Grub Guide: Great Places We Ate at This Year That Never Get Any Press Because They Probably Don't Have P.R. People

Bivalves at Jeveli's in East Boston.

We eat out a lot. We have wonderful meals, and foul meals, and overdone meals, and sublime meals. And many of our favorite meals this year came from places that just don't get a ton of ink, not for lack of deliciousness but just because they're shoestring operations trying to churn out awesome food on a budget. We're not knocking the big places: We've had some splendid meals there, too (still dreaming of bone marrow at Craigie on Main). But, in this flurry of top ten lists and must-eats and best plates of 2012 round-up-o-ramas, well, we want to give a shout-out to the littler guys.

Taqueria el Amigo: Just damn. These are the best tacos we've ever had on the East Coast. Go to Waltham right now and order about fourteen of the tacos al pastor. 196 Willow St., Waltham

Golden Garden: Skip the Chinese-Americanized crap and go straight to the chef's Sichuan specialties, where you will unearth dishes like cumin lamb and double-cooked bacon. Shredded potato with spicy sauce, a house specialty, will make your ears ring. Get ready to rethink everything you thought you knew about spuds. 63 Concord Ave., Belmont

Darul Kabab: Yes, it's housed in a former fast-food restaurant. No, there is no atmosphere here. Just point and order at the massive Pakistani-Indian-Bangladeshi buffet, steaming vats of stewed goat and chicken and lamb. On weekends, indulge with paya, hot 'n spicy goat trotters. The owners are very friendly and love to talk about their food, too, which doesn't hurt when you're staring down your tenth mystery curry and need some guidance. 2072 Mass. Ave., Cambridge

Cantina La Mexicana: This popped up in our "Lip-Smackin' Somerville" slideshow last week (we read your Tweets, and yes we left out some places, but we only included 10!). Anyway, we have to mention CLM yet again because it was in Union Square before it was cool. We've been ordering the $10 tacos-enchiladas-tamales platter (with red and green sauce, if you please) when the only other thing you could get in that plaza was leather pants and a parking ticket. 247 Washington St., Somerville

Mei Sum: Get your bougie bánh mì someplace else. This is cheap, delicious, and prepared by a marathon woman who's been making 'em since before you were born. Ask for extra spicy. 36 Beach St., Chinatown

Brothers Crawfish: For when you're really hurting and just need some down-and-dirty Spam and eggs on rice. 272 Adams St., Dorchester

L'Osteria: Our chosen sanctuary for a heaping plate of linguini fra diavlo. They are not reinventing pasta or doing anything unusual or trying too hard. It's just simple Southern Italian food, done right, served by nice people for a reasonable price. 104 Salem St., Boston

Jeveli's: Same principle as above, same honest Italian food, and this one also has fantastic stuffed squid. When Guy Fieri was in East Boston he visited Rino's Place, inflicting outrageous waits. Ergo, for a table, go here. 387 Chelsea St., East Boston

Tres Gatos: Really great tapas served among piles of books and records. This restaurant actually does have a publicist, but we still need to shout it out because it deserves even more attention, because it's a kind of classic third-date place where you discover that you actually like the person who's sharing your delicious boquerones. Swoon. 470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain

Habesha: OK, a small exemption: We have yet to visit this Ethiopian restaurant in Malden, but we're told by friends who make a habit out of scouring the best Ethiopian places that this is, hands down, the best there is basically anywhere outside of Africa. Our first must-try for 2013. 535A Main St., Malden