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4 day solo visit to Back Bay (Northeastern U)- Ideas for interesting food where it's not too awkward to eat alone

o
obmarriott Jun 21, 2011 07:03 PM

So I tend to feel a little self-conscious going to a "formal" restaurant seating and getting a table for 1. Hoping you folks have some ideas for me for places where you can perhaps sit at the bar but still get nice nibbles. I will be staying by Northeastern Univ. but will happily take transit to a place that's a "can't miss."

Price isn't a major issue- I'll happily pay for good food, but I also enjoy a good dive. I like most food: street tacos (San Diegan here) , thai, indian, spanish, etc. Love spicy, eat meat, always looking for a WOW! Pretty much just don't recommend I try out Denny's (wink).

Thanks for any tips you have, and happy to return the favor if you're ever in San Diego.

  1. opinionatedchef Jun 23, 2011 10:16 AM

    here are some links that may be of interest- that address the bigger boston picture, in case 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

     

    1. m
      marais Jun 22, 2011 04:43 PM

      I do a lot of bar dining in the nabe. I totally agree with Brasserie Jo at the Colonnade for a nice French experience at the zinc bar, love the steak tartare there, very competent steak frites and the Thursday cassoulet is a real treat. Bartending is old school, and good.

      Across the street is Five Napkin Burger, sole out-of-town outpost of a small NYC chain. The only thing I get there is their eponymous burger, probably one of the best all-chuck burgers you'll eat anywhere. Doneness trends upwards here so order accordingly. Avoid the onion rings, stick with the fries (ordered separately from the burger, BTW). Good beers on tap, and excellent bourbon selection.

      If you want a great burger, go through the Pru Center to the other side on Boylston St, cross over to the left, and you will hit Back Bay Social Club, home to a pricey ($20) but delectable burger, made with multi cuts, done as ordered. And it comes with tasty fries, no extra charge, with homemade ketchup. Other things on the menu are noteworthy (proper corned beef hash for brunch, nice charcuterie plate, really good BLT, awesome kielbasa and pineapple sauced in a little crock and called 'meat candy'), bar service friendly but a bit uneven (bar manager Tommy came from No. 9 Park though). If you want a good burger, check it out.

      Symphony Sushi on Gainesborough (off Huntington) is a competent neighborhood sushi joint, I do the sushi bar or takeout there often. Other fave spots include Bukowski on Dalton St for excellent beers and average bar menu, Summer Shack next door for basic seafood pleasures (do the raw bar oysters and the lobster clambake), Pho & I on Huntington near Symphony Hall for decent entrees and really good pho. And if you don't get either a 'Kitchen Sink Pizza' or chicken wings, both with a good selection of beer on tap, from the wood-fired brick oven at Woody's on Hemenway St, you won't know the 'hood - Woody's is an old friend for me.

      -----
      Summer Shack
      310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

      Symphony Sushi
      45 Gainsborough St, Boston, MA 02115

      Pho & I Restaurant
      267 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

      Bukowski's
      50 Dalton St Ste 4, Boston, MA 02115

      Brasserie Jo
      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

      Hemenway's
      121 South Main Street, Providence, RI 02903

      Back Bay Social Club
      867 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

      6 Replies
      1. re: marais
        o
        obmarriott Jun 22, 2011 06:49 PM

        Thanks Boston CH's for your great ideas. Going to be tough to make decisions! I'll keep you posted after I get back.

        ps. I'm just going to a conference at NU, not a class.

        1. re: obmarriott
          o
          obmarriott Jun 30, 2011 06:21 PM

          Well I'm 3/4's of the way through my visit and can't thank you all enough for the recommendations!

          Night 1 my plane was late and about the only thing going was Boston Shwarma- this was a-ok for a trip back to the hotel room, and made the grade for a good hummus!

          Day 2 I had lunch at Chacarero. The near "soup nazi" style of ordering and obtaining food was great! I had an original beef, carried it over to boston common and enjoyed lunch al fresco. The extra hot sauce was super, love the green beans. In all honesty I'm not the biggest fan of torta bread (I'd prefer a crusty french), but still a darn good lunch!

          Day 2 dinner at Brasserie Jo- steak tartare was excellent and heavily mustard-y (almost a wasabi like nose clearing!) I also had a "pizza" with bacon/onion/gruyere which was great, and the bartender gave me some yummy fresh carrots with horseradish and herbs. This was a great bar dining spot.

          Day 3- lunch at Lucy Ethiopian. I'd call it adequate ethiopian, not the best I've ever had, but a bargain at $9 for a nice vegetarian lunch.

