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Sep 28, 2009 03:44 PM

Boston with "no reservations"

My partner and I are traveling to Boston for a 5 day stay and we need ideas of places to eat on a moderate budget. We love good food but don't really want places that require reservations or where we have to dress up or anything fancy like that as we are looking for a more laid back visit. We are definitely looking for some good basic new england chowder as well as a decently priced lobster roll (she goes to Maine every summer so she knows a good one, and one worth the price when she sees it). Also looking for places to eat around Fenway for a late lunch/light snack before some night games. Then I need a recommendation for a breakfast place near the harbor area so that we can wake early to take some sunrise pictures and then get a bite to eat, as far as breakfast goes we really like mom & pop/diners type places for breakfast. Any suggestions for any of this will be much appreciated. (if you've ever watched "diners dives and drive-ins" or "no reservations" that's generally our kind of food unless we're craving a good steak or some sushi [also will take ideas on places for either of those] ) *and one more thing..i menitoned pictures so if you can send us places that'll get some good (not touristy) shots of the area that'd be great too.* Thanks to everyone for their input.

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  1. The usual questions: where will you be staying, will you have a car, will you be taking the T...

    (Also, Bostonians die a little inside whenever anyone says or types "chowdah.")

    3 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      We'll be staying in Burlington and will have a car.

      And one more question..I know Boston isn't Buffalo..but my partner is from the Buffalo area so any good suggestions to catch some football and eat some good wings?

      1. re: hungry4life

        The wings are in a bar called Buff's Pub in Newton Corner, just off exit 17 on the Mass Pike. And they have tv's that are viewable anywhere in the place. It is rather small, so get there early.

      2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        As much as I agree about the use of "chowdah" (and lobstah), too many people use it here all the time to chastise the out of towners.

        I totally agree with the East Boston recommendation. Piers Park is a beautiful place and Scup's is fun. You can call the water taxi and mention you're going to Scup's and it's only $10 RT. Or a short walk from Maverick Sq. on the blue line. Sel de la Terre has a nice selection of baked goods for breakfast. People like the lobster roll at Neptune in the North End which is an area of town you should walk thru. Most likely you'll have a wait tho. Also in the Fenway area are Audobon for casual burgers and a few nicer meals and Petit Robert Bistro for French that's all <$20.

      3. A couple of general points:

        If you are planning on no-reservations on Friday & Saturday nights, do expect a wait if you plan to eat at peak dining times (7-8:30) - it's better to be prepared to eat earlier (like 6) if you want to avoid a long wait but want to avoid the risk of specials running out.

        Boston Harbor is not something that is readily captured well at sunrise; the shape of and commercial uses around the harbor don't make for great shoreline photography and breakfast eats. (The best way to see the harbor is to take a ferry to the Harbor Islands, but they are seasonal and the season is winding up soon.)

        However, being in Burlington, you have the option of taking Route 128 to much more picturesque harbors: Marblehead (including Marblehead Neck), Manchester-by-the-Sea, Gloucester (for sunrise, the Bass Rocks off Eastern Point would be great), and Rockport.

        And you should not neglect the fried clamshack heaven that is Route 133 from Essex to Rowley; there are many threads on these boards about that.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          Well Friday night we'll be at a Sox game, but perhaps we'll try to find one special place to make reservations for on Saturday and thank you so much for the recommendations about pictures.

          1. re: Karl S

            might I add a homer simpson "uuugggnnnnnggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" to Karl's cape ann recs

            yeah. do it if you can. I think I know what I'm doing this weekend if the weather is good.

            1. re: Karl S

              actually, the views from east boston are amazing and they could have breakfast at scup's.

              and to the op: keep in mind, this is a very congested densley populated region. although burlington isn't "far" from boston, it's about 20 miles and at least a 30 minute drive without any traffic. game day or peak times add many more minutes to your schedule for travel and parking is a bear.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Well, I would not want to be driving into East Boston at breakfast rush hour, so I had not considered that any more likely than going to Hull or Worlds End in Hingham on the South Shore, though they have fabulous views of the outer harbor.

