicken pieces are the restaurant’s specialty and can be ordered as mild, medium or hot. They were perfectly crispy, and came in a fairly large and well-seasoned portion. Takoyaki consists of a small piece of squid surrounded by a fried dough ball, which is then drizzled with sauces and bonito flakes. They are incredible, despite sounding a little bizarre. One round down, and we still wanted to try a lot more!

After the appetizers, we chose a few meals to split. We ordered sesame noodles, a pork belly rice plate, beef noodle soup, and stir fried udon noodles with chicken. The noodle and rice dishes had a perfect balance of flavors which were gentle and light, not overpowering. Each plate had a portion of meat, starch, and veggies, working together in fresh and healthy combinations. The sesame noodles had a delicious peanut and sesame sauce coating, paired with some bok choy and chunks of ground pork. I prefer Udon noodles, which are thicker, but this sauce made a difference. It was subtle and contained carrots, onions, and more bok choy with greens. The pork belly was moist, flavorful, and oily; perfect for over the rice, and for pairing with the gravy and vegetables on the side (we chose to mix them with everything else). Collectively, our favorite dish was the beef noodle soup, which was rich and savory. The noodles, strips of beef, and greens were plentiful and cooked perfectly, absorbing the broth and taking on some of its flavor. The notes of beef were deep and complex, making the soup fairly addicting and therefore hard to share. We all fought for our turn with the large bowl.

For dessert, we ordered shaved ice with mango, condensed milk, and red bean to split. Toppings are optional, and there are a variety of options to choose from in order to suit any palette. The dessert was enormous–between the six of us we only finished half–but it was very refreshing. Red bean and condensed milk are both common dessert items in Asian cuisine, and we loved sampling the new flavor profiles and textures they presented. Mango added a burst of fresh sweetness, which elevated the experience even further. We left incredibly full and incredibly happy– I would recommend Dolphin Bay to anyone who is trying to expand their palette while seeking restaurants in the Greater Boston area. 


24 Hours in Portland, Maine

Chloe McAllaster

As the leaves turn to brown, crimson, and orange, misty mornings and crisp days call for bundling up in chunky sweaters and sipping steamy mugs of hot cider. With the advent of autumn comes a craving for warm comfort food that nourishes the body and soul. If you plan on heading out of the city to experience the best of New England’s foliage and fall festivities, I recommend a quick trip to Portland, Maine. A coastal hub that embodies quintessential New England—from historic lighthouses to nautical-themed seaside restaurants—Portland has come to be known for its bustling food scene. On a recent overnight trip to Maine’s largest city, a quick survey of Yelp revealed dozens of top-rated restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. With only 24 hours to explore the city’s winding cobblestone streets, I certainly did not leave every stone unturned in Portland. I can, however, confidently attest that nowhere else does fall comfort food like this town.

Breakfast: Local 188

A visit to Local 188 feels like weekend brunch at your neighbor’s house—if your neighbor is a talented Spanish chef. The atmosphere is undeniably cozy: a couch and chairs welcome those waiting to be seated, while tables lining the walls are made extra-comfortable with colorful throw pillows. Coffee is served in mismatched mugs just like those you would find in your grandma’s kitchen, and live plants line the windows. The weekend brunch offerings feature something for everyone; classic eggs with homefries, seasonal scrambles, breakfast paella, huevos rancheros, and breakfast sandwiches, to name just a few. Though the menu consists of staple breakfast foods, Local 188 crafts them to perfection and pays attention to presentation. You may feel as though you could be in your own living room, and yet the food is far from amateur.

Lunch: The Highroller Lobster Co

No trip to Maine would be complete without indulging in some lobster. At first glance, Highroller looks like a retro diner: a red and white color palette, a simple menu in a tidy font, and a striped awning all combine to create a timeless look. Graffiti on the back patio and trendy neon signs add a contemporary twist. As a lobster novice, I opted for the lobster roll and shared “Lobby Pops”—think corn dog, but with lobster—as an appetizer. I wouldn’t call this meal a win for my health, but it certainly did not disappoint my taste buds. 

Afternoon Snack: Tandem Coffee + Bakery

Don’t let the line down the block for Tandem Coffee on Congress Street intimidate you—it’s well worth the wait. A converted old-school gas station, Tandem is the mid-century modern coffeehouse of my dreams. The minimalist design allows the coffee and baked goods to truly shine, while providing ample indoor and outdoor space to catch up with friends. The best part of Tandem, however, has to be the friendly staff who go above and beyond to serve their customers. Even amidst the Sunday morning rush, the server asked the family behind me which colored plate their three-year-old daughter would like for her muffin. My heart melted. 

Dinner: East Ender

By the time dinner rolled around, I had caught on to a common theme among Portland’s restaurants. They all possess an intimate ambience that makes you want to curl up in a blanket right in the middle of the main course. This quaint and warm environment certainly extends to East Ender, a new American restaurant that capitalizes on Portland’s historic charm. The two-floor restaurant features unimposing wooden tables and tufted booths, with antique curios and photos adorning the walls. A dark wooden bar and scattered chandeliers complete the homey look. I opted for the classic fish and chips as my main course, and I would do so again in a heartbeat.

