Is there an easy way to do the North End?
Wow, is all I can say about the chaos in the NE last night (every saturday night?). Reminded me of a B movie scene depicting the evacuation of a third world city.
Obviously I won't bring a car next time, any tips on effective ways to enjoy a pleasant evening there?
Actually, I was in the North End as well, on Friday night about 7:30pm.
We ate at Eclano, and there was only one other occupied table besides us. Maybe it was because it's Salem St. and not Hanover? But, I had expected it to be busier. Do people really eat so much later than we did? I mean we left at 8:30 and there was still only two tables full.
Regarding the meal, the food was all excellent, the service was attentive and professional. However, dinner for two with no wine or dessert, cost us $100 before a tip. I just thought that it was a little over the top in price for what we got.
The appetizer special was a really delicious grilled pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, fresh figs and arugula. It easily could have been shared, but still, it was $15. For my appetizer, I had the rabbit sausage, which was also very tasty, but it was a small piece with some sauteed rabe, for $12. I had the fish entree special, which was a decent sized piece of grilled swordfish with some garlic and EV Olive Oil on it, and a little side of Arugula salad. That was $33. The fish was delicious, and obviously very fresh. But, just a bit too much money for what it was.
I wouldn't say I won't recommend it to people, but I'll warn them that it's very pricey. I don't plan to return myself, for a while anyway.
I was also going to mention the family weekends at area colleges - turning the clock back to my own college days, a LOT of people hit the North End with parents. So that was probably a big piece of this weekend being so crazy.
I agree with trying to stick with places that take reservations, especially on weekends. And I don't think it's such a big deal to drive...heck, I live just across the bridge and have been known to drive. You just have to be prepared to pay to park, and probably walk a bit.
Just re parking, the one positive part of a rather lame restaurant week dinner I had at Marco was that they validated for one of the Haymarket lots (Parcel 7 garage, according to the Marco website)-- very easy to reach from 93, very short walk away from Hanover St., and no need to battle the insane traffic and parking crunch in the North End itself. I didn't check specifically, but I got the sense that those Haymarket lots validate for several restaurants in the area. Might be worth looking into.
other than that, I totally agree with the suggestion of taking the T if possible.
I was in the North End this weekend as well, and yes it was busy. BU had their family weekend so many students were out with parents and friends. For me, I take the T and dine out early. I also like to make multiple stops. First stop this week was Cantina Italiana. I can't say I was impressed but it wasn't bad either. From there it was Piccola's for after dinner cordials and Paradiso for expresso and dessert. Be flexible, there are so many good restaurants, if your favorite is busy then try a new place.
I believe BC had their parents' weekend as well. That's a one-two punch for the North End.
I like gliding through early on Saturday mornings, stopping in at Firicano's barber shop on North Street for a great, inexpensive haircut, then over to a salumeria to pick up some goodies. If I linger long enough, I pick up some fresh antipasti from Artu for lunch to go.
Weekdays/evenings are my favorite - no crowds. For years I avoided the NE but there are so many great restaurants there. I like to arrive with no plans and then have a snack and a drink at a couple of different places. That's not everyone's cup of tea, though.
It's not bad parking in the lots down by the water - is that Commercial Street?
I was in the NE too on Sat. evening, and it was a mad house. Even though the weather was not that great I attributed the larger than normal crowds to people thinking that this might be one of the last good weekends before the New England weather drops the hammer. There was a line at LaBrace which I hadn't seen before.
Generally speaking, bringing a car to the NE is a losing proposition. I usually do one lap just in case a miracle occurs and a spot is available, but after that I just head to a lot, no sense in starting the evening being frustrated.
As mentioned, many restaurants offer valet, but I find that I typically need a nice walk to the car after an night out in the North End.
Some things I do to make the North End less painful: 1) avoid it on Friday and Saturday nights; 2) avoid places that don't take reservations; 3) take the T in; 4) discourage friends I'm meeting from driving in; 5) avoid feasts and processions, which generally take place between June and September.
I've heard of one proposal to turn Hanover St into a pedestrian mall a la Downtown Crossing, eliminating the insane car traffic altogether. This is the kind of idea that's easy to support if you don't live there.
North Street Grill is a bit off the beaten path. I would definitely check out the newer places on Salem street that are not on the tourist radar such as Eclano and La Brace, both of which are very good.
Many of these places also do lunch, it would be a more low key affair, with somewhat similar menus.
I think a great spot to avoid the chaos is Prezza. They take reservations, have a bar and serve dessert. I believe they have valet parking too which avoids any driving hassles (or you can just take a cab). On top of all that, the food is very good and the portions I have found to be pretty big.