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Jul 4, 2006 08:56 PM

5 Days in Boston

My wife and I will be spending 5 days in Boston for a combination work/vacation trip. Any suggestions on 2 to 3 restaurants in each of the following categories would be greatly appreciated:

- high end dining - price up to $200 per head including beverages
- restaurants at anywhere from 50 to $100 per head
- cheap eats - what shouldn't be missed such as lobster rolls, burger joints, etc.

We will be staying at the Fairmont Copley Plaza and won't have a vehicle.

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  1. For high end dining, my favorite would be Clio at the Eliot Hotel. I think it is the most inventive restaurant in Boston. Also in the same spot is Uni, where I would recommend the omakase tasting.

    If you have any interest in Chinatown, I'd head to King Fung Garden for peking duck (which you have to order 24 hours in advance). I was just there this weekend and it was delicious as always. Also very good are their homemade chow mein noodles. Service is always very friendly, the food really yummy and very inexpensive. They don't serve alcohol but you can BYOB.

    I love the burgers at Audubon Circle. The rest of the menu is very good as well and also pretty inexpensive.

    For seafood, I'd hit B&G Oysters in the South End. There is always a big variety of oysters and they also have a very good lobster roll or lobster BLT. There is a nice patio out back for when the weather is nice.

    Enjoy your trip!

    1. If you're up for lobster rolls, there are three good options for casual dining in Cambridge that are very different, all easily accessible by the MBTA Red Line (subway).

      Jasper White's SUMMER SHACK is located right outside the Alewife Station on the Red Line. Jasper is a local celebrity seafood chef and does an excellent job on the classic overstuffed lobster roll, $15.50 w/fries. The rest of the menu is also excellent, including raw bar. It's a large restaurant that attempts to replicate classic New England clam shack ambiance ... I find it a bit noisy, some like it. But the seafood is real fine, better than more famous Legal Sea Foods.

      Alternatively, Charlie's Kitchen is a classic Harvard Square student hangout where you'll find an eclectic patronage, from construction workers to international celebrities. It is a saloon, but they are reknowned for their twin lobster rolls served with fries, a bargain at $6.50 (single available for more delicate appetites) and a fine selection of beers and wines. Less refined, but very good indeed. There are a few sidewalk tables when the weather is good. Harvard Square is good for an after-dinner stroll, especially on weekend evenings. Just a few steps from the Harvard stop on the MBTA Red Line Square, near the Charles Hotel at the corner of JFK and Eliot St.

      Finally, the classic Legal Seafoods has a branch at Harvard Square in the Charles Hotel complex. Legal is widely known for their impeccably fresh seafoods, the menu features a wide variety of options including the lobster roll plate for $17. They have a number of outside tables in the Charles' courtyard, probably the only reason you'd go there and not to the Legal branch in the Back Bay. I have a curmudgeonly attitude about Legal, feels like mass-production chain restaurant atmosphere to me, but it's loved by zillions.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Avid Rita

        Sorry to jump in here, but I think Summer Shack is positively awful. B&G Oysters is wonderful and close to the OP's hotel, so no reason to send him across the river for overpriced bad food (or to the other Summer Shack location that actually is walking distance to his hotel).

        1. re: Blumie

          Sorry, the Summer Shack is not awful.

          It may not be chow-worthy due to the high prices and inconsistency across the menu... but I have had some good food there. Just go in with measured expectations and go with the basics.

          1. re: nomadfromcincy

            They seem not to screw up lobsters, but in general -- and based on a sizable sampling -- I think the place is awful. As with all things chowish, YMMV.

            1. re: Blumie

              What dishes do you find to be awful? Let's be specific to help folks as much as possible.

              Personally, I find that they do lobster pretty well all-around. The fried seafood is fine -- not North Shore quality, but good enough. I would stick with fish blackened or grilled.

            2. re: nomadfromcincy

              There doesn't seem to be a way to reply to your most recent post, so I'm replying to this one again.

              You seem to be getting fairly defensive over something that's very subjective. You seem to like this place; that's great. You're not the only one. I don't like the place, and I suspect I'm not the only one either. I've eaten there at least 10 times, and although I cannot recall specifically what I had, I do not care for the place. (In fairness, I do recall having a decent meal at their Mohegan Sun location, but again cannot recall what I had.)

              1. re: Blumie

                I don't think nomad was being defensive - just asking what you found so awful. Your earlier post said that the Summer Shack was "positively awful" but you gave no specifics, which wasn't as helpful to others, other than to tell them that one person said it was awful.

                Was it the noise? Was it the food? (You did say it was "overpriced bad food" - what was so bad?) Was it the cheesy decor? Was it all of the above?

                I think nomad was just looking for a bit of clarification for anyone else reading this thread down the road.

                I've been to the Alewife Shack several times; mostly when they first opened; definitely not within the last year or so, so things may have changed. But Jasper's pan-roasted lobster was always good; they had an excellent raw bar. Service was spotty at times if you sat at tables; but sitting at the bar was always good.

                1. re: Blumie

                  I agree about Summer Shack not being worthwhile. The fried food is decent, and the pan roasted lobster is alright (though pointlessly messy) as well, but beyond that it's all downhill from there. The place strikes me as being pretentiously unpretentious, like they believe the food holds up so well that they can be sloppy about everything and it'll only add to the charm. The portions on all their fish entrees are rather small, and overall everything is kind of meh. They usually don't cook the fish quite right, everything's sort of lukewarm, and the presentation is not good either. If everything cost about $5 less it would be sort of ok, but you can get much better service and food for the same price at other places.

