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Visitors want classic New England cuisine, suggestions please

We have two visitors arriving next month and need your help in providing them with a few great dining experiences in the Boston area. The couple are Colombian but have been living in Paris for the past 5 or 6 years, they are traveling throughout the U.S. and are looking to have the regional cuisine of each area they are in. Unfortunately that puts me at a loss, if they were looking for ethnic cuisine I'd be fine, but they want classic New England.

As they are traveling on a budget and my girlfriend and I are in grad school we're not looking for anything too extravagant. We live in Porter so we have access to the T and also have a car so location won't be an issue. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thank you in advance for your help.

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  1. Durgin Park, Union Oyster House, Locke Ober, Summer Shack.

    1. Essex for fried clams. The Wayside Inn in Sudbury is classic New England fare in a classic New England setting. www.wayside.org

      1. Seafood is the most obvious classic New England food: Fried clams on the North Shore is definitely worthwhile, and it is hard to get more classic New England. Some suggestions include Clam Box (Ipswich), JT Farnham's (Essex) and Woodman's (Essex) -- search the board for more in depth reviews. If you aren't up for the trip to the North Shore, Jasper White's Summer Shack is a decent alternative, and the one near Alewife would be very convenient to you. For only a bit more money there is Neptune Oyster in the North End, which is spectacular. You might also consider Legal Seafood, which certainly gets mixed reviews on Chowhound (as does Summer Shack, for that matter), but does some things well and is a local institution. Although I've never been to Union Oyster House, it gets decidedly mixed reviews (trends towards quite bad), and I'd probably recommend avoiding it.

        Beyond seafood, there are a number of restaurants serving what I think of as New England farm cuisine -- places like Harvest, Henrietta's Table, T. W. Food, Ten Tables, Craigie on Main, and EVOO are heavily focused on local ingredients and food influenced and inspired by New England produce, but are not really classic New England (many of them are French inspired in technique -- Craigie on Main in particular). Some are on the pricey side (Craigie on Main especially), but EVOO, Ten Tables, and T. W. Food all do 3 course prix fixe for in the $30-$45 range.

        1. I really enjoy the Fireplace in Washington Square in Brookline. The food has been delicious every time I have gone, and the ambience and service are great, too.

          4 Replies
          1. re: BlueTrain84

            Fireplace gets pretty uniformly poor reviews on this board and my own experience jibes with that.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Hmm, I didn't realize that and I am a regular reader on the board. Sorry to hear that you've had poor experiences there, I've never had a bad one.

                1. re: CookieLee

                  Egads, now I won't be wanting to go back, I have the utmost trust in the voice of the hounds!

            2. If they want real old-fashioned New England Yankee food such as Indian pudding, baked beans, coffee Jello, etc. the only place I can really think of is Durgin Park.

              4 Replies
              1. re: pemma

                The Wayside Inn in Sudbury is certainly traditional New England. I wouldn't characterize it as a great dining experience but you will get a very good meal at a reasonable price in a lovely setting. The waitstaff is pleasant and efficient.

                How about oysters at the bar at the Union Oyster House? I wouldn't recommend it for a full meal though.

                I would certainly put Locke-Ober in the extravagant category which you said you do not want.

                I personally would not recommend Summer Shack or Durgin Park. My last experience at Durgin Park was really bad.

                1. re: edgewater

                  I wouldn't say the Wayside Inn is a "great dining experience" either. That's not what the OP asked for. OP wanted traditional New England. And, as you pointed out, not extravagant, which is why I didn't mention Locke-Ober.
                  Around here, come Autumn / Winter, there is no more New England traditional setting with traditional food than the Wayside Inn. And, yes, the waitstaff is very gracious.

                  1. re: CookieLee

                    The only reason I said that is that in the OP she said she wanted "help in providing them with a few great dining experiences in the Boston area". I think the Wayside Inn is a perfect choice. Someone else suggested Locke-Ober.