ask Chen about
viewpoints • burgers • café • historic sites • neighborhood tours • historic town • book shop
What do you do and why do you do it?
I tell stories. Through wiring, education and organizing, I like to tell stories. A lot of telling stories is finding stories, and that requires adventuring, talking to people, trying new things and taking time to think of ideas. I do what I do because I like hearing stories, and I like telling them in a way that engages people, helps them, makes them think. I tell stories when I write or report. I tell stories in classrooms when I teach. And I tell stories in my organization work working with the Boston Israel and Jewish communities.
You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?
Most of them are in Hebrew, my native tongue. Something about dealing with emotions creates a desire for as sense of home and belonging and familiarity. My playlist is always at least 50% Israeli and Hebrew. If you push me, I'll mention "Wasn't Expecting that" by Jamie Lawson, Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" and some Leonard Cohen darkness and Jack Johnson optimism. Last but not least, the bluesy woke recognition of Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel". It's kind of funny how I can't really share a huge chunk of my music taste here because for most Israeli music wouldn't mean much. It's probably the definition of foreign-ness, no?
What are the best TV shows of all time?
I have a principle - I hate picking favorites. Don't believe in forcing a choice of one or event a few favorites of anything, while there's so much out there. I Love How I Met Your Mother because in many ways I feel that through it's cheesy humor it convinced me that I have to live in American for a while. But it's not better - nor do I like it more than - say, Seinfeld, or friends. Definitely wouldn't pick any of those over The Wire, the West Wing, Game of Thrones or Rick Morty or Better Call Saul. So here ya go, I named a few shows that I absolutely love, but don't see why limiting it to only one, or a few, "Best of all times".
Name some spots in Boston that are good for a Tinder date.
On a lovely summer eve, I'd suggest meeting outside Prudential Center, and walk up for a quick drink at Top of the Hub - the view the top floor of Boston's tallest tower and live jazzy music, combined with some drinks are bound to get a conversation going. Afterwards walk through the happening Boylston street to Copley Square and step into the aphrodisiac atmosphere at the goth-Mexican Lolita Cocina. Or, for more relaxed (and less pricy) alternative, meet at the Coop in Harvard Square and exchange thoughts about books, then go to Burdick's to get a thick hot chocolate, and walk by Charles River as you get to know each other.
Who’s your hero and where in Boston would you take them out for a serious hang?
I hate picking favorites - so many incredible people to get inspired by. But I'll go with Taha Hussein, the blind-from-birth Egyptian power and story teller. He was a remarkable liberal islamic figure and a symbol of the triumph of will over difficulties and intellect over pre-existing notions of faith, love and scholarship. I'll take him to the Boston Athenaeum, one of America's oldest libraries and scroll through the collections until we find something I can read to him for us to discuss.
What’s the most decadent / extreme dish you ever ate in Boston and where did you get it?
Without a question, some of the Boston Burger Company's shamelessly indulgent house burgers. Specifically, the "420", bursting from beef, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, a bunch of different cheeses and some other stuff I can't remember. It's a real American-dream-in-burger, encompassing the opulence this country offers, which makes people world-wide want to spend their best years here, but also symbolizing the fact that this richness that is America involves a risk - where do you even begin to bite? How do you make sure these layers of goodness don't collapse in your face, leaving you with not much more than greasy hands and stained pants.
Is there a hidden bar / hole in the wall in Boston that you particularly like?
It's one of my recommendations - Supreme Kitchen in Somerville. In an age when brunch is more a fashion than meal, this place takes you back to another time. The moment you walk in, you feel like you stepped at least a few decades back in time. It's family-owned, cosy and unadorned, and offers great breakfast food served with the thickest Boston accent you'll hear nowadays. It's great, and is really the epitome of a "hole in the wall"
What restaurant in Boston looks crap, but the food’s amazing?
Thai Hut in Cambridge. It's a tiny place, looks like it's made for stoners' late night munchies orders, but it's incredible. Tasteful un-Amaricanized Thai dishes, from the standard Pad Thai to sweet sticky rice and mango as a dessert. And the service, kind but barely in English, makes the experience even lovelier. I stumbled upon it completely coincidentally, and every time I'm there it reminds me to stay open for trying out places, even if they don't look stunning. It's not all about the looks when it comes too food, and life.
What’s the one place you think is overrated in Boston?
Basically every night club. Kill me but I don't understand why someone would pay $20 bucks to squeeze between a million people who always seems like their mostly trying to be happy, and will only succeed if they drink enough. And of course, the drinks are also $20 a piece, and you have to beg servers to even look at you. So yeah, that was my rant about night clubs being overrated.
What are the Boston spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?
It's trivial, but I'd go with the touristy historical sights. This city was witness to an acute moment in modern history - the American Revolution - and that deserves your visit if you only have one day. Educate yourselves by visiting the Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre, Quincy Market, the houses and graves of founding fathers all over towns and if you feel like a trip, event Concord, 30 minutes out of the city, where the first shot round the world was fired and the first British blood, the blood of tyranny, was shed. And of course, don't forget to stop for a drink and a bite in between.
What’s your favorite vacation city in the world and why?
Tel Aviv - because it's home, because it's amazing, because of the beaches and hummus and people and bars, all simply the world's best. It's also a quick driving distance from the spiritualism Jerusalem has to offer, all in all combining the best or all worlds. Slightly pricy, but hey -my family would love to host you;)