          Day 3 dinner at Toro. Let's just say that I need not fear any vampires coming after me! I managed to get two other conference attendees to go with me and we tried: marinated mussels toasts, smoked eggplant, ahi tartare, pork & garbanzos (good flavor but we weren't fans of the big fatty pieces), dates with almond and ham, and the corn- thank you bostondiner for the tip. I don't know that I would've chosen it but man was it good (why does it not come with a side of dental floss?).

          Got dessert at Flour. My two dining companions repeatedly told me how awesome I was for finding these food places. I gave you all the credit.

          So tomorrow lunch is up in the air- I'm mildly intrigued by Betty's Latin/Asian, but maybe it's just kitsch (it smelled good and garlicky/oniony when I walked by). Tomorrow night a friend is coming down and she's chosen Taranta- sounds like an interesting concept (even if they don't serve guinea pig ravioli!).

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

          Chacarero
          101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

          Brasserie Jo
          120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

          Lucy Ethiopian Cafe
          334 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02116

          1. re: obmarriott
            Trumpetguy Jun 30, 2011 06:30 PM

            I feel you on the Toro corn! It is so messy; with the corn bits stuck in your teeth, as you mention, plus the messy and full bodied garlic mayo/cheese on your face & breath as well :)
            Tasty nonetheless!

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

        2. re: marais
          b
          bluesjack Jun 30, 2011 08:36 PM

          Have to say I got a chuckle out of your saying of the $20 burger @ BBSC "it comes with tasty fries no extra charge"

          1. re: bluesjack
            m
            marais Jul 1, 2011 03:48 PM

            I had to say that, given that 5 Napkin charges extra for a portion of fries with its eponymous burger. BBSC has that burger beat anyway in Back Bay.
            I pray OP didn't go to Betty's opposite Symphony Hall. Love the chino cubano concept but that place ain't it, unfortunately, having had the real deal from a Cubano friend who knew Chino style and did it well.

            1. re: marais
              opinionatedchef Jul 1, 2011 09:30 PM

              i must be the onliest CH to really like Betty's, as I have raved about it before and heard back lots of negatives. We always get the same thing- chewy udon noodles w/ veggies and chicken and orange chipotle sauce, rodeo rings, cool cukes. One of my fav meals in boston but haven't been in awhile.

        3. b
          bostondiner Jun 22, 2011 11:29 AM

          For dinners:
          Toro (South End-- Washington Street-- about a 10-15 minute walk from where you are staying): Spanish tapas, small but busy, totally normal to eat at the bar, definitely get the corn
          Giacomo's (Columbus Street): decent Italian within walking distance-- my personal favorite is the goat cheese gnocchi. they have a small bar where you can eat-- also, you can get takeout from here. This would be more low to mid price.
          Union Bar and Grille (South End): one of my favorite restaurants to eat at the bar, American cuisine

          Lunch:
          Flour Bakery (South End)-- yummy sandwiches and sweets, can eat in (communal tables) or take out.
          Parrish Cafe (Back Bay): great sandwiches and beer selection.
          Orinoco (South End): venezuelan food..very yummy.
          Umberto's (North End-- would be a T trip for you): pizza by the slice, calzones-- a truly divine dive
          Chacarero (Downtown Crossing): Chilean sandwiches-- if you like spicy, ask for some extra spicy sauce
          Neptune Oyster (North End): they are open for both lunch and dinner but can be easier to get into for lunch. delicious seafood... I've always sat at the bar here...
          If you are interested in Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), do a search on this board-- there are some good ones in the area... Chinatown would likely be your closest bet (you could walk-- it would take about 30-45 minutes or take the T-- get on the green line outside Northeastern, get off at Boylston)... there are also food trucks in government center (I like the breakfast sandwich at the Clover truck) and one of the has Bahn Mi-- I haven't tried it yet though.

          I don't find the Indian or Thai especially good in Boston... that being said, if you have a craving, Kashmir on Newbury is within walking distance for Indian and Chili Duck (Boylston St) is for Thai.

          Enjoy!!

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

          Toro
          1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

          Union Bar and Grille
          1357 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118

          Flour Bakery + Cafe
          1595 Washington St, Boston, MA

          Chacarero
          101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110

          1 Reply
          1. re: bostondiner
            The Chowhound Team Jun 23, 2011 09:21 AM

            We split some replies discussing San Diego dining over to our San Diego board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791889

          2. g
            gourmaniac Jun 22, 2011 10:23 AM

            Lucy's is a CH favorite Ethiopian restaurant on Mass Ave at Huntington and walking distance for you. It's something that you may not have in abundance in San Diego. I second Brasserie Joe (on Huntington) good french bistro food. Either place is fine for solo dining though better with a group. Second Island Creek Oyster Bar as excellent place for New England seafood.

