Boston

butcher 3The Butcher Shop is a South End mecca for meat. It's part of Barbara Lynch's restaurant group that takes in B&G Oysters which is right across the street. This is a wine bar and a full-service butcher shop with beef, game, poultry, sausages and hot dogs along with prepared dishes from the kitchen. Butchers are hacking away and we see Monday is the day to stop in if you're a vendor. It's busy and so cold you could hang meat in here.

We're partial to places that cook better than we can and make things we never do and it is a long list. Why have out what you can make at home? The menu designates lunch by the month so today you can have antipasti, charcuterie, terrines, cheeses, and lots of Italian meats but no fish or salad so be meat happy.

TBS burger, with the onions but without the Cheddar, is good. . . and $18. As New York goes, so goes the nation, I guess. It's medium rare on a sesame seed bun with a pickle hat and a green salad, which isn't mentioned on the menu.

I'm grateful since something's got to duel the house-cured bacon or maybe I need to move in to this house. The bartender's cute asking: "Do you need ketchup?" and I say, "I better not." We laugh and we're hoping I'm right and I am: so rich when it's straight from the butcher.

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russell house 5Here's how Dilusha and I decide where to go. She sends a text, "I'm hungry, let's eat," and then I have to find the place. We always get lucky in Cambridge and so we did at Russell House for "classic American fare." Where this tavern is, once sat the Wursthaus. From 1917 to 1996 it catered to the likes of Derek Bok, the Aga Khan and Robert Reich among others. The Cambridge Historical Society also says Wursthaus closed because of "non-bratwurst eating masses of the '90s." True, and even in the unenlightened '80s it was hard sidestepping platters of meat.

We're downstairs in the dark marble bar. Dilusha orders cast iron seared fish of the day, striped bass, and it's plated on grilled bread with heaps of greens. Her salad is slathered with onions and oranges, pickled something we can't identify, and the green aioli doesn't hurt. She is nuts about it. Mine is a fried clam roll, very crispy it turns out, with arugula, bacon and a salad of pickled fennel, greens and onions. (We pick off onions.) This is not your usual clam roll; it's so good we eat it with the roll and we never ever eat the roll.

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jaes 4A long time ago, in the previous century before sushi was ubiquitous - although it was making headway piece by piece - I was introduced by my friend Liz to an up-and-comer named Jae who was doing Korean with sushi on Columbus Avenue in the South End. He then took it to the suburbs, similar but not matching, at the Atrium Mall in Newton where the crowd was nothing like Boston's. My friend Eddie, who was the Atrium store manager, would tell me about people who came without reservations and when they heard it was a 45-minute wait, were sad. But they waited, all right, yes, they did.

We had many meals at Jae's Atrium. It's where we learned how to drink as bartenders coached which wine went with everything. It's where we had our first bibimbap and kimchi. If we had colds we downed their radish, cabbage, cucumber, spinach, bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, chili peppers, seaweed, mushrooms and lotus root soup. My mother and I were there one Sunday at the bar eating sushi and just as she's asking for a fork, who walks in but Jae.

They're still rolling up fine fish on Columbus Ave. Julie and I are here for lunch. Everything is as we remember: artwork, aquarium, maybe Brazilian jazz, and bottles of Champagne along with smart, smart help. It's 90 degrees so we pass on the patio and eat ourselves silly inside by the window.

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gallows-490x329"We're a loud and welcoming hangout in the South End with a menu that changes weekly." It's Saturday and we can confirm the fun's here all right, along with everyone in the neighborhood. There's something about the South End we don't find anywhere else. You feel at home even when your neighborhood is miles away. The places are intimate, tony, casual, hip, and where the sidewalks are wide, there's outdoor seating. I've often wished I lived here.

Lan is ordering a mimosa. I'm not known for my noontime drinking especially but look at this: Les Boone's Farm Sunshine Pink NV CA. I've had it before, not in this century, so I order a glass. Andrew's in charge at the bar and wisely pours a small amount into a cup which is, now, how I feel it always should be served. It's kind of grapefruity in a lemonade way. Its nose is à la college dorm room and half a cup is just enough. Unless, of course, you're channeling high school, in which case have the whole glass.

The Gallows other wines are seriously regular, really, and if you're not sure, the wine list confirms: "These are the drinks, homie." Anyone who tries Boone's Farm will notice they have red beer: an "inspired mix of Pabst, lime & tomato juice." It's not a Bloody Mary, it may be inspired and we take your word for it.

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escalamariThese guys are pros at brasserie: noisy, friendly, and day or night, busy. If you're upstairs at Boston's Hotel Commonwealth, nix room service and come on down when breakfast rolls at 7 with granola, fruit, oatmeal, bagel and lox, home fries, eggs any way and French toast with berries and bacon. Lunch takes over at 11:30. After 2:30, the raw bar is in full swing and if you're in the mood for salads, sandwiches, a burger, meat balls, mussels, or steak, it's all there smack in the middle of the afternoon.

Fried calamari appetizer is my personal taste test. Eastern Standard's is lightly breaded with a side of lemon aïoli, never messed with peppers, tomato sauce, garlic or peanuts. Of all the fried calamari I've had, this is five-star. It pairs with their Bibb salad and of course they're able to find perfect heads I rarely see in the best markets.

Dilusha is the best orderer. She chose Faroe Island salmon and there were dueling forks over the bean salad. In November, Julie started with mushroom soup that came with brioche croutons and lucky for me, two spoons. She complemented her moules provençal with Kiralyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec (KEE-rye-oohd-var), a white Hungarian grape. Our waiter also poured tastes of Hirsch Grüner Veltliner that she loved. Other by the glasses: Cristalino Brut Cava, Wimmer Czerny Blanc de Noirs, Nicolas Cole Merlot-Cabernet, and Henri Milan Grenache-Syrah.

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