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Sep 7, 2011 10:30 PM

Please review current plan, critique and suggestions requested

Hi, Los Angeles hound here. I've being doing some research and appreciate any feedback and criticisms to improve my plan.

The basics:
*First time in Boston
*Arriving on a red eye Friday morning later this month, leaving mid day Sunday
*Staying in the downtown area near subway stations
*No car, but used to walking several miles a day and very comfortable taking subways
*Would prefer meals to be under $100 for two before alcohol, tax and tip but flexible and can go to $150 if food is worth it.
*Will be in walking casual clothes most of the time such as dark shoes, slacks/jeans and button down shirt. I've found that seems to work in 90% of places for most cities.
*Fine dining to dive bars, neither end fazes us, I know which fork to use but can also throw back a shot. Generally prefer casual mom and pop owner operated places though.
*Looking to try Italian and NE seafood dishes. From LA and just got back from a Pacific Northwest Trip, so no mexican, asian or nationally available seafood items. I'm told, I've never had a good fried clam belly.
*Will be heading to New York on back end of trip, nothing that can be found there.
*Adventurous diners, the only thing we don't like is cilantro. Anything else, we're up for it. I'm Asian, if it moves, I eat it. If it doesn't move, it makes it easier to grab and eat it.
*I've done some research with the base thread being this one from OpinionatedChef and branching out from that on areas and names.
*Usual m.o. Is to wander a general area and have a list of places in that area, then eat as the mood hits and work around peak times. We're used to noshing and eating at off hours to avoid crowds.

Current plan is to drop off bags at our hotel and spend Friday daytime wandering the North End. Wander back to the hotel to check in and possibly go back to North End for dinner and further wandering.

Saturday, we're planning on taking the self guided tour here Just wander down Cambridge street from downtown towards the waterfront.

With that in mind, here's the list of places I have for each day and recommended items and notes on when to avoid possible crowds.

Neptune's Oyster (lobster roll/any seafood) get there at 11:30 open?
Pizzeria Regina (mid day snack during slow time?
)Salumeria Italiana (Any Italian food item)
Monica's Mercato/Salumeria (Italian Sub, possible take out for hotel room picnic)

Yankee Lobster (lobster roll/seafood)
Waterfront Cafe (any Italian, pizza)
Daily Catch (squid ink pasta)

Snacking list for either day:
Bova's (Pastry, bread, pizza)
Modern Pastry (Cannoli)
Maria's Pastry Shop
Tosciani ice cream
Cafe Vittoria (pastries)
Wife loves cannolis so we are planning to hit at least Modern and Maria's to compare.

We're being picked up mid morning to drive down to Martha's Vineyard. I'm still looking for a place to easily pick up some snacks for the road. Pastries, sliced meats, that kind of stuff.

I'm not sure if we have enough dinner options if we get shut out by crowds or wander too far away. This visit ended up being shorter than we expected and we plan to return in the future. For now, we thought we'd just focus on exploring the North End and vicinity around the walking tour. We'd rather explore slowly than trying to rush all over the city barely looking at stuff. Any other suggestions to work with those plans will be highly appreciated.

I'd appreciate any logistical suggestions for crowds and specific dishes. We are very flexible on eating times and usually order a fair amount too. We're also used to just taking snacks to munch on as we walk along exploring. I hope I covered all the basic information to help out on the feedback.

Thanks in advance.

Maria's Pastry Shop
46 Cross St, Boston, MA 02129

Salumeria Italiana
151 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109

Yankee Lobster
300 Northern Ave, Boston, MA

Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

Daily Catch
323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

134 Salem St, Boston, MA

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  1. jase,
    sounds like it might be your first time here? i would suggest only Fri. for the No End/Waterfront area. Wkends are NUTS/packed/often Italian Feast days. Yes, N.O. only at 11:30 and yes, there will be a line even then. End by walking down Hanover St and then over to the big harborside park area, and back through Quincy Market just to see the great buildings.For pick-up snack of Arancini/suppli ( rice balls filled w/ cheese,ham,peas) you might really enjoy the institution of Galleria Umberto Rosticceria on Hanover St. (Suppli -only eat hot.) For dinner, there is a creative bistro down on the Greenway near Quincy Market- Blue Inc.; long time local boy chef finally just opened his own place. Fun vibe and excellent inventive food .

