Dinner for 1
I'm from Texas (Austin) and have been to Boston and done the tourist thing. I'll be there next week for 5 nights and I'm looking for good suggestions for dinner for one. I'm a huge foodie. I'll eat anything, seriously. My favorites are seafood or anything Asian (minus Americanized Chinese which I hate...and, I have to go to Pho Republique one night, which frankly doesn't look like my kind of thing as I prefer a good bowl of pho for $5.50 and not a fusion bowl of soup for $20.) As far as budget, I don't want to spend more than about $30 for an entree and I don't want to feel uncomfortable eating by myself with a book.
So go for it. Tell me where to eat while I'm there.
Forgot to mention I'll be staying in the Back Bay area, but am totally willing to travel for good food using the T or a cheap cab ride.
Staying within your stated budget, a few places I'd go if I were solo dining around town:
* Chez Henri bar, Cambridge - stellar fancy Cubano sandwich, very good Cuban cocktails
* Neptune Oyster - excellent raw bar and inventive seafood in the always fun North End neighborhood
* Shabu Zen - fun, frenetic, delicious shabu shabu in Boston's Chinatown
* Pizzeria Regina (North End location only!) - East Coast-style pizza with a generous side of local color, they have a great bar to sit at for solo dining
If money were absolutely no object, I'd send you to O Ya in a heartbeat. No way you'll get out of there for $30, or $50, or perhaps even $100, but it's unlike anything you'd find in the States outside of NYC and the Left Coast. Ever since Frank Bruni of the NY Times gave it so much attention, it has been a little hard to get a seat, but a solo diner would still have a chance...
Yes, I second the bar side at Chez Henri.
Also, across the street is Cambridge Common, which is mostly a comfort food/American restaurant with a laid-back bar in the middle of the place. I've seen people eating (and drinking) solo at the bar there many times. And they have tater tots, which in my mind, isn't such a bad thing. ;-b
Or go down the street from Chez Henri and eat at West Side Lounge - way better food than Cambridge Common, I think, and you can eat @ the bar. On the Boston side of the river, you could eat at the bar at Eastern Standard Kitchen. In Harvard Square, you could eat at the bar at Casablanca or Monday Club Bar at Upstairs on the Sq. For Asian, I second the Chinatown reccs. Also, take the green line out to Dok Bua in Brookline for great Thai.
Generally speaking, Boston is a high dollar food market compared to Austin.
There are tons of recco's that would fall within your budget in China Town so I would recommend a local board search. Outside of that I would suggest sitting at the bar at Eastern Standard or No.9 Park where you will not be uncomfortable at the bar reading a book, though they may be towards the higher end of your budget. Since you mention seafood I would be remiss if I didn't mention Neptune Oyster, again nudging your budget ceiling but the quality is unparalleled and most likely an experience you would not be able to recreate in the Austin area.
If you want to go "Old School" you can do the Union Oyster House which is billed as Americas oldest restaurant, but sit at the Raw Bar and order only raw oysters or clams. Decent value here. I'm not a huge fan of Todd English, but you can get good quality raw bar from King Fish Hall in Quincy Market as well.
From Back Bay any of these place are a short T or cab ride.
I would agree w/ Finlero's suggestions as well tho' I tend to favor Kaze for hot pot (both Shabu Zen and Kaze in China Town) but I admit Shabu Zen might be more accommodating to a single diner
Best Little Restaurant (Chinatown)
Nice places to sit at the Bar Solo:
Central Kitchen, Central Square Cambridge (T Red Line: Central) New American bistro type fare
Brasserie JO: Back Bay (T Green Line E: Prudential, easy walk from Copley too): French
You can comfortably eat solo at the bar, in case you're self conscious about a table for one. I've seen individual diners at both places. There are tons of places in Chinatown you'd probably enjoy. Pho Pasteur, Xinh Xinh, Pho Hoa all have really good Vietnamese food.
I have been to Boston a few times, and have always enjoyed eating at Hammersley's Bistro, frequently alone. I had a great bouillabaise once. I think it's on the pricier side, though.
I had a very nice seafood risotto for lunch at Kingfish Hall.
Head to King Fung in chinatown. The food is awesome - get the dumplings, scallion pie, and shanghai chow mein (thick noodles). All that & you'll still be under $20 (maybe under $15 even!).