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best of Boston (high & low) for a week-long trip

Hello Boston hounds.

I'm going to be in the area for a week this month for work/vacation. I'm interested in chow, both high and low, and especially things that are uniquely Boston/can't get elsewhere, but I'm up for anything good. I like out of the way gems. I will be with my SO and we can splurge on a coupla meals but mid-range and cheap options are important. I eat anything (she doesn't but she's usually game).

For three days I will be attending a conference in Kendall Square, so lunch options in that area are much appreciated. Apart from that I'd like to stay within range of the T, although I'll probably be able to access a car and I'm more than willing to travel a bit if it's worth it. Location-wise, we'll be based in Kendall Square and then the Back Bay for a weekend.

So that I'm not coming to you hat in hand without having put forth any effort of my own, I perused the board for a bit and jotted down some places that sounded intriguing. They are in no particular order. Please feel free to expand, rave, or diss this list of choices. Thanks!

-B&G
-Neptune
-Sage
-Daily Catch
-Pizzeria Regina
-Lucca
-Prezza
-Clio
-Uni
-Santarpio's
-Butcher Shop
-L'Espalier
-Charlie's Sandwich shop
-Skipjack's
-Jasper White's Summer Shack
-Meritage
-Cha Fahn
-Troquet
-L.A. Burdick's

Kendall Square area:
-Blue Room
-Royal India
-Emma's Pizza
-Atasca
-Bytes

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  1. A great list, indeed! There aren't too many duds on this list, though I'm not a big fan of the Summer Shack.

    One other place to consider is Helmand, which is an Afghan restaurant within walking distance of Kendall Square (across from the Cambridgeside Galleria near the Charles River). Both the food and atmosphere are top notch, and the prices are pretty decent. Helmand is on a lot of "best of" lists for food, and has been featured in national newspapers and magazines in the past.

    1. It's a fine looking list you've put together.

      -Butcher Shop I think the Butcher Shop is highly overrated, but the room can be nice. A quick snack and glass of wine sure, but eat at B&G Oyster across the street.

      -Neptune I love this place, but would be mindful of ordering things with too many ingredients, some dishes have been way overcomplicated for my tastes (especially the crudo).

      -Pizzeria Regina Eat!

      -L'Espalier It's been a couple of years since my last visit, but it's still quite memorable. Very different than others on your list.

      -Jasper White's Summer Shack: I haven't been to Summer Shack in over a year, maybe two, though used to think it was fine for the basics, albeit a bit pricey. More recent reports sound like er, not so much.

      -L.A. Burdick's - I think this one's overrated, too, but if you're a super chocolate fan you might enjoy it very much.

      Kendall Square area:
      -Blue Room - they are doing a BBQ lunch now, but I haven't tried it. Every time I have dinner there I think wow, I should come here more often than I do. They mix a fine margarita, too.

      -Royal India- I've only had the inexpensive lunch buffet which I suspect does not showcase their true talents. FWIW, an Indian friend orders a lot of catering from them for parties at home.

      --> Next door to Royal India, the Middlesex and further down, the Miracle of Science, are solid for lunch (not destinations, but if you're looking to save $$ so you can spend on a splurge dinner, these are good options). Middlesex does great pressed sandwiches and a couple of nice salads, Miracle has a fantastic grilled chicken salad, their skewers with black bean salad are nice. People love their burgers but I think they're overrated, IMHO.

      -Emma's Pizza- gets crowded at lunch, just sayin.
      Atasca - Love ordering a bunch of small plates so you can try everything.
      -Bytes --> never been

      Recently I had to have a work lunch at the Legal Sea Food at Kendall and it was horrible. A fine destination for snacking at the bar on oysters or chowder and that's about it. I used to think they were okay for plain grilled/fried dishes, but no more, at least not this location.

      From Kendall it's not a far walk to Cambridge Street if other Portuguese dining - or Brazilian - were of interest. A lovely inexpensive dinner with your SO could be had at O Cantinho.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MB fka MB

        Portuguese and Brazilian are definitely of interest. Any recs?

        I don't have a good sense of what ethnic foods tend to be well-represented in Boston. In DC metro the strengths are Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and Korean (the first in DC proper, other two in the burbs). Are Portuguese and Brazilian things I should be looking at in Boston? Tell me more!

