HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Tourist needs Chowhounders to criticise my choices

I'm a Toronto Chowhound heading to Boston with parents and have compiled a shortlist that I'd graciously appreciate any advice on. I shiver at the thought of what I would've had to endure if I didn't have Chowhound to help me!

My parents have passed their Chowish food-fussiness down to me so we can be a tough family to please, here's what I'm looking for:

-Mostly seafood as Toronto doesn't have much in the way of fresh seafood at a reasonable price

-Anything that one might find particularly in Boston. I will avoid the term 'authentic experience' (but not at the cost of food; I've ducked 12 suggestions for the Barking Crab because it seems too Touristy. Although good restos near the water would be nice.)

-Price range of 20-something to 30-something entrees

-Preferably close to the Intercontinental which is at Atlantic between Seaport and Pearl St. No car, but most places seem taxi/'T' accessible

B&G Oysters - for the oysters (duh) but seems like a favorite for lobster rolls too which I look forward to trying along with a good by-the-glass selection of white wines. How are their mains though?

Neptune Oyster - seems to be another great oyster place.

Grotto - Reads as an underdog favorite for great Italian food at a good value.

Franklin Cafe - a broader menu of mains, people saying it has good service as well...

Legal Seafood - This is a maybe because I don't really like chain-straunts. But LTK and/or the Long Wharf location are really close to the hotel and right on the nice waterfront...

East Coast Grill - for a more relaxed lunch maybe and some land-based food if we get tired of seafood

Bartley's Burger Cottage - if we're in the area I'm a big burger fan and beyond some very upscale places in Toronto there doesn't seem to be a good place for what is a very utilitarian dish (to me)

Now we're (Asian) and would love to try sushi in a sea-side town. From what I can tell it's between Douzo and Ginza. I'm leaning towards Douzo as it seems to have more of a modern edge in decor and food but I'd definitely go with the better food quality choice...

Ice cream - apparently Boston is an ice cream capital of some sort and my father's a big fan. Toscanini's comes up often. Is there a place in Boston near the water that would be good for an after dinner walk? Or just the best in Boston-proper? ETA: Emack & Bolio's?

Any tips as to what to order at what place, when to go, and which Japanese place to choose, or any other places that you think I might like based on my choices here would be extremely helpful, thanks greatly and do contact me if you ever need some excellent choices for Toronto!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Your list is pretty good, though as everyone else will say, dump Legal's. Damn near every restaurant in Boston does seafood and does it well, so I would suggest looking for a broader criteria and then bouncing back.

    If you're in Harvard Square for Bartley's (or any other reason), Herrell's and Lizzy's do ice cream quite well, Toscannini's in HS is still not open, but the one in Central Square is. Emack and Bolio's isn't my favourite. On Newbury St. there is JP licks, I like the oatmeal frozen yogurt.

    Boston is an extremely accessible city for tourists, most of the places in Boston you'll find are a twenty minute walk or so from everywhere else. Similarly in Cambridge once you get there, which is about 15 minutes from Park St to Harvard Square on the T.

    For Japanese are you looking for sushi or something else?

    1. I would add Meritage to your list which is #1, pretty close to the Intercon. Hotel, #2, overlooks the water and #3, has a good amount of seafood dishes. They have small and large plates at I think $15 and $29 (or thereabouts) so you can try a lot of things (plus good "land-based food"). People have good luck at Atlantic Fish on Boylston St. where you'll have good people watching, it's fairly pricey tho. For no frills seafood in the south end, you could try Morse Seafood on Washington St. but there sure the hell isn't a view. Lineage in Coolidge Corner, Brookline is a nice restaurant that specializes in seafood, entrees around $25 or so. Also Great Bay in Kenmore Sq. Both are on the fancier side and GB esp. gets mixed reviews, but sitting at the bar is fun and they have excellent butterscotch pudding.

