HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Weekend Boston Trip- Name 5 affordable MUST VISIT restaurants!

Hi there!

I am new to ChowHound and so excited to have found it!

My husband and I are visiting Boston this weekend and want to take in as much authentic Boston as we can, including food! Since we only have 2 days and somewhat of a sparse budget, I am looking for some recommendations of where to eat out while there...

***If you could name 5 places to eat (lunch and/or dinner) that is no more than around $20 or less per entree, what you would you recommend???***
Also, if we wanted to splurge one night for a great dinner (which, for us would be no more than $40 per person), where should we go?

Of note, we are staying at the Westin, Copley Place, but could take the T anywhere it goes or walk a few blocks or so. Also, type of food doesn't necessarily matter, but we love Italian, Mexican, seafood, "American," or will try anything too!

THANKS for ANY and ALL suggestions!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In no particular order:

    1)Pizzeria Regina - North End
    2)Antico Forno - North End
    3)the bar at Chez Henri - Cambridge, between Harvard and Porter Sq.
    4)The Helmand - East Cambridge
    5) Garden at the Cellar - Cambridge, between Harvard and Central Sq.

    For the splurge, do you want to spend $40 per entree or or $40 for 2 or 3 courses?

    1 Reply
    1. re: pollystyrene

      Thanks for the suggestions! For the splurge- probably around $40 per entree... (Basically, want to stay under $100 for the meal out for both of us, not including alcohol, of course.)

    2. Boston is very expensive (though not if you're from London). You could try the Japanese noodle places in the food court at Porter Square (it's a little slice of Japan in Boston).
      Petit Robert Bistro's entrees are no more than $20, and lunch is reasonable too. Lala Rokh is a beautiful Persian restaurant (think Northern Indian food, less spicy) that is not too pricy. Peach Farm for good Chinese. Durgin Park is an old Boston institution--it's cheaper at lunch and you can't beat the Indian pudding.

      1 Reply
      1. re: whs

        Good Splurges:
        No. 9 Park
        Hamersley's Bistro
        Via Matta
        O Ya

      2. Piz. Regina is a great suggestion, go at an off time. If you want to spend more time in the North End, I'd splurge at Prezza. Altho you could do their special deal in the bar area where 2 people eat 3 course meals for only $45. No choices tho. I'd walk over to B&G in the south end from your hotel, nice walk and good food. Split some stuff and you'll stay at the $20 mark. You could get breakfast or lunch at Charlie's which is just a 10 min walk over to Columbus Ave. Old style counter type spot.

        1. Some interesting recommendations from others - here's mine.

          Stay away from Mexican in the areas you will be visiting - there are a couple decent places but nothing worth a special visit, unless you feel like you would like you want to sample the ubiquitous Anna's Tacqueria for cheap ($4) burritos while walking about.

          For Italian, spend some time strolling through the North End at lunchtime and make it the main meal of the day - grab some snacks at Neptune Oyster, roll around the corner to Artu for some great sandwiches (anything with the roast pork, lamb or homemade marinated eggplant), grab a gelato on Hanover Street, then pop into a salumeria for some Italian goodies and Modern Pastry (avoid Mike's) for some Italian cookies to pack back to the hotel.

          For something really unique, if you are planning on exploring the South End, find Orinoco on Shawmut. Tiny place - will feel like a hidden gem - don't let Venezuelan food dissuade you. This place rocks! Go for a later dinner on Saturday, after walking off your North End goodies.

          If you are going to head over to Cambridge, check out recommendations for Central Kitchen, Rendezvous and Green Street Grill.

          If you are going to Cambridge and feel like walking, head to Inman Square and check out East Coast Grill and O Cantinho.

          Another suggestion would be to do a search on "crawl" and Boston or Cambridge to get some sampling ideas for different neighborhoods.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            Avoid Bob Dob's advice when he speaks of Mike's. Mike's is great!

            1. re: pollystyrene

              I second pollystyrene's advice. I LOVE Mike's Pastry!! Especially their Ricotta Pie. To die for. Also, very good Lobster Tails and Sfogliatelle. I only wish I could find a Ricotta Pie as good as Mike's in Manhattan, where I live.

              1. re: pollystyrene

                That's a long simmering debate. Mike's vs. Modern vs. Maria's

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I would throw Napoli Pastry into the mix.

