Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Jul 17, 2007 09:16 AM

Birthday Dinner for Mom

So my mother will be flying in to Boston and will be in town for just one night, which happens to be on her birthday. She's going to be staying in Cambridge and will probably be tired so I'm looking for a good place in that area. I definately want something nice, but as she will have just gotten off a six hour flight and be jet lagged I don't want it to be somewhere fussy. Somewhere with excellent food and a calm ambiance. Also, she doesn't like seafood. Any thoughts?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It'd be good to know which hotel. If she's in Harvard Sq., we'd suggest different things than Kendall Sq. and others. Esp. if she's tired and doesn't want to make a big deal of it.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Joanie

      She will be staying with family friends right outside of Harvard square. She might be tired, but I also want it to feel nice/festive enough that it feels special.

      1. re: LAgirlinBoston

        I recommend that you include Craigie Street Bistro and Upstairs on the Square in your research. Both have the potential to fit very well for you. You'll get lots of specifics if you search these boards by restaurant name in the upper right hand corner. Have a nice evening.

        1. re: BostonBarGuy

          I don't live in Boston anymore, but a year ago for my birthday my parents took me to Craigie Street Bistro and I loved it.

          Another option might be Harvest which is both laid back and delicious. (although its been a good 2 years since I've been there.)

        2. re: LAgirlinBoston

          Depending on which direction outside of Harvard Sq, you could also think of Trattoria Pulcinella which has been around for ever. The dining room can get a bit crowded/noisy, but its otherwise a very mellow experience where you can take your time eating if you like. They used to open their patio for dining, but you would have to call to see if they still do. Its in a residential neighborhood (roughly near Huron Village), not far from Cragie Bistro and has more of a neighborhood feel than some of the other suggestions. Note as far as I know they accept cash and personal checks (local preferred), but still no credit cards.

          Trattoria Pulcinella
          147 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

          1. re: itaunas

            Every time I walk by Pulcinella (usually between 5 and 7:30pm on weekdays), it's completely empty. I dislike being rushed, but I also don't like being eyed by the waitstaff for my entire meal. What's the ambiance usually like?

            1. re: gini

              Reminds me of like the Boston/DCA shuttle, including those folks that commute to Washington every day for work. People that work long hours, but like to chat about the world. While it is often more empty on weekdays, its been crowded more times when I have been there. Usually there are some multi-generation tables, neighborhood folks that always dine there, tables that know each other. Assistant cabinet secretary, in my case the nurse that helped deliver me once, family doctors. Not too much high tech client dining (if the same restaurant was on 495....) or suburbanites (eg south end). The owners use a bit of hyperbole about the food, lots of gestures with their hands. I shied away from the Boston/Cambridge dining scene thread (as I don't think there is any noteworthy difference these days), but for some reason Pulcinella seems very "Cambridge" to me and one of the few places left with Julia Child pictures all over the walls. There are places that beat it on the food and that are more romantic, but I do like the ambiance.

              1. re: itaunas

                What a great description! Thanks.

            2. re: itaunas

              I second Pulcinella. We had reservations somewhere more "special" and "upscale" for my birthday back in October, but I was really craving some simple Italian food, so on a whim, we went here. The meal was exactly what I was hoping for. It's a casual, relaxed environment with simple, yet delicious & authentic Italian fare. I had a delicious Amatriciana, perfectly prepared, as close to the Amatricianas in Italy I've had. Itaunas is right, it's an eclectic mix of local neigbhorhoody types and it's a truly a cambridge institution. It's not the most "unique" or "special" meal you'll ever have, but if you're looking for casual, unpretentious and good, this is a great choice.

        3. I'll add Rialto to the mix. Wonderful food in a very calming setting.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Blumie

            Rialto, UpStairs, Craigie... can't do better than any of those. Though I'd submit that the first two have more festive atmosphere.

            1. re: wittlejosh

              I was looking at pictures online of Rialto (obviously a slow day at work). It looks really cold...the menu does look good though.

              1. re: LAgirlinBoston

                I find the opposite; I consider it to be very warm.

                Edited to add: I just looked at the photos online and agree that they make the place look cold -- particularly the shot of the entryway. In reality, though, the restaurant is much more inviting than the photos make it appear.

          2. Also, what do you think of Salts? I think its on Main street near Cuchi Cuchi..

            2 Replies
            1. re: LAgirlinBoston

              Excellent place, careful and refined technique. Very easygoing and friendly staff. One of my favourites in the area.

              1. re: LAgirlinBoston

                I haven't eaten at Salts yet, but was walking by it today and poked my head in to check it out. It's a beautiful, intimate room, and the hostess was gracious. The tables were very close together, though--if that matters to you.

              2. West Side Lounge may be another one to consider. It's been over a year since I've been, but I've always enjoyed the friendly bartending, cocktails and food. Plus it's more laid back than Rialto or Henrietta's.

                1. I'd also nominate Chez Henri for consideration.