Boloco: Make Your Own Bowl or Burrito

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If you live in New England, Boloco is probably already on your radar. Its burritos come in flavors inspired by many cuisines—you could call them wraps, really, since only a couple of the choices are typical Mexican fare. Their menu has many options for those trying to avoid heartburn.

The best option for GERD is to make your own bowl or burrito. Walk down the ingredient line to see what’s there, as it can be tough to find all of the options just by reading the menu. My most recent bowl (pictured here) featured quinoa, baby kale, broccoli, chicken, black beans, corn salsa, carrots, cilantro, and cheese. I also recommend the roasted mushrooms, butternut squash, carnitas, celery, pinto beans, beets, cucumbers, and brown rice.

I didn’t put a sauce on this particular bowl because the ingredients have so much flavor. The Thai peanut and tikka masala sauces are both delicious, but you’ll want to order them on the side and use sparingly to spare your throat.

Sometimes I order a mini burrito so I can save room for a shake. The Jimmy Carter (peanut butter, banana, and yogurt) is my favorite, but the seasonal pumpkin shake is a welcome treat as well. Boloco is a restaurant WIN in many ways!

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Punjab Cafe: Dal Makhni

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Punjab Cafe was highly recommended by a friend who’s been eating there since childhood. It took me a while to try it because there’s a good Indian restaurant closer to the subway station (in Quincy, a few miles south of Boston). But after trying this incredible food, I doubt I’ll go back to the other place.

I ordered Dal Makhni on my first visit, and it was so great that I got it the next time too. This dish has black lentils cooked with mild spices and topped with fresh cilantro. The lentils have the perfect bite, and the sauce is herbaceous without being spicy. This combination can be difficult to find on a curry-filled menu. Also, the long-grain rice is fragrant and so delicious. During my first meal here, I found a whole cardamom pod in the rice bowl, so I knew it was legit.

I didn’t order an appetizer, but every table gets a trio of dips with crispy cumin-seed crackers. The crackers are flavorful, but I don’t recommend the dips for GERD—they are all acidic and spicy.

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This meal was a restaurant win, but only because I was careful. I didn’t order appetizers or any buttery, filling naan. And although I ate my entire dish of dal, I didn’t have a ton of rice. (Overfilling the stomach is a common cause of acid reflux.) If you can resist the curries and keep yourself from digging into the dips, you can have a reflux-free Indian meal.

Life Alive: The Alchemist Demi Bowl

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I am beyond in love with Life Alive, a vegetarian restaurant and juice bar in Cambridge. The ambiance is pure hippie, with a kale dispenser on the wall and free ukulele performances in the basement. And the food is phenomenal! I don’t know what they put in the sauces, but they make a bowl of vegetables and grains more craveable than I thought it could be.

You can order any dish on the menu over a quinoa mix or as a wrap. Bowls come in regular size and half (demi) size. I recommend the demi bowl if you also want to try something from the juice and smoothie bar. On this visit I had the Thrive Alive, a juice with carrot, apple, and ginger.

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My favorite meal at Life Alive is The Adventurer, but I’ve also enjoyed the Green Goddess. This time I wanted to branch out, so I had The Alchemist: a mix of corn, kale, carrots, sprouted legumes, sesame seeds, and Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce over quinoa. The Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce is by far the best on the menu, but I’ve never had a bad meal here. Everything is flavorful, and I feel energized after ingesting so many vegetables!

As long as you don’t overeat and you avoid the juices with citrus, Life Alive is a restaurant win. I’m sure the sauces contain some garlic, but it’s not overpowering and has never caused me problems. I recommend bringing visitors (who aren’t meat-obsessed) here to give them a food experience they may not expect to find in the Boston area.

Westville: Market Veggie Plate

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Westville, a casual eatery with several NYC locations, serves so many vegetables. At the Chelsea location I was excited to see the names of their veggie options painted right on the building! This list lured me in after a weekend of decadent New York meals.

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Instead of a typical brunch, I ordered the market plate, which gives the choice of four vegetable sides. Restaurant veggies are often doused in oil, cheese, vinegar, or citrus, so I looked at this with the goal of preventing acid reflux. From about two dozen options, I chose these:

  • Sauteed kale with shallots: This was delicious! The kale was tender and bright green. I picked out the shallot pieces and didn’t have a problem with heartburn—but I enjoyed the flavor the shallots left behind.
  • Artichoke hearts with parmesan: The waitress said the artichokes were roasted, but it seemed like they were canned—which means they were soaked in acidic liquid. The dominant taste was lemon, so these weren’t a good choice for me. At least there wasn’t too much cheese . . . but I ate only about half of these.
  • Mixed mushrooms with leeks and herbs: I’ve never been served a plain pile of mushrooms like this. They didn’t have much herb flavor, so I reached my mushroom limit about halfway through the pile.
  • Autumn quinoa salad: Do people describe quinoa as “al dente”? They should; this quinoa was perfectly cooked and maintained its shape and springiness. It was a treat mixed with butternut squash, parsley, and possibly honey in the sauce.

I was satisfied with this meal overall. It made me feel good to sit in front of a plate full of only vegetables. One of the choices was mediocre in taste, and one of them was bad for heartburn—but the helpings were more than enough to fill me up. I’ll judge this a restaurant win. I would return to Westville, although next time I’d try an entree.

Chipotle: Soft Tacos with Carnitas

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At my first Chipotle visit in months, I was unsure whether I’d have a successful, reflux-free meal. But I decided to treat myself to my favorite fast food after a tough day.

My first strategy was to order tacos. A burrito has more than a thousand calories and who knows how many gram of fiber—a combination that overfills the stomach and leads to instant heartburn. Even the bowl is too large because it contains so much rice. But the tacos are just the right size.

My next strategy was to order the carnitas. I’ve tried every protein Chipotle offers, and this one is the least spicy. And last, I had to forgo all salsas because of the heat and acidity.

These tacos were satisfying. The carnitas was tender and flavorful (if a bit salty). The black beans probably had garlic or onion in them, but it’s cooked into the sauce in the lowest amount you could find in Tex-Mex food. The cheese was creamy but didn’t add too much fat in a small dose, and the lettuce topped it off with a fresh crunch.

My first bite was a bit sad because I missed the spicy chicken, jalepeno-corn salsa, and lime-soaked, super-high-fat guacamole. But I kept at it and really enjoyed these flavors. Best of all, my stomach felt fine afterward. I’m declaring this a restaurant WIN. I wouldn’t go every day, but if you need an occasional Chipotle fix like I do, you don’t have to suffer for it.