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Next week in Boston

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Hi Boston Chowhounds,
This board is full of information, and it is kind of overwhelming, so I am breaking down and asking for your help!
My husband and I are coming to Boston for the first time next week, Wednesday through Sunday. We will be there (technically) for a conference, staying at the Marriott Copley place, but plan to have lots of free time to see the city and eat and drink!
I am interested in going to a few good restaurants that are reasonably priced ($200 or so for a meal with a bottle of wine--a little more or less is fine). We really like to sit at the bar as well--so suggestions of places with good "small plates" or appetizers would be great. We will not have a car, but don't necessarily want to be restricted to the neighborhood where we're staying. we'll take cabs, etc. We love italian and french food, and would love to eat what the locals eat--seafood, etc. We are from Norfolk VA. So far, I have considered Mistral, Prezza, Neptune Oyster, and Craigie on Main...and drinks at Drink. Aquitaine, Troquet, and Mamma Maria also look good. Any suggestions to narrow this down? Thank you!

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    1. I think you'll really like Neptune Oyster and Craigie, but add Toro and Eastern Standard to your list too, especially if you like to sit at the bar. Bin 26 would be nice for wine and a snack too.

      1. You'll be right across the street from Mistral's sister restaurant, Sorellina, which has a wonderfully elegant bar and great (if pricey) food.

        1. Since you love Italian and French I would recommend:

          L'Esplaier (New England-French)
          No. 9 Park (Italian-French)
          Troquet with Wine Pairing (French)

          For Small Plates/eating at the bar I can second Toro and Neptune Oyster and Drink for the best cocktail craft in the city.

          Another restaurant I would fully recommend is Bina Osteria in the Ritz Carlton. It is currently one of my favorite places to eat in the city, I have yet to have a bad meal there.

          774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

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

          No 9 Park
          9 Park Street, Boston, MA 02108

          1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

          140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

          348 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

          Bina Osteria
          581 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

          1 Reply
          1. re: Matt H

            You can also couple a visit to Drink (where you WILL have some of the best cocktails you've EVER had - personal fav bartenders are Misty and Josie) with Sportello upstairs for casual, but quite upscale and delicious Italian in a stylized lunch counter setup - recommend calling ahead for reservations as it's pretty small. The service and food has been great on all four on my recent visits there! This combo is so worth a relatively quick cab ride to South Boston!

          2. From your list, I think Prezza is a must. The portion sizes are very large for an upscale place so it's perfect for getting a few appetizers. Don't miss whatever risotto or polenta dish they've got on the menu.

            I love Mamma Maria, but I don't think they serve food at their underused little bar.

            I echo the rec for No. 9 Park. Warm, impeccable service, and a great place for a couple of apps and a cheese plate.

            1. Thank you so much for the recs! I am putting Prezza, No. 9, and Neptune Oyster at the top of my list. Do you think we'll have any problem walking in the bar at No. 9? What is the wait usually like? Also, I may do Sorellina instead of Mistral b/c it will be so close. I will report back after my trip (leaving next Wednesday, returning Saturday). Thanks again!

              1. Raised Italian, I personally think that Via Matta (near Arlington T stop, not too far from you) is the best Italian in the city. They have a fun bar to sit at and I would recommend it over any of the more upscale North End places.

                If you can get over to Cambridge, you'd find my favorite dining options, with some fun bar opportunities. Hungry Mother (Kendall, Southern), Rendezvous on Central Square (Central), and Central Kitchen (more for snacks and bar, Central) would all be nice options. They are a little more homey, stress fresh ingredients, and less trendy than the Boston places, if you prefer that atmosphere.

                Also, for French bistro and a KILLER drink menu, you can't beat Eastern Standard. Have fun!

                2 Replies
                1. re: dianalim

                  These are all good recommendations - I would add Green St in Central Sq Cambridge if you make it there - solid mixology in spite of losing Misty to Drink (see above).

                  1. re: rlh

                    I second Via Matta.... Had an amazing meal there a couple of weeks ago. The gnocchi with wild boar was sublime. I normally don't like gnocchi as it can often be gummy, but this gnocchi was of another world, light as air and the wild boar, trumpet mushrooms and roasted carrots ragu was a unexpected and extremely delicious combination.

                2. Just back from boston---thanks for all of the recommendations! Of course things didn't go exactly according to plan, but we had some wonderful food and really enjoyed the city! Our first stop was Neptune Oyster. What can I say??? All three of us had the hot lobster roll and we were all saying it may have been the best "sandwich" we've ever had! Amazing! We also had some oysters (raw) which were good, but not the best I've ever had. The sauce was really good though. Loved it--will definitely go back next time I'm in Boston.
                  My husband really wanted a good steak, so we went to Mooo on Friday night. It was very good. I had the filet and he had the Delmonico. I had lobster bisque and we shared Banana's foster for dessert. The bisque had a good flavor, but not a ton of lobster. The steak was perfectly cooked (although I have to say that I love it when restaurants bring the steak out sizzling on the plate and they do not do that here). We enjoyed the ambience and the service was outstanding. All in all, Mooo is a very good, but not outstanding, steak restaurant, IMO.
                  On Saturday, we ended up at Aquitaine for brunch. I had the prixe fixe--sticky bun, omelet and orange juice--and husband had eggs benedict. Food was good, and restaurant has a good energetic vibe. They were packed!
                  Unfortunately, we were just too "full" to make our reservation at Eastern Standard on Saturday night, so we opted for pizza instead. We went to antico forno. Pizza was good, very authentic and space was cool. We loved the north end. We finished with a cake and eclair from Mike's pastry, which were very good (our bakeries are not that good in Norfolk!).
                  After all of that eating, I have to say that Neptune Oyster was my favorite but I enjoyed all of it. Next time I MUST make it to Eastern Standard and No. 9 Park. It's just hard to fit it all in (literally and figuratively) in one trip.
                  We loved your city and look forward to coming back! Thanks again!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: alsky

                    Glad you enjoyed your trip, and we always appreciate when people report back. I'm not surprised Neptune was your favorite of the bunch. Next time you'll know to skip the mediocre offerings like Antico Forno (you can get a stellar pizza in the North End at Pizzeria Regina), Mooo and Aquitaine in favor of the two you mentioned and some others on this thread. Mike's excels at Italian pastry like cannoli and lobster tails, so if you don't like that sort of thing, there are other bakeries in town that do a much better job with cakes, etc.

                    1. re: pollystyrene

                      Antico Forno is a lot easier to get a pizza at than Regina and usually does a good job at it. It sounds like Aquitaine served the purpose for a good brunch and even their "worst" experience at Moo was "very good" all around, so not sure why they're getting lumped into a mediocre category. Sometimes I think we study these boards too much when traveling and don't take enough chances to find stuff on our own, which sometimes bites you in the ass but you might find your own gem.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        I lumped them into the "mediocre" category because they don't seem like the best Boston has to offer. If I cared enough about the food I was going to eat on a trip to post a request on chowhound, and only had time for a few meals, I'd probably want them to be great, instead of merely being the easier choice or serving the purpose.

                        1. re: pollystyrene

                          I think most of us are interested in knowing about the top places when we travel, but not all of us are willing to entirely rearrange our schedule to get to them. I think the OP did quite well in a short period of time.

                  2. HI,

                    You must try Picolo Nido in the North End- It is, by far, a hidden jewel and Pino the Chef/Owner will make your visit memorable. http://www.piccolonido.com

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: justmovedback

                      You didn't read this thread, did you?

                      1. re: Blumie

                        I did, but missed the date of the post. Sorry-new to the board.