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Boston Globe Mag. article re: prices in Boston

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/maga...

Very interesting article in today's Sunday Globe Magazine on the increasing prices of entrees at the higher-end restaurants and the actual sourcing of various meats in the Boston area restaurants. Some restaurants are getting their chickens from the same distributor, but the price differential can be astonishing!

There are comments from NYC chefs Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud, among others, and the article refers to the restaurants of and interviews many local chefs, including Ken Oringer, Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, and Steve Johnson.

The article's writer, Scott Haas, writes:

"I wanted to know if this was a sign of Boston's dining scene evolving into something better, or if chefs are merely charging what they know diners in the region will pay.

"I think they're charging high prices because they can – serving food to people who are grateful to have what they consider big city food," says Anthony Bourdain, the author, commentator, and chef-owner of several Brasserie Les Halles restaurants in New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C. "I think what's going on in Boston is a classic example of chefs working in a place that's not yet a national restaurant city, not by a stretch. It's a period of insecurity. And I can really understand why the chefs are charging so much: If prices come down, they lose their mystique as chefs. They're reluctant to abandon their pomposity, expense, and pretense." Ouch."

Ouch is right. But I have to agree with him on the attempt to "be just like NYC" recently with all of the new, high-end restaurants opening up in Boston. :-) It's that damn rivalry - whether it's sports or food.

and

"As chefs set their culinary sights higher, it seems, good restaurants with midrange prices – the exact kinds of places Boston's top chefs say they like to eat in – are fewer and farther between."

Boulud is quoted as saying "But does Boston have the demographics to support a luxury restaurant like mine? I don't think so. You have about 750,000 people and if you take away the students and academics, who don't patronize luxury too much, who's left?" That sounds about right. We just don't seem to have the base of people here, nor the "busy-ness" of NYC to support the many high-end restaurants as seem to be opening on a monthly basis. With the many new high-end hotels etc. opening up, more high-end restaurants are being built in them to cater to the rich and famous. But is that what is needed?

Re: the wildly varying costs - D'Artagnan chickens wholesale for about $4/chicken, but the final prices at the restaurant? A $20 difference, which just blows my mind!

"The chicken is the costliest at Radius, in the Financial District, where the bone-in breast is served with seasonally changing sides (last month that meant sweet corn, bacon, wild mushrooms, shiso, and consomme poured tableside) for $34. It's the least expensive at Petit Robert Bistro in Kenmore Square and the South End, where a roasted half-chicken comes with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables and costs $14.75."

So to establish a "good restaurant" in Boston, do the chefs first have to become known as a high-end chef before backing away from the overpriced entrees so they can open a place like Washington St. Tavern or Pomodoro (per Jody Adams), which is the type of place they really like to eat at?

Lots more to read, but I was curious as to the comments from the CH contingent. I'd prefer not getting into the Boston bashing for their "provincialism", as I'm sure we've all heard that before. Just curious as to what others think.

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  1. well remember thats why boston is called "the hub"

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodperv

      Meaning?

      1. re: LindaWhit

        USA today a similar article on $40+ entrees a couple days ago.
        http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2...

    2. Very interesting article. Essentially it's price gouging, I've been to most of the restaurants mentioned and the price charged is not justified when judged against the quality and the service. An $11 chicken get's turned into (rough estimate) $60 dollars worth of entrees? Restaurants in Boston are trying to be to much like NYC with no show chefs. Why bother going to Rialto when Adams isn't going to be there? I can just buy her cookbook and have the same end result. Well, almost, I have to cook it and trying to get my wife to dress like a waitress and serve me the dinner doesn't always go over well. I think chefs in Boston need to rethink their business and decided, do they want to be a great chef or do they want to be a mediocre food empire.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jjbourgeois

        <Why bother going to Rialto when Adams isn't going to be there> Jody IS regularly in her kitchen every night except Saturday, when she's home spending the evening with her kids. She's a mom, too!

        All well-known chefs have occasional evenings when they are off doing a benefit somewhere. Those are generally pretty well advertised in the media, so why would you go on a night like that?

        Jody is a good friend of mine, so I'm sure that's partly why I feel like you are incorrectly picking on her. She doesn't have 50-diffteen restaurants in the same town like Lynch and Oringer, she has, at this time ONE.

        1. re: ChefJune

          I ate at Rialto (I can't say dined) during restaurant week. Apparently she took that week off. Could in no way justified ever going back or recommending the restaurant to anyone.

      2. Really interesting article, thanks for the link!

        Just so that you know, lots of chefs aim for a 4x to 8x mark up on wholesale prices - it's really quite common. Adam's has a higher mark up than that, even.

        There are some really "good" restaurants in Boston already that don't have outrageous prices: Gargoyle's on the Square, RendezVous, Petit Robert, Ten Tables, and Grotto just to name a few. Vote with your feet and patronize those types of places.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gini

          The average target food cost for a fine dining restaurant is usually around 32% of food sales. The avarage profit margin for a successful restaurant is about 2.9%, although most lose money and close. Restaurants don't make money by charging high prices - they make money by turning tables. It's the economy of scale. Sure, No 9 is expensive. They have costs well beyond the neighborhood places you mentioned. Rendezvous, for example, doesn't lose $70 every time someone drops a plate on the floor, and their rent is a tiny portion. Luxury restaurants cost more because they have higher costs. I think that's fair, but I choose not to spend too much time subsidizing luxury appointments.

          I think the more important issue in the article was menu misrepresentation. Rialto's Wolfe Neck sirloin steak probably cost the restaurant about $13.00. Another steakhouse mentioned serves a Choice sirloin steak for $39.oo at a probable cost of about $11.00. A Prime dry-aged sirloin steak from a boutique supply, on the other hand, costs a restaurant about $33.00. The customer is generally unaware and thinks of these steaks as equals. I just wish that the writer had spent more time on that.

        2. The article focuses on a very narrow set of cooking styles - French, New American, Italian. For Boston to become a serious restaurant city, it will require that Bostonians become aware of the range and diversity of cuisines and flavour profiles available to them beyond that served by a tiny fraction of its restaurants. The dining scene isn't defined and led by a handful of luxury restaurants in a limited number of cuisines.

          25 Replies
          1. re: limster

            I agree 100% with the article and with Bourdain and Boulud. I went to Rialto several times and kept asking myself: what am I missing here? The prices are not justified - not by any means. These chefs dress up their menus with adjectives and take advantage of a sometimes (often) gullible dining public by making them think that $$$$ equals quality. Thank God for chefs like Gary Strack, Anna Sortun, Steve Johnson, etc. They know what it's all about. Even Gordon Hamersley has only one entree over the $30 mark and none over $40.

            1. re: limster

              Boulud hit the nail on the head - 750,000 people. Not NYC's 8M or LA's 3.7M. How can you expect a robust and competitive environment in any particular part of the trade - fine dining, ethnic, etc... when the audience doesn't demand it? Without the competition, there's simply no reason to price based on the demands of the market. Just charge as much as the traffic will bear for as long as you can. People who think that they're paying for the NYC equivalent will pay because they either don't know any better, or just have no choice.

              Maybe a city the size of Boston needs a niche to be considered a restaurant city. Ours should be seafood - we should have dozens of inexpensive Legals and Summer Shacks and No Names... Chowderfest is good, but why stop there? Why is Lobsterfest a Red Lobster advertisement (with Langustinos!)? Fried clamfest? Scrodfest? Geez - now I'm sounding like one of those Andelman brothers.

              1. re: applehome

                I'm going to Boston next week and I am quickly realizing that Boston is not the food city I presumed it was. Or more accurately I'm realizing how much of a food city Toronto is. The restaurants that seem to be cutting edge in Boston, I think would be second tier in Toronto. The menus don't read like a progressive restaurant. They seem around 3-4 years behind the rest of the major food cities.

                1. re: City_West

                  If you're a real Chowhound, you'll spend some time eating in Boston instead of just reading online menus before you start passing judgement. That said, recognize that it's a city that's less than a quarter the size of Toronto, about 1/13 the size of New York City. It has its charms, but they're hardly as easy to stumble across as larger North American cities with good restaurant cultures. You're going to have to dig a little harder, the way most Boston Hounds do.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Firstly, I don't really care about being a "real chowhound" or anything of that ilk. Regardless of Bostons size, that's irrelevanat. It will take around 45 minutes to drive from one end of Toronto to the other. There is a huge population in the greater Boston area, it's just the city center that is smaller, but the population draw geographically is very similar. I think that it is very simple to read a menu at a restaurant and one should have an idea as to what is on the plate, isn't that why restaurants post their menus?

