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Visiting Boston for 5 days: please advise about eating out

Hi. I'm a Londoner visiting Boston next week for 5 days before heading off to NYC for a week.
I'd love to try food that is unique to the Boston area, stuff that you can't get in London. Can't afford anything too expensive, but would be up for one fairly expensive meal.
Also wondering about tipping etiquette.
Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. I would try to search this Board for unique Boston restaurants. It has been covered many times and you will find many suggestions. On your one expensive meal. What are your favorite types of foods? Sushi, Steak, Seafood? That would help narrow down your options and get better results.

    On tipping it's usually 15% for good service and up to 20% if you've had a fun time and very good service. Gratuity is usually never added except for large parties or in some restaurants that are heavily frequented by tourists (they will state that on their menu's).

    1 Reply
    1. re: TopCat

      I have been sporadically looking through the board for stuff but am very unfamiliar with the area and with a 9 month old baby constantly bopping around in the background, it's hard to concentrate on anything, so I thought I'd float a topic on the board.
      Seafood is what I'm interested in. Hubby would probably go for a good steak. Sushi is widely available in London, so we'd give that a pass.
      What are the New England seafood specialties that are must-tries. Clam chowder and lobster rolls are on my list, but any suggestions are very welcome.
      In London, tips are generally 10-12.5% and usually included in the bill (which makes me think th servers may never actually get the tips. But restaurant service in London is usually awful)

    2. I'd recommend the North end for some Italian, Antico Forno is good old school and reasonable also Galleria Umberto for lunch, can't get much better and it's real cheap and lastly Modern Bakery for some dessert. Tipping is standard practice, for good service should be 20% on the total before tax. Enjoy your visit.

      1. Tipping here is 15 to 20 percent off the bill but do check the bill to make sure that the service charge hasn't been added to the bill already. Some restaurants do that and if that happens you don't have to leave an additional tip.
        Do check out Redbones and Union Oyster House.

        1. I would include Neptune Oyster(North End) and/or B&G Oyster(South End). Both are open from lunch through dinner, and both offer shellfish that is indigenous to Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod. You can usually get Nausset mussels and steamed clams, Wellfleet oysters, Wellfleet Bay sea scallops, cherrystones and New England lobster at either one of these 2 restaurants. It really depends on the day, and what they can get from some of their small, local vendors. Both restaurants usually have some kind of fish or clam chowder or bisque and both have very good lobster rolls. You'll enjoy visiting both neighborhoods also.

          Customary tipping is 20% of the total bill including tax.Servers get paid next to nothing after taxes and rely heavily on tips for their livelihood. You'll hear different advice from people who have never earned their living from tips and/or cheap people. Take that with a grain of salt. Exceptional experience warrants exceptional tip. Enjoy your trip.

          1. Since Chinese food is so expensive in London, do consider exploring Chinatown. There are a ton of postings here outlining the favorite dishes; just do a seach. There are also some good chinese restaurants in Cambridge, Somerville and Malden, depending on where you are staying.

            If you take the orange line of the T, you can visit Kelly's [not the original] for fried clams, a local favorite. Not a cheap eat, but it won't break the bank either. If you have a car, and would enjoy seeing some countryside, go to Ipswich to visit the Clam Box, for an even better clam experience.

            Not to bring up a sore subject, but American burgers can't be found in London. There is an active discussion [well, at least one] on the merits of different burgers around the city. Take a look and pick one. I think for a visitor Mr. Bartley's in Harvard Square is a ton of fun, unless you are here during the Harvard University graduation.

            And finally, London doesn't have great Mexican. Boston doesn't have much, but there are a few standouts including Angela's in East Boston and Taco Lupita near Porter Square in Cambridge. Both of these options are very budget friendly.

            I am headed the other way next week, and plan to eat lots of lamb and Indian food while in London, and salmon and venison as I head into the Highlands. Enjoy your visit.

            13 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              Kelly's is a fun trip but it's on the Blue Line and may not fit into your schedule for only 5 days. I agree that burgers are usually better in this country than many others. If you can hit Bartley's in Harvard Sq., Camb. at an off time, that's where I'd go since it's been around for a long time. Good onion rings and milkshakes. And the north end for sure since it's unique.

              1. re: Joanie

                I should have been clearer. The Kelly's in Medford at the Wellington station on the orange line.

                1. re: smtucker

                  Sorry, you did say 'not the original'. But if I were gonna take the train for a fried clam fix, might as well go to the original on Revere Beach for the seaside atmosphere.

                  1. re: Joanie

                    Hmmm...I am apparently staying near the Davis T stop in Medford. So looks like I could get to the Kelly's in Medford. Does it take like a whole day to get to Revere Beach? Anything else to do there apart form eat fried clams? And are they whole belly? Don't know if I'd be brave enough to try whole belly while on holiday, would be scared of catching some sort of tummy bug.

