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Good Restaurant for my BIrthday Meal

OK, my birthday is coming up, and my daughters want to take me out for a meal and a movie on Saturday (my birthday is actually the week after, but since I have one daughter who is coming up from New Haven, a Saturday celebration is perfect).

I desperately need suggestions - these are the criteria:

1. Need vegan and regular (me) food on the menu..
2. Parking nearby
3. Hopefully a cinema nearby, too.
and last, but not least important:
4. Not too expensive

For price, I'd say up to about $17 a person is reasonable, less would be much better - I really like the idea that I can get the vermicelli bowl in Pho Pasteur (Chinatown location) for around $8, so use that as a basis - plus, while the atmosphere isn't special, it's still nice. My daughter mentions since PP is so reasonable, we could also order appetizers (and have some to take home - mmm)... there is parking at a nearby garage, I'm told, but I don't know how much that will cost - kids are telling me it doesn't matter, but neither of them are swimming in dough.

Exclude Mexican or Italian - I've had too much Mexican lately, and I'm half Sicilian, so I cook Italian at home all the time.

We originally thought of Elephant Walk in Cambridge, but it's gotten mixed reviews here.

Much has been written about Allston as a great chow destination these days - one of my daughters knows where to park around there, so that's a possibility.

Also thought of the other Pho Pasteurs, but I don't know how they compare.

Also - since it's the day (or evening) before Easter, do you guys think we'll need reservations?

Going out for the day - will appreciate any & all suggestions, of course. I'm depending on my chowhound family to steer me in the right direction - and, of course, will report back about our experience after our Easter Waffle-brunch (a new tradition in my home, designed my oldest daughter to force me to go easy on the work, lol).

Elephant Walk
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

Pho Pasteur Restaurant
682 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. ...bump...

    wanted to add that I've searched the archives, but didn't come up w/anything different than I mentioned. Would love to try Grezzo, but it's way too pricey for us, IMO.

    So far, I think Pho Pasteur is a safe bet for both those of us who are veg. & those of us (meaning me) who are carnivores.

    25 State St, Newburyport, MA 01950

    2 Replies
    1. re: threedogs

      How 'bout Solea in Waltham. Tapas usually offers a fair number of vegetarian options, though I'm not sure they'll meet the vegan requirements. You're also close to the Landmark Embassy Theater .

      1. re: justbeingpolite

        Solea looks awesome, but there doesn't seem to be enough vegan choices in the tapas (and their are no vegan entrees).

      1. re: Taralli

        Fantastic!! I didn't know this restaurant existed - I am def passing on this info to my kids. I'd love to try it... even if we end up choosing someplace else, this will def be one I visit soon. Sounds great.

        1. re: threedogs

          I'll second Red Lentil. I've only been once, but I enjoyed it a lot. Causal, low-key place with an interesting range of options, some of which were more successful than others. When I was there they had a special pizza made with the sauce from the Gobi Manchurian appetizer that was incredible, although the other pizzas our group tried were fine but not particularly special. It was definitely good enough that I want to return, although I'll probably try more of the non-pizza options in the future.

          Red Lentil
          600 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

      2. Elephant Walk may get somewhat mixed reviews, but I've always had a great time there, and it fits all your criteria perfectly. It isn't necessarily authentic, but if you don't go in thinking your getting an authentic Cambodian experience I think it does a pretty good job.

        Elephant Walk
        2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

        1 Reply
        1. re: greenzebra

          Good to know. I only wish I could use a Restaurant.com coupon on the weekend - yes, I am way too cheap for my own good, haha.

        2. I would try the Blue Room in Kendall Sq./Cambridge. That might fill the bill. They do a little of everything.
          Enjoy and Happy Birthday,

          Blue Room
          1 Kendall Sq Ste B2001, Cambridge, MA 02139

          2 Replies
          1. re: CocoDan

            Doesn't seem to be much in the way of vegan for my daughter there - but if their website is any indication of the quality of restaurant - well, it's tempting. I loved the music - I also realize many restaurants will prepare special meals if I called ahead of time, so that's a possibility, too.

            Big decision!! :D

            1. re: threedogs

              I think they'll prepare a veggie special for her if they don't have a nightly veggie special.

