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Would like some suggestions based on past experiences in Boston

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I'll be returning to Boston for five days in mid-May to attend a conference. I've been to Boston a half-dozen times and this is my third trip to this particular event, held in the Back Bay Sheraton. I'd like to hear your suggestions based on my past experiences and preferences.

Here's some background:

I'm a southerner who's been in Minneapolis for a while and to be honest, I don't have many good things to say about dining in the Twin Cities. In short, I prefer good solid cooking to trendy. I'm much more interested in the taste of the food rather than it's ability to be described as infused, scented, foamed or deconstructed.

I won't have a car, but will have a T-pass and I'm willing to explore any places accessible by transit. More than likely, I'll be dining alone (it seems most attendees have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory or Legal Seafood in the Prudential Center that's attached to the hotel) and the solo-dining vibe is an important part of the experience. In general, I much prefer funky to formal. I don't have a big budget - only about $70 a day, but almost all of that can be allocated to dinner. (Not a big breakfast person and lunch is provided, although I usually get out a couple of times for something more interesting.)

The last couple of years, I've been searching Chowhound's Boston Board before the trip and found some wonderful restaurants and had some fantastic meals. However, I feel that I'm missing some great places - so I'm looking for your suggestions.

What worked:

East Coast Grill - My favorite by far! Perfect for dining at the bar, good food, great bartender. Went twice during my visit in 2008, and then last year I sat down at the bar and was greeted with "Minneapolis, right?" How can you not love a place that has a bartender like Brian?

India Quality - Visited in 2008 & 2009. Enjoyed the food both times, but looking to try something different this year.

Busy Bee (Brookline) - Like I said, I'm not much of a breakfast person, but this place was great for the experience. I sat at the counter and spent well over an hour chatting with the locals and the staff.

Galleria Umberto - I love down to earth places like this - they don't seem to exist in Minneapolis. Had a super cheap and interesting lunch, while poking around North End.

What didn't:

Neptune Oyster - I know it is a favorite, but it didn't work for me. I don't care that much for raw oysters, but the Lobster Roll came highly recommended. I was given a seat at the bar and the experience here was totally opposite my experience at ECG. The bartender pushed the raw bar and was miffed when I didn't order anything - from that point on, service was haughty. Of course, they were out of the lobster roll, so I ordered clam chowder and the lobster spaghettini. After I got my chowder and my $17 glass of wine that he insisted would be a perfect match for the lobster, I was informed that they were all out. I don't even remember what I finished with, but the service left a bad taste in my mouth.

Cafe Polonia - I lived in Eastern Europe for four years, so I was excited to read good things about this place. However, I arrived after a long T ride to find the place closed at 8PM, even though I'd called earlier to confirm that they were open until 9. Anyone have any thoughts about whether I should try again this year?

Lobster Rolls - Should I give up? In addition to the Neptune Oyster attempt, I've had them at Summer Shack and Charlie's Kitchen (that's where I ended up after my failed Cafe Polonia trip) and neither were wonderful. in the past, I've had a few on the New England coast that were fantastic. Is there a great lobster roll that I'm missing?

If anyone has any tips based on my likes and dislikes, they would be much appreciated. Also, I have a couple specific requests/questions:

- Does anyone have a dinner suggestion for me in Brookline? I'll arrive late afternoon and would like to pick up some supplies at Trader Joe's. Thought I might as well eat around Coolidge Corner.

- Clam shacks sound like my kind of place. Are there any decent ones reachable by public transit?

Thanks for reading this long post. I'm really looking forward to visiting your city again.

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

East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Cafe Polonia
611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

Trader Joe's
1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

Summer Shack
310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

Charlie's Kitchen
10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138

India Quality Restaurant
484 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

Busy Bee Restaurant
1046 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

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  1. For dinner in Brookline, I recommend the Brookline Family Restaurant for delicious Turkish food. It's a 10-15 minute walk from Coolidge Corner. Not fancy, but some seriously tasty lamb (skip the desserts). You could take the D line to Brookline Village, walk to BFR for early dinner/late lunch (maybe a 5 minute walk), then walk to Trader Joe's, and then hop on the C Line with your food. I wouldn't think you'd want to do too much schlepping with your food from Trader Joe's. Of course, you're likely to have leftovers from dinner. They don't skimp on the portions.

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    Brookline Family Restaurant
    305 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

    4 Replies
    1. re: quirkydeb

      Are you going to Brookline specifically for Trader Joe's? If so, there's no need as there is one on Boylston St.

      A place that is not mentioned here often, but has been aroudn for years is Casa Romero. It's pretty good Mexican, so offers a change from the usual seafood, etc. recommendations. It's in the Hynes area, but is hidden away in an alley off of Gloucester St. It has a small bar, but I don't know what the solo experience is like.

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      Casa Romero
      30 Gloucester St, Boston, MA 02115

      1. re: pemma

        Thanks for the tip, but I should have mentioned that heading to that one to grab a couple bottles of wine for the stay. I'll pop over to the little on on Boylston if I need more yogurt, etc.