                    1. re: City_West

                      I don't mean to be rude, but didn't you just ask in another thread to give you a whole list of NON-cutting-edge places to try? Boston's got some cutting-edge places, but if you go to old-school stalwarts like Locke-Ober, Hamersley's, and Icarus (the sort of restaurants you asked for----excellent, tried-and-true, but not cutting-edge), you'll leave with the wrong impression of the Boston dining scene.

                      Try these instead:
                      Toro
                      O Ya
                      UpStairs on the Square (the upstairs dining room)
                      Butcher Shop
                      KO Prime
                      Salts

                      1. re: wittlejosh

                        Alright, the point isn't the Boston doesn't have some good restaurants. I know it does, as well as some cutting edge places. I'm talking about the amount of great restaurants. Now every city has those small restaurants that serve your favourite dish and you love. Toronto has those, as does Chicago, Indianapolis, Minnesota, etc. I'm headed to Boston because I think it's a great city, I remarked at how I believe that it's not as much of a food city as I had thought, or as much as I think it should be. It wouldn't be difficult for me to give anyone a list of 25-50 great restaurants in Toronto that would all be incredible and are heavyweights in the city. I think the point was that Boston isn't fully developed yet as a great food city. It's like tasting a wine that is good, but give it a bit more time and it will be great.

                        1. re: City_West

                          Since you're not actually familiar with our dining scene in Boston, just what you've seen on the menus on some restaurant's websites, this seems like a pretty uninformed opinion.

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            Actually if he's been checking here, he's pretty spot on. Boston has a mediocre food scene at best. Few pricey over rated places, a few good places, a couple great places and one or two exceptional places. Besides that, a lot of chains, a huge number of so-so roast beef, pizza and sub shops.

                          2. re: City_West

                            Please define "great" as it applies to your tastes. As the original article stated, the *size* of Boston just doesn't support as many high-end restaurants you seem to think we should have. Keep in mind - it's a HUGE university town and environs - a lot of people leave for the summer, and as Boulud said, academics aren't going to be spending a lot of money on eating out at high-end restaurants.

                            I'd hazard a guess that MC Slim JB, limster, hiddenboston and many many others who frequent the Boston restaurant scene much more than I do can easily name 25 "great" restaurants. Are they all high-end? No. But are they "great"? Yes. For their own particular reason.

                        2. re: City_West

                          The thing is, that there are many excellent restaurants that don't have a website.

                          1. re: limster

                            Okay, I'm not sure why some of you aren't getting this. Everyone around the world can name 25 great tasting restaurants that are local to them and they love. Everywhere, from Tampa to Portland. I'm talking about the Crafts, Per Se, Chantrelle, and so on. That is what Boston hasn't fully developed yet. Stop making excuses if you are, there's no reason to.

                            1. re: City_West

                              You seem pre-inclined to believe what you want about Boston, so if the primary purpose of your visit is to do market research for your secret high end food concept, you might find it a wasted trip, since you seem to already know the answers you'd be seeking. And nobody is "making excuses"- I don't think any of us care much what you think of our area. You asked for help, we graciously offered it, and in return you've decided to slam the choices you haven't tried. I'm really not sure WHAT it is you are looking for, either in Boston or from the posters on Chowhound, but good luck, I hope you find it.

                              1. re: City_West

                                Unfortunately, Toronto really doesn't have those restaurants yet, either.

                                1. re: City_West

                                  Boston HAS "Craft" (if you think that is such a top tier place, I sure dont!) and "Chanterelle" Boston does NOT have Per Se, or Daniel, or La Grenouille, even.

                                  Boston has an excellent dining scene for Boston. It does not need to fit any other place. Boston is a small city with a huge metropolitan area, and its head, sorry to say, firmly up its ___ in terms of itself as a world-class mecca. It IS world class as far as universities and medical research are concerned, but I lived there for eleven years, and as much as I love the town, it is provincial. AND haughty about it!

                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                    Well said.

                                    1. re: wittlejosh

                                      To reset this a bit, I agree with "ChefJune", except for the part about Boston having Craft or Chanterelle (I think it closed). Boston doesn't need to have a restaurant scene like New York or any city. I think the point was remarking on how the city maybe isn't where it's supposed to be yet. How depressing a thought to think that the present is as good as it will ever get with regards to restaurants.

                                      WIth regards to Toronto as a food city, I'd regard it as being the number 3 food city in North America. I know we don't have craft, but we do have Susur, Thuet, North 44°, Scaramouche, Lucien, Jamie Kennedy, Auberge du Pommier, Canoe, Bymark, KI, Splendido, ONE, Bymark, Amuse Bouche, Habitat, Rain, Eigensinn Farm, Colborne Lane, Pangaea, Centro, Perigee, Celestin, Mistura, Senses, Didier, and so on. To be honest, I still think that Toronto has to get better. My point was that I think more should be expected from Boston restaurants, the problem is that most "great" restaurants exist downtown and exist because of demand. Due to the geographical nature of the city where the population is spread out over many smaller towns I suppose there isn't the focus on the city's food scene as it would if the population was more dense in the city. Unfortunately smaller towns and suburbs lend themselves more to chain restaurants and so on. Do you guys get my point and where I'm coming from now? I never intended on puttin down Boston, I love the city, I just think that you guys deserve more of a food scene in the downtown.

                                    2. re: ChefJune

                                      I don't know anyone who has spent much time dining around Boston and the rest of North America who would judge Boston's high-end dining scene as world-class. It's pretty obvious that we don't have a Michelin three-star here, for example, for reasons that have been cited endlessly. Boston has, like every city, its share of narrow-minded boosters and homers.

                                      My point, often made here, is that we have a pretty interesting dining scene for a city of our size, but that much of the interest is not at the fine-dining level. I also think the notion of comparing the overall quality of urban dining scenes, ranking cities by how great they are, isn't a particularly useful exercise in terms of trying to uncover deliciousness. You can waste a lot of time on a one-week visit to Toronto visiting well-publicized mediocrities with attractive websites.

                                      What's annoying to me is that the City_West solicited opinions from the Boston board, which many Boston Hounds dutifully took the time and trouble to respond to, only to see him start making prejudgments on the scene by reviewing websites. That strikes me as naive for a self-styled professional, as well as antithetical to the spirit of this board. But he seems plainly dismissive of the notion of being a Chowhound.

                                      Let us know how that website-based research pans out for you, City_West. I'd welcome some opinions from you based on actually eating at Boston restaurants, too.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        yeah, and he just closed Chanterelle in New York! Don't let David and Karen Waltuck hear about that! They go to work at their restaurant every day!

                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          i hope that's not sarcasm.....

                                          1. re: City_West

                                            Not at all! at last report, Chanterelle was alive and very well, and as tasty as ever!

                                    3. re: City_West

                                      We just have very different world views on what an excellent restaurant is. Quite a few of those 25 that I would name in Boston don't have websites. Some of them are just carts, and many of them don't fall into the fine dining category, but do make dishes that I would happily eat over those at a number of so-called fine-dining places. As I said above, the dining scene isn't defined and led by a handful of luxury restaurants in a limited number of cuisines.

                                      1. re: limster

                                        Limster,
                                        It doesn't matter whether a restaurant has a website or not, that is irrelevant. There is a place in the world for "fine dining restaurants" and there is a place for neighborhood cafes, etc. Why are you not getting this? You have certain expectations at a higer-end restaurant, ones that you don't always apply to the place down the street that does good pad thai, or a great thin crust pizza. I presume there are a bunch of great restaurants in Boston, in fact I know there are I've eaten at many. The point is that it doesn't really have many fine dining places. It just doesn't, I have friends in Boston that agree, why is this a huge issue, does the world think of Boston as a huge culinary exposition and I just haven't heard yet?

                                        1. re: City_West

                                          "It doesn't matter whether a restaurant has a website or not, that is irrelevant."