      The Franklin is great but keep in mind that it doesn't take reservations so you may have to wait a while, I don't really think of it as a parent kind of place but thtat's just me. Lunch isn't served at the East Coast and it's not a relaxing place. Douzo is definitely a hip place and there's also Oishi in the south end. Durgin Park is the fairly universal recommendation for a Boston experience. I'd add Pizzeria Regina in the north end to that. Actually, you don't have any north end restaurants on your list which you should do. I'd suggest Prezza, Mama Maria and Taranta for nicer places or Antico Forno, Trat. Il Panino and some others for more casual.

      1. If you're looking for a respectable cup of clam chowder, I'd say go to Legal's, but it's not a great dining experience, and I haven't heard much of anything good about the LTK location. So yeah, skip that one. Tosci's in Harvard closed, if you want to go to the original in Central that's still open but Lizzy's is good too.

        Go to Grille Zone if you want a no-nonsense high-quality burger... I think Bartley's has more to offer as an attraction than a creator of good burgers.

        If you're down by the waterfront and you're specifically interested in local sushi, I'd recommend you investigate Sea to You (http://www.seatoyouboston.com/). It's not fine dining, but another utilitarian type operation: they are the purveyors of fresh fish to a lot of sushi places in Boston, and you can get nigiri or maki made with the absolute freshest (i.e. right off the boat) local fish (http://www.seatoyouboston.com/r_produ...). If you want a lunch order you can call in an order and then pick it up or have it delivered.

        1. Most of your choices are very good. Choose Daily Catch over Legals, or any restaurant in Boston has good to great seafood. You are very near the North End, so you may want to consider subbing Neptune for B and G for that reason. For that matter, James Hook is nxt door. They may shuck some and voila, instant room service. Even Kingfish Hall, if you are one of the lucky ones to have a great meal. Inconsistent. Radius is also walking distance and fits your price point for lunch.

          1. Best ice cream: Cristina's in Inman Sq (situated between Harvard, Central, Union, and Kendall Squares). And while you're in the area, don't miss James Beard award winner Oleana for farm fresh inventive mediterranean fare (including nice fish entrees) and a killer outdoor dining area. ....Or hit East Coast Grill, which is basically next door to Cristina's.

            1. For oysters, B&G and Neptune are the obvious choices. Most people here prefer one over the other and I am in the B&G camp mainly because that's in my neighborhood. But that being said, even though Neptune is closer to you, I'd go to B&G if you want a lobster roll. Neptune has a tendency of running out of them, sometimes early in the evening. Also, as was mentioned, Boston is pretty small and easy to get around so you should have no trouble getting to either.

              Grotto is a great choice for good food, big portions and reasonable prices. If you want an Italian seafood option, I like Giacomo's which has places in both the South and the North Ends, though the South End location takes reservations while the North End one does not (also the North End in general tends to be more touristy).

              Franklin is a great local spot for good comfort food with very reasonable prices and a good bar with pretty good bartending. It does not take reservations and does tend to get pretty crowded though I usually don't mind the wait as long as the bar isn't jammed. I have taken my parents there and they really liked it.

              For sushi, I love Douzo as my regular weekly fix kind of place but my favorite for sushi is O-Ya near South Station. It's the freshest fish with inventive preparation, but it's $$$$.

              Enjoy your trip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lissy

                I'd have to throw my weight in for O-Ya, it's great but quite expensive. However, of the places mentioned you won't be dropping that much and a splurge might be in order. With some good sake and enough to stuff a king you're looking at about $100.00ish per person. Good time to hone up on your parental fundraising skills.

              2. I like your choices, but don't discount Barking Crab. I go there all the time. It's a fun place and not overtly touristy.

                I agree that the main reason to go to Legal's would be for chowder. Def. SKIP LTK.

                If you like Bloody marys, ECG has a killer bloody mary bar for sunday brunch.

