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Looking for dinner rec's from relocated New Englanders!!!

My boyfriends b-day is around the corner - and I would love to surprise him by taking him to a restaurant that reminds him of home - specifically Boston.

Can any Bostonians reccomend a place that makes you nostalgic for home?

A few things he always talks about: the seafood ( I know really obvious ) - the chinese food ( what makes it different I have no idea, but he loves it )

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks chowhounders xoxo

PS - I already know where the Carvel is!

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  1. Enlighten us, where is the Carvel?

    3 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      Carvel is an ice cream company that specializes in ice cream cakes - it is an institution back East1

      1. re: DavidT

        The franchisees in Berkeley and Brentwood have closed. Los Altos Carvel might still be open.

        Carvel Ice Cream
        2310 Homestead Rd, Los Altos, CA

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          @ David I mis-read your reply - yes there is a Carvel in Los Altos

      2. A complicated request.

        Not because there's no Bostonian fare in the Bay Area.

        Rather, I have learned NOT to order items like "lobsta" outside of New England because it so often disappoints my Boston born/bred palate. It's either too fussy (French Laundry) or has the ever so slightly off aftertaste of shellfish that either has traveled too far or been cooked too hard (Sam's Chowdermobile/Chowder House, in Half Moon Bay).

        But here are some suggestions that work for me (and I get plenty homesick)

        1. Buy a couple live lobsters from a tank in a good fish market (e.g.. Monterey Fish in Berkeley) and steam them yourself (the really helpful guys @ Monterey Fish will tell you how, if you've never done it before and are worried about an Annie Hall moment [lobsters making a get-a-way behind the fridge]). Toss a nice salad, pick up a good baguette, etc. And for dessert, serve Boston Cream Pie w/ a candle from @ Crixa Cakes in Berkeley. Maybe not 100% authentic, as Boston Cream Pies go--on the other hand, maybe even better than authentic.

        2. Take him to Maverick in S.F.--the chef is Scott Youkilis, brother of Red Sox star player, Kevin--the fare, which is good, has nothing to do w/ Boston (the Youkilis family are East European Jews, who fled to Greece to escape the Nazis and eventually emigrated to, I think, Ohio)--but you can buy a bottle of Kevin's hot sauce that benefits a charity. Y-O-U-K!!!!

        3. Another stretch: eat @ Wood Tavern in Berkeley--there's Bostonian lingo on the menu ("wicked," eg.), to let you know from whence the owners came--would that there was real Boston fare (though what they do have is usually topnotch).

        Hope your boyfriend has a great b'day! Good luck to him and the Red Sox!

        Crixa Cakes
        2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

        Wood Tavern
        6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

        2 Replies
        1. re: sundeck sue

          There's also Wood Tavern's new place, Southie.

          Wood Tavern
          6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

          6311 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            The OP has their restaurant reservations. But for future reference, the only thing Southie about Southie is the name. They don't even claim that on the website. The East Bay Express wrote "The name "Southie" refers to head chef Maximilian DiMare's Boston birthright, but aside from the Cape Cod potato chips that accompany every sandwich, the only overtly Bostonian item on the menu is pastry chef Sarah Ballard's marvelous whoopie pie, a dish claimed by both the Pennsylvania Dutch and the state of Maine but probably invented at the Berwick Cake Company in Roxbury"


            Grew up in New England, went to college in Boston and I never even heard of a whoopie pie until I started to read Chowhound.

        2. You can also order directly from Legal Seafood and they ship lobster and other items directly to you.

          Every fall we used to go apple picking and that might be something you could do here that reminds him of New England.

          I have found that you can't go looking for substitutes because your memory of your favorites will always be better. He just has to learn to like new things they do well here in CA.

          1. Swan oyster depot reminds me of Boston. Simple, very fresh seafood served at a vintage counter that you have to line up for. Love the chowder. Lobster is most expensive item but worth it if you haven't had it all year. Dungeness crab is better. The guys behind the counter have the same nononsense bustle as folks out east. Only open until 6 I think.

            1. Woodhouse and Old Port Lobster Shack go to some lengths to serve East Coast-style seafood.

              Old Port Lobster Shack
              851 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City, CA 94063

              Woodhouse Fish Company
              2073 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

              2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I had a naked lobster role at Old Port Lobster Shack a couple weeks ago. It was great.

                Old Port Lobster Shack
                851 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City, CA 94063

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I have gone to Old Port to get my annual lobster jones-in over with. I will say that while the meal is quite good be prepared for a bit of sticker shock. However, I very much appreciate that the lobster/crab rolls are served in the NE style hot dog buns, maybe the only place I've encountered them here. The menu is much like a Maine lobstah pound down to the blueberry sodas. Actually lobster is pricey even in Boston/Maine unless you buy it off the boats and cook it yourself.

