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So little time, so many choices. . . I need help!

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I am going to be in Boston for 2 nights only and am looking for help with eats. I have been reading this board to find suggestions and have come across several that are appealing. I will be accompanied by my two "adult" children. One of them is a food writer who lives in Madrid so I really want to give her a "Bostonian" experience (and she misses American food).

We are thinking of hitting up Neptune when we arrive for a late lunch (around 2pm) on a weekday. The descriptions of their lobster roll has me giddy (I have never had one). I was thinking that at on a weekday at 2 they would not be sooo crowded. THEN, I kept seeing posts for Island Creek Oyster Bar.

Now I am wondering if we should save our seafood meal for a dinner at ICOB? I was really wanting our seafood meal to be on the water with a great view, etc., but am concerned that all we would get would be cheesy, tourist-y places with blah food. I am open to suggestions!

Thinking of hitting up Coppa for the other night's dinner. Love the idea of small plates to share. Any feelings on that one?

Then, I heard about Mike's for cannolis. Never tried one. Where should we go?

We are so excited to see what Boston has to offer both in history and of course, in gastronomy. I think we spend most of our vacation time and planning deciding where to EAT.

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Coppa
253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

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

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  1. "I was really wanting our seafood meal to be on the water with a great view, etc., but am concerned that all we would get would be cheesy, tourist-y places with blah food."

    You would be correct. Boston is a shipping port, not a fishing port, and there are no good seafood restaurants with water views in the city. (And the seafood restaurants on the water are uniformly godawful.) Go with your instincts and go to ICOB for your seafood meal.

    Not that I wish to restart one of the eternal debates on this board, but: when it comes to cannoli, Mike's is strictly for tourists. Modern Pastry, a block away on the other side of Hanover Street, is a much better option for cannoli, although Maria's on Cross Street between Salem and Endicott has its fierce partisans as well. (Mike's, I will grant, has better cookies than Modern does.)

    -----
    Modern Pastry
    257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

    14 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      Thank you, Jenny. Kind of what I was thinking - my ignorance of the East Coast is showing. I figure ocean=great fish!
      I appreciate the comment regarding Modern. From my searches, I was beginning to see the light on the Mike's vs. Modern debate. Now I am just now sure how we are going to fit in all this eating!

      -----
      East Coast Restaurant
      1456 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02122

      1. re: lindatork

        Oh, it's not just you. Pretty much everyone who comes to Boston expects to find good seafood with a view of the water and it is pretty absurd that Boston hasn't been able to deliver it. Legal's new waterfront location sounds like it's going to fit that bill, but I think it's less appealing to people who want to avoid a chain (even though I'll stress that I've always had good seafood from Legal). It's a shame that Anthony's Pier 4 has had such a decline. It really is a perfect location.

        -----
        Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant
        140 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

        1. re: Chris VR

          was it ever really "all that"? or just one of the few places to actually dress up and dine? the joint has been on the outs for decades. it's also filthy.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I didn't grow up here, so I don't know if it was ever all that. My one experience there ~15 years ago was enough to tide me over for a lifetime, or until a significant change in management/chefs/staffing. But I had the impression it was well regarded "back in the day".

            1. re: Chris VR

              my implication was that there was not decent dining in boston until jasper and lydia were cooking at the bostonian and he then opened his eponymous (now long gone) restaurant in 1983. that while anthony's and jimmy's harborside were busy and famous, the food was never good -- certainly not by anything resembling modern standards.

              until the athanas kids sell out, that place will remain a fly trapped in amber. shame too, because the view is stunning.

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              I never looked forward to dining at Anthony's. I felt that the only decent thing on their menu, even in "the day" was - the popovers, of course. People back then fell into two camps: Jimmy's and Anthony's, both on the water (but Anthony's def had a better location, while Jimmy's - (is this really the location for that Legal Seafood mentioned up thread, I wonder?) - was in what was a more of an industrial spot back then. Jimmy's had some really good seafood (until it started going downhill, of course).

              Both basically only had the competition of each other, because back then, Boston had something like a dozen restaurants. Seriously.

