Last week, the Globe launched a campaign called Project Takeout, rallying readers to support independent restaurants by ordering meals to go. Our local restaurants are fighting to survive, and every little bit helps, especially until outdoor dining returns and vaccination is widespread.
This is important on many levels. Pre-pandemic, restaurants accounted for 1 in 10 jobs in Massachusetts. Right now, many are open not to turn a profit but to keep staff members employed, particularly undocumented workers who don’t have access to government benefits. Then, too, there are the ancillary businesses that depend on the industry, from farmers and fishermen to linen services. And restaurants shape and flavor our neighborhoods, with an outsize impact on the character of the cities and towns in which we live.
Where will you get takeout next? This week, and in the weeks to come, Globe staffers are sharing some of our favorite takeout spots with you. Please share yours, too, on our takeout map and via social media with the hashtag #ProjectTakeout.
I barely made it three blocks from Cafe Barada before succumbing to the smells wafting from the takeout bag on the passenger seat and reaching in to tear off a doughy piece of pita bread at the top of the stack of food I’d ordered.
The Cambridge restaurant, which recently celebrated its 35th year in business, was the backbone of celebrations with my family — birthdays, anniversaries, job promotions, holidays — for years. It was always “Where should we go?,” followed by an immediate chorus of “Barada.” While we can’t congregate inside the restaurant’s quaint dining space for the time being, diving into a meal to-go has offered me a time warp to those fond memories each time I’ve picked it up (which has been many, many times throughout the pandemic).
There are stalwarts of Cafe Barada’s menu — cooked up by the Salameh family, who own and operate the Lebanese restaurant — that shouldn’t be missed. For starters, try the vegetarian grape leaves and share the appetizer sampler, a plate full of homemade baba ghanoush, warm lentils, tangy tabbouleh, and smooth hummus. It comes with a stack of quartered pita bread, a perfect, edible replacement for any cutlery.
Be warned: You’ll have to pace yourself — admittedly, a difficult task — while feasting on the appetizers if you want to move on to the Lebanese restaurant’s generous main courses.
I always turn to one of two options, or buy both and go half-and-half with someone else: the fattoush salad, a mix of lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, crunchy pita bread, and spices, doused in a mouthwatering dressing and topped with your choice of protein (get the chicken); or the chicken or lamb kebab, large chunks of marinated meat atop a bed of rice pilaf, served with fresh grilled vegetables. The latter is enough to get you through dinner and then lunch the next day.
To round out the meal, add their homemade baklava to your order: small triangles of pastry that crunch like you’re stepping on fall foliage, topped with a light drizzle of a homemade syrup and crumbles of pistachio. I once had a family friend whose mother is from Greece give it the seal of approval — a hard award to snag. Cafe Barada, 2269 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2112, www.cafebarada.net. Appetizers: $4-$19, soup and salad $6.75-$15.50, entrees $16.25-$24, desserts $4-$9.
— STEVE ANNEAR, Express Desk Reporter
Not long after we moved to the suburbs, C.F. McCarthy’s became our food savior.
We had been spoiled for so long in the food-centered enclaves of Boston that we feared our dining experiences would never be quite the same. So we waited in anticipation for months as an old Irish pub was remodeled in downtown Canton. What emerged in April 2019 was a gastropub with a diverse menu, heralding “Fine Foods — Proper Pints.” We had found our spot.
The pandemic hit, and so did worries for the future of this new, independent restaurant. Thankfully, though, C.F. McCarthy’s seems to have not only endured but started to build a reputation, contributing to what has become a gastronomical progression in Canton.
We were attracted by the meatballs, and my go-to is the spicy fried chicken sandwich with pickles and chipotle aioli. The Buffalo wings are better than other Buffalo wings, and while I would usually scoff at ordering tacos at a pub, the short rib and shrimp varieties are worth it. My wife remains enamored with the short-rib grilled cheese au jus, made with gouda, aged white cheddar, and caramelized onions.
With the pandemic also came to-go cocktails, $40 for a four-serving glass bottle of margaritas, sangria, or espresso martinis. They make takeout feel a little more like a true dining experience — especially if you’re like me and haven’t eaten in a restaurant since February. (The next time you order is even cheaper if you recycle the bottle.)
C.F. McCarthy’s, 614 Washington St., Canton, 781-562-1082, www.cfmccarthys.com. Appetizers $9-$13, sandwiches $14-$18, entrees $18-$32.
— MILTON VALENCIA, City Reporter
DARRYL’S CORNER BAR & KITCHEN
Food is a love language. And soul food is among the most universal of them all.
For more than six decades, the restaurant at 604 Columbus Ave. has been a community hub for Black folk in Boston. First known as Bob the Chef’s and now known as Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, Darryl’s — just like its neighbor Slade’s –– is a South End/Roxbury gem.
But the pandemic is threatening our history. It has taken away our ability to hold space there like we used to, it has cut into owner Nia Grace’s business, and it is challenging the way we often use food as a vehicle for building with one another. But the thing about soul food is that, when it’s done right, the comfort delivers through all circumstances.
