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Love at first bite - my Boston/Rockport trip

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A big huge thank you to all of you who answered all of my questions before the trip. I can honestly say this was my favorite food journey to date!

My sweet husband does not share my enthusiasm over the quest for the perfect meal. But, he gladly went along with my suggestions and I believe he enjoyed most of his meals as well. My rule for this trip was NO CHAINS, which I forced him to agree to.

One name came up more than all the rest of them, the one that nobody had anything bad to say about - Neptune Oyster. We arrived in Boston on Sunday afternoon and I could hardly wait to get checked into our hotel and freshen up for our first (and best) dinner while in Boston. We were staying in Cambridge at Hotel Marlowe and once we figured out where the nearest MBTA stop was, we were off. With my subway map and my notebook with everyone's suggestions in hand I could hardly keep from running down Salem Street once I saw the sign. I had read that this place was small and that we may have to wait. There were a few people on the street and I wasn't sure if we needed to go in or wait in line. I decided to investigate. I could hardly believe my eyes as I walked through the door. I have never seen a place so small. Luckily there were two seats at the bar that just happened to be open. Within moments we forgot about the size of the restaurant or the fact that we were practically sharing our meal with strangers. I just fell in love with the place. It has a certain charm, and the food....oh my gosh. I started out with the scallops appetizer and it was wonderful. I love scallops and they were so perfect. My husband had the clam chowder and while he liked it, he is more of a traditional thick creamy clam chowder man. Hubby was looking forward to a lobster roll but sadly they were sold out by the time we got there. He settled on the Neptune Burger because he wasn't in the mood for a big meal. I had the fish tacos and they were so good. The best fish tacos I've ever had. I loved the slaw that was on the side. It was tangy goodness and went perfect with the fish. The portion was huge and I couldn't stop eating them. I abandoned everything but the fish and still had to admit defeat with a piece of fish left on my plate. The server at the bar was lovelly and we enjoyed chatting with her. It was emptying out by the time we were served our food and after a long day of travel we enjoyed taking our time over dinner. One of the people next to us was a regular and he pointed out the owner (Jeff?) and his family enjoying dinner at one of the tables. We were too stuffed and too tired to try to figure out where to go for dessert - and being a Sunday I feared nothing would be open late anyway.

Monday we grabbed breakfast near the hotel - nothing special just a muffin from the foodcourt at the mall. We had tickets for a trolly tour of Boston. We found ourselves back in the North end to visit the Old North Church and I was so excited when we walked right by Giacomo's! Sadly, they weren't open for lunch - bummer.. We decided not to take a lot of time for lunch so that we could see all there was to see on the trolly tour. We hopped back on and had such an enjoyable time listening to the driver - she was much better than the one we had that morning - that we forgot that we needed to eat lunch. It was nearing 5:00 which is when the tour ends. The driver asked if anyone wanted to go any place other than the first stop and we asked if she could take us to stop #2 (North End). She did - yeah! Giacom's here we come. I guess because it was pretty early we lucked out and didn't have to wait more than a few minutes for a table. Again, the small restaurant.....again, we didn't care. This was by far my husbands favorite meal. We started out with the mozzarella marinara because I was hungry and wanted something cheesy and gooey and it was! As we ate our salad we chatted with the couple sitting next to us (very very next to us) and discovered they had been going to Giacomo's once a week since 1996 and told us that our waiter had been there ever since they had started going there. I couldn't tell if I liked him or thought he was rude. Every time he came to the table I secretly thought Soup Nazi!! In the end I decided he was part of the charm of the place. Husband had a wonderful seafood special that had just about everything in it you can imagine - including 1/2 a lobster. For the sauce the waiter suggested mixing two - the spicy sauce and the Giacomo's sauce I think. It was perfect and he ate every messy bite of it. I also had one of the specials - it was a ravioli stuffed with spinach, with thick cubes of pancetta in a wonderful cream sauce. It was perfect. In our hunger-took-over state of mind, we forgot that they don't take anything but cash - thank goodness for the ATM across the street!!

I heard a lot about Mike's vs Maria's. While we never made it to Maria's, I cannot imagine anything on earth more sinfully delicious than the chocolate dipped chocolate cream cannoi. Hubby got the tiramisu and liked it but agreed he should have went with a cannoli.

The next day we headed over to Cambridge. We knew when we left the hotel that our day would involve a burger from Mr. Barley's. Nothing compares to a good burger. I discovered a wonderful thing called a rickey. I had a raspberry lime rickey - it was really good. I had the American Idol burger. This is they type of place that every college town needs. The service was a little slow but it was fun to just be there. The burger was well worth the wait. Hubby got the onion rings and I had fries. They were good but nothing exceptional. The star of the show was definitely the juicy burgers. It was a cool rainy day - perfect for the best hot chocolate ever!! Thank you so much for suggesting LA Burdick's, Ginafly. I never would have found it without your suggestion. It was the best hot chocolate I've ever had - I had the dark chocolate of course. What a cute place!

