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What's your latest food quest?

I want to disappear down a rabbit hole for a few hours

Swankalicious Apr 5, 2011 04:36 PM

I want ambiance. I want mood. I want dim lighting, proper hosts, goblet-sized martinis and twinkling lights. I want some light music warbling in the background. I want to look to my left and see a dapper old gent squiring a young dame. I want to look to my right and see a wizened old couple bickering over creme brule. I want characters. I want pizazz. I want a waiter proper enough to look like he just came off a coat hanger. I want someone to wink at me. I want fine china. I want elegant presentations. I want a proper sidecar. I want to spend a fair amount, but I also want to feel I've eaten a fair amount. I want to feel special. I want to out into that cold night and feel the buzz of excitement, palpable as my relish tray. I want to park in a free parking lot and return to my motorcar to find it unsullied by fliers, pamphlets and mysterious scratches. I want to be able to make a reservation, please, by talking to an actual human person one or two weeks in advance. I want to Go Out for the Evening.

I do not want small plates that are "meant to share," nor do I want to be encouraged to order "8 or 9" for two people at $9 a pop. I do not want mammoth portions. I do not want flesh-bound cougars pawing for the last half-priced mozzarella stick, ruddy elbows flying, sending bright-green triangles of chlorine-smelling martini tumbling to the floor. I do not want my waiter to sit down at my table to recite the specials. I also do not want my menu to be so gimmicky as to necessitate my server "explaining" its navigation to me, as though I am a child going out into the world for the first time. I do not want my appetizer and entree delivered in tandem. I do not want throbbing music, menus physically big enough to make me feel as though I've taken LSD and long enough to make feel as though I'm reading the Bible. I do not want dishes that are auctioned off by a hassled server who can't be bothered to remember who ordered what. I do not want antlers. I do not want anything truffle-dusted, nor do I want anything unusual to stake its place in my mac-and-cheese. I do not want gratuitous eggs, soggy poutine, or bizarre cuts of meat presented solely for shock value. I do not want free refills.

Is this too much to ask? And, above all, where can I find it, Hounds?

  1. s
    Scruffy The Cat Apr 5, 2011 04:53 PM

    I hear you. I was going to post along the same lines. I have fine-dining-restaurant-fatigue in a big way. Next week is my birthday and there's no place I really want to go. It's kind of depressing.

    1. r
      rosie17 Apr 5, 2011 05:00 PM

      My answer is Bergamot. I think it's the cat's pajamas, or at least it was the three times I've gone. The service has been interpreted somewhat varyingly by different diners on the board; I found it ever so slightly oversolicitous, but it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I felt special, as did the entire experience. The flavors in each dish were so bright, each one allowing the others to shine. The drinks are well-mixed and you might even find a new favorite from their specialty list - could also tell the server/tender what you like and they will whip up something.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rosie17
        Scruffy The Cat Apr 5, 2011 06:57 PM

        I liked Bergamot. But why does everything have to be so crowded? So loud?

        1. re: Scruffy The Cat
          teezeetoo Apr 5, 2011 07:28 PM

          Lumiere, cognac bistro, gran gusto, red house - honestly there are plenty of good food, good service, well run places where you can hear yourself think, talk, and eat well.

          Lumiere Restaurant
          1293 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465

        2. re: rosie17
          Boston_Otter Apr 6, 2011 05:12 AM

          Bergamot hits every note on the list above, except for the dimly-lit moody ambiance; it's a bright, well-lit, contemporary space that's rather chatty and noisy at times.

          1. re: Boston_Otter
            rosie17 Apr 9, 2011 11:44 AM

            Really? Last time I was there (sadly, too long ago... maybe fall) I recall feeling a little heavy-lidded b/c the room was rather dimly lit. Maybe I left my sunglasses on inside again :) In any event, this post, or at least my selection as an answer to this post, is making me really want to go back there. Gotta save up for a couple weeks!

        3. Boston_Otter Apr 5, 2011 05:01 PM


          6 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter
            teezeetoo Apr 5, 2011 08:03 PM

            locke ober has been closed for a while.

            1. re: teezeetoo
              Gabatta Apr 5, 2011 08:32 PM

              Locke Ober is open for business.

