Travel

Traveling Table: Boston

Where to eat and drink in Beantown

Boston's recent spate of casual-restaurant openings--complete with linen-free tabletops and simple, straightforward fare--has been a welcome trend. And, although the surroundings at these newcomers aren't fancy, their pedigrees are undeniably four-star. The result: singular dishes done with bright, bold flavors for a reasonable price.

Sweet Cheeks: With the help of her 4,700-pound smoker, nicknamed Tootsie, chef Tiffani Faison is doing a fine impression of a roadside Texas barbecue joint smack in the middle of the city. Settle in at one of the reclaimed bowling-alley-floor tables and order a tray of smoked-pork belly, pulled chicken or turkey legs along with a few side "scoops," such as Linda's broccoli-cheese casserole (from Faison's mom).

Trade: Inspired by travels far and wide, the team at Trade, led by chef Jody Adams, pairs seasonal ingredients with wide-ranging flavors. The options are mostly casual: flatbreads, small plates, sandwiches (our pick: fried chicken topped with kimchi) and a whole avocado topped with green-mango-tamarind-peanut chutney. But the biggest draw might be the price: Two people can eat and drink well for less than $75.

Catalyst: Formerly executive chef at the Four Seasons' Aujourd'hui, William Kovel pays respect to his fine-dining roots with dishes such as beef tournedos and delicate, crisp quail. Equally good, though, are an outstanding rotisserie chicken and a bacon burger. The cavernous room is warmed by 30-foot-tall windows.

Area Four: Two wood-fired ovens cook 90 percent of what's on the hyperlocal menu at this sleek industrial space. Find local beets in tarragon dressing, squid with chickpeas and preserved lemons, and a roster of flavor-packed pizzas. Hit the adjoining bakery for a sticky bun or red-velvet whoopie pie and locally roasted coffee.

  • Boston: Sweet Cheeks

    Sweet Cheeks, from Tiffani Faison, brings Southern charm to Boston's Fenway neighborhood. (Photo: Mike Diskin)

  • Boston: Sweet Cheeks

    The all-American liquor list (with the exception of tequila) features a number of craft-made whiskeys, gins and vodkas. (Photo: Mike Diskin)

  • Boston: Sweet Cheeks

    Bits of iconic memorabilia, such as these oil cans, and old-fashioned meat scales line the interior of Sweet Cheeks. (Photo: Mike Diskin)

  • Boston: Trade

    Trade sits on a high-energy corner of Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Photo: Mike Diskin)

  • Boston: Trade

    Chef Jody Adams (center) opened her casual concept, Trade, with partners Sean Griffing (left) and Eric Papachristos, as a counterpoint to Rialto her Cambridge fine-dining spot. (Photo: Mike Diskin)

  • Boston: Catalyst

    The industrial space housing Catalyst gets warmed up with reclaimed barn wood, 30-foot-high windows and an indoor herb garden. (Photo: Cheryl Richards Photography)

  • Boston: Catalyst

    The modern-but-homey lounge inside Catalyst draws patrons from nearby Tech Square. (Photo: Cheryl Richards Photography)

  • Boston: Catalyst

    Chef William Kovel's bite-size Berkshire-ham panini with Taleggio, bacon and balsamic vinegar appears occasionally as a bar special. (Photo: Ilene Perlman)

  • Boston: Area Four

    Wood-burning ovens are the centerpiece at chef Michael Leviton's casual Kendall Square spot. (Photo: Melissa Ostrow)

  • Boston: Area Four

    Area Four's bakery and café is open all day, serving pastries, locally roasted coffee and sandwiches. (Photo: Jill Goldman)

  • Boston: Area Four

    Thin-crust pizzas, such as the pepperoni and Margherita, are part of the mostly shareable list of dishes. (Photo: Jill Goldman)

  • Boston: Area Four

    Area Four's marinated local mushrooms; house-made mozzarella with smoked tomato; roasted squid, chickpea, parsley, preserved lemon and black-olive salad. (Photo: Jill Goldman)

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Sweet Cheeks 1381 Boylston St. Boston MA 02215 617-266-1300 Trade 540 Atlantic Ave. Boston MA 02110 617-451-1234 Catalyst 300 Technology Square Cambridge MA 02139 617-576-3000 Area Four 500 Technology Square Cambridge MA 02139 617-758-4444

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