                    1. re: medgirl

                      Davis Square has lots of intereting places and some great restaurants.

                      Gargoyles on Elm St. is a favorite on this board. Eating in the bar is better than the dining room. They also have (in the bar) one of the best burgers in the area.

                      Out of the Blue, a couple of doors down from Gargoyles, is one of my favorite seafood places. It's seafood italian style but they will make almost anything however you want it. A particularly good deal at lunch, which is only available Wed.-Fri.

                      Gargoyles On the Square
                      219 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144

                      Out of the Blue Restaurant
                      215 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

                      1. re: medgirl

                        No need to worry about the whole bellies....they are cooked thoroughly. You only risk illness from eating uncooked shellfish, bellies or not! It is simply the whole clam, instead of "strips", which have the belly removed and are just the chewy bits. If you want the whole flavor, go for the whole clam (i.e. *with* bellies!).

                        1. re: medgirl

                          If you are staying near Davis, you are actually in Somerville, not Medford (although near the town line). You should check the board for Davis Square spots or other spots that are easily accessible via the Red Line T. The Kelly's in Medford is actually difficult to get to via public transportation on the T from Davis Square (can't speak for the bus). You would have to head all the way downtown to Downtown Crossing to catch a north-bound Orange Line train. At that point, you are better off, getting to the Blue Line and going out to Revere Beach.

                          - Gargoyle's in Somerville is generally well-regarded.
                          - There are a number of tasty spots in Central, Harvard - Dolphin Seafood might satisfy your seafood jones - Garden at the Cellar is a "gastro-pub" you might enjoy.
                          - Stroll over to Ball Square one morning for great American breakfast at Sound Bites or Ball Square Cafe.
                          - Tacos Lupita is well within walking distance, just a 15-20 minute walk down Elm Street.
                          - Take a longer walk to Highland Kitchen up Highland Avenue.
                          - Any Polish food in London? Take the T to Andrew Square and go to Cafe Polonia. Grab a kielbasa across the street for your ride to NYC.
                          - Take the T to Kendall and try spot there - Hungry Mother, Emma's, The Blue Room are all fine spots.

                          1. re: medgirl

                            You are close to a couple of excellent seafood establishments and I can recommend the fried whole clams at both. Moulton's (on Winthrop) and Pescatore in Ball Square) are terrific, moderately priced and close to Tufst/Fletcher School. Much as I love Neptune, be forewarned that it is small and getting a table during dining hours can be difficult. For a Londoner, Polish, Italian, French, while inexpensive here by comparison, will be tasty but you can do as well back home. I heartily second Angela's Cafe for mexican.

                            1. re: gourmaniac

                              Hey Maniac- I went to Moulton's a few weeks ago and thought the fried clams and total experience was VERY average. Nice folks, Mom and Pop shop, but for overall experience I think the OP is better off @ Neptune, rather than the residential section of Winthrop St. where Moulton's is located. For those of you who haven't been, think glorified VFW hall when setting your expectations for Moulton's. I ate with 3 hungry guys and sampled as much as I could. Overall I was very disappointed.

                              1. re: PJ Mac BJ

                                Hmmm. My experience was very positive. I was the first diner at lunch and my clams were excellent. I agree that Neptune is a step up, but given that the OP is in Medford, I stand by Moulton's and Pescatore as a good rendition of fried clams without having to travel to Cape Ann (which would also be a step up).

                                1. re: gourmaniac

                                  I agree that if the OP is just interested in trying fried clams, with no frills, without leaving Medford, that Moulton's would be adequate, but with all of the other options, I would advise against it.

                            2. re: medgirl

                              Revere Beach would take a while to get to from Davis Sq. but nothing like a whole day. It's a fairly quick ride once you get on the blue line, which is very easy to do if you're downtown or around Fanueil Hall and the Aquarium. It's basically a 20 min ride once you get on at Govt Center. There's not much else to do tho so you'd be going to specifically enjoy clams (which aren't the best around but usually decent) and a nice day. And decent soft ice cream or a slice of Bianchi's pizza. Cut the clams in half or go for a smaller belly if you're skittish. I like them on a clam roll and Kelly's knows how to do a proper grilled and buttered bun.

                              1. re: medgirl

                                Have to get the bellies that's where all the flavor is.

                      2. One suggestion: Neptune Oyster. You can get excellent local seafood (raw and cooked), and see a charming, somewhat touristy residential neighborhood (the North End, most famous for its many Italian restaurants, bakeries, and markets) in one go. It's not cheap, but is my favorite Western-style seafood place, and we're all about the seafood here.

