Spicy duck heads, chicken gizzards, and pig’s ears in chili oil, oh my!
It is no secret that Quincy—and in particular, the area north of downtown that includes the North Quincy and Wollaston neighborhoods—continues to thrive as a “Chinatown South” of sorts, with Malden perhaps becoming a “Chinatown North” on the other side of Boston as well. And while the actual Chinatown in downtown Boston remains in some ways the best place to go for Chinese (and other Asian) food, both Quincy and Malden have the advantage of relatively easy parking while also being on subway and bus lines, so whether you have a car or not, it’s pretty easy to get to either one.
North Quincy has actually been a hotspot for Asian dining for a while now, but lately, its neighbor just to the south has been giving it some pretty strong competition, with various restaurants opening in Wollaston over the past few years, including a ramen shop called Hakata, a sports bar called the China, and a tiny hole-in-the-wall called Chili Square that features some dishes typically found in the northwest and central parts of China that, until recently, were very tough to find in the Boston area. An initial visit to this last place indicates that it’s one that’s pretty much made for people who are fans of hidden gems, though that could change since the place is still relatively new.
Located on Hancock Street in the heart of Wollaston, Chili Square’s storefront is a lot like many other dining spots in that neighborhood and North Quincy, in that it is tiny and looks like more of a takeout place than anything. This is a dine-in restaurant, though, and one that has table service; however, only a few two-person tables are squeezed into the tight space, though they can be put together for groups of four if needed. The left wall has pictures of many of the food items offered here, which is a big help especially to those who aren’t familiar with dishes from the northwest and central parts of China and would like to try some of those items offered here. (The pictures tell what each one is in both English and Chinese.)
Some of the dishes offered at Chili Square aren’t exactly for the faint of heart; here you will find such items as spicy duck heads, duck necks, chicken gizzards, and pig’s ears in chili oil, so if you’re thinking chicken fingers, spare ribs, and teriyaki beef on a stick, you might want to move on to another place. There are definitely a number of options here for the less daring, however, with perhaps the signature item being one that’s not really daring at all—the biang biang noodles, which are also known as hand-pulled noodles and can be found here and there in the Boston area, including the wonderful Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Boston, Woburn, and Westford. Chili Square’s version of these wide, flat, and slightly gummy noodles are different from Gene’s in that they are not nearly as heavy on the garlic; when you eat these noodles at Gene’s, it can take a day or two to clear the garlic out of your system, which might not be so bad for you but perhaps not great for those around you.
The biang biang noodles at Chili Square can be ordered in a soup or as a basic dish, and meat options include chicken, beef, and lamb, with the latter having a nice kick from the cumin added—and there’s a non-meat noodle plate with spicy oil as well, which tends to sneak up on you as you continue to eat it. Another soup dish offered is the Lanzhou beef noodle soup, which comes with the more familiar round noodles, while a Wuhan hot dry noodle dish gets a real kick from sesame paste and chili oil. Looking at some of the non-noodle options, one highlight is the crispy Korean chicken wings, which have a slightly sweet marinade and a sprinkling of sesame seeds (you can also order them spicy), and some nicely browned scallion pancakes that aren’t overly greasy. Alcohol is not available at Chili Square, and keep in mind that the restaurant is cash-only.
Chili Square may not look like much from the outside, but that probably isn’t a big issue for serious food lovers along with those in the Asian communities in Wollaston and North Quincy who might be looking for authentic Chinese fare at reasonable prices. And based on an initial look at the place, this is one that might not remain completely off the radar for long, especially as more and more people discover the impressive food scene along this increasingly interesting stretch of Hancock Street between the Neponset River and Quincy Center.
CHILI SQUARE. 666 HANCOCK ST., QUINCY.
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.