Dessert: Bar of Chocolate

I wrapped up my whirlwind Portland food tour at a dessert bar tucked away on Wharf Street. Unlike the famed Chocolate Bar of BC (as my friends and I accidentally referred to it), Bar of Chocolate serves up specialty martinis, ports, and dessert wines alongside sweet indulgences like cheesecake and chocolate torte. The dark mood lighting and soft music made for the perfect setting to end the trip and fill up on some truly decadent drinks and desserts. I might even venture to say that we saved the best spot for last.

Photo: Visit Portland


Find Yourself in SoWa Market for its Final Month of the Year

Chloe McAllaster

People flock to food. Whether it’s Thai street cuisine or free Costco samples, food exists at the nexus of human interaction, culture, and pure survival instinct. This explains why people of all ages, nationalities, and creeds seek out organized eating experiences, from food festivals to Thanksgiving reunions.

For sixteen seasons, the SoWa Open Market has been fostering community largely through food. Its name is a tribute to the market’s location, south of Washington Street in Boston. Artisan beverages, fresh produce, and homemade baked goods are sold on the streets around SoWa’s vintage market, local shops, and art studios every Sunday from May to October. If you were to attend every week over that period, you would still find something new to sample on your last day. This is the core of what makes open markets like SoWa so refreshing and appealing: they’re dynamic. Many people tout the importance of shopping local for sustainability reasons, or to support the local economy. While these are undoubtedly important considerations, the real appeal of SoWa is in its sense of community and energy. 

It’s impossible to leave SoWa having only had a conversation with the people you came with, as the entire concept all but requires you to involve yourself with other visitors and vendors. The long, communal tables, reminiscent of cafeteria lunches, encourage visitors to bond over the ritual of eating, one of the few universal human experiences. Furthermore, there’s something special about purchasing food from the same person who harvested, cooked, or artfully arranged it in a booth. SoWa exudes this kind of pride from all angles. Not only are the vendors proud of the products they are offering, but the shoppers are proud to be a part of it—to be participating in their community.  While at first glance you may be attracted to SoWa for its warm apple cider donuts, homemade pesto, or craft beer garden, the reason you’ll return for the next sixteen years is because it is participatory in a way many restaurants and groceries can only attempt. In essence, go for the delicious food, but stay for the community.


Get ‘Em Some Dim Sum

Emmalie Vanderpool

Boston’s Chinatown has always held a level of mystique for me. Growing up around Boston, I passed its landmark white-and-green arches many times, and wondered about the cultural icon that seemed so unique among the other tall, industrial buildings. Peering through my car window over the years, I noted the brightly colored signs, flapping flags, and swaying paper lanterns that gave the area a vibrancy begging to be explored. As I grew older and began to expand my food palate, Asian food became my cuisinal addiction. While I had eaten the Americanized Chinese food classics at a local restaurant where my family regularly ordered takeout, I had never explored authentic Asian spices and sauces. They were so different from the Western and European flavors that I was used to. 

Deep within the Youtube food world, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a genre of videos depicting Youtube travel vloggers who visited different countries and indulged in their cultural cuisine. I virtually devoured foods that I never could have conceived of–Japanese takoyaki, Korean tteokbokki, Thai mango sticky rice, and many other combinations and flavors that were incredibly foreign to me. One of my favorite eating experiences to watch was Chinese dim sum, a meal composed of many small plates of varying items–the Chinese version of Spanish tapas. My favorite Youtubers would order stacks of steaming bamboo boxes, full of buns, dumplings, sticky rice, chicken feet, bao, and hundreds of other variations of traditional Chinese cuisine. Because there were only a few small items per plate, each table was able to try 10-15 different dishes. This style of eating was very very enticing to me. 

Knowing that I had built up dim sum to a Michelin-star level of foodie heaven, I was committed to visiting a high-quality dim sum restaurant to ensure that the meal lived up to my high expectations. Researching dim sum in the Boston area, I found that the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Chinatown kept popping up as the “Best Rated.” My family and boyfriend were planning on visiting, so I thought that would be the best opportunity to plan an excursion to Winsor and order as many different things as possible. Without really giving them a choice, I told everyone our dinner destination and immediately began to plan everything that I was going to order by stalking the online menu. Modern technology has really fueled my addiction. 

My family and my boyfriend, Dan, came to visit on a Saturday, so we were forced to take the T rather than try our luck parking in Boston. The 45-minute ride tested us all, and by the time we got off at Boylston station we were fairly hangry and ready to indulge ourselves in a big meal. Even though we rushed through Chinatown in our haste to eat, I still noticed the stark differences between the shops there versus the rest of Boston. Most of the storefronts were tiny restaurants, and brightly colored advertisements paired with scrumptious scents beckoned us to enter every doorway. Compared to the reserved cityscape of the financial district–to which I had grown accustomed while working over the summer–Chinatown was not cold and professional, but brilliantly colored and compact. The area was bustling, so we meandered our way through the busy area with the help of trusty Google maps and quickly found our way to the yellow awning that declared the entrance to Winsor Dim Sum Cafe. The restaurant was unassuming from the outside, but I would soon be privy to the savory wonderland waiting within. 

