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Toronto Foodies coming to Boston - Recs please

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  • excel Nov 10, 2009 05:06 PM
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Hello fellow hounders!

We're coming to Boston for 4 days at the beginning of Dec and we're looking for a must visit list. We've never been to Boston before and we're looking to have the quintessential Boston foodie experience. We do have one day booked at Blue Ginger, we're Ming Tsi fans so this is a for sure for us. We need recommendations for all 3 meals, we're probably looking for 1 find dinning experience, preferably showing off what Boston's food scene is all about.

Thanks guys, can't wait to see what you guy have to say!

-----
Blue Ginger
583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

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  1. Where are you staying? Any constraints/loves? Will you have a car?

    2 Replies
    1. re: UrsusArctosHorribilis

      We're staying by the waterfront. No constraints. Loves, we tent to favour casual dining/comfort food (ex. french bistros) locally sourced. With that said, we love eating what the locals eat and where they go, whether it's a street vendor, food truck, hole in the wall, or dinning room. We're look for the local foodie experience, we'll try everything and anything. We will have a car and don't mind driving out as long as it's not too out of the way.

      1. re: excel

        If you're really interested in street vendors, then don't miss Speed's for the best hot dog you'll ever have. You'll find plenty of posts if you do a search. You won't regret it.

    2. For Fine dining:

      O Ya (Leather District): Upscale New-Japanese, very expensive, but arguably the best the city has to offer.
      Craigie on Main (Central Square): Very comfortable, French Leaning, locavore, excellent restaurant (This actually would fit your likes very well)

      Otherwise I would strongly recommend Neptune Oyster (North End) for a great seafood meal.

      Another destination that I always try to steer my friends and family from Toronto to is East Boston, which is home to a great collection of Central and South American restaurants. The two places to focus on are Rincon Limeno (Peruvian) and Angela's Cafe (Mexican).

      Plus if you are cocktail fans a visit to Drink (Fort Point) for the best cocktails in the city.

      -----
      O Ya
      9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

      Neptune Oyster
      63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

      Rincon Limeno
      409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

      Angela's Cafe
      131 Lexington St, Boston, MA 02128

      Craigie on Main
      853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

      5 Replies
      1. re: Matt H

        Welcome to Boston. Let me tag onto Matt's post as a fellow TO expat. You will be close to the North End. I think Toronto is generally better for Italian, but it's a fun neighborhood. i second Neptune Oyster and would add Maria's pastry for the lobster tail or sfoliatelle and the original Pizzeria Regina (ask for well done). Try these off hours if you can. Downtown/State House, Number 9 Park, Grotto and Beacon Hill Bistro are all. Would not suggest Cantonese while here but a couple of other typese of Chinese might interest you (Fuloon Shanghai Gate, Jo Jo Taipei). Portuguese/Brazilian is a strength compared to TO and Cambridge has a couple of good places (Muqueca, Atasca).

        -----
        Beacon Hill Bistro
        25 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

        Neptune Oyster
        63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

        Shanghai Gate
        204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

        JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
        103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

        1. re: gourmaniac

          If you want Chinese, Best Little Restaurant in Chinatown is also excellent and unusual. The long bean, pork lettuce wrap is awesome as is the squab, garlic fried spare ribs, and the Cuttlefish in XO sauce.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            In general I would agree with you and enjoy it myself, but coming from Toronto, BLR wouldn't be close for Cantonese/Fukien. I recall that there were 600 chinese restaurants in the mid90s and many more since and entire suburban malls that are Chinese.

            1. re: gourmaniac

              I concur: as good as our best Cantonese restaurants are, there are 10 times as many good ones in Toronto. Definite coals to Newcastle.

              1. re: gourmaniac

                My understanding is that BLR is not Cantonese.

        2. It isn't fine dining. It isn't even a meal. But Boston people love their ice cream, even in winter. If you want to do as the locals do, make your way to one of the following high altars to sugary, artery-clogging goodness:

          - Toscanini's (Central Square Cambridge, where you may find yourself dining, anyway)
          - Rancatore's (Belmont and Lexington. The Lexington location is right near various historic sites.)
          - Christina's (Inman Square, Cambridge)

          -----
          Christina's Homemade Ice Cream
          1255 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          Toscanini's Ice Cream
          899 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          Rancatore's Ice Cream
          1752 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

          6 Replies
          1. re: PinchOfSalt

            Thanks a lot guys, keep the recommendations coming. I forgot to mention that we love seafood and Neptune Oyster sounds like a place worth going to. Don't forget we're looking places that are quintessential Boston, something we couldn't get any where else or a place where every foodie in Boston would go to and try.

