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First time in Boston...give me Top 5 must eat at restaurants

I've never been to Boston and all I know that one of the places I must go to is Blue Ginger/Ming Tsai's restaurant. Where else do I need to go? Where do all the locals go? What must I eat? Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Dessert?
Love all foods.

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  1. Help us out a little: what do you like to eat? how much do you like to spend? where are you coming from?

    1. Blue Ginger is a bum steer and it's in the suburbs.

      Where are you from, and what are some of the comparable restaurants in your town that you'd like us to steer you to?

      Where are you staying? Do you have a car?

      What's your price range?

      What types of foods are you looking for?

      What is important to you? Meeting people, atmosphere, etc. , in addition to the food.

      You'll save everyone a lot of time, including yourself , if you give us as much detail as possible. You'll get lots of thoughtful responses if you put some effort into your inquiry.

      1. Yes, as mentioned, if you give more specifics needed you'll get even better recommendations.

        OTOH, if I was back in town, my personal Top 5 favorites and ideal five-day eat-a-thon would be:

        Upper end/dinner:
        Craigie on Main, Troquet (with wine pairing), No 9 Park, Prezza, Clio

        Casual dinner/leisurely lunch
        Neptune Oyster, Eastern Standard, Marliave, Taranta, Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown

        and, of course, drinks at Drink

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rubee

          (Adding links with maps, info, and past Boston Chowhound comments):

          Taiwan Cafe
          34 Oxford St, Boston, MA 02111

          Neptune Oyster
          63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

          No 9 Park
          9 Park Street, Boston, MA 02108

          24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

          210 Hanover St., Boston, MA 02113

          Eastern Standard
          528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

          370-A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

          140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

          10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA 02108

          Craigie on Main
          853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

        2. I have to recommend Oleana. The food there is truly unique. If you are staying in Boston then it's a bit out of the way in Cambridge near Central Square.


          Another thing I recommend to all Boston visitors is an ice cream tour of all the great ice cream places here...Toscanini's, JP Licks, Christina's.

          4 Replies
          1. re: avass

            I also strongly recommend Oleana, and Tosci's and Christina's for sure, but J.P. Licks is best skipped in my book. I would also skip Blue Ginger, but to be honest I haven't been there for several years.

            As for Boston more generally it's hard to say --- you can get many wonderful lists that are non-overlapping.

            Clio, L'Espalier, and No. 9 Park are world-class restaurants and quite expensive.

            Oleana, Craigie on Main, and Ten Tables are terrific restaurants at a slightly more modest price-point.

            Locke-Ober is a unique example of "old Boston". Grill 23 is a unique institution as well.

            O Ya, Uni, and Oishii are terrific and terrifically expensive Japanese restaurants. Oga's, Shiki, and Toraya are terrific Japanese restaurants are a more modest price point.

            The greater Boston area is home to some of the best Chinese food in the US: Fuloon, Wang's, Sichuan Gourmet, and Jo Jo Taipei chief among them.

            There are some famous places for breakfast like Sound Bites, famous lunch spots, such as Chacerero, terrific bakeries such as Flour, and some unique dinner places such as Emma's or the Helmand.

            Other options of note are R.F. O'Sullivans or Bartey's for burgers (and the latter for local color), Dok Bua for Thai, Hi-Rise Bread Company for sandwiches, Blue Ribbon BBQ for BBQ, Baraka Cafe for North African, and Tacos Lupita for Salvadorian.

            I'm not trying to be comprehensive --- I'm sure I've left many people's favorites (and even some of my own) out.

            1. re: lipoff

              Be sure to check on whether places are open at lunch before going out of your way. Some of the high end places (like 9 Park) are NOT open for lunch.
              One of my favorites, and a nice medium level on price and atmosphere, is Eastern Standard, a big place in Kenmore Square/ Boston (near Fenway Park). Very good food and very good, creative, cocktails. Lovely atmosphere.
              In Harvard Square, I really like Upstairs on the Square, and I like Harvest. Both are special (i.e., not inexpensive).

              1. re: lipoff

                thank you so much for all the recommendations..can't wait to research their menus and narrow down the list!