Our party of six crowded into the small, packed restaurant, which housed only a few tables. Even though it was four o’clock, an in-between time for meals, we had to wait a few minutes before being seated at a round table equipped with a pot of tea, vinegar, soy sauce, hot chili oil, and salt and pepper. Our waitress was an angry old Chinese woman who refused to get us cups of water and who yelled at customers who sat down at dirty tables or tried to put their order in before the servers were ready. While my mother was flabbergasted, I took it in stride as part of the experience. 

Due to my rigorous research before we had arrived, I already knew what to order. Given some small white sheets with the numbered menu items, I checked off the boxes next to steamed pork buns, egg custard buns, steamed beef rice noodles, stuffed sticky rice in a lotus leaf, shrimp and beef sui mai, pan fried pork dumplings, scallion pancakes, crab rangoon, steamed crab dumplings, and fried sesame balls. Starting off our dim sum experience, this was a welcome mix of familiar and novel dishes.

 The food was all made to order, and dishes came out as soon as they were prepared, allowing for a distributed eating experience as the plates arrived at different times. Our table became a flurry of grabbing hands, pouring sauces, and food-claiming yells as each item was divided and dispersed among the group. As a lover of heat and spice, I doused all of my food items in hot chili oil while most of the others went for the classic soy sauce. Personally, I enjoyed everything apart from the stuffed sticky rice in the lotus leaf. The rice could hardly be removed from its wrapper because of how sticky and glutinous it had become, and the inner filling was flavored with licorice root which, for me, was off-putting and seemed out of place (though other members of my party enjoyed it).  

The dumplings, scallion pancakes, and crab rangoons were all items that I had tried iterations of before, but never had they tasted this flavorful. The dumplings had a thin wrapping which was steamed perfectly to make a chewy outer layer, hiding a juicy and umami-rich filling of either pork, beef, or shrimp. The dough concealed boiling hot centers from which we all risked being burned, as we impatiently sampled from the plate. Both the scallion pancake and the crab rangoons were perfectly crisp but not oil-heavy, resulting in a light and crunchy coating of fried, doughy texture with a soft interior. 

These dishes can sometimes be bland, or rely more on their fried nature than on the seasonings and flavors within, but that was not the case for the Winsor-prepared versions. A family favorite for us was the steamed pork bun, something that was new for all of us. The bun itself was unique, a pillowy hybrid of a dumpling wrapper and Wonderbread. After splitting the bun in half, a deep burgundy filling of barbecued pork chunks and tangy sauce oozed from within the steamed morsel. The balance of the soft bun with the smaller chunks of flavored pork inside the sweet-and-savory sauce made for the perfect bite, elevated by the bite of the hot chili oil which cut through the sweetness for an additional layer of flavor. 

Unbeknownst to us, the custard bun and fried sesame balls were more on the sweet side and could be considered dessert items. The egg custard within the bun was deeply yellow and slightly congealed, not runny but creamy and lightly sweetened. The fried sesame balls had a crisp outer layer and were made with rice flour, creating a chewy mochi-like texture on the inside that was slightly melted when fresh. The interior of the sesame balls had a red bean filling made by boiling beans and mashing them into a paste which was then sweetened with sugar. While “dessert beans” might seem bizarre compared to our Western conception of food, the flavor was reminiscent of sweet potato filling which is often prepared in the US both as a dessert and a savory delicacy. Saving these sweeter options for last, our taste buds were presented with a variety of flavor profiles. 

When we got the bill we were alarmed at how cheap it was–all of the plates totaled to be less than $50 worth of food! We left with full pockets and happy stomachs, filled to the brim with a delicious (and affordable) meal. Though I had declared dim sum to be at the highest of cuisinal standards before even trying it, I still left feeling satisfied and excited to return and try more unique dishes. Next time I’ll just have to find someone brave enough to order chicken feet with me.

Header image: Top Row (from left): shrimp and beef sui mai, crab dumpling, fried sesame ball; Bottom Row: egg custard bun, cup of tea


Mike’s vs. Modern Pastry

Cannoli Contenders in Boston’s Historic North End

Caroline Dragonetti

A night out in Boston’s North End is bound to present some challenges. Whether you’re comparing restaurant metrics on Yelp, or trying to find your Uber in the cluster of cars on Hanover St., perhaps the most difficult challenge you’ll encounter will be leaving room for dessert. If you’re someone who can muster up enough willpower to forego those last few bites of Linguine Fra Diavolo, both Mike’s and Modern Pastry offer a wide range of well-deserved treats to finish the night. Though the two rival bakeries claim to have the best and most authentic Italian pastries in Boston, the experience that they offer customers, as well as their signature cannolis, could not be more different.

From the outside, the establishments look the same. Their neon signs illuminate the faces of young couples lined up on the curb and the gawking passersby. Only after you have shuffled over the threshold do their distinct characteristics and quirks become more apparent.