              I was a teen when my family would get dressed up & go to mostly Jimmy's, sometimes Anthony's, so of course, I hated both. ;-) I did what teens do best - hate everything their parents do. Now I look back w/nostalgia, lol, but even nostalgia can't improve my memories of Anthony's Pier 4!!

              1. re: threedogs

                Yes, the new Legal is where Jimmy's used to be located. Also in the new building are three other restaurants: sports bar, mexican and upscale steak house. Agree with you that Jimmy's at one point had some ok seafood but then went downhill towards the end.

                1. re: Fort Point

                  the legal's is actually its own building, but they did re-purpose some wood and stuff that was salvaged from jimmy's, which is the best i have to say about that place.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Hahaha - well, I *do* remember some sort of haddock casserole I liked - if my memory is correct (and boy, that was a long time ago), it was oozing w/cheese. But I was a teenager - what did I know??

                    It was the type of place where I teen goes with their parents, reluctantly, wishing they were somewhere else, lol.

            3. re: Chris VR

              Yeah - I started looking at Legal and then immediately got turned off when I saw it was a chain. Probably not fair, but true.

              1. re: lindatork

                You should give Legal a try. They have a great, reasonably priced wine list and they are consistently very good to great. I have dined at many of their locations for business and with my family adn can't recall a bad experience.

              2. re: Chris VR

                The new Smith & Wollensky on the waterfront will be a nice addition to the seafood scene when it opens; their Seafood Bouquets are pretty fantastic.

                1. re: Chris VR

                  Anthony's Pier 4 is a dinosaur. I walked in with my wife and three daughters and we were treated like we had a contagious disease. If you want arrogance and attitude from the Maitre'D and staff, go here. It is certainly not a pleasant environment to brings kids - and mine are very well behaved. There are too many great options in this city for this relic to continue offering such apathetic customer service. We were shown outside when the dining room was EMPTY! Run, don't walk away from this place.

                  -----
                  Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant
                  140 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                  1. re: ArlingtonChowHound

                    I vaguely remember it smelling a bit moldy the last time I was there, around 1976, I believe. Or that could have been when I walked in...and then immeditaely out...of the Swampscott location probably 10 years ago. It was completely empty at prime lunch time and we were told to leave b/c my DC was wearing a plain t-shirt. We would have left anyway.

            4. Hi linda, welcome in advance. Maybe you have already seen these, but if not, i hope they might be helpful:
              Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781155

              Also, some extra Boston food profile info for you:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781156

              shopping for Boston food souvenirs:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781171

              My specific thoughts about your post:
              Neptune v.s. ICOB: Each has very strong fans. I myself would choose Neptune because of the more innovative, non-trad dishes that I love there. Ironically, apropos your situation, last week we took a visiting CH there and we had great time talking with 3 neighboring Spaniards who were thrilled w/ their dishes, including the scallops w/ pork, corn and mushrooms that we had raved to them.( btw, in case you go, i've not been wowed by their clam chowder.) And going to Neptune is fun because it's v.small and packed, and it's in the No.End, which is a very unique neighborhood for Boston and the U.S. And in the No.End, Modern Pastry is where you want to go, not Mike's. Again, an anecdote: when we were waiting to be seated at Neptune last Fri.lunch , a woman next to me had a small box from Modern. As we talked, she said that she was visiting and she was taking these pastries to her Boston friend who had told her to go to Modern and warned her not to go to Mike's. The woman on the other side of me overheard this account and jumped in that her local friend had told her the same thing. It was hysterical(and reaffirming!) It felt like we were on Candid Camera.

              ICOB is pretty opposite in feeling: VERY large room (though great design) w/ space between tables; not intimate/up close w/ neighbors like Neptune. ICOB takes reservations. Also have great oysters, as does Neptune.
              I think it's likely you'd like both Neptune and ICOB, so maybe choose on the non-food details.

              As to Coppa, I think its menu is more in the order of what your daughter sees alot of in spain(i am not saying it is Spanish), so i would suggest elsewhere. After reading your account of your NYC trip, I would encourage you to go to the East Coast Grill for a great combo of american, latin, seafood, meat, fun welcoming place.(Though i am particularly fond of their brunch) ECG and Hungry Mother both are CH favs, the latter being all about American Southern food. Pull up their web menus and see what wows you.

