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Visiting Boston for the weekend from NY - what are the must eats?

We are visiting Boston this weekend from NY and we would appreciate your suggestions for must-eats. We are looking for places that best represent Boston cuisine or just do really good renditions of other cuisines. Budget is around $10-15 for brunch and $15-20 for dinner. Here is our list so far. Obviously, we need to narrow it down a lot! =)

-Elephant Walk - seems unique, is it worth it though?
-Helmand - how does this compare to Helmand in Baltimore? i remember that being fantastic
-Publick House - good beer, how's the food?
-Giacomo's - we just got back from Italy so looking for that authentic feel
-Speed Dog - how good is this compared to NY or Chicago dogs?
-Scup's - for brunch
-Neptune Oyster - seems pricey so we're on the fence on this
-Galleria Umberto - how different is it from other pizzas?

What is Boston's strengths in terms of ethnic restaurants? These places seem to have good reviews, but not sure if they're really good compared to say those in NY.
-Muqueca
-Orinoco
-Baraka
-Teranga

Lastly, for someone who has not tried these places, is it worth a try for the atmosphere? Is the food at least decent?
-Union Oyster House
-Durgin Park

Other recommendations are most welcome!

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  1. Of those that you listed, I would say that Elephant Walk is ok/good but not a must have. There aren't many cuisines in Boston that rival NYC and I wouldn't bother with any Boston pizza. I have never had a NY or Chicago hot dog but Speeds is excellent and worth it. I would highly recommend Neptune Oyster for either oysters, fried clams or lobster roll. For delicious clam chowder, I still think that Legal Seafood does an excellent version though nothing earth shattering. For delicious, reasonable somewhat authentic Italian, try Trattoria Toscana in the Fenway area. If you do a recent search on this board, others have highly recommended the recently opened Island Creek Oyster Company in Kenmore Square for seafood. Also, lots of excellent ethnic restaurants in East Boston (do a search on this board): Angela's Cafe is excellent, authentic Mexican; Rino's (recently featured on Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives) has very good homemade pastas and specials with very long waits in the evening. Hope this helps a little.

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    Trattoria Toscana
    130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

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

    Elephant Walk
    900 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215

    Island Creek Oyster Bar
    500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

    1 Reply
    1. re: bakerboyz

      you might consider O Ya for high end sushi though it is hideously expensive; I second Neptune and would add Coppa - Italian charcuterie - but be prepared to wait as neither takes reservations and are very popular.. Helmand makes excellent Afghan food and is located in Cambridge; i have heard that it is comparable to the one in Baltimore; it is certainly excellent. I am fond of the various chinese restaurants such as Golden Garden, Sichuan Gourmet, CK Shanghai, East Ocean Seafood - a better fish-in-the-tank restaurant than i have been to in NYC. All of these places are reasonably priced. The WSJ wrote a piece saying that Speeds was the best dog in the land, better than the runner-up Doug's in Chicago; so it is certainly comparable to anything you will eat in NYC.

      You might want to see what Kathryn ate; she is an ace on the NY blog sphere. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7414...

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      O Ya
      9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

      Coppa
      253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

      Sichuan Gourmet
      1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Golden Garden
      63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

    2. If you want to pay no more than $20/person for dinner you will have to be careful. Boston is less expensive than NYC but you will still pay more than that for a dinner at most restaurants. To keep to your budget you may do well to stick to ethnic cuisines in restaurants that are in the corresponding ethnic neighborhoods. Two ethnic groups that are probably better represented in the Boston restaurant scene than in NYC are Portuguese and Nepalese.

      Also, here is some feedback on the list you proposed. Helmand is great and certainly worth one of your meals. I would also suggest Durgin Park. Yes, it has its detractors on this board. However it offers traditional Boston/Yankee cooking, which seems to be in the spirit of your request. While not outstanding up and down its menu, there are certainly some high points, such as the prime rib. Also, they do a pretty darn good version of Indian Pudding, which I would urge you to try. It may not look like much but it is very very good, especially on a chilly November evening!

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      Durgin Park
      1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

      1. I agree with PinchOfSalt about your budget. It will be tough to hit a lot of the places you mentioned on that budget. Are you trying to keep the entree price under $20 or the whole meal per person?

        I agree with bakerboyz about the pizza too. I'm a native New Yorker, and I don't bother with the pizza in Boston unless its one that is "artisanal" or gourmet. Coppa and Via Matta are good options for those. As for authentic Italian, it depends on where you traveled in Italy (regional differences). Most of the North End is better than Little Italy's food, but still not very authentic. I would describe the majority of the NE's restaurants as Italian American. Giacomo's is tasty, but more on the end of Italian American. I'd recommend going to Erbaluce for delicious Piemontese cuisine or Via Matta for food in the style of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Eating at either of those places won't keep you on budget, though.

        I second Neptune Oyster for a delicious lobster roll and I also second Island Creek Oyster Bar. Their Lobster Roe Noodles are perhaps the most awesome dish I've had in the last year.

        One last stop would be Toro. The tapas there are out of this world (puts Batali's Casa Mono to shame).

        These places would be a challenge for your budget. Maybe you should just change your budget!

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

        Toro
        1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

        Via Matta
        79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

        Erbaluce
        69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

        Coppa
        253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

        Island Creek Oyster Bar
        500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

        1. If you are looking for Italian with an authentic feel on a budget, I think bakerboyz recommendation of Trattoria Toscana is perfect. Giacomo's is definitely Italian-American, not Italian-Italian, and probably won't remind you too much of any place in Italy.

          Some other comments on places in your list: Neptune Oyster is worth the price, IMO, so if you are going to go outside your budget for one dinner I'd recommend that. Helmand is great, can't compare it to the one in Baltimore as I've never been, but definitely a great choice. Elephant Walk is fine, but not spectacular, I certainly wouldn't consider it a must eat.

          Portuguese is a good suggestion, and should be relatively easy to keep in your budget. See these threads (some a bit older but hopefully still relevant):
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/497919
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/611952
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/714442

          -----
          Trattoria Toscana
          130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

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

          Elephant Walk
          2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

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