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1st trip to Boston, need food suggestions

Hi all! What an incredible forum! Just found it this morning. We're traveling to Boston 11/10-11/12 (I know, Saturday to Monday, a little odd) and would like some suggestions on where to eat. We love to eat! We're interested in Italian in the North End, sushi, and trying some of that traditional Boston seafood. We also wouldn't mind some good bakery suggestions for breakfast. We don't need to go budget, but I know we're not interested in bringing the clothing for fine dining. Maybe something in between? Looking forward to your advice.

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  1. Hi, Debbie, and welcome to chowhound! What neighborhood are you staying in? That might help the city-savvy hounds get more specific.

    1. I love going to Mikes pastry in the north end. I get cannolis and florentines and whatever else strikes my fancy - always happy..
      A walk thru faneuil hall is a must. There is some great food hidden in a mostly food court type atmsophere. But if its a first visit the hall and waterfront area are a must do.

      1. For Seafood (and in the North End): Neptune Oyster.
        For Sushi: Oishii Sushi (several locations) or Shiki in Brookline
        I agree with bear that it would be helpful to know where you are staying for other recommendations. Enjoy your stay!

        1. Your best bet is always to do a site search, but here's a few quick thoughts.

          For North End possibilities:


          For seafood, I'd suggest Neptune Oyster or B&G Oysters, a little expensive but worth it.

          For sushi, with my thoughts in first reply (best to worst covered):


          and would add O-Ya as ultra expensive but excellent, Douzo as good, Sushi Express in Brookline as middle ground, and Shino on Newbury Street as being fair at best.

          Bakeries -- that'll depend on where you are and what you want. Specifics, please.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bachslunch

            Ooops, sorry, didn't think about that. We're either staying downtown or Back Bay. I know this is Chowhounds, but if you want to comment on that too, feel free.

            1. re: debbie421

              We just booked rooms at Nine Zero in the Financial District.

          2. North End Favorites

            Upscale Italian: Prezza onFleet St.
            Italian/American: Fiore's on Hanover St.
            Traditional Italian: Antico Forno on Salem St.

            French: Petit Robert on Commonwealth Ave near Kenmore Sq. Nice bistro atmosphere, reasonable prices and very casual.

            Sel De Terre for very good French in a casual dining atmosphere.


            East Ocean City for very good Chinese style seafood.

            The Peach Farm for good seafood as well as other great Chinese food.

            1. I would also suggest you find time to have a drink at the Oak Bar at the Copley Fairmont. Really a throw back to the grand days of social drinking.

              If you wind up on Newbury check out Tapeo for tapas and Piantini for the Italian version of tapas. I know they don't fall into your requests but keep them handy just in case.

              1. How about Panificio in Beacon Hill for a breakfast? It's pretty central for meandering around the area, or heading for the T to Harvad Square if you're doing some sightseeing there.

                1. North End ideas

                  FWIW, my chowish brother and sister-in-law from Wisconsin were in Boston for three days this summer. (Midwest - great fresh shellfish is hard to come by and they both love it.) I took them to Neptune Oyster their first night (my first time there also) and they were so enthralled with the food they nixed my next plan and we went back and stood in line for 40 minutes on the Saturday night. Do a search and you'll find wonderful posts about Neptune all over this board.

                  You'll also find a million posts on the North End.... two places I like very much that don't get a lot of mentions here are L'Osteria on Salem St. and Monica's on Richmond Street. L'Osteria is a family-owned red-sauce place that has been there forever. Not fancy, but consistently good quality if you want traditional Italian/American home-cooking. I particularly like their Veal Agrodolce, which is something I haven't run across anywhere else, and their salad dressing, which I try to duplicate at home.

                  Monica's is more upscale and more innovative - also family owned, they're from Italy and Argentina. When I lived in the North End it's where I always took visiting friends and family and everyone always wanted to go back on their next visit.

