Not quite so divey is one of the Boston area's least expected treasures: Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, in Arlington. Given how hard it is to get first-rate barbecue in the northern states, this is hardly the place you would look for it. But, surprisingly, New England has a major barbecue tradition, albeit one that doesn't show itself often in commercial establishments. The New England Barbecue Society routinely sends barbecue teams to the Jack Daniels World Championship, which is the Super Bowl of barbecue, and in 2006, Dirty Dick and the Legless Wonders, a team from the nearby town of Norwell, won the award for the best barbecued chicken in the world. So Blue Ribbon is not serving to an uneducated public. The spareribs are meaty and yielding but still have enough firmness to allow for something being left on the bone after you take a bite. The Kansas City burnt ends, a rare treat on the East Coast, consist of rich, succulent pieces of beef brisket that have been cut away and cooked an ­extra-long time in a bath of fragrant smoke. They're dark, soft, and intense, and they don't need any sauce at all (which is how you should order them). Blue Ribbon's other meats - chicken, pulled pork, and ­sausage - are also ideally barbecued: smoky but not stinky, and cooked through but not dried out. And they taste like meat rather than like spices and dry rubs.

In a way, Blue Ribbon could be said to represent Boston's best restaurants as a whole: If you didn't know about it, you wouldn't suspect that it actually exists. But once you find it, it will make you happy every time you roll back into Boston, secure in the knowledge of your secret pleasures.

If You Go

Blue Ginger 
583 Washington Street
(781) 283-5790

Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q
908 Massachusetts Avenue
(781) 648-7427

The Floating Rock 
144 Shirley Avenue
(781) 286-2554

Forest Café 
1682 Massachusetts Avenue
(617) 661-7810

Japonaise Bakery and Café 
1815 Massachusetts Avenue
(617) 547-5531

Lucky House Seafood Restaurant 
10 Tyler Street
(617) 338-9038

Neptune Oyster 
63 Salem Street
(617) 742-3474

No-Name Restaurant 
15½ Boston Fish Pier
(617) 338-7539

Santarpio’s Pizza 
111 Chelsea Street
(617) 567-9871

Sapporo Ramen 
1815 Massachusetts Avenue
(617) 876-4805