On hard days and celebration days alike, I turn to Bob’s Glorifried Catfish ($23), fried to cornmeal perfection, with flavorful greens on the side and a honey-buttery-sweet cornbread basket. Mac and cheese if I’m ready to rest for a while. Food like this makes me miss my mama.
A Neighborhood Combo Meal ($16.50) is an easy carryout favorite because you get a side dish, cornbread muffins, and your choice of wings, catfish strips, or BBQ spare ribs. It’s the eating big on a budget for me. If you do carryout, try to secure a rare jug of sweet tea. It’s liquid sunshine.
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, 604 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-1100, www.dcbkboston.com. Appetizers $4-$15, entrees $13-$27, desserts $10-$11.
— JENEÉ OSTERHELDT, Culture Columnist
In the Before Times, I took both dinner parties and murder mysteries very seriously, but I hadn’t had a chance to participate in either in months. So I rejoiced when I came across a virtual murder mystery dinner party thrown by the Somerville restaurant Juliet.
The three-course meal arrived at my door on Saturday evening, neatly packed in a brown paper bag, accompanied by a zine detailing the rules and a jar of hot chocolate with a tiny container of marshmallow fluff.
Nora Connolly, a server at Juliet, wrote the mystery we would all be solving together on Zoom, which involved aspiring mayor Michael Martini’s untimely death in 1921 via an arsenic-spiked mug of hot chocolate (tagline: “hot cocoa, cold blood”), and a cast of 18 other characters. It was the eighth virtual dinner party Juliet has put on through its “Restaurant Without Walls” series. Juliet does regular takeout, too, with dishes like kale Caesar salad and spaghetti with mussels, shrimp, and salmon. This week, the restaurant is also offering a special inauguration menu through Wednesday, a babka and sipping chocolate pop-up on Saturday, and a fried chicken takeout dinner on Sunday.
Costumes were encouraged — I applied mascara; I put on heels and took them off.
Joshua Lewin, Juliet’s chef and co-owner, played the party’s detective guide, a role he applied himself to with earnest diligence. The other guests threw themselves into the dinner, too: There were hand-drawn mustaches, evening gowns, and a full French maid costume. We were texted information to deliver at key moments throughout the evening, and the story unfolded like an elaborate interactive play, full of absurd, delightful twists spaced between courses.
The food was simple, primed for reheating: first, French onion soup with cheesy Gruyere toast that we popped in the broiler right before joining the party; second, spaghetti and tomato sauce that we reheated on the stove and sprinkled with Parmesan. I was full of hot chocolate by the end, and so ate the dessert brownie the next day — it was rich and fudgy and pleasingly three times the height of a regular brownie.
Throughout the dinner, I remembered that so much of the joy of going to a great restaurant isn’t what’s on your plate. It’s the atmosphere, the way the tables are set up, the waiters checking in; the surprise and pleasure of being immersed in someone else’s imagination.
And though we were each in our own homes, Connolly, Lewin, and crew managed to summon that same spirit. It was 1921! The hot chocolate had been poisoned! The dumbwaiter had been jammed! I had — and I don’t say this lightly — fun.
Juliet, 21 Union Square, Somerville, 617-718-0958, www.julietsomerville.com. Murder mystery dinner party prix fixe: $50 per person. (During COVID a 15 percent administrative fee is added to all orders; there is no gratuity and staff are paid a living wage.) Regular takeout: appetizers $9-$18, entrees $21-$28.
— ZOE GREENBERG, Metro Reporter
THE SPOT CAFE
It all starts with the bread. Miche, to be precise. Whole grain or white. The right amount of chewy to pair with spinach and feta omelets. The right amount of soft to soak up homemade lentil soups. The right amount of flavor to complement sandwiches filled with turkey, Monterey Jack, and Russian dressing.
The bread is made and served inside The Spot Cafe, which is located just outside Watertown Square on Main Street.
The Spot is a cozy breakfast and lunch place now limited by safety protocols to six small tables. It has always been a family-run business, except now the family is a new one. Joe Mikhaeil and his family took over in July from Marcos Hanna, who ran it for almost 15 years; names of his friends and family are still attached to menu favorites. The teapots that line the walls are still for sale.
The Mikhaeils come up from Millis every Tuesday through Sunday, opening the doors from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. A son, Mina, runs the front. He says that takeout and in-person business were steady through the summer and fall, but have been dead since Christmas.
People are missing out.
The chocolate chip pancakes are enough for two meals. Mario’s Omelet Sandwich has two eggs, pastrami, and Swiss. The soups are made in-house, two year-round favorites being roasted red pepper and butternut squash. They are served with bread.
Oh, and loaves of the miche are available to take home, too.
The Spot Cafe, 385 Main St., Watertown, 617-923-2339, www.facebook.com/385thespot. Breakfast $6-$12.95, lunch $4.50-$14.99, loaves of miche $6.50.
— JOHN VITTI, Sports Layout and Copy Editor