6 Most Overhyped Dishes in Boston

And their excellent alternatives
August 15, 2016
by Scott Kearnan

We asked for the dish. And you served it, piping hot. Our goal is to guide you to some of the best plates in town, but let's face it – taste is subjective. So we decided to ask the diners – that's you, dear reader – what they think are some of the most overhyped dishes around? The responses are below, along with some suggestions we've made on where the disappointed diner may find a satisfying alternative. Bear in mind that just because these dishes were deemed by some to be overhyped doesn't mean they're bad; many are quite good (you'll see we certainly think so). But sometimes hype can cultivate disappointment in even some quality dishes. You be the judge – and tell us if you agree or disagree in the comments.

Lobster roll at B&G Oysters
Why it's overhyped: We love Barbara Lynch, but $29 for a relatively small roll at B&G Oysters? Did King Midas make that mayo? Rolls are a charming way to enjoy a dialed-down, quick-serve version of a lobster feast. But at a price tag like that, it needs to be next-level outstanding – otherwise, we'd rather get our claws into a whole crustacean. 
Try instead: It has less buzz, but a lower price point and rave reviews. We're talking about the lobster roll – er, sandwich – at Alive & Kicking Lobsters, which puts its lightly mayo–dressed lobster on sesame–studded Scali bread.

B&G Oysters: 550 Tremont St.; 617-423-0550
Alive & Kicking Lobsters: 269 Putnam Ave., Cambridge; 617-876-0451

Grilled corn at Toro 
Why it’s overhyped: Everyone knows the aïoli-covered corn is one of the most popular dishes at South End hot spot Toro; literally, everyone. (Is the place ever not packed?) But some wonder whether there's anything special enough to validate the iconic status it's attained. 
Try instead: It's not as "refined" a take, but is that really what you're looking for in your Mexican street food? The elote at JP newcomer Casa Verde is excellent, slathered in cilantro aïoli, cotija cheese and chile.

Toro: 1704 Washington St.; 617-536-4300
Casa Verde: 711 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-477-9977

Pizza at Santarpio's
Why it’s overhyped: Local color and legacy (the East Boston original opened in 1903) go a long way in explaining why the simple, standard pies at Santarpio's continue to claim "you gotta try it" cachet. The surly service is part of the dive-y charm, say adherents. But if your dining room coasts on kitsch, your food better hit a home run. Santarpio's just isn't that strong a slugger.
Try instead: Meeting the sky-high expectations set by its food truck progenitor is Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co, the first brick-and-mortar restaurant from musician/chef Scott Riebling crisps inventively topped pies in a wood-fired oven. There are also awesome sides and apps, including standout charred Brussels sprouts and Buffalo wings.

Santarpio's: 111 Chelsea St.; 617-567-9871
Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co.; 1632 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-879-0707

Pastries at Flour Bakery + Cafe 
Why it's overhyped: Let's be clear: "Overrated" doesn't mean "bad," it simply refers to the distance between "expectations" and "reality." With that in mind, some would suggest this mini-empire slightly suffers from its own success. When the original South End location opened in 2000, it was a uniquely chef-driven cafe in a rapidly changing, upscale neighborhood. Though Flour is certainly consistent, there's sometimes a sense that the long lines and fawning raves – "These scones are ah-mazing!" – rely in large part on a long-standing reputation.  
Try instead: It may not have the same variety of pastries, but for pure inventiveness you'll find us at the South End's Blackbird Doughnuts, a sweets shop from the same team behind the neighborhood restaurant The Gallows, where we've fallen head over heels for unique flavors like blackberry-lavender, jalapeño-pear and coffee-bacon. 

Flour Bakery + Cafe: 1595 Washington St.; 617-267-4300, additional locations
Blackbird Doughnuts: 492 Tremont St.; 617-482-9000

Pasta at Babbo Pizzeria
Why it's overhyped: Star chef Mario Batali's debut Boston venture has value – literally. For its modest price points, Babbo is a welcome addition to the expensive Seaport neighborhood. And we're still excited for Batali to open his Back Bay outpost of Eataly this fall. But there are plenty of places around Boston with better pasta.
Try instead: He may not be a national name (at least, not yet) but chef Michael Pagliarini is locally adored for his outstanding housemade pastas at Giulia. And we're amped to learn that he'll also be behind Benedetto, an Italian restaurant expected to inhabit the Harvard Square space that formerly housed Jody Adams' Rialto. Expect a debut this fall. 

Babbo Pizzeria: 11 Fan Pier Blvd.; 617-421-4466
Giulia: 1682 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-441-2800

Boston cream pie at Parker's Restaurant
Why it's overhyped: Parker's is located inside the Omni Park House Hotel, America's oldest continuously operating hotel and the site where this famous dessert was invented. But once you've crossed it off your Boston bucket list, you'll probably find there's little reason to return to a charming but staid spot that could benefit from upgrading its culinary game even as it honors its history. 
Try instead: Discover the Boston cream pie in donut form at Union Square Donuts, alongside plenty of other contemporary flavors that highlight what pastry-making wizards are working on right now. 

Parker's Restaurant: 60 School St.; 617-227-8600
Union Square Donuts: 20 Bow St.; 617-209-2257