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First time in Boston - 2 adults no kids - what are your favs?

My huband and I will be in Boston for the first time at the beginning of June. We are so excited because we love places rich with history and culture. What are the must eat Boston favs? We will have a car. We will be in Boston for 4 nights and Hyannis for 2 nights. Price is not a concern but will probably only have 1 or 2 super expensive meals. Looking more for atmosphere than anything else. My dh is crazy about seafood, we both love asian and italian. A good burger or pizza at a neighborhood hangout is just what we are looking for.

I've read tons of posts - we already have The Fat Cat in Quincy for the lobster mac and cheese on our list. I am a fan of Diners Drive-ins and Dives and know that Mike's City Diner was on a past episode. How is their breakfast? Also read hat Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe has great pancakes - true?

Thank you - I am tons of excited to finally visit Boston!!!


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  1. Definitely spend a night in the North End of Boston (Italian section). Lots of great restaurants for Italian fare, and also Pizzeria Regina for pizza. For seafood, take a day to go up to Ipswich/Essex area (about 1 hour drive from Boston) for great clam shacks. JT Farnham's is my favorite, but again, search the board for lots of other recommendations. Have fun!

    5 Replies
    1. re: mabelm4050

      I will check out the North End. Pizzera Regina looks delishish - I'm hungry right now. Dinner was a long time ago! :) Thanks!

      1. re: tdmort

        Try the St. Anthony's pizza...my all time favorite if you like a "white" pizza....my husband's #1 pick is the Capriciosa (sp?) well done!

      2. re: mabelm4050

        In my opinion, avoid Ipswich/Essex and go to Neptune Oyster. Fried Clams to die for and they make their own tarter sauce that you will want to eat by the spoonful. Everything else there is top quality too.

        1. re: pariss

          i am a die-hard neptune fan, but for somebody who doesn't live near the ocean, there is something very nice about fried clams, beer and a salt marsh view, ya know?

      3. Neptune Oyster should be a must, and I also highly recommend the combo of Drink/Sportello for a very adult evening out, as well as Toro, Eastern Standard, and East Coast Grill for top Boston meals that aren't super upscale (for that, it's probably Clio, O Ya, L'Espalier, Radius, and No 9 Park)..

        Don't expect great meals, atmosphere or service in Hyannis (but do check out postings on the New England board to minimize the level of disappointment).

        3 Replies
        1. re: rlh

          Thanks for the suggestions. Both Eastern Standard and East Coast Grill look like good options!

          I was afraid that I'd be disappointed with the food in Cape Cod....too touristy. I will check the NE board. Thanks again

          1. re: tdmort

            The Cape can be disappointing for food. However, you need to go to Wellfleet and Provincetown for some good food such as The Mews or Jimmy's Hidewaway in Provincetown. These towns along with other in the Lower Cape such as Eastham and Truro represent what's left of the "Old Cape". Others may have their opinion but I have been going to the Cape since I was a child in the 60s and have seen it change. As for Hyannis, check out Tugboats or the Black Cat... both are close to the Harbor and the ferry action to the Islands. Good people watching, too! :)

            1. re: teutvik

              I love to people watch - thanks! Jimmy's Hideaway looks good.

        2. A board search is a must for questions like this, though you've already gotten some good advice from mabelm4050 and rlh. For my aging but still useful North End report, please see:


          Also, if you're going to choose between Mike's City Diner and Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, I'd opt for the latter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bachslunch

            I just took a quick glance. Wow....awesome. Thanks so much!

          2. Make sure to check out Cambridge... great place for walking, architecture and people watching. For drinks, check out Temple Bar between Harvard Sq. and Porter Sq. Rialto at the Charles Hotel is a good choice for upscale or Cuchi Cuchi in Central Square for eclectic! Legal Seafoods, although a chain, is a must when in Boston for seafood. Check out Harvard Sq. location next to Charles Hotel.

