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Restaurants for octogenarians?

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For the over-80 crowd, lumbar support, decent acoustics and a little extra patience on the part of waitstaff are especially important--and really hard to find! [I'm not talking about Alzheimer's here--just normal age-related issues.]

Recently went to EVOO in Somerville with much, much older friends and had a great experience. When reserving a table on-line, we mentioned the hearing issue & were given a perfect table. The waitstaff was wonderful (attentive & patient but not condescending), the chairs were comfortable for tricky backs and no one had to shout to be heard. The food was full-on bistro fun: a nice combo of basic & whimsical with excellent raw ingredients.

Any recommendations for similar places in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge?

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  1. Not in the cities you mentioned, but La Campania in Waltham has a table for 6-8 in their wine room. It's has a large window so one doesn't feel cut off from the restaurant. It was so quiet in there that my 90 something father-in-law was really able to enjoy the conversation. And the food is good.

    1. While the food is hardly something to rave about -- unless you find yourself nostalgic for a taste of Boston fine dining at its apex in 1976 -- I think Anthony's Pier 4 fits the bill. My septuagenarian relatives still love it. I'd say the average age of the patrons there is over 70. I put places like Top of the Hub in this same category. And the Mt. Vernon Restaurant is "a place that's got taste and style".

      Other places that seem to attract an older crowd but have food I actually rate highly: Locke-Ober, Cafe at the Taj, The Bristol.

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      10 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        C'mon Slim, this is Chowhound, not the AARP magazine! My 82-year-old father would rather jump into the harbor than dine at Anthony's. There are plenty of restaurants that are both chow worthy and comfortable for the older crowd. Clio, Sorellina, and Rialto all come to mind as places that serve great food, have exceptional service, are comfortable, and have reasonable noise levels. I'm sure there are many others.

        1. re: Blumie

          Your elderly friends and relations are clearly much cooler and more Chowish than mine! I would love to bring my folks to places like Clio, but they would not dig it at all. They get freaked out when they see a bowl of soup for ten bucks (let alone the $15 that Clio gets).

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Well, I learned to be a chowhound from my dad. He doesn't like to spend $10 for soup either, but he'd rather do that for chowish soup than spend $3 for bad soup (particularly now that we've gotten to the point in our lives where I pick up the check instead of him)!

            1. re: Blumie

              I'm afraid my upbringing was rather different. I perked up like a cat at the sound of the electric can opener. (This explains a lot about how I ended up doing what I do for fun, actually.)

              My parents' dream restaurant is Jack's Family Restaurant in Warren, RI, which I am gratified to report is as good today as it was 30 years ago, when it was a rare place they'd take the whole family out to dinner. Fried smelts, Portuguese seafood dishes, Italian-American specialties, pitchers of beer, $8 bottles of vinho verde. Fabulous place in its own right, but a galaxy away from Clio and its ilk.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I assume you spent time at the Crossroads as well? I need to take some of my family down there (or perhaps to Jack's) at some point on a nice summer day.

                1. re: hiddenboston

                  Crossroads looks like my folks' kind of place, but I never went there as a kid. Our other big night out as a family was going to the kind of American Chinese restaurant that served chow mein sandwiches, or a pizza place with the now distinctly non-PC name of Sambo's.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          2. re: Blumie

            TOTALLY! I was just thinking I reject the notion that you have to send the oldies to a place where only oldies go, and where the food stinks. If the viking wants to entertain seniors who are looking for great food, I'd suggest a few like:

            - Rendezvous (clientele skews slightly older, although room can be a bit loud it's not impossible, and the manager is gracious with requests)
            -Hungry Mother is deafening in the main room, but the smaller side dining room is quiet and I think it's easy to get around (to the loos, etc) inside.
            - Rialto is a good call because the tables are spaced well and those booths help to deafen the noise.
            -Sel de la Terre on the waterfront is a nice option.

            1. re: yumyum

              yumyum, If I took any of my older relatives/family members to any of those places, everyone in the restaurant would hear this within about 5 minutes:

              "$10 for a salad? Those bastards!"

              1. re: hiddenboston

                Only viking knows the budget of his/her dining companions. I don't think we should assume everyone wants the early bird special or can't afford to spend money for good food.

                1. re: yumyum

                  Very true!

        2. I don't know if it meets all of your criteria, but I swear everyone that walks into Jimmy's Steakhouse on Mass. Ave. in Arlington has white hair and uses canes!

          3 Replies
          1. re: jfung77

            O.k., I am laughing so hard right now having read this far! Hey, people, 80 is the new 60, or maybe 70! The older people I'm talking about have a few hearing issues but they're totally with it, don't have blue hair or canes and definitely have taste buds left! [Does anybody know that Monty Python "But I'm not dead yet" bit?]

