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In Boston for 3 nights - please help narrow down my choices!

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Hey Boston hounds, a fellow hound here from Toronto coming down in a couple weeks for three nights. I've read through several posts and am excited to try some great chow! I've narrowed down a long list to a reasonably short list. We're looking for something different, unique and fun. We have lots of great ethnic cuisine (except Mexican) in Toronto, so places that use local Boston products are preferrable. Looking generally for places where we can get away with <$100 for two for food (2 apps, 2 mains, 1 dessert; drinks & tip not included). And places that are fairly casual, meaning atmosphere where you don't have to dress formally, not casual in terms of the food. We're going to be staying in Back Bay area, so places that are accessible are also preferred (not necessarily in the immediate area, but at least simple enough to get to via public transit).

Ok, so here's my list!

- One of either Angela's Cafe or Sol Azteca
- Sel de la Terre
- Oleana
- Ten Tables
- EVOO
- Toro
- Hungry Mother
- Salts

Would appreciate your thoughts. I need to narrow this down to 3 dinner places. Also willing to consider any other choices that anyone feels strongly about.

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  1. Not on your list, but last year we went to Neptune Oyster Bar (from recommendations on this board) it's in the North End, on Salem St. They had the very best lobster rolls we've ever had. Hot and cold and both were great...husband and I split them...pricey though at $25 per. Small place and long fun lines, but very worth it especially if you enjoy the North End....plus you can always go to Mikes Pastries, on Hanover, for a great dessert.

    1 Reply
    1. re: grouper

      Yes, I saw that and looked at it. The issue is that my wife does not eat seafood, so the menu becomes very limited for her. Yes, I know, it's a terrible restriction for this city in particular, but what can you do?

    2. I'd say Oleana, EVOO and Hungry Mother. I've had such wonderful dining experiences at all three with reasonable prices.

      1. Sel de la Terre
        Toro
        Hungry Mother

        Your list looks great, so I think you'd be okay with any of those, just that the three above would be my recommendation.

        1. I like SDLT, but don't think it's particularly different or unique. They do trade their coffee grounds for produce with local farmers, though, so it fits your locavore requirement. I've been in Salts but haven't eaten there. it gets great reviews here, but strikes me as a small, quiet romantic place more than a fun place. The others are all in line with what you're looking for. I'm not an Oleana fan, but am probably in the minority there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pollystyrene

            Oleana has been iffy in my recent visits - and can range from sublime to "I am going to walk out of here very soon". I like Toro as a fun place with very very good food.

          2. take a pass on sol azteca. angela's is wonderful. you might want to consider a mini-crawl over in eastie and have the ceviche at rincon limon and then dinner at angela's.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I second this. As I former Torontonian living in Boston, I think a trip to Eastie is a must for any visitor from TO for some great Central/South American food. Rincon Limon and Angela's would be an excellent combination.

              Other two nights my vote would be for Hungry Mother and Toro.

              1. re: Matt H

                Hungry Mother AND Toro? Some of us can only dream of those as consecutive visits! Both extremely worthwhile and both at the top quadrant (or higher) of many lists including mine.

                1. re: cornFusion

                  Hey, Id say it would be a great problem to have!

            2. Sel de la Terre (at Long Wharf) had disappointed the last two times we have been there. If I only had three days in Boston, I wouldn't waste a meal here.

              EVOO is only OK - and not in a particularly easy place to reach, public transportation-wise. Why not something in the North End? Artu or Marcus? OTOH, EVVO is catty corner from a very good wine and cheese store...in case you were building a picnic or a cooler for a road trip.

              Oleana - in my top three in Boston.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bgavin

                Definitely do not recommend Artu - if you want to sit and eat. Please see an earlier thread I started at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583378

              2. A definate must is the Kowloon on Rt 1 in Saugus. http://www.kowloonrestaurant.com/
                There is no place on earth like it. You cannot visit Boston and NOT stop by for their world famous fried rice and pu pu platter! Their drinks are out of this world and the atmostphere is like no other. I live in NE for 31 years, and now live in SC, and that is the 1 place I miss the most.

                8 Replies
                  1. re: tomlisa2a

                    I was just in Toronto - so I can unequivocally state that there are just as many bad chinese places in Toronto as the Kowloon. If you are feeling homesick for bad chinese.... definitely go there - but I think Boston has many many better chinese (Peach Farm in Chinatown, for example) and other foods than for you to take time to go out of Boston to view a fake chinese castle-on-the-hill.

                    1. re: cornFusion

                      Yes Toronto does already have a Kowloon, its called Mandarin, which is pretty disgusting. With that being said though, I would never send a Torontonian to Boston to eat Chinese food. I have a few favorite places here as well, but it cannot match up to the selection in the GTA.

                      So many other great options in cuisine that Boston does better than Toronto to try.

                      1. re: Matt H

                        Although I generally agree with you, (that Boston has many other good eats than just Chinese) my foraging adventures in Toronto - as far as Chinese was concerned - were downright disappointing. Never did find a good Chinese place there (nor in Mississigua where I stayed). I would easily recommend Szechuan Gourmet (Billerica) or Peach Farm (Boston) or Shangri-La (Belmont) without hesitation or apology. On the other hand I would certainly NOT recommend any Indian in Boston since I had far superior Indian food in Toronto than anywhere in the Boston metro area.

