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Seattle Chowhound Looking for Unique Boston Eats

I'll be in Boston from this coming Tuesday morning through the following Saturday afternoon. I'm looking for eating experiences that are uniquely "Boston" -- not just the usual generic request for suggestions as to the "best restaurants." For example, I can get great Asian food in Los Angeles, where I used to live and where I visit frequently, so that's not what I'm looking for. On the other hand, I'm planning to go to Neptune Oyster to sample some good Atlantic oysters (e.g., Island Creeks from Duxbury Bay) and other local seafood. Can you help me find other places that serve good food that is uniquely "Boston" or at least regionally "New England," that I probably can't get in Seattle? Baked beans? Lobster roll? You get the idea, I hope. Thanks for your help.

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  1. Tom, fortunately Boston has a lot more to offer than baked beans and lobster rolls, just as Seattle has a lot more to offer than salmon and Dungeness crab. When I was living in Seattle, some of the items I missed most from Boston were (in no particular order) good pastas (Italian food in general), innovative sushi (and good Japanese comfort food), tasting menus, soup dumplings, salt and pepper soft shell crab (when in season, which isn't yet). Seattle is strong in Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Spanish but relatively weak in Mexican,Thai, northern Chinese/Taiwanese, pizza. I would definitely seek out some good pastas here (carbonara at Sportello, lambs brain ravioli at Coppa, corn/rock shrimp raviolini at Prezza, to name a few), sushi/sashimi at O-Ya (which I would put above any I've had in Seattle OR LA, including Urasawa, if you like creativity), the tasting at Clio, crispy pigs head (and fried New England clams) at Craigie. That already "eats up" your 4 days in Boston I think. While on your way out of town on Saturday, stop in at Hong Kong Eatery to take out some crispy skin roast pork (specify center cut) to eat on the plane. PS. Island Creeks are great but I think I prefer the Totten Virginicas I used to get in Seattle. Also although Seattle has a great cocktail scene, you should also check out Drink, Craigie, Eastern Standard (to name a few) while here.

    1. Toro for an interesting (and tasty) take on Tapas. I don't remember finding anything like that in Seattle while we were visiting.
      Fried clams/scallops if your stomach can deal w/ the grease (I prefer scallops but clams are a new england thing)...the Clam Box in Ipswich.
      Definitely hit Neptune for their lobster roll and oysters (though I like B&G Oyster's variant better).
      You can try a new england lobster bake but I've never been too impressed w/ that...

      1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

      2 Replies
      1. re: Spike

        I second Clam box and Casa Portugal and would add The Daily Catch in the North end for all things squid.

        Casa Portugal
        1200 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

        Daily Catch
        2 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

        1. re: Spike

          Seattle does have Harvest Vine (and Txori) which have excellent tapas, more elaborate than Toro actually

        2. Tom, not sure if you have a Brazilian or Portuguese population but E. Cambridge has a plethora of Portuguese restaurants including Casa Portugal, Sunset and Portugalia with a wide variety of seafood dishes and the Midwest Grille with Brazillian barbecue brought to your table by gauchos. Think big slabs of meats on skewers.

          Casa Portugal
          1200 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1 Reply
          1. re: trufflehound

            I was also thinking Iberian when i saw the OP. Let me add Estragon (for Spanish tapas) for Muqueca (Brazilian seafood). One other thought is New World hispanic. eg. Dominican (Yely;s Coffe Shop or Alex's Chimis) or South American (RIncon Limeno).

            Alex's Chimis
            358 Centre St, Boston, MA 02130

            1010 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          2. I loved the seafood I had in Seattle last year, but cried when I couldn't find any place to offer decent (from a Bostonian's view) fried clams. The closest were fried clam strips - yuck, yuck and yuck. In all seriousness though, I didn't realize how fried whole clams may be more of a New England thing not just a "seafood-centric town" thing. You're right in time to catch the start of good fried clams, as the shacks start to open up so go have some fried clams.

            I think a lobster roll is a good option, and Neptune Oyster does one of the best renditions. If you're willing to travel a bit, getting out to one of the local clams places is better than a sit down restaurant in Boston IMO, but I know that may not be realistic. If Clam Box in Ipswich is too far, than Tony's in neighboring Quincy is a closer and good choice.

