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New Yorkers in town for Birthday Dinner (been to many "major" Boston restaurants)

My husband and I find it likely that we will be in Boston for his birthday. As he is from the Boston area and we're often there for special occassions, we've been to many of the major Boston "special occassion"/fancy restaurants (e.g., Oak Room, Grill 23, Aujourd'hui, Federalist). I'm often pretty disappointed by these experiences -- a lot of show but not always great service or food.

We're looking for something a little more casual/smaller but with fantastic food nonetheless. My mother-in-law now lives in Amesbury and will be joining us, so we'd even be up for a suburban place if there are birthday-worthy options. Price is not really a concern as long as the food's good; a mediocre place with expensive prices always makes all of us mad!

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  1. It is not smaller/casual but Sorellina is a wonderful new restaurant in Copley Square. The restaurant is beautiful- all white and black- very striking and the food is wonderful, with excellent service.

    1. I think EVOO is a great option. Alway very high quality food and great service. I would also recommend Stellina in Watertown.

      1. G2 in Beverly Farms is a great steakhouse. They have another restaurant in Middleton, I believe, called Gavins. Their food is extraordidnary and the ambiance is perfect for a special occasion. It's nice if you can get a great meal without having to go into the city.

        1. I think you might like Grotto, on Bowdoin St. (Beacon Hill). Nice basement/candlelit atmosphere, and excellent Italian food, definitely a few notches above the usual red sauce places. The prices won't shock you either.

          In the North End, I'd also recommend Sage, on Prince St. The food is really delicious and it's a great special occasion place. It's tiny though, so reservations are a must.

          If Cambridge works for you, I'd also suggest Rendezvous near Central Square, or Chez Henri, near Harvard Sq. Both have excellent food, nice atmosphere, and for Rendezvous anyway, the prices are not bad at all for the quality.

          Also in Cambridge is Salts, which is definitely more expensive, but the quality stands up to the prices, in my opinion. I think it would also be a good place to consider for a celebration. Again, reservations are a good idea here.

          1. Love Salts, excellent meal every time. Rendezvous does not have the best ambience. Chez Henri is good, Salts is better. There is also Harvest in Harvard Square, consistently good.

            1. Salts or La Campania in Waltham. Also, there's a new steakhouse in Peabody/Danvers that many have raved about - just opened...Pellana on Sylvan Street?

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/330219

              1. Metropolis Cafe in the South End

                1. These are great suggestions - I will have to look a little bit more into them when I have time this weekend.

                  So far Salts seems to be the most popular suggestions. Cambridge is definitely doable for us; my husband loves going there for the nostalgia factor of having once been a student. We have been to many of the older top restaurants in Harvard Square as well (Chez Henri, Harvest, Henrietta's Table, etc.) so something new is also welcome, but this type of restaurant is definitely more our style.

                  1. i would also put oleana's on the list as a unique place with excellent food.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jenga

                      So would I. We ate there last weekend and the food is still excellent.

                      1. re: jenga

                        Oleana is first on my list whenever I visit from NY-I haven't found anything like it in NY, and I love the atmosphere, the food, everything...
                        About a month ago the NY Times ran several recipes from Chef Ana Sortun.

                      2. For high end, I love No. 9 Park. Excellent food - wonderful total experience.

                        A hidden gem is Ristorante Toscano on Charles St., in Beacon Hill. Old fashioned, and rather authentic, neighborhood Italian, with reliably excellent food, good wine, excellent service, and a very friendly atmosphere. I try to go as often as I can.

                        1. I think we've decided on Oleana. Salts & Sage are definitely on our list for another trip and fortunately we seem to manage to make it up to the area a few times a year.

                          1 Reply
                          1. - Washington Square Tavern in Brookline
                            - Tremont 647 on Tremont Street in the South End
                            - Franklin Cafe on Shawmut Street in the South End

                            1. if I'm not too late. Les Zygomates on south street (between chinatown and south station, off of kneeland) is a dynamite world of classic to avant garde jazz in a hign end bistro. Hangar steak!!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ElizabethHenton

                                Thanks for the suggestion. It's not too late but circumstances require that we're not making the trip to Boston after all. I really appreciate all the suggestions and since we seem to be in that neck of the woods quite often these days, will definitely try to make it to some more of these places soon!