                  Woodhouse seems like West Coast to me. I can't quite put my finger on it but maybe it's all the different choices on the menu covering both coasts. I can't remember eating many lobster/crab rolls in Boston though they dominate in Maine. Also ambiance at Old Port and Woodhouse is a bit perfunctory and lacks the family charm of Swan IMO.

                2. Anchor & Hope is definitely the San Francisco restaurant that reminds me the most of Boston, where I lived for 20 years before moving out here. It's not just the seafood menu, which is a nice east meets west coast blend. The style of cooking is also reminiscent of Cambridge spots like Rendezvous in a way that I don't see much of out here. Because it's not a straight New England mimic, it doesn't fall into the second-rate trap that other posters accurately warn about.

                  Have fun! It looks like you have several good possibilities suggested here. Please report back on where you go and how you like it.


                  Anchor & Hope
                  83 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mdg

                    Confession I have a reso at Anchor & Hope already... just didn't know if it would live up to his expectations...

                    Anchor & Hope
                    83 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    1. re: Tonyettehill

                      You might show him the menu first rather than surprising him and see if that is what he is looking for. I don't know ... lobster roll on brioche. Yes, you can say the food is great because it doesn't fall into the mimic trap and does its own thing, but that is the type of place that got me nuts for years as a New Englander. I wanted New England food, not an interpretation of it.

                      On the other hand if he is dreaming of upscale creative New England food this might just fill the ticket.

                      However ... someone lusting for Carvel ... he might have other cravings.

                  2. Deb and I are Nutmeggers. In short, there is no San Francisco restaurant that will provide a true Boston experience. Some modest thoughts:

                    • West Coast oysters (raw) are mighty tasty, bbq oysters, a left coast thing, can be really good, too.
                    • Crab, in season, can be the equal of a good steamed lobster.
                    • Beers/wines from Northern California trump the best of Boston.

                    It would be a shame to cobble together a so-so Boston meal when a reasonable facsimile can offer fresh seafood, etc.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: steve h.

                      Ah, but steve, that just won't do it when you need a New England fix. I still don't like Dungeness which tastes to me like lobster's poor cousin. Went to Sea Salt with a person from Connecticut recently who rejected beer after beer because it didn't match the bad, cheap beer at home. I agree that bbq oysters are good, but it won't replace a cherrystone on a halfshell.

                      Fortunately for your boyfriend there have been a lot of places in the past few years that have been mentioned. Old Port has a good lobster roll and fried cl ams. Woodhouse is good as well. No one mentioned Yankee Clipper, but it will do though it is a little more California than is necessary.

                      This isn't for the birthday dinner, but I saw stuffed clams in the freezer case at Andronic's on Shattuck. I had to wipe away a frozen tear. I haven't had a good stuffed clam in a long time. Haven't tried them yet.

                      As to Chinese, you are probably better off going with seafood ... or ask if there are any restaurants serving pupu platters.

                      Sea Salt
                      2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                      1. re: rworange

                        howdy rw,
                        I probably boil/steam more lobsters in our little home on the Sou'west shore of Connecticut than most folk. My MO is to prepare far more lobsters than family can consume so lobster rolls, bisque, etc. are always on the horizon. Jasper White is my hero. The freezer is full of carcasses. Leftovers here are good.
                        The Bay Area has its food and its charm. Exploit it.
                        Overlaying a web of East Coast nostalgia on San Francisco is rump of skunk and madness. It's just not going to work. Besides, crab season clocks in next week.
                        Clams? hmm. That may be different.

                        1. re: rworange

                          The funny thing is - is that although he would never say he was that into food... but I can't tell you how many hours I have had to hear about how terrible sandwiches are in California ( no he does not want lettuce), the pizza is gross, nobody knows how to make a bagel... on and on on... which of course I find endearing... I of course remind him that maybe not all of our food is wicked awesome... but at least we know how to properly use the letter "r" in our everyday speech ;)

                          1. re: Tonyettehill

                            Yeah. Chowhound should help you get him to some fixes.

                            I haven't tried Southie yet, but despite it not being Boston food, I have some hopes for that Italian sandwich. Take him to Rotten City PIzza for a good, if a little small meatball sub. He will like the sandwich but be prepared for the comment that he could buy it for a third of the price in Boston. The pizza however is more for people who want New York inspired pizza. I like it, but it is not Boston pizza.

                            It is funny but I went to a New Jersey diner and they had a California burger on the menu. I wondered why since the ususal suspects ... avocado, jack cheese, etc were missing. What made it "California" I asked my friend. "It has lettuce", my friend from Newark immediatley replied without having to think about it. .