              1. re: Gabatta
                Allstonian Apr 6, 2011 07:11 AM

                Not yet - it will be on Friday (4/8/2011.)

                1. re: Allstonian
                  scotty27 Apr 6, 2011 07:25 AM

                  That was such a weird piece. I mean: The owner talked about how he fell behind the times and the bad food, etc. I guess he needs...a chef.

                  1. re: scotty27
                    Allstonian Apr 6, 2011 08:07 AM

                    Yeah, I noticed the glaring omission of any mention of who's going to be running the kitchen of this new, improved L-O.

                    1. re: Allstonian
                      scotty27 Apr 6, 2011 08:17 AM

                      And then he starts talking about salads. Jeez, I dunno. It had such an easy, straight-ahead menu back in the day. You'd think he'd hire some CIA or NEI or JW graduate and just let that person connect the dots.

          2. barleywino Apr 5, 2011 05:04 PM

            you want to park in a free parking lot? that rules out Boston proper I think. Somerville perhaps...Waltham...

            1. Mike5966 Apr 5, 2011 07:36 PM

              Hey Swankalicious, not sure if Bergamot has enough of the atmosphere that you are looking for, but Mistral may. I don't think it needs to be quite as expensive as it is, but as I read through your whirlwind of a manifesto, it is the one place that came to mind. I have not been to Menton or Clio but I'd be interested to see what others have to say about how those might fit the bill.

              Btw, I noticed you like A&J in the DC area. I LOVE that place... the best Taiwanese noodle soups I've ever had!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mike5966
                hckybg Apr 5, 2011 08:40 PM

                A&J is wonderful. You might be interested to know that Philip Tang, chef/owner at East by Northeast, is the son of the owners of the DC area A&J's.

                As for the poster's question, maybe Journeyman would be worth a shot? I haven't been but it is odd and unusual, small and has parking nearby.

              2. t
                trueblu Apr 5, 2011 09:19 PM

                shame about the antlers, since otherwise, the oak room would fulfil your criteria! Is the stuffing of dear heads on walls a real deal-breaker? Really? If Locke Ober is open again, that again would fit the bill.

                However, I have a feeling the OP is being rather tongue in cheek -- bemoaning the lack of 'occasion' dining. I haven't been to a couple of the really expensive places (O Ya, Clio, Menton) in town, but aside from Locke Ober, there are few places in this town where everyone is dressed formally for a proper meal..it's good that it's not everywhere, but a few 'old die-hards' are good to have.


                1. BobB Apr 6, 2011 05:37 AM

                  You want Anthony's Pier 4 circa 1972.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: BobB
                    pemma Apr 6, 2011 06:03 AM

                    Yes, I agree that Anthony's would have fit the bill about 30 years ago or more. The food will not knock your socks off, but for an old school-type dining experience there is Cafe Escadrille in Burlington, although it doesn't hit everythng the OP wants.

                    Cafe Escadrille
                    26 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA 01803

                    1. re: pemma
                      digga Apr 6, 2011 05:51 PM

                      Cafe Escadrille? Could you provide some insight on your recommendation? We moved close by in Arlington, have driven by it numerous times now, and the TV ads for that place crack us up! Is it a hidden gem that we are missing out on?

                      Cafe Escadrille
                      26 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA 01803

                      1. re: digga
                        pemma Apr 7, 2011 05:48 AM

                        I certainly wouldn't call it a hidden gem. It's been around for years and is gigantic. Nor would I really consider it a "gem." If you are in Arlington, a closeby partway hidden gem is Bistro 5 in West Medford. But, anyway, Cafe Escadrille just seems somewhat dated, but not shabby. The service is very good. They even have voluntary valet parking even though there is a huge lot, a coat check. The food is primarily old school --- think duck a l'orange, prime rib, shrimp cocktail, etc. While not very creative, the food is quite good for what it is. I've been there when there is a little 3-piece band playing at dinner. There is an older single/divorced type scene at the bar. When I've been there it has not been my choice, rather the choice of my 80-something mother-in-law. But, if you go with the right attitude it can be a pleasant night out.

