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Romantic restaurant near Scullers Jazz Club?

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First of all, we just moved to the Boston area (Newton) so we are a bit clueless about the area. I am planning on taking my wife out for her birthday soon. So far, what I have planned is an 8pm Saturday show at Scullers Jazz Club (at 400 Soldiers Field Rd). Doors open at 7pm. I need recommendations for a romantic restaurant not too far from Scullers so that we can get over to Scullers early enough to get good seats. We plan to be driving, so convenient parking would be a plus. And by romantic restaurant, I would prefer if the ambiance were a little lighter as opposed to more serious or stiff, if that makes any sense. Finally, it doesn't have to be expensive or cheap...just good tasting. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Scullers is in a weird spot, convenient by car but in the middle of nowhere. You can't walk anywhere useful from there, so you're resigned to driving or taxiing to/from wherever else you might want to go.

    Plenty of options on those terms in Harvard Square, Central Square, and Allston Village, which are all about equidistant. I guess I'd opt for a very early reservation in one of those neighborhoods: the Cambridge side has more occasion-worthy spots.

    A few ideas for romantic but not too formal: Monday Club at UpStairs on the Square, Rendezvous in Central Square, Ten Tables Cambridge, Central Kitchen. Rialto might work, but it's a bit stiffer. Allston has tons of places with great traditional cuisines but not so much atmosphere.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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    Central Kitchen
    567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

    Ten Tables
    5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Yeah, Slim's right, this is a tall order. The issue is that Sculler's is in a hotel that's extremely Pike-convenient and therefore not at all convenient to anyone else!

      If quality of food trumps atmosphere, there are a few places you might consider in Allston Village:

      Ariana, an Afghani restaurant near the corner of Brighton and Harvard. It's a nice-enough room with quality food: the chef and owners are formerly affiliated with a local institution, Helmand, and I would argue that they're putting out better food than Helmand is currently. (It's easy to judge because honestly, their menus are basically identical.)

      A more traditional choice a few doors down would be Carlo's Cucina, an unpretentious red-sauce Italian place with a neighborhood feel: think saltinbocca, veal parm, that sort of thing.

      Personally, if I'm thinking neighborhood date night in Allston, we usually end up at Cafe Brazil, near the corner of Cambridge and Harvard. Ask for a table in the quieter room and you'll feel like you're the only people in the restaurant. My perennial is the churrasco na tabua, a mighty mixed grill of steak, chicken and sausage with fries (the best in the greater Boston area, in my opinion), vinaigrette, rice and beans, but there are lighter dishes as well: many of fish dishes are excellent. Again, the atmosphere is more neighborhood casual than overtly romantic, but when there's some bossa nova on the stereo, there's not much more romantic than that. Plus, it's a straight shot down Cambridge to Scullers.

      Unless you have a specific artist in mind at Sculler's, you might also consider perusing the schedule for Regattabar, the jazz club inside the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. It's a nice room that books interesting acts (Allstonian and I were there just last night to see her friend Ken Field play in a wonderful Armenian-jazz ensemble, and we once saw a simply mindblowing set by Lee Konitz, Paul Bley and Steve Swallow there), and it puts you in Harvard Square for more convenient restaurant access.

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      Cafe Brazil
      421 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

    2. Upstairs is a good suggestion. Parking is tight so if you see a spot on JFK, grab it. They have valet.

      2 Replies
      1. re: libertywharf

        scullers usually has reserved seating: if you bought your tickets and are picking them up when you arrive, it doesn't matter what time you come, they've been assigned to you, so just get there early enough to get parking in their lot ((in summer, we've found that 7:45 usually works). We usually go to Shanghai Gate (wonderful food but nothing romantic about it at all) or Cognac Bistro, which is the one I would recommend. Nice bar, very pleasant food, strange room that used to be a garage, but not an unpleasant space. Tasca is a possible option (commonwealth and washington). It is reasonably good Tapas, a rather pretty room, and a quick drive to Scullers. Washington Square in Brookline offers some reasonably close options: Umami has nice outside seating and the Fireplace Grill is a pleasant room. Neither has"knock your socks off" food but both have good food.

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        Shanghai Gate
        204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

        Cognac Bistro
        455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

        1. re: teezeetoo

          Concur with TZT re: reserved seating. The location is based on when you order your tickets vs when you arrive the night of the show.

          The only exception to this is if you combine the show with a dinner in the hotel restaurant. When you do this package, and you can 'upgrade' even if you have already ordered show tickets, you are generally placed in the 1st or 2nd row in front of the stage.