At Mike’s, you are greeted by the heavy aroma of pure sugar: crushed oreos, raspberry sorbet, chocolate frosting. The fluorescent overheads reflect off silver cases displaying rows of cupcakes and stacks of pizzelle. Blue and white balls swing from the ceiling as workers secure to-go boxes with twine from a spool whirring inside. The floor is decorated by a constellation of pennies and nickels that have slipped from palms and pockets. They are cash only, and things move fast.

While Mike’s advertises their expansive cannoli range with colorful graphics that read like a Warhol piece, they don’t neglect the classic Sicilian. The crunchy shells are made in-house and stuffed with enough creamy ricotta—each bite threatens to send whatever remains shooting out the other side. Finely chopped pistachios satisfy Instagrammers and foodies alike with a pop of color and earthy taste. It makes sense that you never see anyone leave Mike’s without a box.

Across the street, Modern Pastry’s door barely closes as patrons continuously funnel in and out. The smell of anise and chocolate clings to your clothes. Cans of coffee and hot chocolate line the walls. Bouquets of biscotti wrapped in cellophane top tables stacked with panettone. Binders boasting pictures of wedding and birthday cakes splay open on the counter where you queue to order your desserts. Overhead, a sign suspended from the ceiling swings every time the front door opens. With true Italian assurance it reads: “You want cannoli? WE HAVE CANNOLI!”

Unlike Mike’s, where the desserts are pre-made and ready to go, Modern does not fill their shells until they are ordered. This process prevents the shells from becoming too soft or soggy, and keeps them perfectly flaky. Though the bakery outsources for their cannoli casings, I’m told from “somewhere in Italy,” their ultimate product is unbelievably fresh tasting. Another notable difference is the size of Modern’s cannoli. While Mike’s rendition is significantly bigger—think the size of a fist—those at Modern don’t get much longer than a finger. Modern’s take on the Sicilian, however, features pistachio pieces that are larger and more roughly cut, adding for even more texture variety. Customers are treated to a dessert that mimics, if not competes with, what you would find in Italy.

Though there’s undoubtedly some major differences between the two stellar bakeries, it’s clear that finding a damn good cannoli is one challenge you won’t run into in Boston’s North End. Enjoy one while looking for your Uber and, of course, bring a full box home.

Mike’s Pastry, 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113


Allium Market and Cafe

Local Space for Global Flavors

Michaela Santillo

There is no other way to fully understand the deep-rooted charm of Allium, an independently-owned specialty foods haven, than to walk through the Tudor-style facade and be greeted by the epicure’s dream pantry.

I walk past Brookline Booksmith and the iconic Coolidge Corner Theater towards a market/cheese shop/café trifecta located in the S.S. Pierce Building. Historically home to the Coolidge & Brother General Store (est.1887), this iconic hub formerly served as the commercial center and namesake of this Brookline neighborhood.

Allium produces dishes to share with passersby who get hooked by the artisanal charm, and stay for the complete sensory experience. The emerald-tiled wall and the ceiling lined with hanging plants create a grounded, harmonious feeling. Handwritten labels and menu boards echo the casual precision with which the ingredients are molded into masterpieces. It has a familiar feel; the marketplace and cheese shop become your pantry, and the café your kitchen.

Catered to the gastronome, the market is filled with specialty items ranging from Cherokee purple tomato shrub, to walnut mustard, to white truffle honey. The floor-to-ceiling cabinets that showcase the eccentric goods take my eyes on their own visual adventure. On choosing products to sell, founder and General Manager Talia Glass says, “We look for products that have a story to tell with value: products that taste great, that are genuine, that are honest and, usually, simple.”

Beaming from the back corner of the store, cheese cases display the largest selection of domestic and imported cheese in the area. Like a proud farmer showing off their harvest, a team member is always around to curate cheese boards and answer questions about the unique assortment.  Talia’s vision for the cheese section was “a cheese and charcuterie shop with a totally kick-ass selection of cut-to-order cheeses that honor farmstead cheesemaking, small farms and producers, and traditional, global cheesemaking practices, while again, not offering the same stuff that every other shop in the Boston area is bringing in.”

The cafe portion features bread sourced from Clear Flour Bread in Packard’s Corner, as well as coffee from Massachusetts’s own George Howell Coffee, paying a modern homage to the general store that preceded them. Instead of focusing on local goods from New England, part of Allium’s philosophy is to source products from small producers around the world. This belief is rooted in the idea that “people sometimes lose track of quality, craftsmanship, and the cultural importance of foods when they are hyper-focused on ‘eating local.’”

The menu itself is inspired by the ingredients, experiences, and insights of Glass and her crew. With a team as carefully selected as the ingredients, Allium is constantly buzzing as the dishes are realized through their insight. The food tastes of the honest joy the team shares. Inherent to Allium is their candid philosophy surrounding their food: “It’s pretty simple: Eat good food. Eat food that tastes good. Eat food that’s made with good ingredients. Eat food that’s grown with good practices. Eat food that’s made with good intentions and systems. Eat food that supports good, local economies. Eat good food. Cook good food. Celebrate good food.”

