please check my work
My 2 boys, 5 and 2.5, and I are coming to Boston with dad while he attends a conference. We are staying at the Kendall Hotel. The kids are adventurous eaters and do know how to be public people, eat out, etc. Nonetheless, they are 5 and 2.5 and I'll be on my own for all but 2 dinners.
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Lunch on Aquarium day I am thinking Sel de la Terre. Other lunches will likely be slices, deli/sandwich takeout (Flour?), tacos (Grampy's gulf), food truck (good falafel maybe), etc. as dictated by hunger, mood, location. (Other possbilities are the Childrens Museum, the Red trolley, Paul Revere's house, Swan boat ride, MFA for a short stint after 4 on Wed. The Harvard Natural History museum looks interesting but then so do the Harbor Islands if it is hot or, as I saw posted somewhere here, a trip out to JP for Cuban food and a row on the pond. Alas, so much to do in just 4 days).
We are from Maine and just returned from Seattle and so have no need of the typical seafood fix. We'll skip Chinatown this time only because we just did that out West.
In scanning the boards, I compiled this short list of dinner possibilites. We want one dinner in the North End- am thinking Antico Forno after MFA on Wed. Also am considering O Cantinho (looks like Atasca is on vacation), Cafe Baraka, La Verdad, or Mulan. Maybe travel to Brookline Family Rest.
Of course this is the list if the kids hold it together. Black Sheep is in our hotel if we are not fit to go out. Emmas and Armando's look like casual pizza. Is Miracle of Science a real bar i.e no kids or can we grab a burger there?
Finally, this mama is serious about her coffee. Any great suggestions for the morning cup(s)? Starbucks is my last resort...
I'm sorry this is a long post. I tried to do my homework so as not to waste anyone's time and to help my family have a fun, well-fed trip. Thanks in advance for any and all help.
I work near your hotel and can offer some feedback in that regard.
The Blue Room is doing a weekday outdoor lunch on the grill. I've not yet been, but they have updates on the web site (they cancel if it rains, I think). This is an easy walk from the hotel and might serve you well with the kids. Miracle of Science is kid-friendly (but definitely a bar). I'd make sure that you don't go at the rush hour for lunch (maybe arrive a little early, like 11:30, or in the afternoon around 2). Miracle also does a great breakfast. Armando's pizza is way across town, you'll need a car, and so it's probably not worth it. I love 'Mandos, but I wouldn't trek all that way. Emma's is great, and again, with the kiddos you might want to go a little bit early because it can get very crowded. And if you find yourself in Harvard Square, there's always Pinocchio's for pizza.
Unless your hotel has good coffee, Starbucks or Au Bon Pain will be your best bet right there in Kendall. Though walk down Main Street towards Central Square - approx. 10 min. from your hotel - and you will hit Toscanini's. Pretty good coffee and some of the best ice cream around. You could order a hot vanilla latte - they infuse the 14% milk fat ice cream base with whole vanilla beans and use that for the latte. Yeah, you'll want to do a lot of walking after that, but dang it's good. Also within walking distance is Izzy's, a Puerto Rican restaurant that could be good for the family. It's at the corner of Windsor and Washington street, again, you walk down Main and take a right on Windsor. Some might call this an unsavory part of town - I don't - but there can be some rough seeming teenagers hanging out, so with the kids you might prefer going for lunch, rather than dinner (best to check the hours).
The better felafel truck, IMHO, is on the other side of MIT on Mass Ave. The one near Kendall Square isn't worth the calories. There is a middle eastern cafeteria style restaurant called Aceituna Cafe within walking distance, though, I wasn't impressed. Flour Bakery in the south end is great for sandwiches and baked goods, and if you wanted something nearer to your hotel, there is Second Street Cafe in East Cambridge. It's also not far from the Science Museum.
Sel de la Terre will be good with the kids, food is solid. Be forewarned about Cafe Baraka - the food is great, but you will wait and wait and wait--for your food, for your bill, for your change. So if your kids get antsy, it could be tough. O Cantinho is a great dinner spot as well. I've not had recent experience with the others on your list.
It sounds like you're pretty adventurous, even with the kids in tow, and although I cannot comment on Brookline Family Restaurant (it's been on my to-do list forever), I can say that the Cuban food in JP is great. Very family-friendly, too. And if you hit up the Harbor Islands, you can always get some sandwiches or snacks from the boulangerie at Sel de la Terre, or grab something in the North End (sandwiches at Volle Nolle perhaps).
re: MB fka MB
There's also a Flour near the Children's Museum and it's a great option for lunch, although unless you get there early you'll wait a bit, as it's all made to order. There are tables outside by the waterfront as well as a lunch room inside the Children's Museum.
The Islands are fun but they will kill a whole day. If you want a cruise you can pick up lunch at Sel de la Terre and do a roundtrip to Hingham or Quincy- schedule is at MBTA.com, choose the boat icon.
The Harvard Natural History Museum isn't air conditioned (or if it is, it's not done well). I'd rather find some kind of takeout around the Common and do a Swan Boat ride and then let the kids splash in the Frog Pond. I would get food first though, because the snack bar there at the Frog Pond is what you'd expect, corndogs and the like, nothing great. I haven't yet found a great takeout sandwich shop around the Common/Public Garden so I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has got one to recommend.
re: MB fka MB
You did your homework well, and got some great tips from the other posters. I agree with Sel de la Terre, Antico Forno, Emma's, Parish Cafe, and Tocanini's (if you're in Central Sq.).