            6 Replies
            1. re: teutvik

              don't know that i'd consider a visit to legal's a must for anybody. but in harvard square is bartley's burgers which is one of the few remaining semi-divey places over there. an institution. i'll add upstairs on the square for drinks and a bite, because the place is so worth seeing, and i do like rialto.

              temple bar and cuchi-cuchi ... meh.

              i'll also vote for neptune -- still one of my all time faves.

              the op doesn't say where they'll be staying. it's nice to be able to ditch the car and walk our city.

              for fine dining, i'll offer bina osteria, the last high end place to open in town. the food is very modern italian, and some of the best dishes i've had in boston in a very long tijme. the space is cool, the wine list eclectc, the service very good and the owners are lovely people. it's in downtown crossing.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Bartley's burgers looks fab - thanks for the suggestion! I will be staying in Newton actually. I figured since we will be spending most of our time in Boston and then Cape Cod I'd ask for recs for those two places. Thanks so much.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I also just checked out the menu for bina - looks great. And I love the fact that there's a store so we can grab something to take back to the hotel room. This is going on the list for sure. I was sold when I saw the word carbonara!

                  1. re: tdmort

                    the carbonara is heaven in a bowl.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Isn't that the very definition of carbonara? :)

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    Avoid Legal's at any location (well, maybe the airport) - just mediocre and uninspired.

                2. You just might want to eat all your meals in the North End! It's got the history and culture you're looking for; Neptune Oyster (not Italian) is widely regarded as the best seafood place in Boston; Mamma Maria serves delicious, upscale Italian in a charming, romantic townhouse; and the original Pizzeria Regina offers the city's best pizza (only one or no toppings or you'll ruin the crust!).

                  Since you'll have a car, you might want to drive through Cambridge into the bordering town of Watertown for pancakes at the Delux Diner. I haven't had them yet, but folks here rave about them.

                  For the other expensive meal, I'd suggest Scampo. It's in in the old Charles Street Jail, and the architect retained some of the jail's features. It's a great, majestic space (again, filled with history), and there's great food by chef Lydia Shire.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: pollystyrene

                    A lot of folks are recommending Neptune Oyster. Does Barking Crab compair to it at all?

                    1. re: tdmort

                      Barking Crab is like a beer hall with ok but not great seafood - fun for what it is but not CH unlike Neptune or B&G.

                      1. re: tdmort

                        No, Barking Crab isn't even remotely close to Neptune Oyster in terms of food quality. I'm one of several folks on this board who greatly dislike the place, and I for one would strongly recommend not going there.

                        1. re: bachslunch

                          Another huge naysayer here for anything beyond beer and a nice view at the Crab (and maybe some lukeward Sysco battered fries if you're starving) - the only thing worse is the Fan Pier Daily Catch across the street - nothing to merit going there -ever. No Name is far better (and that is not a recommendation of it either) if you must dine on the water.

                    2. I'll also vouch for Neptune Oyster House!

                      Hungry Mother in Cambridge is my most recent fave. Troquet (right on Boston Common) has never disappointed. Central Kitchen in Cambridge is another favorite. Eastern Standard, yup, amazing salt cod fritters. Radius is a nice one if you are in the mood to spend some money (one of the more reliable spendy places in my opinion). People uniformly rave about Craigie on Main, also in Cambridge.

                      If you can deal with hot cocoa in June, LA Burdick's at Harvard is to die for.

                      My favorite breakfast place is up in Somerville, Soundbites.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: ginafly

                          I wholeheartedly 2nd the recommendation for L.A. Burdick's hot chocolate in Cambridge!

                          1. re: ginafly

                            We were at Craigie on Main last night. My husband who has previously had the burger there raves about it. We went for the Chef's Whim, which starts at 9pm on select nights. At 9pm the place was packed. There are only 2 choices to make with the Chef's Whim... The Surprise or The Vegetarian, and 4-course for $40 or 6-courses for $55. We were told the overall amount of food is about the same, just more selection. We went with the 4-course Surprise.