            Thanks for all the suggestions--I need a range of options for different occasions and budgets.

            1. re: pocketviking

              I too am finding this very amusing. My nonogenarian (92) mother just did the 10 course tasting menu at Craigie on Main with my sister and myself and loved the whole experience including the 2 fabulous bottles of wine she helped consume.

              1. re: maggie may

                What an encouraging anecdote!

          2. Brasserie Jo, with the added advantage of easy-drop off and parking. I do find that anytime I mention hearing issues (82 year-old father) restaurants are very good about giving us the right table. I know my parents also loved Pierrot Bistro but honestly can't remember what their chairs were like.

            Edit: Salts was also a huge success for my parents and several of their friends.

            2 Replies
            1. re: GretchenS

              I like Pierrot, but it's not exactly spacious. Tables are kind of stacked on top of one another.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                That's definitely true but my father had no difficulty (well, relatively speaking) with hearing there and the French waitstaff is respectful of their elders. But chacun à son goût...

            2. Tia's on the Waterfront might be a good bet (KIDDING).

              I agree about Jimmy's Steerhouse in Arlington. Also, the Mount Vernon in Somerville, the Continental in Saugus, Greg's in Watertown, Finian's in Quincy, the Paddock in Somerville, Frank's in Cambridge, and the Chateau in Waltham. I'm not saying the food is outstanding at all of these places (I do like Jimmy's, Frank's, and the Paddock), but these are places where you'll see a lot of retirees.

              13 Replies
              1. re: hiddenboston

                The first place that popped into my head was The Continental. The last time I was there, half the customers had oxygen tanks!

                1. re: pemma

                  If we're talking oxygen tanks-just head to either of the casinos!

                  OK, I digress...........

                  1. re: pemma

                    The last time I was at the Continental, the place was full of priests (none of them had oxygen tanks, though).

                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      We finally went to the Continental after being fascinated every time we drove by. Menu is surf / turf, filet mignon that kind of thing. And popovers! And an 'early bird' menu.

                      But best of all - rotating pianists, open mike, and a guaranteed floor show every night. Lot of seniors singing very earnestly and well, too! Dress up / dancing for this set too on the weekend.

                      You OWE it to yourself to go at least once - it is truly like stepping back in time, when the world was a smaller and more gracious place(and fine dining was chicken marsala).

                      1. re: latertater

                        I am going to have to check this one out myself, but I think it might be kind of risky with my older friends/family. Too much of a time warp/parallel universe kind of thing? Still, I need a popover--it's been way too long.

                        1. re: pocketviking

                          I have to say I've found this whole discussion of The Continental fascinating. I've driven past it literally thousands of times without ever thinking, "Hmm, I definitely need to check that place out." I figured it was a bad function hall or something, had no idea it was this kind of a time-warp place, a venue where the crowds still dress for dinner and dance and sing.

                          So that makes three Boston-area places I know of that do popovers: this, Pier 4, and Ula's Cafe in JP.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Thank you, McSlim, for doing the popover legwork. I'm looking forward to checking out the Continental & will read up on Ula's.

                            By the way, do you know of any places in the area which still serve that once-ubiquitous cottage cheese, corn relish and cracker combo which seems to have died out by the mid-80s?

                            1. re: pocketviking

                              Ula is a great little indie cafe in JP. Get those popovers fresh out of the oven if you can.

                              I don't think I recall ever seeing that particular cheese/relish combo anywhere, myself.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Do you mean as a relish tray? A family favorite near where I grew up (Cincinnati) used to have a prolific relish tray and had to ditch it several years ago because of enforced health restrictions. Maybe similar factors contributed to its demise in Boston? As far as I am concerned, if egg salad and corn relish have been sitting out on relish trays for a century and society marches on then the risk is pretty low, but I guess health inspectors aren't that imaginative.

                              2. re: pocketviking

                                I am enjoying this thread, picking up some ideas on where to take my 86 year old hard-of hearing mother for dinner. My father used to love the Wayside Inn in Sudbury where they served a relish plate along with old fashioned food, some of which wasn't too bad.

                                1. re: pocketviking

                                  Ok, can someone tell me where The Continental is? I'm definitely intrigued now.

                                  1. re: twentyoystahs

                                    Rt 1 in Saugus, on the northbound side.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  2. re: pocketviking

                                    Actually, at the Continental they serve a cottage cheese, bean relish and cracker combo as well as passed corn fritters, spinach pie, and chicken wings. It is definitely a step back in time but you should try it.

                      2. Perhaps Henrietta's Table? It is roomy and a really comfortable. The noise level is not high and I found the staff to be quite kind. The food is interesting but not crazy (and offers something for all tastes).

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: hckybg

                          Agean in Watertown. decent food for the prices, good for multigenerational and older gatherings... diverse menu. Crowd tends to be older ..

