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Truly Bostonian Restaurants

Hi, I'm going to be in Boston (first time) for a conference at the Hynes Conference Center for 4 nights and am looking for reasonably priced but good dinners. (I have little hope for anything interesting at the conference itself but hope to have some nice meals at night...with your help.) I'm from the Bay Area — well, I live there but I'm from Washington State — and I'm not rich so I'm looking for something reasonable but good and, if possible, "regional". And by regional, I could mean Portuguese or Cape Verdean. I mean, the Tadich Grill is a SF institution but it was started by Croatians.

But really, I'd like something good that will make the trip and change in time zones worth it. Really, something amusing or with integrity would do just fine.

Oh, and I'm gluten-intolerant. Which sucks but what can you do?

Thanks for any and all suggestions.

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  1. Doyles, Galleria Umberto, East Coast Grill, PICO, B & G Oyster, Legal Test Kitchen, Charlie's, Mr. Bartley's, Sullivan's (South Boston)...

    www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

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

    B & G Oysters
    550 Tremont street, Boston, MA 02118

    Legal Test Kitchen
    12 Harborside Dr, Boston, MA 02128

    6 Replies
    1. re: scotty27

      I'd 86 Galleria Umberto since there's really nothing gluten free there (it's pizza & calzones, with other breaded & fried things) . Marco & Nebo in the North End, as well as Erbaluce seem to be pretty aware of the gluten issue & go out of their way to make sure there's no cross contamination. I believe that the chef (Charles Draghi) at Erbaluce's wife has celiac, & I also remeber reading that if you call Marco ahead of time, they will even make gluten free bread for you.

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      Nebo Restaurant and Bar
      90 North Washington Street, Boston, MA 02114

      Erbaluce
      69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

      1. re: southie_chick

        Forgot about the gluten when I mentioned Galleria Umberto. Even the arancini has bread crumbs, right?

        1. re: scotty27

          Correct - all arancini tend to.

      2. re: scotty27

        scotty27 has a great list here. I couldn't agree more.

        1. re: scotty27

          pico? and the food at ltk is horrible.

          i'll add neptune oyster and island creek oyster bar to this list.

          east boston has some amazing central american restaurants if you're not scared of the "t" and bare-bones environemnets, like rincon limon and jalisco.

          per the post below, erbaluce is one of my total new faves.

        2. When you mention Tadich Grill, I wonder if you might like Amrheins in S Boston. It's there sincee 1890...about 50 years newer than Tadich; but similar ol Boston feel..reasonable prices. Short cab or a little cumbersome T.

          Charlies's is good and close for breakfast..think urban diner.

          Sullivan's is basically a hoy dog place with 1 of the best views in the world.

          I'd pass on B&G. Not that it isn't great but I'm guessing you've got plenty of oyster bars in WA

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          Amrheins Restaurant
          80 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127

          2 Replies
          1. re: 9lives

            Think the prices at Amrheins have experienced price creep. Went there recently and some entrees were below $20 but several were $20 - $30. The bar is something to be seen though, although a brand name martini was $12.50 (steak house level price)

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            Amrheins Restaurant
            80 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127

            1. re: Fort Point

              I'll take yout word fo it; but when the the OP mentiomed Tadich Grill, even with Amrhein's price creep. It' less than TD and give a true feel ofhistoric Boston

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              Amrheins Restaurant
              80 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127

          2. I lived in Boston for eight years before moving to the Bay Area. For regional, not-too-expensive choices (my expertise, since I was a grad student at the time) I would suggest:

            The Barking Crab - in South Boston. Picture long tables on the waterfront covered with brown paper. People in bibs all around you cracking crabs. You get the idea.

            Grendel's den in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Come here for the atmosphere. The food is adequate, not great, but really cheap - especially during happy hour. But the crowd is great! Lots of students and academics. While you are in the square, get a hot chocolate at Burdick's or stop by Cafe Pamplona.

            Mary Chung's is an MIT institution. Not too fancy chinese food, good spicy noodles (dun dun noodles) can be found here. Or you could just try wandering around chinatown.

            Addis Red Sea is a great Ethiopian place in the South End, not TOO far from the convention center.

            Just some ideas...

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            The Barking Crab
            88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

            Mary Chung Restaurant
            460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

            Burdick's
            Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

            Cafe Pamplona
            12 Bow St, Cambridge, MA 02138

            5 Replies
            1. re: Aimless Wander

              You trying to kill him at the Barking Crab or at the very least, give a bad impression of Boston food? :-O
              Good to hang out for drinks but the food is not choworthy imho (and others from the last thread on it)...

