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Boston advice [Moved from Austin]

catarata Feb 19, 2007 08:53 AM

I've noticed that there are a *lot* of people on this board from Boston...and I'd love to get your input on places to eat good food before I ask the Boston board. I am going to Boston for a week in March. I've never really experienced it, and am looking for the best places to dine. I love all types of food, and am open to absolutely anything - just as long as it's delicious! Here's what I'm looking for, specifically....

1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town

2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --

3.) ditto for the South End

4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)

5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood

6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End

7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?

Thanks for your input!

  1. andytee Feb 19, 2007 09:02 AM

    go ahead and post on the boston board!

    but anyhow..

    2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --

    carmen or sage (which may be closed to move to a now location when you are here).
    neptune oyster is a real treat too.

    4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)

    if its warm, get clams in ipswich. if you like diner food, the three sisters owl diner in lowell is my favorite in the region.

    5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood

    the barking crab or neptune oyster.

    7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?

    boston has probably the best portugese food in the US - try muqueca or o cantino in cambridge's inman square. lots of good and super cheap vietnamese food too. we also have tons of irish pubs, tip a guiness at the burren in davis square or the plough and stars in central square.

    enjoy your trip.

    1. kittychow Feb 19, 2007 09:53 AM

      great questions!

      1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town
      Om - Cambridge
      Prezza - North End
      Sel de la terre - Long Wharf

      2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --
      Carmen

      3.) ditto for the South End
      Sorriso, Franklin Cafe, Delux, Addis Red Sea

      4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)
      Tuscan Grill - Waltham
      Lindbergh's Crossing - Portsmouth (worth the drive!!)
      Clam Box - Ipswich

      5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood
      Neptune Oyster

      6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End
      Addis Red Sea
      Really though - I think Boston is a very veggie friendly town for the most part.

      7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?
      Food is pretty diverse here. If you're a beer drinker there are lots of great pubs and lots of good breweries (Beerworks for beer and Plough & Star for everything come to mind). The only thing I really wish were better in the area is BBQ, other than that you should be able to find everything you love and lots of good surprises in between.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kittychow
        b
        bachslunch Feb 20, 2007 05:36 PM

        Re: no. 4. If you're going to Waltham, the Tuscan Grill is certainly very good, though my first choice in that town would be Il Capriccio followed by La Campania. All three are strictly dinner places, no lunch served. There's also excellent Mexican at Taqueria Mexico, good Cambodian at the local Elephant Walk outpost, decent BBQ at Bison County (though probably not up to Austin BBQ standards), good Italian sandwiches at Domenic's, respectable Thai at Erawan of Siam and Green Papaya, and respectable Indian at New Mother India.

        Waltham in fact has several fine places to eat. Nothing else for tourists there, though. Might be best to eat there as part of a jaunt to Lexington, Concord, or the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, which are enjoyable tourist day trips from Boston and not too far away from Waltham by car.

      2. CocoDan Feb 19, 2007 10:13 AM

        I would stay away from the Barking Crab. It's the dirtiest place in Boston, if not the country. And the foods not good either. All other recommendations above won't disappoint.
        CocoDan

        1. b
          bostondiner Feb 19, 2007 10:14 AM

          I hope you enjoy your time in Boston!

          2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --
          Pizzeria Regina, Umberto's (only open for lunch), Antico Forno (brick oven pizzas and pastas), La Summa, L'Osteria. I'd also go to Grotto on Bowdoin Street- it is not technically the North End but offers a great prix fix and the food is wonderful. I also love Sage but it might be closed (and is a little pricey)- I'd call and check

          3.) ditto for the South End
          Franklin Cafe, Flour Bakery, Union (bar menu is affordable), Giacomo's on Columbus takes reservations if you want Italian and are not near the North End

          5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood
          Neptune Oyster in the North End, Legal's (all over), Mare (North End), B & G (South End)

          6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End
          It is in Cambridge but worth the trek- Oleana offers a wonderful vegetarian menu.

          7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?
          I think Chinatown is fun to explore- try King Fung Garden on Kneeland (scallion pancakes, chow mein are must orders), cannolis from modern pastry in the North End, lobster roll from J. Hook's on the waterfront or Kelly's; people also recommend going to Durgin Park in F. Hall.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bostondiner
            b
            bachslunch Feb 20, 2007 02:19 PM

            If you go to Galleria Umberto in the North End, note that it's best to get there when they first open at 11:00 AM (or even before, as the line starts forming before then and gets long; it's a cafeteria style place, cash only). As lunchtime goes on, things start to run out, and when everything's sold out, they close, sometimes as early as 1:00 PM. But if you want non-touristy South Italian comfort food (calzones, Sicilian cheese pan pizza, arancini, panzarotti, and ham and cheese panini is pretty much their whole menu, plus wine and beer in cups) at '50's time-warp cheap prices, it can't be beat. Definitely one of my faves in the North End.

