Here are four that might brighten up your week.
When you’ve had a bad day, find solace in Vaquero’s carne asada fries, which you’ll want to park in your lap during an air-conditioned Netflix frenzy. Think California poutine or potato-based nachos: fries topped with guacamole, monstrous clouds of sour cream, spicy red salsa, chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and cilantro. You’ll become a snack anthropologist: digging deeper into the box reveals new layers of flavor: juicy steak strips, ripe tomatoes (not the anemic, translucent kind you so often find in pico), onions. chopped. It’s the kind of dish you’ll eat at midnight like a mad seagull in front of a wide open refrigerator. Note: Vaquero is tiny; to avoid clutter, call ahead for your order (which should also include tamales and Baja-style fish burritos).
478 High Street, Medford, 781-391-3030, www.mexicantaqueriaelvaquero.com
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
The New Haven-based mini-chain opened in 1925 and became known for its white clam pizza. You can now find outposts throughout the Northeast, including the Burlington and Chestnut Hill malls. If that makes you lift your nose, take a break: this soot-coated charcoal cylinder is delicious. The online ordering process is intuitive. The recovery process is refreshingly quick – our pies were ready in 20 minutes, max. And the pizza arrived hot, thin, slippery, and smeared with a luscious, sweet tomato sauce. My kids, not yet ready for clam pizza, opted for chicken and broccoli. “Do they also own a chicken store?” Asked my 9 year old son. “Because this chicken is amazing. And it is: tender and juicy, not a stringy afterthought. But a simple margherita pie, with nothing but a few spots of mozzarella and heaps of crushed tomatoes, is the light, pliable bite of your Friday night dreams.
Various places, www.pepespizzeria.com
Kream ‘N Kone
If you find yourself on Cape Cod this summer looking for fried seafood (and a touch of normalcy), head to the popular Kream ‘N Kone in West Dennis. The beige exterior and faded sign, which advertises the “best seafood anywhere,” feels straight out of an after-school 1970s showdown. But the setup is efficient and modern: place your order and a nice person will call you back as soon as they are ready. Put on a mask – you will be denied service without it – and collect your bonus. If you’re the type of person who loves fried foods but quickly regrets it an hour later, you’re safe here: the batter is light, the scallops and oysters are chewy, and the portions are reasonable. Lobster rolls are sweet and sometimes have chunks of the shell, so you know they’re fresh. And onion rings are also fat-free: perfect curls of temporary nostalgia.
961 Main Street, West Dennis, 508-394-0808, www.kreamnkone.com
Love at the first bite
Love at First Bite brings a touch of chic chic to Lexington Center. Normally the dining room was packed with people hoisting neon cocktails in a mosaic bar, lit by flickering lanterns. Now look for your stapled receipt in a stacked brown bag in a neat hallway. Their spicy pad thai is an aromatic comfort food – basil-flavored stir-fried rice noodles, strung with sweet peppers, onions, a small egg crumble and lots of crushed peanuts with a light whiff of gravy sauce. fish. Get it with prawns, which are remarkably fresh and plentiful. A small pad thai could succumb to quicksand of grease. Not here. And it’s even better the next day, eaten cold.
1710 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, 781-862-5888, www.loveatfirstbitema.com