EXCEPT FOR A SCATTERING of mom-and-pop joints—and more than a few terrific home kitchens, no doubt—Beacon Hill has never been a terribly auspicious place to bring an appetite. Until now. If you’ve driven down Beacon Avenue in the last few months, you’ve seen the line stretching out of Bar del Corso, the wood-fired-pizza and Euro-nosh stop with flawlessly crispy-chewy blistered pizza crusts (the grilled zucchini-basil pesto pie is a stunner) and dewy little salads, like one with arugula and Gorgonzola and fresh figs, or the best panzanella in town. Full of neighbors sharing wine and chatting across tables, it was a true third place from the moment it opened in July.
Heading east—literally across Beacon Ave; figuratively across Eurasia—one finds the repurposed cottage, once Culinary Communion, that’s home to the long-awaited Travelers Thali House and Tea Lounge. Its sister restaurant, Traveler’s Tea Co., has dazzled Indian foodies out of a corner of a Capitol Hill import store for years, and now has the space to do justice to both chaat, the small-plate street eats of Delhi, and the 10-dish feasts known as thalis. In this cozy house these ambitious productions are served for dinner Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but daytime diners can enjoy a slimmed-down version that might feature coconut-cabbage slaw mellowly fired with chilies, or savory lentil doughnuts in light chickpea flour crust that work as savory foils to any of the three chutneys. Finally, there’s Beacon Hill’s longtime specialty—Filipino food—served up in a manner that’s, er…anything but traditional. At Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine the adobos and lumpia of the Philippines are accorded solid treatment by Inay’s son Ernie—as they have been at past iterations of this peripatetic business. (Even better, we thought, were the pan-Asian fish dishes, like coconut milk-ginger tilapia.) But dine here on a Friday night between about 7:30 and 8:45 and your capable and affable waiter Louie will transform into Atasha—quite simply the best Filipino restaurant drag queen waiter in the biz. Don’t expect Atasha to serve you your pancit for goodness sakes—there are other waiters (some also in drag) for that!—but her lip-synched tribute to the big-haired, fan-lashed, stiletto-heeled cleavage-divas, Madonna to J. Lo, is itself just about edible.