                            1 - pieces of moist smoked mackerel topped with caviar, it had a very fresh sea taste to it and a nice balance of spices
                            2 - 2 fresh shrimps which had been marinated and lightly grilled, on a frothy broth (sorry bad description - but delcious) The spices here were less subtle and really make the flavors stand out
                            3 - fish sausage in a broth - you could taste the different fish all neatly packed in a sausage casing
                            4 - skirt steak with foie gras and marrow
                            dessert - still it was the two of us, there were two different desserts... a chocolate mousse with walnuts and a mango crisp with a scoop of ice cream. Still not sure what the ice cream flavor was, but it was wonderful.

                            Overall a wonderful meal, amazing flavors, each unique and not competing with one another. I would highly recommended the Chef's Whim, though next time I may have to try that burger that everyone is talking about. :-)

                          2. Despite being on DDD, Mike's is just a diner with diner quality food (all the places that DDD
                            as featured have been a eh IMHO - could just be me . . .). I eat there frequently but I'm a two minute walk away. Charlies is more hype than food - the pancakes are just large pancakes. My SO reminded me that we recently ate at the Fat Cat but, for the life of me, can't remember it or the meal - so that my be a review in itself. Otherwise my recommendations:

                            NORTH END
                            Pizzeria Regina - Pizza
                            Mama Maria - not a red sauce Italian

                            BACK BAY/FINANCE
                            Bina Osteria - my fav - awesome Prix Fixe lunch $25 (dinner $65)
                            No9 - more upscale
                            Espalier - upscale

                            SOUTH END
                            Masa - SW, great brunch deals Sat & Sun
                            Union Grill - New American, great brunch deal
                            B&G - Seafood (my preference over Neptune given the atmosphere - try them both)
                            The Butcher Shop - Meat
                            Myers+Chang - new Asian
                            This area is full of restaurants and bars. A good place to restaurant hop.

                            JAMAICA PLAIN
                            Ten Tables - New American

                            Craie on Main
                            Barkley's Burgers

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: alwayscooking

                              i much prefer prezza to mama maria.

                              while i live in the city, i've never heard of fat cat. lobster mac and cheese? that's a dish from like 10 years ago.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Opps - forgot Prezza on the list! I like them both.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  It may be so 10 years ago, but we both love seafood and coming from the Detroit area our choices are limited to only one or two good places in Ann Arbor. I am excited about Lobster mac and cheese. The only place I've been able to get it is at Capital Grill - and that's not a seafood place.

                                  1. re: tdmort

                                    I'm not sure you'll find lobster mac 'n' cheese at any seafood specializing restaurants locally. Capital Grille might be the most reliable place in Boston to get it -- just did a Google search for "Boston lobster mac 'n' cheese" and the list of restaurants that came up aren't ones I'd readily recommend.

                                    1. re: bachslunch

                                      Are you kidding? I read all about lobster mac and cheese on this very board. That's when I first started to get excited about our Boston trip :)

                                      Check out the posting called 'Best Mac & Cheese'.

                                      1. re: tdmort

                                        No, tdmort, not kidding.

                                        I found the thread you were talking about, and there were only five places mentioned there that were listed as doing *lobster* mac 'n' cheese -- as opposed to plain or with other added stuff (sausage, etc.).

                                        Of the five spots listed there, have not been to Max & Dylan's or Fat Cat, and I can't in good conscience recommend a place where I've never eaten, no matter how good or bad it might be. And for all I know, one or both may be really good. Have eaten at Finz in Salem and liked the food there, but did not know they offer this dish -- if so, it's the only seafood restaurant I know of that does so. Have not been that impressed with Amrhein's food, though haven't been recently -- and I don't remember this dish being on the menu, though maybe it is now. Did try this dish at The Loft and wasn't impressed -- there were hunks of lobster in it, but any seafood flavor got overwhelmed in cheese, and the whole thing was generic tasting. To my taste buds, it might as well have just been plain old M&C, with the notably lower accompanying price tag that should accompany such a dish.