                1. franklin is good, but off the beaten path from your hotel, and really just a neighborhood hang--definitely not a destination place. if you're going to trek for meat, why not redbones, rather than ecg?

                  sel de la terre is right near the aquarium and an easy walk from your hotel. nice space and moderately priced.

                  the north end has plenty of gems, including neptune. (i'm not a fan of b&g.) you may also want to try taranta which does a unique peruvian-italian fusion menu, AND does it well.

                  daily catch, giacomo's and carmen are good bets in that neighborhood too. take a stroll for a cannoli from modern pastry or a gelato. i was thoroughly underwhelmed by grotto, so wouldn't recommend it when there are much better options closer to you hotel.

                  i've had more misses than hits at douzo the last few months. ginza is in chinatown and quite good. o ya is near you, although very pricey.

                  avoid ltk like the plague.

                  i'll get tarred and feathered, but for a simple steamed lobster and a bottle of white burgundy, the view from anthony's pier 4 cannot be beat.

                  1. Good list. Legal is the weakest one on it, but there's worse.

                    I'll strongly second Durgin Park for old fashioned Yankee style cooking; their hot Indian pudding with vanilla ice cream is a must for a unique local dessert.

                    For another burger spot, O'Sullivan's, a bar that's a modest walk from the Porter Square stop on the Red Line, is a rival to the best available.

                    Toscanini's is to my mind the best ice cream in Boston. I also like Herrell's (Harvard Square and Allston), Picco (South End), and Emack & Boilo's (several locations, including one near the Aquarium). Lizzy's, Christina's, and JP Licks have fans here, but I'm not among them.

                    And I'll second your avoidance of Barking Crab, bolstered by a recent very poor food experience (though service was actually good for a change). Anybody wants to challenge me on it, I'll post details, but I assure you they're not pretty.

                    Most of these are reachable via subway, or a modest walk from a subway stop.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: bachslunch

                      I'm curious about the B. Crab details. I've woefully neglected clams on the north shore this year and would like to go some place with a little more atmosphere than Morse Seafood.

                      1. re: bachslunch

                        Yes, please do. It's a common watering spot post Boston Athletic Club activities.

                        I'll have to disagree about Durgin Park though. I've never thought that place was any good.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          i don't get it either. yankee pot roast and indian pudding? no thank you!

                            1. re: bachslunch

                              Must have been bad to get pulled ...

                        2. maybe others will disagree, but i have never been all THAT impressed with the east coast grill. like it's always an ok meal, but nothing to write home about (in my experience).

                          i lived in boston for ten years and have recently moved to toronto... don't know that it's worth using up one of your meal slots for.

                          i like ginza a lot, but if you're willing to spend the money, oishi might be a better choice.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nzach

                            And yet, I've taken first timers to East Coast Grill, and more often than not, they will say, "that's one of the best dishes I've ever had." So, there you go.

                            And Legal's is not "AWFUL" as stated below. Geez. But definitely go elsewhere. :o)

                          2. Dump Bartley's, which has horrible burgers, in favor of Grille Zone, near the corner of Babcock and Comm Ave in Allston.

                            Also, I would strongly recommend dumping Grotto in favor of the far superior Carlo's Cucina, which is also in Allston, on Brighton Ave between Linden and Harvard. Carlo's Cucina is a proper small neighborhood Italian place with delicious food and a good wine list. Grotto is hugely overrated and not nearly as good.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              I'd only favor Carlo's instead of Grotto if you're particularly interested in common Italian food. They do a good job, but it's quite basic. Grotto is bold, heavy & intense. Not for those that don't like heavy food and a lot of it. And, if I recall, BFP's only experience there was during the notorious restaurant week. Surely not an accurate way to judge a restaurant.

                              1. re: gini

                                "Bold, heavy and intense" is not necessarily better than "common and basic" when the latter is done to perfection. In fact, I would submit that it's harder to do a basic meal superbly than an overly-busy dog's breakfast like Grotto specializes in.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Unfourtunately, I have not had as wonderful experiences as you have at Carlo's. I'm glad you found something so great in Allston!

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    i'll chime in about disliking grotto, and i did not go during restaurant week. although why on earth the op needs to travel to allston for red sauce is beyond me.

