Brookline

Brookline may not be anyone’s idea of a food mecca at first glance—but those who pass it off as another Boston suburb do so at their own peril. That’s because it’s home to some of our favorite neighborhood destinations, from line-drawing independent bakeries and sandwich shops to tiny spots bursting with fierce flavor.

Brian Samuels

If you’ve got a bread purist in your life, or happen to be one yourself, Clear Flour Bread is the antidote. A roster of 26 breads made according to traditional French and Italian methods include swoon-worthy Batards, Rosemary Focaccias, and daily specials like Porter Pumpernickel and Soft German Pretzels. Aside from breads, sweets like Black Currant Donuts and Morning Buns keep us standing in line.

Bess’s Cafe, a 14-seat eatery, brings the bold flavors of China’s Jiangnan region to a quiet corner of Brookline. Its Chicken Dumplings with Sichuan Sauce—served doused in enough of the oily, spicy concoction to border on soup territory—has earned it fame, but the fatty Pork Belly Buns and perfectly fried Crispy Scallion Pancake Wraps are each worth a visit on their own. Most dishes are priced below $10, and a Tuesday-through-Friday lunch special offers a dish and two sides for $9.95.

The fare at indy sandwich shop Cutty’s leans toward the heavier side of the spectrum: a Red Flannel Hash breakfast sandwich, the hearty Roast Beef 1000, and a Rabe T.J. made with broccoli rabe and plenty of melty mozzarella. But another greasy spoon this is not. The husband and wife behind the operation are Culinary Institute of America graduates who add thoughtful touches to each sandwich, from locally sourced breads and produce to offbeat ingredients and sauces. Once a month, “Super Cluckin’ Sunday” provides an opportunity to taste Cutty’s genius interpretation of the humble fried chicken sandwich.

Blossom Bar

In 2018, longtime neighborhood favorite Sichuan Garden was reinvented as Blossom Bar, the latest endeavor from cocktail whiz kid Ran Duan. The space got a modern makeover and a cocktail program chock full of South American spirits and tiki influences, but the Sichuan flavors didn’t go anywhere. Today you can enjoy family-style dishes like double-cooked House Special Eggplant and Dan Dan Noodles beside innovative drinks like the sherry-rum-and-sesame Spanish Remix.

Don’t let Ganko Ittetsu Ramen’s random location within Coolidge Corner’s Arcade Building throw you off: It’s the real deal. The menu features six styles of ramen, prepared in woks and filled with custom-made noodles that hit the right balance between silky lightness and chewy heft. We can’t resist the Tan Tan, a bowl with ground pork and a rich, creamy broth flavored with sesame and cut by spicy garlic oil. But be warned: The spot only has 20 seats and serves at a slower pace than most, so wait times are virtually guaranteed.

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