                                        The Google search I did only brought up Max and Dylan's (haven't tried) of these five, along with Stephanie's and Tremont 647. A further exploration of a Yelp page on the subject turned up Capital Grille, Boston Chowdah Co., and Scollay Square. Capital Grille is arguably one of the better steak chain spots, and I'm lukewarm to negative on the other options.

                                        Hope this clarifies.

                                        1. re: bachslunch

                                          Thanks, it does. In my opinion, it does sound delish and I am going to have to try it at lease once.

                                          1. re: tdmort

                                            Lobster mac & cheese when done well, is amazing. The Fat Cat which is actually in Quincy, IMHO, does it the best. Sky on Rte 1 in Norwood is a close second. Finz in Salem does an amazing version, and they're on the water. Depending on when you are here you can get there by ferry from Long Wharf starting the end of May. Ned Devinies in Faneueil Hall does it but not very well.

                                            1. re: Pegmeister

                                              Thanks so much for the mac and cheese postings. Also, thanks for letting me know about the ferry. That would be fun!

                                          2. re: bachslunch

                                            stay far far away from max and dylan's.

                                            sibling rivalry sometimes has lobster mac and cheese, but as a side.

                                            seems like a crime against lobster, imho.

                                  2. re: alwayscooking

                                    Add the 2nd Ten Tables in Cambridge.

                                    1. re: alwayscooking

                                      Myers+Chang looks great. Does Boston have a 'China Town'?

                                      1. re: tdmort

                                        Yes we do have a Chinatown, and a board search will bring up several excellent threads on the subject.

                                    2. Deb - Pizzeria Regina pizza is ok. It's a good pizza but nothing special. I'd recommend trying Fig's on Charles St. Boston for a great super thin crust pizza. For a great burger, Flat Patties in Harvard Sq. Cambridge for sure.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: robertlf

                                        Given what I've seen on this board, the opinion that the pies at Pizzeria Regina (at least at the original Thacher St. location) are only OK would seem to be very much a minority opinion. For me (and I'm thinking many other regular posters here), it's among the city's best options.

                                        I'm not at all a fan of Fig's pizza. Have been to the Charles Street location, and the place seemed less than clean, the service was brusque, and the pizza was in my opinion nothing to write home about.

                                        Flat Patties and UBurger are arguably the best of the relatively cheap Five Guys/In and Out type of burger locally, and the prices are easy on the wallet. Others that routinely get mention among the area's best here are those at Mr. Bartley's (Cambridge) and O'Sullivan's (Somerville). See this thread, for one:


                                        1. re: bachslunch

                                          To each his own. Bartley's Burgers to me are greasy and overrated. I surprised you didn't recommend Mike's Pastry for dessert or Cheers for drinks. hahaha

                                          1. re: robertlf

                                            bachslunch didn't, but I'll recommend Mike's for dessert! Just the cannoli and lobster tails, though.

                                            1. re: pollystyrene

                                              If you really want a North End lobster tail with a shorter or no line and a lot less tourists, Maria's around the corner is the place - other stuff is great too (though don't know their cannolis, they do fill them fresh to order) and they are so friendly there.

                                            2. re: robertlf

                                              Well robertlf, if we all agreed on this board on absolutely everything, that would really be a first. <grins>

                                              I actually think Mike's is very good, but Maria's and Modern are even better. The North End is blessed with worthy options here, and I'm OK with any of these to varying degrees. Cheers is another matter entirely, a major-league tourist trap with below average pub grub. I do indeed like Bartley's burgers, and that seems to be a commonly voiced sentiment on this board as well.

