5 days of lunching alone
Visiting Boston in a couple weeks. Husband will be at a conference during the day and I am looking for lunch recommendations for dining alone - maybe some good people watching spots. He is a vegetarian, so the suggestions in the post below are great! We are staying in the Back Bay area, but I will be out wandering/exploring all days so anywhere is game. Thanks!!
A few North End recs: Volle Nolle for sandwiches; Ernesto's for pizza; Galleria Umberto for arancini.
Volle Nolle serves very good, moderately creative sandwiches. It's a pretty tiny space, but if you get a seat in the window you'll have great people-watching opportunities onto Hanover Street. The owner is notably sweet -- there are thoughtful little touches lilke re-wrapping leftovers for takeout and including a new pickle spear - sounds minor but it conveys their caring attitude.
Ernesto's serves excellent, enormous (1/4 of a full pie) slices in both classic and slightly yuppie-ish configurations. I haven't been in a while but it's always been one of my favorite pizzas in the city. Some people-watching opportunities onto Salem street - less touristy than Hanover, more local color.
Galleria Umberto is an institution - cavernous room with huge lines at lunch but they usually move fast. Super-cheap. Square slices of pan pizza, no topping options. I think their pizza is just good, not great, but I really like the arancini, and if you're in the mood for a full-on starch bomb, the panzarotti.
Lots of other places in the North End - Neptune Oyster is a board favorite but I've never been so I'll let others chime in.
Any place basically. Also Petit Robert Bistro in Kenmore for well priced French food, Chili Duck on Boylston for Thai, Bhindi Bazaar for Indian buffet, Abe & Louie's and the Palm lunch is the only time you can get their excellent burger, lunch specials at Taiwan Cafe, Sam Lagrassa's downtown for good sandwiches, Chacarero for Chilean sandwich, Plough and Stars between Central and Harvard Sq., Bartley"s Burgers in Harvard Sq. at an off time.
Taiwan Cafe and King Fung Garden in Chinatown
Miracle of Science and Mary Chung in Central Square Cambridge
2nd Street Cafe in East Cambridge (a few blocks walk from Lechmere T stop or longer from Kendall Square - great salads, soups, and sandwiches, but not much there in terms of people watching
Boca Grande burrito in Porter Square or Kendall Square Cambridge
South End Formaggio for sandwich/prepared picnic/cheese and eat outside in a South End park
The weather should be nicer by then. You might want to get a sandwich at The Parish Cafe and bring it less than a block away to the Boston Public Garden. I'm not sure when the Swan boats start there, but it's very scenic.
Already some really great recommendations.
I like to eat at the bar when I'm traveling alone. Actually, I like to eat at the bar all the time. Some luncheon bar ideas:
Neptune Oyster - incredibly handsome marble and tile room, creative seafood. I can never seem to get out of here for short money, but it's one of my all time favorite places. Note: I have not been since the chef change over this winter.
Miracle of Science/Audobon Circle - in Central and Kenmore Squares respectively. Excellent burgers.
Eastern Standard - fabulous service, fun cocktails, solid bistro food. Always lively.
Duozo in Back Bay - creative, fresh fish, inviting atmosphere, somewhat deadly cocktails. I'm a fan of their torched fish as well as many of their other options. I like it best for a sushi fix for lunch in that neighborhood.
Bartley's: again with the burgers, but it's an institution. No alcohol, but you get to enjoy the frenzied room. The decorations are enough to keep you occupied for a very long time indeed.
I like the L'Espalier prix-fixe lunch idea. An institution.
If the weather's nice, you may want to grab a bahn mi from Mei Sum in Chinatown and stroll to the Common with it.
I'd recommend lunch at the bar at Bin 26 Enoteca (but just check that they are open at lunch -- I've only been at night). The food is good, and they have different sized wine pours. The bar is also U-shaped, making for extra good people watching. It's on Charles Street (Beacon Hill) but pretty close to Back Bay.
Anyone who "knows" me on the board, knows what I'm about to say: Take a quick T ride out to Angela's! Best mole ever! And maybe not people-watching, but certainly people "enjoying" - Have a chat with Luis, her son - and if you speak un poquito Espanol, con Angela herself! (Edit: Whoops! That's "con Angela" in Spanish, not "con Angela" in English!)
Second Volle Nolle and Neptune, both in the North End. Volle Nolle has great sandwiches (althought not that cheap say $8 or $9) but well worth it. Neptune is killer, new chef(Nate I think) doing great since Dave Nevins left. The owner Jeff is usually behind the bar at lunch. I also always drop like 80 bucks at Neptune, but whatever its worth it. I haven't been yet, but Persephone in the Seaport area is doing lunch (i think?) and that is kind of a hot new place. More towards the back bay Sonsie is the people watching place, but the food is pretty lackluster IMO. Lespalier is too formal for a single diner, I would feel all naked and out of place there (and I eat alone alot). Not sure if they do lunch at either( i think i had lunch at Butcher Shop), but B&G Oyster and Butcher Shop in the south end come to mind. I wish No 9 park still did lunch, that was my favorite sorry.
I would definetly agree with the Umberto's suggestion. Good people watching from construction workers to iffice types to old school neighborhood guys. The line starts aroun11AM and can be daunting but it is worth it. Don't go too late as they sometimes run out of things. Also, get a glass of wine served in a paper cup. I like there spinach and cheese calzone but be warned it is super garlicky.