            Also, I was wondering what you guys thought about Durgin Park Restaurant, The Butcher Shop Restaurant, Legal Seafoods Restaurants, Prezza Restaurant? and of course where can we get the best Boston Clam Chowder and Maine Lobsters?

            Thanks guys!

            -----
            Neptune Oyster
            63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

            1. re: excel

              Prezza is excellent. Durgin Park is not. Legal Seafood is good for the chowder and lobster you mention, but is not otherwise chowish.

              -----
              Prezza Restaurant
              24 Fleet St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

              Durgin Park
              1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

              1. re: pollystyrene

                I think as long as you're thinking of Durgin Park as "quintessential Boston" as opposed to "great restaurant," then it's entertaining.

                -----
                Durgin Park
                1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                1. re: pollystyrene

                  polly, as a young foodie student30 yrs ago ! i really enjoyed the duck and the indian pudding at DP. Have you tried them; are they really not good anymore?

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    I haven't been to Durgin Park since I was a youngster either. I didn't know they had duck! I thought Indian pudding was gross then, and I think I still would, but I know there are people here who like it. I was basing my (non)recommendation on what seems to be a large number of detractors here. (Then again, no one here seems to like Johnny D's but me, so I should probably keep my unsubstantiated opinions to myself!)

                    -----
                    Durgin Park
                    1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                2. re: excel

                  No question about Neptune Oyster - a must - go off-peak or expect a wait as it is tiny.

                  The best NE lobster experience in town that I know of currently is the 2-lb steamed lobster at Oceanaire for $30 - request a hard shell and you are likely to get it (yes, it is a small chain, but the lobster is local and the room/service is very professional) - the sides are huge and reasonably priced - 2-4 people can share a small hash brown, spinach, and brussel sprouts and be very satisfied. It can also add up quickly if you get into the 8 oz glasses of wine or special entrees.

                  Also, if you care a bit about cocktail craft, Drink is quickly becoming a don't-miss institution - worth making a special trip - really.

                  -----
                  Neptune Oyster
                  63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                  Oceanaire
                  40 Court Street, Boston, MA 02108

                  Drink
                  348 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

              2. Welcome to our historic and handsome city. Given what you have in toronto, I would most stronlgy recommend Clio, Pizzeria Regina and O-Ya to you.To put them in context:

                I hope you go to the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End. This is many afficianados' fav pizza place period. It is the original(and only worthwhile) location of what is now a chain, and most importantly, its pizzas taste like no others , partly because of the WWII oven they use, which is more than 'seasoned' by now. This pizza tastes like it does in Rome. It is also a tiny CROWDED, loud, FUNKY space; unique; not decor-changed since the 50's maybe. If you haven’t been there, don't go on a wkend,and go for lunch or earlier dinner to avoid lines.

                Regina’s is located on the outer edge of the compact North End, so after pizza, walk over to the Hanover St. (main drag) area and feel the history of this unique neighborhood.Its oldest extant buildings are from the early 19th c.; through the centuries it has been peopled successively, by : rich bostonians, blacks,jews, italians. It has been Italian since the early 20th c. While harbor-dwelling yuppies have been encroaching of late, it still has lots of sidewalk life, Italian being spoken, bacci being played. There are some wonderful gelato/cafes on Hanover St. I particularly like the gelato at.Cafe Sport, and Modern Pastry is across the street, with wonderful quaresimali(an Easter specialty avail yr.round- a version of almond biscotti)
                and sfogliadel, a very unusual 3 cornered hat of layered/crunchy pastry filled with a farmer's cheese/candied fruit mixture. (While many will steer you to Mike’s Pastry, I won't.)The North End is also home to the 18th c. Old North Church and 19th c. Seamen's Home etc etc. If you like to discover-by-walking, the end of Hanover St away from downtown Boston- leads onto the waterfront area. This is also architecturally and historically fascinating because it is very intact with its 19th c. warehouses/wharves (now waterview condos). With all I've described, you might find it worth your while to go to Regina's and the North End for lunch and the afternoon. You could incorporate the nearby Aquarium, and Sel de la Terre for dinner (excellent ,modern French style, a fav of CHs here.)You could also go the local seafood route and try Neptune Oyster in the North End (a CH favorite.)