                                            3. re: bachslunch

                                              Fig's reputation is better than it's pizza - Regina's (NE ONLY) is far better. And Mike's Pastry - I don't get it. There are huge lines for desserts that only my dead grandmother would like - it's a tourist thing I guess.

                                          2. Also, for great sandwiches, try the All Star Sandwich bar in Inman Sq. Cambridge.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: robertlf

                                              As long as we're mentioning sandwiches, I'll definitely bring up Parish Cafe on Boylston Street.

                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                Yum....who doesn't love a great sandwich? I think I'll have to stay in Boston another week to try all of these great places! Thanks for both of the sandwich shops - robertlf and bachslunch.

                                                1. re: bachslunch

                                                  Really? I liked Parish years ago, but haven't had a good sandwich there for at least 5 years (in spite of repeated attempts because I still think it is one of the best bets in that 'hood for the price). Maybe I'm ordering wrong...? Which ones are your faves?

                                                  All Star has been really hot and cold for me as well, but I love the atmo and beer. I would say that if you are from out of town and at Inman Square, it is best to go all in and wait as long as necessary for a table at East Coast Grill. My strategy is to give them my cell number and go have a beer in the deserted bar at S&S while I wait. =)

                                                  I think some of the best sandwiches in town are on the bar menu at The Independent, in Somerville. The black bean burger at Highland Kitchen is also a standout. And of course there is the much-lauded Cubano at Chez Henri.

                                                  1. re: ginafly

                                                    Second ginafly's opinion on Parish - although I visit more than I'd like.

                                                    1. re: ginafly

                                                      Haven't been to the Parish Cafe really recently (I had to do a look at their menu online to jog my memory), but if memory serves I've gotten The Zuni Roll, The Burke, and The Alternative, all with no regrets. Have seen some Zagats complaints about the service at this place, but have never experienced a problem on that end, either.

                                                2. We were in Boston in 2007 and ate at Franklin Cafe on Shawmut - loved it...is it still around? If so, highly recommend. We also ate at Pizzeria Regina in the North End - my husband still raves, Neptune Oyster, and Charlies Sandwich Shoppe (yes - great 'cakes!). Have fun - we LOVE Boston!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: nancyhudson

                                                    Yup, Franklin is still there- and still delicious! No reservations though, but should be ok for 2 if you're willing to sit at the bar for a bit. Also a good spot for a late bite.

                                                    For sandwiches, am I the only one who likes High Rise in Harvard?

                                                    1. re: nancyhudson

                                                      Thanks Nancy! The more I read about it, the more excited I am. I'm wondering why we've waited so long to go!

                                                      1. re: tdmort

                                                        I'm one of the few Franklin detractors. I've only been once, but the combination of bad food and cocktails and an inhospitable hostess have kept me from going back.

                                                    2. My husband and I recently returned from our first trip to Boston too (also sans children). I had started a thread to get help and the people on this board didn't lead me astray! It's a little long, but here's my review of the places we ended up trying. I've noticed that most, if not all, are mentioned by previous posters above as well. Good luck and happy eating!!

                                                      I'm back from our trip and I can't thank you Chowhounders enough for your spot-on suggestions! While the food was really quite good at Ten Tables, the experience of sitting at the chef's table was second-to-none. Since I love to cook, this was right up my alley and I easily could have sat there all night watching them and taking notes.

                                                      Friday morning we went to Charlie's for breakfast. Despite the fact I'll probably lose several readers right now, I wasn't that impressed. The service was borderline rude (keep in mind I'm from the south and we love us some hospitality) and the food was mediocre. We did sit at the counter and I did enjoy watching the team work like a well-oiled machine. My husband had the "award winning" turkey hash and not overly thrilled with it. It lacked salt and flavor. I had the raspberry pancakes, after hearing that their pancakes were the best in town. Had it not been for the raspberries, I would have stopped after the first few bites. They were bland and heavy. So, Alwayscooking, I agree with you that this one doesn't deserve the hype.

