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Conference Widow Trolling the streets of Boston in search of Food

kiki2U Apr 21, 2012 08:44 AM

I'm tagging along with my husband while he attends a conference in mid-May.
I will have 4 full days (Sunday-Wednesday) on my own to discover the beauty and food of Boston!
We are staying in Back Bay but I am planning to do a lot of walking and to use the T for transportation.
I would love to try out local favorites while wandering different neighborhoods. (North End, Cambridge, Becon Hill, Kennmore, Back Bay) I will also be walking the Freedom Trail of course.
In the evenings I will take the hubby back to the neighborhoods show him the highlights and have dinner.
Neither one of us have been to Boston before, so for dinner we would love to try things quintessential "Boston" (Seafood, chowder, Irish pub, North End Italian etc.) so if a place might be a little "touristy" that's okay cause it is all about the "experience" this trip.
I've started my research and will update with ideas but any help will be greatly appreciated!

  1. k
    kiki2U Apr 24, 2012 05:35 AM

    I realized early on and then didn't think about it again but we will be there the days leading up to Harvard commencement. Is that going to make things at all difficult? Should we even plan to try Mr. Bartley's or other favorite Harvard haunts?

    12 Replies
    1. re: kiki2U
      gourmaniac Apr 24, 2012 07:45 AM

      Things definitely get busy around Harvard Square as in addition to commencement, Alumni always come back so the town is filled with well heeled types looking to dine out. i would definitely make a few reservations for dinners. Lunches should be OK as alums and parents will be socializing over finger sandwiches amongst their own. I would avoid most Harvard haunts due to crowds and the mediocre level of the food. Bartley's will be a nightmare especially at lunch.

      1. re: gourmaniac
        Jenny Ondioline Apr 24, 2012 09:41 AM

        Plus Bartley's unseasoned greasebomb burgers suck, but that's an unrelated matter.

        1. re: Jenny Ondioline
          gourmaniac Apr 24, 2012 10:13 AM

          I include Bartley's in my mediocre comment.

        2. re: gourmaniac
          kiki2U Apr 24, 2012 11:01 AM

          I was afraid of that. :(
          Is there anywhere in the Harvard area that is worth braving the crowds for? Not necessarily for the most outstanding food, but in a not to be missed Boston Experience. I think we will try and make it over to Cambridge and Harvard Square at least to see the place.
          Earlier in the week the better do you think?

          1. re: kiki2U
            Fly Apr 24, 2012 11:18 AM

            The crowds won't be crushing or anything. You should absolutely take a trip to Harvard Square, it's a great place to walk around. At mealtimes, though, most of the sitdown places will be tough to get seated at quickly, but it's not going to be a problem to walk around campus and see the sights, by any means.

            1. re: Fly
              kiki2U Apr 24, 2012 11:38 AM

              So good to know! Thanks!
              Maybe will try and go over one evening after dinner somewhere else. Maybe get dessert/or a walk around treat. Any suggestions?

              1. re: kiki2U
                pollystyrene Apr 24, 2012 10:30 PM

                Burdick's Chocolate or Lizzy's Ice Cream should provide you with plenty of good walking-around treats.

                1. re: pollystyrene
                  pollystyrene Apr 28, 2012 10:07 PM

                  Oops. I meant JP Licks. Lizzy's is icky, I think.

            2. re: kiki2U
              opinionatedchef Apr 24, 2012 01:09 PM

              for many of us oldtimers, Casablanca, with its iconic murals from the movie,and its excellent food, is a must for harv sq. I don't know if you have looked at my Guide to Boston by Area and Restaurants that i linked in my post above, but I mention it in there.

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                kiki2U Apr 24, 2012 01:20 PM

                Opinionatedchef, I have absolutely looked at you itenerary by neighborhood and am basing many of our choices on it! :) I do thank you and the other very accomadating Boston CHers for continuing to chime in on specific questions and ideas. It really is appreciated!