            2. I will once again give away my patented Pizzeria Regina trick (as it tends to frequently have lines out the door):

              Boldly walk right past the line, into the pizzeria, and take seats at the little bar on the left. It's first come, first served. And really, what's the difference between eating pizza at the bar and eating it at a table? The bartenders are just as (humorously) surly as the waitresses.

              Food hint: order a few small pizzas, don't get them overloaded with toppings (one topping per pie tops is my rec), and ask for it to be cooked well-done.

              Final Regina's tip: ONLY eat at the original in the North End.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Bostonbob3

                In my experience, the seats at the bar have always been taken, too, when there's a line outside. I think the real trick would be yelling "Fire!" Maybe a table or two would clear out, but only if they were almost done anyway.

                People keep recommending the small pizzas at Regina's. Why's that?

                1. re: pollystyrene

                  I eat there nearly every weekend, and there's almost always a few seats at the bar. Not 100% of the time, but very, very frequently.

                  The small pizza order is due to crust consistency. The small pies taste just as great, but don't get as "floppy" or soggy at the tips.

                  Ordering them well-done adds to the greatness that is Regina's.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                    The bar only bas 4 or 5 seats right? More often then not when I would go with a friend, the seats were filled as well. Tips never have a chance to get soggy when I eat there.

                    1. re: Dax

                      Heh. My trouble is, the pizza is so molten right after it cxomes out of the oven. I let it cool, thereby creating soggy tips. The smalls eliminate the problem both ways (less cooling time, more stable crust to begin with).

                      I believe the bar has 6 seats. And again, I'm a regular there, and far more often than not there are always at least a couple seats available. At the very least, it's worth the effort to check it out versus standing in line for an hour.

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        I don't think I've ever left Regina without the roof of my mouth scalded. It's worth the pain.

              2. I could name a lot more than 5, but here are 5 that are near the top of my list, in no particular order:

                1) Pizzeria Regina, North End--perhaps the best pizza in town

                2) Tacos Lupita, Somerville (near Porter Square T stop)--excellent Mexican and El Salvadorean food, and a steal at about $4.00 per meal

                3) Pagliuca's, North End--delicious Southern Italian food at a place that isn't known to tourists

                4) Cafe Polonia, South Boston (near Andrew Square T stop)--one of my 10 favorite restaurants in Boston, this cozy little place serves some really tasty Polish dishes

                5) Dok Bua, Brookline (near Coolidge Corner T Stop)--housed in a former convenience store/market, they have about the best Thai food in the Boston area, IMO

                As far as a splurge? Others on this board would probably know better than I would, but I do know that Prezza, Clio, L'Espalier, and Petit Robert Bistro are a few of the favorites that keep coming up here.

                17 Replies
                1. re: hiddenboston

                  Dok Bua is an excellent, very inexpensive recommendation.

                  I noticed you commented that you like Mexican. Perhaps not the most authentic in town, but convenient location and pretty damn good food (I especially love their moles and chicken livers): Sol Azteca.

                  Also, for a pretty decent fish taco or close-to-excellent burrito, there's El Pelon. If you like it really spicy, be sure to ask for their "holy-crap-this is-nasty-hot" salsa.

                  Both are in the Kenmore area.

                  And if you really want to eat local (and cheap), go to Grampy's Gulf gas station on Cambridge Street (back side of Beacon Hill). There's an excellent Mexican restaurant in there, believe it or not.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                    Bob I love the mexican place in the gas station but if they are looking for grampy's gulf they wont find it. It is no longer a Gulf station but I can;'t remember what kind it is. AS a hint for the OP it is on Cambridge Street near Mass General across the street from Finagle a Bagel.

                    1. re: emilief

                      Grampy's Gulf or whatever is also NOT a "must visit" restaurant in my opinion.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        I was using this line as a measuring stick more than "must visit" spots:

                        //want to take in as much authentic Boston as we can, including food!//

                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                          It's amazing how two intelligent people can read the same thing and come up with two different interpretations. :)

                          I only read the headlines in newpapers anyway.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            "Headless Torso Found In Topless Bar"

                            What else does anyone need?

                            Oh, and the OP could also probably get a good meal at Grotto for his/her price points.

