Where should a chowhound stay in Boston?
We are traveling to Boston (from L.A.), and don't know the city at all. What part of Boston has the best restaurant options? Could you point us to particular areas of the city, or even specific hotels, that will put us in striking distance of great food? We are totally open to choosing where to stay based on proximity to good eats. As far as our taste in food, we like it all--casual, high end, any cuisine, whatever. But we probably wouldn't eat Japanese or Mexican food there since it's so great in L.A. Ideally, looking for an area with good food that is also a generally happening area that tourists would enjoy.
Let's put it this way: while the city of Los Angeles covers just under 500 square miles, the city of Boston covers just under 50 square miles. By LA standards, everything in Boston is within striking distance, especially if you have a car. Even if you don't, though, it's not hard to get around.
Look for hotels that claim they're in the Back Bay: although this area of town has a number of unimaginative and touristy restaurants, it's also the central location for all the fun touristy stuff, and most of the places you want to go for the good stuff in terms of food--the North End, the South End, Allston, Chinatown, etc.--are easy enough to get to.
I would stay in the Back Bay if I were you, and on the eastern side of the Back Bay as close to the Boston Common as possible, not because the best chow is in the Back Bay, but because it's the most central location from which you can access everything else you might want easily.
1. Chinatown: Just a quick 5-10 minute walk across the Boston Common.
2. South End: Bunch of restaurants walkable in 15 minutes (just walk south on Arlington St. or Berkeley St.) from the Back Bay including B&G Oysters, Butcher Shop, Coppa, and Hamersley's Bistro to name a few.
3. Cambridge: There are no subway lines that cross the river except for the Red Line, which is why it's nice to stay on the Boston Common side of the Back Bay -- that way, you'll have a less than 5 minute walk to the Park Street station on the Red Line so you can head east to Harvard Square in 4-5 stops. Craigie on Main is also off the Red Line.
4. North End: Lots of Italian places here (see previous posts to see which ones to focus on), easily accessible via the Green Line which runs through the Back Bay. You will probably end up wanting to check out Neptune Oyster.
5. Beacon Hill: Also less than 5 minutes by walking from this part of the Back Bay. There's a nice touristy walk up Charles St., and No. 9 Park on the southeastern part of Beacon Hill is also close.
Then, you have the added benefit of being in the Back Bay itself, which has plenty of shopping and is close to the some of most scenic parts of the Charles River on the Esplanade. Some high-end Back Bay restaurants you might check out would be Clio and L'Espalier. Not much else here that isn't more style over substance for chow.
Boston is a walking city, and the T is a great way to get around. You don't need a car. Two hotels I like are The Eliot: http://eliothotel1-px.rtrk.com/ , which houses Clio and Uni, two notable restaurants. It faces Commonwealth Avenue, which is one of Boston's most beautiful streets. Another choice is the Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro: http://www.beaconhillhotel.com/ , which has a nice casual bistro downstairs and is located on Charles Street, in the heart of Beacon Hill. The neighborhood is one of Boston's most historic. Both hotels are within walking distance of many great restaurants.
Thank you for all the recommendations! This is very helpful! I need to sort through all the info, but it looks like Back Bay is the most central location, with easy access to lots of great food. I will also check out the specific hotels you recommended which may or may not be in that area.