                1. re: kiki2U
                  dulce de leche Apr 25, 2012 02:10 PM

                  Above Casablanca is Algiers, a coffeehouse which serves unspecial food but the interior is special and gorgeous and they have small patios upstairs and downstairs and on a nice day it is lovely to sip a mint tea there and peoplewatch.

                  If you want lunch while there, great sandwiches at Crema Cafe and Darwin's, funky setup and great veg food at Clover Food Labs, nice patio at OM, or get a couple of pieces of pizza at Pinocchio's and sit in the park.

                  1. re: dulce de leche
                    C. Hamster Apr 26, 2012 05:33 AM

                    Or a double cheeseburger special at Charlies...

        3. k
          kiki2U Apr 22, 2012 02:44 PM

          Okay my new found Boston CH friends. You have made me feel so welcome on this bored that I feel I can trust you with an embarrassing little secret.
          I have never eaten raw oysters before. I live in the Rocky's and we just don't specialize in seafood especially the raw variety. When I travel I usually try to hit up the local favorites and bests and as I have never had the honor of traveling to your fine city before where oysters are among the favorites and best you have to offer I will be experiencing this treat for the first time :)
          Soooo any advise on how, what and where to lose my raw oyster virginity would be appreciated!

          5 Replies
          1. re: kiki2U
            C. Hamster Apr 22, 2012 02:54 PM

            There are lots of places around town that offer $1 oysters around "happy hour " in Boston. It's against the law to discount liquor so places discount bar food quite commonly.

            There are a bunch of threads on this here. Personally my favorite place for a great cocktail and $1 weekday oysters at the bar is Lineage in Coolidge Corner Brookline.

            There are lots of other personal favorites around town.

            Neptune and Island Creek are standouts.

            I recommend chewing them before swallowing. Some people insist that they need to be swallowed sans mastication, which I can't figure out.

            Try them with lemon juice or mignonette sauce (vinegar and shallot).

            1. re: kiki2U
              Kat Apr 23, 2012 05:42 AM

              Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore.

              1. re: kiki2U
                ladym16 Apr 23, 2012 01:39 PM

                I second Island Creek. Tell the waiter this will be your first time and he/she will be able to give you some flavor profiles and suggestions on how to enjoy oysters. There really are some strong differences and you don't want your first ever oyster to be on the more briny/pungent side. Start with the sweeter ones so you can get used to the texture, then work your way up to the briny/big flavorful ones.

                1. re: kiki2U
                  pariss Apr 24, 2012 01:26 PM

                  Neptune Oyster for Oysters and other fish, in the North End - it is TOP NOTCH!! The big problem there though is no reservations and the wait it always long. They are open every day for lunch, which will be less of a wait, especially during off hours (4PM?). You really shouldn't miss it - one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

                  1. re: kiki2U
                    volleydolly Apr 26, 2012 07:26 PM

                    Don't you get Rocky Mountain Oysters? (As a former Rockie's resident too, I couldn't resist your set up). :)

                  2. BostonZest Apr 22, 2012 04:50 AM

                    I'm going to take a different direction in filling your days with food finds. We happen to have some great food tours in Boston.

                    The best known are the tours of the North End or Chinatown with Michele Topor or one of her excellent guides.

                    And, while I haven't taken one as of yet, I have run into the Foston Foodie Tours around town and the group seems to be having a wonderful time. I've also seen a lot of great reviews of these.


                    You might also want to browse the classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education to see if you happen to be here when a special food tour or cooking class with a great chef is scheduled.



                    3 Replies
                    1. re: BostonZest
                      BostonZest Apr 22, 2012 05:31 AM

                      We also have a great food truck scene with some really great, exciting food coming off some of these rolling kitchens.

                      You should try Clover Food Lab while you're here. They already have 8 or 9 trucks and two brick and mortar restaurants. I'm betting this will be a national operation in the future.

                      In you walk by a truck called The Dining Car stop for the Crispy Cauliflower snack. Soooo good!

                      Try anything from Mei Mei Street Kitchen, but especially the beef and cheese dumplings.

