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Coming to Boston from Austin and need HELP!! Please!! :)

Hi Guys!!

We are coming to Boston this weekend and are SO excited! This is going to be a very important weekend for us, so I want it to be perfect!! Help please!

We selected 3 restaurants for our evening meals.... These couldnt seem better, but at the same time we want some 2nd tier options for budgeting reasons! Austin is definitely less expensive than Boston!
If you all could please give us suggestions for the closest best alternative which would be considered LESS expensive. Also, if we had to knix one, which one would you suggest: I dont think that this fact is ultra important, but both of us are vegetarian who eat fish...

Night 1: Trattoria Toscana
** What is a "close" second that might be cheaper? Doesnt have to be the same neighborhood....

Night 2: Neptune Oyster (for oysters and steamed lobster (vs. lobster roll)
** What is a "close" second that might be cheaper? Doesnt have to be the same neighborhood....

Night 3: The Helmand (this one does have to be in/around Cambridge)
** There might not be a close 2nd to Afghan food, but something really yummy

Additionally, if you rank these best to one that you would eliminate, what would it be?

Thanks for helping to make our trip great!!

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Trattoria Toscana
130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

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

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  1. I'll play but it is based on places that other hounds have recommended.
    Gran Gusto in North Cambridge, Carlos Cusina in Allston
    Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square
    There is a new Afghan restaurant whose name I forget in Allston that is getting some buzz. Also in that neighborhood (S&I Thai (duh Thai), Blue Asia Cafe or Jo Jo Taipei (Taiwanese), Garlic and Lemons (Lebanese).

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    Gran Gusto
    90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

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

    Island Creek Oysters
    296 Parks St, Duxbury, MA 02332

    Blue Asia Cafe
    113 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

    1 Reply
    1. re: gourmaniac

      I agree that Carlos Cucina is a pretty good, less expensive alternative. Based on my recollection, Gran Gusto's price point is about the same as Trattoria Toscana.

      Neptune doesn't offer steamed lobster on their menu, but their lobster rolls (both hot and cold) are amazing. For inexpensive oysters, there are a couple of places around town that offer $1 oysters. A few come to mind: Sel de la Terre (Long Wharf), Lineage, Marliave. Check their websites for days/times. That said, I think Neptune is a must for any visit to Boston. Just be prepared for the wait!

      I think Helmand is actually the easiest to find a close second for. Gourmaniac was referring to Ariana, which is priced a couple dollars below Helmand but with an almost identical menu. I haven't visited yet, but a number of local reviewers compared it favorably to Helmand. I've really enjoyed the few experiences I've had with Afghan food, but I didn't love it as much as what I've had at Trattoria Toscana, Carlos, or Gran Gusto. Apples and oranges, I know, but Boston has some great Italian food!

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      Trattoria Toscana
      130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

      Gran Gusto
      90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

      Marliave
      10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA 02108

      Sel de la Terre
      774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02199

    2. Neptune on a weekend with their no reservation policy; be prepared to wait.

      what about Chinese; I like sichuan gourmet in Brookline or one of the fish in the tank restaurants such as East Ocean in Chinatown.

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      East Ocean Restaurant
      3704 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

      19 Replies
      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

        I am so appreciating these suggestions! Any other general winners to suggest in Cambridge? We have tickets to something one night and have to eat there.... Kind of wishing that we had some more flexibility that night! :) fish tank restaurants sounds fun!

        1. re: mes1353

          Where in Cambruidge are your tickets? Helmand is at the eastern end of the city and not near public transit.

          1. re: BBHound

            Oh no! :) Bad spot then, I guess!! Thanks for letting me know! We are going to be on Harvard Square....

            1. re: mes1353

              In that case, what you probably need is someplace close to a stop on the Red Line (www.mbta.com) There are interesting places at several stops such as Central, Charles and even downtown (transit time from downtown to Harvard is about 10 minutes). Try board searches on those areas.

              1. re: mes1353

                for something near Harvard square and cheaper than Helmand, you might consider Kebab Factory...they even have their own parking lot on Hampshire st a few doors down (try the chicken crushed pepper kebabs). they also do a lunch buffet. if you want even cheaper, not far from Harvard square (with parking in the Porter square shopping area) is Cafe Mami, informal Japanese food (go early if possible as seating is limited, or take out; try the curry). if you have time to kill, stop in at Formaggio on Huron st to sample cheeses and baked stuff.

              2. re: BBHound

                Actually, Helmand is close to Lechmere Station. From there you can pick up the E train of the Green Line and also take the 69 bus straight to Harvard Square. The 69 leaves the station every 20-30 minutes during the weekend.

                1. re: BBHound

                  Helmand is a 5-6 block walk from the Lechemere stop on the Green line or 1/2 a mile to the Kendall stop on the redline. Neither of which are bad walks at all.

                  1. re: tallullah

                    Agree, I was going to post similarly. As long as you're up for a walk (and if weather holds up) it's really not too bad of a walk from either stop.

                2. re: mes1353

                  Since you are from Texas, I can't help but try to think about food that you will not find so easily there. Some thoughts that pop into my head for Cambridge include East Coast Grill (in Inman Square, a local institution with a strong bent towards seafood and the Carribean) and Little Q Hotpot (a wonderful Chinese restaurant in North Cambridge,featuring hot pot dishes and very very light on the wallet). Along these lines, I urge you to give Helmand a try. It never fails to delight. Finally, since you ask about people-watching, it is hard to beat a walk in the Harvard Square area on a weekend in good weather! It is a completely different scene from, say, Newbury Street in Boston proper and part of what makes the Boston area Boston.