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: gourmaniac
              y
              y2000k Jun 22, 2011 07:06 PM

              +1 on Lucy's Ethiopian Cafe

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              Lucy Ethiopian Cafe
              334 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02116

            2. p
              pemma Jun 22, 2011 10:04 AM

              Brasserie Jo is a short ride down the Green Line from the Northeastern area. They have a bar area where you can eat.

              -----
              Brasserie Jo
              120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

              10 Replies
              1. re: pemma
                s
                Spike Jun 22, 2011 03:16 PM

                Ditto Brasserie Jo and Douzo.
                If you want to splurge, hit Clio down Mass Ave a bit but expect to be hungry afterwards ;-)

                Island Creek Oyster bar is also great but may be a longer walk for you...subway is back into copley square and then switch to the D line from the E line you can catch near NU.
                FWIW, I didn't like my experience at NU...too factory...too many students in each class :-P

                -----
                Douzo
                131 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116

                Brasserie Jo
                120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

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

                1. re: Spike
                  Allstonian Jun 23, 2011 10:12 AM

                  A couple of corrections about public transit from Northeastern to Island Creek Oyster Bar & Kenmore Square:

                  First, if you want take the streetcar, you actually need to take the E line to *Arlington* (no free turnaround at Copley - separate station entrances for inbound & outbound) and switch over to B, C, *or* D line outbound - get off at Kenmore.

                  However, if you're not afraid of taking a bus, there are two lines through the Northeastern campus that go directly to Kenmore Square - catch either the #8 or the #19 on Ruggles Street just off of Huntington Avenue.

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

                  1. re: Allstonian
                    l
                    LeoLioness Jun 23, 2011 10:35 AM

                    Or, just walk for about 15 minutes.

                    1. re: LeoLioness
                      k
                      kimfair1 Jun 23, 2011 10:43 AM

                      For you and I walking from NU to Kenmore is a piece of cake, but for someone from out of town, it wouldn't be too easy to walk to Kenmore from NU without a map and compass. Plus, if you use main streets and avoid the Fens (which we would cut through), you add a lot of distance to the walk. One wrong turn, and you're way off course. Much easier to stick to public transportation.

                      1. re: kimfair1
                        s
                        Spike Jun 23, 2011 12:48 PM

                        Unless the out of towner has an android phone w/ a data plan ;-)

                        Getting unlost and finding food is much easier w/ google maps...

                        Thanks for the correction on the green line...forgot about the no free switchover at Copley...

                        1. re: Spike
                          o
                          obmarriott Jun 23, 2011 01:41 PM

                          I am google maps enabled and I will have to walk to compensate for my eating or i'll need a second seat on the plane!

                        2. re: kimfair1
                          l
                          LeoLioness Jun 23, 2011 01:30 PM

                          When I travel out of town, I always have a map....don't most people?

                          1. re: LeoLioness
                            Allstonian Jun 23, 2011 01:55 PM

                            Different people have different levels of comfort using a map or walking in an unfamiliar place, not to mention different levels of mobility.

                            1. re: Allstonian
                              l
                              LeoLioness Jun 23, 2011 02:00 PM

                              Well, of course. I just didn't notice anything in the OP's query that indicated he/she was unable to handle a reasonable walk and/or read a street map.

                              1. re: LeoLioness
                                k
                                kimfair1 Jun 23, 2011 07:41 PM

                                I never think of the phone thing as I'm a Luddite who still has a flip phone that's almost always turned off (it's for me to call you, not for you to call me). I don't usually have a map in hand when in a strange place, but usually map things out in advance. Either way the bar at Island Creek Oyster Bar would be an excellent place to sample some of our fine local seafood (no matter how you get there)!

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

                2. o
                  obmarriott Jun 22, 2011 09:17 AM

                  Thanks Madrid and cristinh for the suggestions. Thanks for the tourist trap warning- those places are awful!

                  1. c
                    cristinh Jun 22, 2011 09:14 AM

                    Douzo has excellent sushi, and a bar you can eat at. It's always crowded though, which can be a plus or minus for eating alone. Island Creek Oyster Bar is highly recommended too; they have a bar and it's pretty low key.

                    For Indian I like Kashmir on Newbury Street. Also, If it's your first time in the area, I recommend a trip to the North End... most places are decent, with standouts like Neptune Oyster. Final note: please do not get sucked into eating dinner at the tourist trap that is the Top of the Hub.

                    I'll be in San Diego in November so I'll take you up on your offer!

                    www.thefourseasonings.com

                    1. m
                      Madrid Jun 22, 2011 07:44 AM

                      how about the bar at Oleana in Cambridge?

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                      Oleana
                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

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