Eating Around Beantown: Our Favorite Dishes in Boston

SCVFoodie visited Boston last week for a college reunion, and I was pleasantly suprised by the area’s number of great eateries over my long weekend. It’s a long way from the SCV, yes, but definitely worth the writeup.

No matter where I stopped, I wasn’t disappointed. Two reasons probably accounted for the tasty adventures: 1) Friends stayed in Boston after graduation and know the food scene and where to go; 2) It helps that we’re not on college budgets anymore.

Here’s a chronological travelogue of eating adventures, and I recommend these places if you find yourself around Beantown in the near future.

Tatte Bakery & Cafe (various locations)

After getting off a redeye on Thursday morning at 8 a.m., I needed coffee…badly…since my hotel wasn’t going to be available until 3 p.m. After dropping off my bag, I wandered my old Brookline neighborhood and found Tatte near Coolidge Corner. It’s a local chain that’s now expanded to Washington, D.C., but 15 years ago, founder Tzurit Or started off in her home kitchen, selling her baked goods at the Copley Square farmers market.

While the croque madame, shakshuka and fattoush were tempting (there’s a mix of Israeli/Mediterranean dishes and French pastries), I opted for the simple cappuccino and almond croissant, filled with a housemade almond filling and topped with tons of almond slices. It was a good start to the morning, and the cafe was cozy.

Pinocchio’s Pizza & Subs (74 Winthrop St., Harvard Square)

With more energy after coffee, I started walking down Commonwealth Avenue to visit some of my old college haunts. Some are gone, some are still there — the poster store I used to work at is now a Vietnamese restaurant — but the memories remain.

And I kept on walking and decided to head over the Charles River to Harvard Square, less than three miles away. After an unfortunate turn, and Siri being of no help through the neighborhoods of Cambridge, I doubled the mileage. But I had to get to Pinocchio’s.

This small pizza shop at Harvard’s campus has the best Sicilian slices I’ve ever had. I was anxious whether the pandemic had changed their operations and pizza, but happily, no. The sauce is zesty, not spicy, and the cheese-to-sauce ratio is perfect. The restaurant only has five tables and it’s tight, but they’re doing something right after 50 years in business. I overheard a family next to my table mention that they drove to Pinoochio’s straight from Logan Airport. Smart folks. Must be Harvard alums.

Taberna de Haro (999 Beacon St., Brookline)

After stopping in for a cocktail at the upscale pub The Washington Square Tavern — which used to be The Hammond Lounge (the diviest of dives) — the super-friendly bartenders named some of their favorite restaurants in Boston. One of them was the Spanish restaurant Taberna de Haro. And thank you bartenders.

Squid ink paella at Taberna de Haro in Brookline.

My friend Eileen and I had a delicious squid ink seafood paella with loads of squid and a saffron shellfish stock. The rice was al dente and the ink was savory and not salty. We scraped that cast-iron pan to make sure we finished every morsel. Chef Owner Deborah Hansen also earned her Sommeliere title in Madrid, so Taberna has an extensive wine and sherry list to accompany the tapas and raciones on the menu.

Since I hadn’t slept in 40 hours and walked more than a dozen miles through Boston, I was happy and content but tired after Taberna. But the eating adventures continued the next day…

Sugar Magnolias (112 Main St., Gloucester)

Located 37 miles north of Boston is the little fishing town of Gloucester, made famous by The Perfect Storm — a Sebastian Junger book and feature film with George Clooney. One of my college roommates lives on the North Shore, and we took a little road trip up the coast. While the weather was miserable that day, breakfast at Sugar Magnolias (Sugar Mags as the locals call it) was anything but.

Eileen opted for the crab cake special, served with eggs, avocado and swiss cheese on an English muffin. I had a few bites, and it was savory and delightfully decadent. Sugar Mags’ crab cakes weren’t greasy; crunchy on the outside and filled with moist lump crab inside.

Blueberry-lemon-ricotta pancakes at Sugar Magnolias.