                            1. re: Bostonbob3

                              BostonBob, sorry to nitpick, but a classic tabloid headline like that has to be quoted correctly.
                              "Headless Body in Topless Bar."
                              I'm sure more than a few NYPost readers would scratch their heads over torso.
                              As for the rec's I think Pollystyrene nailed it in the first response, with one note-
                              I just don't think any of the recommended restaurants in East Cambridge are worth the time during a 2 day trip to Boston.
                              Unless there's some insane craving for Portugese or Afghan I'd recommend saving Helmand, Atasca and Cantinho for a longer trip.

                              1. re: joestrummer

                                Good point. Sometimes people here just slap up a list of their favorites without taking all of the circumstances into consideration. Jerks. I was mainly focussed on the price point. If they just happen to be at the Museum of Science, though....

                                1. re: pollystyrene

                                  Another good point. I was assuming the restaurants would BE the destination. If they're in the area then by all means.
                                  And while this fall into the splurge category if I'm in that area with my better half it's hard to pass up a drink and perhaps an appetizer or dessert on the patio at Dante in the Royal Sonesta hotel. Very romantic atmosphere with the city and river views.

                  2. re: hiddenboston

                    Dok Bua is excellent, and I believe it is byob, which is a plus if you're on a budget.

                    King Fung Garden in Chinatown (Brookline location as well, but it's fun to walk around Chinatown.) is awesome as well, and may be byob, although I'm not sure on that one. If you like duck, call the day before and order the three course Peking duck. Yum.

                    As mentioned, Carlo's Cucina Italiana is very fresh, reasonably-priced Italian. The neighborhood is pretty bland, but the restaurant itself is very warm and sweet.

                    We don't often go for the splurges, but you can't go wrong with Hammersey's Bistro in the South End. I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions from others.

                    Have a fantastic trip!

                    1. re: bear

                      I don't mean to start a neighborhood war, but calling Allston - which houses Carlo's among other innumerable great restaurants and shops - "bland" is unfair. I like to think of it as Boston's version of Brooklyn, condensed into 1 square kilometer: Allston has one of the best collections of restaurants/eateries in Boston (New Trend Eatery, Yi Soon, Rangoli, Carlo's, May's Cafe, Grain and Salt, Cafe Brazil, the Super 88 Food Court, Buk Kyung II, Color, Shanghai Gate - this list can go on...), a good collection of bars/nightlife, and the best indie rock scene (Great Scott & O'Brien's) in the city, hands down.

                      1. re: beerman

                        Good comparison, beerman. When I was on the Kings Highway in Midwood (Brooklyn) a few weeks back, I was thinking how much it looked like Allston. I think that Allston is a must for at least one meal for visitors to Boston. A few places I like there include Shanghai Gate, Reef Cafe, and Rangoli.

                        1. re: beerman

                          definitely. that area has a wealth of food options, i love going there to eat.

                          1. re: passing thru

                            Me too; that area serves some of the dishes that I could consider best of in the Boston area. I'd also add Aneka Rasa, Reef Cafe, India Dhaba, YoMa and Suvarnabhumi Kiri.

                            Another nabe worth checking out is East Boston. Lots of Colombian, Peruvian, Mexican and Salvadorean, and lots of chowhounding material if you're in the mood to suss out new places rather than just go with recommendations.

                            1. re: limster

                              You know, I finally checked out YoMa last night and it was all over the place.

                              But more to the point: For some of these less mainstream restaurants, it might be helpful to give specific dish recommendations, especialy given that the OP named four pretty mainstream cuisines (Mex, seafood, Italian, American...).

                              Also, not to be disagreeable, but if I were visting Boston and wanted five MUST TRY restaurants, I'd be pretty puzzled if I somehow managed to choose from this broad-based list of restaurants, say, YoMa, Sol Azteca, King Fung (except for the duck), and Reef without some direction.

                              1. re: wittlejosh

                                A lot of chowhounds I know tend not to want to be told where to go, and want to fun of a chowy discovery with perhaps rough guidelines. I wouldn't necessarily recomend one place over the other, but mainly suggesting that area as a chow-rich nabe for chowhounding, i.e. discovering for oneself what's good. A common strategy might be to hit a whole bunch of them, sampling little things along the way, eating more at a place if one liked it.

