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Top 5 Boston Restaurants

bistro66 May 17, 2009 10:02 AM

I'm going to Boston with family for Mem Day weekend and would like opinions on reservations. What is the best restaurant in the North End? The best in the South End? We loved La La Rokh, East Coast Grill, Elephant Walk in its heyday when we were living up there...tend toward more inventive cuisine but doesn't need to be the trendiest. How's Oleanna? Hamersley's Bistro? Would love to hear your opinions!

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  1. alwayscooking RE: bistro66 May 17, 2009 11:13 AM

    IMO, Hammersley's is eh and their oft touted roasted chicken, I found over salty and the skin less than perfectly crisped. My suggestions for the 'best' without regard to $ - although there are perfectly good places for a tad less.

    Pizzeria Regina - Pizza
    Mamma Maria - not a red sauce Italian
    Prezza - a slight move away from a traditional Italian American menu
    Neptune Oyster - American seafood

    O ya - excellent Japanese small plates

    Bina Osteria - my fav - awesome Prix Fixe lunch $25 (dinner $65)
    No9 Park - more upscale
    Espalier - upscale
    Mistral - good food in a lovely comfortable setting

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

    Ten Tables - New American

    Craigie on Main - a chef who idolizes meat from snout to tail.

    1 Reply
    1. re: alwayscooking
      shaebones RE: alwayscooking May 18, 2009 12:47 AM

      Love your list alwayscookin'. I gotta get busy. ;)

    2. p
      pollystyrene RE: bistro66 May 17, 2009 10:20 PM

      My top five haven't changed in a long time, despite having tried quite a few new places:

      Mamma Maria (North End)
      Prezza (North End)
      Grotto (Beacon Hill)
      Eastern Standard (Kenmore Sq.)
      Pizzeria Regina (North End)

      I think both Oleana and Hamersley's are somewhat overrated. I love one dish at Oleana: the ricotta dumplings. Everything else I've tried there has been just okay, and overpriced. I love the atmosphere at Hamersley's, and the service is some of the best I've experienced. As a vegetarian, I haven't had the pleasure of the roasted chicken, but DC's have loved it, along with the garlic mushroom "sandwich." I found the food to be fine, but not great. I'd only go back if someone else were paying. The wooden chairs are uncomfortable for that long a dining experience, and the room can get very warm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pollystyrene
        bistro66 RE: pollystyrene May 18, 2009 01:54 PM

        Oleanna doesn't sound too great.

      2. Joanie RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 05:26 AM

        Most people love Oleana. I think it's fine and really enjoyed the fried mussels. I would pick Prezza for the north end and would not describe it as "a slight move away from a traditional Italian American menu". It has many grilled items and lots of interesting pastas and apps. I think Hamersley's would serve you well in the south end and agree with Union, Toro and B&G for dinner. I personally had a great dinner at Banq but maybe it was better cuz it was 3 courses for $29 (M-Th special).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Joanie
          phelana RE: Joanie May 18, 2009 05:40 AM

          Mamma Maria
          Eastern Standard
          Sel de la Terre
          Neptune Oyster
          Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons/Bristol Lounge

        2. a
          athena877 RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 06:15 AM

          Top 5 overall (my opinion):
          No. 9 Park (Beacon Hill)
          Mistral (Back Bay)
          Salts (Cambridge)
          Meritage (Boston Harbor)
          Clio (Back Bay)
          (haven't tried L'Espalier yet, probably also the best...)

          By neighborhood, other excellent restaurants are:
          NORTH END: Prezza, Mamma Maria, Carmen, Taranta
          SOUTH END: Icarus
          THEATER: Pigalle
          BEACON HILL: Grotto
          BACK BAY: Sorrelina, Sel de la Terre
          CAMBRIDGE: Rialto, Dali, Orinoco
          KENDALL: Eastern Standard
          OUTSIDE BOSTON: Blue Ginger (Wellesley)

          2 Replies
          1. re: athena877
            Joanie RE: athena877 May 18, 2009 10:20 AM

            Just to help the OP, Eastern Standard is in Kenmore Sq.
            Isn't Orinoco closed?
            Dali is in Somerville.

            1. re: Joanie
              MC Slim JB RE: Joanie May 21, 2009 04:05 PM

              Orinoco has two very healthy restaurants serving Venezuelan cuisine: one in the South End, the second in Brookline Village. Casual, fun, moderate, highly recommended.


          2. C. Hamster RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 09:39 AM

            I'd add Troquet to the list

            1. rlh RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 09:49 AM

              North End - Neptune Oyster (no reservations)
              South End - Toro (no reservations)
              Kenmore Square - Eastern Standard
              Fort Point Channel - Sportello
              Cambridge - East Coast Grill or Green Street (I haven't been to Craigie on Main or Salts)

              1. b
                bistro66 RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 01:50 PM

                Glad to see Dali is still around....is O ya superior to Sakurabana? They are probably different types of Japanese restaurants. Currently I find Nobu kind of tired, and I just read a Boston Globe review that made O ya sound wonderful.

                I will make some reservations and report back. I want to thank everyone who posted, it helps us a lot!

