HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


LA chound: how's my food list?

i'm a regular on the los angeles boards and am visiting boston next weekend. as much as i'd like to organize our trip around food, i'm trying to pick places that are mtba convenient and located in or near places of interest ( my husband went to college in the area so he wants to take me to a few specific places). we're staying at the hyatt regency cambridge. here are my picks so far:

- flour bakery (is south end a fun place to walk around?)
- istanbul cafe (i'm going specifically for the iskendar kebab, can't find it in LA)
- kelly's for lobster rolls in medford due to its proximity to the orange line
- stephanie's on newbury

any other must-eats? we're both grad students so preferably on the inexpensive end.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. That's an awfully strange list... I wouldn't classify any of those as must-eats.

    Unless you want to get a car and head up to somewhere remote for a real "lobster roll on the beach" kind of experience, I would recommend walking from the hotel over to Alive & Kicking for a lobster sandwich and eating it over by the river.

    Istanbul Cafe closed a while ago (someone correct me if I'm thinking of the wrong place). Especially on a student budget, I think everyone would agree that you should go to Brookline Family Restaurant for iskender kebab.

    Not sure why you are interested in Flour, but if you're after sandwiches, or pastry, or whatever, there's something better elsewhere.

    1. As Luther said, istanbul closed and Brookline Family Restaurant is good and 2 min from the Brookline Village T. I think that Kelly's is probably worth the jaunt on theorange line (unless they're running buses from Downtown Crossing like they were last weekend), I just had a lobster roll there yesterday and it's jammed with meat (almost too much) on a nicely grilled hot dog bun, worth the $16.95. You might want to combine a Regina visit while you're there.

      I think Flour's a good bakery, not the most convenient but then again, nothing's convenient to the Hyatt Regency. But yes, you could go to Flour then walk down Washington St. and take a left over to Tremont St. where there's a lot of stuff. I also like the cafe on Columbus Ave. by Mass Ave. whose name escapes me. Very pleasant place. Nice higher end dining there too. And if you want to spend $8 more than Kelly's, you can get the lobster roll at B&G.

      Everyone here will tell you to skip Stephanie's. I don't hate it but depending on what you want (outdoor seating?), there are probably better places.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joanie

        I think Flour's way better than a shrug of the shoulders, but otherwise, yes, most hounds will tell you that's not a "must-eats" list. Could you be more specific about the "places of interest" you'll be near so we can direct you to nearby eateries?

      2. Flour has a second location now near the Children's Museum just off of Congress, I think it is Farnsworth St. Fire House Museum is on the corner. It would be closer to most of the tourist sites and has more seating than the South End. The sandwichs are very good and run about $7.

        1. I don't know why on earth you'd use the orange line to get to the Kelly's in Medford, take the blue line to the one in Revere on the beach. The Wellington stop is probably Massachusetts' least pedestrian friendly.

          That is a pretty odd list, I'd ditch Stephanie's too, maybe sub in No. 9, Hamersley's or Troquet for your more expensive meal. In that neighborhood a great place to stop for coffee is the cafe in the Boston Public Library, the coffee isn't that good but the building is fantastic.

          The Helmand, not far from your hotel, is a board favourite.

          4 Replies
          1. re: sailormouth

            The Kelly's on Revere Beach is fine if you don't mind eating outside surrounded by hungry and pushy seagulls. You can eat inside at the one in Medford.

            1. re: bachslunch

              Growing up eating at Kelly's you just need to learn to "defend your food" as my friends use to say! The original is always the best in my opinion.

              1. re: bachslunch

                So? I'm bigger than they are. I agree with Elyssa, going to any Kelly's besides Revere Beach is like going to any Regina besides Thacher Street: it's a weak substitution.

                Speaking of: Regina's on Thacher Street.

                1. re: bachslunch

                  I went to kelly's in Revere for the first and last time last summer - the food was ok, but the beach was just disgusting.

                  the seagulls are the least of it - the garbage is over the top (which would presumably explain why there are so many seagulls?). I don't know how people can overlook this aspect of things - whole bags of fast food trash left on strewn on the sand when there are TONS of garbage cans 5 or 10 feet away. Honestly, Revere Beach is the epitome of filth in summer. This is the worst environment the city has to offer, in my opinion.

                  If that kind of thing is something you can tune out, the food at Kelly's is fine.

                  The shop at Wellington is chain like. It's ok.