I've never been, but maybe someone could speak to the quality of the Beantown Coffeehouse in Kendall Sq.
If you're planning to go to Paul Revere's house on a different day than the MFA/Antico Forno trip, then you can have a second North End meal at Pizzeria Regina if you're not all pizza'ed out.
Bartley's Burgers in Harvard Sq. would be another good burger alternative.
Most of the homework seems to be spot on. I'm guessing you're thinking MuLan primarily because of its proximity to Kendall Square. It's not bad, but I'd probably opt for Thai at The Similans, Afghan at Helmand or (slightly longer schlep) Mediterranean original at Oleana over MuLan, especially if you're not on the lookout for Chinese. Unfortunately, as mentioned, Boston doesn't really have a major league coffee culture, and I can't think of any great coffee shops near Kendall. I do have a soft spot for Panificio, which is near the Charles/MGH T stop on Charles Street in Beacon Hill (also an excellent salad or sandwich stop at lunchtime and lovely comfort food at dinner time, though I'm not so certain about kid friendliness when they're busy); they do have decent coffee and cappuccino.
Brookline Family Restaurant is probably based on something I posted, so I'll simply say I think it'll be worth the trip. For great sandwiches, there's Darwiin's in Harvard Square (if you're looking at the glass flowers at Harvard), Panificio as mentioned, Sam La Grassa's in Downtown Crossing and the aforementioned Parrish Cafe near the Public Garden.
And if you're going to the MFA, is it worth considering Trattoria Toscana over the North End? (I only know this place by reputation, haven't gotten there myself yet, and it is a bit of a hike from the museum, but it's not hideously far away.)
Hope you have a good trip!
Atasca stinks (though they make a pretty solid sandwich at lunch) and I would recommend passing it up for O Cantinho even if both were open and you were staying in Kendall.
Emma's is yuppie "pizza" but could be a fun dinner. Armando's is decent pizza but it's really far away and not walkable or easily T-able from your hotel. If you want to travel to get good pizza, take the B line to T. Anthony or hit up Regina while you're downtown.
Thank you everyone for the great help and for taking the time to give very thoughtful replies. I am so excited about this trip. It is really helpful to get some directions, to hear what is further/closer to the hotel than I thought, and what might break us if we hit rush hour or a long wait (i.e we may wait on Baraka, although I have to say it was way high on my looks delicious list). We have been to Helmand once and while it was amazingly good, we happned to hit a VERY incompetant waitress (something very odd was going on-more than just bad service) and had the kids been with us it would have been a nightmare.
I may not be able to make the vanilla latte a daily thing but I'll have to try it. And Puerto Rican sounds wonderful. That is a cuisine of my childhood that is nowhere to be found up here in Maine. The Blue Room grill lunch sounds great too. The kids really like the Parish cafe and Frog Pond suggestion and I am more and more liking JP and Cuban. We just might hit the North End more than once, both due to great suggestions and the fact that my kids, like most I guess, are never pizza'd out:)
Again, so much to do, so little time. Anyway, thanks again and I will report back if anyone is interested.
I recently had two nephews in town, one 3.5 and the other 6.5, and they really enjoyed the Children's Museum. The interactive plays were fun. Flour is right around the corner, but I would get there well before the lunch crowd. The place was packed the day we were there. As a result we wound up at Au Bon Pain, but from either venue you can take your food to the nice outdoor tables in the museum area. The kids enjoyed their lunches, and had a great time looking at the fish and jellyfish in the water below. The outdoor seating is a big plus.
The MFA has a decent cafeteria on the ground floor with outdoor seating should you choose to go during the day, and self-guided children's programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer. The 3.5 year-old loved the Egyptian packet.
The Science Museum has a very interesting 3D movie about sharks, with interactive activities in the Discovery Center that the boys enjoyed. Their food court is decent, with a variety of choices, and a view of the Charles. As part of the total experience it was fine. They have pizza, unusual ice cream and acceptable coffee for mom.
Sel de la Terre and your other choices sound great. Have fun!
One comment on Grampy's Gulf, as I work nearby, and have been several times. The food is really good, but the tacos are small, and not that filling. For kids that age, it may be just enough (there are two to an order), but it is strictly a takeout place, and you'd have to walk a bit to find a suitable place to take them to (The Public Garden, with the Swan Boats, which you shouldn't miss is about a 10 min. walk from there for me, and I'm a fast walker). Sel de la Terre I think is a good choice, we took my daughter when she was a few years older than your kids, and I remember she had pasta with butter, but ended up eating quite a bit of my steak frites. I definitely would recommend Regina's in the North End if you can hit it at a bit of an off peak time. I think instead of the Harbor Islands, I would suggest doing a harbor cruise- it's not that expensive, you pick it up right near Sel de la Terre, and it's a pretty pleasant way to spend an hour. The walk along the harbor near Boston Harbor Hotel is nice while you're over there- not sure how much of that they get in Maine, but it's fun to see the big yachts parked there and dream of winning the lottery (for me anyway). Also, while you're in that area, they may enjoy walking to Quincy Market, as there are usually some street performers, such as jugglers. Please do post.