The menu was a bit overwhelming so I took the server’s advice and opted for the blueberry-lemon-ricotta pancakes. After the first bite, I thought that this is what heaven must taste like. The buttermilk pancakes were soft and fluffy and nearly melted in my mouth. The icing hardened while cooling, turning the pancakes to a guilty pleasure. Like dessert for breakfast. The server talked me into a full stack of two pancakes, but I should have only ordered one because I wasn’t able to finish the breakfast. Besides, I knew where my friend was taking me for lunch.

Woodman’s of Essex (119 Main St., Essex)

After a couple hours of walking and driving around the North Shore, it was time for lunch. Before I headed to Boston this time around, I mentioned to my old roommate that what I really wanted (besides Pinocchio’s pizza) was a really good clam roll. You can’t really find them in Southern California.

So she drove us to Woodman’s of Essex, which has been around since 1914. Since I knew a dinner adventure was ahead of us, I ordered a clam roll (sandwich) with the whole belly clam instead of strips. Strips tend to be rubbery, and Woodman’s whole-belly gives eaters that briny taste with the tenderness that’s often lost with strips alone. Lightly coated and not greasy, the roll offered a generous heap of clams for the price (around $24).

Audubon (838 Beacon St., Boston)

Once back in Boston, reunion weekend had officially begun, and several of us met at Audubon near Kenmore Square (and Fenway Park) for dinner. Our friend Eric knows Chef Sergio Salas, who offers an eclectic menu of shareable plates.

We were having so much fun catching up that this is the only picture I took at Audubon. The pic doesn’t do the fried gnocci justice.

We tried the Dirty Potatoes (with chorizo, pepperjack cheese, BBQ sauce and scallion sour cream); pork potstickers, salt & pepper shrimp and beef brisket wontons. The dishes were delicious but the shrimp was a standout. I can’t speak to the San Diego tacos but I heard they were delicious. Just as we were wrapping up, Chef Sergio sent out a skillet of fried, crispy gnocchi with mozzerella and marinara. And we tucked into it with aplomb. It was simple and hearty dish that could have come out of a nonna’s kitchen Buono, Sergio!

Dolce Vita Ristorante (221 Hanover St., Boston)

After all the eating, my body needed a break so nothing to speak of on Saturday, but a Ceasar salad with chicken and Boston College reunion catering.

Before heading to my airport hotel on Sunday, Eileen and I headed to Boston’s North End (the city’s Little Italy) for sparkling waters and cappuccino at Caffe Vittoria’s outdoor tables, people watching on a gorgeous almost-summer day. I was transported to the sidewalk cafes of Rome. The North End is such an experience.

My final meal before leaving Beantown was at a windowside table at Dolce Vita Ristorante. Starting off with a fresh, simple house salad with a balsalmic dressing, it set the stage for the restaurant’s fettuccine bolognese. It was *chef’s kiss* one of the best bolognese dishes I’ve had in a long, long time. (Their bruschetta was the only thing I’d skip.)The sauce was made with a mixture of veal, pork and beef in tomato sauce, and wasn’t too heavy, oily or too salty, which I find many bolognese sauces to be. Dolce Vita balanced the flavor nicely and the pasta was cooked perfectly.

Thank you, Boston, for a wonderfully long weekend filled with great foods and friends. I’ll see you again in another five years.

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Breakfast Pizza for Lunch in Newhall

The Breakfast Pizza is also a great lunch option. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

The Daily Harvest Cafe & Juicery in Newhall has been a go-to breakfast and lunch spot for many since its doors opened in 2015. Known for its cold-pressed raw juices — made in-house with organic ingredients — the cafe changes its food menus to include seasonal produce and other items.

One staple that hasn’t changed on the menu is the Breakfast Pizza ($13), which we had for lunch on Friday. It’s a simple dish that includes two baked sunny side up eggs, breakfast potatoes, green onions and basil on a flatbread with pecorino cheese. It usually comes with pancetta, but we ordered the pizza without it. (A gluten-free dough is also available for $3 more.)

