Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Café

By Eric Twardzik   Chinatown (+) · Chinese · $

Gene’s might be named for the sweet Chinese BBQ flatbreads that grace its menu, but we’re all about the noodles. You’ll spot them the moment you step into this tiny, unadorned FiDi lunch joint, where a cook is perpetually stretching dough to arm’s length before slapping strands against a counter in the tiny open kitchen with a satisfying thud.

Aesthetically, Gene’s fully embodies the term “no frills.” Bare brick walls are punctuated only by a token zodiac poster and a glowing backlit display of the eatery’s dozen-or-so offerings. Counter service, cash only, plastic bowls and cutlery—yep, it’s that kind of place.

That bare-bones atmosphere couldn’t be at greater odds with the food, which is a riot of flavor, aroma, and texture. Hand-pulled noodles feature in many of the dishes, perhaps most prominently in the #4, in which they’re sprinkled with cilantro, scallions, red chilies, and what can only be described as “garlic overdose.” The exceptional density of each noodle recalls beloved dumpling dough, which in this case has been unfolded into chewy ribbons.

For another take, the #9 Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles buries its most notable feature under a layer of shredded carrots and bean sprouts. You’ll have to dig to discover the strands, which soak in some whiffs of Indian cuisine thanks to the cumin and the minced chunks of spiced lamb meat, lending the whole thing an air of near-eastern Bolognese. We’re also swooning over the lamb skewers, which feature pieces of spice-rubbed lamb with more traditional Chinese BBQ flavors.

Disclaimer: Lo mein may never satisfy again.

Hours primarily cater to the Financial District lunch crowd (11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday), but Gene’s opens from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays for all the hand-pulled noodle enthusiasts who don’t work on State Street.

Saturday also happens to be the only day Gene’s serves Xi’an Chilled Noodles, a lighter dish made with tofu.

The menu also includes a hearty lamb stew—but only after 2 p.m.

Must Haves

  • The main draw to Gene’s, and the one dish we see at almost every table each time we visit—for good reason.

  • The same thick dough as #4, but yielding an entirely different flavor thanks to the minced lamb and spices.

  • At $1.50 a pop, this stick of spicy grilled meat is one of the best buys in the city. (Pro tip: Order a skewer and slide the lamb chunks into a #4 for a DIY spicy lamb-and-noodles dish.)

Fun Fact

At the condiment bar next to the ubiquitous bottle of Sriracha, you’ll find two unlabeled jars filled with a thick, dark-red paste. These contain an unnamed sauce, made in-house, that adds extra spice and savor to any dish. We got the scoop: Turns out it’s simply a mix of oil and ground red chili peppers.

Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Café

Other Locations

  • 86 Bedford Street, Boston
  • 466 Main Street, Woburn, USA

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