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Jan 12, 2010 11:58 AM

If you were to propose

what restaurants would make the short list to go down on one knee? I am researching options and this one is on my list for potentials.

Thank you.

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        1. Since you seem to be seeking real recommendations, let me suggest a few where proposals are not uncommon, and the staff is probably accustomed to helping out would-be grooms-to-be:

          L'Espalier -- probably does a dozen proposals a week. Will work with you on a suitable presentation and timing. Will wordlessly whisk away your flowers and replace your Champagne with a bottle of whiskey if she says no and flees. Incredible food (super-fancy New American/French) and service, though not quite as charming ambience-wise in its new location as it once once. Prepare to drop about $400 on dinner with modest wine, but hey, you only propose once (with any luck).

          Locke-Ober -- excellent if she's part of the upper crust, the Old Line set, a Brahmin princess. The good news is that your neighbors are unlikely to break out into song after you do the deed, as their jaws are too tightly clenched. Also very fine food, a New England / mid-century Continental menu as updated by Lydia Shire. Cool, fusty 19th-century atmosphere. Great service; with luck, you'll get one of the two waiters who have been there 40 years apiece: they won't muff your chance.

          No. 9 Park -- not quite so elegant as some (you'll have to wait for Menton for that), but one of the better waitstaffs in town, and some of the best cocktails to steel your nerve. Excellent, pricey New Italian / New French menu.

          O Ya -- the least formal-looking place, but with stunningly beautiful, delicious Japanese food, mostly riffs on sashimi, with many interesting cooked dishes, too. I can imagine you finding a unique setting to present the ring here, maybe nestled atop one perfect scarlet sea scallop. Beer/wine/sake only.

          Clio -- very refined, pretty New French / Japanese food with occasional science-lab touches. A cool room with well-spaced tables. Damned pricey, too.

          Other places with romantic atmosphere, slightly lower prices, and excellent but not ravishing food: Rialto, Salts, Estragon, UpStairs on the Square, Mamma Maria (that little dining room for two people only).

          Avoid: Top of the Hub (a dreadful cliche with middling food, nasty people); luxury steakhouses (too loud and boys'-clubby, though Mooo.... would be your best bet if you insisted on this format; it's the daintiest of the $50-tenderloin joints); Medieval Manor (the occasion really calls for utensils).

          Hope that helps. Break a leg!

          (For the record, I proposed to the future Mrs. MC in a bar, though it was one of dem classy ones, and then we went to eat at Biba, one of my all-time faves in Boston.)

          7 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            A super list. If you're looking for a woman's perspective, of these I'd choose L'Espalier or Locke-Ober, but maybe that's b/c I'm a "Brahmin princess." : ) Seriously though, the service will be great at either of these spots and the food is terrific too. I would also add Scampo to the list (can you tell I'm a Lydia Shire fan?) - atmosphere is less stuffy and upscale than L'Espalier/Locke-Ober and the service & food are also great. If you decide on Scampo, call and see if you can get Mario as your server - he is old-school and attentive and I think he adds to the fun of the evening.

            But it depends on your personality and hers - what kinds of food you like and what sort of atmosphere you want. My inclination is more toward the unexpected destination (LOVE the Speed's idea), or a venue that's meaningful for the two of you already - but maybe she's not seeing this coming? And whatever you do, I agree! Stay the heck away from Tob of the Hub!

            All the best to you!


            1. re: gansu girl

              Cheesecake Factory! If you called ahead, I bet they'd train the staff with an appropriate song. Maybe even a tambourine. (I actually saw a proposal there once!)

              Slide it on to the bottom of a cone from Toscanini's.

              I will be contrarian and say Top of the Hub because I love the setting, but just go there for drinks and jazz and do something else for dinner. You never know what you'll both be in the mood for immediately after you pop the question, so if you avoid doing it over dinner, you leave yourselves free to spend the evening running through the streets or calling all your friends or heading home to celebrate by yourselves (or going out for a fancy dinner elsewhere).

              But I do agree with the posters who suggested someplace meaningful for the two of you.

              What about a brunch proposal? She'll never expect that. Head to your favorite diner and propose over flapjacks.

              1. re: Pia

                A brunch proposal! That reminds me about the time my husband and I were eating at S&S last year, and a guy stood up and said to his girlfriend, "I love bacon, I love eggs, and I love you. Will you marry me?" It was great!

                1. re: ineemeeny

                  That is terrific, I love the visual that I am getting on it.

                  This is such a fun thread to read, good luck to you, potential-proposer!

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              I'll second L'Espalier. I interviewed Maitreā€˜d, Louis Risoli, for an article on romantic dining in Boston and he estimates that he has seen far more than a thousand proposals in his 25 + years at the restaurant. He loves them and will do what needs to be done to make yours a great success.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                My brother proposed in the little private room for 2 at Mamma Maria. They were very very helpful. Even made a fake dessert menu that turned out to be their "story" and ended with the proposal.

                1. re: cambridgeMike

                  Love Mamma Maria's Old World Charm and excellent food.

              2. I'd throw Carmen in the mix.