                .
                The South End is Boston’s amazing well-preserved and very large Victorian district, chock-a-block w/ handsome brick and brownstone rowhouses and pocket parks, with a large gay population and lots of super restaurants(mostly bistro style). Union Bar and Grill and Acquitaine are my own favs. The former is handsome, dark, comfy with amer.regional food; the latter is trad French, very well executed and very attractive room.Tremont 647 has a FUN Sunday brunch, their famous Pajama Brunch, where all their servers, chefs etc. wear their pjs.On the edge of the South End is Toro, a very loud crowded Spanish tapas place owned by one of our most famous innovative chefs, Ken Oringer, whose Clio is probably Boston’s most innovative(Asian influenced) restaurant (and very expensive).

                Make sure to experience one of Boston's most beautiful features: Comm Ave between Mass Ave and Arlington St.(next to the Public Garden, the oldest arboretum/public park in the U.S).This part of Comm. Ave was designed after the Champs Elysees and is a long strip of park with handsome 19th c. homes lining both sides. It is parallel to and one block away from Newbury Street, Boston’s center of couture and art galleries , with many restaurants.

                At the other end of Newbury St. and across the Public Garden, away from Comm Ave, is Beacon Hill, Boston’s well preserved elite neighborhood of 18th and 19th c. town and rowhouses. Near the State House side of Beacon Hill (and the Boston Common) is No.9 Park, exp. innovative Northern Italian, beloved by many CHs.

                Near South Station, a train hub, is a new and newly famous Japanese restnt- O Ya; recently heralded as ‘one of best new restnts in u.s’. by some famous critic. Very expensive and innovative.

                Do report back so we can learn from your experiences.

                10 Replies
                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  I forgot to mention:
                  Next to Fenway Park, our beloved old baseball park., is a terrific Mexican taco place, La Verdad. Their tacos of carne asado, pescado, and chiles rellenos- are the best i have ever ever had, and be sure to also get their refried beans and silky soft citrus cinnamon flan.Open for lunch and dinner and a 5 minute drive from our amazing Museum of Fine Arts, world famous for its substantial collections of French Impressionism, American paintings and decorative arts, and Japanese art.

                  If you end up exploring bustling student-oriented Harvard Square, Casablanca is a long running underground bistro w/ a loyal academic following; open for lunch and dinner, Moroccan, French and Mediterranean in slant.The murals of the movie are great and it's a quiet comfie spot to have lunch and relax from the din. Harvard Square is beautifully situated on the Charles River and the historic 18th and 19th c. Brattle Street mansions make for very pleasant strolling/driving out of the Square.

                  Also, if you go out to Blue Ginger in Wellesley before it gets dark, be sure to drive Rt.16 (and not Rt.9) west of Rt 128 because it is a very pretty rd. Wellesley is a lovely town, known for Wellesley College, whose bucolic lakeside campus is well worth a drive-around.

                  -----
                  Blue Ginger
                  583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

                  La Verdad
                  1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

                  Fenway Park
                  82 Lansdowne Street, Boston, MA 02215

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    Thanks guys for the insight. Anymore restaurant recs - surely there has to be more quintessential Boston restaurants or must eats in Boston?

                    1. re: excel

                      The places mentioned have given you a pretty good base to start with, but just to add a few more options:

                      Oleana (Central Square): A twist on Mediterranean food, with dishes spanning from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Greece.

                      Hungry Mother (Kendall Square): Refined Southern Comfort food, think of Harlem Restaurant in Toronto but much, much better.

                      Taranta (North End): A fusion of Peruvian and Southern Italian, very unique and good.

                      Scampo (Beacon Hill): Creative Italian menu that is well executed. The big draw though is the fact that it is located in the Liberty Hotel, which is a renovated Jail and if you like Architecture is a must see. A drink at the Bar at Alibi after is a nice combination as well.

                      Bin 26 (Beacon Hill): One of the better Wine bars in the city with a very good menu to match.

                      If you want something completely unique to Massachusetts that you will not find in other parts of the continent you could try one of our Cape Verdean restaurants.

                      The only one I have personally tried is Restaurant Cesaria in Dorchester, but my friends from Cape Verde say it is the best. Keep in mind that as of last census there were only 400,000 people of Cape Verdean decent living in the United States, 360,000 of those are in Massachusetts, so this is the place to try this type of food.

                      As far as searching for that "quintessential" Boston experience it really is difficult to find. Over half of the population of Boston are transplants from somewhere else (myself included) and do not eat so called traditional Bostonian food. What you have here is a multicultural melting pot like any other major N. American city and it is reflected in our choices of restaurants.

