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Need a neighborhood and restaurant to explore on Wednesday afternoon/evening

I'm finishing up at my conference at noon on Wednesday (staying at the Seaport) and want to pick one great neighborhood to visit (maybe do some Christmas shopping at unique shops) and have a good snack in early afternoon and dinner in early evening. I'm relying on my feet/public transportation to get me there, but will plan to take a cab back to my hotel after dark. I'm alone, so want to go somewhere that I will enjoy dining alone and will feel comfortable walking around around dusk.

Is Back Bay where I should go? How about Harvard Square? And where shall I eat when I get there?

I like all foods, but would prefer a place that is casual and comfortable this time around.

Today I walked to Quincy Sq/Faneuil Hall/North End, so I'd like to see a different neighborhood during my free time on Wednesday.

Thanks in advance
Charlottesville Va 'hound

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  1. The ICA is a short walk from the Seaport Hotel and their gift shop has unique items. You could then walk to the Greenway, not so green this time of the year. It's a new park that hugs the waterfront and Sel de la Terre is just a great place for lunch. That's close to the Aquarium. I love to walk around Harvard Sq and the university itself. Great strolling. Upstairs at the Sq would be a fun dinner place. The food is great and so is the ambience. The Red Line will take you to So. Station and there you can grab a cab back to your hotel. Enjoy!

    1. My hunch would be Harvard Square. No, it's not what it once was, but shops like Cardullo's (imported foodstuffs) and Black Ink (quirky housewares and small items) and Lush (luxurious emollients and other items for girl-type people) and Leavitt and Pearce (basically the store the cast of MAD MEN would shop in) and the Harvard Book Store and the Groiler Poetry Shop and Colonial Drug and my own personal Holy Trinity of Bob Slate Stationers, Newbury Comics and Twisted Village (quite possibly the single greatest record store of all time)...yeah, Harvard Square is where i would take people if we had a couple hours to kill.

      Restaurant in Harvard Square: Upstairs on the Square is certainly fun, and it's a canonical local experience. I won't say it's the best meal you'll have in town, but I'm rarely disappointed there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        I agree on Harvard Square. They have their winter holiday lights up (being Cantabrigians, I would never call them Christmas lights and they're much cooler than most Christmas lights- sort of a swirling, Milky Way chaotic universe feel to them) and it's a nice little maze of streets to get lost in. You could also walk a few blocks down Brattle street and check out the Longfellow mansion- I think they usually have holiday house tours if that's your cup of tea. For an afternoon snack, Crema Cafe's coffee is excellent and their homemade English muffins have been getting raves. For dinner, you could also consider Tamarind Bay for creative Indian cuisine.

      2. Please consider Beacon Hill and the shops on Charles Street. I've been walking that street once a week for awhile now to get to a regular appointment and I've really begun to notice how much Charles Street is what Newbury Street used to be. It has great places to eat and lots of very singular shops. Chains and food factories are not present in any number. It is charming. I would recommend Lala Rokh for a lovely Persian meal.

        I'm sure others will chime in with their suggestions for dining in this area.

        You would take the red line to the Charles/MGH station and begin strolling down Charles Street. Many of these shops do close early so you may want to shop first, eat second.

        Make a stop at Savenor's Market at the beginning of the stroll for a great food shop. Maybe pick up a snack for the trip home.

        I think Bostonians sometimes take Charles Street for granted. I know I did, but walking there all the time has opened my eyes a bit.


        3 Replies
        1. re: BostonZest

          Charles Street on Beacon Hill was what first came to mind for me too when I read this post. I think it has lots of antique shops, some lovely clothing boutiques and gift shops. I'd stop in to Bin 26 for wine and cheese or go to sit at the Bar at Toscano.

          1. re: BostonZest

            You're absolutely right about Charles St. My first inclination was to say Harvard Sq. because I really enjoy Casablanca and Z Square, but Charles Street is so often overlooked. Laa Rokh is wonderful and the Beacon Hill Bistro is a pleasant stop for a drink.

            1. re: BostonZest

              Vanille at 70 Charles for an afternoon coffe and fresh pastry with real euro ambiance

            2. Thanks for the detailed and useful suggestions! I can't wait for Wednesday.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cville Mel

                Report back please. It's wonderful to see our place through new eyes.

              2. For a slightly (only slightly) more gritty urban experience, consider Central Square Cambridge. Many excellent restaurants (well documented on this board), a few coffeeshops, a couple of used bookstores, an actual record store, an array of not-expensive clothing stores, several very active nightclubs, a theater, and a diverse and interesting population. You may run into some interesting characters, but you need not worry for your safety.

                1. I would recommend the Charles St area too and then walk over to the Liberty Hotel for drinks and dinner at Scampo. One of the better new places in Boston IMHO.

                  1. Thanks for all the great suggestions from this post and just in general as I read through the Boston board. I had a great first trip to Boston and cannot wait to return, next time with my husband rather than with a bunch of accountants at a conference! :)

                    I had several good meals while here: a cappucino at Caffe Vittorio, a open-faced swordfish sandwich at Tamo (the casual side of Aura at the Seaport where I was staying), paella at Legal Test Kitchen (taken by conference sponsors), a lobster roll and a cup of chowder at Quincy Market (I know, I know, but I had to go once, I am a tourist!), calamari, hangar steak, and brocoli rabe at Giacomo's in Back Bay. But the best was today, when I braved the warm (61 degrees in December!), drizzly rain to walk from the Seaport, through Boston Common, and down Charles Street. I hadn't had lunch, so decided to start with a full meal at Toscano and it was great. I had the pasta e fagiole and the orrechetti with ground veal sauce. Super yummy! I had a late afternoon coffe at Vanille as also suggested.

                    Thanks for all the suggestions - this is terrific city and I can't wait to return!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Cville Mel

                      Wow, you did it right! Thanks for the report.

                      1. re: Cville Mel

                        I was at Cafe Vanille late this afternoon-- 3:30 - 4ish. I almost stood up and asked "Is anyone here from Virginia?

                        Thanks to your question (and the answers here) I realized that I had to write about Beacon Hill and Charles Street. In prepping to do that, I discovered that tomorrow night (Thursday Dec. 11th) is the annual Holiday Stroll.

                        I wished you had been here one day longer. That event is the biggest dose of Holiday spirit you can find around here. You can nibble your way up and down the street.

                        Thanks for the follow up report. It's wonderful when this group can help a fellow Hound find their way around town.

                        Perhaps I'll see some of other hounds strolling tomorrow evening.

                        Here are photos and more details from my piece on this.


                        1. re: BostonZest

                          I probably just missed you at Cafe Vanille.

                          I did notice the parking notices about a special event tomorrow and figured that I was missing something. But it was a fun afternoon and I did pick up a few christmas gifts to boot.

                          As an aside I really love the history around this place - the Freedom Trail is great. Coming from Charlottesville with the homes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe - it's cool to see the stories of their northeastern counterparts.