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$50 Chowhound Challenge - Where would you go?

Hello hounds.

Some co-workers and I won a company Halloween costume contest. We dressed up as
characters from the game Clue (we won "best team effort" - I was Colonel Mustard). Each of us received a $50 gift certificate to one of the restaurants listed below.

I pose a challenge to all of you great thinkers. Which restaurant would you choose (from
the list below) if you had $50 to spend in one shot, and what would you order?

Aura (Seaport Hotel)
Bob's Southern Bistro
Bombay Club (Not my fav)
Bukhara (Definitely not my fav)
Cafe of India
Caffe Umbra
Cambridge Common (I suppose I could get a ton of beer)
Christophers (Cambridge)
Diva Indian Bistro
Excelsior (Back Bay)
Grill 23
Harvest (Seems the most appealing so far..)
Julien (Langham Hotel)
Kingfish Hall
Mamma Maria (N. End)
Tryst (Arlington)
Westside Lounge

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  1. I would go to the lunch buffet at Masala Art in Needham 5 times. More bang for your buck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DoggieMama

      We should go again one of these days soon

    2. Well, if you wanted to take a companion and keep the whole tab in the ballpark, you could do worse than a Harvest burger and drink at the bar, and keep it in the $50 range.

      1. I think I'd go for Icarus for ths tasting menu. It's not on the website, but I'm almost certain that they run a daily menu for a reasonable price. My second choice would be West Side Lounge. Most of the top places on your list are too expensive for 50 bucks to do too much good.

        1. If you go to Bob's, go soon! ;-b

          Hmmmm, personally, I'd go to Grill 23, but there are lots of other good choices, too..

          1. Caffe Umbra is probably not a good choice, and you'll have to move fast if you choose Bob's Southern Bistro!

            1. Interesting mix of restaurants - what's the connection?

              And interesting philosophy - I think of the gift cert. as a bootstrap to a finer meal, not necessarily as an all-inclusive. Therefore I would pick the most expensive one that sounds interesting and use the cert. to get me half-way.

              So I would choose Mamma Maria (although I haven't been) or one of the Todd English places.

              And isn't Julien long gone?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                That is just what I was thinking. I'd go to somewhere that is a complete splurge and not hold back - Mamma Maria definitely

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I'm right with you Bob. I'd go to Mamma Maria and expect to run up a $100 tab for the low-low price of only $50.

                  Though if your co-workers aren't on board with that I'd probably hit Grill 23 for lunch (they do serve lunch, right?)

                  1. re: heWho

                    Grill 23 does not serve lunch. Nice idea though.

                  2. re: Bob Dobalina

                    On the same theory, I would choose Meritage -- because you're paying for the atmosphere, and I ordinarily wouldn't pay for atmosphere. It's like getting a gift certificate for some luxury item -- get yourself something nice that you wouldn't normally.

                  3. $50.00 doesn't go far but you would have a great time at Davio's. affe Umbra is, regrettably, no more . Icarus and Grill 23 are great splurges too but you would have to pony up a little more if you have a drink or wine.

                    1. I'd do Harvest's Sunday brunch ($33 for a three course prix fixe), choosing:

                      - Harvest's Caesar (Lemon Garlic Dressing, Tapenade, Tasso Ham and Shaved Parmesan)

                      - Shrimp Omelet )with Shiitake Mushrooms, Peas and Mascarpone with Home Fries and Sour Dough Toast_

                      - Brandied Fig Bread Pudding (ffeaturing Candied Pecans, Vanilla Bean Caramel and Chantilly Cream)

                      And, of course, two "Bloodytinis" at $8 per, brinding you happily to $49 before tax and tip.

                      1. Funny how quickly this thread is growing; we hounds do love a good challenge...

                        I like the idea of dinner at Sandrine's. For $50pp, you could do two or three courses and wine if you ordered their tartes flambee (Alsatian pizzas). Check out the menu: http://www.sandrines.com/content/menu...

                        So we're fully expecting that when you report back, you'll stay in character, saying it was Colonel Mustard, in the [name the restaurant], with the [name your favorite dish].

                        1. Based just on food quality, I'd narrow the list down to Icarus, Mamma Maria, Grill 23, or Harvest and then decide what I'm in the mood for. The next level of places might include Davio's, Kingfish Hall, Meritage, Sandrine's, or West Side Lounge. I'd be least inclined to use it for Aura, Bombay Club, Bukhara, Cambridge Common, Christopher's, Diva, Figs, or Skipjack's. I don't know where DoggieMama saw Masala Art on the list, but I wouldn't put that high on my roster, either.

                          Caffe Umbra sadly is closed, and Bob's Southern Bistro will close shortly. And unless Julien has recently reopened, I don't think that's an option anymore, either.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: bachslunch

                            $50 doesn't go far in many of these joints. seriously. are we trying to stay within the cost of the g.c.? in a place that is still up and running?