The pastry case, filled with impeccably arranged desserts, resembles a still-life painting rendered with contrast and crisp composition; a citrus olive oil bundt cake with a blood orange glaze becomes the focal point. A winter citrus infusion gives the base a sour note to balance the richness of the cake. Portuguese olive oil makes up for the lack of dairy in the dessert, making it a great option for vegans and non-vegans alike. Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fernandes’ attention to taste is embodied in the fresh chocolate chip cookies, which are baked in batches throughout the day. The cookie gets its nuance from the nutty browned butter, adding a depth of flavor.

In their own take on the classic Italian soda, Allium offers tea and shrub sodas. Drinking one felt like listening to a juicy tête-à-tête between two effervescent individuals. The Earl Grey soda was a refreshing take on an iced tea, but nothing superior to the traditional version. I found the strawberry shrub soda invigorating, however; it celebrated the authentic strawberry flavor often bastardized in commercial drinks.

The baguette is the star of the Banh Mi, which uses a soy-ginger marinated tofu instead of the usual pork. Biting into the baguette creates a symphony of crackle, as pleasing to hear as it is to taste. Pickled carrots, daikon radish, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro all provide a welcome contrast to the flavor of the tofu. But if the Banh Mi shows off Allium’s innovative flair, their grilled cheese demonstrates their spectacular ability to master the simplest dishes. Among the more garden variety offerings, the Yaffa salad provides a rather simple mix of fresh leaf lettuce, cucumbers, hearts of palm, tomatoes, radishes, and chickpeas, revived by a bright carrot-ginger dressing.

To order the cheese board is to visit a museum with a personal tour guide. Beaming as only a proud mother could, Head Cheesemonger Chelsea Germer explains the origins and peculiarities of the masterful collage she has created. Designed specifically for each customer, the board is a chefs-d’œuvre. Highlights include house-made Italian pickled vegetables with star anise, a blue cheese cold-smoked cheese over hazelnut shells, a local Capella with truffle honey, and floured almonds coated with dry edible flowers.

A place where food from around the world is explored and celebrated, Allium Market stays true to its historic home as a welcoming commercial center. Rooted in its ingredients but ready to cultivate original dishes, Allium enhances the pantries and palates of the community through its curated market and menu–and the community reciprocates. According to Glass, “Customers bring their families in, hold birthday parties here, and have started to become like family to us…I always tell my staff, our customers don’t need us. They can go spend their money anywhere! It is we who need them, and so it is up to us to keep offering something special, something unique, something worth their time.”

Allium Market and Cafe, 1330 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02446



Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant

Valentina Pardo

I shifted my weight from one leg to another as we stood in line. A warm sense of familiarity and excitement fluttered in my chest. Laura raised her eyebrow and looked at her watch for the tenth time and muttered something under that heavy accent that I couldn’t understand. Carlota just sighed and kept hovering over the people in front of us, standing in her toes and trying to get a look at the place that had attracted so many hungry people. I ignored Laura’s skeptical eyes; I knew that if they did not seat us in the next five minutes, she was going to walk to the pizza place next door. Over my dead body. Luckily enough, we were invited right in before those two murdered me. If it were any other restaurant, I would not have dared to bring my friends with me, because what right does a Colombian have on taking two born-and-raised Spaniards to eat at a Spanish restaurant? I know…none. But don’t blame me. I had a craving for jàmon and Manchego croquetas that had been nudging at me for weeks.

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant is tightly nestled along the busy and never-ending Beacon Street, but undeniably stands out with its heavy glass doors and gray rustic tiles of vintage looking wood. Sitting at dinner with my friends, we didn’t feel like we were just eating food, we were actually enjoying ourselves without caring about our deafening Spanish voices and unbridled laughter. Most importantly, we were happy, and in that we were not alone. Smiles seemed to be served by the waiters, along with the golden olive oil and freshly baked bread.

Barcelona’s dynamic menu includes a refreshing variety of seasonal ingredients and complex flavors that keep the customers on their toes. They also serve the best wine from their award-winning selections of bottles from Spain and South America. Hence, their gastronomic combination of tradition and experimentation represents the two different worlds inside the venue.

In the “young and hip” side of the restaurant, you have the big parties of students, in groups of no less than eight to ten people, all sitting in rows of never-ending tables with three or four pitchers of red wine sangria passed around like water. Sitting in that sea of compulsive selfie takers, you are bound to either hear the well-known “happy birthday” song awkwardly spat out by a bunch of off-tune voices, or the melody of a tipsy, overly-emotional parent commemorating their child who has graduated and barely made it to the merciless world of the labor market. Left and right, servers can be spotted clumsily trying to fit all of the table participants into one single shot so the memory of the evening can be later recalled and shared.

At Barcelona it always feels like everybody is celebrating something.