The thin and crispy flatbread and the melted pecorino were the dish’s flavor highlights. Since we didn’t get the salty flavor of the pancetta to mix with the other ingredients, we asked for a side of salsa, which elevated the pizza. It’s a great choice for any meal of the day (though The Daily Harvest isn’t open for dinner).

Other options for breakfast (or lunch) include corn arepas with a choice of protein; an acai bowl with fruits and granola; avocado toast or kale avocado toast; a hearty beet salad; a chicken chopped salad; plus beer, wine and coffee drinks. Many of the cafe’s items are gluten-free and vegan, too.

Though not a new restaurant, just we wanted to shout out an oldie but a goodie the next time someone says there’s nothing but chains in Santa Clarita.

The Daily Harvest Cafe & Juicery
22722 Lyons Ave., Newhall
Open Monday through Sunday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oranges and More at Franscisco’s Fruit Stand in Fillmore


It’s citrus season, and Francisco’s Fruit Stand along SR 126 is worth the 25-30 minute drive from Santa Clarita to pick up oranges, especially in bulk. The Navel oranges are currently 89 cents a pound, with boxes of bulk oranges even available for less. Our favorite varietals — the Cara Cara oranges — were also available for 89 cents a pound. Unfortunately, the pink juicy oranges short season has just ended.

Compare those prices to the grocery store, where a Navel (no matter the size) runs about 75 cents each or higher. At local farmers markets, we’ve seen the citrus run for $1 to $3 per pound. Yes, gas prices are high, but Francisco’s is a great drive toward Ventura, Ojai and the ocean — so make a day of it.

Once at Francisco’s, it’s hard not to buy anything else, so this weekend we also ended up coming home with plantains, cucumbers and this rare fruit called the “Milk chocolate dipped peanut butter pretzel.” (The stand has a great selection of prepacked nuts, candied, dried fruits, trail mix and chocolate dipped snacks, honey and olives, too.)

Francisco’s Fruit Stand
768 East Telegraph Road, Fillmore
(805) 524-4616

breakfast burrito with salsa

Saturday Mornings with Fiesta Taco Grill’s Breakfast Burritos

Fiesta Taco Grill (FTG) opened a brick-and-mortar location in Newhall a little more than three years ago. In 2019, the restaurant started selling their foods and products, such fantastic homemade salsas, chips, guacamole and agua frescas, at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Then, they made the decision to bring over a grill and offer up breakfast burritos, tacos and bowls — and our Saturday mornings just got a whole lot more delicious-er.

We’re partial to the vegetarian breakfast burritos, made with Fiesta Taco Grill’s handmade flour tortillas, refried beans, potatoes, eggs and cheese. They’re simple, generous with the eggs, and allow FTG’s salsas to stand out. Additional proteins are available at the Saturday market, including steak, chorizo, bacon, sausage and chile verde.

Our Saturday morning indulgence comes reasonably priced at $7.50.

The same proteins make up FTG’s breakfast taco ($3) choices on corn or flour torillas (just without the refried beans) and $9 breakfast bowls (refried beans, potatoes, eggs, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole).

Fiesta Taco Grill is at the Saturday farmer’s market in Newhall from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The storefront is located at 24623 Arch St., Newhall and open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Worth It? Daytripping to Nipomo Ranch for BBQ and Brisket

The tri-tip sandwich from Rancho Nipomo BBQ in Nipomo, Calif., | SCVFoodie

We had a hanking for BBQ on a beautiful Saturday, so we decided to pile our two dogs in the car and drive up the coast. But this wasn’t going to be a short jaunt to Ventura down the 126. We wanted Santa Maria-style BBQ, a smoky BBQ flavor created by the red oak native to the Santa Maria Valley, located in northern Santa Barbara County.

So we drove up the 101. And drove. Past Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Buellton, Los Alamos and even past Santa Maria until we arrived at Rancho Nipomo BBQ in Nipomo some 250 miles later. Located right off the 101 freeway, the casual BBQ joint has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (so it’s dog friendly).

