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Elegant But Not Pretentious

CHOW's, We are looking for suggestions to celebrate our daughter's 20th birthday. She likes place you can dress up, so we would welcome your suggestions for a restaurant that is elegant but not pretentious.
Scott H.

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  1. Scott would you please provide us more information....location preferences, cuisine style, price point, how many people, etc You will get more relevant responses

    8 Replies
    1. re: capeanne

      Thank you for your reply. I am new to this. The preference would be French or Mediterranean either in Boston or burbs north or west. There will just be three of us - budget of $ 150 ish.

      1. re: scott h.

        My first recommendation ( all are French centric and in Boston proper) is Pigalle that has a 40 dollar prix fixe and I think is a very elegant atmosphere. It has received mixed reviews on this board but we have always had great meals and fine service .If you can celebrate on a Sunday or Monday night Mistral has a 39 dollar prix fixe..also Sel de le Terre on the waterfront and Le Voile on Newbury come to mind ..I am assuming the 50 pp is without tax tip and drinks??? I think Pigalle has the most elegant atmosphere, Sel de le Terre comes in 2nd and the last 2 are a bit more lively / noisy. Happy Birthday to the young lady

        1. re: capeanne

          All good suggestions. I'd add Hamersley's.

          1. re: pollystyrene

            I'll second Hamersley's, it's my favorite "occasion" restaurant for that very combination of great food in an elegant yet unpretentiousness setting.

            1. re: BobB

              Third to Hammersley's. Does it fit the price point though? Great food! Also consider Salts and Craigie on Main. Lots of good reviews here on Chow.

            2. re: pollystyrene

              I've never had a more than adequate meal at Hamersley's. Good food (although often over salted) made and served competently.

              1. re: alwayscooking

                I was there last for Easter brunch and had a wonderful rendition of poached eggs -- "Poached Eggs with Morbier Cheese, Smoky Bacon and Spicy Breakfast Sausage on a Toasted English Muffin with Herb Sauce." Simply delicious. Our only (slight) problem was with the wait staff. Otherwise, great location, especially for dinner on a warmer night when the stretch is busy with dinner-going, nicely dressed couples.

            3. re: capeanne

              I second Sel de la Terre. I love this place and the people there. It's a great atmosphere with great food and zero pretension

        2. How about places with an approachable menu, like Flora in Arlington or Bistro 5 in West Medford? Closer to the city is the Blue Room in Cambridge. Central Kitchen or Oleana might be fun for you and your daughter.


          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

          Blue Room
          1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA

          Bistro 5
          5 Playstead Road, Medford, MA 02155

          190 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 02474

          2 Replies
          1. re: digga

            WOW - these are my four favorite restaurants - so I would give a hearty 2nd to these recommendations.

            1. re: digga

              I love the Blue Room too, but elegant? Hardly.

            2. I also like Salts, The Bristol, Da Vinci, Harvest, Aquitaine, Beacon Hill Bistro (ably reviewed in the Globe this week), Brasserie Jo, La Voile, Union Bar & Grill, Lumiere (West Newton), Pops, Sage, Via Matta, Summer Winter (Burlington), and either of the Ten Tables (be sure to make reservations). Don't be disappointed if other diners don't bother to dress up, even for nice places.


              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                i did try the lasagna at Beacon Hill Bistro based on the Globe review, although it was tasty, the term lasagna should be interpreted loosely as the dish was primarily peas, carrots and lentils with only a couple thin token sheets of pasta, almost a deconstructed dish, reminiscent of chicken pot-pie filling (sans chicken). Very subtle flavors but not for those who are looking for a hearty rich pasta dish.

              2. I would suggest Craigie on Main - If you can do a weeknight or a Sunday, Tony Maws does a Chef's Whim tasting menu, 4 courses for $39.99 or a 6 course for $54.99, a real bargain there. If you can't, I would suggest going anyway, though it may break the $150 budget.



                1. I love Salts but I suspect that will put you over budget. I'd add EVOO on the somerville/cambridge line - lovely room.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LauraBear

                    EVOO is fabulous and parking is rarely a problem.