    For Sat., I understand the concept/intent of the Walk to the Sea, but i wouldn't do it that way. I would combine the No.End/harbor/Quincy Market/Greenway as I described for your Fri. and then on the State House/Beacon Hill/Charles St/ Back Bay(Comm.Ave, Newbury St)areas - so very beautuful , historic and unique. Interesting local chefs' sandwiches at Parish Cafe;Sat. night dinner at Island Creek Oyster Bar(signature Lobster Roe pasta w/ lobster, wild mushrooms....) or Erbaluce (refined creative No.Italian). If the latter, walk down Tremont St. and around the romantic and fantastic South End after dinner.Many cafes and bistros for late night drinks/coffee/sweets.

    Now, that said, none of these spots are 'Mom and Pop' type places except maybe Galleria Umberto and Modern. But if I were hosting my best friends, this is the itinerary i would follow. Pull up their menus and see what you think.

    p.s.specific dish recs:

    -- Modern Pastry, highly rec. the sfoliadel and the almond biscotti (very distinct.)

    --N.O.> Vitello Tonnato Sandwich; Scallops; Lobster Roll;east coast oysters; johnny cake w/ smoked trout and maple butter. not the chowder. fried clams> eat on MV ; NO's are fine but they have so many great creative dishes, try those.

    --ICOB: in addition to previous rec, the biscuit is amazing and the scallops dish.

    Modern Pastry
    257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

    69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

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

    5 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      Thanks! Normally I'd agree with you. I'm just a little concerned about my wife's energy after we come off the red eye and walking around on Friday. What you've outlined seems like trying to cram a lot into one day on short sleep and still having to work our way back to the hotel to check in later in the afternoon. Exactly how bad will the crowds be? We're kind of bracing ourselves and understand it's the weekend. But also hoping it'll be a little slower since it'll be after the season. Also we figure on Saturday we'll have a full night's sleep and more patience and energy.

      What's the name of the bistro on Greenway near Quincy Market. I'll note it on my guide.

      Does it make sense to spend Sat morning for the walk and then turn around to do the State House/Beacon Hill area in the afternoon? We're usually early risers and can go late into the evening. That would give us the dinner options you outlined for Saturday. Daytime we can snack around the North End and waterfront area.

      I did see Island Creek's menu on my research. It was extremely appealing. My concern would be on a Saturday night. We're a little loath to do reservations right now since we're trying to keep things flexible for our wandering. Especially it being our first time exploring Boston.

      Only going to be in Martha's Vineyard for one dinner since we're there for an event and leaving the island the following day for NYC. Looking like Sidecar Cafe at the moment. I don't think we'll have a chance to do clam crawl and figured we'd get it while we can in Boston.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      1. re: Jase

        If you're intent on doing the North End on Friday and the Walk on Saturday, then I have 2 suggestions - check out the open market on the greenway on Saturday near the "sea" part of the walk. I think it has food carts like the SoWa market (?), some of which might be interesting. Also, I would not go back to the N End on Saturday - one day there is enough. I also don't think Waterfront or Yankee Lobster are special enough to make it on your list when you have limited time. (For pizza, Regina's is crowded and crazy but is a Boston institution and the pizza is really good. Even waiting in line is an experience.) Instead of Yankee Lobster, I suggest James Hook at the end of the Walk to the Sea - it's on the water a bit south of Aquarium. James Hook is a little lobster/seafood market with a food counter and has a good classic lobster roll and great clam chowder, plus you can see lots of live lobsters in tanks, which my guests always enjoy. Maybe head to Boston Common/Back Bay area for the afternoon/evening and then head to Island Creek for dinner. It will probably be really busy but put your name in and get a drink at Eastern Standard - good cocktails and atmosphere.

