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May 13, 2009 09:21 AM

Restaurants for octogenarians?

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.

      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).

          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.


              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.


          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.

        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.

          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.


              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.


                          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.


                              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: 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.