              Take a walk into the South End and hit B&G Oysters for a lobster roll and fresh oysters...

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              The Barking Crab
              88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                1. re: Spike

                  Very funny, can't stop laughing. Very true.

                2. re: Aimless Wander

                  Im really sorry, but I think this is really bad advice.

                  In a seacoast town advising someone to go to the most laughed at (behind Anthonys Pier 4) frozen seafood house? Crabs are NOT local.

                  Grendel's den is poor but cheap bar food. Good in a pinch but NOT a destination restaurant.

                  Addis Red Sea is a sad imitation of complex Ethiopian food.

                  Go to the North End for a great taste of boston, Galleria Umberto for lunch for great Arancini, Maurizios for well priced Sardinian food, and Neptune Oyster for excellent seafood. A bit pricy, but I believe it's a must for any seafood loving visitor. (If you can afford it)

                  Cambridge has some decent Portuguese restaurants, however I'd head over to Helmand in Cambridge for great Afghani food.

                  I agree on the Erbaluce rec- Sit at the bar, tell them you're gluten intolerant and have a fabolous dinner!

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

                  Erbaluce
                  69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                  1. re: jessabella617

                    You're seriously going to tell someone who's gluten-intolerant to go to Galleria Umberto, where everything except the dixie cups full of wine has either breading or dough?

                3. I'd suggest Erbaluce. They are very friendly to gluten allergies and the food is pretty awesome.

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                  Erbaluce
                  69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                  1. If you can afford one splurge, go to Locke Ober, It defines Boston the way Galatoires defines New Orleans. Have Jack Kennedy's lobster bisque.http://www.lockeober.com/menu.htm

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: 9lives

                        I thought it had re-opened..I am sending a spy over there in the next week because it worries me, here in Louisiana, to have a place like that in flux.

                            1. re: Allstonian

                              Thank you...hard to thinkof the place without butter and cream but it was always an odd amalgam on a menu...maybe the new menu will be equally odd.

                      2. The Elephant Walk has an entire gluten free menu!

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                        Elephant Walk
                        2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                        1. One cuisine I haven't seen mentioned yet that we do really well in Boston is Spanish. The two best spots for that are Taberna de Haro and Estragon. Lots of good gluten-free options, and very good Spanish wine lists (especially Taberna de Haro).

                          -----
                          Taberna De Haro
                          999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                          Estragon
                          700 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BobB

                            Along that same vein, I'd also suggest Toro. It's a creative take on Spanish. Not necessarily authentic, but very delicious. They don't take reservations, but if you're eating solo it won't be a problem getting a spot at the bar.

                            -----
                            Toro
                            1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                          2. beck, below i have linked some long recent threads offering advice to recent or future CH visitors.they may have bits of interest for you. i think you could help us help you better by telling us - where will you be staying?will you be doing the T or taxi? and what entree price point you'd prefer to target. Most of us want to tell you about 'the best places' but that can mean so many things.

                            As to 'traditional Boston' or 'regional', i will mention that for significantly sized, well-established immigrant communities, Boston's are irish, italian, armenian/lebanese/turkish, and portuguese.

                            the central american and brazilian communities have grown substantially in recent decades. Your own SF has much more diversity than we, and it doesn't make sense to me to ref. you to any asian or italian places, but my experiences in SF suggest to me that we may have more portuguese, armenian, central american and brazilian. Are you staying near copley square/hynes? if so, the Portuguese community of east cambridge is about a 20 min taxi. I recommend the pork w/ clams at Casa Portugal or J and J Seafood .The armenian community is centered in Watertown, across the river and next to Cambridge, another 20-25 min cab ride. Other CHs may know of closer Armenian/Lebanese options for you. The best Brazilian rec. listed in the below link, Casa Brazil, is in Allston, easily T or cab accessible from Hynes. Just fyi, except for Casablanca and the 2 seafood spots I mentioned, the other recommended restnts are located in some of the dirtiest/least attractive parts of our handsome city.

                            best Portuguese thread:

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/714442

                            best brazilian thread:

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/770234

                            There are a number of 'Boston institutions' that are unworthy of recommending. Of those that are worthy,

                            you might consider Jacob Wirth, as alrdy suggested; Durgin Park (famous for prime rib and indian pudding and loud gruff waitresses); and Legal Seafood, but from what i have seen on CH, these are generally not frequented much by CHs but by tourists and non CHs.