                      Staff Meal has some wonderful snack size offerings which means you can step us and try something anytime you see the truck.

                      Go Fish has a chef onboard who really knows how to work with seafood. He does a salmon miso fresh roll that is light and fresh!

                      There are more than 20 trucks scattered around the city and lots of good food coming out of them.
                      Here's the city's link on where to find them.

                      But, it is not always the best source or up to date. I have an iPhone app that seems much more dependable.


                      1. re: BostonZest
                        Infomaniac Apr 22, 2012 05:55 AM

                        Great suggestions!!!!

                        Both are great suggestions for visitors interested in food, and the local food truck theme scene suggestion is really thinking outside the box.....love it.

                        I know some people that will be visiting Boston through the summer who will literally eat up these ideas.

                        1. re: BostonZest
                          kiki2U Apr 22, 2012 02:29 PM

                          I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! It is so my speed. I downloaded the app and will anxiously await the day I am in Boston and can hit the "find nearby trucks " button :) will definitely add the suggested trucks with (menu items) to my favorites and must dos.
                          Thanks again

                      2. k
                        kiki2U Apr 21, 2012 08:30 PM

                        I knew I could count on some great responses! Thank you all so much! So I was thinking that maybe the hubby could get in breakfast at some great places too if we go early enough that we can get back for conference mumbo jumbo. Here is what I have come up with. Please feel free to offer opinions and advice.
                        Mike &Patty's: Fried Egg Fancy, Breakfast Tacos
                        Flour Bakery: Sticky Buns, Homemade Oreos
                        Paramount: French Toast?
                        Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe: Turkey Hash, Blueberry pancakes
                        Zaftigs: Banana Stuffed French Toast, Apple Cheddar Omlette

                        Anxious to get your opinions on this list! Thanks again!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: kiki2U
                          opinionatedchef Apr 21, 2012 11:40 PM

                          kiki, welcome in advance! so far, we're having an uncommmonly early Spring and loving it. This info might look overwhelming at first, but since this is your first visit and you'll be here a few days, i hope it will be helpful:

                          Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:

                          Dinner Spots that I consistently recommend:
                          Oleana- Cambridge
                          Craigie on Main
                          Neptune Oyster
                          Island Creek Oyster Bar
                          Strip T's (in a 'suburb', 10 min cab from harvard square


                          East Coast Grill, Cambridge.- fun, loud, crazy; Latin, seafood, BBQ, oysters, Bloody Mary bar.........

                          Mistral- french high end, beautiful room, somewhat close to your hotel-- South End

                          Aquitaine - french bistro-- """""" South End

                          Neptune Oyster-- North End
                          COPLEY SQ:



                          Boston Magazine 11/11 issue: 50 Best Boston Restnts. This list is a very comprehensive and convenient reference list for brief restnt. descriptions, phone numbers, website links of the 50:


                          Recent long thread from a recent visitor's TWO visits to Boston:

                          Also, I urge you to take advantage of the convenience of 24/7 reservations with a system like opentable.com. Reservations are a must here, and even if your plans may change, it's good to get reservations ASAP and then change them if needed, as your plans solidify. opentable has an easy system for changing or cancelling your reservation. Also, if a restnt shows no availability for a time you wanted to dine, best to call that restnt because they always have more seats than shown on opentable.

                          And finally, we have a very active CH board here in Boston, so doing a CH Search for a restnt. will likely bring you to a number of pertinent threads.And we'll also chirp in as your plans get more specific.

                          1. re: kiki2U
                            Jenny Ondioline Apr 22, 2012 09:29 AM

                            I wouldn't travel any distance for Zaftig's -- it's more of an "okay if you happen to already be in the neighborhood" sort of place.

                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                              kiki2U Apr 22, 2012 02:35 PM

                              Thanks for the advice. I know they aren't in the same neighborhood or don't claim to offer the same experience but what about Thinking Cup instead. Maybe on a day I plan to do more heavy eating later in the day. I'm not a huge coffee drinker but my husband likes a good cup either hot or iced.

