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SF Chowhound needs advice for Mother's Day gift

r
rcinsf May 7, 2009 03:20 PM

Instead of sending flowers this year, I plan to give my mother a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in the Boston area. My parents live in the 'burbs, but often drive with friends throughout the area in search of good food. I haven't lived in the area for years, so I have no idea what the newest and best restaurants are (when I was there Jaspers and Harvest were big). It should have great food, good service, but have a relaxed atmosphere (no strict dress codes), and have parking relatively nearby (my parents are elderly). Oh, and not crazy noisy like a lot of new places are these days. Price not as much of an issue (it's mom after all). Last year I played it safe with a gift certificate to the Four Seasons, which they enjoyed, but this year I figure I ought to be more creative. So what are some new places serving great food in (and around) Boston?

  1. rlh May 7, 2009 03:28 PM

    Check out Bistro 5 in West Medford, Craigie on Main in Cambridge, and Clio in the Eliot Hotel (valet parking - maybe not relaxed enough on the service) - I like Great Bay for what you describe as well, but it does consistently get mixed reviews on this board.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rlh
      r
      rcinsf May 7, 2009 04:06 PM

      I just checked out the websites for those three restaurants, and they all look good! How would your compare/contrast these three, as they all seem to fit the bill. Bistro 5 is obviously Italian, which my parents love. Is the food more rustic or refined? Craigie's looks like it has a delicious menu, and perhaps the most casual atmosphere? Clio looks the most elegant of the bunch, with beautiful food and a pretty setting. I also remember a friend mentioning a restaurant on Beacon Hill, I think it was No. 9 Park. Is that any good?

      1. re: rcinsf
        p
        pollystyrene May 7, 2009 06:19 PM

        Yes, No. 9 Park is good. You might also look into Scampo--even the name sounds adventurous.

        1. re: rcinsf
          rlh May 8, 2009 08:36 AM

          I think Bistro 5 is quite rustic in a good way. I also think of it as more casual than Craigie and definitely quieter. Clio is more upscale. I have not been to No. 9 in a long time but am a fan of Barbara Lynch joints in general.

      2. GretchenS May 8, 2009 08:53 AM

        In addtion to these good suggestions you might also consider Salts in Cambridge. The food is excellent and the service very warm and caring, adding up to a great special occasion experience -- certainly one of my very favorites. And if by any chance they like duck I think this is the best place in Greater Boston for it.
        http://www.saltsrestaurant.com/

        2 Replies
        1. re: GretchenS
          d
          danielle May 8, 2009 11:25 AM

          I second Salts, both for food, and for service. Once we weren't able to get a reservation there and they were so aplogetic and helpful- they recommended another restaurant for us to go to! Haven't had this happen anywhere else in Boston.

          1. re: danielle
            capeanne May 8, 2009 06:50 PM

            3rd Salts We had their tasting menu last night that beat ANY food we had the previous 10 days on vacation in Paris...like wow ...they have a parking lot that is a 2 minute walk from the restaurant ...Analee and Gabriel are also 2 of the kindest people ...They will make your parents feel very special

        2. b
          bostondiner May 8, 2009 11:09 AM

          I gave my parents a g.c. to Grotto and they really enjoyed it. The food is excellent. Also, the prices are not outrageous (and if your parents are anything like mine, the idea of paying $45 for just an entree is unappetizing). Grotto offers a price fixe for $36 that is worth every penny. There is a parking lot around the corner.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bostondiner
            p
            pollystyrene May 8, 2009 05:18 PM

            I love Grotto, but it may be too dark, casual and bohemian for a Mother's Day gift certificate for an elderly couple.

          2. kobuta May 8, 2009 11:37 AM

            Craigie's newsletter said that all moms dining at their restaurant on Sunday would get a gift (and the hint was you could use it in the kitchen). My mom would never appreciate Craigie's food, but I'm curious as to what the gift is.

            1. r
              rcinsf May 10, 2009 07:46 PM

              Thanks for all the great suggestions. All these restaurants look like contenders, although I haven't been able to get through to the Salts website.

              I should have mentioned that the gift certificate would not be for Mother's Day, but for a date in the future of their choosing, so they could invite some friends along.

              When I spoke with Mom this morning, she did throw a wrench into the works when she mentioned that someone had recommended L'Espalier. I looked at the website, and the menu didn't appeal to me as much as some of the others. It seemed very French and rather rich (I felt my arteries hardening as I read through the menu). Obviously it is not a casual restaurant; it looked like perhaps the most formal restaurant in Boston?! That's not an issue for my parents, but I'm wondering if the food is better than these other places. From my point of view, if I'm going to put on a jacket and tie to eat dinner, well the food had better be worth it!

              If I based my choice just on the menus, I'd select either Craigie's for the rustic simplicity, or Clio for a more refined approach. Are my instincts correct?

              1 Reply
              1. re: rcinsf
                p
                pemma May 11, 2009 07:37 AM

                L'Espalier just moved into a new space after many years in a charming brownstone. I've been there a few times (old space) over the years and everything has always been very good. It's not old-fashioned French. I don't think of it as particularly heavy and rich. It's a "go-to" special occassion place for an "over the top" dining experience. It is among the most formal and expensive restaurants in Boston. If Mom wants to go there and expense is not an issue I would not hesitate to give their certificate as a gift.

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