HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Do you create unique foods? Tell us about it
TELL US

Ideas for a Fri night dinner in Boston --for 5?

t
twentyoystahs Jun 5, 2007 12:55 PM

Ok, here's the setup. 5 adults, Fri night dinner, prime-time (probably btwn 7-8).. 2 of the adults are from out-of-town, so it would be fun to take them to an interesting, fun place with good atmosphere/vibe..Need a place that has great food, fun energy, takes reservations, and is VERY reasonably priced --entrees mostly in, say, the $14-17 range, topping out at $20 max. Wine/cocktail list is not as important as those in the group aren't big drinkers, if at all. Bonus points if we can find a restaurant right in the South End, as that is home base. But, somewhere else in the city is ok, would prefer not to drive out though. Here are the leading contenders, in order of my preference. I believe they all take reservations -- Thoughts? Other ideas? TIA.

Eastern Standard
Pops
Petit Robert Bistro
Giacomo's
Columbus Cafe (?)
Bouchee (?) --not sure why we'd choose this over PRB tho'....

  1. MC Slim JB Jun 6, 2007 07:33 AM

    With a party that size, getting a reservation should be a priority in your selection.

    Pops -- seems to hit all your parameters, and is a very good value, especially for the South End. Plus, they hit occasional home runs -- I shared an entree panzanella salad ($16, I recall) the other day that was giant and spectacular, full of beautiful vegetables, Their full bar is going, though it's a bit much to expect extraordinary bartending here. I didn't have the problem with the ventilation that others have cited -- the only time I left with a food odor in my clothes was when I sat at the bar (counter, really) -- but it's clear that the new setup makes a big difference.

    ESK -- I had another dinner here recently, and I don't think the exec chef transition has had a huge impact. Note that I tend to order the French stuff. Plusses: the Sox are on the road, the room is very impressive to visitors, and the bartending is spectacular. But it's always a roll of the dice on dining room service: I'm so tired of consistency issues on this front that I almost always dine at the bar now, not a great option for a party of five.

    The Beehive -- such a cool room, but the food is still a work in progress. The line from the restaurant is, "Be patient with us: we opened quickly, and are going to get better." I remain optimistic on this front; there's an awful lot of talent involved here. And to be fair, I've only sampled about half the menu. I stopped by a friend's table in the upstairs dining room the other night, when it was packed upstairs and down; the noise up there can be deafening, everyone shouting to be heard, which surprised me. I'd have thought it would be the quieter space; maybe it is when the place isn't full, before the band goes on.

    Stella -- I've been pretty lukewarm on this place, partly because the food struck me as ordinary, the crowd very suburban, and the menu too unchanging. But I had a recent meal there in which the food seemed much improved -- notably, a wicked spicy cioppino -- perhaps as a result of the departure of their opening exec chef. It pushes your price point a little if you go with entrees instead of pastas and gourmet pizzas (entrees are in the mid-20s), but the room is pretty in that cheap-Mistral-knockoff way, and it's definitely buzzing.

    Rocca -- this might be worth a look if you enjoy grazing, as I think the small plates and appetizers are the kitchen's current strength. You can put together a pretty modestly-priced meal here that way, especially factoring in a number of fairly budget-priced wine options. Service is still highly variable, and I don't like some of the seating in the upstairs dining room (a little too close to neighbors). This is another place where I'm waiting for the food to improve; it's promising, but we keep leaving feeling a bit underwhelmed, wishing there'd been at least one more standout, memorable dish. The patio might be really nice if the weather holds.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      t
      twentyoystahs Jun 6, 2007 08:01 AM

      Thanks to all for suggestions. Yes, getting a reservation is a priority, as well as keeping costs down. So..at this point, it looks like Pops is the leading contender, with ESK only coming in second b/c it isn't as walkable from the south end...i'll report back. In the meantime, feel free to keep those suggestions coming...:)

    2. t
      troyS Jun 6, 2007 04:35 AM

      bouchee sucks.. go to eastern standard or petit robert bistro

      1. c
        chowfamily Jun 5, 2007 02:16 PM

        I love your post name, it always makes me hungry. If you do drive, head down to Little Q on Hancock Street in Quincy. The broths are fantastic, and it is a great place to get together without an uncomfortable bill at the end.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowfamily
          e
          edgewater Jun 6, 2007 03:59 AM

          I would highly recommend Laurel at 142 Berkley Street. They have an interesting menu and very good food and service. Almost all of their entrees are under $17.00.
          Their website is laurelgrillandbar.com.

        2. Bob MacAdoo Jun 5, 2007 02:09 PM

          Some options:

          Bob's - very reasonably priced, definitely fun, live music = energy, not sure about reservations.

