Crackers and Cheese Tray at Boston Area Restaurants

There was something so wonderfully traditional about Boston area restaurants serving crackers and cheese before the main meal.

Some eateries added offerings of sticky and regular bread rolls and a relish tray to the mix, which was nice, but for me the taste of store-bought artificial tasting cheese and bland crackers could stand on their own.

Many times, this offering seemed to be served by very old ladies in colonial-like or old school waitress uniform apparel or high school kids with good manners and a healthy fear of their employer -- they wanted to keep their jobs and not disappoint the business, or mom and dad.

I know many traditional New England restaurants offered crackers and cheese but as the years go on, many of the names escape me. Places I can remember: The Commodore in Beverly, The Continental in Saugus(still in business, yay!), The Joppa Grill in East Bridgewater and I think The Cock N Kettle in Uxbridge.

Can you think of any more Boston area or New England restaurants that served crackers and cheese before the main course? If so, please comment in the box below.

Boston Area Bands from the 70s, 80s and 90s

Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars and J. Geils Band might just be the biggest rock bands ever to come out of Boston -- and all finding huge success starting in the 1970s. Aerosmith and The Cars made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Boston and J. Geils, arguably, should have been inducted by now.

Oh, and what about Extreme, Pixies, 'Til Tuesday (featuring Aimee Mann), They Might Be Giants, New Kids on the Block and the New Edition? They just came to mind when writing this post -- all were, obviously, hugely successful groups!

Not to sound like one of those Time Life infomercials, but who can also remember some of the brilliant solo singers that came out of Boston -- and the rest of Massachusetts -- like James Taylor and Donna Summer? How about Billy Squier?

But wait, that wasn't all: Boston spawned a further wealth of bands and solo singers from back in the day. Many became regulars in the Boston club scene. Here are some, sure to bring you good memories depending upon your musical taste...

The Lemonheads (featuring Evan Dando)
Buffalo Tom
The Del Fuegos
Mission of Burma
The Drive
Juliana Hatfield
The Stompers
Throwing Muses
Barrence Whitfield and the Savages
Little Joe Cook and the Thrillers
Pousette-Dart Band
Duke and the Drivers
The Fools
Jon Butcher Axis
Letters to Cleo
The Atlantics
The Lyres
The Dresden Dolls
James Montgomery Band
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Swinging Steaks
Robin Lane and the Chartbusters

Do you have pesonal memories/stories to tell of these bands and solo singers? What bands and other musicians did I miss? You can join the conversation by commenting in the box below.

Igo's Restaurant in Cambridge, Mass.

Hmmm, where to go after after buying a pair of Stride Rite shoes and cordoroy pants from Filene's, a button up shirt that wasn't flame retardant from Woolworth's, and a Boston Bruins cardigan sweater from Zwicker's Sporting Goods in Arlington?

Why, a night out on the town with my parents at Igo's Restaurant in Cambridge, of course!

What a splendid way to show off my elite clothing choices and impress Igo's owners, staff and customers.

The only problem, though: It was so dark in the Igo's dining room that no one could have probably seen these latest fashion styles.

That was ok, however. Going out to Igo's was a special treat, a privilege and a chance to see how the hoi polloi lived. Well, from the eyes of an eight-year old typically eating at Howard Johnson's, Burger Chef and Chicken Delight.

At Igo's, the grand entrance looked like fancy marble. The dining rooom had this certain elegance. The waistaff seem subdued and professional yet courteous and friendly. I put on my Sunday best behavior at this upscale restaurant and made sure not to discuss my favorite Three Stooges episodes with the waitresses.

The menu featured dinners distant from Swanson's and Stouffer's. Baked stuffed lobster, roast prime rib of beef, broiled swordfish, baked stuffed Lousiana shrimp and broiled prime filet mignon highlighted a very fancy menu. Intererestingly enough, Igo's could also tone it down with some more familiar dishes like roast turkey dinner, fried clams, fried boneless chicken, burgers and broiled pork chops. They also offered... yuk... calf's liver. that putrid dish was somewhat improved, however, with accompanying bacon.

If Igo's was around today, it wouldn't seem quite as fancy. I think in retrospect, this Porter Square restaurant struck the perfect balance between pleasing both the uppeer and working classes in the diverse Cambridge neighborhoods.

And also eight-year olds like me wearing Stride Rite shoes and cordoroy pants from Filene's, a button up shirt that wasn't flame retardant from Woolworth's, and a Boston Bruins cardigan sweater from Zwicker's Sporting Goods in Arlington!

5 Gone But Not Forgotten Burlington, Mass. Memories

Who remembers these Burlington, Mass. memories?

1. The cow field right off Route 128 at the Burlington Mall's Macy's location. Hard to believe but true! Born in 1962, my recollection of that field was probably around 1966.

2. A bit farther down the road from the Middlesex Turnpike was Betty Crocker's Pie Shop. Named after the famous fictional character used for food and recipes, this chain went beyond a chain. The pies truly tasted homemade and they were always well-stocked -- even during the Christmas season.

3. Restaurants have come and gone at the Burlington Mall, but one that sticks out is The Magic Pan. This pleasant and innovative restaurant chain specialized in a great variety of crepes. In true 1970s convenience-style (as opposed to 2022 convenience style as I was reminded about the following from Wikipedia!), the Magic Pan featured an automated system to make crepes at a crepe station. This looked groundbreasking back in the day when we worked off typewriters, had no remote control for the TV and dialed up family and friends through a rotary phone. But I digress. The crepe station consisted of a motorized conveyor that heated metal pans while an attendant dipped the bottom of the pans in the crepe batter for uniform coating. That attendant would then turn the pans upside down while on the gas flame conveyor as a means for the thin crepes to cook on the bottom of a greased pan facing upwards. The conveyor -- a gas flame heated circular “wheel” -- slowly turned and held eight pans maximum at one time. The result: great-tasting crepes!

