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LA Chowhounds Coming to Boston for the First Time

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First, let me say that we're not Laker fans.

My wife and I will be spending 5 nites in Boston later this month. We are looking to eat places that maybe do not necessarily have the absolute best food in town but are places that are local legends or well-established restaurants that have stood the test of time for their very good food and service. We're not interested in the trendy restaurants that come and go. We don't mind going to dives, as long as they're clean.

Specifically, we're looking for Italian (preferably in the North End), seafood (is Legal Sea Food as good as I've read in various reviews?), lobster rolls, clam chowder, steakhouses, breakfasts (please don't tell me Boston's like NYC and has a dearth of great breakfasts places), and pizza.

We're staying near Boston Common and are willing to travel to any place within the city.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. I'd put Neptune Oyster in theNorth End on my list. Great assortment of East and West Coast oysters, chowder, and warm with butter (CT style) lobster rolls and cold/mayo (Boston style)..great fried clams. No reservations and not cheap; but I like it for lunch. Kill 2 birds in 1 stone and have a snack/meal there and go to Pizzeria Regina..original on Thatcher, 1 of Boston's best..traditional and not the newer to us Mozza Neapolitan style that you have at home.

    Breakfast, if you're near the Common, you aren't far from Charlies Sandwich Shop on Columbus. There are those who think they'slipped a bit but I still love the turkey hash or blueberry pancakes. Been around since the 30's and takes you into the South End; a beautiful, revitalized area..nothing like it in LA..:)...closed Sundays.

    Legal's isn't as good as what you've read but it's not as bad as some people here will say..:)

    Steak house...we have the same chains you do but Grill 23 or Oak Room are good splurge spots. I'd probably have a drink at Oak Room(1 of the nicest "old Boston rooms)..and walk to Grill 23..LOUD

    Boston is very different than LA in that you won't need or want a car..ez walk or cab ride to everyplace I named.

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

    Grill 23 & Bar
    161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116

    Oak Room
    138 St. James Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

    1. Hamersley's Bistro doesn't fit any of your specific categories, but to me it's one of our best examples of "well-established.....stood the test of time for very good food and service." It's not a dive in the slightest, but isn't super formal.

      My mom loved the lobster roll at B&G oyster, and I thought the BLT was fantastic. Agree on the Grill 23 suggestion, but it is LOUD (as 9lives said).

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      Hamersley's Bistro
      553 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

      Grill 23 & Bar
      161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116

      2 Replies
      1. re: cmd

        Back at you with the Hamersley's. After all these years, still 1 of the best in town..or any town. Probably the first high end place in the SE and still 1 of the best.

        Order the mushroom sandwich for an app and the roast chicken entree. You'll be very happy.

        1. re: 9lives

          for breakfast in boston, mike and pattys. if you want to explore outlying neighborhoods, breakfast at deluxe town diner in watertown and stop and get some wonderful armenian/middle eastern food to snack on at Sevan or Arax right around the corner from the diner. for long-lasting, still good, and well-established italian, toscanos on charles street or mama maria's in the north end.

      2. I used to be a LA chowhound but relocated to Boston a few years ago.

        Italian - For quintessential Italian in Boston, I would go to Daily Catch (North End...don't go to the others) or Giacomo's (go to the South End location where you can make reservations unless you want to wait in line for 2.5 hours in the North End...food quality is the same).

        Lobster Roll - Hot one at Neptune's ($25). For a cheap one, James Hook ($12). i'd suggest going for lunch. Neptune's doesn't take reservations so the wait times can easily exceed 3 hours for dinner. Alive and Kicking Lobsters in Cambridge has a lobster sandwich.

        General seafood - Neptune's for their raw bar. B&G has good seafood but I think they're over-rated and over-priced.

        Clam Chowder - It's the only thing Legal's does right.

        Breakfast - Stephanie's on Newbury for nice atmosphere and proximity to the Commons. For tasty and large breakfasts, consider Ball Square Cafe in Somerville or Center Street Cafe in JP. Also, Mike and Patty's.

        Pizza - Fiorella's in Newton has great wood oven pizza. I've heard that Oggi in Harvard Square has good pizza but I've never been there.

        Steakhouse - I'm very indifferent to steakhouses. I thought that BOA in LA was a decent steakhouse and I can't think of anything in Boston that has amazing, to-die-for steak. I mean it's all the same beef shipped in from the midwest, right? If you have a car, the Hilltop Steakhouse is always on every Food Network list for the virtual size of the establishment. Never been there myself.

        French - I disagree with everyone's review of Hamersley's. They suffer from a lack of consistency in both food and service. For French, I'd head to Craigie on Main (more refined) or Saltz (more wholesome). I recently had the roast duck for 2 at Saltz and it was delicious.

        Italian food here far exceeds what you can get in LA so I'd spend my calories consuming that. Valentino's in LA was quite good for fancy fare. There was also a place in Thousand Oaks somewhere I loved.

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        Ball Square Cafe
        708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

        Daily Catch
        323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

        Fiorella's
        187 North St, Newtonville, MA 02460

        1 Reply
        1. re: eopandabear

          Italian: Let me put i a plug for Rialto in Harvard Square which has a nice Ligurian tasting for 70 dollars, I think. For charcuterie, I would add Coppa though it does not take reservations and can be ridiculously busy on weekends. You could try the pizza there, too. The owner is Ken Oringer who worked as a sous chef for Jean Georges Von Gerichten. I also like the Daily Catch, the one in the North End.

          French: I agree with Craigie but would add Clio also an Oringer restaurant. .

          For seafood, i eat at the Chinatown fish-in-the-tank restaurants, but you have better chinese in LA so I would skip it though my LA friends do like the Sichuan food at Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline.

          As noted above, you can get to any of these places via the metro aka the T.

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          Daily Catch
          441 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

          Coppa
          253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

          Sichuan Gourmet
          1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

        2. If you're thinking of going to the Hilltop, you might as well stay at your hotel and light your money on fire. This place is awful, and the food is terrible. Stay away!
          Sorry,
          CocoDan

          1. The only place for fabulous pizza in Boston is Regina Pizzaria on Thatcher Street in the North End. At peak weekend times there can be long lines, so try to go on a weeknight.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delhiwala

              have you tried the pizza at coppa? What is your opinion?