What he’s having: Lockdown dining options from Sarah’s, Little Crepe, Gran Gusto, more
A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.
By city ordinance, restaurants may now sell groceries, much of it being the produce that comes to them for cooking. Pagu in Central Square offers the service, and the expanding produce line at Hi-Rise Bread Co. on Concord Avenue almost makes it so you don’t need to go to the grocery store – there’s similar prices, online ordering and pickup in a tidy bag or box 45 or so minutes later, with a few-minute wait at most.
Sarah’s Market & Cafe
This bodega and deli has all you need – beer and wine, groceries and hot prepared food that evokes the essence of greasy spoon comfort, sans the grease. The friendly staff cook up a three-meal menu, but the winner is breakfast. My favorite is the egg and spinach omelet sandwich on toasted brioche bun. The spinach is always perfect, succulent with a hint of crispness – never mushy – and while most folks don’t fully appreciate the value of American cheese in a hot breakfast sandwich, this is one way to learn fast. I always have the cook add butter under the bun, a healthy crack of black pepper and some Sriracha. Other breakfast wins are the hash and egg platter, a cranberry muffin cut in half and grilled (so worth it, and slather it with butter!) and the pancakes, some of the best in all the land. If you say you can take just one bite, I say you’re a liar.
Sarah’s Market (200 Concord Ave., Observatory Hill, West Canbridge)
Yume Ga Arukara
You had to wait in long lines to get the most sought udon noodles in town – especially after Yume Ga Arukara appeared on Bon Appetit’s Hot 10 – but with the lockdown, just hop online, reserve your udon date ticket and pick it up. I had the cold udon noodles with beef. The noodles were a silky and succulent twist on my notion of udon, a lip-tickling pleasure deepened by the tare sauce you can pour on or dip into, like the soba noodles at Sugidama in Davis Square. I don’t do a lot of red meat, and when I do, I usually rue it. Not today. The lean, shredded marinated beef here reminded me of Korean bulgogi, but less fatty. The one missing thing, I was told by the friendly counter service, was the end-of-meal ritual of sharing dreams and a group chant, if I got that all correct. I felt pretty soul-satisfied anyway. The bonus here is it’s a cold dish, with immaculate food packaging as well as social distancing measures, so the time to table is not a major factor. (Note: All Asian fare in the Lesley Building is available for pickup and delivery service.)
Yume Ga Arukara (Lesley Building, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square)
Little Crepe Cafe
After opening in the old Oxford Spa space just months before the coronavirus outbreak, Little Crepe Cafe now does delivery and takeout Thursday through Sunday. Call it in and it’s ready when you pop by. The part of the menu that has always caught my eye is the savory section, most especially the Florentine, filled with tender chunks of chicken, mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella. Another favorite is the Breakfast Crêpe, with the simple pleasing elegance of mozzarella, eggs, turkey bacon and spinach. The sweet crepes with chocolate and Nutella make a nice dessert – strawberries, please. In store the crepes have always been perfectly golden, spongy and pliable, never crunchy or stiff, and I’m happy to report it’s the same for takeout. Travels well, too.
Little Crepe Cafe (102 Oxford St., Agassiz)
This place has everything from Himalayan-accented pizzas to the classic Tibetan momo dumplings, but the thing to get here (for starters) are the jumbo chicken wings, not only because they are big, plump and juicy, but because of the unique seasonings. You can get them Buffalo style and fried, but the way to fly is to get them roasted either spicy Punjabi (not too spicy, mild chili accent) or Bombay (lemon, herbs and special house sauce) style. They’re in a tier with the grilled wings from Redbones. For mains, I’m a fan of the kali mirch ke tikkey, juicy boneless chicken thighs dipped in a cream cheese and crushed black pepper and served with basmati rice that is pleasantly moister than most other takeout venues. The combination of tender chicken, grainy rice and creamy-smooth, slightly sweet sauce, is a wonderful oral awakening. The chicken tikka is top shelf as well.
Himalayan Kitchen (40 Bow St., Union Square, Somerville)
A great, under-the-radar Italian eatery, just reopened for pickup and delivery. Its pizzas, fire-baked in a classic open-faced brick oven, are thin-crusted, making the medley of toppings (super fresh mozzarella, specially imported cured meat and some of the freshest mushrooms around, among the possibilities) sing in ways other pizzas don’t and never will. The limited takeout menus offers a few pasta and chicken dishes (crispy skin, meat always juicy) among the offerings. Gran Gusto is famous for adding a generous portion of shaved truffles to certain dishes. The occasional house special – fresh homemade fettuccini with olive oil and shaved truffle, is simple and surprising. The point being, if you see truffles, get it. The price point at Gran Gusto for fine dining is another pleasant surprise. Bottles of wine are available too.
Gran Gusto (90 Sherman St., across from Danehy Park in Neighborhood 9)