Dan Dan, Duck, Bao, and Baked Alaska: Eater Boston’s Best Bites

OleanaOleana's Baked Alaska. Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal.

You know her as the editor of Eater Boston, where she’s constantly scouring the city for breaking food news and tracking down the very best bites. But Rachel Leah Blumenthal is also a Camberville resident, which means she’s especially attuned to the current can’t-miss dining experiences north of the Charles. We asked Rachel to round up some of her favorites for us here. Hope you’re hungry!

An oldie but a goodie, the baked Alaska at Oleana is a showstopper every time. Scared away by the lack of available reservations? More often than not, you can waltz right in and snag a bar seat with little to no wait. The full menu is available at the bar, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to simply enjoy a cocktail and a dessert. (Maybe two cocktails and two desserts…)

Café du Pays—the new restaurant from the team behind Hungry Mother that’s located in the former Hungry Mother space—is probably the only place in town to get French-Canadian food, aside from Boston’s ubiquitous attempts at poutine. Share the half duck (complete with smoked leg), and, sure, throw in an order of poutine as well.

Hidden in a subterranean space in the heart of Harvard Square, Night Market offers one of the most affordable tasting menus in town. Thirty bucks per person gets you six courses that showcase the most popular dishes on the menu, such as the curry carnitas tacos, dan dan noodles and shaky shaky beef (pictured here). For $40 a person, there’s an omakase-style menu available, where the chef gets extra creative and serves up a variety of special seasonal items.

Pammy’s, a new addition to the strip of Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Central Squares, is going to quickly amass a lot of neighborhood regulars; it just has that perfect cozy vibe to it. (Come winter, the crackling fireplace won’t hurt.) Don’t miss the pasta, especially the lumache with Bolognese sauce and—surprise!—gochujang, a Korean chili paste. It’s an unexpected but successful combination.

I was devastated when one of my longtime favorite restaurants, East Coast Grill, closed in early 2016. So imagine my delight (there may have been screams of joy) when the team behind Somerville’s Highland Kitchen, one of my other favorites, reopened ECG a year later. The food, the cocktails, the vibe—all the best parts of both restaurants are present at the reborn ECG. Pictured here: dan dan noodles. But eat anything, and drink everything.

The edge of Central Square nearest MIT has been exploding with wonderful new restaurants lately, including Pagu, which draws inspiration from Japan and Spain. Lots of must-eats on the menu, including the resurrected Guchi’s midnight ramen (remember that pop-up series from a few years back?) and the irresistible bao (pictured here)—braised pork belly with peanuts and pickled cucumbers or fried oysters on a squid ink bun with “norioli,” shiso and purple cabbage. Get both.

The Automatic is just plain fun. Owned by Cambridge food and beverage royalty Chris Schlesinger and Dave Cagle, this is the place to get drinks that make you happy, even if those drinks are a little bit silly, like a frozen mudslide or a frozen blue margarita. The menu dresses up comfort food with some adventurous ingredients (often spicy). Try the hot, crispy freaky fries, served with marrow, parmesan and “meat debris.”

Fairly new to Inman Square, Moona is serving up gorgeous Eastern Mediterranean small plates in an intimate space that’s perfect for a romantic night out. Don’t miss the chicken bastilla—chicken wrapped up in flaky phyllo with nuts and orange blossom.