Birthday Dinner in Boston - October
I will be turning 29 in October, gasp, and want to celebrate the last year of my twenties in style. I am looking for a place that has fantastic food, gourmet even, but not a stuffy or uncomfortable atmosphere (my husband doesn't fare well in froo froo situations). Price isn't really the issue, but comfort is. The best way I can say what I am looking for would be something like Babbo in NYC. We had such a wonderful meal, it was a fantastic experience, and my husband LOVED the music! I'm not looking for Italian only, just want some really delicious food!! And another thing, usally I LOVE wine, but am with child and my husband is a prettty easy target with regular booze. Here is a list of places that we have been too and liked to give you an example of our taste:
Grotto (one of our favorite places)
Upstairs on the Square
And here is a list of places that we weren't too fond of or are not interested in at this time:
Clio (way too stuffy for the hubby, but I loved)
Aujourd'hui (stuff factor)
L'Espalier (stuff factor)
If you could help me out, that would be wonderful, I would like to have a memorable birthday dinner, our last as a twosome!
Babbo in NYC is one of my favorite restaurants so I totally know what you are looking for. I don't know that you will find anything truly of that caliber in Boston, but there are definitely some close seconds here.
*mistral: great food and atmosphere. It is French, but is in no way as stuffy as Clio. The food is also a bit more nouveau.
*Mamma Maria: GREAT italian restaurant in the North End. Had a birthday dinner there two years ago and loved it!
*Rocca: South End Italian restaurant. fabulous food, drinks, and atmosphere. This place is definitely much more laid back, but the food is exceptional and the staff is really great.
*KO Prime: I have not been, but my very good friend who is also a friend of Ken Orringer's has been and said that its very good.
I'd give Mistral, Moo and KO Prime the thumbs up based on what you're looking for. I'd give a double thumbs down to Rocca. I don't like the design, the atmosphere or the food, and service is spotty. I've tried it several times and it just doesn't work for me. I'd leave it off your list.
Oleana is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in the Boston area. I discovered it shortly after it opened through a review conducted by the Wall Street Journal of best new restaurants in various cities. The restaurant serves creative Mediterranean cuisine that is light, fresh, and beautifully presented. If the weather is nice, you can eat outside under the arbor and feel as though you are in a European garden or something. The atmosphere inside and out is intimate, not at all stuffy, and the food is excellent.
If you were drinking I might say Troquet, which is good because I've found to be the least stuffy/froo froo of the gourmet type places (though the food itself, at times, can present as a little frooish, there's plenty of red meat to keep him quiet). The food is fantastic but the real draw is the wine. Putting my halo aside and donning my horns, they have 2 oz pours if you wanted to cheat a little. If baby comes early they've got bottles for you (not baby). SEGirl4 just did a fantastic review of her birthday meal there.
Other posters put Toro and Petit Robert on the list, which I would happily second and third, probably in that order.
Trattoria Toscano might be a good choice since you like Grotto so much.
I'd recommend Mamma Maria or Icarus, two high-end places without attitude.
I just ate at Hamersley's for the first time, and although the food was very good and the service unsurpassed, I wouldn't say it's the most comfortable restaurant. The chairs are hard, the lighting brighter than I think it should be, and it was too warm the night we were there.
Congratulations on the big 29!
A few recommendations:
Hamersley's Bistro (consistent food, decent wine list, nice atmosphere [not stuffy], wait staff is excellent...
Mistral -- let them know in advance you don't want to be rushed and its a special occassion
Sorrelina -- Been there five times, 4 our of 5 great meals. One ok meal.
There is a great steak house in Peabody now, Pellana. Wonderful steak and seafood. Nice wine list (Nick the bartender/sommelier is very knowledgable). Not stuffy, but very nice for Peabody area.
Prezza is a good choice. Not stuffy. Good food.
Try Taranta in the North End.
Bite the bullet and head to NYC. So many great restaurants there that you would enjoy. Special is Daniel!
Here are some suggestions...
*Petit Robert Bistro (I've gone to both South End and Kenmore locations for birthdays and they do a great job--very nice and not stuffy at all)
*Sorriso Trattoria (nice atmosphere, plus Les Zyg is next door so you can listen to some jazz and have a beverage--non-alcoholic for you of course ;-) or dessert next door if you wanted)
*Mother Anna's (not stuffy at all--good, simple red sauce Italian in N. End--then after you could walk over and grab a canoli or treat at Bova's)
*Casa Romero (very romantic atmosphere--great sangria if the hubby wants to have a glass)
I haven't been yet, but my buddy and his wife ate at TW Food in Cambridge and really, really liked it. Smallish place, but evidently excellent grub.
There's actually a review in the Herald today. Not that I take any review seriously other than MC's of course. :)
Another thought is Rendezvous, which I have been to and like a lot.
Hamersley's seems like an obvious choice, but the food is consistently good and it's not stuffy at all considering its rep.
Based on your loves and losts, here are a few recs:
Ten Tables (casual)
Dali (lively cousin to Cuchi Cuchi)
Taranta (peruvian-influenced Italian)
Central Kitchen (casual bistro)
Neptune Oyster (creatative, clean seafood)
Don't be shy about revisiting some of your favorites though. That list is great for birthday celebrations.