          2. b
            bostondiner Feb 19, 2007 10:24 AM

            I was just on the Sage website- the North End location will be open until mi-March when they move to the South End location (former Cafe Umbra on Washington). I think it is a very cozy, intimate and romantic place to have dinner. The pastas really shine (especially the gnocchi). The lobster dish is really tasty as well.

            1. b
              Bostonbob3 Feb 19, 2007 11:26 AM

              Most of the other categories have been covered pretty well, but for your #1 ("best fancy place), I'd recommend Sorellina or Salts.

              For a very reasonably-priced fine dining experience, try Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain.

              1. j
                jjbourgeois Feb 19, 2007 11:34 AM

                For fancy dining I would pick Aujourd 'Hui at the Four Seasons. Avoid the Barking Crab and No Name( the actual name of the restaurant is "No Name", just a translation for the out of towner.) restaurants. Pizzeria Regina is great. Up in Ipswich either the Clam Box or Woodmans is good.

                1. steinpilz Feb 19, 2007 12:10 PM

                  I will give some of my favorites and also some places that are popular with this board:

                  1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town
                  Locke Ober and the Oak Room are classic old Boston restaurants, L'Espalier is very popular, Clio/Uni is modern, I also like Eastern Standard.

                  2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --
                  Cafe Vittoria a great Italian style cafe, daily catch

                  3.) ditto for the South End
                  Toro is a new and very popular tapas style restaurant
                  Douzo is a new sushi spot (nearly in the SE)

                  4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)
                  Pava in Newton Centre has great mediterranean food and is in a nice little neighborhood.
                  Clam Box and Woodmans in Essex for fried clams.

                  5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood
                  I really like Neptune Oyster in the NE, Legal is good, B&G Oyster in SE is also popular.

                  6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End
                  not a veggie, I've read that a veggie request is very successful at good restaurants.

                  7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?
                  Local Oysters (Neptune, B&G, Legal, Union Oyster)
                  Fried clams (Neptune, Woodmans or Clam Box)
                  Lobster rolls (debates usually come down to B&G vs Neptune, Legal and Summer Shack are good)
                  Fancy lobster preps (Lobster Savannah at Locke Ober, JGK Lobster Stew at Locke Ober, Pan Roasted Lobster at Summer Shack, also Chinatown but I can't advise you about this)
                  Steamed clams (Legals, Dolphin Seafood, Jake's in Hull, )
                  Beer (Beerworks and Cambridge Brewery are ok, Publick House and Bukowski's are vg)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: steinpilz
                    steinpilz Feb 19, 2007 02:19 PM

                    That's JFK lobster stew at Locke Ober, sorry!

                  2. g
                    Gabatta Feb 19, 2007 02:13 PM

                    1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town

                    I suppose that it depends on your parameters for fancy. I would tab L'Espalier for a more formal special occasion meal. For something a bit more informal Sorrelina is a current favorite.

                    2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --

                    I am thumbs down on the North End in general. The only places I really frequent there are Neptune and Pizzeria Regina. I think the Italian the North End is known for is largely a let down. For reasonable priced homestyle Italian, try VInny's at Night in Medford.

                    3.) ditto for the South End

                    Franklin Cafe

                    4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)

                    If you have a car it will make your trip to VInny's at Night in Medford easier.

                    5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood

                    Not as much great fresh seafood as you might expect in boston. East Coast Grill in Cambridge for seafood. Neptune Oyster in the North End for lobster rolls.

                    6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End

                    Other Side and Trident on Newbury Street are very casual but good choices in the Back Bay. Most restaurants will have some Veg options. As previously mentioned Oleana is worth a trip to Cambridge.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Gabatta
                      SEH Feb 21, 2007 07:41 AM

                      Vinny's at Night is actually in Somerville.