        Other places that look interesting based on a once-over this morning: Hei La Moon, Rincon Limeno.
        -

        1. re: alopez

          Yes. Boston (and particularly East Cambridge and East Somerville) has huge Brazilian and Portuguese communities, often in the same neighborhoods. I was really hoping for a Brazil-Portugal matchup in the world cup to see what would happen in Inman Square :). There is an active thread looking at the lusophone (love that word!) options in East Cambridge (on Cambridge Street).

          Other important ethnic communities in Boston are Cape Verdean and Haitian. I see far fewer recommendations for those cuisines around here but would love to see more!

          1. re: alopez

            You can still view this recent thread on the main page, but in case it moves down, here's some talk of Cambridge Street and the Brazilian/Portuguese options:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: alopez

              If you want some good latin/south american athentic cuisine all along broadway in somerville down aways towards he mall area nad 93 are great little stores. Just pop in them and check out the food and grab some to go or eat in the limited seating. Definately not hte prettiest places to eat but definatley will taste good.

            2. re: MB fka MB

              Royal India: You want the *weekend* lunch buffet. Worthwhile.

            3. IMHO, drop Skipjacks, you already have NO,DC and B&G. Old Union Oyster House's original stone-aproned oyster bar for a real Boston experience-only go here if you can get a seat at the bar & order only from the raw bar & maybe a cup of clam chowder. For Cambridge near Kendall,Oleana for a Turkish twist http://www.oleanarestaurant.com/, O'Cantinho for casual Portuguese(see recent Port-Resto thread); in Central Sq., Camb, Rendezvous http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com/, Baraka Cafe for Algerian/Tunsian food(no alcohol, but signature rose petal lemonade)http://www.barakacafe.com/).

              1 Reply
              1. re: Taralli

                Thanks!

                The list above isn't The List of Places That I Will Eat At. I will probably try to make reservations at a couple of places (e.g. Clio) and leave the rest to chance. Everything gets written down in a pocket Moleskine that travels with us as we're touring the city by foot. I organize the list roughly by neighborhood. That way, whenever we get hungry, we figure out where we are and then we can decide where to eat on the fly. Yes, I am a geek (However, this method has served me *extremely* well on recent trips).

                Anyway, the more, the better. Keep em coming!

              2. If you are going to be in the city for most of the week and would like to get out of it for a change of scenery I would reccomend the Catch Restaurant in Winchester, MA as a great choice. Winchester is approximately 8 miles out of the city and easy to get to off Rte 93 North. Catch, as the name implies, is mainly a seafood restaurant although they always have a few non-seafood entrees too. Catch always gets very good reviews and having eaten there many times I can confirm them. It is a small place with casual atmosphere so make a reservation if you plan to go on a weekend night.

                1. Already listed:

                  -B&G - I'm not crazy about their lobster roll, but the bar is excellent and they have a nice selection of oysters & bubbly.
                  -Butcher Shop - Eh - I could take it or leave it - mostly leave it.
                  -Neptune - Wonderful lobster roll. MB has it right with the overcomplicated dishes though, stay away.
                  -Sage - Their appetizers shine, their entrees flop. Overpriced, but it has its fans.
                  -Daily Catch - The North End location only - squid ink pasta is a signature dish.
                  -Pizzeria Regina - Ask for the pie well done. Don't load on the topping.
                  -Clio - Or maybe Uni, the sushi bar within Clio?
                  -Uni - Oh, you already covered that:)
                  -Santarpio's - Sausage and peppers, ask for the crust well done - floppy crust makes me sad.
                  -Skipjack's - Skip - you'll already have had better seafood elsewhere
                  -Cha Fahn - excellent cheap(er) sake cocktails
                  -Troquet - Yes, oh god, yes.
                  -L.A. Burdick's - I don't really like chocolate, but it's a very cute shop. The hot chocolate might not work this time of year.

                  Other possibly not commonly found cuisines in DC:

                  Rincon Limeno - If you like Peruvian, you'll like this place. Ceviche is particularly piquant.

                  O Cantinho - Closer to Kendall, does great things with seafood in the Portuguese persuasian. There are several already linked to Brazillian and Portugese restos in this area of Cambridge/Somerville.

                  Highland Creole - Haitian in Somerville

                  Dorchester for Cape Verdean:
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...