                  The North End places you'll find most recommended here on the board are Prezza, Taranta, Mama Maria's (all $$$$-$$$) and Artu and Antico Forno (more $$). Again, do a search here on the board and take a look at their websites. I haven't eaten at any of them more than once or twice and not too recently, so don't want to weigh in, but they all consistenly get good/terrific reviews here. Maria's is the most formal, (probably the most formal in the N. End, also quite romantic atmosphere), Taranta is Italian with Peruvian influence, Prezza I think has the most "with-it" atmosphere - look for the v. recent thread on their egg ravioli - and a fabulous wine list. Antico Forno and Artu are more casual - Antico Forno does a lot of cooking in their brick oven, so more rustic and Artu is quite casual - they do a lot of take out. Again, do a search here on any one of them and you'll get a better idea.

                  You wouldn't have to dress up terribly for any of these - Prezza and Mama Maria's are the most upscale, good business casual, sports coats for men and dresses or nice slacks for women appropriate. For the others, if you're clean and neat, that's just fine.

                  If you like pizza, Regina's is still the best in Boston proper.

                  Have fun, and let us know where you go and what you think when you get back!

                  My last recco, if you don't have too far to go to get home and have a mini-frig in your hotel room, is to stop in Monica's Salumeria on Salem Street and get some of their fresh home-made marinara and/or bolognese sauce to take back. It was a major disappointment to my family when they stopped bottling their sauces a couple years ago. I used to buy in bulk and ship to the midwest every Christmas, and my nephews always asked for a couple bottles for their birthdays in lieu of the latest CD or video game.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: pasuga

                    Mama Maria has really gone downhill (except price wise). Do people really recommend it that often??? Try Piccolo Nido instead.

                    1. re: joebelt

                      Mamma Maria's is still quite excellent. Agree that the prices are high, but you pay for good service, good food, and good atmosphere.

                      I've never been a big fan of Piccolo Nido. Okay, I guess, but only okay.

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        I'll echo Mamma Maria's as an excellent, if pricey, option. I didn't think it had gone downhill.

                        There are to my way of thinking at least 60 better restaurants in the North End than Piccolo Nido -- and yes, I've eaten at all of them within the last 15 months. Plus their opening times can be capricious, as early as 4:00 PM or as late as 5:30 PM.

                  2. Agree with many of the North End suggestons here, and would throw Terramia into the mix. Tiny, charming, excellent food. Sort of pricey, but not insane.

                    My favs are their classics: the lobster fritters and the giant seafood ravioli are must haves.

                    Mama Maria's (as mentioned) is also excellent. LOVE their papadelle and rabbit.

                    Prezza is consitently wonderful, as is Neptune Oyster.

                    I'd also add Marco to the mix.

                    BTW, it's Monica's Mercato on Salem (next to Bova's near the corner of salem and Prince).

                    For pastries, The Modern and Maria's float my Duck Boat (sorry, Red Sox parade today).

                    26 Replies
                    1. re: Bostonbob3

                      What do you think of Barking Crab or Summer Shack? Also, what's the best place in Chinatown for some great asian food (not seafood)? Are B&G and Neptune really neck and neck or is one better?

                      Right now I'm thinking about doing both Mike's and The Modern for breakfast goodies (I'm guessing about a 15 minute walk from Nine Zero hotel), Antico Forno for dinner one night, and B&G for dinner another night (don't want to do all dinners in North End). We'll probably do lunch at Faneuil Hall 1 day, but I still have 2 other lunches to account for. We will be in Cambridge at one point, so that's an option. Maybe a Cambridge lunch and an Asian lunch?

                      1. re: debbie421

                        unless you are travelling with young kids I think chowhounds would advise you to skip summer shack and barking crab.

                        I think there could be a long debate between b&g and neptune, I personally like neptune more, but you will hear both viewpoints. they are both wonderful, you can't go wrong with either.

                        1. re: gramercyfoodie

                          This hound will definitely suggest avoiding Barking Crab and Summer Shack. I've experienced nothing but bad food at both, lots of noise and very high prices at the latter, grungy digs and high prices at the former.