                          1. re: hckybg

                            You'd think that Henrietta's would be good for this target audience & it is, except for the hearing part. The acoustics there are awful. If taking older people there, don't take too many unless they're vegetative and don't speak or hear. {Do I sound bitter? Well, I am. We've had a few extended-family dinners there which defy description since none of us ever got around to learning sign language. Really--it's that bad!]

                            1. re: pocketviking

                              Ha--fair enough. I admittedly don't (have to) pay attention to acoustics too much at restaurants so probably forgot this, but it sounds like you have been through too much too many times.

                              1. re: hckybg

                                Ouch! Sorry if my post sounded harsh. It's just that Henrietta's looks perfect for the old folks but there's some major sound glitch (major!) that makes conversation difficult for anyone with hearing aids. My take: a corner table for 4 is o.k.--but just barely.

                                1. re: pocketviking

                                  no worries, you made me laugh if anything

                          2. I recommend the Beehive...the nightclub ambiance is just warm and lively.
                            Stay away from the dreary Anthony's Pier 4.

                            1. I might add Harvest, Sandrines, and Upstairs at the Square in Cambridge. In the South End, Icarus (though closing) may be a good choice as the tables are well-spaced out. The older folks in my family love Eastern Standard (not on game night) and The Blue Room.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: mcb70

                                Yes to Harvest: right decibel and comfort levels, and they've got a really efficient valet service. The Blue Room, however, seems to outstrip the power of hearing aids. That said, the food is usually delightful and the service is, too, so who needs to talk much? I might even choose Blue Room over Harvest for the diner-demographic in question if booking a table for four only. A four-way yell-fest over a small table is doable, and the place has a lively, warm buzz. An older friend of mine told me recently that she's "chucked manners into the gutter" and begun to suggest/agitate for certain restaurants when younger people want to treat her to a meal. According to her, most of us well-intentioned youths (comparatively speaking) choose places that assume a desire to live in the past; remind her of the dread assisted-living decision the minute she walks in; or, worse, make her feel that she's attending her own last supper. The Blue Room couldn't possibly give off any of those vibes, so thanks for the suggestion.

                                1. re: pocketviking

                                  Exactly what I was getting at above ... just because a place like Jimmy's steakhouse has a lot of older patrons doesn't mean ALL older patrons want to go there. I think the acoustic issues you raise are interesting and it would behoove all us whippersnappers to think about where we'll take our own older friends and parents when the time comes. I know for sure my chowmom would kill me if I suggested Anthony's Pier 4.

                                  1. re: yumyum

                                    Yumyum, you've got a good bead on this. One thing's for sure: most of the older people I'm chowing down with (with whom I'm chowing down?) are living in the present and looking toward the future. In general, they're not interested in nostalgic ventures. They love a great meal but in order to enjoy said meal need good acoustics, comfortable chairs and waitstaff who don't treat them like mortuary clients.

                                    1. re: pocketviking

                                      If we're lucky, we're all getting older. Your starting this thread made me really think hard about the topic and realizing how many assumptions we make about older diners. Thank you for that.

                              2. I think this is a very interesting post (despite the diversions to the topic of restaurants that have a reputation for an older clientele).
                                One of my thoughts is that my foodie parents (in their 70's) have much smaller appetites, and often taking the rest as a doggie bag isn't feasible. They don't mind paying for fine dining, but don't want to waste food. They will often share an entree or get multiple appetizers. Small plates places would be great, but many are super loud (think Toro).

                                I'll second both Sel De La Terre at the waterfront and Salts as places with good food and a quiet comfortable environment with good service. I too wish that Henrietta's table was quieter- but Rialto right next door is quieter (but a different price point).
                                One way to get better service and lower noise in an otherwise inhospitable place is to go at off hours (sorry to raise the spectre of the early bird special). My SO and I (in our 30's) will often have late breakfast, no lunch and dinner somewhere at 5PM on a weekend.

                                1. I sense a potential niche market here - comfy chairs, dead silence, artisanal pumped in oxygen, and a menu including brown bread in a can, cock-a-leeky soup, topsy's chicken, finan haddie, and indian pudding. Maybe the flickin' chicken sign can factor in.

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: nsenada

                                    you kidding? throw some decent baked beans and a great hot dog in there and i would eat there myself.

                                    1. re: nsenada

                                      I'm there, and I'm not even 80!

                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                        Not funny, people! Just wait a few decades. Some earnest 30-/40-something will be trying to roll you into the S&S at 4:45PM for a "nice meal" before the traffic picks up and parking gets tight--and they'll expect a thank-you, by the way!

                                        1. re: pocketviking

                                          When my siblings talk about food and restaurants, my parents are utterly lost; no speakee. But it's not simply that they don't know about that world: they don't care. I've taken them to the kind of places I like, but it's just confusing and off-putting to them. They're stuck in a pre-1980s sensibility about dining out that we've been powerless to change. I don't see it getting easier.

