After the birth of my first son, I focused on the disappointment of the food world West of Route 128. However, this time around, with Chowhound as my new guide I have discovered some fabulous food and restaurants in the Framingham/Natick area. Some of my favorites (all family friendly!) include:
1. Oga's-just outstanding sushi everytime. The rice is perfect, the fish is fresh and moist and the chirashi sushi (amongst others) is gorgeous. The lunch deal-soup, salad and 3 rolls for $11.00 is also excellent.
2. Sichuan Gourmet-Oh, heaven. I adore spicy Chinese food, especially when it isn't simply spicy "hot", but spicy and flavorful. So far, all the dishes I have had at Sichuan Gourmet have fit that description. My favorites: Fresh bamboo shoots with special sauce, sichuan wontons with spicy chili sauce, dried chicken with chili sauce and beef with spicy sauce. I have been craving the dried chicken on a daily basis since I ate it a month ago! Complex-with sichuan peppercorns, amazingly not greasy, it was just fabulous. For non-spicy people, I think it is a bit weaker, but the rainbow chicken, chicken wings and bok choy with mushrooms were quite good.
3. E O Noodle-Another Chinese food find. In fact, like Sichuan Gourmet it makes me not feel the need to go to Chinatown quite as often. My husband said that his mongolian chicken was the most tender he has ever had. I enjoyed the spicy beef noodle and the roast duck soup. I particularly appreciated that for a take out order they packaged the noodles separately from the vegetables and duck so that the noodles remained chewy. My addictions here: the chicken ravioli with spicy szechuan sauce (not nearly as heavy and oily as typical pork ones) and Noodles with meat sauce-absolutely fantastic. The noodles have a fantastic texture, while the sauces remain flavorful. However, you have to make sure to order the homemade noodles.
4. Market Basket in Ashland. An unusual food find. I love the cheap prices. I hate the blocked aisles (they clearly save money by stocking shelves when it is most busy). I love the fabulous assortment of Brazilian and Latino products-especially the queso fresco, queso blanco, malanga, calabeza and other produce.
5. The Indian Market on Route 9-Another great store. Not only does it have a nice range of ingredients and fresh and quick to prepare products, but there is an inexpensive take out place at the back! I had decent samosas, but they also have a varied menu including different types of dosas.
6. Bagel Fresh Cafe-Surprisingly good bagels in a range of types. Definitely big and doughy. The egg sandwiches are quite good.
7. Giannis Pizza-It isn't Reginas, but it is good. They offer a regular and a Sicilian which is a deep dish, very doughy style, too. Try to go when it isn't too busy.
8. Asinayo Market on Route 126 in Framingham. Small, pricey and definitely not the Super 88, but the staff are always kind and helpful and for those times when you need a specialized ingredient (from fresh to frozen), it is convenient. They seem to be strongest in the Korean foods.
9. Lola's in Natick Center. Tony who runs this place is originally from the North End. His mother makes delicious sicilian style pizza that is available fresh or frozen. They have decadent arrancini (stuffed and fried risotto cakes) and stuffed and fried potato cakes, too. While it isn't Ernestos, nor is it cheap, the food is homemade and wonderful and Tony couldn't be more accommodating.
10. B and R Bakery: The best baguettes. Only Clear Flour's are comparable.
11. J and M Diner: A wonderful breakfast spot. The pancakes, although quite dense, are the size of plates. They come with tons of chocolate chips or fresh fruit. The hash browns are good, the omelets are full of fresh vegetables and the service is warm and welcoming. Great place for kids.
12. Firefly's-We like the food here. The cornbread is moist, sweet and cake-like. I love the large salads. The bbq chicken is consistently good. They are also incredibly kid-friendly, with a condiment bar that curbs the appetite while the little ones wait. We have had some mediocre meals here, but the service has made up for it every time. (An item immediately taken off the bill with a personal apology from the manager.) They are also extremely sensitive and courteous to people with food allergies which doesn't always happen.
And still to try: Green Tea, Oriental Pearl and Uncle Cheungs for Dim Sum as well as Terra Brasilis and Aztec.