                        2. re: debbie421

                          I'd recommend a site search for Chinatown fare. Personally, I tend toward the more adventurous fare, but I know that's not everyone's cup o' tea (mmm, jellyfish and chicken necks).

                          For just plain old good eats, New Shanghai is good, as is Peach Farm (although PF tends to focus on seafood, but not exclusively).

                          If you like calamari, definitely try the versions most Chinatwon places offer (pepper salt calamari is a common term). I actually find it better than the versions offered in the North End.

                          1. re: Bostonbob3

                            I especially love the spicy salt calamari at New Jumbo Seafood in Chinatown: best iteration of the dish I've ever had in any type of restaurant anywhere, not least because they don't skimp on the tentacles.

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              Oh God, you're absolutely right; I love their spicy salt pepper-whatever-the-hell-it's-called calamari at New Jumbo. It's actually my fav.

                              1. re: Bostonbob3

                                Speaking of s&p calamari and CT vs North End - the calamari at Billy Tse's on Commercial on the North End is very good, with a pile of crispy rings and tentacles and plenty of sliced chilis. On the menu it's listed as "fried calamari with garlic and pepper".

                                I'll have to try New Jumbo's version soon.

                          2. re: debbie421

                            I think if you want a boiled lobster dinner, Summer Shack is a totally reasonable option. White's not offering anything interesting on the menu, but it sounds like you're looking for traditional anyway. The only appeal of Barking Crab to me is sitting outside. I wouldn't do that in November.

                            Neptune's raw bar, crudo and lobster roll are better than B&G's. Sorry guys, but I happen to love the butter on butter dripping with butter brioche there. The place they often fail for me is their cooked dishes. Even so, I'd rather go to Neptune any day.

                            You don't specify type of Asian in Chinatown, but I'll take a stab anyway: Taiwan Cafe for, um, Taiwanese; Hong Kong Eatery for roast meats; Best Little Restaurant. I also like New Shanghai as well as King Fung Garden's Peking Duck, ravioli & noodles; Penang for Malaysian; Xihn Xihn for pho; Mei Sum for bahn mei.

                            Maria's has better sfogliatelle than Modern or Mike's, if you want that for breakfast. I do.

                            Where in Cambridge will you be?

                            1. re: gini

                              We want to check out both MIT and Harvard. I've looked at a map and they don't seem too far apart, but maybe I'm kidding myself. We do want something very casual for lunch and not too heavy since we'll go heavy for all our dinners.

                              I think we'll probably try New Shanghai or Penang in Chinatown. Although maybe we better do both Neptune and B&G! Do both restaurants do lunch?

                              1. re: debbie421

                                For a casual lunch in Harvard Sq., I'd go to either Burdick's or Hi Rise, both on Brattle St., right in the Square. Personally, I'd take a cab to MIT; it's on Mass. Ave. like Harvard, but unless it's a beautiful day and you're in the mood for a walking tour of Mass. Ave (which will take you through the colorful Central Sq.), I'd cab it.

                                1. re: pollystyrene

                                  I'll second pollystyrene's suggestions for a quick, casual bite in Harvard Square; there are fewer options around MIT. Cheaper alternatives to a cab going between Harvard Square and MIT would include taking the #1 bus, which runs down Mass Ave between the two, or taking the Red Line (subway) running from Kendall (a short walk away from MIT) and Harvard.

                                  I'm always keen to save a few bucks to put towards a good munch. :-)

                                  1. re: bachslunch

                                    I'm always putting around in my eco-unfriendly car (sub-compact, at least), so I sometimes forget there are non-walking alternatives. I agree; save the cab fare and go to Toscanini's for ice cream instead (by getting off at the Central Sq. T stop, of course).

                                  2. re: pollystyrene

                                    Is Burdick's serving lunch now? I haven't been since they remodeled.