                            Bagels are harder. I guess I like Berkeley Bagel the most though it isn't totally the right experience. Being from Boston, I'm surprised he hasn't lamented no decent Greek food. Can't help you there either.

                            From this post of yours, I'm going to say you should nix Anchor and Hope unless you want to hear more how it isn't like home. I would choose Old Port Lobster Shack as the guy is from Maine, has connections to the lobster industry there and has the right type of buns. The fried clams are good too and occasionally they have steamers.

                            If you can't make it to Old Port in Redwood City, I'd go for Woodhouse. The owners are from California, but pretty close to Old Port though there are lots more California items on the menu. However, they don't screw around with the classic prep of fried clams or lobster roll.

                            Again, while your boyfriend will probably sigh in relief eating actual food from New England, you will get the coment about how much cheaper it is in Boston. .

                            Actually I'd go with Old Port as it seems you need to travel to get to Carvel.

                            But don't fear.

                            After a couple of decades here, the last time I went back to New England and indulged on all my favorites, I was thinking ... this is really fatty, heavy stuff. I think I like California food better now.

                            It will take a while. Give him what he wants on his birthday ... Old Port. The rest of the year, keep feeding him that good, fresh, inventive California stuff. He will convert.

                            Well, with one exception ... pizza ... no matter how much it has impoved in recent years, I still remember my last Connecticut pizza. My head started to spin it was so good. I figured out it was about sauce and sausage. The sauce here never packs the flavor of the old time New England joints. There's never enough sausage here and it is too darn healthy.

                            1. re: Tonyettehill

                              Sounds like he's homesick. Give him one full winter out here with CA produce and he'll come around unless an earthquake happens. A lot of transplants hate it here for the first 9 months and then they get or they just leave.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                Are you kidding? I LOVED California from the minute I first crossed the border. I just took me years ... decades ... to stop missing New England food. That takes longer.

                                Fortunately these days there's more food that is like the East Coast probably because of a lot of transplants. Not a lot of it. Not as cheap. Often not exactly right. But enough and close enough to get a fix.

                                I remember when the only fried clams here were frozen strips or one joint somewhere on the wharf that did fried clams occassionally, but they weren't Ipswitch.

                                Yankee Pier was the first, but the rosemary biscuits always annoyed me and at the time the roll for the lobster roll wasn't right.

                                It wasn't until Old Port that I calmed down. Woodhouse was next. So now I embrace the lobster roll in brioche. I don't mind innovation because I have two places where I can get the real thing should I need it. I can get a Carvel should I really need to ... but I'm finally over that.

                                But yeah ... that earthquake thing ... if it wasn't for that I'd consider California heaven ... even without New England food.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Seems to me most people love it but there's a distinct group (entrenched East Coast urbanites are prime) that hates California when they arrive and it usually takes 6-9 months to "get it". The phenomenon is more pronounced in SoCal but it's still there.

                            2. re: rworange

                              Ah, I was privately puzzling over the Chinese mention in the original post.

                              Now I get it: pupu platters!!!!

                              1. re: rworange

                                Matlaws Stuffed Clams? I've seen them at Lunardi's in San Mateo. They're OK, not great but they hit the spot when a fix is needed.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I'm a transplanted nutmegger myself. Just this week for the first time ever I had a Dungeness experience to rival my much loved steamed lobster. Maybe because they were fresh caught that day? They were sweet, meaty and just excellent. The venerable NE Lobstah remains my favorite but I now have new hope for the crab.

                                  Piazza's Market in San MAtoe also has frozen stuffies-not quite clammy enough for my taste but they do in a pinch.

                                2. re: steve h.

                                  That's a very sensible/wise suggestion. Nothing ever comes close to home or a memory of a place. The stronger the memory, the bigger the potential disappointment.

                                  Northern California has a lot to offer, wine, produce, artisan stuff, lots of excellent restaurants. When in Rome...you don't eat like the Brits.

                                  Re: lobster vs. dungeness crab, I don't think you'll convert any New Englanders. However if there is a way, it would be a DIY crab meal. Steam a bunch (1.5+ p/person) fresh and cheap crabs. When the price drops to $2.99 lb, it's pretty amazing and yes the price adds to the experience vis a vis gluttony.

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    I dunno. I had a dungeness feast with friends several years ago when I was in Boston (and yes, I am a native from there) and I was hooked. Sure, I love lobster, and I love the ease of eating lobster relative to crab, but overall, I think I enjoy the meat of a dungeness more. I am THRILLED to see the commercial season start next week.