                        Bistro 5
                        5 Playstead Road, Medford, MA 02155

                        Cafe Escadrille
                        26 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA 01803

                        1. re: digga
                          southie_chick Apr 9, 2011 09:10 AM

                          Drive past Cafe Escadrille & go to L'andana - great service & good food. Can't comment on the drinks (since I don't drink & the hubby had wine last visit). The also have a 3 course $38 Tuscan Country Supper, Sunday - Friday, which we have had & it's a good amount of food. You can add a pasta course to this for $10 also.


                          86 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA 01803

                      2. re: BobB
                        LeoLioness Apr 6, 2011 06:47 AM

                        That's what I was thinking, that the OP wants either a time machine or to eat on the set of an episode of Mad Men.

                        The Oak Room came to mind for me in terms of old school decor and straightforward food.

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

                        1. re: BobB
                          L2k Apr 6, 2011 02:20 PM

                          Or The Pillar House, circa 1995

                          Heh, their website is still up!


                          1. re: L2k
                            Uncle Yabai Apr 7, 2011 01:37 AM

                            Too bad the building isn't!

                          2. re: BobB
                            Madrid Apr 7, 2011 11:51 AM

                            My first visit was in 1973 and then a second in 1976...wow, was I impressed. All that ship stuff and the popovers and the lobster casserole, so you didn't even have to crack the shell...and it had sherry in it! And then in 1977, my wedding reception at the Andover Inn...a dusty history "installation" that long ago. Unfortunately, I just read on the web site that the "fusty gentleman's club atmosphere" is gone with the recent renovation.

                          3. s
                            scotty27 Apr 6, 2011 06:13 AM

                            I love your writing; brought a smile to my face. Alas, I can't think of a single place in Boston that fits your bill precisely. The closest places that come to mind are Harvest, Hamersley's, and Bistro du Midi. You made me think of Lutece & Taillevent back in the day sans cocktails.


                            Bistro du Midi
                            272 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: scotty27
                              robwat36 Apr 6, 2011 06:18 AM

                              There's no place anywhere, particularly in a city, that fits the bill perfectly. That's why it's funny.

                              Although, Swank, I kind of want to know where you saw the cougars fight over the mozzarella stick.

                              1. re: scotty27
                                Bob Dobalina Apr 6, 2011 06:49 AM

                                That was my reaction too. I know exactly the place Swank is looking for, but I cannot think of a single place that fits the bill. The OP wants to go back in time and/or go to NYC, maybe Le Bernardin?

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                  robwat36 Apr 6, 2011 07:00 AM

                                  Where there's a free parking lot and people wink at you?

                                  1. re: robwat36
                                    Bob Dobalina Apr 6, 2011 07:53 AM

                                    RE: winking - actually think Swank may be thinking of the old bar room in the Shining...yikes!

                                    The parking in NYC *could* be free so long as someone else pays for it.

                                    People winking? All it takes is one to start....

                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                      hotoynoodle Apr 6, 2011 01:01 PM

                                      i feel tasered when a guy winks at me in a bar or dining room. except when obama did it, lol.

                                  2. re: Bob Dobalina
                                    buttertart Apr 7, 2011 11:18 AM

                                    Definitely not le Bernardin, unless your idea of swanky is brightly lit office building lobby decor and major attitude on the part of the servers.

                                2. n
                                  nickls Apr 6, 2011 07:09 AM

                                  What do you need a free parking lot for? Shouldn't you either be chauffeured or valet your car in this world of exciting nightlife?

                                  After all this isn't Texas, the fancy places don't come with jumbo parking lots here.

                                  Other than that, the first place that came to my mind was No. 9 Park, or perhaps Clio.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: nickls
                                    arashall Apr 6, 2011 08:35 AM

                                    We constantly complain about forced valet parking in Houston, only the malls come with jumbo parking lots!

                                    1. re: arashall
                                      nickls Apr 6, 2011 09:07 AM

                                      Good point, I should have put Las Vegas, not Texas. Can't think of anywhere I've dined in Vegas that didn't have free parking.

                                  2. Berheenia Apr 6, 2011 07:49 AM

                                    I would start with a martini at the Oak Bar...

                                    1. Niblet Apr 6, 2011 11:15 AM

                                      I was enjoying your Siren Song for an Evening Out, until the sharply dissonant "...stake its place in my mac-and-cheese." Mac and cheese? But nonetheless a very entertaining post!

