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Is Anthony's Pier 4 really that awful?

We're looking for a space for our rehearsal dinner that has some traditional Boston flair to it. Unfortunately, most private rooms in the downtown area have been booked.

Pier 4's price point and harborside views are big pluses. While most of our guests are not foodies, I'd be embarrassed to serve them really bad food. So my question is whether the food is at least edible. I'd be happy with mediocre food, just not awful food.

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  1. You'll do fine there.. stick with simple dishes - don't order bouillabaisse or seared tuna. Order a steak, ask for it rare, and be happy if you get it medium. It gets as much bad press for being dated as anything. That and rube tourists going there expecting same magical foodie experience and then slamming it for not being avant garde. That being said, how big is your shindig? Get rent out Lucky's..got a nice noir feeling to it..

    1. I was at Pier 4 for a reunion about a year ago, I would say that the food is awful, some might say mediocre but I wouldn't. Check into the menu at Joe's American Bar and Grill on the waterfront, prices are reasonable and food mediocre but better than Pier 4, I am going there for a college graduation for about 100 people. If everyone else is booked and Pier 4 is not, there's probably a very good reason why.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bakerboyz

        Anthony's is wretched. Seriously. They overcook, underseason, use less than fresh vegetables and well, I'll leave it at that. Come for the views and the wine. There's no other reason.

        For traditional Boston flair, you might try 75 Chestnut. They have a nice private room upstairs and its Common-side location is pure Olde Towne.

      2. Ugh - don't do it.

        Have you considered the Exchange Conference Center on the Fish Pier? It's near Anthony's but the food is provided by Legal Seafoods. It has a great space directly on the harbor. I've rented it for corporate events and it seemed fairly resonable.


        1. I went there recently for lunch - it was perfectly fine - oysters were fresh, cold seafood plate was fine, nothing spectacular but not wretched or awful.

          Best thing to do is do a test run yourself. Rehearsal dinners are funny things - some people may LOVE the view and the food will be more than fine. They will rave about the seafood and the fresh oysters and the popovers. But only you will really know you and your guests' barometers.

          1. Been there twice before. My parents actually like it! It offers fine decent food. Very average. Not awful but not great either. I admit its nothing special and aside from the location probably isn't worth the price but its perfectly edible and I wouldn't say bad at all. Its not very inventive food either but since you don't have foodies with you, you'll do fine. Think more very middle road american fare. For the love of god, don't order the baked alaska!

            8 Replies
            1. re: foxspirit

              Thanks for the honest opinions! The Exchange Center has too much of a corporate feel for my tastes, and I don't think 75 Chestnut has a private room.

              Would Durgin Park be equally as awful?

              1. re: newtofood

                I think Durgin Park food is also very average and the place itself lacks the kind of elegant yet casual atmosphere I'd want for a rehearsal dinner. Given a choice between it and Anthony's I'd book Anthony's.

                1. re: foxspirit

                  I know the first floor is somwhat casual, but they have a private room that appears to be a bit more formal - at least that's what their website shows.

                2. re: newtofood

                  My bad on 75 Chestnut.. I meant the Hampshire House above the "Cheers" Bull & Finch bar.

                  1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                    Very nice atmosphere -definitely old elegance. I've only had cocktail party there (they were as expected) so can't speak for the dinner. The place though is lovely.

                    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                      Beautiful place - I attended one of my stepbrothers' weddings there some years back, It has a beautiful old-style elegance feel to it. Good food, excellent service.


                      Much better option than Anthony's Pier 4. Much, MUCH better.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        I've enjoyed their lovely jazz brunch a couple of times with friends and agree - classically elegant atmosphere, good food and excellent service.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          I was married at the Hampshire House and would not hesitate to go back there again. Food was good and the rate for the room was very reasonable.

                  2. Sounds like a perfect fit for what you're looking for. I went 6 months ago and it was fine. Take the haters and skeptics with a grain of salt.