Contrastingly, the left side of the restaurant is filled with the “grown-ups” sitting patiently along the bar, individuals with nine-to-five jobs that desperately need a break from the conference rooms and phone calls, and seek to escape with a good bottle of Pinot Noir or Albariño. On this side, though, celebrations are also present, normally caused by unexpected promotions, anniversaries, or the mere fact that the hell-of-a-week they’ve been having has finally come to an end. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, the space catches more energy. All of a sudden, the stools are no longer compatible with the number of bodies seeking to drink and the room begins to look more like a cocktail party than the “sit down quietly and drink your sorrows” type of bar found anywhere else. Barcelona brings out the best in everyone as it becomes a place where people can come together and drink without feeling guilty, because it’s drinking in honor of something, or someone.

Although the types of celebrations can vary between the two different sides of the restaurant, there is a factor that brings all of the people together, regardless of age or upcoming salary: the food. The food is the same in every single table. The beauty of eating at a tapas place like Barcelona is that there are no rules when it comes to ordering. You don’t have to choose just one dish, you can order all of them if you want. Can’t decide between the gambas al ajillo or the sweet potato hummus? Try them both! Eating at Barcelona is a unique experience as it gives you the freedom to experiment. If you don’t like something, chances are somebody else will eat it–this gives you room to keep trying bits and pieces of everything until you find those flavors you’re looking for. Last year’s Executive Chef Steven Brand basically sums it up as he says, “It’s not just dining because you’re hungry, it’s dining because it’s fun.” It’s fun to celebrate and mix things up in your palate. It is fun to let yourself be surprised or even disturbed by the unexpected flavors stuck in between your teeth.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that sharing only applies to the tapas – trust me, you are going to want to order more than one dessert. There is no way of choosing only one. My friends and I ordered the porras, spanish churros. With one bite, I got everything one looks for in a churro: the perfect crunchiness in the outside and the comfort of the softness in the inside. I was not overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar in any way, and it paired perfectly with the taste of the fresh dough and the side of melted chocolate. But, as you may expect, curiosity got the best of us, so we ordered the dulce de leche crepe. The vanilla ice cream on top melted against the warm crepe while the layer of chocolate sauce and crushed walnuts added a satisfying crunch to the bite. This sweet combination was the perfect ending we were looking for to feel satisfied, and after taking a look at the check, we found yet another reason to celebrate.

So, when it comes to properly enjoying this transcendental experience of eating at Barcelona, there is one general rule that you need to follow. Drumroll please…you have to be hungry! And, yes, I mean this literally and if you are, you will not be disappointed, especially if you order the patatas bravas, or the chorizo with sweet and sour figs. The bravas are the Spanish classic, and the chef respects tradition as he cuts them in the traditional cube form, and adds nothing to them but paprika, the aioli sauce, and their famous salsa brava. The potatoes are fried to perfection–every time I order them they are cloaked by a golden crunch that you have to bite though to get the softness hidden inside. The saltiness of the potato is married to the creamy garlic sauce, creating a perfect balance. On the other hand, the chorizo with sweet and sour figs is everything but traditional. Who would have guessed that chorizo, an ingredient that is in itself salty and fatty, would get along so well with figs and caramelized brown sugar? A genius, that’s who. But when I refer to hunger, I also mean another type of hunger, a hunger for celebration and community. Yes, you have to crave the rich taste of Spanish culture, but you also have to yearn for the long conversations and the sense of unity that the restaurant harbors. Barcelona serves the food in small plates on purpose: it wants you to interact with those around you. It sets you up so that when you’re asking for someone to pass the delicious seafood paella, you are inevitably starting a conversation; you are sparking a new connection or strengthening another relationship. Thus, Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant celebrates life with you and stays open until the last guest leaves. In the meantime, as those last few plates are passed around and scraped clean and the glasses are refilled until the last drop, you have just enough time to raise your glasses and say, salud!

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant, 1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446


Finding Home in Three Brookline Coffee Shops

Claire Madden

Whenever I am feeling tired of my apartment, of my bedroom and living room and especially the kitchen, with its frozen berry stains and lemony overhead light, I make a coffee run. I am looking for somewhere new to go and some caffeine, but there is something more pressing about seeking out a coffee shop. I am searching for somewhere warm and fresh, a place I do not have to maintain or nourish myself, a second home. Three Brookline-area coffee shops in particular fulfill this definition of home for me, weary or restless as I feel. Tatte, Caffè Nero, and Café Fixe, all conveniently nestled on either side of the C Line, each present a different and entirely welcome sense of home.

If I were to categorize each of these coffee shops as different rooms in a house–think a sprawling, bright house surrounded by greenery—Tatte would certainly be the kitchen. Walking in feels like you have woken up early in the morning to be greeted with ample sunshine and warm lamps, buzzing conversation, and the smell of fresh coffee and pastries. It is a place that feels like home, down to the apothecary-style table that holds quiches and croissants, the subway tile lining the walls, and the hand-written menus. Glass jars of granola and biscotti dot a well-stocked counter, and just above crisp tote bags for sale, a vintage portrait hangs. You do not feel as though you are intruding on someone’s busy mealtime, but instead you are ushered in, welcomed. A large farm table in the center of the restaurant encourages this kind of community—when I arrived, two impeccably dressed women sat at one corner, looking at photos of their grandchildren, and at the other, a group of students happily chatted over muffin crumbs. Tatte inspires brightness and familiarity, with chairs turned casually toward each other and an abundance of brilliant tile and glassware. I ordered a latte and a crimson berry herbal tea—good for either an energy spike first thing in the morning, or a leisurely start—as well as a lightly sweet strawberry-raspberry meringue. The latte’s artistry was rivalled only by the vibrant berry color of the tea, and the satisfying crack of the meringue. Tatte offers a distinct freshness and openness, the first taste of spring.