                    2. catarata Feb 19, 2007 05:31 PM

                      This has been such a great response! I originally posted on the Austin board 'cause I know there are lots of former Boston residents there, and I was a bit nervous about posting on a new board, but y'all are great! I'm going to have to eat constantly to try 1/4 of these restaurants -- or I'll just have an excuse to visit again. Keep 'em coming, if you have any more suggestions, and I'll write a long report on my trip when I get back!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: catarata
                        Nab Mar 15, 2007 11:25 AM

                        catarata, I'm one of those Boston-now-Austiners. You've already got great suggestions, and ones that are probably based on more up-to-date experiences than my own (having left in '04). But I really miss:
                        - Pizzeria Regina
                        - oysters/lobster rolls/chowder (B&G, Legal, Neptune etc - just not Barking Crab)
                        - Daily Catch among other places in the N.End (get yourself a cannoli too)
                        - Chinatown (you'd be crazy not to go here, given the dearth of Asian anything in Austin)
                        - wholeheartedly agree with the Portugese recommendation (not sure what's the best place these days, but I sure miss Atasca)
                        - Delux (S.End)

                        And I miss so much more. But I do have brisket, so there.

                      2. l
                        lergnom Feb 19, 2007 05:58 PM

                        Suggest you pick up a copy of The Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants. Their discussion board is not nearly as good as chowhound but the book is excellent as is the TV show.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lergnom
                          Chris VR Feb 20, 2007 04:43 AM

                          Here's a thread offering some more opinion on the quality of the Phantom Gourmet show: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/329988

                          1. re: lergnom
                            j
                            jjbourgeois Feb 21, 2007 07:12 PM

                            Avoid the Phantom Gourmet guide!!! All the reviews are suspect. Restaurants that advertise on the Phantom Gourmet get spectacular reviews. The PG's message board will not post any response contrary to the PG.

                          2. Joanie Feb 20, 2007 04:45 AM

                            Someone mentioned Eastern Standard in the fancy category and while it's a nice nite out, it's not in the L'Espalier/Radius/Clio etc. category. Definitely worth checking out tho for a fun dinner.

                            At Durgin Park, you have to try Indian pudding for a very New England specific dessert.

                            Miracle of Science in Central Sq. Cambridge and its sister rest. Audobon outside Kenmore Sq. are good casual food places.

                            In Salem, there's the Salem Diner but not sure of its hours. Call 978-744-9776 to find out. You have to go to one diner while you're here, not so plentiful in Texas. Also, I like the bar at Finz in Salem. And the aforementioned clam shacks are fun to check out.

                            Mother Anna's in the north end is reasonably priced old school Italian if you're in the mood for red sauce.

                            1. b
                              bachslunch Feb 20, 2007 01:52 PM

                              Haven't seen anyone mention this yet, but Boston is a first-class place for locally made ice cream. Try Toscanini's (Cambridge), Herrell's (Cambridge, Allston), and Emack and Bolio's (Cambridge, Brookline, several Boston locales). Lots of folks also like Christina's (Cambridge) and some like J.P. Licks (Somerville, Brookline, Newton, several Boston locales), though I'm less a fan of these. Suburban places with good ice cream include Cabot's (Newton) and Richardson's (Middleton). And if you want to do candlepin bowling while you eat homemade ice cream, Ron's in Hyde Park is an excellent choice, though the area is kind of dumpy and hard to get to.

                              Of course it is the dead of winter and ice cream may not appeal to you right now....

                              1. saridt Feb 20, 2007 03:18 PM

                                1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town
                                Sorrellina
                                No. 9 Park
                                Troquet --I wouldn't classify this as "fancy," but it is romantic & cozy, overlooking the park

                                2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --
                                Taranta (maybe my favorite restaurant in Boston)
                                L'Osteria

                                3.) ditto for the South End
                                Stella is reasonably priced but the food is nothing to rave about
                                Just tried Union & loved it
                                Mistral is great but a bit pricier

                                4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)
                                I would second the Vinny's at Night suggestions, but I am one of the minority that actually prefers L'il Vinny's (also in Somerville) but I don't know that it is worth driving out to.

                                7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?
                                When I think of Boston specialties I thinks of frappes, because when I was in college no one ever knew what they were (Richardson's is a good place for these, but about 25 miles from Boston --you could probably get in-town recs from others). I can't direct you to the best spot for baked beans or clam chowdah because I am not a fan of either one!

                                1. r
                                  RoyRon Feb 21, 2007 05:10 AM

                                  Hi
                                  If you are out in the Lexington aarea and looking for a great place for dinner I would highly reccomend The Catch restaurant on Church St. in Winchester. Winchester is the next town over from Lexington. Catch is a very nice upscale restaurant featuring excellent seafood. It gets mostly rave reviews on this board but if you plan to try it on a Thur, Fri or Sat. night be sure to make a reservation in advance. They have a nice website at www.catch.com.