                          2. k
                            Kat Apr 21, 2012 06:32 PM

                            Hi, from one "conference widow" to another: if you want to dine eith locals, head to the South End. It is teeming with great restaurants. Not really any tourist sights there, but lots of beautiful brownstones that have been renovated over the past 20 years. Hamersley's is nice for a splurge dinner; roast chicken sounds simple, but theirs is otherworldly. B&G for oysters in a tiny space; Toro for tapas, Beehive for a busy bar scene; there are so many choices! For Kenmore, definitely Island Creek Oyster Bar. Big, buzzy space and good seafood (on Red Sox nights,reserve a time after the game starts). In the Back Bay, I like Uni for creative sushi in the Eliot Hotel.

                            1. b
                              Bellachefa Apr 21, 2012 02:31 PM

                              Breakfast at the Paramount. Take the bus to Castle Island on a nice day and have a burger or dog at Sullivans and a stroll, watching the planes land and take off.

                              1. StriperGuy Apr 21, 2012 02:15 PM

                                Hit Galleria Umberto in the North End at lunch, get there at 11, that's a real Boston experience with great chow.

                                By the way, love the title of your post.

                                1. ipsofatso Apr 21, 2012 01:30 PM

                                  That is a great link; here's my short list:

                                  North End: Pizzeria Regina for lunch and L'Osteria for dinner
                                  Chinatown: Best Little Restaurant, Peach Farm

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: ipsofatso
                                    Berheenia Apr 21, 2012 02:09 PM

                                    I would start with lunch at Sel De La Terre, upstairs in the bar area at a small high top overlooking Boylston St. The view is almost as good as the food. I can recommend the burger (note they cut it in half) but the whole menu is good. Don't miss the back oyster bar at Island Creek Oyster Bar.

                                    1. re: Berheenia
                                      kiki2U Apr 25, 2012 09:56 PM

                                      Just read on the website that Sel de la Terre is no longer serving lunch. :(

                                      1. re: kiki2U
                                        kiki2U Apr 25, 2012 10:08 PM

                                        Just did some more looking and it looks like it is just the Long Warf location that is no longer serving lunch. The other two locations will remain open. Looks like this could be a great option :)

                                        1. re: kiki2U
                                          hotoynoodle Apr 26, 2012 08:05 AM

                                          the long wharf location is closing any day.

                                          1. re: kiki2U
                                            Berheenia Apr 28, 2012 06:21 AM

                                            You can't beat the view of Boylston Street from the 2nd floor. SDLT 's big sister restaurant is L'Espalier, one of our top fine dining spots with lunch starting at 60 bucks. They share a kitchen which is open on the Prudential side, if you are into kitchen voyarism.
                                            If you have cash to spare and like getting dressed up you could lunch at

                                      2. re: ipsofatso
                                        StriperGuy Apr 21, 2012 02:14 PM

                                        YES for L'Osteria AND Peach Farm.

                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                          ipsofatso Apr 21, 2012 04:18 PM

                                          you do have unimpeachable taste

                                          1. re: ipsofatso
                                            StriperGuy Apr 22, 2012 10:48 AM

                                            I've just always loved the homey, old school red sauce joint vibe at L'Osteria, and the chow it great.

                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                              GretchenS Apr 22, 2012 12:25 PM

                                              I had to look it up but that is where our senior sales exec takes us at the end of every quarter when he is in town (I just think of it as Don's place) but you are right, the chow is great and so are the waitstaff.

                                          2. re: StriperGuy
                                            hotoynoodle Apr 22, 2012 01:49 PM

                                            as much as i love peach farm, i don't think it suits a solo diner. even with 2 of you, it's hard to order enough dishes to enjoy their excellence to the max!

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle
                                              StriperGuy Apr 23, 2012 07:15 AM

                                              True, true.

                                        2. GretchenS Apr 21, 2012 11:37 AM

                                          This should get you started, courtesy of opionated chef: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781155

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