Caffè Nero, just a few stops up the C Line towards Cleveland Circle, offers a completely different, yet just as comforting, sense of place. If Tatte is the kitchen, then Caffè Nero is the infinitely cozy living room. It is the type of place I would duck into if I was struggling to warm up deep in the winter, or just wanted a quiet place to finish a book or an assignment. It seems like a salve for the homesick—maybe for me in particular, after seeing a basket of Italian Baci Perugina chocolates at the counter that brought me back to my grandparents’ kitchen. The patrons who frequent the café are equally warm, like an older woman who offered me her chair when she saw I was sitting on the ground to get a quick photo of my chai latte (a particularly incredible one, just sweet enough). Lined with books, old and new, and furnished with brightly-colored plush armchairs and couches, Caffè Nero could be anyone’s dream living room. The abundance of color is striking, from the raspberry macaron I ordered, to their signature sky-blue cups, to a soft pink wall that climbs toward exposed beams. When I arrived, it was crowded but almost completely silent; sitting there felt oddly like sitting with your family, all working or reading or watching something else, but together. The café is centered around a large fireplace and a circle of pastel-blue booths, and even as people enjoy their own sandwiches and salads and coffees and pastries, it does feel as though you are enjoying this time together.

Caffè Nero

If Caffè Nero and Tatte are places to settle in and find community, than Café Fixe is the spot to take a breath and have a little time to yourself. I think it is a particularly good option if you are feeling overwhelmed or weary of your own space. Right across the street from Caffè Nero in Washington Square, Café Fixe offers a completely different environment: it is noticeably smaller than the other shops, but this affords a new tranquility and intimacy. I found it to be almost like the sunroom of a house—not as bright and bustling, or cozy and studious, but radiating calm. I ordered a macchiato, which came in a small porcelain cup that fit perfectly atop the slim bar—it was bold and intense, a striking contrast to the serenity of the café itself. The walls are painted pastel blue, and the light wood bar along the wall invites one’s tired arms or large cappuccino beside a laptop. The decor is minimal, yet well-considered: orchids perch on top of cabinets or beside the cash register, and a small collection of pastries and desserts fills a rustic wooden and glass case. The café does not have a large seating area, but its sparseness does not mean it lacks warmth or closeness–the only other customers in the café at the time were a father and his toddler son, one working on a document, and the other sitting perfectly upright on the high stool, watching a kids’ show. Going to Café Fixe allows you to take a moment, alone or together.

Café Fixe

Tatte Bakery and Cafe, 1003 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

Caffè Nero, 1633 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

Café Fixe, 1642 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02245


Spyce Kitchen: The Future of Fast Casual?

Michaela Santillo

MIT Engineers, a French Chef, and the hunger for success: the three key ingredients for the new robotic restaurant Spyce. Biting into the first morsel of my machine-made bowl at Spyce in Boston’s bustling Downtown Crossing, I could not feel further from my species’ roots as a hunter-gatherer—and I love it.

Contrary to what the image of a “robotic restaurant” may conjure, Spyce employs a number of real, human workers. Smiling and welcoming, the garde expedites the process by ushering customers in and helps with the orders. Beyond simply ensuring that the process goes along smoothly, they’re there to answer any questions about the concept, the process, and the product. It turns what could been an overwhelming and stressful process into a relaxed and well-informed one. Especially when contrasted with the pressured on-the-spot ordering at most fast-casual restaurants, this efficient process offers the customers a more streamlined experience.  

Though humans are used for ingredient portioning and garnishing, everything in between is completely automated. The robotic kitchen includes seven cooking woks, five hoppers, and a runner. According to the restaurant, their robotic kitchen is able to serve up to 150 meals every hour. This rapid speed speed, however, doesn’t take away from the experience of the meal.The involvement of MIT Engineer’s minds is clear in the exact timing of the process; the bowls are cooked just the right amount for the ingredients to mingle without blending into a monotonous mash.

Spyce celebrates food as a source of nourishment as well as creativity. Thanks to of Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, the bowls are thoughtfully crafted. What a place like Spyce has the ability to do thanks to its incredibly efficiency is refocus labor costs into sourcing quality ingredients, allowing each bowl to taste of its own distinct terroir, be it Latin-American, Moroccan, or Asian.

In our hyper individualized culture— where personalization is the norm—these customizable bowls fit right in.  Throughout the ordering experience, the customer is offered a multitude of customizable options including vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Still, it’s hard to see your food be prepared by a robot and not feel a tinge of dread. Food is, after all, a cornerstone of what makes us human. Our ability to elevate our food using complex techniques and combinations of ingredients is a facet of our rationality – what happens when all of that is being done faster, better, and cheaper, by machines. No matter what you may think, these bowls aren’t “made with love”. They’re made with cold, hard steel in practice and cold, hard cash in mind.