                                    1. re: Spenbald

                                      Good for you! Lobster is so smooth, silky and naturally good I can understand how someone in comparison doesn't like crab. Different experience but I can see it.

                                3. The restaurant won't remind anyone of Boston, but for what it's worth the closest thing I've found to satisfying my craving for a lobster roll is the Louisiana crawfish roll on the lunch menu at Pican (in Oakland). Amazingly good.

                                  I don't think it's what the OP is looking for for this birthday dinner, but figured I'd put it out there for anyone who's had the same craving. So much better than the lobster roll from the Sam's truck...

                                  Pican Restaurant
                                  2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                                  1. Re: Chinese, I've searched Chowhound threads a few times, and couldn't come up with any (glowing) recommendations for Northeast style egg rolls. This may just be a NY thing, but I've never come across a place that serves fried wontons with duck sauce and mustard.

                                    You can get Marshmallow Fluff at any Cost Plus.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      The first time I brought home fluff I thought he was going to cry... I still won't try it. It reminds me of that really bad horror move "Stuff" - lol!!!

                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                        Oddly the freid egg roll from the green Chinese Pagoda style concession @ ATT Park is as close to a New England style egg roll as I have found out here.

                                      2. Yankee Pier has fried whole Ipswich Clams, Lobster rolls and Chowder.
                                        I have never been so can not speak to quality but seems to be well reviewed.

                                        1. Try the Connecticut Yankee, 17th and Connecticut in Portreo Hill.
                                          Run by Bostonians. It's a bar with food. Good food.

                                          Connecticut Yankee
                                          100 Connecticut St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: truepeacenik

                                            OMG - they call there bloody mary the "cranky yankee"!!!

                                            1. re: Tonyettehill

                                              27 World Championships, 40 American League pennants.
                                              Yankees/fans are not cranky.

                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                They're Bostonians, why not just poke them in the eye and pour salt in a wound.

                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                    If there was a like button I'd use it :-)

                                                  2. re: steve h.

                                                    Sure they are: they're spoiled babies who feel entitled to win the World Series every year, and who whine not because the team isn't winning, but because it isn't winning every game or beating the other teams by enough.

                                                    They're sort of like people who move to California, with all the incredible food, and whine because the pizza isn't like the pizza back home. <vbg>

                                                    Seriously, I understand the desire for something that tastes like home, but I think it's in many ways a lost cause. Food rarely transplants perfectly. The real question is whether it's better to have something that close but not quite right, or just resolve to adapt and embrace the local foodways.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Replicating East Coast stuff on the West Coast is not a recipe for success. I like the Bay Area just the way it is. It's cool to exploit its bounty.

                                                      Yankee fans are tough. We set a high bar. Lambent mediocrity is not in our DNA. We lose, we reload. Lots of tradition in the Bronx. I like that. It was a pleasure watching the baseball Giants last season. It sounds like they are trying to reload. Boston fired its manager and GM. It sounds like they are a little cranky.

                                                      Giants/"Niners this Sunday. Very cool. Football at its best. It was a pleasure beating the Patriots last week.

                                                      Edited to add: burrata at Roscioli (Rome) beats the daylights out of burrata at A16. I like A16 (Marina District) a lot. It's an unfair comparison. It's simply not the same. It's best to go with local strengths.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Cranky Yankee ... not that should have been my handle.

                                                        Yeah, but sometimes you just gotta have a fried clam. There were all those sad years living off the occasional clam strip from joints like Long John Silver when the urge hit. At least having something pretty close helps calm the addiction.

                                                        Connecticut Yankee was once on my main migration path thru SF. I have to go along with the barely over three star rating on yelp. There's nothing wrong with the food, but its more of a joint to have a beer and watch sports. It's probably slightly better bar food than most and that little sliver of a star over three is just about right.

                                                        Seems like someone got cute with the menu since the last time I was there

                                                        "Why couldn’t they call it San Francisco Sirloin? Oh yeah, I forgot, we’re more famous for our “Tenderloin.”

                                                        Really? ... really? ... are you guys REALLY from New England? ... does cranky Yankee mean nothing" I never saw anyone smile till I moved to California ... ok ... I exaggerate the last ... slightly.

                                                        I do love the one yelp poster, a Red Sox fan, who gave the joint one star because he was banished to a back room, and then told by a waitress to keep down the cheering for the team. The only Yelp service complaint I truly believe warrented the low rating.

                                                    2. re: Tonyettehill

                                                      I have been going to The Connecticut Yankee since I moved out here in 1999-I rarley have a meatball sub anywhere else.

                                                      Connecticut Yankee
                                                      100 Connecticut St, San Francisco, CA 94107