                            Across the river, a very good Harvard Sq., Cambridge, restnt.institution is Casablanca, famous for its murals from the film and its Harvard-heavy clientele. Mediterranean and regional American foods.

                            For seafood, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Neptune Seafood are CH favs and they both also offer local fish and shellfish, done in both trad and inventive ways,fried (local) clams, clam chowdah and lobstah.

                            The 'best places' i have recommended in the links below- all have their culinary equivalents in SF

                            but we feel wicked lucky to have them here in Boston.

                            http://www.neptuneoyster.com/menu.html

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776070

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776007

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775842

                            trip report from NYC hound:

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/741449

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

                            Jacob Wirth Restaurant
                            31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

                            Casablanca Restaurant
                            40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                            Casa Portugal
                            1200 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            Durgin Park
                            1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

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

                            1. I don't know the Bay Area well so this may not be new or worth it -- try Myers + Chang for a menu that's very friendly to gluten allergies, if I remember correctly. It's marked with gluten-free offerings, I think, and is otherwise very tasty and a fun spot.

                              -----
                              Myers + Chang
                              1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                              1. Hope you have some great ,and don't forget to report back!

                                1. Well, I was just going to say I went down to Faneuil Hall every night to eat at Cheers — what could be more Bostonian than that! — but, no, I didn't.

                                  No dinner the first night except horrible Chinese at O'Hare. Got into Logan at 12:45 am.

                                  The next day at lunch I went to Tapeo on Newbury (or is it Newb'ry?) since it was close to the conference center. Not bad, not great. The pulpo a feira was good, the duck breast with fois gras and red cabbage okay if a little, okay, more than a little, greasy. And salty. But I'm a sucker for salt.

                                  Dinner was fabulous, however. Erbaluce — thanks for the recommendation — was a block from my hotel and I spent a lovely evening at the bar learning about Boston's "cordial" liquor license. (Thanks, Nick, for the lesson.) Razor clams steamed with fennel, very unlike the razor clams I grew up with on the West Coast but still delicious if a little sandy. The silver hake with greens and gigante beans was excellent.

                                  The next night I took the T and walked in the rain to Casa Portugal. I would have a good recommendation just for the experience. People on Yelp have complained about the service but I thought the waitresses were efficient and personable given how busy the restaurant was. (I've worked in restaurants myself and have more sympathy for restaurant staff than other people I know.) The caldo verde could have used a bit more kale IMHO — mine does — but it was good. The pork with clams were delicious though I wish I had someone to split the dish with. I liked the idea of cooking the three components — pork, clams and potatoes — separately and then mixing them right before serving. Many of the customers knew each other making the restaurant feel more small town.

                                  I stopped at Christina's for ice cream afterwards. A little disappointing. If you're ever in SF, be sure to hit Humphrey Slocombe or Ici in Berkeley. Worth the trip to the Mission or Elmwood.

                                  Monday night I went to see Paul Revere's house and eat at Neptune Oyster, on your and Nick's recommendation. Despite what someone mentioned, there aren't really many oyster bars on the West Coast like the Neptune. There's one in SF and a bigger one in Portland (OR, not ME), both fairly old. Mostly the seafood bars that do exist are part of a larger restaurant (McCormick and Schmick's, e.g.). Yummy. And real tight. Even had a kumamoto from back home on Willapa Bay. (That's pronounced WILL-ah-pah, not wi-LAP-ah, for those of you not from there.)

                                  Finally, I lunch yesterday at Jacob Wirth. Mostly because it's been around so long (and because I had/have a cold and it was close to the hotel). But I love sausages and sauerkraut, too, so I enjoyed it. The food wasn't absolutely fabulous but it had some integrity (that is, it wasn't trying to be something it wasn't) and tasted good, though I like my sauerkraut a little more cooked.

                                  So, all in all, I had a good time and thanks, thanks, thanks for taking the time to give me your recommendations. (BTW, loved the dixie cup comment.)

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

                                  Jacob Wirth Restaurant
                                  31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

                                  Casa Portugal
                                  1200 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  Erbaluce
                                  69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: b2beck

                                    terrif. Now we can refer to your experiences when we make recs to other visitors and, of course, ourselves!Happy spring out there; we're getting there. p.s. I miss the Unagi and Avocado banh mi at Sea Salt in Berkeley.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      Well, I can't any kind of banh mi but Sea Salt is a good place to eat. If you're in Berkeley and you're looking for good Japanese food, try Norikonoko. Very small, very much a two-person, home-style restaurant but waaaay more Japanese than most of the places you find in the U.S. (I lived in Japan for a year and have a pretty good idea of what's authentically Japanese.) It's near campus on Telegraph a block below Dwight.