              Are you headed elsewhere in New Eng. after Boston?

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

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

              Modern Pastry
              257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

              Hungry Mother
              233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02141

              Coppa
              253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

              15 Replies
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                thank you, chef. Yes - I had previously looked ate the links you provided - they are very helpful.

                Your description of Neptune being "fun because it's v.small and packed, and it's in the No.End, which is a very unique neighborhood for Boston and the U.S" has hit home with me. Sounds like our kind of place. I believe we will stick with the original plan of heading there for late lunch on our first day (weekday).

                I also agree with you about Coppa being "on the order of" what is in Spain as far as concept. Doesn't rule it out completely for us. Still on the fence. I looked at ECG and can't really get a feeling for the place - can you tell me more about the vibe?

                Hungry Mother looks awesome - very different from anywhere else I have been reading about. Could be a possibility.

                How about a rec for a pizza joint for late evening on the day we do lunch at Neptune's?

                "Are you headed elsewhere in New Eng. after Boston?" Yes. We are coming from AZ to Boston and immediately driving to New Hampshire for a family thing. Then back down to Boston to spend a couple of days, then on to NYC for about 4 nights before returning. Can't wait to get on the other side of the US!

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                Hungry Mother
                Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                Coppa
                253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                1. re: lindatork

                  the original pizzeria regina's is also in the north end if you're still prowling around that neighborhood at night, although after the lobster roll and fries at neptune, you may not need it!

                  east coast grill has become an institution and can get very noisy. decent fish preps, island style, and barbecue kinda stuff. i don't know that its place on such a short list for visiting the city.

                  you may want to check out craigie street or erbaluce for another of your dinners.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    "after the lobster roll and fries at neptune, you may not need it!"

                    "need" is a relative term. . .

                    1. re: lindatork

                      I can't eat much, and for me, the hot lobster roll with the fries is well enough for two.I also love the fried oysters on top of pork...angels on horseback....

                      1. re: Madrid

                        I was already thinking we would share the lobster roll.

                        Are you from Madrid?

                        1. re: lindatork

                          No. unfortunately not. I did live there for three years long ago...1981 and 1982-84...loved it! Doing dissertation research on Goya. Such an amazing city, country. culture. I'm so jealous of your child living there. Once I was in a then upscale restaurant and something "fowl"" came with the ensalada mixta. My American friend wtih me and I both tasted it and said, wow, this is so familiar, what it is? It was turkey...Madrid then had no "colonial" foods but was so great with Spanish regional.....the fish markets with the shrimp live and crawling on ice. Boston in many ways feels to many visitors as a European city. I hope you will enjoy walking around. I miss Spain so much! spanish ingredients like smoked paprika and piquillo peppers have come into the mainstream, thank goodness.

                          I hope you get to read this before the mods take it off for not being Boston specific enough.

                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                      Agree that ECG is hardly worth a visit on a short trip -- would be one thing if there was anything of interest in the immediate neighborhood but there isn't. I do like the place, have had them do some platters for two celebrations and think the food is tasty but again, not in my opinion a great recommendation for a visitor. Especially if here only two nights.
                      I also think Coppa is a fabulous spot for dinner, regardless of a child living in Spain. It's a warm, lovely, twinkly sort of place with terrific food. I have always left happy.

                      -----
                      Coppa
                      253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                    3. re: lindatork

                      linda, I am a firm fanatic about Regina's Pizzeria in the No. End. I explained it all in the No.End section of that Guide to Boston Areas and Restnts, linked above.I am thinking,however, that if you eat at Neptune 2-4pm, you may not want dinner til later and you might like small plates options. For one of Boston's most unique menus, I would send you to Oleana and their lovely outdoor patio:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782289

                      For other nights, I would second hotoy and highly recommend the consistently CH raved Erbaluce and Craigie on Main, and, on your return trip, after N.H., Island Creek Oyster Bar. Also, in our handsome historic South End, Aquitaine is an excellent French bistro. A handsome crowded place popular w/ the hip and Euro set.

                      -----
                      Oleana
                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                      Aquitaine
                      569 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

                      Craigie on Main
                      853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      Erbaluce
                      69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

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

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        depending on which return route you take coming south, a stop at the clam box in essex would be totally fun too.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I agree about the Clam Box, but we will be gunning it for Neptune's! I need to come back already!