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

                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                    Thanks for your suggestion, Pinch of Salt..... Question.... Everyone says to go to East Coast Grill! But...On Yelp I read so-so things?? I saw New Jumbo Seafood Restaurant as something that seemed similar, but better reviews.... I think that the idea of the fish tank restaurant is very unique for us!! Definitely East Coast Grill and not this New Jumbo place??

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

                    Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
                    7 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                    1. re: mes1353

                      East Coast Grill is a completely different experience from a Chinese fish-tank restaurant. You could do both and enjoy some great Boston eating. ECG is American with Carribean influences. A fish-tank restaurant is seriously good Chinese eats. As for Yelp, the question about ECG is what do you enjoy? It is crowded, can be noisy, and the food can get spicy. I enjoy it for the food, which I find tasty, creative, and diverse, but certainly some people may want a place that is less crowded, more quiet, and more New-England-traditional where their seafood is concerned.

                      1. re: mes1353

                        I find East Coast Grill very so-so myself but there are many on this board who love it. You'd be much better off at the Helmand in my opinion, for about the same or less $$-wise. Maybe New Jumbo could substitute for Neptune Oyster as a less expensive seafood option, although obviously not the same thing at all, just yummy seafood. (Not sure if they are one of the Chinatown restaurants that does lobster, though.) And get your oysters at one of the places with $1 oysters, as someone mentioned above.

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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

                        1. re: GretchenS

                          new Jumbo does do lobster. if you want even cheaper, stop in at Quick-Pik BBQ on Beach st for some crispy pig over rice.

                        2. re: mes1353

                          New Jumbo is one of our favorites and I can't resist the Salty Spicy lobster. So good.

                        3. re: PinchOfSalt

                          Little Q Hotpot is in East Arlington, not North Cambridge.

                          1. re: tallullah

                            Is there not a new little Q in Chinatown? The one in East Arlington is a bit out of the way.

                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                              Yes, there is the Q Restaurant in Chinatown.

                              I was just correcting PinchOfSalt's comment that Little Q Hotpot is in North Cambridge when it is actually in East Arlington.

                              1. re: tallullah

                                You may well be right. I probably was confusing the locations of Qingdao Garden and Little Q Hotpot. On the bright side, the difference is between adjacent neighborhoods/communities.

                                -----
                                Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                                2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                        4. re: mes1353

                          I like the fish in the tank Chinese restaurants; East Ocean usually has fresh shrimp, too.

                          Since I live in Cambridge, i know the place pretty well. I like Craigie on Main though some posters feel that the service is a bit haughty; I do not feel that way. For Italian, i like Rialto in Harvard Square and for Indian, I like Tamarind Bay also in the Square. The first two are pricey; Tamarind Bay is my favorite Indian restaurant in Boston and the equal of my favorites in NYC.

                          by the way, craigie is near the central square stop of the red line, while the other two are located near the harvard square red line stop.

                          -----
                          Tamarind Bay
                          75 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                          Craigie on Main
                          853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      2. And since Im getting such great responses, let me deepen the question....
                        We are going on only sit down dine for dinner..... Where are some cool pop in spots - for light coffee or something light and fun, people watching - around town? We'll be doing typical touristy things like the Freedom Trail, etc. We are also staying on Beacon Street. THANKS!! This is fun.... :)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mes1353

                          The North End has pastry-coffee shops that will be mobbed. While suburbanites don't come into Boston to shop downtown the way they once did (especially since the cornerstone of our retail district at Downtown Crossing has been an open hole for a few years....), they still do come in for theatre (the district for which abuts Chinatown) and events at the TD (Boston) Garden (which is near the North End).

                          The advent of consistently cold weather this week for the first time this season means people will be walking fast (Bostonians are generally reckoned the fastest walkers of the major US urban areas, and Boston is the windiest major metro area - the two kinda go hand in hand).

                          Have you considered Portuguese food as an option? It's one of the strengths of our area (in Cambridge, in particular). I suspect it's not something you get a lot of in Austin. Pork with clams, mmm.

                          And Boston's urban culture is still that of an early-to-bed, early-to-rise city (Ben Franklin was born on Milk Street, what can I say). Even with all those late-to-bed, late-to-rise university students who don't understand why there aren't as many options as they'd like. Just in case you're not aware of that.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Ha, lord, early-to-bed, yes. Good move to remind an Austinite. Every time I visit Austin I absolutely have to eat something at the Magnolia's off Mopac at 3:30 a.m.

                            If you're staying on Beacon St. you will probably take a stroll (er, rapid walk) down Newbury St., and both the Trident and Espresso Royale coffeeshops (towards the Mass. Ave. end of Newbury) are fun places to stop in and warm up. ER has better coffee, bike-messenger–watching, and IMO the best bagels in town* but Trident has books. Note, though, that Trident's food is surprisingly not-cheap—restaurant prices, not café prices. Also in that neck of the woods is Café Jaffa for inexpensive and delicious Middle Eastern.

                            * Short of Katz's, which is in Chelsea and thus requires a separate trek.

                        2. Here is the website for Carlo's Cucino, if that helps. Their stuffed eggplant apps lingers in my (eggplant-related) dreams. http://www.carloscucinaitaliana.com/

                          If you need to be in the general area of The Helmand, I can't really think of an equally yummy but cheaper alternative, although that doesn't mean none exists. I will say that sharing 3 (or 4 if you are very hungry) apps should keep you very happy and minimmize the damage to your wallet. Or my veggie friend adores the veg special and it's big and not too dear. You do need to make reservations there asap.

                          Also don't overlook that we are known for our ice cream around these parts.

                          1. You won't find steamed lobster at Neptune