                            i'd have oysters and a nice bottle of wine at skipjack's (they just completely revamped their wine program); happy hour tapas and malbec at masa; nachos and beers at christopher's; or pizza and beer at figs.

                            if the $50 is just an augment to a bigger check? lobster pizza and a bottle of white burgundy at excelsior.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              hotoynoodle wrote: "$50 doesn't go far in many of these joints. seriously. are we trying to stay within the cost of the g.c.? in a place that is still up and running?"

                              The only criteria I was using was which places I felt dished up the best food from the list. I guess it also depends on whether you want to end up with a freebie out of this GC, or want to cut your costs on a really expensive meal. I'd guess either one is an option.

                          2. Of that list, Excelsior would be my choice. It has great atmosphere and amazing cocktails but a really expensive price point. So I would use the cert, and pay the difference and enjoy the treat.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: makonna

                              At Excelsior, you could do the $7 before 7(PM) and get apps and drinks for the $50. I would probably go to Bob's if I'd never been, get some fried catfish. $50 would go fairly far there.

                            2. If I wanted the 50 to cover my meal I would go to the Sunday buffet at Kashmir. If I wanted it to help me get through a great meal I would use it either Davios, a place where I think the combination of food and atmosphere is very good, or at Grill 23. I wouldn't spend George Bush's money at Diva, the home to the worst dining experience I have ever had.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ChickenBrocandZiti

                                I'd use it at Figs. And I'd get the Fig and prosciutto pizza. Some wine. Start with the Rhode Island calimari. Maybe share a pasta too if we're really hungry. A dinner for two with little to throw down yourself.

                                And I apologize to all posters, I confused Masa with Masala Art.

                              2. I would go to Sandrines, get the bacon pizza (OK, they call it something spiffier) and the awesome fries (not fear of carbs in chowhound-land) and a creme brulee.

                                1. I'd be very happy at West Side Lounge where $50 covers a generous three courses with cocktails and tip. If there's any left over, you could just drink it away across the street at the Common :).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: DavisSquare

                                    Unfortunately, I think it can only be used at one restaurant! :(

                                  2. Hands down for me it would be Sandrine. Sit at the bar and make a meal of the flatbreads, wine and their dessert special.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: heathermb

                                      I'd go to the Langham Hotel $49 Sunday Jazz brunch(usually a pianist). Great selection and quality. Everything from a raw bar and sushi selections to carving, omelet, pasta, waffle and crepe stations. Several tables with salads and hot entrees from eggs benedict to salmon and chicken dishes. Pates, cheeses, breads and desserts galore including a chocolate fountain. A large group of us have started a tradition of going the first Sunday in Dec. every year.

                                    2. If I wanted a sure bet, I'd go to Mamma Maria and get the mushroom ravioli. My carnivorous friends would get the Osso Bucco. You could figure on getting one app and one entree free with each $50 certificate. If I weren't in the mood for Italian, I'd opt for another of my sure bet places, Icarus.

                                      On the other hand, I've been dying to try Sandrines, which is also pricey. I've also been wanting to try Westside Lounge, and I think you could afford to booze it up nicely there for $50.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: pollystyrene

                                        The possibility of going on an all-out bender is very real now. :)

                                      2. I'd pick Excelsior, Sandrine's, and Harvest, in that order. I've been to Harvest, want to try Excelsior and Sandrine's, and Excelsior looks slightly more interesting than Sandrine's.

                                        1. The Sunday brunch at Meritage is outstanding and a lot of fun.

                                          1. I'm casting my vote for Sandrine's too! The Tart Flambee is off the hook, big enough to share and leaves you lots of leftover $ for wine.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: aperitif

                                              How do you say "off the hook" in French? I want to say that when I make my way over there. :)

                                            2. I was one of the Clue members - Ms. Green to be exact - and I went with my instincts and used the gift certificate at Figs. Here's the lowdown:

                                              We had fried asparagus as a starter (very tasty), a fig and prosciutto pizza, the house macaroni and cheese, and white challah bread pudding for dessert (OMG soo good). Also had a bottle of wine. Ended up laying $15 cash + tip on the table for a great meal.

                                              To be honest, the fried asparagus and bread pudding were free. The lady felt bad for us because she crossed our name off the list even though we had a reservation. We were 25 minutes late - totally deserving of this punishment - yet she was overly contrite. Definitely an A+ for customer service and atmosphere.

                                              The food was so-so. I didn't really like the mac + cheese, thought it was bland. E loved it though, and the leftovers gave him another 2 meals. Fig and prosciutto pizza was okay, but it was slathered in fig jam and the gorgonzola was sparse. If you remember when Devlin's in Brighton had this pizza - doesn't measure up.

                                              Overall, I don't regret how I spent my prize. Can't wait to see the other "suspects" choices!

                                              1. Try one of Tod English's I have never been disapointed or Masa.