          Jae's Cafe - moderate price, lively place, wide range of menu options, not sure about reservations.

          Pho Republique - expensive, fun, cool (as in a different kind of energy), not sure about reservations.

          Beehive - moderate to expensive price, fun, see above about live music, reservations on Open Table.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Bob MacAdoo
            t
            twentyoystahs Jun 5, 2007 02:12 PM

            I thought abt Beehive, just 'cause the atmosphere seems fun and lively...but have read sort of mixed reviews on the food..and since this dinner will be more about food than drinks and music, I thought that might not be the best choice. Seems like a great place to grab some drinks and apps though.

            1. re: twentyoystahs
              Bob MacAdoo Jun 5, 2007 02:20 PM

              I haven't tried the Beehive food yet, just went for drinks. That alone was worth the trip. Great vibe, and good music too. Despite the mixed reviews on food, I will give it a go sometime this summer. Good luck with the search and let us know how it goes.

              1. re: twentyoystahs
                Dax Jun 5, 2007 08:44 PM

                From the reviews here, doesn't it seem like the Beehive is above the price parameters?

                1. re: Dax
                  Bob MacAdoo Jun 6, 2007 06:18 AM

                  Yes, but price was not 20 O's only requested parameter! Alas, it's not so easy to find cheaper fare in the South End ...

                  BTW, one more place to consider. Delux Cafe. Though I haven't been in eons - and therefore cannot comment on the food - but the dive atmosphere is certainly lively and interesting. And I understand the price point is within the parameters ...

                  1. re: Bob MacAdoo
                    Joanie Jun 6, 2007 06:43 AM

                    But she wants to make reservations. I'd go with Pops or PRB, both of which I'm considering for my party of 6 in a couple weeks. And since Pops is new to me...

              2. re: Bob MacAdoo
                t
                troyS Jun 6, 2007 04:38 AM

                beehive sucks as well.. nice atmosphere thus... laurel food is pretty good and good prices!
                rocca is overpriced and food sucks as well... nice atmosphere and service is ok a bit slow

                1. re: Bob MacAdoo
                  Sgt Snackers Jun 6, 2007 03:17 PM

                  I'm really surprised to see Jae's Cafe being offered as a recommendation - this pales in comparison to ESK or Pops. I find the food and service at Jae's to be just awful. The menu is all over the map and barely authentic ("mango chicken" and "szechuan shrimp") - like the kind of Asian restaurant I'd expect to find in a strip mall somewhere in the midwest where no Asian people live. We can do better! If you want to do something fun and Asian, Koreana is not bad (if you can get the waitstaff to give you the time of day).

                2. lissy Jun 5, 2007 01:47 PM

                  I would choose PRB over Bouchee though the PRB in the South End doesn't take reservations (but the one in Kenmore does). Pops is a good option especially as they should have their ventilation issue taken care of now. I find the staff there to be quite friendly and accommodating. Another reasonably priced option is Rocca. I haven't been since week one but I'll be there tomorrow night to see what kinks have been worked out. If it's nice out, they have that lovely outdoor space too.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lissy
                    t
                    twentyoystahs Jun 5, 2007 01:53 PM

                    I think both Pho and Stella are both just ok...and the truth is, once you venture beyond the apps at Pho you're looking at a higher price point, most entrees $20+ ....just trying to be sensitive to our guests. Also, Stella is crazy-loud. I like the Rocco idea, and I definitely considered that too. But then did a little chowhound research and it looks like that may suffer from a similar fate. Lots of small plates that don't seem to be all that filling and then entrees get a bit pricier. Not true? I may have to check out their menu online. Either way, I'd love a Rocco report once you go again, Lissy, if you don't mind. Our dinner isn't till a week from this Fri so we still have some time.

                    1. re: twentyoystahs
                      lissy Jun 5, 2007 01:57 PM

                      Another option that I just thought of is Grotto. It may not be in the South End but the food is good and reasonably inexpensive.

                      1. re: twentyoystahs
                        i
                        icculus Jun 5, 2007 02:03 PM

                        I was going to suggest to add Rocca in the mix too and like Lissy I haven't been since week 1 (but instead of going tomorrow, I'm going next week). I think it's a bit more exciting for a group of your size than at PRB. I'd also put in a vote for ESK, maybe depending on the Sox schedule...

                        I'm sure you've considered the cash-only aspect of Giacomo's which may be a plus or minus based on your party size.

                    2. k
                      Kbee Jun 5, 2007 01:43 PM

                      What about Pho Republic or Stella?

                      Show Hidden Posts