                                          It does become relevant when one forms an opinion based on reading menus online and nowhere else. It means that there are large categories of information that are systematically left out.

                                          "You have certain expectations at a higer-end restaurant, ones that you don't always apply to the place down the street that does good pad thai, or a great thin crust pizza."

                                          As I've mentioned, we subscribe to different world views, I don't see "fine-dining" restaurants as being fundamentally different from a neighbourhood cafe. I expect care and quality technique and ingredients in a pizza or pad-thai place as much as I do in a place that is "high-end."

                                          My other point is that defining a restaurant scene by its "fine dining" places is inaccurate, as that analysis is based upon the vast minority of the restaurants in a given area. One can find exceptional cooking is all sorts of restaurants. I've had dishes in hole in the wall restaurants that would require years of training to be able to execute properly.

                                          I agree that Boston does not have as many fine dining French/New American restaurants, but that's just a tiny fraction of the types of restaurants in any area, and that's also just a fraction of the fine dining restaurants that are lacking. For example, we can't find a serious ristaffel here, or a Buddha Jump Over the Wall banquet or a seasonal and refined kaiseiki dinner. The peking duck we have in the area is merely 3 courses, instead of a whole banquet with each course dedicated a part of the duck. We can find bottles of wine that go for thousands a bottle, but not teas that sell for thousands per ounce.

                                          I would prefer a more comprehensive view of the dining scene, and it appears that we have differing opinions on that.

                              2. re: City_West

                                I think it depends on what you define as cutting edge. I've had satay in Boston that I would have been happy to have back home in Singapore. But the Trini food in Boston doesn't compare to Toronto's. I haven't had any Japanese in Toronto, but can you score good sayori or Santa Barbara spot prawns there? Are there restaurants in Toronto that will sell a 1990 La Tache for $2400, or a 1989 Ch. Petrus for under $2000?

                          2. This article applies only to Boston, but the facts are true for many other cities... I was appalled at the prices in many Chicago restaurants when I was there this past spring for the IACP conference. TRU, Spiaggia, and other top tier restaurants are charging pretty much what I would call "Daniel Prices" and they're not in New York! I expect to spend "Daniel Prices" in New York for that kind of meal, not in Chicago.

                            54 Replies
                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I don't quite understand the level of defensiveness here about the dining scene. Honestly, reading Boston restaurant menus depresses me, too. Doesn't matter how good the food tastes once you're there. We're drowning in short ribs, steak frites, glazed salmon, beet/goat cheese salads and other dressed-up comfort food dishes. Heavy and uninspired. Look at Pops, Kingston Station, Gaslight, Eastern Standard, Union. Too many "good" Boston restaurant stick to very safe territory. And creative, personal spots like Craigie Street, O Ya, Oleana, and Clio are too few and far between.

                              Meanwhile, compare that with smaller cities like Portland, OR, Seattle, and even Portland, ME, and you find yourself wondering why Boston doesn't have that same level of energy and creativity.

                              1. re: cliobaci

                                Boston's dining scene is what it is. My comments aren't intended to defend it: I have acknowledged many times here and elsewhere that its high-end fine dining restaurants don't compare with those found in many North American cities.

                                The repeated comments here are: "Don't limit yourself to what you can find online" (good advice for any town), and "It's kind of odd to come to a board whose focal point is about discovering deliciousness and say you've made up your mind about a city's restaurants by reading about instead of dining in them."

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Are we expected to order steak frites, and than be wowed at how Boston chefs prepare it totally different from everywhere else in the world. And oh look, they have their own signature caesar salad. I mean, of course you are supposed to read a menu and understand what you are getting. I don't think any of us are saying the the composition or skill level is off in Boston, just that the creativity of menu options, isn't being fully utilized. I've been in Boston two days now, and it seems like every place has had the same menu for the last ten years. It's just that the words "modern metropolitan" don't come to mind, it's more like upscale chain restaurants that are suffocating the city, which is beautiful by the way.

                                  1. re: City_West

                                    So where have you been that "every place has the same menu for the last ten years"? In two other posts, many Boston CHers gave you lots of choices that most certainly would not all be the same. You asked, they suggested. If you didn't choose to take them up on their suggestions, how does that make Boston restaurants all the same? Just because the ones you chose (or the menu items you chose) are "all the same"? They're not.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      I think that this thread starting out talking about the higher-end Boston restaurants. That is what this is refering to. I'm not talking about the little cafe down the street that has great food. Listen, I loved Boston, as I always have. We went to Aquitane, Sibling Rivalry, Petit Robert Bistro, Giacomo's, Upper Crust, Grafton Street, and one or two other places. I could easily see myself living in Boston, the point was that it's not fully developed yet as a food city. I mean, it's miles above most other U.S. cities, but that's not the point. The cafes still have too much mainstream american in them. There are tons of viable criticism that you could put on Toronto and it's food scene. Even New York, could be said to have only one true french patisserie,(Payard), so I'm not sure why careful criticism is rejected.

                                      1. re: City_West

                                        I can't say I'm much impressed by your sample. How did you end up choosing these places? Sibling Rivalry, Giacomo's and Grafton Street are all venues I steer visitors away from. They're not awful, but I think of each as distinctly middling, hardly the best examples of their respective cuisines and price points you could have found in Boston.

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          See, I don't get this at all. The restaurants I chose do represent the mainstream of Boston restaurants. Most, not all, are considered to be good to the majority of Bostonians. Maybe you steer away from them, but everyone was very busy. And even you say they are midling and average. What are you arguing against again? In Toronto, our major big name restaurants (Scaramouche, North 44°, Thuet, Canoe, etc.) are known by almost all. As well, you'd have a great meal at any one of them. Do you get my point at all? Aquitane and Sibling Rivalry are well known restaurants in Boston, they are very busy, so you (Boston in general) should expect to have one of the best dinners in the city there. If you don't, which is what you are saying, than I believe what I wrote earlier, that Boston is still fully developing into a great food city, and it's not there yet. By the way again, I loved the city and if there was ever a place in the States that I could live, it'd be there.

                                          1. re: City_West

                                            That's silly logic. Busy doesn't equal good. Legal Sea Food, Ruth's Chris, and Davio's are packed, too, but that's not a very useful metric for quality.

                                            You may have a point that Boston is still developing as a food town. But you really missed out with your choices, and the places you chose provide no proof of your argument. Most of the places you ate are geared primarily toward suburbanites popping in town for a well-executed but ultimately safe dining experience. Toro, Hamersley's, B&G, O Ya... you should have gone to those restaurants (also packed). Instead you first asked for, then rejected, the advice of people in this city who make it their business (many of us professionally) to separate the mediocre from the truly great restaurants. You preferred to rely on your gut instinct from reading online menus. And you suffered by enjoying some of the city's safest and most mediocre dining experiences.

                                            It's that arrogance that I think many people are arguing against----not your point about the Boston food scene, which may or may not have some element of truth. If you had tried some of our recommendations, and THEN come to the same conclusion, you might have had a valid point...and fewer people all wound up. Instead, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

                                            1. re: City_West

                                              Pardon my confusion: City_West: I thought you were looking for the best that Boston had to offer, not what might be considered good enough by the majority. Chowhound (at least as I understand it) is all about finding the extraordinary, the exceptional, the stuff worth going out of your way for -- the things that the websites, the tourist guides, the hotel concierges, the TV reviewing programs don't reveal, because they're all geared toward the insipid average, the deathly mean.

                                              Follow the dull, unadventurous, mainstream-pandering view, ignoring the perspective of locals who are passionate about great food, and you end up at places like Grafton Street and Sibling Rivalry and Giacomo's.

                                              I wonder why would you even bother to travel to Boston to do that kind of research. That huge bulge in the bell curve, neither horrible nor wonderful, can be found anywhere in North America. It's in your backyard. If that's what you actually were seeking, traveling to Boston to find it seems like a huge waste of time and money.

                                              You're welcome to defend those kind of places, and I can understand why you might want to build a business plan for a restaurant in that mold. But I recall your original post asking for places that "make Bostonians proud". You appear to have spent most of your dining time here at places that are so unremarkable, so completely unburdened by any character that might be considered unique to Boston, that they don't inspire a lot of passion in locals one way or another.

