02 September 2009

Wear Sunscreen in the Restaurant, or, Words of Advice for Hungry Young People

Allston Christmas
Photo courtesy of The Boston Herald
Here are a few dining-out tips for you kids who've just arrived in the Hub of the Universe to start school, from a longtime chaser of the high life who's lived in Boston forever -- like, since before PlayStation II, when the Internets were all 110 baud (don’t Google that now, pay attention):
  • Get the hell out. Boston is no New York City, but it’s still a pretty great restaurant town, in part because you students support some excellent cheap-to-moderate places. But you'll still have to duck the many miserable ones aimed at the sorry philistines among you. If you have the iota of adventurousness necessary to rise above a life of mediocre food, you'll have to occasionally get on your bike or the subway or the bus to visit places like Chinatown, East Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, East Cambridge, East Somerville, and Allston. If you get off your ass, you can eat fantastic food for your entire four or five or twelve years here. Don’t blow this opportunity by settling for so-so burgers, pizza, and burritos. Example: check out the Super 88 Market at the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Brighton Ave in Allston. Its ten-stall food court offers phenomenal cheap eats from China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India. It’s a low-risk, incredibly tasty way to start exploring. 
  • Don’t overlook old media. While you still can, take advantage of professional restaurant reviews in publications like the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and The Improper Bostonian, where I currently serve as professional restaurant critic and food/drinks feature writer. 
  • Check out local bloggers and social media. In addition to the MC Slim JB blog, Boston has many useful food and drink blogs -- start with my WORTHY BLOGS / LINKS section on the lower left -- and unlike this one, most have attractive photos, video clips, and illustrations. Hundreds of Boston restaurants, bars, food retailers, and the writers who cover them are now on Twitter and Facebook: you'll quickly figure out which ones are worth following/friending and which are annoying, one-note self-promoters. Two helpful primers on my blog include an intro to Boston's craft cocktail scene and a humorous look at the Phantom Gourmet, a cheesy local TV show that reviews Boston restaurants (sort of).
  • Try to observe some of our quaint, Colonial-era dining customs. Take off your baseball cap in the dining room, don’t spend the entire meal blabbing or texting on your phone, limit your public drunkenness to the pre-projectile-vomiting stage, learn how to tip properly, curb the public displays of affection, and consider that other patrons might not find your bare armpits, navel, or toes an appetizing sight, especially at swankier venues. I won’t tell you to sit up straight, but you really should do that, too.
So welcome to Boston, kids: it’s a wonderful place to eat, and we’re really glad to have you here. Now get off my lawn.