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"Meet the parents" dinner in Cambridge or suburbs

Hi Boston-area Chowhounds,

I'm looking for something pretty specific and am hoping you guys will have some suggestions. My boyfriend is meeting my parents and brother over dinner next week, and I'm trying to figure out where to make reservations. It's been a while since I've lived in the Boston area so my knowledge of the restaurant scene is sadly limited.

Variables in this equation:
* My parents live in Concord, but we could probably go as far as Cambridge for the right place
* I want someplace low-key so this dinner doesn't seem like too big of a deal
* My mom doesn't eat spicy food and is not a super adventurous eater in general
* My boyfriend doesn't tend to like Italian restaurants; he really likes New American food with local ingredients and yuppie stuff like that :)
* Nothing too pricey (again, keeping it low-key)... looking for entrees in the $15-22 zone

Any thoughts? :)

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  1. Before you mentioned that your boyfriend doesn't like Italian, I was thinking Gran Gusto would be perfect. It's nice, but casual, with an interesting, authentic menu that gets high chowhound marks, and is a straight shot up rte. 2 from Concord.

    More up your boyfriend's ally would be Rendezvous in Central Sq. or EVOO in Somerville. EVOO especially stresses local ingredients, although check to see it the menu might seem appealing to your mother. If you ordered a la carte, they'd be out of your price range, but Rendezvous has a $38 prix fixe through August, and EVOO has a $35 prix fixe year round.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pollystyrene

      Thanks for the suggestions! EVOO sounds perfect except that it's a bit expensive. I did some searching and found another place that might work: Scutra in Arlington. Has anyone ever been there?

      1. re: crunchyplum

        How about Catch in Winchester? If you're doing it this week, you could do a restaurant week 3 course prix fixe at 33$

        1. re: crunchyplum

          I've been to Scutra, but not in a long time. As I recall it's a bit stuffy -- not where I'd take the parents for a low key meal. Rendezvous is one of my favorites and I think it would work well for your dinner out, especially at the prix fixe pricepoint. Your bf will like the local / sustainable vibe and your mom will find something not too adventurous too.

          Cheap and easy parking for your folks at the Green Street garage around the corner.

          1. re: crunchyplum

            I agree that Scutra is a bit on the fancy side. Green Street could also work well for you - close to the parking garage, they source local ingredients, and there are non-spicy options on the menu. GS seems less fancy than Rendezvous, though both are delicious.

            1. re: crunchyplum

              The EVOO $35 prix fixe is for 3 courses, and you can choose from just about everything on the menu.

          2. Where do your parents like to eat out in or near Concord? Seems more important to please and put them at ease with the place. Your beau already knows he's the one for you. :) Really, if the Chinese place in Lexington Center is what they like, go there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jajjguy

              I agree with this - if they have to travel to Cambridge, it will be a "meet the boyfriend" thing by default. And what's with him not liking Italian? You should dump him - seriously.

              Another option - go to the Dairy Joy in Weston for fried seafood and ice cream. Great week for it. Ultra-low key.

            2. How about Hungry Mother? (in cambridge) I think that gives the vibe of being low-key and relaxed, yet the food is excellent (and certainly not frou-frou), and the prices pretty reasonable. Do a search to find lots more info.

              1. I know it gets hated here, and I've had inconsistent food there, but Summer shack is geographically perfect, and very low key.
                Flora in Arlington might be pushing the price point, but not if you go for RW (all of August)
                Kitchen on Common in Belmont might be perfect- local ingredients, comfort food, low key but intimate dining room. You can even get there via public transportation if that's an issue

                1 Reply
                1. re: cpingenot

                  I think Summer Shack is a great idea. There will be no stress about how to get there, no stress about parking, no stress about getting a table. The food is usually good, sometimes very good and probably everyone can find something they like, atmosphere is low key but there's stuff around to look at and talk about if conversation is flagging--a small place would be unbearable if it takes a while for everyone to warm up to each other, IMO.

                2. Perhaps Za in Arlington?

                  I have only eaten there once, but liked it. I can't remember how pricey it was. In my opinion, the food and atmosphere is about right for your description.

                  -----
                  ZA
                  138 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Area Man

                    I really like Za -- it would be very low key with a bit of a sustainable twist. Rendevous is one of my favorite restaurants -- and it is casual but nice. And, if someone prefers cocktails to beer and wine -- you are in luck. The blue room might also work.

                    1. re: RoseWethersfield

                      I think that opinion varies wildly on Za. I was only there once, but the food and service were so bad that I would never go again.

                      1. re: RoseWethersfield

                        I really didn't like Za very much either and if Italian is not your preference, that would seem to be a vote against it. Also, if I recall correctly they don't take reservations which can lead to awkward standing around waiting.

                    2. Garden at the Cellar?
                      http://www.gardenatthecellar.com

                      No reservations, so it may not be ideal for this occasion. It meets all your criteria, though.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: edamame

                        I have never gone there without at least a 30 minute wait for a table and it is loud - maybe my bad luck, but I agree it may not be best for this occasion.

                      2. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! We decided to go with Summer Shack. My mom has been there before and likes it a lot, so it's in her comfort zone -- perfect. I agree that putting my parents at ease is probably the most important thing.

                        Meanwhile, the boyfriend and I are planning to try EVOO the next night. Very excited. Thanks again for your thoughts!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: crunchyplum

                          Excellent choices. Please two sets of palates and get two dinners in a row. Good deal! Please report back and feel free to throw in any gossip about the meeting.

                        2. Rendezvous in Central will be perfect, great food, low key, not too expensive or 'out there", will please both your boyfriend and your mother.