Mike Andrews

Stow, MA: Stuff in the Area

We moved to Stow from Waltham, MA in December, 2004. It is a true New England town, with thick forests and meandering stone walls. And, coming from Waltham... Did you know that a full moon really does light up everything? And, it's not orange? Huh.

This page contains only information about the things that we are digging. I could rant forever about stuff that sucks, but that's for a different page.


Nancy's Air Field Cafe (Stow, MA): I'm conflicted. On one hand, this is a one of the most special restaurants I've been to in my life, and I think you should experience it. On the other, if too many people discover it, I risk not being able to get a table there almost every week!

Nancy's has been open for years for breakfast; and, it is not to be missed. I am, at times, awash in great waves of soul happiness when I recall the nectarine pancakes she served me. But, it is dinner that has truly won our hearts. At our first visit, Kim had the Continental Salad. After about five bites, she looked at me, not to tell me that it was I who held the key to her tender heart, but that it was the salad, the best salad she had ever tasted. I didn't really hear her over the loud moroccanny goodness of my lamb burger.

There's a good review in the Harvard paper (You know, I really hate those papers that are recycled shit from all the other papers in this area. Long live the bizarre Stow Paper! -- update 15 April 2007 -- Long live the Stow Independent paper. Everyone that made the Stow Paper worth reading seems to have some, err, disagreements with the old publisher. They've gone and started a free-for-town-residents excellent paper. I'm gonna let my subscription to the other thing slide.)

Update, February, 2007: Will you just go to Nancy's already? Seriously. You're probably looking at this trying to decide where you should go to dinner tonight. The answer is here. Okay? In the fall, we went to a dinner where she served three thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes from Small Farm: one red, one orange, and one green. She drizzled maybe a teaspoon of basil-infused olive oil on them. That was it. Where else can you get something like that? Yeah, I know you like the bread thing with the parmesan cheese and red pepper flake olive oil at Not Your Average Joes, but, when you think about it, isn't that about all you like there? Okay, maybe the decor. Did you know that good food is the new decor? Did I tell you about Nancy's shrimp? Well, I'm not going to. Why are you still reading this?

O'Naturals (Acton, MA): If you enjoy Panera, you'll really dig this. It's similar in concept to Panera, but I think the ingredients are of higher quality. Soups and sandwiches. I had a terrific butternut squash and apple soup the first time I went; this combined with the Chicken TMB (Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil) sandwich, oh man...

Sierras (Sudbury, MA): Mexican with much less "Tex" than is the norm around here. Everything I've ordered came with rice, beans, and hominy! Food is very light... even the chimichanga, which given our propensity towards chimichangas, is definitely life-extending. Great flavors, great atmosphere. Purists: we've had better, in Arizona, in a place staffed by Mexicans; but in Metro West, I think this place rules.

Savoury Lane (Acton, MA): British spelling, but good food. We go here all the time. Fresh sandwiches. They're actually a caterer, a service we haven't taken advantage of yet. My favorite (oh, sorry, favourite) Born in the USA: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing on whole wheat.

Monsoon (Maynard, MA): This is not-fooling-around Indian food. Not altogether authentic, as some of their South Indian Dosai have meat, and there's some weird seafood-y things, but who cares? The food is complex and tasty. We came from Waltham, the land of many Indian restaurants, and this one holds its own. We still miss Little India, but this one has its own charms. That they were awarded "Best Indian Restaurant" in Maynard is sorta like awarding the Earth "Best Planet". Don't hold it against them, though. Just go.

Starbucks (Acton, MA): Damnit. I love to support the local guys, but there's still a lot Starbucks does right. Until I can find a substitute for the venerable Pumpkin Spice Latte, I just gotta do it sometimes. We do get our whole beans from Peet's, but they have no local presence, so we mail order the goodness.

Chloé (Hudson, MA): Euro, but New England! This place offers some more adventurous fare, but isn't full of itself. On a budget, this is reserved for more special occasions, but really, the prices are pretty good considering the quality of the food. We need to get back here now that we're in the area again; it's been a year or so. I mean come on, their Mac and Cheese is "Baked Orrechetti Pasta with Exotic Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomato, Asparagus, Fontina Cheese and a Drizzle of Truffle Oil". Seriously, that is sounding f-good right now. UPDATE: Fall, 2005 - We've been back, and were underwhelmed. Still adventurous, but didn't quite hit the spot.

Vincenzo's (West Concord, MA): I'm telling you, man, this is the place for pasta in the area. And, they have the coolest presentation for fried calamari with this nest of fried onion or something. The atmosphere in the West Concord location is Van Gogh with half a tab of acid. Super hip. I keep thinking that its expensive, but the most expensive thing I can find on the menu is like 17 bucks. Everything I've had here has made me a very happy man.

Update, February, 2007: This has become our de-facto half-fancy dinner place when Nancy's is closed. We've had many, "Let's celebrate, but I don't need to go into Cambridge" dinners and a more than a few "I want to go out to eat, but I need something that's just a bit better dinners" here. With all the trimmings, you can usually find a way to cash it in for about 80 bucks. Your wallet and your pallette will like the house red Montelpuciano.

Makaha (google) (Acton, MA): I will not kid you about Makaha. This is not high-end Chinese food. Heck, it probably isn't even really Chinese. The decor is like your 1983 wicked big hair and leg warmers, only neon, with a drunk guy hooting at the waitress in the bar. And, there's this horrible "polynesian" slant, replete with the requisite Mai-Tai cocktail. But sometimes, you just want the Chinese food that you grew up with out in the burbs, except you want it to be good this time. Their crab rangoon are definitely bitchin'. We tried all kinds of stuff in the area, but a lot of it is too fancy, or too awful 'burban MSG-y. I like these guys in spite of my inner snob. Best to "get it to go", or your inner snob is going to do the Alien thing to your chest.