              2. Especially since you're staying at the Hyatt Regency, I'd make it a point to check out Baraka Cafe on your side of Central Square for North African. It's relatively inexpensive, and the food is simply outstanding. Definitely worth calling 36 hours in advance to order the squab b'stilla, unique in Boston and most of the country. Also terrific is the spiced lemonade with rose petals. [NB cash only and no alcohol.]

                4 Replies
                1. re: finlero

                  ...unless you don't generally like rose-flavored things, in which case the spiced lemonade tastes like the soap at your hotel.

                  1. re: Luther

                    Along those lines, I recently tried the rose ice cream from Christina's in Inman, and was instantly transported against my will into my grandmother's bathroom. Not cool.

                    Not sure why I like the Baraka lemonade and hate Christina's rose ice cream, but that's just how it is.

                    1. re: finlero

                      I had the same reaction with Christina's rose, although after a while, I was able to work past the grandma memories. It was not easy, though.
                      I think it's partly a textural memory - Grandma's soap was not liquid soap. ;)

                      As for the OP, another thing you likely cannot get in LA is Portugeuse food, which you can find not too far from your hotel at Atasca and, my preference, O Cantinho. Then you can walk over to Christina's for more rose ice cream after dinner.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Hey, what were you doing in my grandma's bathroom?!

                2. My friends who lived in LA for a few years after moving from Boston would likely agree that you need to head to Regina's in the North End.

                  1. As an LA->Boston transplant, I have to admit that my first inclination (painfully) is to recommend that you not worry about organizing your trip around food. Compared to LA, I've found the inexpensive-to-mid range restaurant scene to be underwhelming to say the least, and even the good places can be wildly inconsistent. (*ducking from local ire*)

                    That said, there are lots of little neighborhood places that would make good and relatively inexpensive places to eat into between enjoying the various sights-- if you give more info about where you're trying to hit, some more specific recs along those lines might turn up.

                    - For lobster rolls, you'll actually be staying quite near "Alive & Kicking" on Putnam St!! I'd definitely recommend that as your best choice. Some people also quite like the one at Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Sq (see controversy in a recent thread on this; I personally don't love their rendition, but can see why someone might--it depends on your attitude towards mayo)

                    - Assuming that you're at the Cambridge Hyatt to be near MIT or Harvard, I'd go for one of the Portuguese places in Inman Square (not near the T, but a nice walk from Harvard), or Atasca on Broadway near MIT.

                    - If you're hanging out around MIT, there's also Izzy's, which has homey Caribbean food of a type that's not so common in LA. There's also Emma's Pizza near MIT.

                    - Ice cream is another local mania-- if you get Portuguese in Inman Sq, go to Christina's. If you're near MIT, I'd say Toscanini's (near Central Sq). If you're lucky, they might even have grape nut flavor, a true new england specialty. (Sadly, Toscanini's in Harvard Sq closed)

                    - If you're around Harvard, you could go to Chez Henri and eat at the bar, they have some good drinks and a couple much-touted specialties (like the Cubano sandwich-- many older threads on this board about it). You can also eat the bar in Casablanca (also Harvard Sq). Both have some great options on their bar menus, cheaper than the full dinner service.

                    - As mentioned above, the North End is a good sight-seeing destination, though I personally don't find it much of an eating destination. When I'm stuck strolling around there at lunch time, I usually end up at Antico Forno. Whatever you end up eating in the North End, if it's disappointing, console yourself with a cannoli from Maria's pastry!!

                    - If you really need iskender, I'd definitely second the rec for Brookline Family Restaurant in Brookline Village (green line D, or bus 66 from Harvard Square), but you'd probably have very little other reason to be in that area (and the green line in that area is under construction soon with replacement bus service, making it slightly less convenient to get to). (BTW, there's a few places to get iskender in LA-- in fact, Sofra in the westside pavilion isn't bad! The seasoning's slightly different, but you can also get similar things at greek places like papa cristos or mama voula's, or lebanese or persian places in westwood. But this would be a topic for a different board...)

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: another_adam

                      I'll forgive you, another_adam, for reminding us how provincial we sometimes are, for giving a plug to ice cream, which here is justifiably some of the best anywhere. Grape Nut is available at Lizzy's on Church St. in Harvard Sq, I recommend getting a cone or a dish. Another thing we have here is a frappe, like a milkshake only a little runnier than what I found most places out west, you can actually drink it with a straw. I prefer the simple flavors (coffee, chocolate, etc. . .) but they'll make it with just about anything. Herrell's in Harvard Square is my pusher of choice for that.