          2. This doesn't quite fit all your requirements, but we eat at Grasshopper, in Allston, all the time. It's vegan Chinese, and the decor is simple, but well taken care of and clean. The menu is huge, with something for everyone (even my meat and potatoes father likes it), and the prices are low. We've never had a problem parking; however, I have no idea if there's a theater nearby.

            Happy birthday!

            1 Reply
            1. re: invinotheresverde

              Thank you for the birthday wish!

              My daughters have eaten at Grasshopper a lot - I've been there a few times, too. I'd rather try someplace different (I think they'd like a change, too). One of my kids told me she's not crazy about Chinese, too (how is that possible?? that coming from MY child, no less... I think the world went a bit off it's axis when I heard that...)

            2. If you like Afghani food and nice atmosphere, you might consider the Helmand, where your daughter could ask them to leave the yogurt off the vegetarian dish (not sure if they use butter in cooking the dishes, though). You could then head over to the Kendall Square Cinema, which isn't too far away.

              Or, if you want super casual and funky, you could go to the Friendly Toast and then to the cinema, and park in the garage in the same complex. I'm pretty sure you can get validated parking from either the restaurant or the cinema.

              The Friendly Toast
              1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

              8 Replies
              1. re: bear

                Yes, the Friendly Toast would be perfect for a casual birthday dinner. It is super vegan friendly and the Kendall Cinema is right next door. Happy Birthday!

                The Friendly Toast
                1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                  Oh, thank you - so many ideas... dear me, what to choose?!

                  My oldest daughter mentioned the Prana Cafe in Newton, too. She hasn't eaten there, but has heard good things about it:


                  Wow - at least I now have a whole list of places that my daughter & I can try during the year. Maybe one a month... my view (as a somewhat carnivore) of eating my way through vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants in the Boston area.

                  Hey, I could blog that... hehe...

                  1. re: threedogs

                    I went to the Prana Cafe once. I knew it was a vegan restaurant, but I didn't realize it was also raw. It was my first experience with raw vegan food and I can't say I enjoyed it. I can think of plenty of "raw" foods that I eat normally and enjoy (different types of salads, etc.) but the fake cheese made out of nuts, and the dehydrated cracker-like thing... it just was not my thing. The food seemed completely unappealing to me.

                    1. re: Pia

                      I've had - and prepared - raw vegan food before, so it's not unfamiliar to me. But that doesn't mean I would go for all the food - for one thing, most raw foodies use a lot of nuts, and it's just too much for me (and I love nuts) in one sitting. Might try it another time, but not for my birthday...

                2. re: bear

                  The Helmand looks really interesting. However, going over their vegetarian listings, I noticed one dish has lamb, and another has ground beef... made me think of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - when the main character's boyfriend told her mother (or aunt - my memory isn't that good) that he was vegetarian (regarding their wedding meal)... look of confusion then "We'll have LAMB!!" (hahahaha - my family's reaction to my vegetarian daughters at first..)

                  1. re: threedogs

                    Ha, too funny. We have a family friend who truly can't wrap his brain around why my son doesn't just pick the meatballs out of the sauce for a vegetarian spaghetti.

                    I did notice the meat-based dishes on the "vegetarian" menu at teh Helmand, but am pretty sure the other dishes listed are actually veggie-safe. Not sure about butter, though, for a vegan, even if they omit the yogurt. You could always give them a call if it looks like a possible choice.

                    Wherever you go, happy day!

                    1. re: bear

                      Thank you! I know we'll have a great time - been a stress-filled month, so I need the diversion.

                    2. re: threedogs

                      You may be reading the menu incorrectly (or perhaps the online menu is in itself incorrect!). The vegetarian menu is truly non-meat. It's just that many of the dishes have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions. Take the pumpkin kaddo, for example. A PP pointed out that if you leave the yogurt off the vegetarian version, it might be considered vegan (don't know about any butter in the dish). But the kaddo on the main menu has ground beef on top as well.

                      Their vegetarian entree is one of my absolute favorite dishes in Boston.

                  2. How about Shanghai Gate on Harvard St. in Allston, followed by a movie at the Coolidge? It's casual, but the food is great, the staff is friendly, and there are plenty of veggie/vegan options as well as traditional meat dishes. There's usually parking in the neighborhood, and it's only a 5-10 min walk to the Coolidge.

