Where in the South End...?
We're visiting Boston this weekend from Montreal, and I was wondering what everyone might recommend for dining in the South End. Something funky, not over-the-top expensive. Maybe "modern American" style food...
Laurel on Berkeley Street is good. Decent prices, mostly New American cuisine, and a decent vibe to the place.
The Dish on Shawmut Avenue is another good option. A mix of comfort food and New American (meat loaf, wood-fired pizza, lamb chops, cod, beef tenderloint) and pretty funky, though rather tight quarters, so you might want to get there early.
I really like the Franklin Cafe. The menu is limited, but nearly everything I've tried there was really quite good. My only beef with the place is that it is *so* dark at the tables, making it difficult to get a good view of my lovely dinner. :)
The South End has lots of great options. One of my favorite spots is Franklin Cafe which is just down the street from Dish (mentioned by hiddenboston). It's a very small funky place with really good food at reasonable prices. It does tend to get quite crowded especially on the weekends but I always have fun having drinks at the bar while I wait for a table. Another good spot is Delux on Chandler St (near Clarendon). It's also tiny with pretty good food and extremely reasonable prices. I am pretty sure they are cash only.
In addition to the above, I like Columbus Cafe, even tho my last meal there wasn't the best. But they definitely made up for it and the previous one was great. Fun little spot, a little off the beaten track. And Tremont 647 might also fit the bill, lots of posts about its improvement lately. They just talked about the Deluxe on Chronicle last nite, might be even more crammed than usual.
There are several wonderful places that fit the bill. Pho Republique and Masa come immediately to mind as two of the funkiest places. Metropolis Cafe is wonderful, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. It's a tiny little chic place. Franklin Cafe is also quite good (with an atmosphere like that of Billy Kun on Mont-Royal in Mtl, sans the ostrich heads) but it gets packed so be prepared to slurp down two or three cocktails before having dinner. While I agree that Laurel and The Dish have great food, I wouldn't consider them "funky" (especially by Montreal standards).
You're off to a great start by choosing South End; it's full of the kind of restaurants you're looking for. B&G Oyster Co. and Butcher Shop are across the street from one another and both owned by chef Barbara Lynch, who also runs the famed No. 9 Park. Both restaurants are intimate and beautiful, B&G is seafood and Butcher Shop is charcuterie and bistro-style, both excellent. Toro is a very hip new tapas restaurant, also small and can get packed (no res), but if you can hang at the bar waiting for a table it is absolutely worth it. And there's a new Venezuelan restaurant called Orinoco that is truly special, on Shawmut Ave. No reservations and it can packed, but again worth the wait.
The funkiness of the South End is a shrinking commodity: gentrification has pushed out some of the quirkier, downmarket spots in favor of posh, $25-35/entree places. It's not hopeless, though.
The Franklin remains an evergreen, a cool bar with great food in the upscale-comfort vein. Downside: no reservations means long waits amidst a packed bar, especially on weekends. No dessert, either.
Addis Red Sea offers good Ethiopian cuisine with cool atmosphere and is a relative value.
Tremont 647 is a casual New American spot with a lot of wood-fire grilling; it has recently gotten more affordable and consistent, so I'm recommending it again after a long hiatus.
The Red Fez does a modern take on Middle Eastern and North African food, with the mezze the strongest dishes.
Toro, an upscale tapas joint, is a bit too popular for its own good, especially on weekends, but I quite like the food. The bill adds up fast here. No reservations means painful waits most weekend nights.
Orinoco is a great little (and I do mean little) neighborhood Venezuelan place; it is punishingly popular on weekends, though, and doesn't take reservations.
I think you can have fun for not too much money dining at the bar at Union and Caffe Umbra, swank New American and French/Italian places, respectively; both feature strong bartending. Union's prices have come down significantly recently, even in the dining room. Metropolis is a small, Med-flavored New American that is a decent value, though not exactly cheap.
28 Degrees is a lounge type place with a scene-y quality that reminds me strongly of some of Montreal's nightclub/lounge-flavored restaurants. This place isn't cheap, either, and I don't care for dining at low tables; sit at the bar or a normal-height table if possible.
Get reservations if you can; OpenTable.com can be a help on this score.
Another good thing about the Franklin Cafe, which is uncharacteristic of the South End...Nothing on the menu over $20.00 (at least the last time I was there).
funky & not over the top expensive? Run to the franklin cafe. Period. Has had some of the best, creative and most interesting food in boston for years. The Franklin is a Boston institution...end of sentence. Of course, others will disagree because it just isn't...well...fabulous anymore.
If busy, hit Tremont 647, Aquitaine or the Dish. If not, get in a cab and go to cambridge (central kitchen, b-side lounge, chez henri or others of the REAL true and tried in this city)
Avoid 28 degrees/Butcher Shop/B&G/Toro/Stella like the plague...all are the extremely-not-funky-cashed-in-on-the-late90s/early2000s-scene and way too expensive and very precious 'new' south end fabulousness...everything the south end wasn't not too long ago, when the the restaurant world was fresh and inventive (there was a day when a $25 entree in the south end actually meant fantastic food). These are the places most of us who actually used to live/play/work in that area for years now avoid at all costs (and laugh at)
I'd dissent from the recs for Laurel -- the prices are certainly low for the neighborhood and the atmosphere is nice (though not especially funky) but the food isn't at all memorable. In the same price range I think Delux has more funk and Orinoco has more interesting food, and the Franklin has both for just slightly more money.
I've only been to Toro once, but I thought it was great -- superbly executed tapas, excellent drinks, a nice room, and uniformly friendly, no-attitude service from the staff. As MC Slim says, the bill will climb quickly and the lines might be long, but I think the chow is worth it.
Hi everyone and thanks for all the suggestions! Popular demand (and our schedule) suggests Tremont 647 and the Franklin Cafe!