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

            Clam Box
            789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

            1 Reply
            1. re: kobuta

              I think Neptune's fried clams are just as good as any of the shacks. Nice light batter, not greasy at all, good delicate fry.

            2. A couple of logistical items:

              1. Next weekend is Patriot's Day weekend, when there are thousands of runners and their families in town for the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day (the Monday of the holiday weekend - celebrating the 235th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution in these parts). So, as you get closer to the weekend, you may find it more pleasant to avoid the Back Bay, which is the nerve center of all things Marathon-y.

              2. If you have access to a car, you can enjoy going up to Clamshack Valhalla/Nirvana/Olympus/Zion, which extends from Essex to Rowley, with Ipswich at its heart. Very beautiful towns (frankly, all the way from Gloucester to Newburyport is a lovely excursion), too.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                I agree with KarlS that Essex is the place to go, if you have a car. All you really need to look for is Rte. 133, which runs past a bunch of the best clam restaurants. Farnham's is right on the saltmarsh so it has a better view than the others. If you are interested in sightseeing, this is the same neck of the woods as Salem (witch trial history and the Peabody-Essex Museum, America's oldest, with diverse exhibits but particularly strong on maritime and Asian www.pem.org). Also Rockport, the quintessential artsy seaside town, and Gloucester, a fishing hub.

                People in MA consume more ice cream per capita than anywhere else in the country. There's Christina's in Cambridge (also a spice shop) which makes flavors not found elsewhere, but there are also a passel of ice cream stands along Rte 133, and all of them are good.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Cambridge does have fabulous ice cream, although Seattle has some great gelato places, so maybe the OP is good on that score...I like the squid ink aioli that comes with the fried clams at Craigie

                2. re: Karl S

                  This also means the pasta centric North End will be busy so I would go to Neptune before the hordes arrive Thurs,Fri and Saturday.

                3. Seattle has been very good to me (last time - nearly live butter poached king crab with hearts of palm and rhubarb at Crush - wow! - Farro at Lark the time before....) as a result of some of your posts - hope I can reciprocate a little now - I will echo Neptune as a must and that I love Toro when it's not mobbed. Pizzeria Regina in the North End is our best pizza. Toscanini's and Christina's ice cream in Cambridge are unique and amazing.

                  If you care about cocktails, Drink is a must at least once (try to go NOT during prime times to have the best experience with the uniformly excellent bartenders - my favs are Josey, Misty, John, Joe, and Scott) and there are other very solid choices as well. Totally different from Murray and Zig Zag, and amazing in its own unique way. The food options at Drink are really good now as well - I love the steak tartare, fries, and wings. Sportello upstairs is a good dinner option for convenience but not really a unique Boston destination. The very upscale and just-opened Menton in the same building is getting some rave reviews for early experiences, but I haven't been yet - and it's New French, I think, not so Boston or New England at all.

                  I reluctantly admit I haven't been but I would recommend Speed's for a uniquely Boston hot dog experience and I personally LOVE the Clover Food Lab (truck) at MIT which I think is unique.

                  Marliave is a nice throwback to old Boston (with $1 oysters early each evening - note that Lineage in Brookline also does this with the fabled Duxbury Island Creeks every day of the week), and Locke Ober is classic with good, but super rich, New England gourmet fare. It's nice but no longer required to dress up a bit for Locke Ober.

                  Boston, MA, Boston, MA

                  1. Thank you all for some terrific recommendations. Just what I had hoped for. I just arrived in Boston late last night, checked Chowhound the first thing this morning, and was delighted by all the responses and great ideas. I love the idea of a road trip along Route 133, consuming some fried clams at the Clam Box in Ipswich, Farnham's, or one of the other places along the way. I also like the idea of some Portguguese food at Casa Portugal or one of the other places in E. Cambridge. Seattle doesn't have a Portuguese restaurant, a deficit shared by my former hometown, Los Angeles. Years ago I wrote a series on my eating experiences in Portugal for Chowhound, and miss the opportunity in Seattle to revive those memories. How about St. John's Club in Fall River? How does it compare to the Cambridge restaurants, and, pardon my ignorance, but how long a drive is it from Boston to Fall River?