          To bring this back to food, we are members at Sculler's and go a lot, and have to admit having had dinner in the hotel restaurant several times. It's not great, and CH'ers may chime in with how bad it is, but in concert (pun intended) with a show it is convenient and helpful in guaranteeing good seats.

          As far as romantic, if you have dinner there and arrive early they may seat you against the first row of tables by the windows which have a nice view of the Charles and Cambridge.

          Also, you could always go to the show when the doors open at 7PM and get some of the appetizers they serve in the club, then have a leisurely dinner after the show at a restaurant of your choice.

      2. Wow, thanks everyone for all your help and great suggestions. That's good to know about the seats being assigned, so it gives us a little more time for dinner. I think I'm going to skip on the dinner at Scullers, so I'll start looking into the other restaurant suggestions.

        I've looked into Regattabar as well, but for that night, I think my wife would prefer Scullers. Cyrus Chestnut (jazz piano) is performing. My wife plays piano so she generally likes piano anyway.

        I'll try to remember to let you know how I decide as far as the restaurant.

        Thanks!!

        1. I've never eaten at Rendezvous but I remember it getting a lot of enthusiastic posts about the food here.. The Central Square garage is just a couple blocks away and very cheap. From there it's a quick hop down Western Ave and across the bridge to Scullers. Maybe others can comment on the atmosphere.

          1. So after some consideration, I was considering Ten Tables as the front runner of the suggestions mentioned here. However, as I was researching the restaurants, I came across Oleana, and the outdoor space appeals to me. Perhaps since Scullers will be a dark indoors environment, I thought maybe it might be nice to dine outdoors. Any other places like Oleana with a nice outdoor space that you would suggest?

            Sorry to switch things up, all the prior suggestions are still very much appreciated and hopefully we'll get to try them all out, although it's hard to get out with three kids at home...

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            Oleana
            134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

            Ten Tables
            5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

            3 Replies
            1. re: cttsplus3

              I'm a fan of Oleana, but that patio is one of the tougher tables in Cambridge, and you can't make a reservation for it. Usually at least an hour wait. If you can get there when they open the doors, that might work, but with a curtain time to meet, you might want to consider other options.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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              Oleana
              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Is Oleana romantic? I haven't been there in its current incarnation, not since it was whatever it used to be, but I didn't think of that as romantic. Maybe I'm just too many years behind the times! (Can you tell I don't eat out much?)
                What about Harvest, which 20 years ago was the go-to restaurant in Harvard Square, but I haven't heard a peep about it on this board for a long, long time.

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                Oleana
                134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                  Harvest is a rather different restaurant than it was prior to 1998: new owners, drastically redecorated, new chef and concept. It's now owned by the same people behind Grill 23, and it's similar in ethos without being a steakhouse: expensive, high-service New American fare with solid, old-school full bar and a good wine list. Lots of seasonal sourcing, good raw bar -- not new ideas, but they've played that tune from the beginning.

                  It's still a good occasion place, with a great patio with heaters that keep it going through the fall. Not sure I'd call it very romantic, but that's a pretty subjective call. I've always liked dining at the bar: they do a fine burger (an early adopter of the fancy-burger concept) and were years ahead of the gourmet poutine trend in Boston.

                  I think Oleana is too cramped indoors to be romantic, but that patio is really lovely.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                  Grill 23 & Bar
                  161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116

                  Oleana
                  134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

            2. And Oleana isn't romantic.

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              Oleana
              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

              1 Reply
              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                you'll be rushing through dinner to make it to a show if you go with high end restaurants in Cambridge with parking issues. You could try Rendezvous in Central Square (excellent food and service) but no outside seating. See my post above: most of the Washington Square Brookline restaurants have outside seating: not particularly romantic since they are right on Beacon Street but you should be able to park and get out to your show. I'd consider Fireplace Grill, Umami or Tamarind Bay if you want to be outside.

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                Tamarind Bay
                75 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

              2. We ended up going with Ten Tables. Their salad was delicious - with watermelon, feta, dill and pistachios. Pork was pretty good, but not the best...I thought the best part of that dish was the succotash that came with it. Bluefish was good also, but a little salty for our taste. No time for dessert because we had to get to Scullers. Not sure that I have a strong desire to go back to Ten Tables, but all in all, it was great evening for us. Thanks again everyone!

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                Ten Tables
                5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                1 Reply
                1. re: cttsplus3

                  thanks for letting us know how it worked out for you.