Dish: Portuguese Food Comes Hillside

The hefty francesinha sandwich redefines a square meal
a gravy covered sandwich and fries
The challenge: clean your plate. Photo: Alonso Nichols
March 7, 2016

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Whenever I discover a Portuguese restaurant, my hope of finding octopus stew is renewed. Recently opened on Boston Avenue in a former deli location, Tasty on the Hill offers a nightly dinner special Wednesday through Saturday, but alas, no cephalopod. Still, I can appreciate a place that makes its own hollandaise and serves breakfast until 10 p.m.

Baited by the promise of French toast and omelets, a delegation of breakfasters from the office joined a phalanx of curiosity seekers in pursuit of the francesinha sandwich—“little Frenchie” in Portuguese—a Tasty specialty.

Sizing up the franceshina from the website photo ought to provide a fair indication of whether you’ll be overmatched. Imagine a mighty edifice constructed of cheese, fried egg and your choice of burger, grilled chicken, salt cod or smoked salmon, all between bread slices, the totality enrobed in an orange-colored sauce that pools onto the plate. Daredevils can go whole hog and order the version labeled traditional, which combines ham, steak, linguica (smoked pork sausage), hot dog and bacon. The stack is held in position by a toothpick festooned with a cherry tomato (“the detonator,” a colleague noted), fries heaped against the beast in a brazen show of excess.

That sauce, though. A postmortem debriefing was fueled with conjectures as to what the blanket of tangy-sweet stuff might contain. “Can you taste the beer?” was answered with a “hmmm, no,” but ketchup was suggested as a possible base. One appraiser avowed, “I would have that sauce on anything,” a proposition supported when the puddle on the plate became a dipping vehicle for the “I’d-give-’em-a-B” skinny fries.

From glancing around the table I could tell everyone brought their A game to the challenge. I’ll openly admit I finished most of my meal, though not without misgivings. It’s likely that anyone who orders one of these is prepared for a take-no-prisoners scenario. No doggie bags for these lunch commandos.

Photo: Alonso NicholsStandard breakfast offerings held no surprises, which was impressive given the size of our party. Omelets are on the denser side, the “veggie” chock full of nicely cooked broccoli, spinach and cheese. Home fries were graded “a solid B” by the group. Because mozzarella does not appear on the list of omelet cheese options, a request for it was declined, even though it appears elsewhere on the menu. The service was otherwise solicitous and welcoming.

I’ll be curious to see what kind of Portuguese specialties pop up among Tasty’s dinner additions. Regardless of anticipated adjustments to the menu, competitive eaters should flock to the franceshina challenge. And if anyone happens to stumble across a killer octopus stew, I hope you’ll pass the word. 

Tasty on the Hill, 321 Boston Ave., Medford. 781-219-3269. Sunday-Tuesday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wednesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; tastyonthehill.com.

Fred Kalil can be reached at frederick.kalil@tufts.edu.

Read earlier reviews on the Dish series page.

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