        1. re: Kilgore

          you can also stop in at the Russian market Bazaar (a few blocks west of Coolidge corner) for prepared foods/groceries to go with your wine ;), or Rod Dee next door for Thai food (their Indonesian fried rice, with crispy chicken and a fried egg, is good comfort food, or maybe some duck pad see ew or pad woon sen)

          1. re: barleywino

            For Russian markets, also recommend Berezka, 1215 Com Ave at intersection of Com & Harvard & right at a T-stop.

    2. Wow, there's a lot to address. In Brookline for a good bar scene, there's Regal Beagle on Harvard St. which is usually very crowded unless it's early on a weeknight. Upscale pub food and some nice entrees. On a level up, there's Lineage on the other side of Beacon St. which has a very nice bar area, lots of seafood.

      Lots of places in the south end could work for you and are a close walk to the Sheraton. On the back side is Brasserie Jo for French, quite decent altho their bar guys aren't the most exciting. Casey at Lucca Back Bay on Tues and Thurs. is worth the trip, great northern Italian and a 3 course meal for $35 I think untili 7PM. You could also go to Hamersley's, Metropolis, Aquitaine, Gaslight, Petit Robert Bistro, etc.

      Some will suggest B&G to give a lobster roll another try but it's $$. For cheap fried seafood try Morse's on Washington St. You could also give Summer Shack just across from the Sheraton a shot, people have varying success there. They have a cheap food happy hour til 6:30.

      Cafe Polonia might be worth another try, the Gypsy Pancake (two potato pancakes stuffed with goulash) is pretty awesome. You could then hop on the red line for one stop to Broadway and get a drink at the Franklin Cafe.

      -----
      Petit Robert Bistro
      468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215

      Cafe Polonia
      611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

      Lucca Restaurant
      226 Hanover St., Boston, MA 02113

      Brasserie Jo
      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

      Regal Beagle
      308 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      2 Replies
      1. re: Joanie

        I think Joanie has some great recommendations. I second the Regal Beagle recommendation. It is solid pub fare but with a lot of flavor. If you are interested in "solid cooking", then I also second the recommendation for Hammersly's. You can't get any better than their roasted chicken!

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        Regal Beagle
        308 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

        1. re: Joanie

          I third Joanie's recs. And agree that Cafe Polonia is worth another try. When I've been there of late in the evening they've been hopping. And their soups, especially sour pickle soup and mushroom soup, are fantastic. Worst case, Joanie's suggestion of hopping back on the red line to Franklin Cafe is a great backup.

          Unfortunately you'd have to go outside T range for a proper clam shack, would that it were otherwise.

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          Cafe Polonia
          611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

        2. Definitely give Cafe Polonia another shot. I'm really suprised that they were closed so early. I have a hard time passing up the Gypsy pancake (potato pancakes sandwiched with goulash)! Guess I should have read all of Joanie's post before I posted.

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          Cafe Polonia
          611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

          1. Around Central Square (Red line), Green Street Grill and Rendevous. On Brighton Ave (take 57 bus from Kenmore) is our richest chow neighborhood including S&I Thai, Jo Jo Taipei, Carlos Cucina Blue Asia and many others.

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            Green Street
            280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139

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

            S&I To Go
            168A Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

            Blue Asia Cafe
            113 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

            1. In Brookline, don't miss Michael's Deli on Harvard Street, around the corner from Trader joes. I think it is the best corn beef on rye in the area. No atmosphere, lots of good natured Deli attitude and great food.
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477370
              http://www.bostonzest.com/2008/03/for...

              Since you have a T-Pass, I suggest Tamarind Bay Indian Coastal Kitchen this time. It's on the C line and we started going because a friend from London recommended it.
              http://www.bostonzest.com/2009/07/tam...

              There is a second Tamarind Bay in Harvard Square and Chowhound keeps adding that one. But, I think the Beacon Street one is much better.

              Penny
              http://www.bostonzest.com/

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              Michael's Deli
              256 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

              1. Maybe you would enjoy Hungry Mother near Kendall Square (Red Line). They serve Haute Southern (but not always) food that I have been very happy with. The service is typically good and friendly. They have a nice bar--I haven't eaten at the bar, but if the rest of the restaurant is any indication, it would be a safe bet. It will be less crowded on a weeknight.

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                Hungry Mother
                Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                1. The bar at the Blue Room in Kendall Square is excellent for solo dining. They also have small plates if you don't feel like a big meal. Their bartending is excellent also.

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

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JudyHP

                    agree with the Blue Room and the Reagle Beagle - easygoing places with good food and I think you'd be comfortable as a single diner. The Red House in Harvard Square if you want to hop the red line is another friendly place - in Brookline, try the Washington Square Tavern - a friendly bar, very good food.

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                    Washington Square Tavern
                    714 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02446

                    The Blue Room
                    Hampshire and Portland streets, Cambridge, MA 02139