                      1. re: another_adam

                        "As an LA->Boston transplant, I have to admit that my first inclination (painfully) is to recommend that you not worry about organizing your trip around food. Compared to LA, I've found the inexpensive-to-mid range restaurant scene to be underwhelming to say the least, and even the good places can be wildly inconsistent. (*ducking from local ire*) "

                        You should duck...not ire..fact. Outside of Pacific Rim Cuisine or Mexican, the LA dining scene is vastly inferior to Boston's ..and that's before you adjust for size of the areas..where LA has a huge advantage. LA's dining scene is a vast area of linked suburbias; which drip of mediocrity..with a few exceptions.

                        I was at Chinois recently and the "house specials" were diver scallops and lobsters from Maine...happened to be great..:)..and the big news is that Craft (NY) is opening in Century City.

                        Our North End has some great restaurants; beyond Antico Forno..which I like..but there's plenty more..all within walking distance of each other.

                        1. re: 9lives

                          "Outside of Pacific Rim Cuisine or Mexican, the LA dining scene is vastly inferior to Boston's"


                          i don't know if i'd consider chinois (which is not good) or craft "inexpensive to mid range". this topic has been discussed on the LA board a lot...i think LA definitely reigns supreme in affordable "everyday" dining. pacific rim and mexican side, we also have easier access to the best and freshest produce.

                          prove me wrong 9lives. so you recommend i check out antico forno? do you think it's better than mozza here in LA? (mario batali's new restaurant)

                          1. re: greengelato

                            Folks, we see a number of City X is better, more chowy etc... than City Y posts every once in a while. For the most part, they never lead good chow and often lead to flame wars.

                            Thus, such rants are counterproductive and usually off-topic. In our experience, making sweeping statements about an area's chow does not make one eat better. It's also beside the point, as the best chowhounds chow without borders; comparing one area with another is often meaningless in the big chow world out there.

                            Please focus on seeking out the best chow in you can with your available resources -- it's a much more delicious experience. Let's get back to sharing tips on Boston chow, please.

                            1. re: greengelato

                              Sorry, I mispoke. My time in LA/ Santa Monica goes back a few years (maybe more)..when Chinois was very good.

                              My bias against LA dining comes from the fact that I don't like to drive..and a LOT of driving is required to make LA's dining accessible..actually I love the city; but only when someone else is driving.

                              I also read an article in Sunday's NYT complaining about the dearth of decent restaurants in Century City..until Craft opened..

                              I think you'll enjoy Antico Forno. It's not in the same category as Mozza..(which I haven't been to) If you want inexpensive, go to Umberto Galleria for pan Sicilian pizza (reopening Aug 1) arancinis or panzarottis..all under $2 or so. A step up in price, walk over to Regina's on Thatcher and get a pizza..or to Artu on Prince St for a lamb /eggplant sub..think I'll get 1 today.:)...or Neptune Oyster for a great mid price meal..or Taranta for Italian with Peruvian influence. Modern or Maria's for some pastries..or any number of cafes for a coffee drink.

                              How about a drive up to the North Shore for some fried clams. Essex Seafood, Farnham's, Clam Box all have their fans. About a 40 min drive..about the same as it takes to drive 5 miles in LA..:) and beats the heck out of Gladstones

                              If you're downtown during the week, near Province St, stop in to Sam LaGrassa's...best pastrami East of Langer's and North of RI..or next door for a Chilean sandwich at Chacarero.

                              E Cambridge for Portuguese shops and markets..a meal at Atasca or O'Cantinho.

                              If you miss home, take the Blue Line to Maverick Sq...and walk around, dozens of taco shops..and finish up at Peruvian Rincon Limeno..or take the T a few more stops to Revere Beach. It will make you cry from homesickness for Venice Beach or Malibu :) but it will also put you a few blocks from Floating Rock..a great Cambodian hole in the wall..and a Kelly's lobster roll.

                              My feathers get a little ruffled when someone tells a visiting hound not to worry about organizing the trip around food...being that's what I do every day..and I eat pretty well at all price points...then you got the LA vs Boston thing. We get it enough from New Yorkers..:) Cities with 3x the population will probably have 3x as many good restaurants..and 3x as many lousy ones. You do have us beat on the produce.