                                    1. re: bear

                                      I haven't been since the remodel either, but, according to their website, they serve a brasserie menu all day:


                                      1. re: pollystyrene

                                        pollystyrene, are you sure you aren't looking at the walpole, nh location? I'd be psyched if the cambridge loc did serve lunch, but it still looks like they are a drink/pastry location, unless I'm missing something. There seems to be a difference between the restaurant menu and cafe menus. If I missed it, I'll be very happy!

                                        1. re: bear

                                          Sorry to get your hopes up, bear. I revisited the website, and I think you're right. I was projecting my own wishes into their remodel. The site could be clearer, but I'm easily confused anyway.

                                  3. re: debbie421

                                    I'd just walk from MIT to Harvard Sq. if it's a nice day, it would take about 30 min and there's stuff to see along the way. People like the Indian/Bengal food at Royal Bengal on Mass Ave. (as you approach Central Sq.) which is a lunch option. Miracle of Science a few stores down is a casual fun place for a burger or good salad. Some like Mariposa Bakery across the street, the aforementioned Toscanini's ice cream (also served at MoS) on Main St., the Plough & Stars bet. Central and Harvard Sq. is a great lunch stop. Dado Tea as you come into the square. I really like Bartley's Burgers in H. Sq, that's an institution. Good if you can time it when it's not rush hour for lunch. Casablanca has nice small plates, Cambridge 1 has interesting pizza.

                                    Both B&G and Neptune are open for lunch.

                                    I personally don't think of Italian bakeries for breakfast. If you're walking thru Fanueil Hall, you could just cross the highway and stop at the bakery section of Sel de la Terre for scones or croissants. I also like the non Italian cafe on Salem St. (can't think of the name, Boston something?).

                                    1. re: Joanie

                                      Do either B&G or Neptune have a reduced price lunch menu? Or is it the same for all meals?

                                      Also, how long is it to take the blue line out to Kelly's in Revere Beach?

                                      1. re: debbie421

                                        I am pretty sure that B&G's menu is the same (or very close to it) at lunch and dinner.

                                        1. re: debbie421

                                          The blue line from Govt. Center would be about 15-20 min. Assuming they don't have a bus running due to construction somewhere along the line.

                                          1. re: debbie421

                                            Both B&G and Neptune offer no price breaks at lunch.

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              That being said, maybe I'll do Neptune for dinner and Kelly's for lunch. Is it worth the T trip?

                                              1. re: debbie421

                                                You may get varying opinions about whether it's worth the schlep out to Kelly's or not. I think it is worth doing, but note well that at the original Revere Beach location (a modest walk from the Wonderland stop on the Blue Line) there is no place to eat indoors, which might not appeal in mid-November. There is another location a short walk from the Wellington stop on the Orange Line where you can eat indoors.

                                        2. re: debbie421

                                          For Cambridge, you can either walk the approx 2.3 miles between Harvard and MIT and stop along the way for lunch, or take the public transportation already mentioned. Lunch along the way could include:
                                          Bartley's for burgers (Harvard)
                                          Miracle of Science for burgers, skewers or sandwiches (Central)
                                          Hi-Rise for sandwiches (Harvard)
                                          Petsi's for sandwiches (Central)
                                          Dado for wraps (Central/Harvard) people seem to really like these.

                                          B&G and Neptune's menus are the same for lunch and dinner, I think. I'd probably go them before Penang.

                                          1. re: gini

                                            FYI for the OP, Petsi's isn't on the walk from MIT to Harvard Sq. More by Porter Sq. which is beyond Harvard Sq. on your journey.

                                            1. re: Joanie

                                              There is a second, newer Petsi location in Harvard Square.

                                              I'd also recommend Cambridge One in Harvard Square for a nice casual lunch of upscale pizza.