                                                      Thank you Pollystyrene for suggesting I swap out Santarpio's for Regina. Granted I haven't tried Santarp's but Regina was killer. Greasy, yes, but that's part of a great pizza. It was packed on game night and the line was 20 deep outside. Worth the wait!

                                                      Masa for brunch on Saturday was stellar. And at a price point of $7.95 for a pre fixe menu, are you kidding me, what a steal?! The plaintain empanadas aren't to be missed. The complimentary cornbread with accompaniments were a fantastic start to the meal! I ordered the chocolate chip pancakes with mango butter. They were flavorful enough on their own without the addition of syrup. My husband opted for the scrambled eggs with chorizo and farmers cheese. The eggs seemingly melted in his mouth (probably the ton of butter that was dripping from them!).

                                                      We saved the best for last at Neptune Oyster. Holy wow, that lobster roll with butter is to die for. My mouth is seriously watering right now just thinking about it. My husband got to sample several different oyster varieties for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed each of them. Although it was quite crammed in there and we had to sit at the counter, the food more than made up for the lack of space.

                                                      Somehow we managed to stuff in a few cannoli's after dinner at Modern. The cannoli was good but the Napoleon left a lot to be desired. The layers were not flaky, rather cardboard-like. The cream filling was sparse and the icing on top tasted of stale smoke or some other chemical. I believe they were at least a day old, if not more.

                                                      We also managed to get over to Flour. Again, not impressed overall. The brownie was good but the scone, apple cake, and oreo were all hard and dry. To be fair, we did go in the middle of the afternoon after these pastries had set out most of the morning. I would have loved to have made it to Hi-Rise for comparison but I guess there's always next time.

                                                      We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in your lovely city. It's definitely on our list of places to return to someday. One ending comment that we noted that seems to be the trend in Boston is the size of the restaurants. With the exception of the burger joint by Fenway, every restaurant we dined in was very narrow and essentially half or a third the size of the restaurants we're accustomed to. Lucky for us, we're early eaters and this wasn't an issue, but I can only imagine what these places are like in prime dinner time!

                                                      Thanks again to everyone for your very helpful advice. My husband noted that we didn't eat a bad place the whole trip and I owe that all to you guys!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: de5181

                                                        de5181 - thanks for the report!! It's nice to get the perspective of someone who went for a visit. I will be sure to post a report as well. Everyone on this board has been so helpful. Long gone are the days of taking a chance or worse yet, listening to the recs of the hotel staff...I always have bad luck there!

                                                      2. my wife and i visited boston just over a year ago from the UK, and although this not a eating as such recommendation, we joined a culinary north end market tour, taking us to many of the foodie places mentioned in this thread. the guy that took the tour then gave anybody who wanted a restaurant recommendation aimed at what you particularly were looking for.
                                                        sadly i can't remember the name of the place we went, but for sure we would not have gone in there on the off chance, but food and atmosphere was brilliant. if you like food and you have about 3 hours and your in boston, you must go on the tour.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ckheaduk

                                                          I've read about that tour - it sounds great. I'm still trying to talk my husband into it! :)

                                                        2. I have to recommend Oleana. I know it has been getting a few lackluster reviews as of late, but for my husband and I, its our go-to Birthday, celebration, etc destination. Very yummy (I believe) Turkish inspired food.

                                                          Oh, I want the Tamarind Beef with smoky eggplant right now...

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: SunGlow

                                                            We've decided to skip Cape Cod and instead spend the two nights in Cape Ann - probably at a B&B in Rockport. One of those nights is my birhday. I've posted another message but nobody has replied to it :( What would be a good b-day dinner location in or near Rockport? Thanks!

                                                              1. re: tdmort

                                                                My Place by the Sea in Rockport. Wonderful food (primarily seafood) and gorgeous view as it's on the water. Last time I went several years ago it was BYOB so we brought our own wine with us.