                        The East Coast Grill (Inman Square, Cambridge) has a nice combination of excellent wood-grilled local seafood, raw bar, and American barbecue. It's a lively, casual place.

                        B&G Oyster (South End) is another seafood specialist; a pricey, sleek little place with a great patio and lovely seafood-friendly wine list.

                        We have excellent ice cream, many good places. My personal favorite is Christina's in Inman Square, but there are many others. Toscanini's in Central Square is another.

                        We have a pretty good Chinatown; the live-tank Hong Kong seafood places are among my favorites, like Peach Farm. My favorite Vietnamese restaurant is there, called Xinh Xinh.

                        Allston is a neighborhood with many excellent restaurants from all over in a few square blocks: fine Thai (S&I), Malaysian (Aneka Rasa), inexpensive Italian (Carlo's), Thai/Cambodian (Suvarnabhumi Kiri), Lebanese (Reef Cafe), Shanghainese (Shanghai Gate), Southern Indian (Rangoli), Punjabi (Punjab Palace), Punjabi/Pakistani with good Desi Chinese (Grain and Salt), Hong Kong style snacks and desserts (Fun Food Snackery), Korean (Buk Kyung II and Hanmaru), perhaps the best dim sum in town (Gitlo's), Colombian (Camino Real), Burmese (Yoma), shabu-shabu (Shabu Zen and Shabu Shabu Toki), and Brazilian (Cafe Brazil).

                        Two excellent Turkish restaurants: Brookline Family (Brookline Village) and Saray (Allston).

                        The Super 88 Asian supermarket in Allston has two reasons to vist: my favorite banh mi in town (a Vietnamese sandwich, at Pho Viet, in the food court) and the best ramen in town (at Ken's, which is a standalone restaurant not in the food court).

                        I'm fond of a few of our neighborhood bars with good cocktails and above-average food: consider The Franklin Cafe (South End), the B-Side Lounge (near Kendall Square, Cambridge), Highland Kitchen (Spring Hill, Somerville), Green Street (Central Square, Cambridge), Coda (South End).

                        A few mid-range American places I like: Pops (South End), Rendezvous in Central Square (Central Square, Cambridge), Hungry Mother (Kendall Square, Cambridge, some good Southern U.S. influences), Ten Tables (Jamaica Plain, a bit French-leaning), Union Bar & Grill (South End).

                        Mid-range Italian I like: Sage (South End), Carmen (North End), Grotto (Beacon Hill). A bit more expensive but quite good: Benatti (Inman Square). Cheap, touristy, and still worthwhile, the ancient Pizzeria Regina (North End), which only serves pizza in the Neapolitan style.

                        A pretty, very fine Ethiopian place: Addis Red Sea (South End).

                        There's an outstanding little Mexican restaurant not far from the airport in East Boston called Angela's Cafe. Wonderful, authentic food from Puebla. Order only from the blackboard specials.

                        If you want good American soul food, try Poppa B's in Dorchester.

                        Excellent little Polish place in South Boston: Cafe Polonia.

                        Orinoco is a tiny neighborhood place in the South End serving Venezuelan food. For excellent Peruvian fare, check out Rincon Limeno in East Boston. For Salvadoran and Guatemalan fare, there's a little place in Jamaica Plain I like called Pupusa La Guanaca.

                        You probably get excellent Spanish food back home, but Toro in the South End is a fun, lively place with an interesting tapas menu and good cocktails. For more traditional Spanish fare, try Taberna de Haro (just outside of Kenmore Square in Brookline).

                        I dislike most of the food at The Union Oyster House, which I consider a tourist trap (it's one of the oldest restaurants in the States). Eat only some oysters at its downstairs raw bar if you must dine there.

                        A couple of places worth visiting just for the outstanding cocktails: the bar at No. 9 Park (Beacon Hill), and Eastern Standard Kitchen (Kenmore Square).

                        Some oddball, extraordinary things: the hot dog at Speed's, a litle cart in Newmarket Square, and the hot chocolate at Burdick's, a cafe/bakery in Harvard Square.

                        As a former waiter and bartender, I rarely tip less than 20%. It's a hard job, and the hourly pay is $2.63/hour, far less than the minimum wage. They get taxed on 15% of your bill whether you leave that money or not.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Re: ANGELA'S - Just a quick, late addition - The previous "blackboard specials" are now ON THE MENU! Moles, pipians, adobos (these are all "sauces" served over meat - or could be served w/vegetables and/or rice for vegetarians, upon request...All explained on printed menus), apps (I'd especially recommend rajas (poblano pepper strips with crema) and chorizo gorditas, others have other favorites...), camarones (shrimp) ....