                                              Petsi Pies
                                              285 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                              Petsi Pies
                                              31 Putnam Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                              Cambridge, 1.
                                              27 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                  4. My favorites in Boston that I didn't see mentioned are in the North End. I like Mike's Pastries but only to go,it's way to crowded to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. You can go nextdoor to Cafe Vittoria for a more relaxing atmosphere and still do plenty of people watching. Across the street from Mike's/Vittoria is a place called "Cafe Calamari or Fresh Catch" a green worn out awning. Definitely a dive, it's one open room that includes the kitchen and a few tables. Limited selection on a wall board and all seafood or pasta, a good place for lunch. Another favorite is Pagliuca's around the corner on 14 Parmenter St. my mouth is watering thinking about the rolled roasted veal with potatoes and the roasted red pepper/cheese and cured meat appetizer. Good thing I'm going back in a couple weeks.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Melonhead

                                      //a place called "Cafe Calamari or Fresh Catch" a green worn out awning. Definitely a dive, it's one open room that includes the kitchen and a few tables. //

                                      That's Daily Catch, and it's really good. Yes, a bit of a dive in some ways (tiny room, kitchen right there in the middle), but it's not really a DIVE dive. And again, one of my regular go-to restaurants in the NE.

                                    2. I am hoping to jump on Debbie's posting for a similar request although I am staying at the Harborfront (Seaport Hotel) and will have a 4 year old with me. (The little one is super restaurant friendly with an expansive palette, but neither of us are much on the stuffy dining scene . . . like places with character and good food.) Any suggestions for a place within walking distance for a flavor of Boston? Thanks!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: cwatt

                                        If you could clarify regarding "flavor of Boston," that would help us help you better.

                                        That being said, Sel de la Terre (a moderate to expensive French spot) would fit your description, is not too far from where you are, and is an excellent place which from all reports on this board is very kid-friendly. Also has arguably the best bread basket in Boston.

                                        1. re: bachslunch

                                          That bread basket is terrific. Lunch is also a great way to experience SDLT within a budget.

                                      2. You must try Olive's in Charlestown, It has been one of the top restaurants in the city for 18 years..They are open on Sundays....Ask for Gary he will take care of you.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: gjp

                                          Also consider the short walk to the origianl Pizzeria Regina in the North End instead of actually eating at Faneuil. I know you said you didn't want to eat all of your means in the North End but ...

                                          And I think you have much better options than Penang in Ctown.

                                          1. re: gjp

                                            Olive's seems to have very few fans on this board, and its days of being one of the top Boston restaurants passed a good few years ago. I didn't think it was terrible the time I tried it, but given the alternatives, I think fancy bucks can be more chowishly spent elsewhere.

                                          2. OK, I think I've got it!:
                                            11/10 lunch - Pizzeria Regina
                                            11/10 dinner - Neptune
                                            11/11 breakfast - Mike's or Modern
                                            11/11 lunch - Kelly's
                                            11/11 dinner - Antico Forno
                                            11/12 breakfast - Mike's or Modern
                                            11/12 lunch - Bartley's in Cambridge
                                            I'll let you know if I change this yet again. And if I don't, I'll for sure give you my review when I get home!
                                            Only thing I'm wavering on is Chinatown. Should I bump any of these for something out there? Is it really worth it? We have a thriving asian community in Minneapolis, so I'm wondering how much better it really is.

                                            18 Replies
                                            1. re: debbie421

                                              Maybe sub a breakfast at Hei La Moon to do dim sum.

                                              1. re: Dax

                                                Agree with Dax. Change the 11/11 Modern/Kelly's breakfast/lunch to Dim Sum "brunch" at Hei La Moon. Unless you have good dim sum in the land of The Replacements, Husker Du, and Prince.

                                                If you were here for a long time, I'd say, sure go to Kelly's. But for just a couple days? It's really not worth the trouble to head out there.

                                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                                  Actually, Allstonian and I had a lovely dim sum with her sister in Minneapolis this summer, so there is definitely good dim sum there: this meal (I don't remember the restaurant name) absolutely shredded our utterly mediocre experience at Hei La Moon.

                                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                    Can't comment on the dim sum but i agree that Kelly's is a little out of the way for the food, especially on a tight schedule

                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                      That was Jun Bo in Minneapolis. Entirely respectable dim sum.

                                                      Also bear in mind that most of the dim sum places may be open at "breakfast" time but aren't really ramped up and at their best till 11 or 11:30.

