Going to Boston for first time this weekend
Dali, tapas in Somerville. Arguably best spanish in country and likely best atmosphere in Boston.
Trattoria Toscana, best pasta in town. Fenway.
Pinocchio's. best Sicilian (or just best) pizza in town. Harvard square.
Problem with ECG is the regular menu entrees are not great. So, you're stuck with bbq (no veg) or at the whim of the Specials (too much money) board. I've gone from Chris Schlesinger worshipper to totally not interested in the place.
And I could not possible DISAGREE MORE about the Dali recommendation. The restaurant *may* have had it's day and it was probably 15 years ago. A good 85% of the dishes there are a miss (somehow they cannot get food to the table while still HOT), and even when the other 15% really shine (I recall a perfect cucumber soup there years ago, a lovely hearts of palm salad) it just doesn't make up for it. The place is a ripoff IMHO. You go there for kitsch, not to 'hound.
re: MB fka MB
I've never had any problem with getting hot tapas at Dali in the years I've been going there. Perhaps once or twice, but when mentioned, it was whisked away and I got a new (very hot!) tapa.
Now, I've never been to Spain, so I can't compare it to a "real" tapas bar, but I thought their tapas nuevas each month are often inventive. And they've at least started up a new "late night" menu from 11pm to 12:30am.
Either way - Dali always seems to be a love/hate relationship. I'm in the Love Column.
I have spent a fair amount of time in Spain, and for my money the most authentic food in town is at Taberna de Haro. The only downside is the tight crowding (indoors, at least) and tiny tables.
They serve three sizes of plates: tapas, "raciones" (middle size, like a tapas for two or three) and full plates. Try the fava beans cooked with ham and garlic - simple perfection!
re: MB fka MB
I consider East Coast Grill to be a quintessential "must eat" restaurant in Boston (ok it's actually in Cambridge). There is another currently active thread in which its merits are being debated, but I think you'll see that the yeas significantly outweigh the nays. If you go all out, you will not be able to stay within your dinner budget, but you can easily stay within your budget and still have a great meal there. For example, one of my current favorite ECG meals is to order the tuna and sausage dumplings as an appetizer and the burnt ends sandwich (Inner Beauty hot sauce on the side) as an entree. This easily fits into your budget.
My North End recommendations (for $20 or less a person):
North Street Grille
Il Panino (and Il Panino Express)
Galleria Umberto (lunch only)
If you want to up your budget a bit, my favs are:
La Galleria 33