Back Bay--is it hopeless?
I moved to teh Back Bay from brookline this year with my girlfriend. She had lived in Somerville and the Fenway previously. We were both excited about the new neighborhood, the architecture, the walkability, and also the restaurants. We, at the time, considered the Back Bay and downtown to be a dining mecca based merely on the NUMBER of options, the nice outdoor patios, the hip scenes, etc.
After living there for a year now, we've come to realize how the whole back bay dining scene is completely surface deep. Walking down Newbury St., it LOOKS like a carnival of great options, but once you start eating (and paying!) you realize just how limited and mediocre it is.
We actually find ourselves constant pining for old Brookline/ Somerville/Fenway favorites: Chef Chang's (better than Wisteria House), India Quality (better than Kashmir), Khao Sarn (better than Chili Duck, Jae's, Thai Basil, Bangkok Blue, etc.), Out of the Blue and East Coast Grill (better than Legal), Boca Grande (better than Boloco), Dali (better than Tapeo)etc.
This topic has been discussed a lot on the board, and most are in agreement with you. Your best bet is simply venturing out of your neighborhood a bit, by walking or taking the T, to some of the other more chow-worthy neighborhoods, the North End, the South End, and Chinatown.
I think you are right, Back Bay is a virtual wasteland when it comes to good spots ---though I do enjoy a slice from Newbury Pizza and I personally think Tapeo is better than Dali (though I think they have the same owners.) Anyway...
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I guess you've come to realize what many of us Chowhounds already knew...the Back Bay is NOT the place to go for chow.
In my opinion, it's in fact one of the worst neighborhoods in Boston to try and find good food at a reasonable price. Most of the restaurants in that area are going for flash and style, and not substance. It's a touristy, see-and-be-seen area that specializes in overpriced and underwhelming food.
Having said that, here are my (few) favorites there:
Cafe Jaffa and Casa Romero-both on Gloucester St. Jaffa is a decent Israeli place which has excellent Falafel and Shwarma. Casa Romero is decent Mexican in a very lovely atmosphere.
I also like Laurel, on Berkeley St., Douzo (not my favorite Japanese in Boston, but if you are stuck in the Back Bay, the best of the lot there), the Other Side Cafe, in the block of Newbury St. which is across Mass Ave from the Virgin Megastore.
Steve's Greek on Newbury St. makes decent shish-kebabs and if you stick with simple food, it's not bad.
I have a subscription to Lyric Stage, and believe me, trying to eat before or after the show is usually an issue. Most of the time, we just drive to Brookline or into Chinatown (or we go to Bertuccis or Maggiano's) instead of eating in Back Bay.
As a long-time Back Bay resident, I am afraid that you are right. The cost of space is such that style triumphs over substance or prices soar to cover the rent.
I find that I rarely dine here. Exceptions are for dinners before concerts at Symphony/Jordan halls where the nearby options are even worse.
Oh, and welcome to the 'hood.