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First trip to Boston..am I choosing wisely?

marcotex Jun 28, 2008 04:09 PM

My wife and I will be in Boston for 4 days next week. Unfortunately we will miss the Fourth of July celebrations, and the Red Sox are out of town, so this is primarily a visit to historical and museum interests padded with local food options. Please advise if I am on the right path as far as selecting good representatives of Boston's seafood and Italian establishents. Houston has Mexican/BBQ/steaks/Asian well represented so Italian and seafood other than shrimp will be our focus. I have attempted to follow recommendations from CH.
Monday late afternoon/early evening: Antico Forno
Tuesday lunch: Neptune Oyster and dinner: Petit Robert
Wednesday lunch: Trattoria Toscano and dinner: Legal Seafood, Cambridge
Thursday breakfast/lunch Red's Sandwich Shop, Salem, and dinner; either B&G Oyster or The Butcher Shop.

Tuesday is Freedom Trail, North End strolling kind of day. Wednesday we have 10:00 timed entry to MFA (hence Trattoria Toscana) and are meeting an old friend in Cambridge who suggested Legal Seafood. We are seeing the witch museum/House of 7 Gables in Salem which explains Red's, but we are not actually locked in on any particular venue other than Legal Seafood. Are these good to go, or can other places provide more memorable Boston eating experiences? Thanks for all suggestions.

  1. m
    marcotex Jul 3, 2008 05:09 PM

    We will be leaving in he morning, but we sure had a beter week than the Red Sox! Several home runs, and the worst inning was a push!

    We arrived late on Monday afternoon, and we had our dinner at Regina Pizzeria on Thatcher. "Best pizza ever, Italy included," pronounced my wife. I can not disagree, and made sure to order 'well done'--- we sat at the bar, and the barista nodded knowingly!
    Tuesday lunch was at Neptune Oyster for oysters and lobster roll. We paticularly enjoyed the Wellfleet oysters from Cape Cod. The lobster rolls were filled with succulent lobster chunks--we don't the likes of them in Houston! On the flip side, we do get a dozen oysters on the half shell for $6.00, but the quality was outstanding.
    Tuesday evening was originally scheduled to be Petit Robert, but the squall that blew through left the missus soaking and sulking sice we hadjust departed a harbor cruise. We sought refuge in the closest restaurant, and what serendpity--it turned out to be Sel de la Terre, and our dinner was sublime. My wife had the tuffled gnocchi, and I had roasted chicken with risotto following a warm goat cheese salad.

    Wednesday lunch after the El Greco-Velazquez show at the MFA (Too heavy on El Greco and too light on Velazquez, per the art history major) we had lunch at Eastern Standard. The charcuterie plate was excellent, particularly the pheasant terrine and the headcheese. My wife had the omelet, mixed greens, and frites--reminiscient of the omelet plats in Paris.

    Wenesday evening we did meet or compadreat Legal Seafood--Cambridge. It was not a "disaster"or total write-off by any means, but we live along the Gulf Coast, not in Nebraska, so access t excellent seafood is something we take for granted. There is competition for Red Lobster, but no one else is shaking in their boots.

    Tonight, after a day trip to Salem, we had dinner at Prezza.We split an appetizer of roasted figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped with prosciutto, and then followed with two pastas--the gnocchi with sausage ragu and the spring pea ravioli with prosciutto, cream, and fresh peas. The gnocchi were quite rich, and the ravioli were "squisito." We took some pasta back with us in order to sample the blueberry bread pudding and the limoncello cheesecake. Home runs indeed! I can say that we had excellent service at every establishment, and I can definitely recommend every restaurant (even Legal Seafood if your are visiting from Omaha!)

    4 Replies
    1. re: marcotex
      smtucker Jul 3, 2008 05:20 PM

      What a lovely write up. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how you did in our city. Have a safe journey home.

      1. re: smtucker
        marcotex Jul 3, 2008 05:32 PM

        Sorr for all the embarassing typos! I was just supposed to get flight updates and was therefore in qite a hurry. oh well--it's back to barbecue and TEx-Mex manana!

      2. re: marcotex
        beetlebug Jul 4, 2008 05:47 AM

        What a great trip report. so glad that you enjoyed your stay, weird weather and all.