                1. re: Karl S

                  is there major traffic at sunrise, especially going IN to eastie? i don't have a car, so frankly am always amazed when out-of-towners want to just jaunt around the city in one, because it sucks driving here even as a local.

                  as joanie mentioned, there are plenty of alternatives to driving there, however i thoroughly agree with your cape ann recs.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Um, there be a ton of people from the inner North Shore taking Rte 1A to the tunnels to Boston. That and the Tobin Bridge are the main ways people get to Boston from the North Shore. Taking I-93 to Boston to head to Eastie via the tunnels in the opposite direction is not exactly pretty, either, especially by 6:30AM (which is before sunrise this time of year).

                    Add to that all the people heading to Logan Airport early in the morning, and you get a formula for non-relaxation.

                    Not where I'd go were I on a vacation jaunt.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      what about on a saturday or sunday morning, still just as bad?

                      1. re: hungry4life

                        No, unless there is construction or road closures. But in the more commercial areas that are only busy during the week but dead on weekends, some eateries may not be open in the morning.

                        If you are heading into Boston on Sunday morning early to see the harbor, you might consider going to breakfast at the Friendly Toast outside Kendall Square in Cambridge (get there by 9-9:30 - they open at 8) - fantastic breakfast, very casual, and in Cambridge you don't have to worry about meters or residential parking permit issues on Sundays.* I've had nothing but great service and fantastic food there (but I never go to restaurants at peak dining hours if I can help it - food and service are always best before peak times); the french toast (a food I normally don't yearn for because it's usually mediocre) is the best I've had anywhere.


                        * Cambridge is more civilized than Boston in that regard - Boston has a variety of informal practices of leniency regarding parking on Sundays during church hours, but they are inexplicable to people who don't live nearby - just don't be shocked to see cars parked over yellow stripes in the middle of certain roads; that's just how we manage things around here. In general, though, municipalities are very hungry for ticket revenue in this depression.....

            2. Around Fenway, Eastern Standard, Trattoria Toscana and La Verdad are all very good, especially the first two. Sorry, I don't eat breakfast or seafood, so that's all I can contribute!

              1. I enjoy taking pics of Boston Harbor. I ride my bike along the wharves and occassionally get a good shot..There's a bike shop that rents and gives tours on Atlantic Ave near the Marriot.


                Another good option mentined is the water taxi breakfast at Scups and take shots for Piers Park in East Boston. In the AM, you'll have the sun at your back. Keep in mind that most shots will be of an "industrial working harbor."

                A little North, Marblehead Harbor has a lot of photo opportunities and the Driftwood has a good breakfast.


                3 Replies
                1. re: 9lives

                  Your pictures have really helped, I think I will definitely try to check out Marblehead I really like the shots that you got there. Thanks!

                  1. re: hungry4life

                    Marblehead is really beautiful. If you find yourself South of Boston, Scituate is another nice harbor.

                    BTW, if you ask nicely, you could probably get a nice harbor cruise from any of the launch drivers at the clubs.

                    My breakfast spot in Scituate is Phin's on Front st


                    1. re: hungry4life

                      The best shots of the harbor with the rising sun hitting the hills of Old Town in Marblehead (for old timers, the "r" is barely pronounced) over the harbor can be had from the tip of Marblehead Neck (one of the ritziest 'hoods around), Chandler Hovey Park:


                      Here's an image of when the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) sailed into the harbor for the ship's bicentenary in 1997:


                      And, to keep to food, here's a link to a 2008 thread on Marblehead eats:


                  2. I think the best, inexpensive, casual, no-reservations option in Boston is - by far -Chinatown.

                    Winsor for dim sum. Best Little Restaurant for roast squab. Gourmet Dumpling House for eel and yellow chive. Vinh Sun for Hong Kong roasted duck/pork. New Jumbo or Peach Farm for seafood. Mei Sum Bakery for bahn mi sandwiches. Xinh Xinh for pho. That bakery on the corner with the "Coffee Shop" sign for steamed coconut, pineapple, and custurd rolls. All within a short distance of each other and each worth a visit.

                    For some of the best food in Boston - and definitely the best value - do the Chinatown crawl!