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Oct 13, 2009 05:10 PM

2 weeks in Boston, Where to go?

I'm staying for the next two weeks at the Intercontential Hotel on Atlantic Avenue. I'm brand new to the area and feel out of water, normally having a very good hold on the NYC restaurant scene. I'm looking for good sources to investigate suggestions (think nymag's grubstreet) and also, but primarily, suggestions themselves.

Keep in mind, I'm looking for places I can only go to being in Boston (aka local restaurants and not chains). Price is not a concern, I will be looking to experience both ends of the spectrum when it comes to fine dining or dives and expensive or super cheap. I'm looking for anything that is excellent, be it a pizza joint or a steakhouse. What is superb and not to be missed?

When you have friends/family in town - where do you take them? In advance, thank you for all your suggestions and input.

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  1. Go to Cambridge: Cristina's for the kulfi ice cream; Oleana for anything and everything though a few days ago I had a fried fava appetizer with celery and mushrooms that was SO sublimely more than the sum of its parts; Hungry Mother, anything and everything -reserve for the dining room the bar's a little cramped; Helmand -food of afghanistan, I heard it's owned by Hamid Karzai's sister but you know how rumors are- the okra, the pumpkin with the beef sauce and the lamb chowpan and if you REALLY want a unique experience try Baraka Cafe -no alcohol but the lemonade is fantastic and do NOT miss the karentika.

    1. Some recommendations from a native New Yorker:

      o ya may be the best overall restaurant in Boston. The last restaurant critic of the New York Times, Frank Bruni, called it the best new restaurant of 2008 (outside of NYC). They serve modern/progressive sushi and sashimi along with an array of cooked dishes, and I've found the food to be terrific across the board. However, it is extremely pricey and the bill can rise well above $150 per person if you're not careful while ordering. o ya also has less appeal if you're looking for traditional sushi. Standouts include their famous foie gras nigiri (with balsamic, chocolate, and raisin) and wild bluefin tuna tataki.

      Troquet is the best wine-focused restaurant in Boston. The food is very good and the wine list is likely the best in the city. Their wine by the glass list is also quite interesting as they have both Krug Grand Cuvée and 2003 Château d'Yquem available in 2 oz. or 4 oz. pours. They're pricey ($40 for a glass of Krug, $70 for d'Yquem), but it's uncommon to see either offered by the glass at all. The standouts are the ricotta cavatelli and the roasted suckling pig.

      My favorite restaurant in Cambridge is Craigie on Main. I actually like dining at the bar the best, since their bar menu and cocktail program are both strong. There's the additional benefit of being to order off the dining room menu at the bar as well. The crispy-fried pigs tails and grilled Spanish octopus are especially delicious. Check their website for details on a Sunday deal (after 9 PM) called the "Chef's Whim," when Chef Tony Maws cooks either a $40 four course or $55 six course dinner comprised mostly of off-menu items. It's spontaneous, fun, and an incredible value considering the quality of the food.

      It's definitely worth getting New England style seafood while you're in Boston. The two best places are Neptune Oyster and B&G Oysters. As you can guess from their names, they both have great oysters, but they also specialize in simple and well-prepared seafood. The lobster roll is a favorite, but there are more ambitious dishes on both menus as well. Neptune Oyster also features a burger that's topped with fried oysters.

      I'll echo some of the suggestions in the post above. For ice cream, head out to Cambridge. Both Christina's and Toscanini's are great and probably better than what's available in NYC, which seems to be in more of a gelato craze. For relatively cheap but very tasty ethnic eats in Cambridge, I also recommend Helmand near MIT for Afghan food (which is uncommon in most cities) and Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square for street cafe-style Indian. I've heard the Hungry Mother serves very good Southern-inspired comfort food, but I haven't been yet.

      As for pizza, I'd honestly skip it as you can do much, much better in NYC. Same deal with steaks, as Boston steakhouses disappointingly take prime beef and dry aging much less seriously than NYC steakhouses. One of Boston's supposedly top steakhouses, Abe & Louie's, advertises melting cheese on top of their steaks as well as providing an array of different steak sauces. That seems downright heretical.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hcbk0702

        I agree with your comments about steakhouses and pizza btwn Boston and NYC and it never even occurred to me that I pointed out those two specific things when typing up the post. Thanks for your input, I'm looking into how far Cambridge is from where I am as it seems a majority of the recommendations are pointing me there.

        1. re: pneubecker

          O Ya is working distance from the hotel. Also the North End has great restaurants and again walking distance from your hotel. Prezza is excellent and Regina's for pizza in the NE is excellent. Neptune Oyster mentioned above serves a hot butter lobster roll - now that is good eatin'

          1. re: pneubecker

            I wouldn't totally write off pizza -- Regina's in the North End is quite good and worth trying.

        2. The suggestions so far are excellent. I think, however, that for one meal anyway you should experience an old Boston classic. Go to Locke-Ober for dinner and make sure you are seated in the first floor dining room. The food is very good (but not the best) and the surroundings are of another era. Check out some earlier threads for ideas what to order; generally their seafood is delicious. Walking distance from your hotel.

          3 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108

          1. Go to the North End early.... lunch around 10:30am for Galleria Umberto's arancini. The slices are good too.

            5 Replies
            1. re: mcel215

              i really don't get the love for umberto's. sorry. having grown up in brooklyn, you're talking apples and oranges.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                While I agree with you on the pizza (I enjoy it, but it's not all that), the arancini are very good, and the reason I go there. Well for that and for the ham salami ricotta calzone!

                1. re: kimfair1

                  Mare in the North End just off Hanover St. is excellent for Italian seafood.

                  1. re: sandiasingh

                    Daily Catch is also another place in the North End. It looks like a hole in the wall, but I really love their mussel app. The broth is simple but delicious.

                    I would also second Helmand. That's where I take all my out-of-town guests.

                    1. re: samsoon

                      But only go to the Daily Catch on Hanover street. For whatever reason the location at the federal courthouse is not that good.

            2. In the quick browse there seems to be a lack of cheapies on this list so I say to you if you are seeking wee dives with great food try the Delux Cafe at 100 Chandler street. A bar that serves food for young hipsters, but the food, oh the food! The grilled cheese with marinated artichokes, the homemade fruit salsa for the quesadillas, it is real quality stuff. Cash only!