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Where to dine pre Pops?

My husband, son & I will be college visiting Boston this week. We stay in Cambridge 3 nites and Back Bay the last one. Wed is my 50th & we have tickets to the Pops. Where to dine all those nites? We like contemporary Italian, Mediterranean & American cuisines. We don’t like touristy, do like fun happening. Husband is Sarasota Skinflint.

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  1. Contemporary Italian? Sorrelina is close to Symphony Hall. It's quite good.

    1. It's Pops season again. We'll probably get this question three or four times before the season is over.

      Dining options near Symphony Hall are pretty mediocre. Generally, you need to walk ten to fifteen minutes to get to decent choices. There is a cluster of good restaurants near the intersection of Mass. Ave. and Boylston St. including Clio, one of the best (and most expensive) in Boston and L'Espalier around the corner. Chilli Duck for Thai, Island Hopper for Asian, Capital Grille for steak, etc.

      The area of Huntington Ave. towards Copley Square has some other possibilties though these generally are not as popular here. Brasserie Jo in the Colonade is good and close by. Turner Fisheries and the Palm in the Westin are middle of the road choices. Azure in the Lenox is good. Sorellina is very good but Sarasota Skinflint won't be happy there.

      Avoid the restaurants in the Prudential Center complex.

      There are also some good choices on Columbus Ave. in the South End. Columbus Cafe is near by and Jae's does interesting Asian.

      My favorite is in the Fenway, about a fifteen minute walk but worth it. Tratorria Toscana is a storefront at 130 Jersey St. with excellent Tuscan cuisine at extremely reasonable prices

      Enjoy Boston.

        1. BBHound makes some excellent recommendations for some fancy dining options in the Back Bay area, but if the Sarasota Skinflint thing is an issue, there are a few passable alternatives in the area. I like Bombay Cafe on Mass Ave betwen Berklee and Symphony, pretty decent Indian with lovely peshawari naan (roasted with nuts and honey). Betty's Wok & Noodle Diner is either really gimmicky or really clever, depending on your tolerance for '50s kitsch. Searching "Pops" or "Symphony Hall" on this board will find you plenty of other threads where this is discussed in detail.

          Cambridge has an astonishingly broad range of cuisines, cooking styles and favorite restaurants (searching Cambridge on this board will turn up lots and lots and lots of threads). So some more specifics on locations, cuisines and price ranges would be useful in narrowing down for your needs.

          1. So where did you go and how was it?

            1. I must be a real hounder to think that the title was referring to Pops, in the South End ... and immediately thought "why would someone want to dine PRE-Pops? Why not just eat there??"

              1. There really should be a sticky on "Where to eat near Symphony Hall?" I find the question gets asked often. True, because of the proximity to colleges (NU, NEC, Mass Art, MassPharmacy, Wentworth) it's not a fine dining mecca...but good and cheap places can be found.
                On or near Huntington, in one block or two you get surprisingly diverse cuisine. Betty's Wok & Noodle is kitchy, but okay (if a bit overpriced) for Cuban Chinese. On the other side of Huntington, you have better options. I love Pho and I for consistently good Thai/Viet offerings (have an avocado shake with your chow, yummmies), and the owner and staff are competent and nice. Then to Moby Dick for fabu Iranian kebabs and entrees: looks like a diner, tastes much bettter, and harder working owners I have never seen. Skip around the BK at the corner to Marlborough St and go to Symphony Sushi, great sushi/sashimi at reasonable prices and with attentive service. Our House East is across from it on Marlborough, not commendable so much.
                Go behind Symphony Hall on Westland Ave and you'll find Tiger Lily (not so great Malaysian food, but the bar is fun late) and Pan Thai (much better place, good food and prices, okay service). You can go up Mass Ave to hit some of those places, and a few are good'n'cheap (like Bombay Cafe) but try Huntington toward Copley for Brasserie Jo (not as cheap, but the steak frites and choucroute are all that, after Symphony or Pops lots of musicians go there). Also try Woody's on Hemenway, not too far and a great place for wood-oven pizza.
                So I wouldn't call the neighborhood a culinary wasteland (as others have characterized it), there are relatively humble but worthy joys to be found.

                3 Replies
                1. re: marais

                  then we'd need stickies for the north end and newbury street too.

                  i concur with brasserie jo.

                  1. re: marais

                    Just to prevent confusion, it's Gainsborough St., not Marlborough St.

                    1. re: marais

                      I second Pan Thai for good cheap thai noodles -- especially their Seafood Basil Noodle dish. I ordered that often when I worked in the area. Also, Moby Dick's on Huntington next to Pho & I for Persian (lamb kabab, swordfish special). Always seemed deserted for lunch, but the food is good. Service not the best and I always got takeout. Slow, but mostly because it's made to order.

                    2. For dessert, do try Bon Bon on Mass ave -- very good gelati.