Sadly, we were already coming up on our last day in Boston. So little time and so many great places that we had heard about but hadn't tried yet. We were going to the aquarium and I knew that Sel de La Terre was nearby. This is the type of place that you instantly feel comfortable in. Perhaps it was the oversized, extremely soft stuffed chairs. We both went with sandwiches,although the entrees sounded lovely. I had the roast chicken panini and hubby had the turkey sandwich. The focaccia bread on the turkey sandwich was so moist and light - very good. And we really liked the homemade potato chips. That evening we wanted to stick close to the hotel so we went to Ole for dinner. Hubby is a big fan of Mexican food and since I had picked every meal I let him choose (from my carefully compiled list, of course!). I didn't expect to love this meal, but I did. There was about an hour wait which was shocking but hubby was set to have Mexican food. It turned out to be less than an hour. I loved the funky decor, the personal message from the chef on back of the menu detailing his trips to Mexico and the tableside guacamole - to die for. We had to wait for the waitress and in the mean time the manager or owner came over and offered some suggestions. Her suggestion of the roast pork enchalida was spot on as we both wanted traditional Mexican. Husband had that and I had the chicken enchilada but wished I had tried the pork. It was so good, and not dry at all, which can sometimes happen to pork. We had the best dessert. It was a crepe covered in rich caramel sauce. So good!

We headed to Rockport the next day. We stopped in Salem on the way and had breakfast at Red's. It was our one 'diner' meal. It was good - typical breakfast fare. We had dinner at Alchemy's that night. I loved all the small dining rooms that gave it a cozy feel. And I loved the freshness of the ingredients. I thought my husband was crazy when he ordered a pizza (BBQ Chicken) but it was really good. I had the Halibut. Seriously, what made this dish for me was the soy drizzle on top of the fish.

On our last day in Rockport I told my husband we had to go to a little seafood stand. We went to Farnham's. He had a 1.5 lb lobster. Just to see the look on his face when he sat down with the whole lobster was worth it. Like a kid in a candy shop! I had shrimp. While both were good, I did think it a little on the expensive side. I am not a big clam person which is probably what most folks go for. I was happy we went though, just for the experience of it.

And so, there you have it. If you're still reading this, it means you stuck with the long, probably over-detailed trip report. I love to eat and I love to write!! Again, many, many thanks.

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  1. Thank you for the wonderful report. I love seeing our Boston area spots through new eyes and tastebuds. It makes me appreciate places that I love but take for granted. My next trip to Neptune or Sel de la Terre will be better because I'll remember your descriptions and move closer to my first times there.

    I had a Bartley Burger this week and like you didn't mind waiting because of the atmosphere. And the communal table with lots of students around me encouraged me to order a side of onion rings that I pushed to the middle and invited my tablemates to share so I wouldn't feel guilty about only eating a few of them.

    Penny
    http://www.bostonzest.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: BostonZest

      Thanks Penny. There were so many places that I had wanted to get to but didn't. We would have needed to eat from sun up to sun down to accompolish that!

    2. i am sooo happy for your success!!!

      1. Thanks so much for reporting back, which few people do. It is fun to see our local spots through fresh eyes. Glad you had such a good trip!

        1 Reply
        1. re: GretchenS

          I'm shocked more people don't report back, honestly. If it wasn't for all of you helping with the planning the trip would not have been as successful as it was.

          I couldn't believe the places that were suggested through the trolly company coupons, magazines in the hotel room, etc. Tourist traps. I just smiled as I walked by them on our way to the places that the locals eat at!

        2. My husband, son and I spent 4 days in Boston 6/16-6/20 prior to our final destination of a family visit in Springfield MA. I didn't have time to research restaurants for this trip, not even to read Chowhound so I thought we would just walk around the North End 'til something hit me. I feel a little sheepish after reading some of the other threads dissing Giacomo's as a tourist trap but we had just as great an experience as you. When walking, we saw the line. I asked someone standing there if it was really good enough to wait and the enthusiastic response was yes! So, we waited. It was only about 5pm on a Wednesday night! Anyway, I had what your husband had, our son had mussels and clams with linguini and my husband had the home made pasta with shrimp and scallops. Their calamari is some of the best we have eaten! I will say that I was just a bit disappointed by the Giacomo sauce as it was supposed to be a lobster sauce and I didn't detect much of a lobster taste but it was still good. We walked over to Mike's but it was a mob scene and we were all just too full for cannoli. We did stop back and got some mini cannoli from Maria's the next day before dinner. They don't fill them until you buy them. Yum! While at Maria's we asked where to get good pizza. My husband went to school in Boston but didn't have the money then to go experimenting so when we asked the guy at Maria's where to get a good pizza close by, it was a treat for my hubby who had never been to the original Pizza Regina. For me too! Perfect crust. I had eggplant, peppers and sausage and I think my hubby had the Meatball Pomodoro Fresco and our little guy had cheese. Of course we ordered way more than we could eat but cold pizza for breakfast is the best! My brother in law took us to 75 Chestnut but thanks to construction it took at least 3 times around with navigation to get there! Nice, cute local spot for dinner. I would say the staff is kind of young and unseasoned but the food was good and the atmosphere cozy. Hubby had steak a poivre and I had grilled salmon with lots of lightly sauteed veggies. The Boston Museum of Fine Art has an interesting cafe and our hotel, The Back Bay had a very nice breakfast buffet. Our other meals were grabbed on the run like sandwiches from Starbucks while shopping. I could go on but I'm getting tired now so I'll end here.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Fru

            Sounds like your family had a great time in Boston as well. I was really hoping to make it to Pizza Regina because it got such fabulous reviews, and because I love pizza, but we didn't make it. There were too many wonderful places for the short time that we were there. Can't wait to come back!

          2. I read every word! These kind of detailed trip reports make giving feedback totally worth it! So glad you had a good experience!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: globalgourmand

              Thanks global.