                1. re: Pinkwasabi

                  PLease let us know what you settled on and how the places were. I too am going to Boston (May) and asked the same question. For what it's worth, there seem to be a few places (Neptune Oyster, Eastern Standard, among others) that are consistently recommended, so they are high on my list of possibilities. Oelana's menu looks fantastic as well

            2. thank you for all your recommendations. We love seafood, Italian, local flavors, fusion, truly....we like to try the whole range of diner food to high end...its whatever everyone gets excited about. We're from California, we'll be staying with family, and I hate to not be specific but we like all good. A recommendation for each...but I find that whatever is everyone's favorite...it usually leads us to great food and experiences.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pinkwasabi

                For seafood, check out the interesting menu and different take on seafood at Great Bay in the Commonwealth Hotel in Kenmore Square, especially good is their deconstructed NE Clam Chowder.

                1. re: Pinkwasabi

                  For a "Boston" experience, the following options are accessible foodwise, memorable, and far different than anything you'll find on the Left Coast:

                  1. Neptune Oyster (traditional oyster bar known for freshness and bold flavors)

                  2. Helmand (one of a kind Afghani restaurant)

                  3. Prezza (best example of modern North End cuisine)

                  4. Mother Anna's (best example of old school North end red sauce Italian; oozes old world charm)

                  5. Bristol Lounge (fabulous high end establishment that manages to be sophisticated, yet casual. Boston Public Gardens location makes it very special)

                  6. O Ya (modern Japanese, incredibly detailed presentation and preparation, most expensive restaurant in city)

                  7. Jacob Wirth (one-of-a-kind Wursthaus, dates back to 19th century; food is OK; great place to grab a brew and try som schnitzel.)

                  8. Beehive (food has its detractors and then some, but it is arguably the coolest space in the city; has a great drink list; and live music.)

                  9. Franklin Cafe (great South End place; excellent fod; late night dining)

                  10. Hammersley's Bistro (IMHO, and with apologies to Craigie Street; still serves the city's best contemporary cuisine.)

                  As you will see, there are so many wonderful options. You will surely enjoy our city and restaurants.

                2. I'm from Berkeley/Oakland and here's what we have here that I lacked at home:

                  - middle eastern/north african: Oleana, Baraka Cafe (both in Cambridge, off Central Square)
                  - Vietnamese: lemongrass pork at the Super 88 in Allston, mixed-meat pho at Pho Hoa in Chinatown (some would recommend Xinh Xinh, but I prefer Pho Hoa for soup...be sure to get the tripe if you're adventurous...it's delicious!)
                  - east coast seafood, which i'd never eaten before i got here. lobster sandwich: b&g oysters (south end); whole lobster and fried things: barking crab
                  - ice cream: christina's and toscanini's, both in cambridge
                  - an excellent lunch spot: parish cafe, at arlington and boylston. rotating menu of sandwiches created by local celebu-chefs, all representative of their restaurants!

                  if you're from the bay, you'll be depressed by the state of bread here. don't fret.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: dianalim

                    OH and CARIBBEAN food. we certainly didn't have that in Oakland. I don't have deep knowledge of many places, but goat curry is a must if you want to troupe over to the pepper pot in dudley square.

                    1. re: dianalim

                      Have you tried Fornax Bread in Roslindale? Local, fresh, and excellent. And I gather you know of Iggy's but don't care for it?

                    2. re: dianalim

                      you won't be depressed if you get your bread at Clear Flour. Its as good as anything I've had in San Francisco.

                      1. re: teezeetoo

                        yeah...i hear awesome things but still haven't made the trip, since i'm in cambridge. i now feel i must. the fact that it's a trip at all is what i really lament!

                        anyhoo pinkwasabi, also portuguese and brazilian food are very delicious and i had never had them before i moved here. atasca is my pick for portuguese; i don't have strong convictions vis-a-vi brazilian, but i'm sure you can use the board to help you out!

                        1. re: dianalim

                          Diana, you can get Clear Flour bread (as well as B&R, which is equally excellent) at Savenor's in Cambridge.

                          1. re: jajjguy

                            B+R is also available at Formaggio in Huron Village. It's dangerous to walk in the door because you will doubtless leave with some very good cheese, salumi, and other items you didn't know you need.