        Eastern Standard
        528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

        Yankee Lobster
        300 Northern Ave, Boston, MA

        1. re: Jase

          hi jase. ah yes, red eye. o.k.i'm getting it now. Here are some thoughts>
          Pamper yourselves on Fri. because you need to! Take a cab from the airport to drop off your bags at the hotel (have the cab wait).Hotels have holding area for bags, which gives you much more leeway for your schedule and you can check in when you want later. Then have the cab drop you 8-10 min. away at Neptune Oyster (if it's close to 11:30) or at the nearby Christopher Columbus harborside park or at Quincy Market( both a 7 minute walk from N.O.) Walk, browse, sit and enjoy the view. Lunch 11:30-1pm. Relax and replenish.
          Then walk No.End/Harbor/Quincy Market- whichever and however much energy you have; lots of benches and beautiful views abound. 7 min. cab back to hotel as /when needed. When/if you have had a respite at the hotel late aftnoon, walk down Charles St. (this is the beautiful st.; not Cambridge St.) to Beacon St. and walk up the hill 10 min. to the State House (this stretch of Beacon St. is about 99% intact from the early- later 19th c.; you can't beat it.) If too tired to walk, have a cab drive you that route so you can see it. Then 10 to No End for dinner or elsewhere. (The Greenway fun bistro I mentioned is called Blue Inc.) If you at some point have more time and want to see a quintessential Beacon Hill residential street, walk Chestnut St.- connecting Charles St. to the State House.

          On Charles St., a number of CHs like the Paramount for a good local bkfst. Either return to previous day’s missed sights or :
          Walk up Charles to Beacon, go straight another block and turn right into the Public Garden (oldest Arboretum in the U.S.), walk around and past the famous swan boats, then out the Arlington St side and down Marlboro St and Comm Ave and eventually over to Newbury St. area etc. ( I undstnd your not knowing your exact schedule, but i still rec. reservations for dinner, and you can always call and change or cancel them. But they just treat you better, when you call to change, if you already have reservations.) If you end up having your Sat down by the waterfront and if you end up at Isl Crk for dinner, treat yourself to a cab and have it drive past the State House and then down Comm Ave so you have that experience on your way to ICOB (on Comm. Ave)
          Tourwise, what i’m doing here, is removing the parts of that Walk to the Sea which i feel are less worthwhile, focusing you on 1) the No.End/ waterfront and 2) Beacon Hill/ Back Bay.
          If you want to discuss tour stuff any further, plse. feel free to contact me via my member page email address.

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

          44 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

          1. re: opinionatedchef


            Yeah, that's right in line with our general idea. We were planning to take subway from Logan to our hotel and drop off bags. Then subway out to North End area. The cost of the cab doesn't bother me but as an LA resident, I'm envious of good subway systems and when traveling use any excuse to check out the subway. Although with luggage, cab from Logan might be better for the first stage.

            Lots of rest breaks while walking and refueling with coffee and pastries to get us through the day was the thought. We're landing at 7:30 and figure to be walking around North End by 10:30 latest. We thought that'd give us an hour or so of wandering around before stopping at Neptune's Oyster.

            The adjustment I had in mind was after NO, we head towards the waterfront and work our way backwards of the self guided tour with meandering tangents using your suggestions above. Have pizza for a midafternoon snack. Pick up goodies as we sit fit, i always tote along a daytime backpack to carry goodies. If we could cover most of North End Friday and it would free up Sat considerably.

            I really like your Saturday suggestion. More historical buildings and sites would really appeal. Then it would put us in the general direction of ICOB. They currently have 10 p.m. Open Table reservations available. We don't mind eating late and it gives us a lot more flexibility for wandering and excuse to nosh along the way.

            Thanks for all the help and the generous offer to contact you. I will take you up on it after I run the adjustment past my wife and see if I'm missing anything she really wanted to see.

            1. re: Jase

              jase, great you made the reservatn at ICOB. one tip- most restnts have many more openings than appear on Open Tables but you need to call them to secure those reservations. ICOB is a pretty big place(whereas N.O. is teeny tiny).

      2. Sounds like you've done your research. I would suggest getting your fried clam fix when you go to Neptune. You can get an appetizer portion and still have room for the lobster roll, and of course some oysters. I started to suggest the Waterfront and noticed that you already have it on the list. While Reginas is an institution and the pizza is great, the Waterfront is at the edge of the North End and most tourists don't find it, so even on the busiest weekend in the summer you can find a spot, and I like their pizza better than Reginas. I'm assuming the Vineyard is just going to be a day trip? One of my favorite spots for lunch is in Oaks Bluff, Sharky's Cantina for their paella. My general dinner options there are Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta; Lola's (southern creole); even Offshore Ale is pretty good.

        Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta
        32 Kennebec Ave, Pocasset, MA 02559

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pegmeister

          Thanks. We usually like to order a variety and split. I did think of getting the appetizer portion and some other things to start before diving into the lobster roll. Any particular varieties of oysters you recommend?