                                              I think by paying a little more attention to the advice you actively solicited here, you could have done a lot better, found places that are popular and busy but not so damned ordinary. It looks to me like you missed a chance to dig beneath the hype-polished surface of the Boston dining scene to explore what is really exciting about it.

                                              1. re: City_West

                                                If you care only about mainstream, and the majority opinion, did you get a Zagat listing for Boston? What else do you need?

                                                When you think about it, the function of Chowhound (which you have said that you don't care about) is even more important in a developing city such as Boston than in a well established food city such as NYC, and perhaps Toronto, where great food is ubiquitous. But even there, if individuals with taste and understanding take the time and effort to ferret out and write about the truly wonderful places, then you ignore them at your own peril.

                                                I don't think anybody is claiming that a place the size of Boston can compete with NYC or perhaps even Toronto (I don't personally know enough about Toronto, but I'll accept, for the sake of this post, that its is a world class food city). But I just don't get anybody that purportedly knows about food saying that the majority opinion, or the common understanding, represents the best. It hardly ever does - and I find it hard to believe that it's somehow true in Toronto. Perhaps you still haven't had Toronto's "best".

                                                1. re: applehome

                                                  I don't care about zagat, if you would take a moment and not make a presumtion, you might know that I actually went to three or four recommended places. I am allowed to eat at other restaurants other than the ones chowhounds recommend right? Is that alright with everyone? I find is so crazy that you guys are so defensive with regards to anything constructively critical about the food in your city. I Think that my point was the the foremost of Boston restaurants should be some of the best in the city. That is the point. I think it would be depressing if some of the most prominent Toronto restaurants were middling at best.

                                                  1. re: City_West

                                                    "I Think that my point was the the foremost of Boston restaurants should be some of the best in the city"

                                                    Foremost? Prominent? Define please. Apparently, you don't like zagat recommendations nor do you like chowhound recommendations... so foremost by whose recommendation and definition? My own experience is that Zagat or other publicly rated places rarely have the best of any city or country. By the time a restaurant has been written about often enough that it is considered foremost and earned a trendy following, it is often past its peak experience. The entire process is like subscribing to a monthly magazine - when changes are occurring daily.

                                                    Frankly, I think that you come across as a foodie in the very way and manner that Jim Leff defined it here a long time ago - a follower of trends and public opinion - this is as opposed to the chowhound ethos, which is to be the leader that finds new deliciousness.

                                                    Our function here is to share that deliciousness, not necessarily to discuss what is considered foremost by who. Us guys are not monolithic in our assessment of good and bad, so I don't think that we come across as defensive in terms of anybody's particular opinion of a place. But I think we are altogether defensive, and rightly so, in terms of a general assessment that the food in Boston (or any other place) is not up to par because the "prominent and foremost" places aren't up to par.

                                                    Once again, there are most definitely foods we don't have here in the Boston area in the quality and/or quantity (and divergence) that other, larger metropolises have. But there is great food here - dining experiences that will satisfy anybody - just not necessarily in the places you went to.

                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                      So, would you say that the Boston food scene is as good as it will ever get?

                                                      Also, I did go to at least four places recommended by the board, and I enjoyed them all, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tell me where I didn't eat. Also, when I start a post off by saying "I don't care about Zagat", why would you respond by stating that your experience doesn't have the best restaurants. Also, woudn't it be a good sign of a great food city if the most prominent restaurants were the best?

                                                      1. re: City_West

                                                        City_West asked, "Also, wouldn't it be a good sign of a great food city if the most prominent restaurants were the best?"

                                                        I recently saw a list of the top 100 independent restaurants ranked by their 2006 food and beverage sales:

                                                        http://www.rimag.com/archives/2007/04...

                                                        Is it safe to assume that this would constitute a "most prominent restaurants" list if broken down by city? Looking at these places, I wonder how many of these are among the best restaurants in their respective cities. The Greater Boston area spots listed are Abe and Louie's (a decent but expensive chain-like steak house, not the city's best), Kowloon's (a huge Pan Asian spot with poor food that's best known for pu-pu platters), and Anthony's Pier 4 (a wretched seafood place with a great view). But then again, how good is Tavern on the Green in New York, the #2 spot on the whole list? Or the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, which is at #5? Both seem to be much disliked on their respective Chowhound boards. And McDonald's is certainly prominent (i.e. readily visible) in every American city I've been to, whether it has a great food scene or not.

                                                        Do you feel it is the sign of a great food city if the most prominent places are the best? If so, why? What makes this meaningful? And is this the case in, let's say, San Francisco, Paris, New York, or any other city you think is a great food city? Specifics would be helpful.

                                                        1. re: bachslunch

                                                          It isn't safe to assume that at all, that list is compiled based on earnings, it has nothing to do with the quality of a restaurant, it is strictly based on revenue. I don't believe that revenues are tied to prominence. Is Tavern on the Green the most prominent restaurant in NYC? Really? I think it could be a lot easier to argue that Per Se, Craft, Babbo all are more prominent population wide in the city. Everyone knows what they are getting at Tavern.

                                                          By the way, why not stop splitting hairs over definitions, and picking apart every word, this is a post, I don't have 1200 words to write a proper thesis and research paper on restaurants.

                                                          1. re: City_West

                                                            I don't have 1200 words to write a proper thesis and research paper on restaurants.
                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                            I don't think anyone's requesting a 1200 word thesis. But you could repay the kindness given you by regulars on this board and let us know what you thought of the places you visited in a bit more detail than "it was good". Despite all of the requests for said reviews, that hasn't been forthcoming. What did you like at the places you visited? What did you dislike?

                                                            1. re: City_West

                                                              City_West, I'd simply be satisfied if you lucidly explained what you mean, which in relation to this particular sentence:

                                                              "Also, wouldn't it be a good sign of a great food city if the most prominent restaurants were the best?"

                                                              isn't clear to me. I don't understand what you mean by "prominent" in the sentence above, which strikes me as crucial to your whole point -- and I'd like not to think that it's simply a vague term that morphs itself as you find it suitable. All I'd like is a good clean definition of terms, and I don't see that as "splitting hairs."

                                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                                What don't you understand about prominent? Examples? Pastis, Craft, Per Se, No. 9 Park, Radius, Canoe, Susur, North 44°, BLT, Babbo, etc. These are just examples, of course the term isn't limited to these, but if someone asked you for a prominent restaurant, would you really not know what they are asking? You can't really give it a clean definition, because it has nothing to do with revenues, it does have something to do with popularity, but not on a # of diners basis. Is this getting clearer? I don't think it's really that vague, "popular" would be vague, sucessful, would be vague.

                                                                1. re: City_West

                                                                  Why is it that everyone who asks you to elaborate on where you ate in Boston and what you liked/what you didn't like is ignored, but you continue to argue with everyone who disagrees with you and your perception of what is right/what isn't? The 1200 word thesis would be long done if you would do the rest of us the kindness of letting us know how you liked the specific restaurants you said you ate at.

                                                                  Again - Chowhound is about sharing those experiences for those of us who are on the board now and those new folks who will come looking for feedback in the future. Many people gave you suggestions; you said you ate at some of the suggested restaurants; why not let us know how things turned out for you instead of trying to get everyone to see your side of things?

                                                                  1. re: City_West

                                                                    No, City_West, I would not know what they're looking for if someone asked me what's meant by a "prominent" restaurant without very significant clarification; I would ask them what they mean, and in detail. No, I'm afraid you're not being clearer. And no, I'm not being argumentative or facetious. Is Starbuck's "prominent" because you'll find them on darned near every street corner locally? Is Top of the Hub "prominent" because you can see the top floors of the Prudential Center, where it's located, from many vantage points in town? Is Abe and Louie's "prominent" because in the latest food and beverage sales numbers for national non-chains, it came in #1 on the top 100 list I just cited for the Boston area? Is L'Espalier "prominent" because it's supposedly as close to a 4-star restaurant as you'll find locally? Is Mamma Maria "prominent" because it's one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the eyes of some diners that's located on the Freedom Trail, a high-destination tourist attraction? Is Union Oyster House "prominent" because it's arguably the oldest restaurant in continuous existence in Boston? Is Durgin Park "prominent" because it's in what's arguably a historic complex of buildings? Is Brown Sugar "prominent" because some folks consider it the best Thai restaurant in Boston? Is Lala Rokh "prominent" because it's the only Persian place in town? Is Summer Shack "prominent" because Jasper White is its executive chef? Is the Parker House restaurant "prominent" because it's in an old historic hotel? I have no idea what your thinking is, and as I sometimes have to remind Mrs. bachslunch, I'm not a mind reader. I have, for example, no clue what your way of thinking is that would yoke together Grafton Street, Giacomo's, Upper Crust, Sibling Rivalry, Aquitaine, Radius, No. 9 Park, and Petit Robert as "prominent" and might perhaps exclude, let's say, Pizzeria Regina, L'Espalier, River Gods, Franklin Cafe, Salts, Montien, Icarus, Santarpio's, Jacob Wirth, King Fung Garden, Atasca, Prezza, Bob's Southern Bistro, Mistral, Trattoria Toscana, or any of the places I mentioned above. It might indeed help me understand where you're coming from if you did clarify things like this.

