Arepas and Kabobs at Washington and Grove in West Roxbury

Ask most Bostonians about the Grove neighborhood of Boston and you’ll likely be met with blank stares. I didn’t know about it until I attended my first tree lighting with the city. This neighborhood — not to be confused with Grove Hall in Roxbury — constitutes the far west boundary of Boston at the West Roxbury-Dedham line on Washington Street. The closest landmark is the Dedham Mall.

Amazingly, this foreboding little stretch is blessed with wonderful food. I had been curious about Viva Mi Arepa for some time before checking it out a couple years ago. Over time, I’ve ordered the empanadas, arepas and even the roasted chicken the chef prepares. And, I do mean the chef. The owner-operator is a highly-trained culinary expert for emigrated from Haiti to Venezuela. While cooking at a high-end resort in Venezuela, he also picked up the national cuisine.

When my car was in the shop with transmission trouble at nearby Lee Myles, I gingerly brought up the subject of Viva Mi Arepa. I didn’t know what these old-school guys would think of this Venezuelan food. “That guy…” said one of the Lee Myles staff members somewhat loudly prompting me to worry that he was about to launch into a tirade. “That guy can really cook,” he concluded. He told me that Viva Mi Arepa even offers a special paella every Sunday for customers.

Just down the road from Viva Mi Arepa is the newly-expanded Cristelle’s Restaurant. From the outside this restaurant that now occupies the site of the old Sahara Pita Bakery, looks like an ordinary sub shop. Inside, it’s not just a sub shop but a Middle Eastern paradise. I’ve long been surprised that for a neighborhood with such a strong Lebanese and Syrian presence, aside from Samia’s in West Roxbury, which closes too early to order for dinner most nights, there’s a scarcity of Middle Eastern food. Until now.

Cristelle’s offers up not just outstanding hummus, baba ghanoush and falafel, it purveys the rarest of commodities, the classic Mediterranean breakfast. These are such dishes as a warm chickpea or lentil and olive oil foul, a flat meat-pie. Cristelle’s serves these with an array of pickles, radishes, hot peppers, tomatoes and red onion. Last time I stopped in around lunchtime, I saw a couple men gorging on delicious-looking kabobs on skewers. Unbelievable!

Don’t get me wrong. They sell steak and cheeses, pizza, and even pancakes and crepes for breakfast. But I believe their Middle Eastern food is really special.

Also of interest in the Grove is what is going on at Jeha’s Meat Market. Jeha’s is a great place to get beef or lamb sausages. He also offers hot sausages. For larger orders, I’d call ahead.

With the holidays upon us, I’ll be posting a little more on local food to provide a respite to those overtaxed with cooking festive meals.

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2 Responses to “Arepas and Kabobs at Washington and Grove in West Roxbury”

  1. Kate Says:

    Well, you got pretty close to the Grove, but I think you missed it! The Grove is usually the name for the area bounded by Grove, Washington, Stimson and Centre Sts. – not the stores at the corner of Grove & Washington. You might be surprised to see what the Grove really is, and that a neighborhood like that is part of Boston.

  2. adamg Says:

    Darn you! Now I want to get something at Cristelle’s!

    Somehow, the kidlet and I got into our own Viva Mi Arepa tradition: We get some empanadas and pineapple soda, then go up to Millennium Park and eat at one of the shelters while enjoying the view.

    There’s even more at that corner, though: Pomodoro is a good sub shop. I haven’t had any reason to try Target Pizza, but you’ve gotta love a place that delivers pizza in either a Hummer or a three-wheeled thing that looks like something Peter Sellers would’ve driven while undercover in one of the Pink Panther movies.

    No. 7 Chinese Food, however, is your basic run-of-the-mill Chinese takeout, which is too bad, because I love the name, but not enough to give up Golden House up the road in Roslindale.

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