                              1. re: 9lives

                                thanks for the tips. it's funny b/c i barely notice driving as an inconvenience b/c i was born and raised here. i think i've somehow scheduled my life so that i rarely encounter traffic. i know that one of the things my husband and i do look forward to is making this trip a big fat walking tour. :)

                            2. re: 9lives

                              I've lived in Boston all my life, and agree with adam that the mid-range (although not so much the inexpensive) choices are underwhelming, and that the good places are inconsistent. (They can be great, but they can also disappoint; just read the board and that's clear. Why, I just had my first ever grainy ice cream at the great Toscanini's this week!) But I think that's true of most cities.

                              Boston's rightful claims to food fame are seafood, ice cream, and the North End (most of great restaurants there don't serve lunch, and the place is much more enchanting under the cover of night, so maybe its lunchtime charm has eluded you, adam). Plus, he obviously knows the city pretty well, and made some great suggestions. No one should expect ire for giving a civil opinion, only for being impolite.

                              1. re: pollystyrene

                                9lives more than knows the city "pretty well", I'd say he's one of the most knowledgeable posters on this board.

                                greengelato: if you check out 9lives' suggestions you'll get a taste of Boston that few experience.

                                1. re: Niblet

                                  Thanks Niblet. Here's another mid priced NE place for lunch or dinner..Daily Catch..original only.. on Hanover

                          2. wow! thanks everyone for all your wonderful advice. we have so many LA visitors on the LA board and i tend to get annoyed at their restaurant recommendation posts (they're usually way too broad) so i was a little nervous posting one here. :)

                            yes, i'll hack stephanie's. i put it on the list b/c it was the first place i ate and fell in love with creme brulee (almost 10 years ago). i checked their menu and they don't have it anymore.

                            as for flour, i'm a sucker for cute and creative bakery cafes. we'll probably go for brunch and pick up a few extra sandwiches for a picnic. i'm all about walking around fun neighborhoods and south end seemed to fit the bill.

                            i'm surprised how many people here know what iskendar kebab is! we're hard-pressed to find good turkish food here in armenian dominated LA. i've been craving it since our honeymoon in turkey and i was devastated when turkish kitchen (in manhattan) "just ran out" of the stuff during my visit there. brookline, it is! :)

                            i read so many good kelly's reviews but i guess if alive & kicking is convenient and pretty good...i'm down to save us a random T trip. anybody know how kelly's or B&G lobster rolls compare to the ones at hungry cat here in LA?

                            other than a saturday wedding, i think we'll be spending most of our time in downtown boston and harvard area. besides a "duck tour" (dug tour? i have no idea what this is), i don't think we'll be doing anything too touristy since i've been to boston twice. i think my husband's just looking forward to showing me where he spent 4 years of his life...and i'm looking forward to showing him some great eating establishments he missed out on since he mostly ate in the dorms. :)

                            i really like dive-y type places that are popular for specific foods...like "oh you need to try el atacor's #11 potato tacos!" (which, by the way, you must try if you are ever in LA).

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: greengelato

                              If you are in the North End, definitely stop into Neptune for oysters (great selection of East Coast oysters). Or, stop into East Coast Grill & get some oysters, followed by the vegetarian plate with some bones on the side. (also makes a good brunch).

                              1. re: greengelato

                                I'll second, third, whatever: the original Kelly's in Revere, Pizzeria Regina in the North End, The Helmand in East Cambridge--great Afghan food (although not in a fun-to-walk-around neighborhood), Toscanini's in Central Sq. Cambridge, and the bar at Chez Henri outside Harvard Sq. I'd add The Garden at the Cellar, a gastro-pub also just outside Harvard Sq. in the opposite direction (toward Central).

                                My foodie friend from LA LOVES the North End. There's nothing like it in LA, and it's hard to find such meccas of great, authentic Italian food. I'm not too familiar with the cheap eats there, but there are threads on it, so you can look them up (in theory).

                                You might also sate your cute, creative bakery weakness--I've got it too--with a trip to Lulu's, which specializes in cupcakes (stick with their "Hostess" and red velvet), and is conveniently located in the North End, along with Mike's, Modern and Maria's, all doing fantastic Italian pastry. Try the lobster tail at Mike's. Oh so good.