                      -----
                      Oleana
                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                      Hungry Mother
                      Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                      Scampo
                      215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

                      Oleana
                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                      Hungry Mother
                      233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02141

                      1. re: Matt H

                        matt, excellent articulate explanation.
                        When i think of 'quintessential Boston' I think of the 40? year old Durgin Park menu that includes such trad. New Eng. fare as:
                        clam chowder, lobster, roast beef, Indian Pudding. But it appears that CHs don't eat at Durgin Park, (maybe because it's located in the 'touristy' Quincy Market and has been in Boston for longer than forever?) Excel, maybe you'd enjoy it. BTW, essential to its infamy is its older rude waitresses. So let us know where you end up going..

                        -----
                        Durgin Park
                        340 Faneuil Hall Market Pl, Boston, MA 02109

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Speaking as a native (and not some college import who stuck around - I was born in this city), I still consider Durgin Park worth a visit now and then. Stick with the prime rib and Indian pudding and you can't go wrong. If you're a big eater, order the large cut of prime rib - the way that bone hangs over the edge of the plate always makes me think haunch of mastodon.

                          -----
                          Durgin Park
                          1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                      2. re: excel

                        I think quintessential Boston might include Locke -Ober on Winter Street. Lots of history and an old world look - good food too but perhaps a little pricey

                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                      I'm sorry but I really do not understand all the praise that your throwing towards Pizzeria Regina. This place is simply a small step above pizza hut. The pizza is greasy and tasteless. The staff feels entitled to a 20% tip for yelling and berating their customers. The place is flat out dirty with sub par pizza.

                      1. re: jamesl8n

                        ooooh james. we are definitely on different busses here. i can't imagine thinking that of their pizzas. You went to the North End Regina's?????? Gee, maybe even the best restnts have bad days............. but even on their worst day, I can't imagine comparing R's to P.H. But let's not kidnap this thread.

                        1. re: jamesl8n

                          Hm. You say the staff yells at and berates its customers. I say it's the sort of place where the waitresses call me "hon" every time they stop by my table. Either we're going to different restaurants or we're very different customers.

                          1. re: jamesl8n

                            omg PR is a shrine. PH is.... is.... I don't think I am allowed to say here...

                        2. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Locke Ober.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: joth68

                            Thanks guys, keep the recs and insights coming. Any more info on Locke Ober?

                            What about street vendors, hole in the walls, and cheap and cheerful spots? With a big college crowd in Boston I'd expect a lot of these types of recs too.

                            1. re: excel

                              Haven't ever been to Locke-Ober myself; do a board search for more info. However, if you're looking for both quintessentially Boston and upscale, they should definitely be on your list.

                              Boston doesn't actually have a great culture of street vendors, with the exception of Speed's hot dogs, referenced above. There are apparently some good carts downtown, but they're weekday/midday only.

                              Cheap and cheerful/holes in the wall abound in Allston. One you might be interested in because it's an unusual cuisine - YoMa offers Burmese food, which I don't think you will find anywhere in the GTA. Jo Jo Taipei and Shanghai Gate, both referenced above, are also in that area; there's also Thai, Korean, Brazilian, shabu-shabu, and a great pan-Asian food court connected to the Hong Kong Supermarket/Super 88 at the intersection of Brighton and Commonwealth Avenues. Oh, nice little Turkish place near that intersection as well.

                              Another good neighborhood to explore for cheap & cheerful, with a heavy emphasis on Latin American, is East Boston - Angela's and Rincon Limeno, both referenced above, are in that neck of the woods.

                              The big drawback is that neither Allston nor East Boston really offer much to tourists *except* for great eats - they're not scenic neighborhoods, there's no museums or shopping or other attractions - so it's hard to recommend them to a first-time visitor to Boston with a limited amount of time in town.

                              -----
                              Shanghai Gate
                              204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                              Locke-Ober
                              3 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108

                              JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                              103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                              1. re: Allstonian

                                Looks like we were thinking along the same lines! I do agree with you about Eastie and Allston not being scenic, but since the OP has a car a quick dinner trip to East Boston really wouldn't be that time consuming, but yes it is a bit off the usual tourist beaten path.

                                1. re: Allstonian

                                  very well put.

                                2. re: excel

                                  As I mentioned above East Boston has an impressive collection of Central and South American restaurants and Taqueria's, very affordable destination with some great eats. Anglea's Cafe and Rincon Limeno as linked are my favorites. Here is a link to a thread breaking down the neighborhood in detail. Good Latin American food is lacking in Toronto so this is worth while.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4484...

                                  Villa Mexico (Beacon Hill) is a small Taqueria at the back of a Gas Station that serves my favorite Burrito in Boston, it doesn't get more hole in the wall that .