                                      1. re: b2beck

                                        I spent 2 mos in japan awhile ago so this is a tremendous tip; thank you!

                                  2. Love this thread!! Am in Boston another year (bf is at school) and hope to try as many "Bostonian" places too!

                                    1. When I read "truly bostonian restaurants" I get the impression you want places which are not taken over by tourists every night.

                                      The Chart House next to the long wharf mariott is a good start.

                                      Stop by Hook Lobster for a chowder.

                                      Yankee Lobster is a mix of tourists but has a huge repeat business.

                                      The Daily Catch has been in Boston for what now seems forever. There are two locations, I would go for the North End.

                                      If you are driving, The Stockyard in Brighton has been in business for over 35 years. Family own and they never got into the expansion thing. They concentrate on the one location and the prices are fair and food great.

                                      -----
                                      Yankee Lobster
                                      300 Northern Ave, Boston, MA

                                      Daily Catch
                                      323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: will007

                                        Both the Chart House and the Stockyard are odd recommendations, IMO. Not very good food at either place. Plus the Chart House is quite touristy.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          and the daily catch is tiny and packed with tourists for pretty average food.

                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                            The Stockyard isn't bad for what it is, and does meet the criteria of being typically Boston (neighborhood Boston that is, not gourmet Boston) and not touristy. And I daresay it has "integrity" (it is what it is and does it well.) But it's a far cry from what I'd consider "something good that will make the trip and change in time zones worth it."

                                            On the other hand - the OP put in this request back in April, I daresay (s)he has come and gone long since.

                                        2. The daily catch on Hanover street is a mix of tourists and people living in the area. The food is pretty good.
                                          Having been to the chart house a few months back, I would say this is less touristy than ten years ago, and the food is above average.

                                          1. This is where I take out of town friends:

                                            Seafood: You have to go to Union Oyster house and sit in the ancient seats at the oyster bar where Paul Revere used to hang out. Have the oysters, go elsewhere for dinner. Island Creek Oyster Bar (if you want a high end experience) or Barking Crab (if you prefer picnic tables facing the harbor, pitchers of beer, and cracking open lobsters with an actual stone).

                                            Boston Traditional: Durgin Park or Kitchen Restaurant. Neither is super crazy great, but they are Boston traditional. Don't bother with Amrheins. I like it a lot for watching games, but it is just traditional pub food that you can get anywhere.

                                            Best (Expensive) Restaurants: Menton (Creative American/French) and O Ya (Sushi).

                                            Unusual Food (Offal): Coppa or Craigie on Maine. They both make their own cured and unusual stuff inhouse. Craigie has a pig's head for two, which makes for a memorable dish. Coppa's beef heart pastrami is delicious.

                                            Italian for Non-New Englanders: Nothing beats the lobster/seafood pasta plate for two at Giacomo's. It is The North End restaurant, that often has a line down the street. Very fresh and memorably delicious. Make sure you order the Giacomo's sauce, and then the diablo sauce on the side. Erbaluce is good for creative high end Italian.

                                            Steak: My current favorite is a new place--Boston Chops. They are not a chain (like most of the rest) and have a wide range of very tasty steaks.

                                            Vietnamese: Dorchester has some great Vietnamese food, rivaled only by San Francisco, in my experience. I would recommend Anh Hong and Pho Le. Get the 7 course beef or seafood at Anh Hong. Very good and quite an experience.

                                            Other Asian: The new place in Dorchester (Van Shabu) has a $20 all you can eat shabu hot pot plus sushi during lunch. My favorite shabu for dinner is in China Town, called Shabu-Zen. When in China Town, I also recommend Peach Farm, New Jumbo Seafood, Taiwan Cafe, Taiwan Cafe, and Xinh Xinh.

                                            African: Blue Nile in JP or Asmara on Mass Ave for Ethiopian/Eritrean food. Or do yourself a great favor and go to Chopped Chef Winner's Taranga on Washington Street for very tasty and not expensive Senegalese Cuisine.

                                            Oleana in Cambridge, if in your budget, for amazing Mediterranean food.

                                            Bon Apetit!