                    1. Not awful, but not exactly good, either. I describe it as about at the level of the buffet at a mid-market cruise ship. Its customers appreciate the fact that it hasn't changed a hair in 30 years: no weird foreign food on the menu, just New England seafood and Americanized Continental fare. Free parking, water views, tables spaced wide enough to accommodate walkers. The popovers are still good. A fly in amber. Allegedly some bargains at the high end of the wine list, but I have a hard time dropping big bucks on wine with food at this level.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        I went a few years ago (6?)on the recommendation that the wine prices, like the food, were stuck in time. I remember drinking a few great bottles of aged Chardonnay and Burgundy that were very fairly priced, if not bargains. We sat next to the temperature controlled wine storage room so we knew there was a good chance the bottles would be in decent condition. They actually had a "close to retirement" sommelier with a beautiful tastevin, something I hadn't seen in years. You had the feeling this guy probably laid the wines down himself in 72'. We were happy with the wine, the food was serviceable. I'm not sure if people like us depleted a good portion of that list by now, I'm curios if anyone has an update. I do like the cheesy bar BTW.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Interesting. Was there a revamp 30 years ago? Cuz I remember going for my twelvth birthday, with my parents, and I'm more than 42(vbg)

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Agreed. It is not a foodie place, but I personally find it kind of charming. There are indeed bargains at the high end of the wine list, but it's a bit of a crapshoot as to the condition of older bottles. Seems like the cellar was created by someone who really knew and cared and is no longer around. And yes, it has been somewhat picked over, so have a backup selection or two ready.

                          2. I'd go there over something like Barking Crab, but it is pretty awful. Anytime I've gone, the food has been pretty bad. I'd sooner rent out a dining room somewhere and cook the food myself! Ok, you probably wouldn't want to do that, but my point is, there are other places that are better.

                            1. I was there about 5 months ago and I had a very pleasant meal honestly. Was it the best food of my life? No- but it was enjoyable. Its definitely not a place that I would shy away from...

                              1. Will chime in with the naysayers here. Expensive, lousy food with unfriendly service. The view and popovers are great, but not much else in my experience.

                                There aren't many places with "traditional Boston flair" (I assume you mean Yankee style cooking) locally that are much good anymore. Union Oyster House and Parker House are awful. Durgin Park is the best for such food at this price point (and is actually quite good), but I'm not sure it's a great choice for a rehearsal dinner in atmosphere. If you don't mind spending a whole lot of money and going the formal route, there's always Locke-Ober.

                                1. It was good in the 70's but now it's pretty awful. The quality of the food and the service is very average. There are many more wonderful places to eat in Boston. Pier 4 is tired.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: macadamianut

                                    The Lily von Stupp of Boston restaurants? I've lived here 26 years and never been. But people always raved about the popovers - that's one idea that merits saving by other intrepid restaurants.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      Ula Cafe does very nice popovers. If they have a batch in the oven, it's worth waiting around to get one just as it comes out. Traditionally made with beef drippings (or is that Yorkshire pudding?), but I'm guessing the Ula version uses something less vegetarian-horrifying.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        The funny thing is that popovers are so *easy* (blender batter, hello!) - and can be easily frozen for quick reheating. I would not be surprised if that were why Anthony's Pier 4 institutionalized them so famously.

                                        But hot popovers seriously rock. I wish more restaurants didn't overlook such basic gems.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I make popovers regularly, but have never frozen them -- we just eat the leftovers heated the next day. How does one freeze them?

                                          1. re: rememberme

                                            In a freezer bag. If they are going to be in a freezer more than a week (typically, I would make a half dozen to last a few days), I would individually wrap them in foil or freezer cling wrap. They go directly from freezer into a medium oven or toaster oven for a few minutes to thaw and crisp up. (Of course, *never* in a microwave (shudder)).

                                            Popovers freeze very well.

                                            And, to keep this on topic, I am sure one could do the same with popovers you popped into your purse at Pier Four....

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Have you gone out to eat with my mother?

                                              1. re: galleygirl

                                                No, mine, 85 years old. Paper napkins are even more likely to be taken than bread. We will bury her in them, we tell her.

                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  Hmm, sounds like some of the tasters at my demos... If I put napkins on the table while I'm setting up, they just take those!

                                    2. The food is average (at best) and expensive for what it is. The interior decor is dated and "very worn".

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: stradacouple

                                        Like the rugs are threadbare and stained! Really!

                                      2. It truly is that bad. Stay away. My company had a holiday party there last year and no one ate anything except for the popovers. And it smelled musty and moldy in there. Enuff said. Try the Hampshire House for your rehearsal dinner.

                                        1. Given that you have received so many negative reports on Pier 4 I wasn't going to chime in, but I was there on Saturday night. Other than the popovers (which are truly awesome), the views and the cheese whiz/ritz crackers at the bar there is absolutely nothing to like about this place. Surly wait staff, high prices, lack luster food, etc. and I had my wedding reception there (but at the time it was the only game in town).