        1. re: marcotex
          Food4Thought Jul 4, 2008 07:16 AM

          Thanks for reporting back. Fate dealt you a wonderful hand with your unexpected detour to Sel De Terre, but I would certainly keep Petit Robert on your list for next visit.

        2. t
          terrystu Jul 3, 2008 12:10 PM

          Some very good choices there, but I would make one suggestion. Cross Legal Seafood off your list, it has devolved over the years to a very mediocre chain restaurant. Try Selle de la terre instead, its only a few minutes from Cambridge, and while not a seafood restaurant, it is sure to provide a far more memorable dining experience.

          1. g
            Guinness02122 Jul 1, 2008 05:30 PM

            When your in the North End, make it a point to go to Modern Pastry for cannoli's and cookies. Borat would call them "very niiice".

            1. p
              patiofixture Jun 30, 2008 10:39 AM

              Great menu so far.

              Just wondering if the Legal Seafoods Cambridge location is the one in Kendall Square. If that's the case, I'd recommend going to a place like East Coast Grill in nearby Inman Square or Hungry Mother of Cambridge in the Kendall Square complex over Legal.

              Unfortunately, that one Legal location seems to never fail to disappoint. Any other location will give you good (basic) preparations of very high quality seafood. Kendall often won't.

              4 Replies
              1. re: patiofixture
                almansa Jun 30, 2008 10:59 AM

                That's funny - that's the only Legal location where I've had a decent meal. But that aside, there's no reason a trip to Boston should include a trip to LSF.

                1. re: almansa
                  Lucymax Jun 30, 2008 11:21 AM

                  Cambridge -- in addition to Oleana, consider these two restaurants right in Harvard Square (which Oleana isn't) -- Harvest, and Upstairs on the Square. Upstairs has become a real favorite of mine, for both food and atmosphere.

                  1. re: Lucymax
                    sounddog Jul 1, 2008 05:22 PM

                    Great thread - sidebar question. I've been to Upstairs for lunch and was quite dissapointed. Is the dinner better or did I just order poorly...any suggestions for ordering welcome...Thanks

                2. re: patiofixture
                  kobuta Jul 1, 2008 10:21 AM

                  I'll 2nd your opinion that the Cambridge Legal is one of the poorest I've been to. Meals have always been fair at best. I would wholeheartedly recommend any of the other Cambridge restaurants mentioned here over Legal, adding Blue Room (contemporary American) and Muqueca (small, Brazilian) to the mix, if you need to be in the Kendall/East Cambridge area.

                3. g
                  ghostcat Jun 28, 2008 10:50 PM

                  You should have a great time in Boston no matter where you end up. My favorite Italian places are Teatro and Rocca's neither of which are in the No. End. When I've taken friends on the Freedom Trail, I've found that lunch at Sel de la Terre is about the best, but I would make a point of visiting Neptune Oysters. Legal's in Cambridge at either location is nothing special, I would head to Harvest or Upstairs at the Square. Salts would be a destination dinner, but worth it. When you get to Salem, if you don't take in the Peabody-Essex Museum, you'll be making a mistake. There are lots of food options on Pickering Wharf. There is also a high speed commuter boat to get you there that leaves from the Aquaruim on the waterfront. If you can find the time to take in the new ICA on the waterfront, you will be delighted if your taste tends to comtemporary art. The current exhibits there are worth taking in. Not the same as the El Grecco's at the MFA, but well worth viewing. If you can fit Scampo's at the Liberty Hotel into your plan, you'll have a great time. Eastern Standard is still one of my favorite places in town and I have been there dozens of times since it's opened, so although it's not a novelty to me, you will have a good time there as well.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: ghostcat
                    marcotex Jun 29, 2008 10:37 AM

                    Thanks for all of the input! Here is the current revised lineup:

                    Monday evening: Regina Pizzaria in the North End
                    Tuesday lunch: Neptune for oysters and a lobster roll
                    Tuesday evening: Petit Robert
                    Wednesday lunch: Eastern Standard
                    Wednesday evenning: Still at Legal Seafood in Cambridge, pending contact with friend who suggested it. Could change to a different Cambridge venue
                    Thursday lunch: Finz on Salem Waterfront
                    Thursday evening: Prezza
                    I think we should get a decent seafood/Italian fix over three and a half days. I will provide a full report afterwards. Thanks again.