                  There's absolutely nothing wrong with their raw bar, however, so if you're looking for oyster or whatever, go for it.

                  1. re: Blumie

                    i've eaten at summer shack 4 times, every time i found the service kind of crappy, and the food boring, cold and waaay expensive.

                    1. re: Blumie

                      I am just looking for details. If it is that awful, it should be an easy question.

                      I don't even like the Summer Shack that much... I just think this board's value is tied to details, not absolutes.

                    2. re: nomadfromcincy

                      Dear Weener,

                      I won't make a big list of places I like since so many others have replied, and a lot of their responses are fine. I must, however, try to be perfectly clear that the Summer Shack is a DISASTER. That someone would recommend it is shocking, especially in a forum like this. Please disregard these "recommendations" - this restaurant will absolutely disappoint you if you have even the smallest bit of self-respect. From the sloppy attitude to the outrageous prices to the boring food, no facet of the place fails to insult.


                      1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                        That's a little overly dramatic.."shocking".."the smallest bit of self respect"..."no facet fails to insult?"

                        Did Jasper White punch you out or steal your girlfriend?

                        It's not the best restaurant in Boston but it's certainly not the disaster that you make it out to be.

                        1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                          Eddie, welcome to the board. Since I haven't seen any of your recommendations... I would love to hear more about your preferences.

                          1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                            Howdy all, it's started to get a little heated and personal. Please, let's keep things polite and friendly; we'd like to keep these boards a place where folks can express their chow opinions freely, even if they disagree. Thanks!

                            1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                              I have to say - for someone to reply to someone like Nomad who is a well-respected Hound (and also insulting everyone else who likes Summer Shack) - you lose credibility. I don't love Summer Shack - but I would NEVER put a blanket statement. I have had some great meals at Summer Shack. The pan-roasted lobster, the "lobster corn dogs", fried clams, the raw bar, the Brazilian collards. And Jasper White's "Lobster at Home" is one of the best cookbooks I have ever bought.

                              1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                                Ok, I'll take a step back from my previous post's harshness. While it is true that I have eaten there a half a dozen times with consistently poor results, I will concede that my comments were a bit over the top. I think there are tons of great places in town, and hated to see that a visitor might go to what I consider a bad choice on the recommendation of this board. Posters here are phenomenally knowledgable about Boston food - much more so than I - and are always great at heaping praise on those who deserve it. Although I have posted plenty of positive opinions on the site's old format, leading off here with a scathing indictment was unwise.

                                That being said, clear and strong opinions are what make this site valuable as well as entertaining, and previous descriptions of the Shack in this thread included "crappy", "boring", and "pretentious". Hardly warm and fuzzy.

                                Nomad asked some of my favorites; it includes a lot of the usual suspects - B&G, El Pelon, Eastern Standard, Toro (!!), Gardner Cafe, Little Stevie's Pizza, Catch (Winchester), Radius, Upper Crust, Regina, Carlo's (Allston), Pigalle, Lumiere, Butcher Shop,.......

                                I'll leave the Wall of Shame post for another time.

                                Finally, to Rubee:
                                I'm not sure how giving my opinion here voids my credibility. I'm happy that you've had some good experiences at the SS - clearly I have not, and my voicing of that in no way "insults" those who like it. I agree with you that Jasper's books are good. His "Cooking from New England" is one of the greatest sources of regional cooking history, and full of fantastic, delicious recipes. My copy has a broken spine, stained pages, handwritten notes, and hours of fascinating entertainment to boast of. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with what I posted.

                                1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                                  I used to go to the Alewife location when it first opened and I thought it was decent. I used to have the clambakes and they had a "Smashing Crabs" night which was fun and it's boiled crabs so hard to screw up.

                                  That being said, I haven't been to Summer Shack in several years - and it certainly isn't the best seafood in town. I would 2nd the B & G recommendations but it certainly wouldn't fall under "cheap eats" either. I'm planning on a trip to Neptune Oyster for the lobster roll - is "Connecticut Style" the correct term for just butter & a toasted roll?

                                  I do think people should be able to recommend whatever they think is good to them. One man's meat . . .

                          2. For burgers, try R.F. O'Sullivan's or Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage. Can't help you w/ lobster as I'm allergic. For a nice meal, maybe try Mistral. I've never been to Clio, but I've consistently heard good things. Another option is Excelsior (the bar area is great for food and drink & they have dining upstairs which is good). For steak, I'd do Abe & Louie's or Grill 23.

                            1. The original comment has been removed
                              1. There are better places to go than the Summer Shack, though it's not all that bad.

                                I agree about O'Sullivan's and Mr. Bartely's for burgers. Try either (or both!) and you won't be disappointed. O'Sullivan's is a bit tougher to get to if you don't have a car, but it's perhaps a 15-minute walk from the Porter Square T stop.

                                Another good place for great cheap eats is Pizzeria Regina in the North End of Boston. The pizza there is some of the best in New England, and the price is definitely right. It can get packed, though, so if you hit it, either go early or late during dinnertime.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                  And with O'Sullivans, you're *this* close to Petsi Pies, if you hit it on the right day and time.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I've heard so many great things about Petsi's so I've got to try them out for myself!! :-)

                                    1. re: BackBayGirl

                                      I lived right near Petsie Pies one summer. Amazing. Try the caramelized onion, gorgonzola, and ham biscuits. I've really never had anything bad there, and it's such a warm, inviting place. However, as Linda implies, the hours are irregular.