Quick, but good, hits?
Out of towner chows in town for a convention in a couple weeks, staying near Copley Plaza , but hoping to escape the boring meeting rooms for something(s) unique, regional and not too over the top. Entertaining the grad school god-daughter as well. Don't object to white tableclothes, but only if the chow is worth the price. We appreciate "streetfood" as well. Suggestions?
Looking for memories of first time in Boston....
Hmm, not sure what you mean by "quick" in the title - you mean food that can be served and eaten quickly?
In any case I think your best bet for "regional" is to check out the wide range of options in the North End. There are so many good restaurants there - mostly Italian, of course - but it is one of those "classic" Boston experiences and not to be missed. You can basically just go strolling around and take your pick of the many restaurants along the main roads (Hanover St and Salem St) - but don't forget to wander around some of the smaller side-streets as well.
One of my favorites there is Carmen, a fairly small place with a nice wine bar and great food. Another long-time favorite is Sage - however - from other posts here it seems they are moving to the South End (is this true or are the opening a 2nd location?) I also like the stuffed squid and other seafood at the Daily Catch, although it's informal I think the prices are a bit high for what you're getting. Prezza and La Brace are also recommended. Top off the evening with an espresso or limoncello and dessert at Caffe Vittoria (a really classic cafe experience, worth it just for people watching).
Be warned, though, that there are some spots in the North End that draw in a lot of tourists but serve pretty weak food - I suggest searching on this board to get a list of recommendations first.
As for "streetfood" - well, it is baseball season now so presumably the sausage guy is hanging out near Fenway park - and for great Chilean sandwiches check out Chacarero, a little stand in Downtown Crossing - lunch only.
Finally you should consider checking out Chinatown - for Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, etc. - lots of good options there.
Here are three on my "must try" list for out-of-towners:
1. Chacarero. Boston's best street food, served out of a window in the Downtown Crossing area. A magnificant Chilean sandwich made with chicken or beef and topped with muenster cheese, tomatoes, green beans, salt, pepper, hot sauce (ask for extra if you like spicy), and avocado spread. Hop on the Orange Line at Back Bay Station for a quick 3-stop ride to Downtown Crossing and it's right there. They're only open Monday-Friday. If you arrive between noon and 2:00, give yourself some time to stand in line.
2. East Coast Grill. Although not without its detractors, it is one of the most popular places on this board, and many of us are passionate about the place. The menu is mostly seafood and barbecue. Expect a lot of Carribbean and other strong flavors.
3. B&G Oysters. Boston, surprisingly, does not have any really great fish restaurants. This place, serving great oysters, lobster rolls and a small selection of other fish and seafood dishes, is the best in the area, IMHO. Another great option is Neptune Oyster Bar, in the North End. The board seems to be evenly split between those who prefer B&G and those who prefer Neptune.
If the weather's good, walk down to Rachel's Kitchen in the Bay Village section. It's a hole-in-the-wall breakfast and lunch spot that is quite unique for Boston, esp. the Back Bay area. There's nothing mind-blowing, but it will make for a nice stroll from Copley. Google for better directions than I could provide.
Panificio is one of my traditional favorites. There are now two branches, the original one is on Charles Street near the Charles/MGH T stop, the fancy schmancy new one is at the intersection of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues in the Back Bay. Really good Italian-inspired sandwiches and salads which are reasonably priced ($6-10 range) and can be delivered in a hurry, and the sit down menu features a batch of great stuff. Not necessarily a Boston landmark, but it was my neighborhood brasserie when I lived in Beacon Hill for a decade. <http://www.panificioboston.com/>.
One option for the street food thing is a fried clam shack. I have heard tell of a legendary place in East Boston possibly near Revere Beach or the Wonderland MBTA stop or both. Have walked past a place whose name I have unfortunately forgotten and saw fairly long lines, which seems like a good prognosis. Unfortunately, though, it's a bit out of the way from Copley Square.