                    1. re: marcotex
                      bee Jun 29, 2008 06:18 PM

                      I'd go with East Coast Grill in Cambridge over Legal...

                      1. re: bee
                        heypielady Jun 30, 2008 09:18 AM

                        I second that. I took my out of town guests there on Friday and ECG was really on. The seafood was outstanding. ( We started with scallops, oysters and tuna dumplings. My aunt and I had wolf fish, my uncle Boston Redfish, Mr. had salmon and Dad had bluefish (it was a special- super hot jerk. It was spicy but it was not burn your mouth hot like their "hell" menu)

                        1. re: bee
                          Beach Chick Jul 1, 2008 05:25 PM

                          Go with East Coast Grill in Cambridge..Legal Seafoods blows..

                        2. re: marcotex
                          Taralli Jun 30, 2008 08:28 AM

                          I, too, would change the Cambridge evening location:

                          Oleana (patio seating, if you're lucky)
                          Green Street Grill
                          Craigie Street Bistro

                      2. p
                        pollystyrene Jun 28, 2008 09:22 PM

                        I was going to suggest replacing Antico Forno with either Pizzeria Regina (casual) or Prezza (casual upscale), as they both far surpass Antico Forno, I think; and then replacing Petit Robert with Eastern Standard, since you can get some good French at ES, too, and the overall experience is better. Any way you slice it, it seems we want you to go to Eastern Standard!

                        Since your new plan is for ES for Wed. lunch, I'd do:

                        Monday: Regina's
                        Tuesday: lunch at L'Espalier, dinner at Prezza
                        Wednesday: lunch at Eastern Standard
                        Thursday: dinner at Neptune

                        1. Food4Thought Jun 28, 2008 08:53 PM

                          Nicely chosen, with the substitution of Eastern Standard to fill in for TT not serving lunch, I think you've come up with a great template we can recommend to other visitors. You should definitely check out some oysters while at Neptune, they typically have about six varieties so you can create yourself a oyster tasting. Not sure if it has been brought to your attention, but many visitors do consider Boston a pricey city for dining (which it is) so you may be spending more than you expected. Please do post back on your experiences.

                          1. t
                            tompy1 Jun 28, 2008 05:16 PM

                            definitely agree with the suggestion of eastern standard. their cod fritters are divine! Petit Robert has a fantastic liver and onions, at least the last time i went. i would also recommend Salts in Central Square Cambridge.

                            1. justbeingpolite Jun 28, 2008 04:35 PM

                              Nice job, from afar. You've done quite well. I might suggest that Neptune Oyster and B & G, while quite different, are still small oyster/seafood venues. Perhaps dropping one to try something else? Eastern Standard instead? Still has good oysters, but other choices as well. But if you're really set on Italian and seafood, go for it.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: justbeingpolite
                                marcotex Jun 28, 2008 06:45 PM

                                I see that Eastern Standard is in the Back Bay area. If I trade out Trattoria Toscana with Eastern Standard for Wednesday lunch, and omit B&G in favor of Neptune, then our last dinner on Thursday night is wide open. Suggestions? (I was sorta planning to get the lobster roll at Neptune-should I get some oysters as well?)

                                1. re: marcotex
                                  finlero Jun 28, 2008 07:22 PM

                                  Although I love Trattoria Toscana, it doesn't really strike me as the destination that Eastern Standard is, so I'd say you've got a good plan.

                                  The thing you'd then be missing out on is bona fide regional Italian. A few thoughts: Prezza (Northern, runs expensive), Taranta (Puglian and Sardinian, with some Peruvian accents), Gran Gusto (in an obscure part of North Cambridge, but terrific Campanian food).

                                  Definitely get some raw bar in addition to the lobster roll at either B&G or Neptune, it's a strong suit at each. I agree with justbeingpolite that there's not much point in going to both; Neptune is my preference.

                                  1. re: marcotex
                                    purple bot Jun 28, 2008 08:16 PM

                                    Trattoria Toscana isn't open for lunch, IIRC, so maybe that makes things easier for you.

                                    What about Toro for dinner some night? Always fun and the food is fantastic.

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