                                                                    I do agree with you that "successful" would be vague. "Popular" could mean most money generated or most meals served, but again, it would depend on what's meant -- in fact, this might be the easiest to clarify.

                                                                    1. re: City_West

                                                                      BTW, I've been to every restaurant you've mentioned above, and in no way could I ever put them all in one category called "prominent". Pastis is french bistro food with great steak frites and people watching, Craft has had such mixed reviews I don't know one NY'er that would describe it as prominent at the moment, Per Se is very prominent, Canoe (in Atlanta) just had a chef change and has lost it's regular client base and is no longer considered by locals as "prominent".

                                                                      1. re: gramercyfoodie

                                                                        I think the Canoe that City_West is referring to is the one in Toronto, not Atlanta.

                                                                        But your point is well taken. "Prominent" is essentially a synonym for "popular", which in my mind makes it a less-than-trustworthy yardstick for great restaurants.

                                                                        I suspect that City_West might define "prominent" differently, but he's not saying exactly what he means by it. Some panel of experts, perhaps? Industry people? Critics? I think a more precise definition of what he means by this term would help clarify his argument.

                                                              2. re: City_West

                                                                I'm firmly convinced that restaurants only get to be as good as the people who go to them demand them to be. Boston's will improve over time, but only as the people's experiences and tastes grow to demand real quality - not just the perception of quality.

                                                                Quoting from myself, "My own experience is that Zagat or other publicly rated places rarely have the best of any city or country." I obviously don't think that any such list of prominent places is very relevant in searching out deliciousness.

                                                                You never did answer the question - prominent by whose definition? Where did you start off gathering your list?

                                                                1. re: applehome

                                                                  I agree, I think it's just a matter of time. The damage really has been done by this mass franchisation of good independant restaurants that dumbs down the palette. That's refering to the Morton's, the Roy's, Carraba's. That infiltrate the downtowns of cities and will keep the same menu for years, if not forever. I believe that a prominent restaurant should be one that the majority of the population would regard as being a one of the best fine dining restaurants of a city, not just a good place to eat.

                                                                  1. re: City_West

                                                                    Here's my problem with the notion that "a prominent restaurant should be one that the majority of the population would regard as being a one of the best fine dining restaurants of a city". I think by definition that any place that meets this criterion of popularity will be "prominent". The question that gets endlessly discussed here is, "So it's popular: is it worthwhile?"

                                                                    I get the sense that you think that popularity equals worthiness. While that may be a useful line to pursue from a business perspective, it's essentially antithetical to the spirit of this board. Most folks come to Chowhound looking for the edge of the bell curve, the extraordinary, not the great dull bulge in the middle, however successful such places may be.

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      If you get the sense that popularity equals worthiness in my eyes, than i don't think you've read what I've wrote. In Toronto, we would be able to compile a list of the best 25 restaurants, and they would be popular here, people would know most of the restaurants. My point is, in Boston the really popular restaurants aren't that great, and I'm not refering to the Cheesecake factory or P.E. Chang's. That is the point.

                                                                      1. re: City_West

                                                                        My impression that you equate popularity with worthiness is simply based on what you're posting here, speaking of "prominence" and "busyness" and this idea (your words: "Everyone around the world can name 25 great tasting restaurants that are local to them and they love") that diners are in lockstep in their opinions about their best restaurants.

                                                                        That's complete bollocks, in my view: poll 100 Toronto diners at random, and you'll get a Zagat-like result: an averaging of popular opinion that isn't trustworthy, since you know nothing of your sample's tastes, preferences, experience, sophistication, etc. (I think Zagat is a pretty good documentor of what's popular, prominent, busy, and as such, not very useful.)

                                                                        How do you like this list? Canoe, North 44°, Scaramouche, Susur, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar & Restaurant, Bymark, Il Fornello, Auberge du Pommier, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Truffles, Splendido, Harbour Sixty Steakhouse, Spring Rolls, Bistro 990. Are these the best restaurants in Toronto? They're the "most popular", according to Zagat. I'm guessing you'd find some howlers on this list, the same way you would in any city where you take a restaurant popularity poll.

                                                                        In any event, that "25 best" idea is lowest-common-denominator thinking, sheep-like foodie mentality: a guaranteed way to end up at overhyped mediocrities (that probably have shiny websites) of the kind you spent a lot of time visiting in Boston.

                                                                        Instead of expending more words defending your worldview, how about providing some details (on the Boston board) on the Boston restaurants you actually visited? That's the usual deal here: you solicit advice and choose to follow it or not, but you report on where you ate for the benefit of everyone. I am always interested in hearing the opinions of folks from out of town.

                                                                    2. re: City_West

                                                                      So do you walk around a town asking people which restaurants are prominent and keep your own count of what the majority says? Do you read blogs and restaurant review websites? Do you read local newspapers? Would any of that yield any better results than Zagat?

                                                                      Boston will get better as more people are exposed to better food elsewhere and come back to demand better food. Prominence has nothing to do with that. Prominence only has to do with the best marketing or the best access to the masses, and of course, profits - quality is a side issue in that process.

                                                                      It's not a question of splitting hairs in the sense of doing research. It's the fundamental assumption that this thing you call prominence is important in finding good food. Good food exists where it's made, and the real benefit of Chowhound is that people find it and report on it - knowledgeable people pass on meaningful summaries of their experience by word of mouth (or keyboard). Not everybody agrees on everything. But nobody here feels that popularity, prominence or price are the best guides to finding deliciousness. If you, indeed, feel that mass franchising is not helping anybody gain more food knowledge or a more fine-tuned palate, then you must agree that mass-popularity is similarly irrelevant - this whole business of prominence is just plain misguided.

                                                                      Even going by the fame of the chef is misleading. Boston has Todd English, Jasper White, and Lydia Shire - not Thomas Keller class, but held in general good esteem by TV audiences around the world. But none of them create the best food in Boston. Of course, there is no Thomas Keller. Maybe if enough people eat at The French Laundry and then come to Boston, they'll hold Todd's nose to the wood fired grill until he gives up and actually makes something worth eating. Or they'll explain to Jasper that boiling lobsters may be a lot of fun, but isn't the most creative cooking process ever. But the truth is that the "majority of the population" will never eat at The French Laundry or anything even close - so don't hold your breath. What you really have to do is to find your own deliciousness - or trust a hound or two...

                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                        I think you are missing the point of what I've said. You seem to agree that Boston's food will be getting better as they expect more, so on the surface it seems like you agree with me, but regardless.

                                                                        Of course I don't walk around asking people what they think, I don't really appreciate the sarcasm. If you ask anyone in Toronto they could all name the "well-known" high quality restaurants in the city. The reason I brought up proninence, is that you can't really say that because you have a handful of great small restaurants that you love, and a few foodies love, that you have a great food city.

                                                                        1. re: City_West

                                                                          There is great food in Boston - right now. We know where to get it. As things change, for better or worse, we'll tell each other about it.

                                                                          Is Boston a great food city? That's certainly up to your own definition - your own threshold. The question isn't particularly relevant to us. If your test is to look for great food at prominent places - fine - go for it. We're just going to be over here eating delicious food, thank you.