          So the Waterfront for Sat lunch is doable even with weekend crowds? I'm going to have to give our plan a hard think through based on what Opinionated Chef discussed above.

          Martha's Vineyard is an overnight. We have an late afternoon/early evening event. Staying near Oak Bluffs and planning for a late-ish dinner after the event. Taking the Ferry out the next morning, doesn't look like we have time for lunch. I'm still researching a to go option that day's travel. Currently I have Sidecar Cafe for our dinner. They look to be open late and take reservations. But I would appreciate any suggestions. I know this isn't quite the board for it though. I've been on the Southern region board researching.

          1. re: Jase

            Neptune always has a good assortment. I gravitate towards Wellfleet; Duxbury and Kuonomato (spelling) when they have them. The fried clams there IMHO are the gold standard. Bellies aren't too large, they have the right amount of salt, sweet, crunchy with a great fry job.

        2. "Sunday: We're being picked up mid morning to drive down to Martha's Vineyard. I'm still looking for a place to easily pick up some snacks for the road. Pastries, sliced meats, that kind of stuff."

          Where exactly are you staying? "Downtown" could mean different things.

          OC: Neptune Oyster does not have a line at 11:30 in the morning.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Alcachofa

            Was just going by the neighborhood designations of the city website. In this case downtown = near the Hospital and river off Cambridge.

            1. re: Jase

              That would be more Beacon Hill, which is a fine neighborhood to explore.

              Oddly, we don't have "downtown" here.

              Kep in mind that Boston is a fraction of the size of LA and very easy to explore on foot/T

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Yes, I was a little surprised to see it was only about a mile from our hotel to the North End. We're one of those odd LA people that actually like to walk and take public transportation. Walking 4-5 miles a day for exploring with multiple food/rest stops is one of our favorite things to do. Especially in a town with great public transportation. We don't have to worry about the round trip distance. Just hop on the subway at end of day to go back to the hotel. Effectively it increases our walking range up to 7-8 miles.

                Thanks for pointing out the Beacon Hill designation. I'm really tempted to re-jigger our plans based on the feedback from everyone so far. But I tend to keep things flexible anyway and go as our whims dictate. That's why I just like having a list of places for each area. That way we're not tied down and go with the flow. We find that's generally the best attitude when exploring a city. Unexpected things happen, go with the flow and keep enjoying.

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  In the Beacon Hill area, Savenor's is a good place to pick up gourmet picnic items for your drive to MV.

                  1. re: gini

                    Thanks for the suggestion. Just checked and unfortunately they won't open until noon on Sunday. We expect to be on the road well before that. Have to catch the MV ferry in time to make our afternoon event on the island.

            2. If you're interested in squid ink pasta, Coppa on Shawmut Ave. in the South End does a terrific version. Make a reservation.

              253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

              2 Replies
              1. re: robwat36

                Thanks. I don't think we'll make it to the South End this trip though, good to know for next time. I noted it since Daily Catch has good reviews and the squid ink pasta came up a few times.

                Daily Catch
                323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

                1. re: Jase

                  I like the squid ink pasta at Daily Catch very much, I think that is a fine choice in a pretty classic North End place. The line can be rather long, just FYI. I'm also a big fan of Galleria Umberto, if you can find a place for that on Saturday at lunch.

              2. As far as the question about tasty food on the way to MV, I'm going to assume that you will be taking the Ferry from Woods Hole or Falmouth, MA. If so, there is a wonderful salumeria call Osteria La Cevita in the town of Falmouth that's perfect for sliced meats and very close to the ferry ports. Ask for the TAGLIERE DI SALUMI E FORMAGGI from the dinner menu. Compliment that with local gourmet treats (incl fresh bread and local jellies) from the Bean and Cod just across the street. That would be perfect to munch during the ferry ride.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Foodie_BBQ

                  Yes, Ferry from WH is the current plan. I did have the Clam Shack in Falmouth noted if we stopped there. But maybe we'll stop at both, I'll just tell my driving friend, I'm treating since she's driving. Thanks!

                  1. re: Jase

                    Clam Shack would also be a great and convenient choice. You can sit right on the pier while eating the clam bellies you mentioned earlier. Maybe take a nap in on the ferry afterward!

                    Enjoy either way.