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Looking for a dressy but affordable restaurant in Boston

a
alia09 Nov 28, 2009 04:41 AM

I am celebrating a birthday and want to take my friends to a restaurant where it would be appropriate to be dressed up, but not have to pay a ridiculous amount of money. Ideally, the entrees would all be no more than $20. Any suggestions?

  1. c
    CookieLee Nov 28, 2009 05:01 AM

    While I'm not able to specify a restaurant with your budget in mind, I will say, you can get dressed up to go anywhere. I've seen folks wearing jeans at the Capital Grill. Personally, I pretty much get "dressed up" whenever I go out. Put on your finery, and Happy Birthday!

    1. d
      DrPotatoHead Nov 28, 2009 08:56 AM

      Petit Robert Bistro (South End or Kenmore) - Nice atmosphere with a very affordable french menu

      Ivy (Downtown Crossing) - Italian meets small plates, and all bottles of wine at $26

      Dolce Vita (North End) - Best host in the city, and don't hesitate to order off menu

      Orinoco (South End or Brookline) - If you haven't tried Venezuelan food yet, I promise you will not be disappopinted.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DrPotatoHead
        s
        sammy Nov 28, 2009 11:14 AM

        Food's good at Orinoco, but the service at Orinoco is horrible unless you're a regular or friend of the owner. Don't bother for a birthday dinner - it'll ruin your entire experience.

        1. re: sammy
          l
          lypp Nov 28, 2009 01:39 PM

          That's funny (in the ironic way) because I did go there for my birthday last year and the service was so bad it did ruin my entire experience. They made us wait an hour for 3 of us to sit while they sat table after table of couples who came in way after us (including tables that opened side by side). I'll never go back - no food is worth being treated so rudely.

          As for a place that's affordable but you could dress up, what about La Voile? Or even Beehive?

        2. re: DrPotatoHead
          Allstonian Nov 28, 2009 01:40 PM

          Dolce Vita? Dolce Vita???? House of Ai-Yi-Yi? No. I would not recommend that place to my worst enemy. Dull, overpriced food and a hideous kitschy parody of the old-fashioned Italian-American restaurant experience.

          Not to mention that the only way the OP could stick to their stated budget would be to order only pasta or chicken entrees - there is not a single meat or seafood entree on the menu for under $20.

          1. re: Allstonian
            BarmyFotheringayPhipps Nov 28, 2009 02:08 PM

            I concur. If I had to pick a Worst Restaurant In Boston, it would be Dolce Vita.

        3. c
          caserole Nov 28, 2009 02:43 PM

          I'd like to nominate The Helmand in Cambridge. It is a very classy place and the prices are quite reasonable; in the $15-20 range for entrees. Delicious food, too!

          1 Reply
          1. re: caserole
            Allstonian Nov 28, 2009 03:30 PM

            Oh, good one! I've actually been to birthday gatherings there on more than one occasion. Not super-dressy but you wouldn't feel out of place dressed up, and the food is excellent.

          2. lipoff Nov 29, 2009 01:10 AM

            This is a great thread.

            I would also second the Helmand.

            The Masona Grill might be a little far away, but I think this would also fit your bill.

            Cafe Samovar is a very elegant Russian restaurant in Brookline.

            The Jasmine Bistro in Brighton might also be a candidate.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lipoff
              t
              trueblu Nov 29, 2009 03:22 PM

              cafe samovar is closed.

              In addition to some excellent suggestions, one which might divide opinion: Bernards in Chestnut Hill. It's a non-authentic Chinese but the food is really very good, and it would be appropriate to go non-casual.

              tb

            2. MC Slim JB Nov 29, 2009 04:14 PM

              Dress how you want: no one in Boston seems to care one way or another, even in the fanciest places. Some places I like with most entrees under $20:

              Bon Savor, Trattoria Toscana, Ten Tables (JP or Cambridge), Jasmine Bistro, Metropolis Cafe, Pops, Coda, Temple Bar, The Franklin (South End and Southie), Garden at the Cellar, Casa Portugal.

              Agree on Dolce Vita: nasty clip joint.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              7 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB
                t
                the modern serf Nov 29, 2009 07:58 PM

                Temple Bar must have gotten a little pricier since you were last there; most of the mains run over $20 now, e.g. a $25 steak frites, though they have pizzas, sandwiches, and giant salads for about $12.

                1. re: the modern serf
                  MC Slim JB Nov 30, 2009 03:11 AM

                  That's true about Temple Bar: only about half its entrees are under $20, including pastas. The dish I remember there from a review I did for Stuff Magazine about six months ago is a risotto of pea tendrils, favas and ramps, which was lovely and only $18, a fine vegetarian entree. But then I added a big chunk of foie gras for another $14 to it. So it definitely stretches the OP's price target.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                2. re: MC Slim JB
                  Snoop37 Nov 29, 2009 08:07 PM

                  I love love the Ten Table in JP! I think this place is perfect for what you are looking for. It's small, however.... I'm not sure how many friends you'll be bringing, but there really are only ten tables.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    h
                    hazelhurst Nov 30, 2009 07:23 AM

                    Your comment raises the question (and this is outside the target price, of course) as to what the dress at Locke-Ober is these days. they seemed to be Holding the Line when I was there a couple of years ago. [I can remember when you did not even cross the threshold of L-O or The Ritz without a coat and tie.]

                    1. re: hazelhurst
                      MC Slim JB Nov 30, 2009 11:38 AM

                      Locke-Ober is the strictest remnant of a pretty lax bunch. The current official dress code is "business casual: no tennis shoes, hiking boots, athletic shoes, jeans, denim clothing, shorts or t-shirts." The host may let you sit in the bar if you're wearing jeans and/or sneakers, but not always. I've witnessed some ugly scenes at the stand as a result.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    2. re: MC Slim JB
                      Joanie Nov 30, 2009 11:57 AM

                      While i agree you can dress however you want, I wouldn't bother dressing up for Bon Savor, Toscana, Jasmine, etc. Agree with polly's thoughts below and PRB. Would never bother dressing for Orinoco. Maybe the Blue Room (pushing the price tho), Eastern Standard (haven't given that as an answer for a while), La Morra (do they still do 4 courses for $35), Tapeo, Toro, Laurel.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        b
                        bluesjack Dec 3, 2009 05:56 AM

                        never been tot eh South End location but in Southie you'd feel at home "dressed up" nice atmosphere and very good food

                      2. p
                        pollystyrene Nov 30, 2009 03:33 AM

                        Grotto, Gaslight, upstairs at Marliave, and I agree with the Helmand rec.

                        1. t
                          thesmoker8 Dec 2, 2009 12:23 PM

                          I would second Ten Tables. It's a GREAT restaurant. Under $20 might be pushing it but it's well worth the money.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: thesmoker8
                            e
                            eastiefoodie Dec 2, 2009 01:05 PM

                            The Ten Tables in Cambridge was a great spot for my birthday dinner (with 7 people) last year. Some people were dressed up and some were casually dressed. I also agree with Gaslight and Helmand and the Franklin Cafe (both). I'm unable to think of anything new to add, as most places that jump to mind don't truly fit in the price range, but if you were willing to travel out to Needham, Sweet Basil is delicious and BYO - and dressing up there wouldn't be too strange.

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