                                                                          When I visit NYC, my friends, the musician that knows more late night foodie hangouts (including where some great chefs come to close out the night) than anybody ought to, and the Japanese businessman that keeps more bottles of shochu at more izakayas than ought to be legal, take me out to have some of the best food in the city. That's my recollection of NYC as a great chow town. Yes - I've had some of the best meat in the world at Luger's or a couple of Tourondel's places (of course, that's now a chain) - wonderful foam at WD50, a completely forgettable meal at Vong (I would tell you what I had if I could remember). Babo, amongst others, is on the list of musts.

                                                                          I must admit that there is no Daniel in Boston. But there's also no izakaya - insufficient Japanese businessmen to keep one going. There's no Katz's - too many goyim around that'll eat Hebrew National pastrami and call it good. If you were to ask me what I wanted Boston to have next, I'd spring for a Katz before a Daniel. The point is once again that prominence and fine dining would not be the sole criteria used by chowhounds. Mostly, we're just looking for deliciousness.

                                                                          Now, Montreal - that's a food city. A pied de Cochon, Schwartz's, and the Bagel Shop... what would Toronto have to compare with that?!!

                                                                          1. re: City_West

                                                                            City-West, I've now read 17 responses where you say that you cannot understand why people are not getting your point. Have you considered rephrasing what you intended to say? If you keep saying the same thing over and over again, but people are still not "getting it" according to you, you need to change the way you're saying it.

                                                                            1. re: gini

                                                                              I have, I changed wording, I defined words, I tried to clarify the thought. The problem, is when someone wants to disagree with something they can always find some place where the wording can be challenged, nit-picked. For instance, "prominent", I didn't use "popular" or "sucessful", I used "prominent", however every poster since makes a comment fusing popularity and prominence. I find it hard to convey the point, when someone will say:

                                                                              "Boston will get better as more people are exposed to better food elsewhere and come back to demand better food. Prominence has nothing to do with that. Prominence only has to do with the best marketing or the best access to the masses, and of course, profits - quality is a side issue in that process."

                                                                              In the first sentence, the poster agrees with my comments, which are that Boston isn't as fully developed as a food city as I had thought. Simple enough. But then the poster goes on to confuse prominence with popularity. George Bush is a prominent man, is he the most popular? No, they don't necessarily hand in hand.

                                                                              It's like speaking someone that almost wants to disagree with you and does it through twisting wording, stretching the meaning of words, so on. MC SLIM JB Wrote:
                                                                              "Prominent" is essentially a synonym for "popular"

                                                                              Well, I disagree, but for arguments sake I'll pull up a thesaurus for Prominent, here are the synonyms:

                                                                              Important, well-known, leading, eminent, distinguished, notable, noteworthy, noted, illustrious, celebrated, famous, renowned, acclaimed, famed, influential, affluential, major-league.

                                                                              Does no one in Boston hope their city develops more as a food city? You guys have hit the pinnacle have you? That'd be depressing, I know it would be depressing if I believed that Toronto had hit it's peak. We are just a little bit ahead because we are the major city-centre of a country.

                                                                              To answer MC Slim JB aboves post regarding these Toronto restaurants:

                                                                              Canoe
                                                                              North 44° - Very good, consistant, nothing cutting edge but very reliable.
                                                                              Scaramouche - Same as above, old guard, but never outdone.
                                                                              Susur - a light too close to art, but if you like that stuff you'll love this asian leaning cuisine.
                                                                              Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar & Restaurant - Very good, regional driven.
                                                                              Bymark - Same as North 44°, same ownership, a really good expensive burger.
                                                                              Il Fornello - Chain of Italian-American, Carraba's of the North, you have to know what you are walking in to here, nothing fancy, very family.
                                                                              Auberge du Pommier - Classical French, just redone inside, slipping a bit over the past few years, still dependable, hopefully getting better with the new redesign.
                                                                              Ruth's Chris Steak House -Exactly the same as everywhere else.
                                                                              Truffles - Nothing crazy special, definately a hotel restaurant.
                                                                              Splendido - Hugely popular, easily one of the best meals in the city, night in and night out.
                                                                              Harbour Sixty Steakhouse - Classic steakhouse.
                                                                              Spring Rolls - Thai food, but good thai, shooting for the masses.
                                                                              Bistro 990 - Old guard classic french, big with the Film Festival, hasn't really changed food-wise for years, but they can get away with it.

                                                                              With regards to these restaurants, they are all very good, the steakhouses and just that and don't expect more. Il Fornello is the only one where I'd rather go to a better more true Italian restaurant than there. I'd rather check out Oro, or Mistura.

                                                                              1. re: City_West

                                                                                Yes, you do use prominent, but until this last post, you use no other word to explain what you mean by prominent. Posters obviously weren't understanding what you meant by prominent, but instead of explaining, you simply said "what do you not get?". What do you not get, City_West, regarding the fact that you are not being clear?

                                                                                I hope all city-dwellers hope that their cities further develop: food, culturally or otherwise. Chowhounds are no execption. I'm not entirely sure how you jumped to that conclusion. Again, I fail to see your logic.

                                                                                1. re: City_West

                                                                                  Thanks for the Toronto restaurant reviews. Still waiting to get some feedback on your Boston visit.

                                                                                  Regarding the whole other harangue, yeah, we all have access to a thesaurus. The question you're apparently missing is: "Who determines 'prominence'?" You seem to think there's some widely-accepted definition, and about fifty Hounds here are challenging that. I've taken a few guesses at what you might mean by "prominence":

                                                                                  * Popularity, as measured by widely-known yardsticks like the Zagat Survey.

                                                                                  * The acclaim of professional critics, food writers, travel writers, and other folks who get paid to review restaurants.

                                                                                  * Revenue, profits, longevity, and similar signs the business at least is attracting customers and is well-run.

                                                                                  I think that's why people are struggling with your argument: it's based on a vague notion (prominence) that you can't or won't define. I'd understand if you wanted to point to some "authoritative" source to back up your contention (e.g., Michelin guide ratings), but you have to understand that many Chowhounds have an anti-authoritarian streak, don't think much of restaurant-guide writers and newspaper restaurant critics and their ilk.

                                                                                  But you need to offer more than synonyms to make your point. The back-and-forth reminds me of when I was eight, and looked up "harlot", which was defined as "whore", then looked up "whore", which was defined as "harlot"; it got me nowhere. I think you can probably make your point plain, but as the thread gets longer, it just looks like you're being evasive about it.

                                                                                  (I think many Boston Hounds have freely admitted in this thread and elsewhere that our city has lots of room to grow as a restaurant town, and naturally we hope it does.)

                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    MC - you got it on the nose, as usual.

                                                                                    But I just wanted to add that I take umbrage to the very idea that prominence, whatever the definition, somehow becomes the sole arena of comparison for determining whether a city is a worthy food city or not.

                                                                                    Every place ought to improve over time. But the concept of rating somewhere as great or whatever, by evaluating one type of restaurant (fine dining), is not very useful for a person seeking deliciousness. I imagine that some folks might think of places in the lowlands country of the south as having poorly developed fine dining, but I doubt that the whole pig que experience could be equaled anywhere else.

                                                                                    I lived in southwest Germany for 3 years and tried many places, there and across the river, mainly looking for great choucroute and cassoulet. Of course, there were plenty of great places, but there was some real trash, as well. The only way I could always guarantee a wonderful eating experience at a new place was to listen to my friends who could tell me where to go and where to stay away from. The most reliable of these recommendations were from fellow foodies who had been through the mill. The most unreliable were from sources - friends, newspapers, whatever, who relied on 3rd party reports to tell them what they thought were good places to go. Some of the best known places, especially within Baden-Baden itself, were tourist traps - intended for the Auslanders and northerners. They were indeed, prominent. They almost always had very poor quality product.

                                                                                    I understand that I'm talking about country cooking vs. haute cuisine. But the concept of listening to those who have been there applies across the board. If there is any great fine dining to be found in the lowlands or anywhere else, you're going to find it here, recommended by someone who ate there fairly recently. It's fair enough to say that we should have more such high-quality places, but the very thought that a city or region might be evaluated on one aspect alone. at the expense of all else that may be functioning very well, seems senseless when all we're really looking for is deliciousness.

                                                                                    Perhaps that's the key aspect that City_West doesn't understand. Here at chowhound, we're interested in deliciousness. That's why prominence and generalized comments are pretty much useless.