                          -----
                          Clam Box
                          789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                        2. re: opinionatedchef

                          Wow. Now it is getting interesting! Took a look at Oleana and am completely intrigued. I think you have just "ruined" my best laid plans. haha How does this sound?

                          Tues - late lunch Neptune
                          late pizza at Regina's

                          Wed - breakfast/brunch - Mike and Patty's
                          dinner Oleana

                          Hope to fit in Modern Pastry, too.

                          Again - we only have 2 nights in Boston. Even though we are initially flying in to Boston, we are immediately picking up a car and driving to NH. It will be early evening.

                          -----
                          Modern Pastry
                          257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

                          Oleana
                          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                          1. re: lindatork

                            I think you've got some great ideas..but I just wanted to pipe in that there's really no reason you couldn't do BOTH Neptune and Island Creek Oyster Bar. I think they are both so different (in ambiance, style, overall food) Yes, you can get oysters at both places but that's pretty much where the similarity ends, IMO. I think ICOB is one of the best restaurants in Boston right now --we had an amazing meal there. And you can definitely make a reservation (don't think you can for East Coast Grill)
                            Coppa is also excellent. In terms of ambiance it is along the same lines as Neptune. Casual, cozy, bustling --ICOB is a bit more formal (and when I say that, I really don't think it is formal at all, but these other two spots are just so similar in their casual ambiance)
                            Also --for breakfast --Mike & Patty's is great --no doubt. But..there's really no where to sit there. Maybe a table or two both inside and out but whenever I have been there they have been full....you might want to rethink that. I LOVE Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe on Columbus Ave (You can definitely find reviews in the archives) It is a Boston institution --tons of history --most of it on the walls on the tiny bustling restaurant --simple basic stuff but just done really well, IMO. I love the egg & cheese sandwich on english muffin and the french toast. Both really really good. I'd give an edge to that over Mike & Patty's just 'cause I think it is so much more of a Boston experience.

                            It sounds like you've got some great options so I don't think you'll go wrong no matter what.

                            Have fun and report back.

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

                            Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe
                            429 Columbus Ave Ste 1, Boston, MA 02116

                            Coppa
                            253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

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

                            1. re: lindatork

                              linda, ima con-FYU-zed ! So you only have two nights in Boston total?
                              wow , we just had lunch at N.O. today(Sunday 3-5pm); then errands (had to feed the jones for Modern's chewy/crunchy almond biscotti) and a long movie, then Oleana for late dinner. (Their patio is open for the season.) At Oleana, i had the best app and entree I've had-- since I ate there a few months ago!! Total bliss!(I'll probly post it on the Oleana thread.) So I think your plan looks terrif and I can say with confidence that you will have some terrific food at all those spots.

                              -----
                              Oleana
                              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                Yay! I really appreciate all the comments and suggestions. Yes - 2 nights only - not enough time at all to give the city its due. Next time. That's why I want to make sure to spend my eating time well.

                                BTW - I keep sending my daughter the suggestions and she is jazzed now about Oleana and Neptune's. NOTHING like them in Madrid.

                                I will report back upon our return. Thanks again!

                                -----
                                Oleana
                                134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                                1. re: lindatork

                                  yay!

                      2. For seafood on the waterfront with a view would suggest Legal Seafood Waterfront. It has just recently opened in a new building with large windows overlooking the harbor. It has two venues; first floor on the casual side and a more serious dining room on the second floor. Other Legal locations get mixed reviews but the second floor here may be striving to set itself apart. Have only dined on the first floor and thought the food while basic was verry good.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Fort Point

                          having had lunch at this new legal's i won't go back again for anything other than oysters. (which is what i thought would happen anyway, even after wanting to give it a shot and be proven wrong. good product bedeviled by lousy execution.)

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            i was going to recommend this place to her,based on the one rec.posted in another thread, but i wanted to wait til more people chirped in.thanks.

                        2. If a few of the water is a must you can do a lot worse than the Sea Grille at the Boston Harbor Hotel,very simple well executed seafood with a great wine list and view of the harbor.