                                                2. re: debbie421

                                                  You are spending a lot of time in the North End (not that that's a bad thing). We have some really good spots in our Chinatown if that's your thing. One of my favorites is King Fung Garden for peking duck (order a day in advance) and also for their homemade noodles. You had originally mentioned you might be looking for sushi, in which case if budget isn't a concern, I'd go to O-Ya. Really good, fresh but very high end sushi (not a maki roll kind of place). If any of this is redundant, I apologize but there are too many posts here to read through.

                                                  King Fung Garden
                                                  74 Kneeland St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                  O Ya
                                                  9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                  1. re: debbie421

                                                    On 11/12 for breakfast you should try Marias. No sense in going to both Modern and Mike's a second time, at least IMHO.

                                                    1. re: Pegmeister

                                                      Totally agree - I second Maria's, one of my favorites.

                                                      Maria's Pastry Shop
                                                      46 Cross St, Boston, MA 02129

                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                        Beware: there's no seating at Maria's, and I don't recall any tables at Modern either. Mike's does have a few tables (and the best pastries, I think).

                                                        1. re: pollystyrene

                                                          Modern actually always had a couple of tables, and since the renovations they've had a full little cafe area with maybe half a dozen tables. (And the best pastries, *I* think.)

                                                          1. re: pollystyrene

                                                            Ah yes - I forgot that at about Maria's seating. They do have some outside tables in the summertime, but I'm sure those must be gone by now. Maria's is my favorite in the North End, especially their cannolis. In order, I like Maria's, Modern, and Mike's, though Mike's is my husband's favorite.

                                                      2. re: debbie421

                                                        I have to agree with another poster that Mike's or Modern aren't really breakfast bakeries. Lots of No. End restaurants don't even serve dessert, the idea being that you walk over to a cafe afterwards. Maybe do Modern for a cannoli after dinner at Antico Forno. That way you can save one of your breakfasts (or both) for a great bakery that specializes in breakfast items. Flour in the South end comes to mind or Carberry's in Central Square (one block off Mass ave). Or go out for a real breakfast and a LOT of Boston flavor at Charlies Sandwich shop, also in the So. End - turkey hash, yum.

                                                        1. re: sflory

                                                          I also agree that Mike's, Modern or Maria are more for grabbing a cannoli and strolling around, not really a breakfast.

                                                          I haven't been to the Carberry's in Central, but I can't say I'm fond of the one in Arlington. Blah, disappointing pastry every time I've been, which is disappointing since it's not to far from my house.

                                                          I do enjoy Flour, though. Great BLT for a late morning treat, and yummy baked goods. There are a lot of good rec's on bakeries in Jamaica Plain on the board as well. I'm not familiar with them.

                                                          1. re: bear

                                                            The Carberry's in Arlington is no longer; it's now called Jumpin' Java or something like that. On the basis of one visit and one pastry, the pastry is fine, but not as good as Carberry's which we like a lot (sad that they're no longer in Davis). They're very friendly, though, and everything is made on the premises.

                                                          2. re: sflory

                                                            Are there any breakfast bakeries near our hotel? We want breakfast to be quick. Right now we're booked at Nine Zero.

                                                            1. re: debbie421

                                                              Not the best area to be for breakfast, but over on Charles St. is Panificio which has breakfast pastries as well as real breakfast. Paramount down the street has good real breakfast. There's a cafe next to Dunkin Donuts on Boylston St. at Emerson College altho I don't think they're esp. known for their baked goods. Some bakeries in Fanueil Hall.

                                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                                Joanie, is Panificio a table service place, or strictly counter? In other words, is it a place for a quick bite, or more of a breakfast place?

                                                                1. re: bear

                                                                  IIRC Panificio is both - counter and table service.

                                                        2. I'm surprised no one has suggested Davio's, a northern Italian steakhouse at 64 Arlington in the Back Bay/Park Square area- outstanding food, superlative service - it is consistently excellent and should not be missed.