                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                      I'm totally missing something, you did read my post right above right? Because I even included a Thesaurus' definition and you still are confusing prominence with popularity, etc. You're going to have start reading the full post and responding with, and to be honest yea, I did presume that the word prominence was widely understood, as is the word popularity, I thought everyone would understand that they mean different things. Write a new post after reading mine and let's stop rehashing the same argument over and over again, it has been defined. I'm sorry I'm not going to set a list of parameters of what makes something prominent, there's too many intangiables.

                                                                                      The problem is people read your post and be confused as to what the argument is. The entire Harlet/Whore example isn't clear at all and really makes no headway in this discussion at all, since Popularity and prominence are not synonyms.

                                                                                      1. re: City_West

                                                                                        Yep, I read your whole post. I'm trying to help you out here, throwing darts to see what sticks. But I'm still confused as to what you mean by "prominent" (and I don't think I'm the only one). The harlot/whore analogy is to illustrate that throwing out a bunch of synonyms doesn't help clarify an undefined term.

                                                                                        But I don't just need a definition of "prominent" (I have access to a dictionary, too) -- what I'm trying to get you to share is "prominent to whom"? Who's offering the acclaim, calling the place important or notable or noteworthy or any of those other synonyms? It doesn't just fall from heaven.

                                                                                        I still can't figure out how you determine a place is prominent, and I can't understand why you still appear to be ducking the question. Help out a poor, dim Chowhound here, and explain it to me again.

                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                          Alright, the point of what I wrote, whether it might have been taken down or not, is that the prominent restaurants in Boston. Ie. Restaurants that are well known, written up/noted, leading, acclaimed, were either too few or not up to par. That is what I wrote and that is my point. Now if you feel that there is tons of great small food places where you can eat to hearts content, that's fine, I didn't say that there aren't any good restaurants in Boston. Every city in the world has some great restaurants.

                                                                                          I think it's silly that you just want to find where you disagree with my comments as opposed to where you might agree. Several posters mention that they agree with me that the food scene isn't fully there yet, in fact most start off saying how the expectations of Bostonians wil drive the restaurants to getting better, but then disagree with the exact thing they started off agreeing to.

                                                                                          I'm not going to further define Prominent, I wished that you would have actually read the bottom part of my post where I explained why. Why do you want me to name a publication that would count as being able to make something noteworthy, and then have you look up a restaurant they acclaimed and you think is no good. List any major city publication in Boston, if they do a big review of a restaurant, it should be good. If not, than I believe that is what I'm talking about.

                                                                                        2. re: City_West

                                                                                          City_West, a thesaurus list of synonyms doesn't go very far when it comes to restaurants. In fact, the "list of parameters of what makes something prominent" is what I at least am looking for -- that is, specifics and the more the better. Failing that, you could be making it all up as you go along for all I know; how, for example, do I know you didn't just stroll down the street and stumble into both Aquitaine and Sibling Rivalry and include them just because they're located close to each other and it was convenient? But since you say above that you won't clarify, I have nothing to go on except at best some vague and at worst possibly uniquely personal or even nonsensical notions, which I find useless.

                                                                                          And then I'm wondering how all this applies to Boston's restaurants, which you're passing some sharp judgment on. Let's take one example -- what is it about Grafton Street that made you decide it was a "prominent" restaurant? Neither Chowhound nor Zagat's seem to think it's anything special, nor is it listed in either Fodor's or Frommer's Boston guidebooks.

                                                                                          But I'm guessing we won't find out. S'okay, I'll live either way.

                                                                                          1. re: bachslunch

                                                                                            Okay I have no idea why you are talking about Aquitane and Sibling Rivalry. What did I include them in? I ate at both places while I was in Boston, they were very close to where I was staying, what's the point?

                                                                                            Grafton Street? I never said it was prominent, I just said I ate there while in Cambridge, I actually thought it was pretty good. My wife was really hungry so we stopped there, did I say it was prominent? No, never, and what have I passed sharp judgement on? Sharp? Have you read the posts, I don't think you fully have.

                                                                                            I think you are confusing posts or something.

                                                                                            1. re: City_West

                                                                                              I think, City_West, at this point some of the Boston Hound community is just kind of winding you up, as the Brits say, because you: a) come across more like a foodie (in the Jim Leff pejorative sense of the word) than someone from the restaurant industry; b) picked some really crappy places to dine at in Boston, despite getting loads of better advice from local Hounds; c) continued to duck a simple question, which was basically to explain what you mean by "prominent" restaurants, which you posit as a fundamental basis for evaluating a city's restaurant scene; and d) based some of your opinions on reading online menus instead of actually trying places, which (I'll venture) seems grossly simplistic and wrong-headed to the average Hound.

                                                                                              But it has been very entertaining engaging you in this thread: sorry if some of us were taking the mick. I'd still be grateful to get some actual Boston restaurant reviews out of you, which is really mostly what the site is about, not this kind of fruitless rhetorical wrangling.

                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                I'm actually way more of an industry person than a foodie, I love food, but I tend to look at things from more of an industry perspective. Because of my career, I am lucky to be in at least 2-3 of Toronto's best kitchens every day or so, so I'd call me more industry than a foodie. I see the front of house from a back of house viewpoint. AS to the restaurants I chose, I was in Boston with my Wife and little boy, so the restaurants I chose were out of convenience most of the time, as I tried to work as many recommendations in as possible. I don't think that I had a crappy meal in Boston. I never walked out of a place saying that I wouldn't come back again. Every restaurant (for the most part) has a purpose. Thirdly, I haven't ducked the question, but I'm going to give the best answer I can, I'm sorry if that's not good enough for you. Fourthly, understand, I'm a pretty smart guy, and pretty reasonable. I'm not one for extremes, I never had an agenda I'm trying to push, it was just a note than when I looked for some nice restaurants to take my wife out to, there weren't as many as I thought. Sorry, but I'd rather not take my wife out to the place "that does great peruvian chicken" for a nice, quiet night out. AS for the reviewing of restaurants, the trip seems like a blur now because of all these posts about definitions and so on. All I remember is steak, lamb, talapia, and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, which is a chain which I tend not to like, but was really good (we don't have them in Canda, we have tons of authentic gelato, but nothing like that) It's like living in Paris, and sometimes just wanting a great burger.

                                                                                                1. re: City_West

                                                                                                  OK ... Cold Stone? Now you're just jerking our chain, aren't you.

                                                                                                  1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                                                                                    I think everyone has a few things that are those mass-made people pleasing foods, whether it's thoes grocery store cakes, or whatever. I never want to be one of those people who dislikes something because of how sucessful/popular it is, or the purity of it. Again, every food/restaurant has it's place, except poorly run ones.

                                                          2. re: City_West

                                                            Any reports on places you've actually dined at? Visiting anywhere that's not mid- to high-end French, Italian, or New American?

                                                          3. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            As a Boston board regular, I've been following (and riveted by) this thread for several weeks now. Lots of interesting points made here, and a good, vigorous discussion. Setting aside website research and semantics for a moment, I wanted to take a moment to throw in my two cents about what makes a great food city.

                                                            To me, it largely comes down to odds. First, lay out your general criteria or genre (fine dining, steakhouses, ethnic, pizza by the slice, country French, etc.); then based on your criteria, assess what the odds are of walking into any random restaurant that falls within those criteria, and finding it delicious.

                                                            I know nothing about the Toronto dining scene, so I'm going to compare Boston and Montreal instead, and use a pretty broad set of criteria, namely all restaurants within the reach of each city's subway system.

                                                            Jim Leff has called Montreal "the chowhound's promised land," and for good reason. I'd say the odds of walking into any Montreal eatery, totally at random, and finding something delicious are higher than any other city I've visited on the continent. Is that number 50%? No way; maybe I could say that about a few choice regions of Italy. But I would say it comes darn close to 20%, which is really impressive, especially considering all the Subways and Burger Kings occupying the same streets as St. Viateur bagels and the prepared food stalls at the Jean Talon market.

                                                            So what's that number in Boston? I'd have trouble saying it's 10%, maybe not even 5%. Yes, Boston has some stunningly good restaurants, both well-known and otherwise, but based on statistical sampling, I think the odds of finding deliciousness in Boston are substantially lower than in Montreal. Thus, by these criteria, I'd say Montreal is, at this point in time, a much better overall food city than Boston, or anywhere else I've been in North America.