4. On Route 3A north past the town common: Almy's, a clothing store much in the vein of Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Almy's had a friendlier, more low-key tone than Marshall's and TJ Maxx and almost never disappointed with a nice variety of name-brand clothing at very low prices. We used to live in back of Almy's -- no, not the back of the store but through the woods and into a modest neighborhood with small ranches. Shaw's suoermarket anchors that shopping center now.

5. The Burlington News. Many of you might remember this independently-owned mom and pop newspaper that served as a viable alternative to the Burlington Times Union. Fredi and Peter Blume owned the paper and I was their assistant editor from 1984 to 1985 -- fresh of of college as a journalism grad. I started at 10K with no benefits and pretty much wrote the paper. I also delivered the paper to local businesses. Wow, talk about overall experience! I really enjoyed working with Fredi and Peter -- very nice folks!

6. How about Victoria Station on the Middlesex Turnpike? I loved that place. Yes, it was a chain but the railroad themed steakhouse offered a comfortable, fun environment and the steaks rivaled populist steakhouse restaurants like the Hilltop and Valle's in Saugus. They were definitely better, as well, than the budget steakhouses like York's, Ponderosa and Bonanza. Victoria Station's prime rib was amazing! Although the chain filed for bankruptcy in 1986, the Salem, Mass. location stayed open until 2017. Incredible to think that a railroad-themed steakhouse with American-inspired roots now continues as a restaurant chain in Malaysia!

What are some of your Burlington memories? I look forward to your feedback in the comments box below.

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Buzzy's Fabulous Roast Beef, Boston, Mass.

Located on Cambridge St. under the Charles Street Train Station and next to the Charles Street jail, Buzzy's Fabulous Roast Beef seemed to be open at all hours. This outdoor, order-at-the window food stand was best known for its heaping roast beef sandwiches, french fries, onion rings and curt, brusque "What do you want pal?" service. Buzzy's attracted drunks, sober late night owls (in the minority), Massachusetts General Hospital staff, refined Beacon Hill types showing their alter egos, and other purveyors of the best in greasy food.

Local comedians abused Buzzy's many times in their stand-up routines. I remember one comedian (the name escapes me) saying that Buzzy's used to throw its food over the wall to feed Charles Street jail prisoners -- and the prisoners threw it right back!

Buzzy's Fabulous could have very well contributed to higher traffic at the Mass General Hospital cardiac unit, but I remember it as a beloved place from youth. Granted, I never went there much (even as a nearby Suffolk University student), but just the sight of this bustling, old-fashioned outdoor food stand made me feel good -- from the comfort food aromas to the undeniable presence of a local business succeeding.

Rotisserie Chicken from the Ararat Restaurant in Watertown, Mass.

Rotissserie chicken was a big trend during the 80s and 90s but, let's face it, most came across as either too greasy or dried out. It was definitely fowl, either way.

The Ararat Restaurant in Watertown, Mass., however, offered a superior version of rotisserie chicken at its former humble mom and pop storefront on Arlington St. Owners and husband and wife, Seta and Avedis Najarian came up with this one-of-a-kind barbecue-meets-Middle-Eastern-style chicken that yieled a tender, flavorful taste with a hint of lemon in every bite. The chicken was never greasy nor dried out and a serving of accompanying homemade garlic sauce and hummus helped elevate this meal to the greatest chicken dish I have every tasted. No sorbitol, MSG and other bad chemicals in this chicken!

When working at the U.S. Army Materials Command and then Army Research Lab down the road, I would frequently come here for lunch. Seta and Avedis were so nice and always made me feel at home. They had tremendous work ethic and offered good value for the money. It was a pleasure to support this business. That the food was homemade and delicious made the experience that much better.

The Ararat served some great falafels, shawerma, losh kebab, lahmejune and kibbe and other Middle Eastern dishes but I will always remember that amazing rotisserie chicken. I hope someday someone can duplicate that dish but, so far, no luck.

On a side note, I once saw former WBZ-TV Channel 4 meteorologist Bruce Schwoegler order some take home food here. He was extrmely pleasant to all and very excited about his impending dinner!

Out of all the Old School Boston places, I think I miss the Ararat the most. They were the nicest owners I had ever met and served my favorite dish of all time, anywhere, with that wonderful chicken meal.

The Metro Deli, Boston, Mass.

Other than a few fellow Suffolk University alum, no one else I know seems to have remembered the Metro Deli on Cambridge St. in Boston.

How could it be that virtually not a soul has any recollection of this former deli on one of the busiest streets in Boston? The world may never know.

While my classmates were drinking too much beer and eating stale popcorn downstairs at nearby The Red Hat, I took a wiser, more cerebral path by enjoying many Thanksgiving-style turkey dinners at the Metro. It was so delicious each and every time! The Metro served this dinner and other meals in huge portions at low prices. It's amazing that few cash-strapped classmates didn't join me to take advantage of all this delicious food. Plus, the walk back to class burned off all those calories with that grueling quarter mile walk back to the Sawyer Building.

The Metro Deli was basically your classic old school deli with an ample amount of enployees working the kitchen and counter to serve the usual suspects like pastrami, corned beef, chicken noodle soup and potato knishs. Ahh, the memories of this outstanding Viking cuisine!

One other interesting footnote: Everyone who worked here seemed to look like comedian Richard Lewis. I dob't know why.

Does anyone else remember the Metro Deli? Please tell me it wasn't my imagination and not a bad dish from the Sun Tuey that made me delusional in thinking this restaurant existed.

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