                                          Anthony's Pier 4? My dad gets to relive his glory days when he had a big expense account and got to take his clients there, back when it was the It Place. Golden Temple? Awful, in the kids' view, but mom adores it. It's not just a function of their current age; we've been trying to drag them down a more modern dining path for years without making a dent. They like our home cooking, at least.

                                          I will make special arrangements to have my children murdered after I'm gone should they ever try to drop me at an S&S.

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            I can't wait until I can yell at the waitborg for charging me 10,000 credits for a soylent green dumpling, and mortify my grandkids in the bargain. I'll also catankerously complain about the lack of such things as "cupcakes," "fiddleheads," "marrow burgers," and "speed dogs."

                                            1. re: nsenada

                                              Awesome!

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                              But that's them, not their age. My parents are in their 70s/80s and have always been hounds, always learning--not as fast as they used to, admittedly (and they are cheap--but they are good cooks and appreciate holes in the wall--apples & trees!). They would not go for Pier 4 except possibly as a period piece, and only if the food was good. Me, I'm a ways from 80 but I have trouble with hearing in a noisy room, and that definitely detracts from the experience.

                                              1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                No question: it's my folks' own pinched perspective, not their age. I'm actually really gratified to hear about Chowish grandmas and grandpas. They are all our futures, and I really hope and pray there are more Craigies than Anthony's awaiting my eventually aged appetite.

                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                  Um, some people just...aren't that into food. There! I said it. Now we'll see if this post gets blocked.

                                              2. re: pocketviking

                                                Heh, the S&S....that brings back memories, not all of them good!

                                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                                  Come to think of it, the S&S has a lot in common with Anthony's Pier IV: comfort, nostalgia, attentive service and pretty grim food. [Does anyone else think that their fries might be made of compressed paper pulp?]

                                                  Still, the S&S might be a good addition to a Cambridge list of where to take non-foodie elders: acoustics, chairs & service are all good, as is parking. We've been focusing on relatively expensive places to take older people with varying tastes. What about cheap eats?

                                                  1. re: pocketviking

                                                    I once saw Marvin Kalb eating at the S&S. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for anyone, I'd say! :-D

                                                    1. re: hiddenboston

                                                      Was that before or after they switched to paper-pulp fries?

                                                      I moved to the Inman area well over 10 years ago and, not having a functioning kitchen for awhile, hit the S&S a lot. Julia Child was a regular, and a surreal sight. [From what I could see--not that I was staring or anything--she was chowing on broiled fish and fries.] There's a diner-like comfort vibe to the place & though I haven't been there for a year or so--and have no intention of going soon--that vibe has value.

                                                      [If you're into academic/political celebrity sightings, know that Alan Dershowitz hangs out with his Blackberry at Mary Chung.]

                                                      1. re: pocketviking

                                                        Must have been before. This was back in the early 1990s...

                                                    2. re: pocketviking

                                                      "Come to think of it, the S&S has a lot in common with Anthony's Pier IV: comfort, nostalgia, attentive service and pretty grim food."

                                                      One more thing they have in common - when they started out they were legitimate chowish destinations. In fact, the S&S was a very good authentic Jewish deli until the 1970s, when they expanded hugely and became the boring monument to mediocre food they are today. I had many a fine meal there while growing up in Inman Square in the '50s and '60s. The original deli, booths and all, was just in the small area that now houses the takeout counter.

                                            3. Not far from Somerville/Cambridge is Flora in Arlington, which I believe fits your qualifications nicely. I've found it to attract a more mature crowd, but at the same time I've never felt out of place as a 20-something. The food is excellent, the seating pretty comfortable, and parking is easy on side streets off Mass Ave.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chevrelove

                                                Great suggestion! Went to Flora once a long time ago & enjoyed it. You're right: it fits the octogenarian bill.

                                              2. I just turned back to this thread, looking for an idea of where to take my mother for dinner when she comes to visit in a few weeks. Then I remembered that I took her and my aunt to Lineage in Brookline last December. It worked for everyone. Not too noisy, good food, but not over the top with ingredients they wouldn't recognize.

                                                1. The last time my 86yo dad and his girlfriend came up to Boston, I took them to Jasmine Bistro, and they both absolutely flipped over it. I guess I'm lucky; my dad is a foodie. He thinks nothing of dropping $150/pp at a place like Alain Ducasse, or Le Circque (when that was the "in place" in NYC).

                                                  This time they are coming up in a few weeks to celebrate his 87th, and I'm taking them to Craigie on Main. I've never been and I've been interested to try it, but it's way out of my budget these days.

                                                  However, one BIG benefit of bringing them is that my father is not capable of letting me pay for dinner :)