                        1. re: cornFusion

                          Ah man, you were in the wrong part of town! Sauga is a wasteland as far as Chinese is concerned. Next trip over please spend some time in Markham/Richmond Hill, and I am pretty confident you will be blown away with the selection and quality.

                          With that being said though I have taken my family and friends from Toronto to Taiwan Cafe and Peach Farm for example and everyone always enjoys their meal. I just think that in a 3 day visit you should try and steer people towards different foods they do not have as readily available or of a similar quality in TO. This is why I thought spending an evening in Eastie would be worthwhile.

                          1. re: Matt H

                            Seems to me that getting lost keeps happening to me - even in Boston! Well - I shal have to try other areas next time I am in Toronto - but a lot of the chatter about toronto on the boards is not very complementary about Toronto. In any case, I thank you for the suggeations. One of my favorites in Boston (actually Allston) is Yoma Burmese - if you haven't tried it as yet I would recommend it highlly. As far as i know there are no Burmese restaurants in Toronto.

                            1. re: cornFusion

                              Wow, lots discussion on Chinese! Yes, I agree with Matt above. The real Chinese in Toronto is actually in Richmond Hill/Markham, which is about 15 miles north of Toronto. Given I live near that area, I'm not looking for any Chinese in Boston. And as someone mentioned Mandarin, if anyone visits Toronto, please stay away from Mandarin!!

                    2. re: tomlisa2a

                      Kowloon seems to hold a strangely fascinating appeal for people raised in this area, but personally I've never had a single thing I've particularly enjoyed on their menu, the kitschy atmosphere doesn't appeal to me and in my opinion, it's absolutely not worth the effort you'd have to make to rent a car and drive all the way up to Saugus from Boston (about 20 minutes).

                      Now, I think Kowloon has its time and place, and for me that's at about 11 o'clock at night, when you live in the area and all other options are closed, you've got a huge, rowdy group of people (they have seating for hordes), and are looking for scorpion bowls and greasy fried stuff.

                    3. Definitely go to Salts, Oleana and Hungry Mother.
                      Pretty lukewarm on Sel de la Terre, as the food is nothing exceptional.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nasilemak

                        Go to hungry mother, Oleana is great but a little more pricey, and Toro

                      2. I'm pretty "eh" on Salts. I had a very disappointing anniversary meal there.

                        Love love love EVOO--but definitely stick to their "greatest hits." That means cornmeal fried oysters, duck duck goose, beef tenderloin, chinese box, and a few other things that have been on the menu for years. Sometimes they experiment in a bad way.

                        Hungry Mother is also excellent. Make sure you try the beef tongue canape...it isn't as scary as some people find offal to be. It's amazing.

                        Sel de la Terre--just okay.

                        Additional restaurants I feel strongly about are Neptune Oyster (but I just saw your note about seafood...bummer) and Via Matta (my favorite for pastas--lovely room and service, great bar menu, too).

                        1. Hey everyone, thanks so much for your help. The final tally is in and I've decided on Oleana (mainly because we don't have any good Moroccan food in Toronto, so I'm interested in trying it) and Toro. Hungry Mother came in a close second, I just don't like that it has a very limited menu (my wife has dietary restrictions that would limit her to only one or two items). I have a reservation for Oleana on Thurs and will brave the line at Toro on Fri night. Of course, a last minute substitution is possible, but I think these are the two I'm going with.

                          Can anyone suggest what dishes are recommended at both Oleana and Toro? Anything to avoid?

                          And finally... are both of these restaurants in a safe place? I'm thinking of walking to Oleana from Back Bay and taking the subway/walking to Toro. Is there anything around these two spots that anyone recommends (any bars, live music, etc)?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: SMOG

                            Oleana is in a safe neighborhood, but is about 2.5 miles from the BB. Take the redline train(Alewife) at Park Street to the Kendall T stop & walk from there. Toro is in an edgier area at the Western edge of the SE about 1-1.5 miles from BB, depending on where you're staying. You could take the #1 Dudley bus(across from Auditorium T station at the Mass. Ave. at Boylston stop) to Washington St.. Toro is just to your left at 1704 Washington. The Beehive up on Tremont will probably have live music: http://www.beehiveboston.com/

                            1. re: SMOG

                              with any luck, Lord Hobo might be open for business by the time you are at Oleana and you will be able to check out their cocktails/taps...or make a detour to Craigie on Main for the same

                              1. re: SMOG

                                Just a slight correction to hopefully set expectations: Oleana is not Morrocan. It is Turkish (a totally different cuisine). In any case, unless you are very familiar with Morrocan and want to have that specific cuisine, I think you will enjoy Oleana. Save room for dessert while there!
                                Toro has an excellent selection - and you could not go wrong with most if not all their offerings. Here again their "larger" dessert cheese platter (with their scrumptious sweet after-dinner sherrie) would be my recommendation.

                                1. re: cornFusion

                                  Oleana's chef may be of Turkish descent, but the menu trots all around the perimeter of the Mediterranean. Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Armenia, Turkey, The Levant, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco. It leans Turkish and Arabic Mediterranean, but it's not really going for close authenticity; it's pretty creative and based on local ingredients, if not to say fusion-y.

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  1. re: cornFusion

                                    yes, the Lustau and Pedro Ximinez sherries at Toro are both quite nice (ask the bartender to put together a flight for you so you can sample both and compare)