Certain characteristics define a true hole in the wall spot. The first is that you would eat there every day of the week if you could, and second, it brings you something you can’t find anywhere else. Enter, Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Café. While those who frequent the Downtown Crossing area of Boston may know Gene’s, to an outsider the name does not do it justice.
‘Chinese flatbread’ may be highlighted in the restaurant title, but Gene’s is primarily known to local diners for their hand-pulled noodles. The history behind the cuisine is unique to the Xi’an region of China. With a choice of hot or cold noodle bowls, Gene’s is a great lunch spot no matter what time of year it is.
Upon entering the restaurant, there is a small window bar area from patrons to dine and small tables. If you are going at any peak lunch or dinner hours, the place is likely filled to capacity with smiling customers and those eagerly waiting in line.
You might here a loud ‘Thump! Thump! Thump!’ coming from behind the counter. On closer examination you will find the source of the infamous hand-pulled noodles. A chef, perhaps Gene, is usually pulling the noodle dough and whacking it against the counter in a technique that may look strange, but that you will deem genius after you have eaten.
Much like its venue, Gene’s menu is simple and to the point. With only nine listed items and the occasional specials, Gene’s opts for quality over quantity in their dishes. As autumn slowly approaches head in and try the ‘Hot and Sour’ noodle bowl, a current special item on the menu.
A slightly spicy broth with hints of garlic and spices is filled with vegetables, beef and a generous amount of handmade noodle. The thickness and length of the noodle alone may make it difficult to eat with chopsticks, but once you get the hang of it you will soon be eating like you’ve been doing it your whole life. The Hot and Sour noodle bowl, like all of the other noodle bowls, is topped with fresh cilantro, which adds the perfect balance of flavor to the warm dish. Oh, and if you are looking for a little extra kick, feel free to add Sriracha or some chili paste to spice things up a bit.
If you are still feeling hungry Gene’s advertises two sides, a ‘Tea Egg’ or ‘Lamb Skewer’ for only $1.50. The lamb comes highly recommended (you will probably see one on nearly every tray in the place), as it is seasoned to perfection. True to style of most beloved hole in the wall restaurants, a hearty meal won’t cost you over ten dollars. The only thing to keep in mind is that Gene’s only takes cash, so come prepared.
Gene’s is the perfect spot for lunch with a coworker or dinner with an old friend. The service is quick, the venue is intimate and the food will likely turn you into a regular customer after one visit. You might come for the flatbreads, but you will stay for the noodles. Don’t let its modest aesthetics fool you, Gene’s is a gem in the heart of Boston that is cooking up something truly special.