                              2. I agree with the general tone of the responses so far: it's a pretty good list.

                                I was just at a Legal's yesterday for the first time in years (stuck in mall-land, it was the best option) and, while everything was fine (blue cheese frisee salad, wood-grilled tuna, snap peas with oyster sauce, garlic green beans, bananas Foster), it is a very, very straightforward, unadventurous menu. When we asked what out waitress recommended for dessert, she raved about the creme brulee, which apparently Legal's has *only begun to offer in the past few days*! I think the fact that they're only now hopping on the creme brulee train is proof enough that whoever's creating the menu sure likes to play it safe. Most upscale places in town have several good seafood options. Between those, Neptune, B&G, and a sushi place you're not going to be hurting for fish.

                                Someone else mentioned skipping the Franklin because it's a neighborhood place rather than a destination one for eats. I agree. If you want something with a neighborhood feel and more interesting, good value food, go somewhere like Gargoyles or even Ten Tables (if you can get a reservation).

                                For ice cream, my vote is for JP Licks. Get the peanut butter ice cream or fro-yo. I keep trying to like Christina's but I was there again on Saturday, and I just don't think it's as good. Emack and Bolio's doesn't even rate. I haven't been to Toscanini's in a while, but they'd be a good back up option.

                                I still like Oishii best for sushi, but I haven't been to the newish South End location, which is closer to where you're staying than the original Chestnut Hill one.

                                I like Grotto, but be forewarned that the food can be very heavy and the portions are gigantic. For a lighter touch but still great value, you could try Trattoria Toscana.

                                I'm in the camp of CHers who just doesn't get ECG. I think you have to like everything uniformly spicey and a boisterous casual atmosphere.

                                1. Good choices, you have been doing your homework! LOL

                                  Just a few thoughts:

                                  - Legals is AWFUL, over priced mediocre menu indifferent service. Stay away.

                                  -Good call on the barking Crab, also, I think they were shut down twice in the last few years for health code violations, scary stuff!

                                  - I cannot say enough about Grotto- go, It's great (try the figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in proscuitto, it glorious!)

                                  -I think of Ginza as a drunken after being out place, not a normal destination. Although the food is good it always makes more sense with a few drinks in you. Douzo is good plus it has a cool vibe. Although it's out of your pricerange... oishi is phenomenal

                                  -Bartlets is DELICIOUS and cheap. but very informal and in cambridge

                                  -B & G has a huge varaity of oysters and is pretty good, although I find the regular menu totally underwhelming

                                  Good luck!!

                                  1. I'd skip Legal, specifically in that location. I had horrible experience in that particular Legal - the food was SO greasy that we couldn't eat it and have them take it back.

                                    1. Penang on Washington St in China Town for good melasian food, great seafood. Eastern Pier II is a short walk down Seaport BLVD for Seafood and Sushi, not the best but great deck on the water and the food is inexpensive. Aura at Seaport hotel on Seaport BLVD features great seafood and is surprisingly reasonably prices (med range) for a 4 diamond rated restaurant. I personally like Ginza for Sushi, Chow Chow City for Asian style seafood and China pearl for dim sum in China Town. Giaccamo's for Italian in the North End. Capital Grill for the Land lovers on Newbury St. Don't discount the Barking Crab... There was a health code problem but it wasn't for the practices it was beyond their control and several years back. The place is a ton of fun and a short walk from the Intercontinental. Explore Chinatown and the North End, Tons of hidden gems!!!!!!!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: srmacmu

                                        Does Penang do a good Roti Chanai?

                                        1. re: DDD

                                          According to my more omnivorous family members, it is delicious. It is the first thing ordered, almost before we sit down.

                                      2. I'll chime in with others and advise to skip Legal's. I would also advise to skip sushi -- you can get decent sushi if you're willing to pay top dollar, but the mid level restaurants simply don't have the level of quality of the best of New York or Los Angeles. IMO Japanese food is not currently one of Boston's strengths; you would almost be as well off going to a ramen shack in the Porter Exchange for Japanese as anywhere else.

