Boston

224 3Last year Boston Magazine named owner Kevin Tyo's 224 Boston Street: "Best Dorchester restaurant, neighborhood casual." Sadly, their website doesn't say when they opened. It's got to be 20 years and right from the start, the talk was good. It's your very own block party in the middle of the city three blocks off Mass Avenue and if it weren't so steamy, we'd be at one of those tables among the flowers on the patio.

You enter the red room with the bar to get to the green room with the chefs. It's an open kitchen that's noisy and friendly. The menu points traditional American: meatloaf, sirloin, mac 'n cheese, risotto, duck, pork chop, lamb along with salmon, cod cakes and scallops with sangría cold enough to induce brain freeze.

The big eater nearly always chooses pork chops on our food adventures. In her opinion, this one's tops and she easily meets her prediction: "I will eat it all." It's a hearty grilled double in a sweet apple glaze with asparagus. She opts for mashed potatoes that were cheerfully swapped for fried yucca. The chop's pink, moist and inspiringly, she finishes it with no trouble. I think she may have been dreaming of it all day or maybe it's the sangría.

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Blue dragon 7When Ming Tsai opens a new place it's news and Blue Dragon is news. Esquire lists Blue Dragon in its annual survey of best new restaurants. Yes, he's in the right place with the ongoing Boston Harbor redo, or vice versa, without being on Northern Avenue's tourist mecca. 'A' Street's off Summer and to find it we use GPS and one of us, ahem, was born here. There's street parking on industrial blocks polished with big windows, loading docks and ceiling beams that tell of old brick warehouses and lofts even as renovators rewrite Fort Point Channel.

Blue Dragon: They do things uncommonly well; for one, there's a mid-afternoon menu along with lunch and dinner. And there's a lunch-to-go menu which means they only pack things that travel well like salad and bánh mì. Sidewalks are narrow for tables so they open windows and it's summer-friendly with street life from our window seats. They call themselves a gastropub. I would never say that; it sounds like something to see the doctor about, but I will go along with: "Ming's East West twist to many pub favorites."

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taranta duarteIt's 100 degrees. There's Dead concert traffic choking the five o'clock crawl. We cross five lanes from Faneuil Hall to the North End to find a bad, as in not good, DJ holding forth at the Hanover Street fountain. Oh, for some peace and wow-ing.

With apologies to the chef, Gilbert & Sullivan, we find Taranta rah-worthy. Chef José Duarte was born in Peru, and moved with his family to Venezuela where he attended Universidad Nueva Esparta in Caracas. After earning an MBA in food service operations, Duarte opened Taranta in 2000.

Melding Italian and Peruvian flavors is new to us. We check online and it turns out that cilantro, huacatay (black mint), yerba buena (mint), albahaca (basil), orégano, paico (epazote), muña (mint), chincho (an aromatic herb), and aji panca peppers (of which there are 200 varieties) give Peruvian dishes their distinctive, addicting flavors.

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playmepianoThings we like about Chinatown: it's close, you can park on the street and there's always adventure. This is one of those days: not only do we park but there's a piano on the sidewalk under the arch at the entrance. The Celebrity Series of Boston's placed 75 of them in Boston and Cambridge with an invite: "Play Me, I'm Yours." In 2006 there were cows everywhere and today it's pianos. No one's paying any attention so we toy with creating our own adventure like putting on a show: some song and dance maybe. Maybe not.

Where should we go? Oh, let's relive the '90s; to be clear, not my nineties and not Julie's either. She has stories about fun times at New Shanghai in the last century and you can never have too many stories when they're about someone else. So New Shanghai it is. Seems like old times with tales of old flames and late nights going way back to when this was the only gig after nine. That was Boston. (It used to be Faneuil Hall had two places and there was the No Name on the Fish Pier. We loved a Mexican bar in Cambridge beside the Orson Welles where someone stole the cash eight of us laid down to pay the check one night.) New Shanghai is still very good.

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grill23barBack in 1983, Grill 23 opened with what was, for then, a great deal of fanfare. I don't remember being there in the '80s; to be clear, not my eighties. I mention to my sister-in-law Ellen that I'm writing about it and she recalls working at Harvest, St. Botolph and on to Grill 23. This is what she says: "It was busy from day one. The service was impeccable. We were all so very well trained. It was the first of its kind in Boston: the end."

We like the bar on the second floor. It's friendly and when you come by yourself, chat up the bartenders or watch TV. In a way I can't define, this bar encourages the telling of secrets. I've heard more secrets here than anywhere else and it's unsettling since bar chairs call for balance. At a table you might order a bottle of wine but at the bar we never do because we might, among other things, fall off our chairs. So far, so good.

We're splitters but not tonight. I have my own burrata which they describe as crispy eggplant with stewed tomatoes. The bartender calls it "our version of eggplant Parmesan." Which you could say it is except that it has mozzarella and no Parmesan. It's crisp and topped with fresh tomatoes which make all the difference. We also have fried calamari with pepperoncini cream which is big for a starter but perfect if you need something to go with your sidecar.

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