Sep 25 2015

It’s “Suburbs Good”

suburban restaurants

I love good food, and am constantly in search of my next amazing meal (or snack, or baked good…). So when our family started seriously thinking about moving to the suburbs a few years ago, I of course wondered what it would mean for our culinary adventures. Alongside years spent researching towns, real estate prices, school systems and commutes, I also made sure that we ate countless meals at restaurants in and around our candidate towns, trying to judge the culinary scene (or lack thereof).

While asking around in our search, a friend of mine (whose brother happens to manage a restaurant for one of Boston’s most successful celebrity chefs) used a term to describe a local restaurant. She called it “suburbs good.” She and her husband live in the suburbs, but are often in the city, and travel even more often, so they always have a new culinary adventure to share. But when she spoke about their suburban restaurant options, it was always with a bit of restraint. These places were good–but never great. At the time, I was still a spoiled city dweller with more than 50 restaurants within a 15 minute walk from my front stoop. I laughed it off, not fully grasping the reality of what she was trying to convey.

And now–almost a year after moving into our amazing new neighborhood, in a town we adore, in a house we love–I totally, 100% get it. And even though I know it makes me sound like a total food snob, I’ve adopted my friend’s perfectly descriptive phrase, and know that our favorite local dining spots are, in fact, “suburbs good.”

When we visit the local barbecue and burger joint, I can’t help but skip over the brisket and ribs, knowing that it could never stack up to the Texas barbecue I ate (and ate…and ate…) that glorious and gluttonous weekend in Austin, and that if I want a similar experience in Boston, I’m better off heading to Sweet Cheeks Q in the Fenway. When a new Greek place opened in our adorable town and everyone local was abuzz, I couldn’t help but be disappointed as I choked down a dry, hockey puck-like falafel, clicking my heels under the table and whispering “there’s no place like Cafe Jaffa…there’s no place like Cafe Jaffa…”. When someone mentions the local bakery, I smile politely, recall the freezer-burned taste of their pastries, and know that I could easily make something better (and fresher) at home…all while pining for Flour Bakery. And as someone who spent countless years as a server, busser and hostess, I try to keep it to myself (or at least between me and my husband) as I not only critique the food, but suffer through the sometimes abominable service that accompanies the humdrum food, biting my lip as plates are not cleared, water refills are not poured, orders are botched, and questionable service abounds.

So what have I learned from our migration to the suburbs? A lot.

I’ve learned to keep my expectations in check and my opinions to myself–especially when in mixed company. I’ve learned to sniff out the eats that surpass “suburbs good”, like my favorite Latin food joint on the South Shore, Tesoro. Good food exists, just not nearly enough of it.

I’ve also learned to keep my ear to the ground, listening for the migrations of city chefs and restaurant groups to the suburbs. And there is hope for us food lovers of suburbia. Barbara Lynch is collaborating on a new spot in Quincy. Island Creek Oyster is expanding to Burlington. Some wonderful local breweries have taken up residence outside of the city, including Lord Hobo in Woburn and Jack’s Abby in Framingham.

And I’ve learned to just make peace with the fact that I am a food snob.

Have a favorite suburban restaurant that gives city food a run for the money? Please share…so that I can go there…right now.


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One comment on “It’s “Suburbs Good”

  1. I’ve found a few bright spots, though many are outposts as you say. Il Casale in Lexington and Belmont, and Bondir in Concord come to mind. But even those have the service gap on occasion. Suburbs just don’t have the same highly trained talent pool that you find in the city. Still, I’m willing to tolerate a little unprofessionalism in exchange for the convenience of staying close to home. Parking sure is easier, too.

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