                  2. Just two suggestions that may or may not fit, but could be nice food for thought for the celebration day or another time down the road. My own daughter was culinarily challenged...typically only wanted pizza, burgers, salad, pasta. At least with her part Italian background, that heavens she knew good pasta and pastry. So I wanted to get her into more artsy / adventurous froms of eating. She's the whole 9 yards of "designer apparel" knock-off Coach, Juicy Couture, Fendi, etc. So, needless to say she was not into the earthy..preppy scene. So, I started taking her to Harvard Square. At first she was appalled by spiked pink hair, varied fashion forms both upscale and lowdown, etc. But I educated her on the fascinating walks of life that passed through those streets, the brilliant minds that ate at the holes in the wall, as well as the finer establishments. And the absolute beauty and history of the streets, buildings, houses, Harvard, the trees, the old english gardens, the minds, and the tolerance. Well, 13 years later, she is an amazing woman who works hard, supports herself very well and I'm proud to say ..."a Foodie". She loves anything from a hole in the wall to the finest "velvet-draped" dining rooms. But the experience of taking her to Cambridge and Harvard Square is what opened her eyes to a lot of food, knowledge and humanity. I first took her to Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel... This can be casual or dress to your hearts content. But the food is great....desserts are great...atmosphere is great for a young lady and Henrietta's is interesting for their support of local farmers, their events, and the scenery. Another nice favorite is Garden at the Cellar. Menu has an upscale slant with the whimsey of homemade "tater tots" and chocolate by tazo served after the meal. (Tazo is a local establishment in Somerville that creates astounding stoned-ground chocolate). And the plus is with the nice weather the trees are beginning to bloom, the free entertainment on the streets, Burdick's Chocolates on Brattle street is a delight for everyone, and plenty of interesting little places that sell cool things a 20 year old would love. ON my daughters 21st we went in for lunch...went to a pub...went for ice cream....went to Burdicks.... went for appetizers...went to book stores, gallerys, boutiques, etc. and I bought her a $10 pair of artisan earrings that she still wears to this day...12 years later. Anyhow, that's my 2 cents....thanks for letting go down memory lane a little. Enjoy the celebration no matter your choice. The years fly by but the memories....ahhhh.

                    1. Fecalface ate at Grotto a couple weeks back and saw a family celebrating their daughter's birthday - probably right around the same age.

                      Grotto is progressive enough where it's always interesting but grounded enough in Italian technique where everyone fecal has gone with has loved it (even non-foodies). She can dress up if she wants but others don't need to. And it will fall under budget.

                      Fecal is always impressed with how solid Grotto is.

                      1. CHOW's - Thank you all for the great suggestions. We'll let you know the outcome. And thanks especially to capeanne for the suggestions in how to better frame the question.

                        Scott H.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: scott h.

                          Here's a short list of French places I've put together. Some certainly do not meet the price point, but it'd be worth checking out the websites all the same. Best of luck!

                          *Craigie on Main – www.craigieonmain.com, Cambridge, 853 Main (617-497-5511
                          )*Lumiére – www.lumiererestaurant.com, 1293 Washington Street, Boston (617-224-9199
                          )Mistral –www.mistralbistro.com/#start, 223 Columbus Avenue, Boston (617-867-9300)
                          *Hamersley’s Bistro – www.hamersleysbistro.com, South End, 553 Tremont (617-423-2700
                          )Aujourd’hui – http://www.fourseasons.com/boston/din..., 200 Boylston Street, Boston (617-351-2037) (Located on the Second Floor
                          )Radius – www.radiusrestaurant.com, 8 High Street, Boston (617-426-1234
                          )Troquet – www.troquetboston.com, (has Wine Bar) 140 Boylston Street, Boston (617-695-9463
                          )Pigalle – www.pigalleboston.com, 75 Charles Street South, Boston (617-423-4944
                          )Sel de la Terre – www.seldelaterre.com, 255 State Street, Boston (617-720-1300
                          )La Voile – www.lavoileboston.net, 259 Newbury Street, Boston (617-587-4200
                          )Sandrines – www.sandrines.com, 8 Holyoke Street, Cambridge (617-497-5300
                          )Pierrot Bistrot – http://pierrotbistrot.com, 272 Cambridge Street, Beacon Hill (617-725-8855
                          )Petit Robert Bistro – www.petitrobertbistro.com, 468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston (617-375-0699


                          *Eastern Standard – www.easternstandardboston.com, 528 Commonwealth Ave, Kenmore Square, Boston (617-532-9100
                          )Aquitane – www.aquitaineboston.com, 569 Tremont Street, Boston (617-424-8577
                          )Boucheé – www.boucheebrasserie.com, 159 Newbury Street, Boston (617-450-4343
                          )Brasserie Jo – www.brasseriejoboston.com, 120 Huntington Avenue, Boston (617-425-3240
                          )Gaslight – www.gaslight560.com, 560 Harrison Avenue, South End (617-422-0224


                          L’Espalier – www.lespalier.com/index.shtml, 774 Boylston Street, Boston (617-262-3023)
                          *Clío – www.cliorestaurant.com, 370 Commonwealth Ave, Boston (617-536-7200
                          )*Salts – www.saltsrestaurant.com, 798 Main Street, Cambridge (617-876-8444


                          *No. 9 Park – www.no9park.com, Beacon Hill, 9 Park St. (617-742-9991)