At the core of the company is the desire to provide, good-tasting, nutritious meals at affordable prices. Boston, with its student population of 150,000, seems like the perfect place to pilot this type of model. Due to the everpresent rapid pace of life in the city, fast-casual dining has taken off; automated machines taking over the process may not be the dangerous leap forward it might seem. Rather, it could be that in terms of ameliorating the product for the consumer and the profits for the producer, this is the logical next step. Simply put, to eat a meal with Daniel Boulud’s name behind it at the price of $7.50 would not be possible without these Faustian robo-cooks. Still, despite all my doubts, the bowl tasted great. So while there’s no way to tell what the future holds, I can only hope it tastes something like what Spyce has cooked up.

Spyce Kitchen, 241 Washington St, Boston, MA 02201


Cafe Landwer: Giving Israeli Cuisine A Home In Boston

Michaela Santillo

In the months prior to its opening, Cafe Landwer enticed me with its large glass windows, bold yellow letters, and industrial charm As soon as it opened, I grabbed some friends and decided to give this inviting addition to Brookline a try. Right across the Reservoir T-Stop, this charming cafe stands out amidst the mostly subdued Cleveland Circle.

Though you now know it as Cafe Landwer, the chain started as Landwer Coffee in Germany in 1919. After fleeing the Nazis to Tel Aviv in 1933, Moshe Landwer created Israel’s first coffee chain. In 2004, Cafe Landwer became the company’s first foray into casual dining, with the Cleveland Circle location being the United States’ second. Although it’s now operated by Federman and Sons, it’s still deeply rooted in its core as an Israel-based chain boasting a variety of flavors that don’t typically appear in a conventional Boston brunch. Tradition and quality are at the heart of the company, and it shows. But don’t be fooled—traditional does not mean boring. While they have classics like Shakshuka and the Landwer Breakfast at locations around the world, they make sure to stay locationally relevant by providing in-vogue offerings, like their açai bowl and Nutella latte.

The Landwer Breakfast and Vegan Breakfast are parallels of each other, with the necessary swaps to make the vegan dish fulfill its name. Each of the included dips offers an unique flavor: the tahini with salsa had twangy punch, the eggplant & tahini spread provided a more subdued blend, the cream cheese provided a more plaine palate pleaser, and the labneh with za’atar & chickpeas had a refreshing cleanliness. As a non-vegan, I was wary of the vegan yogurt with fruit jam. To my surprise, the consistency was smooth. The root salad that accompanied the dishes has a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. The chickpea flour quinoa omelette was a perfect substitute, nay, the preferred substitute, and the classic omelette actually fell short in comparison.

The menu incorporates an extensive range of other dishes that explore classics in a new and enticing way. I’ve had more than a few açai bowls in my time, but Landwer’s rendition stood out. Beyond the delightful aesthetics that the parallel lines of perfectly crisped coconut, chia seeds, banana, and granola offered, the super-berry base provided a powerful and energizing foundation for the bowl.

Biting into the pancakes was like resting your head on your favorite pillow: a perfect mix of stable and airy. These served as an ideal base for the accoutrements: Nutella, whipped butter, maple syrup, and fresh fruit.

The Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese mini breakfast sandwich served this pleasing pairing on a bun, which was a refreshing swap for the expected bagel base.

A seemingly simple tomato-based baked egg dish, the Mediterranean Shakshouka shocked me with its bold flavor. The tomatoes had an element of umami only achievable through a low and slow roasting process; the crumbled feta’s acidity cut through this flavor masterfully. The poached egg was cooked through just enough: solid whites while maintaining the runny yolk that broke when I plunged my bread into it.  

Due to its roots as a coffee shop, Cafe Landwer boasts a robust beverage menu with a mix of classics and current trends. The cappuccino charmed with its full-bodied and balanced flavor, making for a comforting, pleasant experience. The nutella latte had a perfectly sweet, rich flavor to it without feeling overly indulgent. For those with a strong— and I mean strong—love of coffee, the Turkish coffee will not disappoint. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more fruity, The Famous Iced Tea was essentially a virgin Sangria: a sweet berry-like drink chalked-full of finely chopped fresh apples and oranges. For a bit of frozen fun, the Spirulina Smoothie subtly incorporates the famed superfood spirulina with an accompanying almond-milk aftertaste.Our visit involved pleasant conversation with the General Manager as well as our well-informed waiter. The passion that came from both of them was palpable, and came through in the service and quality of food. They’ve even decided to have chefs come in from Israel to spice up the menu with some new dishes that I can’t wait to return and try. The meal itself was a flavor-filled odyssey. My taste buds went on a journey similar to Moshe Landwer himself: started in Europe, settled in Israel, and then went on to discover new things in North America. As you adventure through Cafe Landwer’s menu, be sure to taste what makes them unique; though their açai bowl and omelette were decent, it’s ultimately their speciality dishes that capture the heart of both the restaurant and the customer.

Cafe Landwer, 383 Chestnut Hill Ave, Boston, MA 02135