                                The key is to pace oneself, and stick to small bites. One doesn't have to hit everything single place en route, but it's always fun to peek in, get a sense for what it's like and then figure out if whether to bite. I certainly wouldn't recommend this type of approach to just anyone, but on this board it makes more sense provide recommendations that a chowhound might like.

                        2. re: bear

                          Guys, I deserve a total reaming for that description. In a moment of idiocy, I was equating gentrified with scenic for out-of-towners. Allston is a treasure and Boston would be poorer on many levels if it were any different. A little student grunge just adds to the flavor. Thanks for the dope slap.

                      2. I guess I am confused by the post vs. recs - If I am reading this correctly, the poster is looking for places with $20 or less PER ENTREE. Looks like more mid-range places hit that mark than what is being recommended.

                        I LOVE Tacos Lupita (in my top 5) but it is not worth the T ride out to Porter on a short weekend! Same thing goes for the Porter Square Exchange. I think visitors would be sorely disappointed.

                        Couple of other recs - Franklin Cafe and Hammersley's Bistro for "American"

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          I'm a little confused too--the OP wants to spend $100 for two people on the splurge restaurant. I guess you could do this if you had no wine or cocktails?

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            agreed. i love tacos lupita and have a fondness for some things in the porter exchange, but neither is really any sort of destination spot.

                          2. I think what to recommend may depend on where you are coming from. For instance, Tacos Lupita, while good--about as good as it gets in Boston--is by no means special in comparison to many other parts of the country. Ditto for Dok Bua and El Pelon, in my opinion. (I may be in the minority on this, but I don't think Thai is a Boston strength.) But if you are coming from a place that is weak in those areas, these are all solid options.

                            I would suggest Ten Tables for a splurge, though I don't recall exactly what their entree prices are (we always go for the Wed. prix fixe.)

                            For more moderately priced meals: Trattoria Toscana is very reasonably priced and very very good Italian in the Fenway area. Antico Forno (North End) is also in that category.

                            For more Boston-unique type things, I like Pupusa Guanaca (Salvadoran pupuseria in Jamaica Plain), Cafe Baraka in Cambridge, and the many excellent bakeries--Hi-Rise, Petsi's Pies, Clear Flour, Canto 6 stand out in my mind. Chacarero in Downtown Crossing does really tasty Chilean sandwiches. O Cantino in Cambridge is good for moderately priced Portugese.

                            I suppose if you mean "authentic" as in ye olde New England, you could look at the recent thread on Durgin Park--tho' I've never been myself and, after finding out what Indian Pudding is, doubt that will change any time soon.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: autopi

                              Autopi brings up a good point. Where are you coming from, fsuadrienne?

                            2. Plenty of good recommendations here. I'd definitely add Galleria Umberto (lunch only) in the North End -- ultra cheap and excellent, though getting there early (ca. 11 AM) is best. And Parish Cafe on Boylston St. will give you a first-rate gourmet sandwich for moderate money.

                              1. Don't forget to have ice cream! Toscanini's (my personal choice), Christina's, or Herrell's in Cambridge, J.P. Licks or Emack & Bolio's on Newbury St., walking distance from your hotel.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                  Oh God, Herrell's Malted Vanilla is my absolute favorite ice cream on earth.

                                  On Mars, I prefer Zadnock's Zinc Rain.

                                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                                    Have you noticed they're getting a little skimpy on the zinc, though?

                                    Mmmm...malt. There is not enough malt in this world. Toscanini's has a nice malted vanilla, too.

                                    1. re: Bostonbob3

                                      If you love chocolate, there is nothing like Herrell's chocolate pudding, cup or cone.

                                  2. Well if you are in the mood for bargin dining, this is the weekend.. Boston is in the midst of Restaurant week where many offer complete three course dinners for $33.07.. you should check out the website for listing of participating restaurants. Some that are offering it on Saturday include EVOO, OLIVES, TREMONT 647. If you see a place you like, give them a call. Alot of other restaruants that do not participate though are packed! So be prepared to wait.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: eatingaround33

                                      RW is suspended on Fri & Sat nights, though, when restaurants are crowded anyway.

                                      1. re: pollystyrene

                                        RW is not suspended on Friday.. it runs Sun through Friday and then Sunday through Friday again. Many are including Saturday.

                                    2. for your splurge, think about the 3-course $36 prix fixe at craigie street bistrot, north of harvard square.