It took about 2.5 hours, but the traffic was light, the coastal vistas were beautiful and, yes, the food was worth the drive. We had a 1/2-pound tri-tip sandwich and a brisket sandwich with fries/rings and a Central Coast IPA.

Rancho Nipomo BBQ’s brisket on a Talera roll. | SCVFoodie

The tri-tip was tender and smoky, and the extra BBQ sauce was served on the side, which was good because it was a little too sweet for our taste. The slow-smoked beef brisket was even more tender with just a right ratio of BBQ sauce to not overpower it. Even without the sauce, the brisket with its garlic and seasoning would have stood just fine on its own. Both sandwiches were served on soft Telera rolls which complemented the meats perfectly.

Not quite 50/50 fries and rings. | SCVFoodie

The 50/50 fries and rings were more like a 90/10 ratio, but there was plenty of food, and we didn’t drive 250 miles for French fries. However, one of the locals told us to try the Santa Maria fries (aka carne asada fries) with tri-tip ends, pinto beans, three cheeses, pico de gallo and sour cream.

It’s a good excuse to drive up there again, especially with other items on the menu like the pork ribs, pastrami, chili verde enchiladas and tri-tip burritos.

Rancho Nipomo BBQ & Deli
& Gold Rush Cantina
108 Cuyama Lane
Nipomo, California 93444

Closed Mondays.

Miami Cafe Brings a Little Bit of Cuba to the Newhall Farmers Market

Potato ball

Yes, we have no Porto’s, but there’s a new ventanita open at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market.

Miami Cafe is a new(ish) stand that’s been serving up Cuban sandwiches, papa rellenas (potato balls), pastelitos (guava and cheese turnovers) and flan for the past three weeks at the Saturday farmers’ market. It’s proven to be quite a hit with the shoppers as nearly everything’s sold out by 10:30 a.m.

This morning, we hit up the market by 9 a.m. and had first dibs on their offerings, which also included ham croquettes this week.

The items were reasonably priced with the papa rellenas running $1.50 each, the croquettes at $1.25 and the flan at $4.25. The Cubano sandwich costs $12.

Delvigne’s Sunday Chouquettes

These Delvigne pastries are devine.

The Culver City-based Delvigne Croissant, a relatively new vendor at the Sunday Santa Clarita Certified Farmers Market at College of the Canyons, has been selling artisanal croissants (almond, butter, pan au chocolat) and seasonal fruit paniers, breads and brioche.

But our hands-down favorite treat is their bag of chouquettes (shoo-kets). Airier than a croissaint, the bite-sized chouqettes are traditionally made with a choux pastry and can be made into profiteroles (cream puffs).

But this chouquette is exceptional.

Delvigne’s simple version, sprinkled with course sugar, pairs perfectly with a Sunday morning coffee. (There are five in a bag for $5.)

Santa Clarita Certified Farmers Market
College of the Canyons / Parking Lot
Valencia Boulevard & Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia
Open 8 a.m. to noon on Sundays

Get Thee to Café Ficelle

The pain au chocolate at Café Ficelle in Ventura. | Photo: SCVFoodie.com

Missing from SCV’s food landscape is a tried-and-true French bakery. Baguettes. Batards. Flaky croissants.

If you find yourself headed out toward Ventura, Café Ficelle, located off the Main Street exit on the 101 fills the French pastry void in Santa Clarita.

The boulangerie and patisserie serves up breads and sweets and offers heartier items including crepes, the croque-monsieur/madame, and breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Though we’ve only been picking up items, we can imagine the cavernous eatery busy and bustling when we used to do things like…brunch.

The almond croissant at Café Ficelle. | Photo: SCVFoodie.com

We’ve made the drive to Café Ficelle a couple times for takeout pandemic treats. (There is another location in Camarillo, but we’ve only been to the Ventura outpost.) The croissants are American-sized (aka HUGE) —buttery and flaky; there’s a crunch on first bite and are chewy on the inside. The chocolate croissant has an extra drizzle on top for those who prefer a more-than-less approach to the sweet treat. The almond offers a generous layer of sliced almonds on top with a dusting of powdered sugar (which isn’t necessary, but doesn’t take away from pastry.