                                I think the neighborhoods that are fun to walk around for those not too familiar with the city are the South End, Back Bay, Harvard Sq., and North End.

                                It is Duck Tour, not Dug Tour. You might have thought you were getting a tour of the Big Dig? Be sure it's the ORIGINAL Duck Tour. I heard on the radio recently about a law suit because some impostor has co-opted the name. Tread carefully!

                                1. re: greengelato

                                  If you do end up making the trek to brookline for iskender, i recommend the mucver and imam bayildi as apps/sides :) (I hear you, it's surprisingly hard to find good turkish in LA amidst the sea of great lebanese, persian, and armenian places) Also, if it's on Sunday, you should take the Green C to coolidge corner and walk down Harvard St to brookline village (~10 min walk), since the D line won't be running regular service--more fun to go for a walk than stand around waiting for buses!

                                  Definitely check out some of the back threads on this board re. north end places--my rec of Antico Forno was just based on the fact that it fits the price range, has the feel of the neighborhood, and I've never gone too far wrong there. People who know the neighborhood better and who like southern Italian(-American) food better than I do will have more specific recs for what's good where....

                                  Have a great time in Boston! (Meanwhile, I'll be spending the weekend eating my way through LA :) )

                                  1. re: another_adam

                                    i heard that the dearth of turkish restaurants in LA is due to fear of backlash from the dominant armenian community (due to the armenian genocide, which turks still deny)

                                    hey would you recommend kiyoshi? i hear it's good for japanese street-ish food. i live on sawtelle so i'm in the mecca of good japanese food here...do you think kiyoshi would be worth it? i <3 asian street food.

                                    1. re: greengelato

                                      I would definitely recommend Kiyoshi. That is, I would definitely recommend it if it were the year 2000, when the place was still open. (!!)

                                      1. re: Luther

                                        oh dear...i'm getting all these food recs from now-closed establishments (kiyoshi, istanbul cafe...). that's what you get for asking people for advice who were once students in boston!

                                  2. re: greengelato

                                    Alive and Kicking is good but I'd hardly make a special trip for it. The price is right and it's a good sandwich (not actually a traditional lobster roll) and it is close to your hotel, but it's not really a destination; Kelly's gives you larger chunks of lobster and the original on Revere Beach has much more local flavor. The lobster rolls at B&G and Neptune Oyster (South End and North End, respectively) are a step up both in price and in general board accolades.

                                    If you like quirky bakery cafes and don't mind a 15 minute walk from Harvard Square, I'd also recommend Hi-Rise bakery cafe - the original one, not the one right in the Square. The good: the breads, sandwiches and some of the baked goods are great; it's a genuine West Cambridge scene; the bad: sometimes the staff has attitude, sometimes not; prices are high (sandwiches around 9 bucks). But I think it's worth checking out since you specify bakeries. Also, it's a few minutes walk (further into W. Cambridge) to Formaggio Kitchen, which is a world-class cheese store (with great cured meats and other items) and is a great place to pick up provisions for a picnic, if that strikes your fancy.

                                    I'd also strongly endorse the recommendation for Floating Rock in Revere (close to the T and not too far from Kelly's) ; really a hole in the wall, but GREAT Cambodian food (I don't know if that's an LA strength or not; I find the flavors quite distinct from Thai and Vietnamese). Check the board for further recs about specific dishes if you go. For me it's all about Tiger's Tears (spicy beef salad with tons of herbs) and the long bean salad.

                                    1. re: MichaelB

                                      A Formaggio picnic is an excellent idea for someone on a budget. For about $20 for the two of you it will feed you well, watch out for drinking wine in public though, even with a picnic.

                                      1. re: MichaelB

                                        How do the 2 Hi-Rises differ (the Harv. Sq. one and the West Camb. one)?

                                        1. re: pollystyrene

                                          I don't believe that they do any baking at the Harvard location. I'm pretty sure it's all done at the Huron location.

                                          I usually can't resist Burdick's, which is right next store, when I'm in Harvard so I've only been a couple of times. Can't wait for Burdick's to reopen.

                                          1. re: pollystyrene

                                            The selection of both sandwiches and baked goods at the Harvard location is smaller than at the West Cambridge location; the indoor seating at Harvard is odd and not all that comfortable. It's not a quality issue, just that the original one has more of that bakery-cafe quality the OP mentioned (you can watch people working in the bakery half, which I think is fun; also you get tasty baking smells).