                                          Have you thought about Meritage at the Boston Harbor Hotel? You'll get your water views and the food is very good with excellent service. Does it have to be in Boston?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: kate used to be 50

                                            I realize this is a no-brainer but be sure to check out the venue yourself before booking it. Your perception of "water views" at the Meritage might not match Kate's. Yes you can see water, but it's not as if you get a sweeping view of the Atlantic ocean. It's an obstructed view of the harbor. Very similar to the "water views" at the Barking Crab and Dante', or the "views of the common" at #9 Park or Troquet. Posts can be very misleading. The view from troquet is a small section of graveyard on the common. Unless you have the perfect table upstairs during the perfect viewing season, the view is nothing special at all at Troquet, despite the generalizations many people make about it.

                                            On second thought, tired describes Pier 4 really well. Maybe you can find a new manager or event planner there who will work with you and address your concerns about service and some of the other issues raised here. Maybe some simple food family-style? They obviously need the business. The views are nice, and the free parking is an added bonus.

                                            1. re: skylark938

                                              True the views at Meritage are "limited" - kinda like going to Fenway Park. The views at Meritage are "obstructed". This is an on-going rant of mine that there are no good dining spots on the waterfront in South Boston.

                                              I doubt you will be able to change the food suppliers and the kitchen staff at Pier 4 even with a new manager or event planner. For very lack luster food and service you will still be paying a premium price. Personally, if I have to pay premium prices for waterfront dining, I want decent food and good service, which I don't believe is a lot to ask.

                                              This is a special event in your life. Pier 4 is not where you want to start your married lives together.

                                              1. re: skylark938

                                                I don't think that the "view of the common" is the #1 draw at either #9 Park or Troquet. Where as at Pier 4 the view of the water is.

                                                1. re: csammy

                                                  Agreed: even at places like Aujourd'hui, with its great Public Garden views, you don't spend that much time staring out the window, even if you get seated next to one.

                                            2. I'm wondering if Venezia would be a good choice? I know they have great views, but it's been years since I've ben there and don't know how the food is. Maybe someone else will chime in.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Pegmeister

                                                The Italian food at Venzia (in the Port Norfolk area of Boston) is reasonably good, and place offers lots of free parking. Nice waterfront views too.

                                              2. I would not touch Anthony's with a 10 foot pole. The place is just depressing.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  Totally depressing, and the pictures out front add to the depression. Does anyone know if the wine list is on the internet somewhere? At least 7-8 years ago the choices were outrageously underpriced, but somehow I think the days of '71 Petrus at $120.00 are gone.

                                                  1. I went to a birthday dinner for about 25/30 in a private room at Fleur de Sel, next to the Aquarium. Terrific food, great staff, very nice event all around.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                      1. Yes, sorry -- of course I meant Sel de la Terre. Thanks for catching that.

                                                        1. Goodness - this thread, do you think someone (somehow) would tell them that they have some positives but in the whole - it's just no? Do you think they read this or do we have some obligation to let them know our less than favorable opinions (since they have been riding their wave for so many years)? True here or all 'old' restaurants?

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: alwayscooking

                                                            If you're speaking about Anthony's Pier 4, I don't think they care. They'll continue to ride that wave, just as Top of the Hub continues to do. It's just one of those "tourist destinations" that continues to get by on mediocrity (with a great view).

                                                            1. re: alwayscooking

                                                              If anyone cared, they would do something about it. They obviously don't.

                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                They seriously don't care, but they are also waiting for the redevelopment of Pier 4. They will have a new restaurant once the pier is developed, but given the current climate, the suffering will continue at the present location for a while longer.
                                                                If you go to the ICA it isn't a bad place to stop, have a glass of wine before you head out to a real restaurant for dinner (like Persephone).

                                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                  I once emailed them about an awful experience I had. I did not write it in a rude or antagonistic way and no one ever responded to me. I assumed then that they did not care and as you stated they do not. In it's hey day it was fun with all of the free popovers, toasted pita bread, marinated mushrooms, relish trays, corn on the cob, cheese whiz and crackers and the jellyish mints on the way out. Not so much anymore. I wrote them off five years ago and never revisited.

                                                              2. Was there on Saturday night. Yup it's that awful. I can't understand how a restaurant that makes it's name on seafood can have terrible calarmari. They buy the cheap chinese squid and it's rubber.

                                                                The only bright spot were the Katama oysters. They were delicious.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Richard Hurts

                                                                  and I forget to mention that Luka Pepdjonavic at Anthony's is one of the best barternders in Boston. Old school bartender.