                    I have a few follow-up questions. Neptune got a lot of favorable mention, and sounds great. If I have to choose between Neptune and B&G, what would you advise? Cragie got a lot of kudos. Is it super-expensive? For Italian fare, Sportello, Coppa, and Prezza were recommended. How does Mamma Maria compare? Should I try to squeeze in a meal at Oleana in Cambridge? In researching the Chowhound posts on Boston, there was mention of the baked beans at Marliave. Worth the time, given the other alternatives? Finally, on Friday I'll be driving to Cape Cod to visit my sister who lives in Harwich. Any suggestions for lunch there? PJ's Family Restaurant in Wellfleet for a lobster roll?

                    Thanks again, Hounds, for all the great input. I'll appreciate any further input you can provide to my follow-up questions, and will post the results of my eating adventures in your fair city and environs..

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Tom Armitage

                      If you are willing to travel to as far as Fall River (about an hour from Boston) for Portuguese, I would suggest going to Antonios in New Bedford.

                      1. re: Tom Armitage

                        Capt. Frosty's on 6A in Dennis is good for a clam stop if it's open. Seafood Sam's is okay, I enjoyed the fried lobster at the Sandwich location before.

                        Mama Maria is the more traditional feeling of the restaurants you list but not red sauce, Coppa is very hard to get into. Prezza is great and fun, haven't been to Sportello. You could combine baked beans with $1 oysters at the Marliave. Since your time is limited, I'd hit East Cambridge for the Portugese food, esp. if you're going to do the Rt. 133 trip.

                        24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                        10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA 02108

                        348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02110

                        Seafood Sam's
                        6 Coast Guard Rd, Sandwich, MA 02563

                        253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                        1. re: Joanie

                          Thanks joth and Joanie. All this input will make a huge difference in helping me make good choices for my limited time here. Keep it coming, Hounds.

                        2. re: Tom Armitage

                          Neptune vs. BG Oyster = Neptune by far.

                          Craigie is definitely expensive, but delicious. If you're looking for one evening to splurge, Craigie will be a good choice.

                          1. re: Tom Armitage

                            Thanks to all of you, I'm off to a great start. My wife and I went to Neptune this afternoon for some very fresh and tasty MA and PEI oysters (Island Creek, Katama Bay, Thatch Island, and Summerside), Cherrystones, an interesting version of clam chowder, a grilled baby octopus dish, and a lobster roll. All very good, especially the oysters, clams, and lobster. Then we went to two nearby Italian pastry shops, Modern and Maria's, to get the fixings for a cannoli and sfogliatelle taste-off. Tonight, it's Cragie on Main for dinner.

                          2. Ditto Rt 133 for seafood/ice cream. Quintessential New England towns and way less touristy (generally) than the Cape or Boston.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mtm7654

                              If the OP visits the Clam Box in Ipswich, I have a suggestion:

                              Don't get a clam plate. Instead order the clams a la carte. Get a small order of the regular whole clams, and, if they have them, a small order of clams with big bellies.

                              The clam plate, which many people get, comes with fries and onion rings in prodigious quantities. They're pretty decent french fries and onion rings, but I'm guessing you can get pretty decent french fries and onion rings in Seattle. Whole Ipswich clams with big bellies are probably less available in Seattle. And leaving out the fries and onion rings helps cut down on the grease quotient.

                              1. re: srgoodman

                                They're not gonna have big-belly clams this early in the season, though. We were just there on Friday, and the clams were if anything on the small side.

                                The one problem with getting an a la carte order is that even more so than other forms of fried seafood, fried clams are just gross when they get cold: if it's just one person, even a small box of clams may be more than you can eat in time. The mini-meal (a still-impressive number of clams and only one side) may also be an option.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  They had them on April 3rd...In fact, that's all they had, as the flooding had shut down the clam beds, and they weren't using native clams. It was something of a disappointment.