                        2. The signature dishes of New England are lobsters, clams (fried mostly) and oysters.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lergnom

                            I'd also add steamed clams and lobster rolls as local signature dishes to this list.

                          2. MC Slim JB has given you terrific advice -- heed well. And I'll second PJ Mac BJ and smtucker on their suggestions.

                            I'd advise avoiding Union Oyster House except for beer and oysters at the bar.

                            If you're up for old style Yankee cooking, you can get very upscale with it at Locke-Ober or downscale with it at Durgin Park. Both are notably better at this cuisine than the aforementioned Oyster House or the Parker House.

                            1. Most of these have already been mentioned:

                              Neptune Oyster in the North End for seafood.

                              Pizzeria Regina in the North End for Boston's best pizza. (The North End is the city's charming Italian section, not to be missed.)

                              Delux in the South End, a funky, kitchy kind of gastrobar, with good food and prices.

                              Green Street in Central Sq. in Cambridge for great cocktails and a modern take on Yankee cooking...followed by Toscanini's in Central Sq. for terrific ice cream (and hot fudge).

                              For your expensive meal, No. 9 Park in Beacon Hill for more great cocktails and French/Italian cuisine in an elegant townhouse across from the State House. If you sit in the lounge, the prices are lower.

                              For a good burger, Eastern Standard in Kenmore Sq., Miracle of Science in Cambridge, and Bartley's in Harvard Sq. are all popular. I'm almost embarrassed to point you to this thread, but if you are really into burgers:


                              1. You really got a lot of good advice, mostly from Mc Slim and I'm sure you'll love Boston. I dont think there is any food here that I couldn't find in London. The Top of the Hub is described by many as a tourist destination, but it has the best overview of Boston and there usually is a lunch special that is not expensive. Lunch or dinner at Neptune Oysters will cost you half of what you might pay at B & G Oysters. Eastern Standard is a great place not only for it's bar menu, but for its food and has a great outdoor patio that will be heated if the New England weather doesn't provide warm temps. Henrietta's Kitchen or Patio in Cambridge will give you a real taste of New England fare and Rocca's or Scampo will give you a taste of the current Boston food scene. If you have time, take the commuter boat across the harbor to the Charlestown Navy Yard. You don't have to get off the boat, just enjoy the voyage and it's the best bargain in Boston. The boat goes from Long Wharf, near the Aquarium. Sel de la Terre is also right there, and although it has a French accent, it's still Boston in many ways. Have a good time here!

                                1. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. MC Slim JB, that is one extensive list, thanks for taking the time to put it all down for me. I am printing all the replies out so I can make a final list on the plane (we fly out tomorrow). Thanks again.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: medgirl

                                    Glad to help. I hope you can take the time to do a follow-up post describing the places you ended up visiting, good and bad (frankness encouraged!)

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      I'll try and do a follow-up post. I am currently in the process of trying to persuade little sister (a student at Fletcher) that I'd rather not go to Legal Seafood (which she likes, but she is a bit of a Chow Philistine) but want to try Neptune Oyster instead.
                                      Which T stop for Neptune Oyster? their website seems incomplete, or maybe it's my Mac playing up.

                                      1. re: medgirl

                                        Their web site is incomplete. It's on the edge of the North End so I would say the Government Center or Haymarket stop on the Green Line. Have a fun visit!

                                        1. re: medgirl

                                          Neptune Oyster fried clams could be a good choice if you are not sure you would enjoy the larger full bellies. They are smaller than the clams at most clam shacks, but have a very nice clam belly flavor that permiates the coating. Market price tends to be $15-18.00.

                                          The Haymarket T stop is very convenient to the North End, and the Government Center T stop would bring you through Fanueil Hall.

                                          Fanueil Hall is a bit like Covent Garden, but it and the North End are worth a stroll. The Waterfront, close to the North End, is also a nice place to walk during the daytime.

                                          If possible, I would recommend going on a weekday around lunchtime or a bit later. It is much less crowded, and there is much to explore in the area.

                                    2. Davis is a fun area.

                                      A lot of the items listed already are great - Soundbites, Highland Kitchen, East Coast Grill...

                                      Lobster rolls are tough - I find I enjoy them at a lobster pound on the water in Maine, but I think Belle Isle Seaford near the airport is fun, Barking Crab, or Summer Shack nearby in Cambridge.. lots of threads on this on Chowhound.

                                      Nearby, its not a burger mecca, but there's a place on Mass Ave called Joe Sent Me that is sort of a local place but serves a very well crafted burger. Nice place for a beer in the evening close by to Davis.

                                      Redbones is good for barbeque, although I prefer Blue Ribbon up in Arlington. There's like a million varieties of BBQ - memphis ribs, pulled pork, etc., so mix it up.