Tired of the Same Old...
I'm having dinner with a girlfriend Friday night and I'm stumped. A long time 'hound, I feel like I keep recycling the same places for a fun night out...over and over.
We're both in our early 30's, both single and would love to find a new place for dinner & have a good post-meal cocktail and potentially make some friends at the bar (ahem). Our usuals tend to be Silvertone, Douzo, Washington Square or Beacon Street Tavern(s), Toro, Franklin Cafe, Bin Enoteca, Grotto, etc.
I'd like to aim for entrees under the $20 mark so we have spare room in the wallet for a few drinks.
Any suggestions? I've heard Excelsior might be worth checking out? What about the new place in the South End that replaced Nightengale?
Excelsior won't do: many of its entrees exceed $40 and are hardly worth it, in my view. You could eat more cheaply in its first-floor bar (which remains a kind of weird dating scene of a bar, lots of May-December romance going on), but it would still bust your budget.
Pops in the South End (in the old Perdix space) is very, very good. Pretty, all entrees $20 or under, very solid Eclectic cooking. Beer, wine, cordials only at this time (they're bucking for a license upgrade); the "bar" isn't a bar, rather counter seating overlooking the kitchen through a pane of glass, which really opens up the space nicely. The place that replaced The Nightingale is Mela, a decent but rather overpriced Indian.
What about some of the other "bars with above-average food"? I like the Alchemist, dbar, Ashmont Grill, B-Side, Green Street, and The Biltmore, though those aren't downtown places. The Enoteca at Via Matta (which has a more casual bar menu with some good pizzas) might also serve, and has good cocktails.
re: MC Slim JB
If the OP can get to Exc. from 5-7, they've got that special cocktail/app menu which is nice.
In addition to others mentioned, Columbus Cafe down by Mass Ave. is cute and reasonable. Much of the universally recommended Eastern Standard menu would work. Union and Stella if she hasn't been there.
How about the Mission Bar and Grill in Brigham Circle? It's a nice spot, with some good dishes (excellent burgers!), a decent beer list, and is in the same "near-upscale comfort food" vein as Amrhein's, The Biltmore, Ashmont Grill, Zon's, etc.
Great question! Has me thinking I'm in a similar rut but I don't go to all your stand-by spots so you've already given me a nice list to work with. ;)
Sorriso - order food in the bar (same menu it's just more, ahem, social). Maybe head to Les Zyg for a cocktail after...
Sel de la terre - again try to eat in the bar. Entrees are $26.... After dinner it might be a nice walk over the bridge to Lucky's for cocktails if the weather permits.
Eastern Standard is a solid stand-by. I always have fun there.
I would highly recommend Les Zygomates for the entire meal & post-dinner imbibing... over the food at Sorriso. I think Fridays especially are a good crowd at Les Zyg. Range of ages, friendly, not too loud. We tend to eat at the bar, which provides great interaction with staff & clientele!
Preamble: I notice that the places you've listed tend to be peopled by the same types of potential "friends" so keeping in mind you might like a change of scenery in more ways than one...
I am going to try to focus on the making friends + chow, rather than chow first - and so suggest the following places:
Maybe a Cambridge crawl of sorts: Bar scene at Chez Henri (good food, good cocktails, scene somewhat coupley, but a good place to start), then head up Mass. Ave. to West Side Lounge, Forest Cafe (if more toward slumming), Temple Bar (post-graduate-y), then if no luck, work your way back down the other side to Cambridge Commons for a nightcap and a spin at romantic roulette. ;)
I also feel like the B-Side has its share of friends, makes some excellent cocktails and decent chow, although judging on your usual haunts, may not be your fave crowd.
Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village has a friendly vibe and good chow -
Was at Cafe D in JP last night - food was VERY GOOD - not sure of the crowd, but there appeared to be an intimate bar at the back.
Agree with Ashmont Grill as well.
re: Bob Dobalina
Oh God, romantic roulette at Cambridge Common? :-D I love the place, but based on the fact that some of my friends are semi-regulars there, I'd say have fun there, but avoid eye contact with the drunks in the corner with the Red Sox caps!
A Cambridge crawl might be just the thing, though. Chez Henri is a terrific idea for food (Cubanos), and CC is just across the street if you want a drink or two afterwards.