                                  1. finlero Feb 21, 2007 07:19 AM

                                    I just returned from a fantastic extended weekend in your fine city. (Huge raves for Angie's excellent carnitas tacos, Black's BBQ in Lockhart, and the general ability to throw a rock and hit a great independent coffee house!)

                                    Just wanted to weigh in on your request for a non-touristy North End place. Due to its location and tiny size, I'd say there aren't really any hidden gems in the neighborhood. Plenty of good food, but everyone will know about it, both locals and any tourist with a decent guide book. This certainly isn't to say don't go -- just set your expectations accordingly; the good places are discovered, and will be crowded.

                                    If you were looking to combine a great Italian meal with that car excursion, I'd encourage you to drive down to Providence and check out Federal Hill. Superb Italian choices, significantly less touristy than the North End, plus Providence is a really interesting smaller city to explore, with a number of parallels to Austin that may intrigue you. A search of the New England board will give you a plethora of good choices.

                                    One other note: there's much more of a distinction in New England between regional Italian cuisines. I'd definitely recommend that you sample both a classic red sauce southern Italian place (Antico Forno, Vinny's at Night), and a more refined northern Italian (Carmen, Prezza, etc.) This is still a big oversimplification, but it's a start, and both styles have their place.

                                    1. b
                                      BackBayGirl Feb 22, 2007 08:00 PM

                                      1.) best fancy place for dinner, anywhere in town
                                      L'Espalier
                                      2.) reasonably priced places to eat in the North End (non-touristy) --
                                      Mother Anna's, Mamma Maria, Giacomo's

                                      3.) ditto for the South End
                                      Franklin Cafe, Union Bar & Restaurant

                                      4.) any places worth going to out of town? We're planning on driving around the area (Lexington/Salem/etc.)
                                      Not sure

                                      5.) best place for fresh lobster and/or seafood
                                      I can't eat shellfish so can't help you here

                                      6.) A good vegetarian place near the Back Bay/South End
                                      Not sure

                                      7.) is there any food that is specific to the region I should try? If so, what and where?
                                      Durgin Park's Indian Pudding. Yum!! You can actually get a good sampling of "New England fare" at Durgin.

                                      1. catarata Mar 14, 2007 03:24 PM

                                        Boston board, I have another important question. I don't mean to perpetuate common stereotypes of Texans, but my boyfriend wants to wear nice jeans, a nice button up shirt, and cowboy boots to our "fancy" place for dinner. He will not wear khakis or any other type of formal outfit except for a suit, which he doesn't want to pack.

                                        In Austin, many people dress to the nines at nice restaurants, but the above outfit is perfectly fine, as well. The thought that it might not work in Boston didn't even occur to me until I looked at L'Espalier's website, which says, "Jacket and tie most comfortable, but not required."

                                        So, Boston, will "Texas formal" work in your city? Are there of the above restaurants that we should skip, considering what we're packing?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: catarata
                                          b
                                          bachslunch Mar 14, 2007 05:47 PM

                                          "Texas Formal" probably will be OK, if it's indeed nice condition and clean clothing and boots. I don't think any restaurant in Boston has a required jacket and/or tie type of dress code anymore. A place like L'Espalier (which is probably the ultimate in high-end Boston dining) is probably optimally attended with at least one or the other, but I'd be extremely surprised if they turn you away.

                                          Maybe giving the places you'd like to eat at a call first to ask this question is a good idea? If nothing else, it'll probably ease your mind on the issue. They'll probably say it's no problem, and you can make a reservation at the same time.

                                          1. re: bachslunch
                                            Joanie Mar 15, 2007 04:52 AM

                                            I'd say that unless you're eating at L'Espalier, Locke Ober or Aujourd'hui, he should be fine in that outfit. Those are definite dress up places even if jackets aren't a strict requirement (not sure of the status).

                                            1. re: Joanie
                                              hotoynoodle Mar 15, 2007 11:33 AM

                                              although they technically don't have a dress code, most men don't wear jeans to clio.

                                        2. b
                                          BostonBarGuy Mar 15, 2007 11:56 AM

                                          I wear jeans and a nice shirt to Clio and Uni all the time. I'll usually wear a blazer on weekends. Your "Texas formal" is fine.

                                          1. catarata Mar 15, 2007 03:59 PM

                                            Thanks, Boston board. I feel relieved! I'll give a full report when we get back.

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