                5 Replies
                1. re: bistro66
                  HostessCakes RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 01:58 PM

                  I recommend O Ya (one of the best meals I've had in my lifetime) or No. 9 Park. At No. 9, the ambiance, the service, and most importantly the food were superb, especially that foie gras.

                  1. re: bistro66
                    9lives RE: bistro66 May 18, 2009 02:26 PM

                    Sakura Bana is good traditional Japanese restaurant. Oya is much more creative. .and I think much better than Nobu. Sakura Bana vs Oya..really comparing 2 very different restaurants.


                    If you like creative Japanese, Uni should also be on your list.

                    1. re: 9lives
                      bistro66 RE: 9lives May 20, 2009 02:11 PM

                      I like how you guys have boiled down the choices for me. They all sound great. I will be trying other places on subsequent trips. The thing about O Ya is I do have a kid who might like Sakura Bana better, though he has gotten fairly adventurous lately. But this is a great selection. I love the No. 9 Park menu so probably we'll be going there.

                      1. re: bistro66
                        emilief RE: bistro66 May 20, 2009 04:22 PM

                        No one has mentioned this but all of these places, especially O Ya and Clio are very very expensive. Personally, I would not bring a child to those places. Sakura Bana is just fine and in my opinion a great place to take a child. 9 Prk and L'Espalier are not cheap either but Clio andO Ya are over the top.

                        1. re: emilief
                          bistro66 RE: emilief May 21, 2009 03:04 PM

                          Thanks for the warning. My son is okay in fancy restaurants like Cafe Boulud and Babbo but he's no longer interested in the makeshift children's pasta dish so it can get expensive. I'm thinking Sakura Bana and 9 Prk. We might save the others for another trip or when he's occupied, which is very likely since another one of his friends is moving back to Boston.

                  2. Matt H RE: bistro66 May 20, 2009 02:57 PM

                    The current 5 best in my opinion:

                    Neptune Oyster (North End)
                    BiNA (Downtown Crossing)
                    O Ya (Leather District)
                    L'Espalier (Back Bay)
                    Clio (Back Bay)

                    Also non-food but cocktail related: Drink in Fort Point is also a must when visiting Boston.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Matt H
                      bistro66 RE: Matt H May 21, 2009 03:06 PM

                      That Drink sounds intriguing. You guys are all so helpful. Not all the boards are this responsive. Many thanks again.

                    2. MC Slim JB RE: bistro66 May 21, 2009 04:11 PM

                      I find it impossible to choose five "best" restaurants -- so many dimensions to account for, like my mood, budget, companions, etc -- but here are five that I've been to very lately and really enjoyed:

                      Salts (Central Square Cambridge, New American/French)
                      Taranta (North End, Southern Italian with Peruvian influences)
                      Ten Tables Cambridge (Harvard Square, nice-priced New American with French leanings)
                      Trattoria Toscana (The Fenway, Tuscan cuisine, quite modest)
                      Bina Osteria (Downtown Crossing, high-end, creative Italian)


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        alwayscooking RE: MC Slim JB May 21, 2009 04:44 PM

                        Guess I'll have to try Trattoria Toscana again . . .

                        1. re: alwayscooking
                          MC Slim JB RE: alwayscooking May 23, 2009 07:59 AM

                          I think Trattoria Toscana is worthy for really understanding the spirit of Tuscan cuisine, and also really getting what a trattoria is supposed to be: a modestly-priced, everyday kind of neighborhood restaurant. The cooking is not driven by formidable technique, but simple, high-quality ingredients and knowing when to leave them alone. Most local chefs produce so-called Tuscan dishes that are fussy and overdone, like the tagliata at Scampo (though I like the rest of the menu there).

                          Kociaj is never going to get the attention that flashier chefs get: he's a modest craftsman, a working chef/owner (he's there every single night, closes the place when he takes time off). Most people won't want to pick Trattoria Toscana for a special occasion, but it's the kind of place I frequent, and I don't have the luxury of frequenting many places.


                      2. intheq RE: bistro66 May 23, 2009 08:19 AM

                        it is difficult to come up with a short-list like this... as mc points out there are so many variables. a few places that stick out as consistently great are:

                        craigie on main
                        ali's roti - this place doesn't really fit the high end vibe of most of the other places folks mentioned. it is not in the best neighborhood; you would probably want to go for lunch. but damn is their roti good!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: intheq
                          MC Slim JB RE: intheq May 23, 2009 08:31 AM

                          I'm guessing you mean the Ali's Roti in Mattapan? I keep meaning to try the South End outlet, but I have not heard great things about it; everyone seems to prefer the Blue Hill Ave location.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            intheq RE: MC Slim JB May 23, 2009 02:45 PM

                            you are correct - I was referring to the blue hill ave location in mattapan. i am not familiar with the south end locale. most people seem to equate "best meal" with "most expensive" and while i do believe you frequently get what you pay for... i would take a stewed chicken roti over a free meal at sonsie/abe & louies/mistral (insert any other overpriced, overrated restaurant name here) any day of the week.

                            1. re: intheq
                              Matt H RE: intheq May 28, 2009 06:09 AM

                              The South End/Roxbury (Tremont St) location is also very good. Ali's is by far my favorite Roti in the Boston area. My wife who is from Trinidad loves Ali's and says that the Roti Skins at Ali's are the best she has tasted outside of Trinidad.

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