                                  Chacarero (Downtown Crossing) is a good place to stop off lunch time for a big, filling and delicious Chilean sandwich.

                                  Flames II (Brigham Circle) is one of my favorite Jamaican restaurants outside of Jamaica. Try the ESCOVEITCH Fish, very good, especially if you are a fan of Jamaican cuisine.

                                  Chinatown is also a popular affordable destination, but as someone who spent time living in Markham/Richmond Hill myself, I think it doesn't match up to the selection and quality you will find in Toronto.

                                  With that being said it is a worthwhile trip for a Banh Mi. My favorites are Mei Sum Bakery and Mikes Banh Mi.

                                  -----
                                  Rincon Limeno
                                  409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                                  Villa Mexico
                                  296 Cambridge St, Boston, MA 02114

                                  Chacarero
                                  101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

                                  1. re: Matt H

                                    Thanks everyone...We're struggling for some breakfast and lunch spots any recs for those meals?

                                    1. re: excel

                                      For a slightly upscale breakfast, North 26 in the Millenium Hotel is nice. The eggs benedict with buttered grilled or toasted house-made English muffins and decent hollandaise are very good, as are the homefries and coffee. Red flannel hash, (which in this version is really more of a saute), has good-sized pieces of corned beef with nicely cooked beets and other root vegetables. Service has been pretty enthusiastic the two times that we've gone.

                                      If you go, walk through the restaurant into the hotel just to look at the gorgeous varieties of wood that they used throughout the place.

                                      -----
                                      North 26 Restaurant & Bar
                                      26 North Street, Boston, MA 02109

                                      1. re: excel

                                        Try breakfast (or lunch) at Mike and Patty's in Bay Village. Very tasty, latin-influenced dishes, and I think that Bay Village is a fun place to walk around - it's sort of the apotheosis of Boston's tiny neighborhood construction, a wholly contained neighborhood in about three city blocks. Small place, though, not so easy to get a seat.

                                        Other places - Parish Cafe on Boylston has good sandwiches designed, apparently, by different Boston chefs. Someone else mentioned Chacarero for Chilean beef sandwiches, that's a hearty lunch. Charlie's Sandwich Shop in the South End is a classic Boston location serving very good basic breakfasts. Not too far away is Tremont 647 which has a fabulous weekend brunch, great scene, and a very nice croque madame. If you're looking for real-deal Boston accents and a good corned beef hash, Mike's City Diner in the south end is fun place.

                                        One thing, not on the lunch/brunch side, but a fun thing I've done with friends is a meal of tapas split between Estragon and Toro, the two best Spanish restaurants in the city, which are only 4-5 blocks away from each other. Get the pringas at Estragon and the charcuterie at Toro.

                                        -----
                                        Toro
                                        1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                                        Tremont 647
                                        647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

                                        Mike's City Diner
                                        1714 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                                        Chacarero
                                        101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

                                3. I would have to recommend going to one of Michael Schlow's restaurants. (He is often a guest on Simply Ming) Radius is great for fine dining, and Via Matta has the best Italian in the city. After spending some time in Italy, I have to say it is the most authentic food I've found this side of the Atlantic. It's definitely better than Prezza, which everyone seems to love on this board.

                                  I would also second Craigie on Main for some amazing grub (and out of this world cocktails).

                                  You can easily eat at the bar in Radius, Via Matta or Craigie (maybe with a little waiting) and still get the full menu plus the bar menu too.

                                  -----
                                  Radius
                                  8 High St, Boston, MA 02129

                                  Via Matta
                                  79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                                  Craigie on Main
                                  853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ecwashere7

                                    Thanks for the continued help! We're trying to decide between Prezza, The butcher Shop and now Via Matta - any insight into the 3 would be great and which one of the 3 would be quintessential of Boston's food scene?

                                    I'm also surprised that no one has mentioned the East Coast Grill or Chris Schlesinger. What about Lydia Shire and Locke-ober? Are they not worth going to while in Boston, aren't they quintessential Boston?

                                    -----
                                    Via Matta
                                    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                                    Prezza Restaurant
                                    24 Fleet St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                    1. re: excel

                                      I don't think Via Matta or Prezza re quintessentialy Boston but both are great restaurants. Prezza is a much smaller room than VM. There are several references to Locke-Ober on this thread. It is quintessentially Boston with lots of history. See earlier post above. East coast grill is lots of fun. Mixed reviews lately but one of my favorites.

                                      -----
                                      Locke-Ober
                                      3 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108

                                      Via Matta
                                      79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                                      Prezza Restaurant
                                      24 Fleet St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113