                    Shanghai Gate
                    204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: WilderPenfield

                      Thank you - but there's nothing playing at the Coolidge on Saturday that I want to see. Tough weekend - wish a couple of films that are debuting next week or the next were playing now, as a matter of fact...

                    2. The Kendall area also has Emma's Pizza which is fun and casual. Has great salads, too.
                      Right in downtown Boston, the Stuart Street Playhouse would be another good choice. Rustic Kitchen is right next door, or a short walk to Chinatown. I would recommend Penang (Malaysian) and also fun to try would be Zaze Shabu. They have lots of fresh vegetable choices and it would be a fun way to share your birthday diner with your daughters. Enjoy your special day!

                      Rustic Kitchen
                      210 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

                      Emma's Pizza
                      40 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: snowcone

                        Sorry, just noted a typo - it is Kaze for Shabu.

                        41 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

                      2. I want to thank everyone for their help on choosing a restaurant for my early birthday celebration (today is my actual birthday - I'm still recuperating from the weekend [have an annoying chronic condition], in pain, but it was so worth it...)

                        My daughter arrived from New Haven & drove us into Cambridge. Made a quick stop at Micro Center for my new [fantastic - it WORKS..] phone system: Ooma... four decisive words: no more phone bills), then proceeded to Kendall Cinema. Got there earlier than my other daughter, so we walked around - and she decided (this, I found out later, was premeditated) that we should stop at Tommy Doyles to by me a *martini*.

                        My response: "Are you crazy?? Do you remember what happened on Christmas??" [I had one glass of wine and proceeded to confuse her with my son's girlfriend when introducing them to my landlord's son... yeah, I can't hold my liquor..] Anyway, I ordered some too sweet Margarita-like drink on their menu that didn't even give me a slight buzz. We shared it, along with daughter no.2 who arrived quickly.

                        We then saw "City Island" with Andy Garcia. Great, funny movie - I love off-the-track films, about family and relationships. This was perfect for my birthday celebration, and we all enjoyed it (not always an easy task in our family of diverse tastes!)

                        Then we needed to eat. Well, we had previously decided to try The Similans, which is not too far from the theater. Then I discovered that one daughter doesn't care for Thai ("too sweet" - a common complaint about Boston Thai food) and the other didn't like her experience at Brown Sugar Cafe (same owners).

                        We looked at the menu for The Friendly Toast, but since about half the menu is breakfast food, (we were planning a waffle brunch for Easter morning), decided against it. Good location (right near the theater), though, so I'll keep this in mind for the future.

                        Of course, knowing how indecisive I can be, I still neglected to print up all the suggestions everyone sent. Arrghh. Depending on my aging (strike that - oldER) brain wasn't the best.

                        We talked about The Red Lentil, but decided against it this time (again, plan to try it another time).

                        Rangzen Tibetan Place was suggested (one of my daughters lived in Central Square a few years ago), and that sounded interesting, but we finally decided to go to Chinatown & go to Pho Pasteur.

                        That turned out to be a good choice - I haven't been there in a while, and, of course, I ordered my favorite, Vermicelli bowl w/shrimp, pork & fried egg roll. (the shrimp were smaller than last year, and we didn't get any fresh basil this time - but it was still delish), and my daughters ordered vegetarian vermicelli bowls, fried egg rolls (which they really loved) and saki. Fortunately, I could still walk after that - and we went to see if we could find a bakery that was still open. Sure enough, my oldest led us to the Great Taste Bakery, and they bought me a selection of pastries to take home for later.

                        All in all, we had a great time, with lots of laughs and good food. The only thing I'd change is to make SURE I printed up the Chowhound suggestions next time, instead of depending on my less-than-perfect memory.

                        Anyway, I'm happy to have a list of places that both my vegan daughters & I can visit together in the future. Thanks, hounds!!

                        The Similans
                        145 1st St, Cambridge, MA 02142

                        Brown Sugar Cafe
                        1033 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                        The Friendly Toast
                        1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                        Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant
                        63 Beach St, Boston, MA

                        Tommy Doyles
                        349 Watertown St, Newton, MA 02458

                        Pho Pasteur Restaurant
                        682 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

                        Red Lentil
                        600 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472