Restaurant recommendation for tourists, this weekend
We're visiting Boston this weekend, staying in a Back Bay hotel, and would like to know what restaurants you Boston area natives would recommend to 2 tourists from NYC. We eat all types of cuisines, love ethnic food, don't want to go to any place too stuffy and too pricey. And, since I'm first gathering information on Monday for this coming weekend, I suppose that recommendations should not be to places that are known to be booked at this point in time. I know that I am placing a tall order but hoping that you'll come up with some great places. We've never been to Boston and one of us is about to celebrate a special birthday. Thank you very much!
Well the good news is that you have a wide range of choices in terms of cuisine and price points. Some of my favorites would be as follows:
Prezza in the North End for high-end Italian at its best.
East Ocean City in Chinatown for excellent Chinese style seafood. Prices depend on what you order because they have many "live seafood"choices. Try the Duingeness crab with spicy salt and pepper.
The Peach Farm in Chinatown as a good second choice for Chinese.
B&G Oystedr Bar in the South End for excellent oysters and a nice variety of traditional Boston seafood favorites. Fried clams, Lobster rolls, chowder.
Any of the many Legal Seafoods around the city. Personally I don't think you can wrong with Legal but there are many who wouldn't agree on this board. I think they are as good as anywhere else for traditional New England style seafood. Boiled, lobsters, fried clams, raw bar, fish & chips, calm & fish chowders.
Eastern Standard on Commonwealth Ave for good bistro fare. This place has a great bar and some of the most experiences mixologists in the city. The food ranges from seafood to meats and overall is a favorite on this board.
Le Voeil on Newbury for very good French food. This place has been open for less than a year but has been getting great reviews. Somewhat limited menu but well executed French standards.
Great Bay in the Commonwealth Hotel serves and Asian inspired mix of primarily seafood dishes. I especially like sitting at their raw bar and ordering from some of the many ceviches (try the halibut ceviche tacos) or some of the more Japanese style dishes.
I would also recommend some places close to Back Bay since it's gonna be cold out: Davio's, Via Matta, Chili Duck, Petit Robert Bistro (Kenmore Sq. or Columbus Ave), Hamersley's Bistro, Abe & Louie's, Grill 23, Coda. These run the gamut from Thai to nice neighborhood pub to well priced French to high end Italian to major steak house. If you really want to spend money for the special b-day and hit a Boston landmark in the Back Bay, see if L'Espalier has availability.
Some specifics would be most helpful. Are you willing to travel, take public transportation, etc.?
Since you love ethnic food, and I know from my visits to NYC that there's not a lot of Ethiopian around there, I'd suggest Addis Red Sea in the South End. It's a fun place with great atmosphere, delicious food, and not at all pricey or stuffy. Depending on where in the Back Bay you are staying, you can walk there.
Another recommendation would be the Helmand Afgani restaurant. Again, great food, very nice atmosphere, and not at all stuffy/pricey. It's also easy to get to via the Green Line to Lechmere, or a taxi.
You can probably get into Addis without reservations, but Helmand you'd need reservations for a Saturday night. Both places take reservations, though.
Grotto in Beacon Hill is a cozy, subterranean-Gothic Italian place near the Back Bay that's very popular with Chowhounds, as is Trattoria Toscana in the Fenway, serving authentic Tuscan food.
I agree with the Helmand rec, but only if you don't mind going to East Cambridge. In Central Sq. in Cambridge is Baraka Cafe, a highly-regarded Algerian/Tunesian place--no booze, though.
I'm going to concentrate on the "love ethnic food, don't want to go to any place too stuffy and too pricey," and the fact that you live in Italian food Mecca. I have to say it: don't eat Italian in Boston. Sure, some of it's good, and even really good, but most of it's pricey, and all of it can be trounced by mid-range NYC spots. (Try not to freak out, fellow Beantown chowers . . . this opinion hurts me more than it hurts you!)
Helmand's great, but pricey and can be hard to get a reservation. Baraka is fantastic north african, but as has pollystyrene pointed out, it's dry. They do a killer lemonade, though. I enjoy the newish cheap-French here, at Petit Robert and Gaslight, but both are a bit loud during prime dining time. Addis Red Sea is great. Myers + Chang is a new Asian bistro in the South End -- see many, many posts here to see if it's for you or not. I love it - small plates, all tasty. Toro, South End tapas, can get expensive, but it is great, and it really is tapas -- not just mini-burgers, although those are amazing. My dog stole one from our leftovers, and it's still considered her worst crime, and she's generally pretty badly behaved. ;-) A special b-day idea: one drink at the Top of the Hub can be fun -- the food's not good, but the view's great and it's got a huge lounge area. It's on top of the Prudential building, which has a mall in/around it, too, so it's easy to get to and dry in the winter.
Seems like I missed the timely reply for jodiz, but, what the heck -- here's for clarity & posterity: I wish I could like the Top of the Hub more -- it's a great view, and an unusual room for Boston. Which, for the record, is a place I find frustrating, on the food front -- there aren't nearly enough places to eat, and too many cater to the meat & potatoes palate and do really well with that strategy. And that makes the success of a place like TTOTH a bit of a foregone conclusion -- fish, steaks, mashed potatoes, and a given that you'll get parents-visit level service. It's reasonably well prepared, but the menu is stocked with crowd pleasing staples and that makes me want to smack my forehead into the plate glass windows. I've gone to a special-occasion dinner at TTOTH around 10x in the last 6~ years, and I feel bad for the person picking up the hefty check because I think the food's pedestrian.
I enjoy a drink and appetizers at TTOTH, and find the service in the lounge area pleasant and occasionally even fun & charming. Sitting in the restaurant, for me, is like being sentenced to a hotel-wedding sort of meal. To be fair, the worst thing I've had there was an icy cold creme brulee with a crust that managed to be both gelatinous and hard as a rock at the same time. I had a whole fish that was edible but not memorable -- and at that price, I need it to be better. Wilty greens, a general feeling of saltiness, and nothing jumping out at me. The menu looks better than it is, in terms of daring-ness, which I understand, but don't applaud.
I am a fan of fried pigs ears, tripe in my soup, ceviche, oxtails, and my idea of a vegetable is charred bok choy or collards. If I'm going to tolerate multiple forks, linens, and a team of waiters, I want it to have more charm and less starch, and the food to be something else. That's all. For me, that translates to a 'not good' review.
La Voile, the relatively new French place on Newbury St., fits very well. Great reviews from the Hounds.
261 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116