                                      1. I'd add in Locke Ober for lunch - enjoy the lobster stew, it is fantastic, and take in the historic setting. It's pricey, so better for a lunch option: http://www.lockeober.com/menu_lunch.htm

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: MB fka MB

                                          MB makes a great point. Some of the best restaurants in town serve a very reasonable lunch. Even L'Espalier has a $24 prix fixe lunch now.

                                          1. re: BBHound

                                            Pops - South End
                                            Douzo (Sushi) - Back Bay
                                            Silvertone - Downtown
                                            West Side Lounge - Cambridge
                                            Trattoria Toscana - Fenway

                                        2. Thanks for all of the suggestions!!! Sounds like there a so many places, the hard part will be narrowing them down! Trattoria Toscana and Durgin Park keep popping up, so I think those are definates!

                                          To answer some of your questions, we are coming from Baltimore, but used to live in Florida... Also, I am not tied to price necessarily, but simply don't want to spend ALL of our money on eating... Of course, if it is more expensive in general to eat in Boston, then so be it- we will dish out the cash! ;) And if a certain place is worth the splurge (within reason), then we are willing to pay. We really just want some suggestions for really good food, especially places that are unique to Boston or classic New England fare, rather than relying on just tourist traps or places the concierge recommends to everyone.

                                          Keep the suggestions coming!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: fsuadrienne

                                            Ah, now the purse strings loosen... Well, it's probably too late to get a reservation at No. 9 Park, though you could eat at the bar. Trattoria Toscana is a good choice--it's tiny and they don't take reservations, so go early or late. A warning--Durgin Park is very touristy, right in the middle of Quincy Market shopping mall, but it's the real thing.
                                            I don't know if anybody has suggested Toro, but it's a tapas place in the South End that is lots of fun--great food, good-looking crowd, nice waiters. No reservations, and the wait can take a while, but it's fun to hang out with a cava or a mojito. Have the corn on the cob...

                                            1. re: fsuadrienne

                                              Goodness, don't waste your time with Durgin Park! The food is fine, but not something I would put on my list. Plus, it will be PACKED with tourists! Besides, "classic" New England fare simply was never that good to begin with. If you want lobsters or that sort of thing, go for the outdoor deck at the Barking Crab.

                                              Having come from Baltimore at one time, I would suggest the following places that I really found fun in Boston -

                                              1) Portuguese - Definitely try to hook up with Atasca or O Cantinho -
                                              2) Chinatown - IIRC, there is not much in Balto. - Go to Hei La Moon for dim sum Sunday morning. You will stuff yourself for low dollars, like $10 pp.
                                              3) East Coast Grill - if there were ever a restaurant in Boston that has something close to the informal vibe of many Baltimore places, this is it. This place is very unique to Boston - has great fish, raw bar, and bbq. Lots of variety, lots of spice.

                                              If you go to Trattoria Toscana, I would be really interested in hearing your reaction, since Balto. has a good number of Italian places.

                                              Also, recommend any number of places in the South End. Toro is a great choice.

                                            2. Planning is important, especially during restaurant week. Make some reservations. Don't count on just walking in. However I liked the tip of sitting in the bar to avoid the lines out of the door at some places.

                                              you can see the participating restaurants online for RW.

                                              1. Hi there!
                                                Well, we returned from our Boston trip-- THANK YOU to all who made recommendations! We made it to Durgin Park for lunch (pot roast and indian pudding were AMAZING! I want to make my own pudding now!), Orinoco for dinner (WONDERFUL! My favorite meal-- so unique and delicious! And the owner was so nice! Now I am looking for a local Venezualen/ Latin restuarant around my hometown!). Also had Tratoria Toscana for dinner one night and a cannoli from Mike's Pastry's. My husband and I found our pasta dishes at Tratoria Toscana to be delicious! But at the same time, here in Baltimore, we have a Little Italy area that has italian restaurants that are comparably delicious. We didn't get to hit up the other places on our list, but sometimes, we were just too hungry to walk in circles and figure out the T rides to find a place.... Found a restaurant called Charley's on Newbury street that had a pretty good brunch on Saturday... But then again, we were STARVING! :) Overall, we had delicious food thanks to your suggestions and actually did not have to wait at all at any of the restaurants!