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New boyfriend, Birthday dinner.

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Hi. It's a fresh relationship and his birthday is coming up. We'll be cooking in one night, but I need a night out and it's a great excuse to take him (and, more importantly, myself) to dinner! He frequents spots in his hood (South End) so I'd prefer to avoid it. Something fun with a great wine list; I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard. We've recently been to Bin 26 and Craigie St... where should we go for this occasion?

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  1. Troquet has excellent food, and (IMO) one of the best wine lists in the city. They have an extensive wine-by-the-glass list as well.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bostonbob3

      I think Troquet would be trying too hard, and maybe Salts too (as in a lot of money). I'd say something like Rendezvous, Chez Henri, Central Kitchen, Gargoyles, Blue Room, all nice but not crazy expensive.

      1. re: Joanie

        While Troquet for dinner may be trying too hard, it probably would be right on for a dessert and/or cheese with a few glasses of wine. They have a pretty nice bar that sometimes gets a fun crowd. Maybe start at La Voile for dinner, which is reasonable and close by, and walk through the Public Garden?

        1. re: sailormouth

          Is that the downstairs bar at Troquet? A friend and I were bemoaning some really average cheese plates lately (this week, KO Prime and Beacon Hill Bistro), and thought about going there, but we weren't sure if it was a sit and the bar and order a cheese plate sort of spot. And if it is, we might be there tomorrow :).

          1. re: cmd

            It is the downstairs bar. No reason for crying any longer.

            See you tomorrow night.

    2. Neptune, EVOO or Oleana come to mind...? They all are so good and don't feel like anyone is trying too hard. Have fun!

      1. I suggest Lucca in the North End, fun and lively.
        Eastern Standard is always a safe bet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: saltyair

          I'd agree with these two, much different neighborhoods than the South End and both have great atmospheres and are moderately priced, you'll spend some money (mainly on the great cocktails they both offer) but won't look like you're trying too hard.

        2. Salts would be a lovely choice, particularly if both of you would share the whole roasted duck which is their signature dish.

          2 Replies
          1. re: nasilemak

            I second EVOO!

            Love it.

            1. re: mcel215

              Here is a third rec for EVOO. Going back next week!

          2. I am not sure I fully understand the "not trying too hard" aesthetic.
            I bet he'd enjoy Ten Tables.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Think Clio with roving violins and dozens of roses and a white horse and the Vienna Boys Choir on a third date, for an extreme example of trying too hard. I'm not sure Ten Tables would qualify, but I think Troquet for dinner might, unless they're both big foodies.

            2. Hey, you should enjoy dinner! Go for what you like, and Grotto seems like a good option.

              1. Taberna de Haro has a great all-Spanish wine list (~200 bottles); an array of tapas is a fun way to share dinner. Very nice food, but atmosphere is pretty casual, definitely wouldn't make him feel like you were straining for effect.

                I'll echo the Ten Tables rec; wine list is short but well-chosen, atmosphere is very pretty but not formal, food is fantastic for the price point.

                Rendezvous in Central Square has lovely wines, atmosphere that's nice but not too fancy in feel, tremendous food. Very good cocktails, though I'd probably start with a pop at Green Street around the corner first.

                Neptune Oyster doesn't take reservations, so I'd skip it unless you're going on a Monday or Tuesday night. Fantastic seafood-friendly wines, lovely but quite informal feel, one of the best raw bars in town, and excellent non-raw seafood, including some turf-y options, too. (Lunch is generally a lot calmer.)

                1. I agree w/ the post about Taberna de Haro. Great tapas!

                  1. Awesome suggestions, I've narrowed it down to Ten Tables or Taberna de Haro. Full report to come!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aperitif

                      Is it just me or does Taberna de Haro seem really dirty? Cracked tiles, stained walls, etc. etc. This is the place in Brookline on the T and across from Chef Chang, right? The night I was there --a year ago-- it was FILTHY.

                    2. I'm a big fan of the East Coast Grill in Inmam Square. It's completely unpretentious and focused not on delicate atmosphere but on great food, so the place is bustling and noisy at busy times... but if you're planning for a weeknight, it's much less so. I worked there very briefly (as a hobby) so i can say that they really do focus on their cooking, and have loyal staff who have worked there for many years and an owner who's in the restaurant every day.

                      They have a wood-fired smoker in the kitchen, and while I can say their meat straight out of the smoker is as good as any barbecue ever could be, I haven't actually tried their barbecue meals. It's mostly a seafood joint, which is unfortunate since the meat dishes they offered in the early 90s were outstanding--I remember a particularly memorable dinner of smoked duck legs and grilled rare duck breast--and the fish cooked over wood or charcoal is their best work. If they happen to be offering the wood-grilled pork chop, I highly recommend it. They try to cook everything over the open fire (a few things just don't work that way) and it's a HUGE step up from pans on a stove or in an oven. If you sit at the table closest to the grill (the kitchen's favorite table) they might even hand you random appetizers over the counter.

                      Prices are in the 20s for seafood, and a bit less for other items, which might seem high to some, until you consider the ingredients, the amount of prep work actually done in the kitchen, and the fact that pretty much everything is cooked or assembled literally to order--the notable exceptions being soups, desserts, barbecue and certain vegetables like beans and mashed sweets. And last but certainly not least, the people in the kitchen are really great guys--feel free to chat with them if it's a slow night, and bring them some beer.