Graduation Celebration Dinner
I'm in a quandry about where to book our reservation for dinner for 8 (no children) for my son's college graduation in Boston on a Sunday evening in May. This is a really special occasion for us, but we don't want to just go for expensive but rather really good food, great presentaions, reliable friendly service, and a special ambiance in the dining room. It's going to be a surprise (our treat) for all of our guests from out of state. Our son has spent four years there, but only goes out to nice restaurants when we're in town visiting. I've been searching and searching on the message boards and can't seem to decide, but need to make reservations very soon. Can you help?
We're looking for something in the steak-seafood genre, or possibly french or northern italian. I don't want to spend over $80 a person including wine. I prefer the downtown area, Beacon Hill, or the Backbay. I'd like the atmosphere to be special occassion impressive but not stuffy. Hip enough for our 20-something guests to enjoy, but not so trendy that we parents feel out of place. The interior is important to me (prefer linen tablecloths over no tablecloths) as well as the quality of the food and the reputation of the place. On other evenings we're going out to Blue on Highland (Needham), Jasper White's Summer Shack, and the north end. So I want something more "special" than those.
Can you comment on these (if you've been there yourself) and then offer any better suggestions? THANKS so much!
East Coast Grill
Since you're going to Summer Shack (though have you tried Neptune Oyster?) and the N. End I would skip italian and seafood spots. I am a big fan of Brasserie Jo. Nice ambience, great service everytime we've been, reliably good unstuffy french food, and in your neighborhood and price range.
The East Coast Grill is far more casual than the kind of place you're describing. I like its food a lot, but it's not a white-tablecloth establishment, and in fact works to convey an opposite impression.
I think you're on track with Sorellina and Mistral in terms of finding a balance between too stodgy and too hip. (They're both a little overpriced in my view; I've enjoyed my last few meals at Sorellina more than my last few at Mistral.)
Some other places I think are worthwhile and meet your criteria: Pigalle (creative, elegant French-inspired cuisine), Rialto (creative, elegant Italian), maybe Icarus (New American in a pretty Deco room).
I think any of the first 3 would work well but S. and M. are very expensive with most entrees in the 30's (and above) but certainly special feeling. A little less expensive and special is Beacon Hill Bistro. Less hip too. For a fun brasserie feeling place and a little more casual, there's always Eastern Standard which would fit the hip requirement. Great Bay a couple doors down gets mixed reviews but is certainly a nice space and can be good seafood. You didn't mention the south end, but Union would work.
sorellina and mistral with wine, tax and tip will be tough at $80 a person. their wine prices are very high.
you could try troquet or lala rokh. agree with above about skipping summer shack and going to neptune instead. far better overall.
I like Davio's and Sorellina best on your current list. I agree with others that East Coast Grill isn't a great place for a special occasion. But when I lived nearby I recall that during May and June it was full of graduation parties.
Some others that would fit the bill nicely:
Eastern Standard (I think you might have a very tough time getting a reservation there noow though.)
Beacon Hill Bistro
Troque and No. 9 Park would both be fantastic but you'd have to order carefully I think to manage that budget.
Check out 28 Degrees. Hip, trendy lounge in the South End that will prepare all of their food to fit the size of your party. For instance, they might grill up five strip steaks for a party of 10, and serve it sliced, beautifully presented, on a shareable platter. Same with the seared scallops with roasted caulifower, etc.
I second the Eastern Standard recco. I think Mistral always comes off as cool, if slightly overpriced. Check out Upstairs on the Square, too.
We took a group of 9 to Sorellina at Christmas time. It is a beautiful room- all black and white, quite striking and very special occasion. The food is wonderful as is the service. If everyone has a glass or slightly more wine I think you can stay within the budget. Another nice white tablecloth place is Troquet. Whatever you decide, hope you have a great evening. PS Forget East Coast Grille- not atmospheric and very loud. Davio's is nice but not any cheaper than Sorellina.
You might try Rendezvous in Central Square, Cambridge. It's nice without being stuffy, the food is excellent, and I believe that it's within your price range.