Not many food lovers predicted that Quincy—Boston’s immediate southern suburb—would emerge as a cutting-edge culinary hotspot. However, the “City of Presidents” is fast becoming a go-to restaurant destination, serving quality fare that rivals anything you’d find in the Back Bay or South End.
Ground zero of the local gastronomic sea-change is Quincy Center, where a recently constructed park now connects the United First Parish Church—where John Adams and John Quincy Adams are entombed—and Quincy City Hall, an imposing example of Greek Revival architecture. Only footsteps away, you’ll find a slew of restaurants well worth the exploration.
The Craft Revolution
When Devin Adams—well named for this city, but no relation to John—decided to go into business for himself, he looked to Quincy and opened The Townshend, a small, smart, cocktail-centric restaurant named for British parliamentary acts that provoked the Revolution. Both the drinks and the menu—overseen by former Row 34 sous-chef Alex Diaz—are carefully designed and crafted: Highlights include seared pork belly with thyme-scented cannellini beans. Former Yvonne’s pastry chef Kate Holowchick does desserts. “A lot of (our staff) live out here,” said Adams, a former bartender at Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar. “We’re swarming with talent.”
“I was born in China but I’m as Quincy as they come,” said Jimmy Liang of J|P Fuji Group, owners of 10 pan-Asian/sushi restaurants in and around Boston. “I grew up here, went to school here; I’m a Quincy guy.”
With its blond wood and mustard-colored décor, Liang’s new Fuji at WoC is as elegant as the cuisine. Sashimi of fatty yellowtail decorated with ginger foam and edible pansies is served in a lacquered box filled with dry ice forcing you to blow away the fog before every bite. For special occasions, a private dining room with its own kitchen offers an omakase (chef’s selection) experience for up to 16 guests.
Culinary Feng Shui
If you believe in culinary feng shui then perhaps there’s something in Quincy’s energy flow conducive to restaurant growth. This is, after all, the city where Howard Johnson and Dunkin’ Donuts began. But until recently, Alba steak house—which opened in 2001 in the old Quincy Trust Company building—was a lonely outpost of fine dining in Quincy Center. Today’s bustling dining scene prompted Alba owner Leo Keka to open Zef Cicchetti + Raw Bar in January.
With its brick walls, wooden beamed ceiling, and wraparound, rainforest brown marble bar, Zef is a leisurely, laidback place for shellfish, crudo, Italian small plates, pizza, and homemade pastas. The chestnut-stuffed ravioli in rich Parmesan crema with fried sage leaves and heirloom cranberries are especially delicious. The wooden wine rack by the rear wall is from Anthony’s Pier 4, the iconic Boston restaurant where Keka started out as a dishwasher in 1991, after fleeing his native Albania.
If Alba was Quincy Center’s first serious restaurant, Fat Cat, which opened a decade ago, was its first unabashedly fun restaurant. What this casual comfort food café lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in portion size and geniality. Regulars love the “signature” mac and cheese, made with a pound of corkscrew shaped cavatappi pasta, four cheeses, marinated tomatoes and a ton of garlic. Lobster, shrimp, steak, chicken or hot dogs can be added, right up to the off-menu “ultimate” mac and cheese, which boasts all of the above plus scallops and crabmeat. “It can feed a family,” said bartender Christine Sullivan, “and you’re more than welcome to share it.”
John Hancock and the Dropkick Murphys
Besides our second and sixth Presidents, notable Quincy residents have included John Hancock, actresses Ruth Gordon and Lee Remick, novelist John Cheever, and the Dropkick Murphys. And then there’s Kerri Lynch-Delaney, owner of 16C Restaurant, a cheerful room with large windows and an open kitchen. A 1994 North Quincy High graduate, Lynch-Delaney has cooking in her DNA—she’s the niece of Boston superstar chef Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters), who consulted on the menu. Excellent, thin-crust pizza, with toppings like fig and prosciutto, are presented on overturned sheet pans. The dish that has people talking is the Quiet Man steak tips, popularized at a now-closed Southie pub, owned by Lynch-Delaney’s father, Paul. The marinade is a closely held secret. “People think it’s ketchup and Coke, but it’s really not,” said Lynch-Delaney.
In recent weeks, Boston Vietnamese noodle soup chain Pho Pasteur opened in Quincy Center along with South Shore/ Hyannis favorite KKatie’s Burger Bar. In the coming months, look for Shaking Crab (Cajun seafood), Café Gelato, and Belfry Hall, a beer restaurant from the owners of The Townshend.
Bostonians aren’t shy about venturing outside the city limits in search of a great meal. The good news about Quincy is that nobody has to travel far from the Hub. It takes just over 20 minutes to go from Downtown Crossing to Quincy Center via the Red Line—so book a table and bring your appetite.