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romantic lunch & dinner in Boston proper?

I'll be visiting my fave city for just a couple of days next week with my boyfriend; we're coming up from nyc (please don't hold it against me...i'm in ny for no other reason than my job!). My first priority is to find a romantic restaurant for dinner in Boston proper (we will absolutely not be traveling outside the area because we just don't have the time) that has incredible food (we're not big on red meat, so no steakhouses, please), great ambiance (dimly lit, no annoying music or cheesy decor, but not too pretentious or too trendy), and is upscale (don't mind spending $200 or so total). This will be our first trip together to Boston, so I want it to be special. My secondary goal is to find a similar type place for lunch, knowing that lunch just isn't quite as romantic a meal as dinner can be and that dimly lit is not a necessity.

I hope I'm not being too picky. I just want this to be special and for my boyfriend to love Boston as much as I do. My only culinary experiences with Boston were as a poor college student, so any suggestions are much appreciated!

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  1. The Roman and I just had the most incredible dinner at No. 9 Park the other night. (my birthday) Two glasses of champagne were presented to us upon arrival and an amuse of chevre with star anise. He had the tempura soft shell crab and terrine. Standard tempura, but the terrine was stellar with aspic and avocado. I had veal sweetbreads brought out in a souplike cup with a beef(?) broth, carrots and asparagus. For a midcourse, the kitchen send out the famous prune gnocci. Although it was a half of a half portion, this was all that was needed. Slices of foie gras accompanied it. The Roman's entree was Rack of Wild Boar with a trio of carrots, white, red and puree. I had Roasted Quail with quail egg and white asparagus. $65 bottle of biodynamic wine, dessert wine and two desserts brought the bill to over $200.00.
    The Roman had asked me where I wanted to go for that special night in Boston. No. 9 fit the bill. It wasn't loud or rushed. The service was impeccable and professional. We were treated like royalty.

    1 Reply
    1. re: birdy30

      No. 9 Park might be a good lunch suggestion with their Prix Fixe. Radius has one in the same price range too, both nicer places. Both possible dinner spots. Mistral isn't really romantic but could be a great dinner. Meritage has an ocean view and great food and wine. Mama Maria in the north end.

      1. L'Espalier. It's as romantic (and delicious) as it gets in Boston.

        Here's their website:


        1. I really love Grotto. Very romantic, dimly lit, romantic artwork, subterranean location makes it feel like a secret. The food is excellent and will be easily under $200.00, but without sacrificing the upscale experience. It's my "go to" restaurants for celebrations. The only downfall is they don't have a full bar. Often people on the board recommend going to No.9 Park or the Federalist for a drink first.

          Sorry to disagree with Birdy (happy birthday!), but I am not a fan of No. 9 park. I found my experience there to be pretentious and underwhelming (though the service was excellent). I ate in the dining room and wasn't impressed with the food at all. I left with the "what's all the fuss about?" feeling. I've heard better things about the bar area, but that doesn't meet your request for romance.

          I guess a lot of it has to do with your boyfriend's personality. If you're really into the traditional "fancy restaurant" (where presentation trumps quality)than No. 9 park might endear him to the city. But if he's a little more non-traditional and really into food, I would go to Grotto.

          Maybe you can do lunch at No. 9 and another place for dinner?
          Most of the Tapas places in town would also be nice and romantic spots. For some reason, I find sharing food to equate well to romance.

          I hope this helps! Let us know what you decide and how your boyfriend likes it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melmybelle

            I feel compelled to be an anti-Grotto voice -- I seem to be in the minority on this board. I really, really hated it when I took my boyfriend there for his birthday. We ordered two appetizers and 3 entrees because my first pasta dish was absolutely terrible. Maybe they were having an off night in the kitchen, or maybe I'm just really picky about my Italian food, but we were underwhelmed to say the least. My beet salad was made from beets out of a can, super-sweet candied walnuts, and a salad dressing that tasted bottled. The pasta was sticky, with uninventive heavy cream sauce, and the crab in my boyfriend's appetizer was an odd consistency, as though it had been frozen. All three main dishes were oversalted. Though he was nice, the waiter decanted the wine we ordered without asking us and destroyed all its fruit. Grotto and Casa Mono in NYC are at the very bottom of my list.
            All of my favorite spots are in Cambridge ... I can't be very vehement about most of the places I've tried in Boston proper. I liked No. 9 Park for a celebratory dinner I had there with friends, but I wasn't over the moon -- food was fancy and pretty good, and the service was seamless.