                                                            I do think it's possible to be a great food city for just a specific niche. Albuquerque is a great food city for Mexican, meaning that the odds of walking into a random Mexican restaurant and having it be excellent may be higher than anywhere else north of the border, but I'm not going out of my way to visit Albuquerque for its Portuguese seafood. Along these lines, while Boston may not yet be a top-tier food city overall, I think it has already become a very good food city in a number of niches, notably ethnic excluding Chinese (too many low Chinese valleys to offset a few high Chinese peaks) and small, artisinal bistros.

                                                            Last (and partially unrelated) point: I would argue that Chowhound's innate structure naturally leads regular posters to believe that their home town has better chow than anywhere else. While Chowhound is far and away the best food resource I've ever found on the Internet (or frankly anywhere), I think there's a knack to it. Although I've found it to be a helpful research tool when visiting other cities, it has, above all else, been instrumental in helping me eat better in my home town. The better I've gotten to know specific posters and their tastes, the more confidently I can rely on (or discard) their opinions. This simply isn't possible without the iteration afforded by living somewhere and posting on the same board. If a hound weren't careful, it would be easy for this to lead to the assumption, "Well, I used Chowhound to plan my trip to XYZ city, and a lot of the food was still boring; I guess XYZ city just isn't that great a food city compared to my home town."

                                                            1. re: finlero

                                                              I like the odds approach - it seems to work - but have a fundamental question of why? Why bother? Even if a city were rated as 1%, wouldn't you put some effort into finding that 1%? Even if it were Zagat, Fodor's or whatever - even some magical prominence list, wouldn't you try to make sure that you were hitting that 1% place, rather than just shrugging off the place as a "bad food city". And NYC vs. Montreal - Montreal may win on percentage but, once again, so what? The sheer number of incredible places, from the Michelin stars to ethnic food carts in neighborhoods, makes NYC a destination food city if ever there was one.

                                                              I don't think that we're very deluded about our local cities here at Chowhound - too many of us are far too well traveled not to be realistic in understanding what the local food scene is. I don't think anybody was telling CW how great Boston was - just how nonsensical (from the Chowhound perspective) his criteria seemed to be. In fact, my broadening the criteria by including izakayas and delis actually made Boston seem worse. Nevertheless, there is great food in Boston - 5%, 10%, who cares... it's there if you're open enough to look for it.

                                                              I go back, time and again, to the thought that the best way to find great food, anywhere, is a knowledgeable, local guide. London was never worth eating in until a foodie friend led me around. Ditto, Yokohama, Seattle, and lots of other places. NYC, where I'd already been to many good restaurants, (from business), became even greater after a real native New Yorker led me around his food haunts - and in fact, continues to become greater with each local person I get a new tour from!

                                                              When I use Chowhound for a place I've never been to before, I can spend hours in deep research mode, going back years for a typical city. One recent post, after all, isn't necessarily any better than a Zagat write-up. But the accumulation of local information, and following writers for a while - allowing me to latch onto the ones that I feel some affinity for - can give me that knowledgeable local guide that I could never find in Zagat or a blog or even a local newspaper review site.

                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                I kind of wish chowhound was a little more flexible in their posting rules for this reason. If I'm going to a city I'm not familiar with and don't have friends (or those that eat) there my gut reaction is to ask the Boston board and look for people from said city who have posted on the Boston board so I can match tastes, preferences, etc. . . The tedium of searching other boards' history for matching current reviews or responses to my "Boston hound in Peoria looking for. . ." threads can be a little frustrating at times despite the dividends it pays and lately I've been asking "real" people I know and then going to the boards from there.

                                                                Therefore, without being overtly flippant, if given the knowledge my preferences probably would not jibe with a pastry-chef/impressario from an urban redoubt in flyover country here for a long weekend with wife and eight year old in tow. I certainly hope all parties would have great meals, but I'd be somewhat surprised if they would all be at the same places.

                                                                I think there are food cities and non-food cities, and I can say with the utmost confidence that Boston is a food city. Is it Paris? no, but I know I'd starve to death in Indianapolis and that am fairly content here on a day to day basis, and I'm here about 300+ days a year and eat out about 299 of them. I'm always happy to get away and try different things, whether it be a poutine in Montreal or a 3 star somewhere else. There isn't much that's more personal than food that you can do with your clothes on, there's (unfortunately, perhaps) no accounting for taste.

                                                                I think C_W's fundamental issue, regardless of whether or not prominence is a reasonable yardstick (and I personally don't believe that it is the end all/be all), is that if that's what he was looking for, he didn't go to the most prominent places. If I were visiting Boston and hoping to find "prominent" places and ended up at Sibling Rivalry, I'd be rather disappointed as well.

                                                                1. re: sailormouth

                                                                  If you have questions re: City X and have posted a query on the appropriate board, you may post a pointer on another board, asking posters to respond to your query on the appropriate board. We insist on having the posts placed in the relevant boards because those threads are for the benefit not just one requester, but many more hounds who may read or lurk.

                                                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                    What's a pointer and how do I do one? Would I just open two threads (say one in City X and another in City Y) and ask responders to both threads to answer in the City Y thread?

                                                                    Thanks for the tip!

                                                                    PS, what is "lurking" on chowhound? :-)

                                                                    1. re: sailormouth

                                                                      "Would I just open two threads (say one in City X and another in City Y) and ask responders to both threads to answer in the City Y thread?"

                                                                      Yes, exactly! (sorry we weren't clear.) And you can always include the web link to the post for where all the discussion should occur.

                                                                      Re: "Lurking" -- you'll be surprised. The vast majority of the folks to visit this site do not post, but we have to look out for them too.

                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                        Thanks! I was worried that lurking might be something more sinister and that I might be guilty. . .

                                                              2. re: finlero

                                                                I think that that percentage based system may work in places like Montreal, where the food can be great there mostly because montrealers demand it and have great expectations, plus the fact that to succeed there you have to do well or you won't stay in business, but it doesn't work as well in Toronto or lets say New York, just due to the amount of restaurants. I bet that the GFP (good food percentage) in Toronto or New York would be the same as in Boston, no matter how many great restaurants you have, there will always be an army of crappy places littering the streets. So I get the point, but I think maybe a slightly different way of looking at it might be better, like using creating a ratio of good restaurants to the areas population. And who knows, maybe Boston might fare better in that sort of calculation.

                                                            2. re: cliobaci

                                                              <We're drowning in short ribs, steak frites, glazed salmon, beet/goat cheese salads and other dressed-up comfort food dishes.> As are we in New York!

                                                          4. I'm a month late to this interesting article...as a recent boston transplant from ny, we were suprised at the prices here as well. Not of fine dining places (No. 9 Park, Radius, etc) but of run of the mill, "let's go out on a thursday night" type of place...in NY we were accustomed to a great $50-60 meal for 2, here it's about $100. It seems like when people go out to dinner in boston it is supposed to be a special occassion, where in ny we just wanted to go out, not cook, not eat junk and not spend a fortune...we aren't fighting the system and are totally enjoying the food, but the price points are suprising to jaded ny'ers.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: gramercyfoodie

                                                              That is very interesting gramercyfoodie. Whenever I go to Manhattan I am never shocked by the price of dinner because it is comparable to Boston. I agree with you about the casual 100.00 dinner. I think people would eat out more during the week if it was not always going to be 100.00. Not that 100.00 is so steep but for ehh food it is.

                                                              1. re: hoplover

                                                                Yes, and I haven't studied real estate prices here in Boston, but knowing them well in Manhattan, I can't imagine the rents are comprable.

                                                                There definitely seems like a need for affordable, decent food here.

                                                            2. I scanned most of the discussion and saw that many really good "Boston" restaurants (mostly in Cambridge because that's what I know better) were not listed.

                                                              For example, Elephant Walk recently wrote in their blog about the value of food. Elephant recently lowered prices.

                                                              Fairly new to the scene is Sofra which I think is fairly priced and delicious. I love to go to the Monday Club (of Upstairs on the Square) for lunch and it is fair prices (though on the high end).

                                                              I know there are more, but can't think of them at the moment.

                                                              There are also all the hidden gems and holes in the wall places that are great but not mentioned here..you have to dig a little deeper which is not too hard to do on Chowhound.