                            Formaggio Kitchen
                            244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            1. re: yumyum

                              thanks for all these side reccs on bread! i'm definitely making a trip to savenor's soon for clear flour and b&r, neither of which i've ever had. iggy's is good (esp their croissants, imo) but not great i feel. my point in the original post is that when i was growing up there were several (3+) local artisanal bread places that would have many, many kinds of fresh loaves just in my local safeway supermarket. there were small bakery shops that made their own bread everywhere, and it was unique and good. i know there's good bread to be found here and i'm happy to get more reccs (i also do love some of hi rise's), but back home it's a way of life. so if anyone ever wants bay area bread reccs, let me know and i'll tell you where to get the best garlic cheese baguette of your life :-)

                    3. I would highly recommend Blue Ginger. It does have a lot of "hype" surrounding it but it is worth it! Not cheap but very good service and special asian fusion cooking. You will need a car to get there. Here are a few other choices: Troquet (wonderful wine list), more casual type of food in Brookline (you could cab it) is Washington Travern --fantastic wine list and good upscale pub food, Craigie on Main -- chef has won serveral national awards and worth it! , South end there is Hammersly..but that is high end too

                      1. Stay away from Blue Ginger. Overpriced and overrated.
                        Go for Oleana, Neptune Oyster, Salts, Scampo.

                        1. The only addition I would make to the List is Bina Osteria in Downtown Crossing (in the Rtiz) My other recommendations have already been mentioned (Neptune Oyster, Taiwan Cafe and Oleana) I would also make a stop by the North End for dessert, Modern Pastry being my personal favorite for a bakery and Cafe Vittoria for espresso and cappuccino.

                          Modern Pastry
                          257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

                          Caffe Vittoria
                          296 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

                          Bina Osteria
                          581 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

                          1. If you are downtown around lunchtime, I would highly recommend stopping by chacarero for a unique and spicy chilean sandwich.

                            1. If you're in the mood for tapas, the best for food is
                              Taberna de Haro- for an authentic spanish experience
                              Toro- more of a trendy atmosphere with a different spin on dishes (generally this is a hound favorite)

                              If you care more about the decor and atmosphere, less about food than
                              Dali would be fun for a visit.

                              1. Hungry Mother - Cambridge

                                1. There have been a lot of great suggestions so far. I was a huge fan of Ming Tsai and his style of food a while ago and I concur that it might not be worth your time to go out to Wellesley. Nonetheless here are my top five:

                                  1. Via Matta - After spending a semester in Florence, I truly believe that it is the most authentic Italian food in Boston. Definitely better than Prezza. (I believe that any Michael Schlow restaurant would be amazing, but this one is my personal favorite. His others are Great Bay, Radius and Alta Strada in Wellesley.)

                                  2. Craigie on Main - Amazing food. Definitely pricey but worth going to even if you're just going to eat the bar menu.

                                  3. East Coast Grill in Cambridge - very fun place with great seafood/bbq. It is a hectic, noisy atmosphere, but that is what makes it great.

                                  4. O Ya - mind blowing food at a mind-blowing price. This is the break the bank meal that's worth every penny.

                                  5. Drink - this is not a restaurant. It has the best cocktails in the city (especially since they stole Misty away from Green Street). They don't have a cocktail menu. Instead, they perform a mind-reading act through asking you what you're in the mood for to drink. You may want a drink with a particular flavor component or spirit and then they'll go from there. I've never had a bad drink there. This is a must-do experience.

                                  O Ya
                                  9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                  East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
                                  1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  Great Bay
                                  500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                  8 High St, Boston, MA 02129

                                  348 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

                                  Via Matta
                                  79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                                  Craigie on Main
                                  853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  1. If you're into Asian food you won't want to miss out on Myers + Chang in the South End.
                                    This is my favorite restaurant in the Boston area. Run by Janet Chang, who happens to own the best bakery in Boston (Flour) and restauranteur, Chris Myers. Whether you're a vegetarian or not ask to see that menu. There's some things on there you must try, like the crispy tofu and udon noodles. Green Street in Cambridge is another great spot. Great food and one of the top cocktail programs in the city. Have fun!



                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Despite the comments of a few, Blue Ginger is a great place to go. The food is excellent and Ming Tsai is often there saying hello, signing cookbooks etc. Itis definitely worth the trip to the suburbs and you should not be put off by the negative comments.

                                      1. Just to add my two cents into the mix. I personaly like Abe&Louies. Its a great steak place. The atmosphere is very nice, and the service is outstanding. The prices are moderate ,but not to bad if you make it for lunch. (http://www.abeandlouies.com/) Hope this helps,,, Earle

                                        1. A lot of good suggestions here. I wouldn't spend your only time in Boston going to Wellesley's Blue Ginger. Instead go to Myers and Chang to get your Asian fix. Plus, Ming Tsai just opened up Blue Dragon in Boston, so check that out without making the trip to the Burbs.

                                          1 Reply