                                            On the other hand, I'd forgotten that the Harvard location *does* have a really nice patio which affords excellent Brattle street people-watching, so that might make it more appealing.

                                      2. Honestly if you are going to do Kelly's I would really suggest going to the original in Revere at Revere Beach. You can certainly walk to the restaurant from the T-stop.

                                        1. I can't weigh in on the LA vs. Boston debate -- I've spent hardly any time in LA in recent years -- but judging from my reading of Jonathan Gold, LA's sheer volume of inexpensive Asian and Cenral/South American places kicks Boston to the curb. There is a scale issue at work, and a difference in the mix of recent immigrants. We might have better Russian food than LA (I don't really know). but I'm pretty sure our Mexican and Korean food doesn't hold a candle.

                                          Skip Stephanie's and Kelly's. Go to Brookline Family if you must: we don't have a lot of Turkish food, but this is probably our best exponent. Flour is a very good bakery, a lot of craft and love in its pastries, for which you will pay dearly.

                                          The North End has a lot of charm, but perhaps 10 of its 90 eateries are really worth your time. I won't cite my favorites here, but will say it's pretty easy to get a mediocre meal there without some steering.

                                          I also think that Boston's American seafood restaurants aren't all that great. We have a couple of good raw bars, but getting an extraordinary piece of fish is harder than you might think. I love the East Cambridge rec: we have some fine Portuguese restaurants, and not many American cities do. Those chefs know how to cook our local seafood beautifully without fuss, pretense, or a giant bill. Chinatown offers another good option for fresh local seafood, but is not uniquely local in flavor.

                                          We have a few chefs doing French or seafood or New American with a focus on local ingredients. They offer a way to get local flavor that isn't a cliche like North End Italian-American, gloppy clam chowder, plain Maine lobster, Pilgrim-hat corned beef, or anything with a local celeb-chef's name attached to it. I'm thinking of independents with a strong viewpoint, like Craigie Street, T.W. Food, Neptune Oyster, Salts, Rendezvous, East Coast Grill, Ten Tables, and 51 Lincoln. These folks show off distinctive kinds of cooking with strong local flavors, yet are a bit more affordable than our top tier.

                                          I've got some other budget-friendly favorites (like Trattoria Toscana and a host of good bars with above-average food), but their menus are modest and not especially unique to Boston. I hope you let us know where you end up!

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            "The North End has a lot of charm, but perhaps 10 of its 90 eateries are really worth your time. I won't cite my favorites here, but will say it's pretty easy to get a mediocre meal there without some steering."

                                            I agree that most of the North End eateries are tourist traps, but having 10 great, authentic Italian options within a small patch of real estate is a treasure. It's pretty easy to get a mediocre meal anywhere without some steering; that's why this board is great. You've got lots of knowledge, so don't hesitate to steer! What are your NE fave's, and do any of them fit the OP's thin wallet?

                                            1. re: pollystyrene

                                              That's a nice way to look at it! I avoided making North End recs since my post was already long and the topic is one of the most heavily-rutted tracks on the board, but since you asked...

                                              My current favorites on the budget-minded tip are Pizzeria Regina (pizza and nothing but), Antico Forno (wood-oven specialties), Massimino's ("cliche" red-sauce Italian), Artu (casual but tasty Italian-American), and lunch spots like Mangia Mangia, Volle Nolle (even though it's not Italian), and Galleria Umberto.

                                              With a little more to spend, I'd favor Marco, Prezza, Neptune (another non-Italian), Taranta, and perhaps Carmen and Terramia (though I haven't been to either very recently). I'm a fan of Mamma Maria, but that's on the sky-high side.

                                              I guess I'd also recommend making the pilgrimage on a weekday or weeknight, as I find the weekend hordes a little less than charming.

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Thanks, Slim. I asked as much for myself as for the OP. I'm a big fan of Taranta, Mamma Maria and Prezza (which I think of as being even more expensive than Mamma Maria; maybe I tend to imbibe more liberally there since there are no stairs to navigate on the way out).

                                                Other than Regina's, I haven't tried any of the cheaper options because they don't seem worthy of the parking hassle. Do you think any of the ones you mentioned are worth it if you're parking? Are any of the non-lunch spots special in some way, i.e., do they offer something you can't find elsewhere?

                                                Yes, those weekend crowds can give the NE a Disney World vibe that detracts from the authenitc charm.