Café Ficelle’s Kouign-amann. | Image: SCVFoodie.com

Other offerings include a Breton cake, the Kouign-amann, which is difficult to make with intricate layers of butter, dough, sugar and then more butter. The sugar becomes sticky and carmelized, adding the sweet to a a denser version of the croissant. Café Ficelle’s version is more cyclical and airier than the other Kouign-amann we’ve tried (there’s a hole in the middle where wavy layers meet to create an almost flower-like design). But whatever, the cafe’s is a buttery, decadent delight.

For savory items, SCVFoodie can attest to the hearty ham and Gruyere croissant and their homemade version of the English muffin, which has the crunch of corn nuts (yep) sprinkled on top.

Once this pandemic is over, we can’t wait to sit in the cafe, slowly sip our cappuccinos and taste its croque madame, but until then, we’ll order takeout and pretend we’re in Paris.

Café Ficelle
390 South Mills Rd. Suite B, Ventura
(805) 941-3444

2024 Ventura Blvd. Unit 110, Camarillo
(805) 312-7155

New Year Comfort Food from Thai Chefs

A bowl of pad see ew, panang curry over white rice and broccoili (our add). | SCVFoodie.com

“I love you,” he said softly. I looked up at my husband from the other side of the kitchen island on New Year’s Day.

But he wasn’t looking at me. Instead, he was whispering sweet nothings to the panang curry with chicken ($14.99) that we’d ordered from Thai Chefs at the corner of Seco Canyon and Copper Hill.

The adultation didn’t offend me, because I love the restaurant’s panang curry, too. For those who’ve never tried, the curry is a thick sweet and spicy sauce with coconut milk, carrots, bell peppers with peanuts (not found in Thai red or green curried dishes). While panang is supposed to less spicy, it’s usually got a little kick. Thai Chefs’ mild offering is borderline too spicy to my other half.

A generous portion of pad see ew from Thai Chefs. | SCVFoodie.com

Because it was New Year’s Day, we added a long noodle dish pad see ew ($12.99) —  a stir fry with broccoli, chicken, thin broad noodles and a sweeter soy sauce — for good luck.

While the prices for the a la carte dishes may seem a little high, the portions were healthy enough for at least two separate meals for two people. Open since 2011, Thai Chefs has become our go-to Thai destination in the SCV, and we’ll be back for takeout as much as we can during the pandemic to help ensure it stays around much longer.

Thai Chefs
28014 Seco Canyon Road, Santa Clarita

Quarantine Treat #888: Bake Up’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies are really hard to get right. Many times, there’s just not enough peanut butter. Or there are too many bits of nuts in lieu of peanut butter. (We didn’t ask for peanut cookies, thank you very much.)

But we recently found a nearly perfect peanut butter cookie at the Newhall Farmers Market. Bake Up pastries sells an assortment of sweets, including cookies, coffee cakes, homemade poptarts, loaves and bars.

The peanut butter cookies, however, are heavenly. The flavor balance is ideal: There’s enough peanut butter to savor without overwhelming the palate. If we had one nitpick, it’s that the decorative sanding sugar on top, while pretty, isn’t necessary. The cookies are $10 for a six-pack.

The six-pack from Bake Up | SCVFoodie.com

A few folks in the Santa Clarita Valley might already know of — or tasted —Bake Up, as Kimberly Gonzalez’s Acton-based home kitchen makes goods for several local coffee shops, including Bodhi Leaf (the blueberry cornmeal and cinnamon coffee cakes are hers, as are the assorted poptarts).

The Newhall Market is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Bake Up posts its weekly menu on Facebook on Tuesdays. Message them by Thursday evening to reserve baked goods.

Bake Up
Newhall Farmers Market (Saturdays)
Old Town Newhall Library parking lot
24500 Main St., Newhall