                                      I agree with suggestions above for one of the upscale steak houses, or No. 9 Park. I was at the bar at No. 9 Park last week after a long hiatus and forgot how much I love it there. To my mind, everyone in FOH and behind the bar epitomizes the ideal of hospitality.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Niblet
                                        Swankalicious Apr 6, 2011 05:15 PM

                                        Thank you, Hounds, for indulging my longing and my nostalgia. Keep the suggestions coming, by all means.

                                      2. pinehurst Apr 6, 2011 05:32 PM

                                        I believe your best bet is to get in your motorcar, go to the home of a fellow Hound, and have him/her and serve you swoon-worthy food, drink, and manners. It eliminates many of those messy variables.

                                        1. g
                                          gourmaniac Apr 7, 2011 06:14 AM

                                          I warmly agree with the entertainment value of this post. Your request seems an amalgam of possible bits in Boston past and present. Grille 23 comes closest now but it's too corporate. The old Copley bar when Dave MacKenna performed nightly is the right atmosphere and the sidecar. L'Espalier in its previous digs has the food, the old world humanity and the clientele (also no mozarella sticks though cougars have been sighted). Parking... fuhget about it!

                                          774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                                          1. Kat Apr 7, 2011 06:22 AM

                                            About 12 years ago we went to this place on Rt 1 North called "The Continental". We were driving by, saw it and just had to come back and stop in for dinner. It was waayyyyy old school inside and I remember a wine steward. We were the youngest people in there by many years. Anyone know if it is still around?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Kat
                                              threedogs Apr 7, 2011 07:17 AM

                                              I just drove by it a few days ago - yes, it's still around! I commented to my driving companion that I was amazed - I don't think I've been there since the seventies. I always loved how they came around with little appetizers (this was a favorite of my mom & dad, so we went there often) - a sort of retro small plates before small plates were around - without the extra cost, haha. I have no idea what the food is like now (in fact, as a teen, I was wasn't even interested in whatever entree I would have), or if the ambiance is anything beyond dimmed lights.

                                              1. re: threedogs
                                                Bob Dobalina Apr 7, 2011 07:27 AM

                                                I have it! Il Capriccio in Waltham - free parking, very professional waitstaff, extensive wine list, good bar otherwise, great chow - winks? we'll see....

                                                1. re: threedogs
                                                  pemma Apr 7, 2011 01:07 PM

                                                  I was at the Continental once some years ago. We still joke that we were the only ones there without oxygen tanks.

                                                  1. re: pemma
                                                    threedogs Apr 7, 2011 01:20 PM

                                                    hahahaha - too funny! (and probably true...)

                                                    1. re: threedogs
                                                      Kat Apr 7, 2011 01:51 PM

                                                      Can't believe it's still there! I'd go back, just for the experience, but I'm never up that way anymore.

                                              2. threedogs Apr 7, 2011 07:21 AM

                                                I have absolutely no suggestions, Swankalicious, but I do want to say that I LOVE your post. Great writing.

                                                Although I focus more on the food than the atmosphere (I tend to gravitate for authentic grunge, lol), there are occasions I would also like to disappear down the rabbit hole. Usually do this via great movie(s) that will take me away from my daily life. :D If you find anything w/even a good portion of your dream restaurant, be sure to share.

                                                And keep writing. Love it!

                                                1. CocoDan Apr 7, 2011 07:51 AM

                                                  Free parking? I hurt my head, I'm laughing so hard, I fell to the floor. Good one swank. Someone needs to pinch you to wake you up from this fabulous dream. I love it and want to be there.

                                                  1. p
                                                    Pomegranate Martini Apr 7, 2011 01:40 PM

                                                    Although parking is typical Boston, Bistro du Midi is my new favorite restaurant. The food is wonderful, service is very attentive; the crowd is as you described. And I will say the host actually winked at me when I left the restaurant stating "he had so much more to show us when we come back." The view is lovely, the room romantic. I would say if you are up for Boston Proper it fits your bill.

                                                    Bistro du Midi
                                                    272 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Pomegranate Martini
                                                      CocoDan Apr 8, 2011 06:53 AM

                                                      I'm with you. BdM does a great job. Was there last Sat. for a late lunch. Love their fried artichoke hearts. Deserts are amazing. Bar service is pretty darn good. Very good wine list.

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