                                                1. re: pollystyrene

                                                  If I had to drive and park, I might not go out of my way for Antico Forno, Massimino's, or Artu. It's just as much trouble to get to in-town places that I like as well or better, like Trattoria Toscana, Grotto, and Carlo's.

                                                  If I had to look for budget-minded beyond a couple miles from the State House, I might add Vinny's at Night, maybe Carmen's Kitchen.

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    That's what I suspected. Thanks for your opinion. I'll be trying Trattoria Tosacana for the first time next week after the Hopper exhibit; I hope to like it enough to go back for more even without an art appetizer.

                                                  2. re: pollystyrene

                                                    Maurizio's serves a few Sardinian dishes on their menu and seems to genuinely have a Sardinian bent. The main courses are in the $20s. Pretty good cooking overall.

                                                    I've enjoyed the desserts at Lucia, and they seem to have a few Abruzzese dishes that are pretty solid for what they are e.g. Maccheroni Chitarra.

                                                    Some of the tourist traps do serve dishes that are somewhat out of place in a tourist trap - e.g. tripe at Piccolo Venezia is better than you'd expect, while Cantina Italiana serves bombolotti that I believe is a pasta that is typical of Lazio. Haven't been to these two places in a long while, and would certainly appreciate updates.

                                                    Had the bolognese sandwich at Hot Tomatoes not too long ago and it was rich and good. Assume that the rendition at its older sister restaurant Carmen is as solid as ever.

                                                    It's not so much an issue of all round goodness, but one might come across a few hard to find regional Italian dishes that are reasonably if not impressively rendered at some of the places in the NE.

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      I'm posting so I can go back to my chow to refer.

                                                    2. re: pollystyrene

                                                      Unless you're mobility impaired, I can't imagine trying to drive to and park in the North End. Hop the T to Government Center and it's a five-minute walk to Martignetti's, and from there, the entire neighborhood is yours.

                                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                        Exactly what I was thinking. I never understand even thinking about driving there. Altho I did take advantage of the Bricco valet deal once.

                                              2. If I were coming from LA, I'd go to Muqueca for Brazilian, Aneka Rasa for Singapore/Malaysian, Royal Bengal for Bengali, Namaskar for Gujarati and I'd ask if Spice King is still good for Indonesian (Bali Cafe that replaced Jakarta at the Super 88 Food Court is only ok). second the mucver rec at Brookline Family -- the yogurt there is great too.

                                                1. this thread is so great! thanks everyone. :)

                                                  1. I can't believe no one has yet recommended Sultan's Kitchen, for Turkish. It has both iskendar kebab, and donner (sp?) kebabs. If you are in the touristy area of Quincy Market, this is probably the best place to grab lunch or even a very early dinner. It's on State Street.

                                                    Sultan's Kitchen
                                                    116 State St, Boston, MA 02109

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Alcachofa

                                                      Yeah, I'm also surprised noone has mentioned Sultan's Kitchen too. It's right in the financial district and easy walk from Downtown Crossing or South Station (or anywhere in Boston for that matter), but it's best to go after the prime lunch hours in order to have a civilized meal there. http://www.sultans-kitchen.com/

                                                      As a born and raised Los Angeleno, if you're looking for some "classic" chow places to visit in Boston, I'd say Regina's (pizza) and Galleria Umberto (great panzarotti and arancini) in the North End are essential, as is Modern Pastry.
                                                      If you can get a hold of a car, I'd say you should take a drive up to Essex/Ipswich area and have some fried clams and lobster rolls up there. It's quintessential coastal New England.
                                                      For unique offerings around Cambridge, I'd second the recommendation for Cafe Baraka for Tunisian/North African. The only other unique place I can think of around there is East Coast Grill, which is a higher-end restaurant. The Portuguese palces around Inman square are also worth visiting. Toscanini's and Christina's ice cream will be good places for dessert. I'm not sure how it is these days, but when I lived in Boston, I enjoyed Green Street Grill for their unique spicy offerings as well. That might be another good place to chow.
                                                      If you do have wheels on a weekday afternoon, I'd make a bee-line for Speed's hot dog cart. You've never seen a hot dog like this one.

                                                      1. re: E Eto

                                                        If by "next weekend" the OP means the day after tomorrow (7/28), Umberto ain't gonna be open. They're always closed for the entirety of July.