As often happens when one makes judgments based on frivolous psychological connections (see: book, cover), one is often quite wrong. Take UChef, the new resident rising up in the Allston corner spot where Burritos on Fire once sat. Upon stepping up from the curb and through the door, you might think, "This place has no sense of itself." There's a topping-and-condiment station to your right for burgers and subs (steak and cheese, eggplant parmesan, BLT, etc.). Lining the bakery display cases sit several types of Brazilian breads, from Sweet ($2.99) to Vienna ($3.99), some small Brazilian rolls ($.35/each), and even delicious golf-ball sized mini cheese puffs ($1.00/three).
Oh, and did I mention there's an array of GNC-ish healthy shakes and drinks, with after-workout blends like Acai pulp, Gatorade, strawberry, banana, and something called Super Pump ($5.95–$7.95)? Inside and on top of the cases are a hodgepodge of cakes, flans, fried cinnamon twists, and other seemingly random persiflage, all while the smell of pizza and pork chops wafts in from the back. What's the score here?
The score was as surprising as the menu offerings were different. First and foremost are the fried turnovers, ranging from ham and cheese ($2.50) to banana ($2.50), chicken ($2.50), and, of course, beef ($2.50). The one I had was the size of a paper-towel square, made with soft, flakey (and only slightly greasy) dough, which breaks apart easily with a slight chewiness to it as you get to the hot, well-spiced ground beef inside. From there you have a smorgasbord of items, like the heaping Express Lunch ($6.95), with wonderfully sautéed onions, garlic red potatoes, pork chops, white rice, and perfectly fried plantains (this is a Brazilian joint, after all).
For dessert, the Torta de Bombom ($3.50) called out to me. It's an amazing chocolate-and-cream cold dessert with a giant chunk of chocolate on the top. But before I got to that, I was reminded there's a full pizzeria at work, and the Copacabana ($9.95/medium; $17.95/large) seemed right. Presented on a moist, thin crust gently dusted with flour and a tangy-sweet sauce, it's topped by fresh tomato slices and spicy Calabresa sausage, which gave each bite a slight peppery kick as you struggled to sever off the tendril of gooey cheese still gripping the dough. If sausage isn't your pick of pie, don't worry — they offer about 15 other variations.
After all, it's good to celebrate diversity.
UChef, located at 174 Brighton Avenue, in Allston, is open Monday to Friday, 5:30 am–10 pm; Saturday, 6 am–10 pm; and Sunday, 7 am–5 pm. Come September, they will also be open until 3 am on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Call 617.202.5760.