TC Lando's (Acton, MA, at routes 111 and 27): In Waltham, we would occasionally pray to the steak'n'cheese altar at Carl's Steak Subs on Prospect St. I don't know how TC Lando's is related, but, from the structure of the menu, to the picture of Carl on the wall, it clearly is "in the family". This is THE steak and cheese that you want, when you know you shouldn't have it. I recommend no more than one of these puppies a month. There's even a fine liquor shop in the same strip, so you can buy the ale you need to complete the experience. Burp!

Update, February 2007: I think they also have the best pizza in the area. Sometimes we do New London Style, but I'm digging Lando's pizza. Definitely worth a try.

Nashoba Valley Winery (Bolton, MA): Sunday brunch for the nouveau riche, or those who like to pretend dressup with a monocle and a thin mustache, or those who maybe like occasional Sunday brunch, or maybe those who are just hungry on Sunday morning and are thinking, "Should I go to the best Sunday brunch in the area, or just have a bowl of cracklin' goat brains with skim milk?" These guys bring out practically everything your fevered, hung-over, dry-mouthed, shrunken fuzzy-headed Sunday self can think of. Eggs all different ways, poached salmon, french toast, weird fruit salads... you know, fancy stuff. It's good. You'll like it.

Stephen Anthony'S (Marlborough, MA - in the shadow of the Wayside Inn...): Why, oh god why, is the 'S CAPITALIZED all over their website? Please people, if you think you can make your own damn site, you can't. Just pay the kid that mows your lawn 50 bucks to make you one. Okay? I'm moving on. Sausage. Maple sausage breakfast. They make their own sausage here. They cook eggs any way you'd like, the coffee is OK, and their sausage is the bees knees if bees were weightlifters and knees tasted good.

Daniela's Cantina (Acton, MA): Fish tacos! We love fish tacos! There is this weird kinda single's bar scene going on here that makes me feel funny whenever I go in. And, one time, I had to listen to the owner (I assume it was the owner, there was this HUGE Hummer out in the parking lot) loudly bitch someone out over the phone while I waited for take-out. If you can get over that stuff, there's some good food to be had here. We tend to get take-out, but the atmosphere is perfectly tolerable. It's in the same vein as Iguana Cantina, if you've done that scene: lotsa big kitschy corona and tequila-based paraphenalia, replete with confusion about what might be from the American Southwest and what might be from Mexico. If you haven't guessed, we always get the fish tacos. They have this great chipotle mayo that goes along with it. It's all lighter on your wallet and heavier on your stomach than Sierra's, but it's all good. For a decent weeknight meal that isn't pizza or subs, it's hard to beat.

Mi Ranchito (Marlborough, MA): Hey, you should check this place out. We had a great meal here for not much money at all. I think we were both bad people and had the chimichangas, but they were far, far lighter than the chimichangas at other area restaurants. The rice and beans were simple and good, and the salsa was fresh and totally awesome. The guacamole didn't stress the avocado enough for me, but that's okay, you may like it.

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Firefly's BBQ (Marlborough, MA): has surprisingly good BBQ. Yes, it's not Redbones, but it's good. You can get mac'n'cheese with your ribs. I have a hard time convincing Kim to actually go there, but I like it just fine.

Longhorn Steakhouse (Marlborough, MA): I can't grill in the winter, so I go here. It doesn't take a food wizard to make a good steak. Get a nice looking rib-eye, rub it with oil and some salt and pepper, and put it on a wicked hot grill. Use an instant read thermometer and don't let it turn into a charred mess. For some reason, you can't get anything like that for less than 40 bucks at a real steak place. Why does everyone think I want a New York strip sirloin? Or, that the Filet is the pinnacle of steak? I want a rib-eye, you bastard. Well, they actually have rib-eye's at Longhorn. No, they're not as good as what you can do at home, but it isn't a bad substitute. If you're gonna go to a place like this, learn to a) not eat the bread, and b) not eat the salad. You wanted a steak. You didn't want the Great American Super Size 4000 calorie day.

Kim likes the southern fried chicken salad an alternative to bitchin' bovine. Word to the wise: they aren't shy about their meat temperatures, which is refreshing to see in a chain. Their medium is really my medium rare. Try the prime rib too. I don't know if its really "prime", but it's not bad!


Maynard Publick House (Maynard, MA): [Closed December-ish 2005] You have to go here. I know, you were thinking, "Where should we go tonight?" The answer is here. Run by the folks who ran the allegedly-outstanding-but-we-never-freaking-made-it-there 17 Summer, this is Pub food with a gourmet twist. Where else can you get a great burger, or a top notch meatloaf, and an escargot appetizer?! The calamari was cooked perfectly. I'm serious, kids. This is it.

Continental Café & Bakery (West Acton, MA): Great local coffee shop. They make their own baked goodies (hint: try the ginger scone!) and their quiche is completely, anomalously, out of this world. After we discovered it, we went back three times in the next week for their quiche alone. Initially, I was worried about their coffee, as the selection (french roast, guatemalan, hazelnut) read like any other stupid coffee shop. I was happily surprised. It's good stuff. I'm munching on one of their wild Maine blueberry muffins right now!

Update, February, 2007: We continue to go here pretty much every weekend. It's definitely a keeper! Ginger scone, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and the occasional savory muffin, and always, two large Guatemalans, please.

Update, March, 2008: The cafe closed sometime in the Fall. We're still pretty sad about it. The new place "Sweet Bites" is upsetting, actually. Let me put it this way: where the cafe had food I actually wanted to eat, the new place has food that they think that someone in my demographic wants to eat.

Information updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2008.