                                        Toscanini's and Rancatore's (owned by two brothers) are my two favorite ice cream places in the Boston area; the Toscanini's branches are easier to get to (though the Harvard Square one seems to have vanished off the face of the earth). Emack isn't a bad plan B if that's the nearest business in town. And avoid Cold Stone Creamery (chain-store from Kansas).

                                        I'm one of the big fans of Grotto. Very nice people, rich intensely flavored food and I didn't have BFP's problems with the preparation, service, etc. Though I don't know that I'd think of it as a characteristically Boston place; North End haunts like the Daily Catch (for seafood with grit) and Caffe Vittoria would be more characteristically Boston to me.

                                        Bartley's was my splurge burger when I was a college student, so I personally have a soft spot for the place. There are significant disadvantages to the place, not least being the astonishing crowds and noise (though this is less of an issue now that it's intersession and the Harvard kiddies aren't back at school until Sept 16), the lack of a liquor license, and the fact that the burgers have always seemed to be more about the toppings than the burger. Not that the burger isn't juicy, but it isn't really overwhelmingly flavorful on its own. Still, they do have those lovely sweet potato fries, and I have yet to find a joint with sweets to match. But 75 Chestnut in Beacon Hill might be worth considering (owned by the same people who own Cheers, but without the obnoxious tourists), Gargoyle's in Davis Square, or a host of other possibilities.

                                        More or less, though it seems like you're on the right track. Hope you have a good trip!

                                        1. Ginza and Douza are fun places to try creative rolls and I do enjoy them. However, if you're looking for traditional edo-mae sushi, I'd skip them. (Unfortunately I have little to offer as alternatives as the sushi scene is a little scarce here.)

                                          Another 2 places worth putting on your ice cream list -- try the gelati at Napoli Pastry in the North end (liked their torroncino and apple flavours). Also try Bon Bon Cafe on Mass Ave near Symphony area.

                                          Another place i"d consider for food in your price range is Cafe D, in Jamaica Plain. A little below your price range is Muqueca for Brazilian -- try their namesake dish, a Brazilian seafood stew.

                                          Would you also consider Peruvian, Dominincan, Cuban or Salvadorean food? There are places in more out of the way neighbourhoods like that may not be much to look at, rarely have tourists, but are very chowy. Be happy to recommend a bunch if you want to go beyond the basics that most out of towners go for.

                                          1. Just a quick shout for the flagship Legal's across from the Aquarium - business associate was in town with his wife recently and they wanted straight-up lobsters in the downtown area - I sent them to Legal's main restaurant and they reported being very happy with it. I think you could do a lot worse - it seems to meet or exceed many people's expectations. (I make NO representations about the other branches in the franchise.)

                                            Also, thanks Hounds, for all the positive chatter about Antico Forno - I have never been, but the same associate was looking for a solid Italian place in the North End, and I directed him there based solely on the board's reviews. Again, reportedly very pleased with the place.

                                            1. I have to agree that Grotto is a great underated restaurant with great prices! PLus its in Beacon Hill which is a beautiful place to walk around if you're not from Boston.
                                              As for some of the others, yes ditch Legals, Boston is a city on the water so just about every restaurant offers seafood and does it well!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. Id skip east coast grille, not relaxing as you describe. Small/crowded and overpriced. Most of the fans you will find are pepperheads and impressed by the hell night where they put alot of hot sauce on some pasta for you. Or they will tell you " oh their strong point are not entrees, just get apps and drinks" Legal test kitchen id skip too. Legals normal restaurants are fine if you want a plain,fresh seafood dish. Nothing overly creative or special. Id skip chinatown all together. I love it, its the best we have, but i have been to Torontos chinatown and it is much larger,nicer and has better dimsum and food in general.

                                                1. For Ice cream.....
                                                  Toscannini's without a doubt. The central sqare location is T-accessible and some of the best ice cream you'll find in the world. Skip JP Lick's. Christina's a fine option, especially if you opt for East Coast Grill next door.

                                                  Skip Legal's like the plague.....