Dinner before the Symphony
My daughter and her boyfriend, both students on budgets, are getting dressed up and going to the Symphony on the 20th. She just told me she wants to find a more or less elegant restaurant they can eat at beforehand, for $60 total, no alcohol. Any ideas?
I'll make "different" kinds of suggestions here, stressing ambience over food:
Top of the Hub at the top of the Prudential Building. No, the food is not particularly inspired (doesn't deserve to be mentioned on chowhound.com) and it is overpriced at that. But it looks elegant and is completely and entirely edible, and with no alchohol staying under $60 is not impossible (split an appetizer?).
What it does offer is an incredible view of the city, and a very exciting wow-we-are-out-on-the-town feel. Call ahead and tell'em it's a "special" night and you'd like to have a window seat. no, I have no idea if this works, but it certainly won't work if you don't call. at least find out how long a wait for one, it's the whole point of being up there.
and mom, you could throw her a double sawbuck? ok, don't reply to that, absolutely none of our business, just mentioning it in case it hadn't occurred to you.
another choice, it's a short stroll from Symphony to Ambrosia (116 Huntington Ave 617-247-2400). It's borderline pricewise but you can certainly get an entree for $25. They have *some* great food there (sashimi and other appetizery stuff from the bar menu) but it is mostly eh considering the prices they charge. Think "generic but high-end hotel-chain" expense account food; it would be the best thing you can get in Cincinatti. It's very glitzy, though, lots of well dressed people and a really clean mod decor. It's not "my type" of place, but I think when I was a 20 y.o. I would have thought it was very "cool", right out of the pages of GQ.
slightly farther away but completely walkable is Salamander (1 Huntington 617-451-2150). Prices here are tougher, but again, if they want the place to feel special more than they want to order a lot, you can get an entree for under $30. Also, there's supposed to be a fun "satay bar" there but I've not tried it and don't know what it costs. I wrote a little blurb somewhere else here that I'll paste in: It is by no means my "favorite" place, but it does provide a memorable experience from the remarkable feel of the space/decor to the inventive Asian influenced (fusion from a Western perspective) menu. They can handle large parties effortlessly and it really has that "exciting big city" feel that is appropriate for the kind of occasion you describe. What I don't like about it is that I don't go for "sweet" things in an entree, and their chef (he's famous) has a penchant for throwing tamarind or passion fruit into things. But that's just my personal taste. It's top flight otherwise.
As Symphony regulars, we can attest that the budget criteria makes it difficult to fulfill the "more or less elegant" criteria, regrettably. The immediate neighborhood offers a plethora of low-budget storefront places catering primarily to the local student crowd. Some of them are quite good ethnic places that have been covered previously on this message board. On the higher end are swank boites like Clio where even the appetizers would get you over $60!
Some that might fill the bill are Boodles in the Hilton Hotel; Brasserie Jo in the Huntington; Sonsie on Newbury Street (a bit of a hike, but not that far); Capital Grille, next to Sonsie. None of them qualify as fine dining or exiciting cuisine, but they should have a good time.
Hope it helps.
This may be after the fact now, but I think the Brasserie Joe suggestion is a good one. That French brasserie makes for a kinda special nite out feeling. Also, has anyone eaten at Stars on Huntington? It's a few blocks toward the MFA and is supposed to be okay but I haven't been. With all those TVs tho, it probably doesn't feel particularly fancy.