I love living in Quincy. I was born here and grew up in the next town over. After making my way out in the wine & cheese world, I wound up returning to where I started.

In the twelve years I’ve been back, I’ve constantly marveled at the evolution of the city, especially the explosion of the culinary scene. Not only are the number of establishments increasing at a torrid pace, the quality and diversity are right with it. The time is nigh to dive a little more deeply into all "The Q" has to offer.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Not even close. I could have mentioned the Sriracha cod bites at the Fox & Hound Tavern. Or the coal-fired pizza and wicked cocktails and banter at Angelo’s Coal-Fired Pizza (go in on Friday night and see Danielle and Ashley at the bar. Hilarious. Tell ‘em I said "hey".) Or two dozen other places. But you have to start somewhere, right? So here are five restaurants in Quincy you need to try to jump start your culinary adventure into the "City of Presidents".

The Townshend

If you haven’t been to The Townshend by now, you have nobody to blame but yourself. They just celebrated their three-year anniversary and in that time they’ve brought loads of street cred to the Quincy dining scene.

The food and service are always rock-solid. Chef de Cuisine Collin Davis’ menu is varied and interesting, offering delicious small plates and full-on dinners. Try the roasted carrots with Greek yogurt and carrot-top pesto (pictured above), or the PEI mussels in escabeche. I’m personally addicted to the steak frites, and the herb-roasted chicken with butternut squash risotto is outstanding. They also serve Toscanini’s gelato and sorbets, including their inimitable pumpkin rum eggnog.

Bar manager Palmer Matthews makes a killer Mai Tai
Adam Centamore

Not feeling particularly hungry? No matter. Let bar manager extraordinaire Palmer Matthews and his team of mixology masters concoct a Tequila Gimlet or Amaretto Sour for you. Better yet, just give them a few adjectives and turn ‘em loose. They won’t disappoint. (I also wholly encourage you to explore your tiki side. These guys do it right.)

1250 Hancock St., 617-481-9694, thetownshend.com

Punjab Cafe

Halfway down the Southern Artery is one of the best Indian cuisine restaurants on the south shore. Open since 2000, Punjab Cafe is warm and inviting with an incredibly friendly staff and consistently great food. You can smell the restaurant a block away. Rich, exotic aromas scent your approach, giving you a hint of what’s to come.

Bring your appetite, because the expansive menu will have you adding dish after dish to your order. (Pro tip - order a bunch of stuff and share.) Try the Mulligatawny soup and the ultra-popular Tikka Masala (chicken in a thick, creamy coriander-cream sauce seasoned with fresh herbs and spices). The lamb Makhani (lamb simmered in tomato sauce with cashews, golden raisins, pine nuts, and cilantro) is complex and satisfying.

Make sure to order naan, an unleavened bread cooked in a tandoori oven. Punjab Cafe offers lots of different options. Will it be the Aloo, stuffed with potato and peas? Perhaps the Paneer, loaded with Indian cheese. My go-to is the Pashawary, laced with dried coconut and nuts. Wish that bread was cooked on a griddle with butter? Make it a Partha!

If things get too hot, cool off your palate with a mango Lassi, glass of wine, or imported Indian beer from the full bar menu. If you’ve saved room for dessert, congratulations. You’re better than I usually am. Go ahead and indulge in some Gulab Jamun (Indian donuts soaked in an intoxicating blend of honey and rosewater syrup) or Kheer (rice pudding studded with almonds, cashews, and raisins.)

653 Southern Artery, 617-472-4860, punjabcafe.com

Pho’ Countryside

Plenty of culinary adventures can be found in President’s Plaza on Quincy Avenue. Kam Man supermarket dominates the space, selling all sorts of exotic ingredients. China Pearl serves up amazing dim sum, and there’s even a Dominos. (It’s been there forever, seeming a bit out of place now.)

Tucked on the side of the plaza is Pho’ Countryside, a gem of Vietnamese cuisine. Simply decorated and appointed, they offer an impressively extensive menu with something for everyone. Glazed pork and huge shrimp adorn a pile of steamed veggies and vermicelli. Bowls of rich, savory broth are loaded with seafood and noodles.

Glazed pork and marinated shrimp with steamed vegetables, bean sprouts, and rice.
Adam Centamore

Craving something a bit more eclectic? Consider the stir-fried frog legs with onions and peppers or the roasted duck leg soup with noodles. Wash it down with a glass of salted lime juice, or iced club soda with egg yolk.

If you have a sweet tooth consider the fried ice cream, mochi, or perhaps any one of their amazing fruit smoothies. (I’m partial to the pineapple or red bean versions.)

217A Quincy Ave., 617-328-8831, phocountrysidema.com

The Lobster Stop

With all the hullabaloo about being the birthplace of presidents people often overlook that Quincy is, in fact, the Flounder Capital of the World. Seriously. Schools of flounder would live in the bay during the winter months. At one point, there were a whole slew of boat rental companies catering to those who wanted a shot at the mild, flaky flesh of these weird-looking bottom feeders. Add in the seaside clam shacks and restaurants to all that flounder hunting, and Quincy has loads to offer seafood aficionados.

There is no shortage of fantastic seafood joints to try. I had to narrow it down and pick one for this list, and so I’m laying my chips on The Lobster Shop. Located at the rotary leading to the Fore River Bridge, these guys serve up fresh seafood and sides that just scream New England summer. Fresh fish is also available for takeout. Parking can be a little tight, but it’s totally worth it.

The menu is pretty straightforward, but don’t mistake that for basic or simple. Two-pound steamer dinners with drawn butter, fish tacos, fried scallops...one great choice after another. Maybe you’re in the mood for a box of clam strips, or lobster mac & cheese? Done and done. Then there’s the double lobster roll. Chunked lobster meat mixed with a touch of mayo, celery, and house seasoning...as they say, “Why stop at one?”

723 Washington St., 617-405-4760, thelobsterstop.com

Italian Café Gelato

Italian Café Gelato is a sweet slice of authentic Italy in Quincy Center. Owners Denise Santini and Daniele Buzza have been serving up homemade gelato and pastries for almost a year now, and everyone is better for it. The interior is sleek and modern, with stone and glass accenting the subway tiled walls. A good amount of seating means there’s a good chance of finding a place to sit if you want.

Italian Cafe Gelato brings authentic Italian sweets to Quincy Center
Adam Centamore

They serve Illy coffee from Italy, and I’m happy to confirm they make a totally legit caffé macchiato, something I cannot say for one of the major coffee chains in town.

Sandwiches and salads are made to order and look fantastic, but the real stars are the sweets on offer. House-made desserts tempt you from a dessert case. If you really want a next-level treat opt for the banana bread gelato, which is basically gelato smeared in between layers of freshly-baked banana bread. Heaven.

Italian Cafe Gelato owner Denise Santini serves up house-made gelato
Adam Centamore

Then there’s the handmade gelato. At any time there are 18 different flavors to fuss over. With options like coconut, Sicilian cannoli, and mango it’s hard to go wrong. I ask Santini what her favorite is. She decides on pistachio. No, wait. It’s cheesecake. Maybe. Probably. “I can’t make up my mind,” she says. “They’re both so delicious.” Better try them all for yourself.

17 Chestnut St., 617-481-9870, italiancafegelato.com