            1. The tastin menus (6 or 8 courses, I believe) at No. 9 Park are a fantatsic deal, and have been a birthday mainstay for my for the last 3 years (since I started dating my girlfriend. They always lavish us with free goodies. The first time we ordered two glasses of champagne, and since it was a late lunch they ended up pouring us the entire bottle. Then when the check came, not even the glasses were charged! They are very good about substitutions if you want to avoid meat.

              If you make a weekday lunch reservation at 1 pm or later, and order a tasting menu, you'll be the only one's left in the restaurant by the time your mains come out. This situation could be awkward, but at No. 9 Park it just intensifies the feeling that you're VIPs.

              1. I have to toss my hat in for No. 9 Park. It was the most decadent and luxurious meal I've had in a long time. We did it all, with wine and the cheese cart at the end. I'm not a big fan of cheese, but the ex loves stinky cheese.

                Via Matta was nice as well. I'd pass on Mamma Maria. I lived next door to it for awhile and had a great meal there, but it didn't stand the hype. And it was crowded, which was not helping the romance factor.

                I might suggest Lala Rokh in Beacon Hill. I love their food and the place has a very cozy feel. I find it to be romantic and quite tasty. Lunch perhaps?

                1. Here are a few...
                  Petit Robert Bistro in Kenmore Square
                  Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BackBayGirl

                    Teatro is cacophonously loud (painfully so) and bustling; one of the last places I would ever think of for romantic and intimate. Or has the place completely changed since my lone visit 2 years ago (though my reaction was widely shared on this board at the time)?

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Went there pre-theater this Winter. Still very loud - antipasti looks fabulous and the pasta dishes were a hit.

                  2. I agree with No 9 Park, and would also recommend doing the tasting menu for lunch there. For dinner, I'd recommend the patio at Oleana if it's a nice night (if you are willing to cross into Cambridge-- it's worth it).

                    1. No. 9 Park would also be my first choice dinner in Boston for the reasons described by Birdy30 (she's right on with her descriptions) with Clio a close second - although I haven't been to Clio in about two years and things may have changed - I'd be surprised, though. IMO, I'd cross the river to Cambridge and go to Craigie Street Bistro (the website adequately describes the restaurant)


                      and the experience is fantastic - particularly for a special dinner. They also have all sorts of tastings and prix fixe events - see "special deals and events" on the website. We did the chef's tasting menu last visit and asked the chef to suggest wine for dinner as well - which he did wonderfully and rather inexpensively. The meal is a bit expensive, but as the website suggests, they try to keep their wines affordable.

                      1. here are my choices for romantic dining destinations:

                        33 Restaurant and Lounge in the Back Bay: dinner only

                        Sandrine's Bistro in Cambridge: lunch and dinner

                        another suggestion:
                        Lala Rokh in Beacon Hill


                        1. I have had awful food at Sandrine's. I strongly warn against dining there.

                          1. I'll echo the No. 9 Park rec, and toss in Mistral and Clio, as well. For lunch, consider B&G Oysters.

                            1. Thanks so much for everyone's suggestions! Now I really, really wish I had more than just two days in Boston! I looked up the menus for every restaurant mentioned here...you all have great taste! I'm bookmarking this page for future trips. Right now, I'm leaning toward No. 9 for dinner. I'm also considering Radius, L'Espalier, and Troquet. The location of Troquet with a view of the Common looks so lovely. We're going to decide on our train ride up. My boyfriend just mentioned wanting seafood, as we always seem to be doing Italian here, so thank goodness most of the places mentioned have at least a few seafood selections.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: snoangel

                                You had better decide now. Most of these restaurants are not easy to get into. Many, however, can be booked on www.opentable.com.

                                1. re: Blumie

                                  I don't think you have to worry about being shut out; it is July and most restaurants are half full.

                                  1. re: Wineack

                                    Well, if you were trying today (Monday) to book a table for 2 for next Saturday night, you would find that No. 9 Park only has tables at 5:30 and 9:30; L'Espalier only has tables at 6:30 and 9:00; and Radius only has tables at 6:00 and 8:00. Only Troquet is wide open. And of course the options will get fewer the closer we get to Saturday night. So although all restaurants are slower during July, they're hardly "half full." These restaurants in particular are not the type that you can just walk into and expect to get a table any time of year.

                              2. But it would be easier to get a last-minute table on a weekday night, right? I'll be having dinner on Wednesday night. I am glad you mentioned reservations...I totally forgot about that part!