Boston -- and especially a neighborhood like Allston -- is a city transient by nature. Nothing ever lasts, and 99 percent of the time, that's a good thing. Then suddenly a place like Reef Cafe closes and my whole world shatters like its storefront window after a drunken Todd inexplicably throws a rock through it at 3am.
Reef was by far my favorite place to eat, not only in Allston, but Boston in general. (Documented in the Boston Phoenix in September.) It kinda started my health kick, as I replaced several days a week of fast food binges with Reef's Lebanese cuisine, made on-site by the elder stateswoman of the family down in the basement. Chicken Shwarma was my jam, but the garlic place -- oh the garlic paste -- put this place on the map. And hey, if your girlfriend needed new jeans -- there was a black market shelf near the counter. But that's another story entirely...
I'll always remember Reef having a huge neon sign that said "buffalo chicken wings," clearly a ruse designed to lure drunk college students who didn't know better. I was one, when I first walked in on the recommendation of the Herald food editor, and despite ordering those wings, the guy behind the counter told me they didn't have them, asked why I liked them, and proceeded to make me a Lebanese dish of similiar taste and spice. From there, I was hooked. Kibby, Babaganoush, grape leaves, lamp kabob... The best-tasting food I'd ever had, and certainly more healthy than a BK Double Stacker and chicken fries.
Salaam behind the counter was as much a friend as he was a business owner, and knew how to cater my order -- every time I called in, without me even asking: heavy on pickles and extra heavy on the garlic paste. That god damn chicken shawarma plate was salvation.
There are rumors the family will re-open a sit-down restaurant somewhere around Boston, but the inexpensiveness and decor of the Allston locale -- from styrofoam plates to enlarged wall photos of Beruit in the early 70s -- will be missed as much as the food.