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Jun 17, 2012 08:48 AM

Foodie planning big birthday party in Boston – help!

Hi all, I am flying into Boston from Europe for a joint 40th / 80th family b-day party. Planning this remotely is tough but lots of CH info has made it easier.

I started with steakhouses and seafood but slow going so far:
- Grill 23 - was told place is “stuffy” but menu looks good
- Delfriscos - really like waterfront venue, but wet aged beef and mixed reviews
- Abe & Louies - a contender but the private dining room pic looks like an art auction...
- Neptune Oyster – working on the private party / restaurant buy-out angle
- Legal Seafood – was vetoed by a key guest
- Trade – rec’d by a friend but not sure it works for the oldsters

Also thinking Italian for more relaxed party atmosphere. Skimming the boards, Prezza, Gran Gusto and Erbaluce are starting points based on food - although we're happy with either authentic or good Italian American.

Other ideas aren't working: traditional clam bake seems very touristy, and harbour cruise menus look rough.

As it's a very special occasion, I want to really do my homework. Any thoughts or recommendations from CH Boston crew? Would really appreciate it!


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  1. If the party can be at someone's home, especially if there's a backyard, consider a catered clambake or barbecue.

    1. - Grill 23 is not stuffy at all. If steakhouse is what you want, this would be the obvious choice in Boston. The dining room can be lout, but this will not be an issue in the private room.
      - Abe & Louie's is not a special occasion place IMO
      - Neptune would be great if you can make it work. Note that it is beer and wine only.
      - Trade = meh
      - Legal Seafood = wise veto

      Can you be more specific as to what kind of food, atmosphere, night of week, price point you are looking for?

      For Italian I would look at Via Matta, or Sorellina for a broader mediterranean menu. Neither Erbaluce or Gran Gusto has a special occasion kind of atmosphere.

      If you are serious about renting a place out in its entirety for the night I would try Bondir over anywhere.

      Mistral has my favorite private room in Boston, and outstanding food to match. Would be a great option for all ages.

        1. re: Allstonian

          thanks everyone

          greygarious, having it at someone's home didn't work in the end, although would have been a great option, esp to retain control of wine/beer menu.

          gabatta, thanks for the views and suggestions, will check them out
          - food = good dry age US steaks or fresh seafood given Boston, nothing ethnic as easy access to that here.
          - atmosphere = fun but something OK for broad age range; I like the idea of being on/near water and ability to mill about and relax with good food/wine
          - night = Saturday.
          - price point = not an issue if can find s/t where don't need to compromise on food/drinks combination, although Michelin stars or similar environs will likely freak out some attendees.

          Allstonian, will be about 25-30 ppl. but I can upsize the guest list if a good venue requires it.

          1. re: c4saunders

            There is a private room off the bar area at Grill 23 that would accommodate your party. It will be expensive, but it should be excellent.

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              I love Grill 23 and, no, it's not stuffy.

              I was sitting in the bar there last week watching them set up that room... Nice space but not sure whether it holds 30. If so, I'd also suggest considering it.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Good point.

                I had a bachelor dinner there - for the first part of the evening, there was a large family sharing the room for the first hour (thankfully, they finished up before we really got going - that would have been awkward!) - Anyway, both parties were close to 15 or so, so I think it's possible to get close.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  thanks for the scoop on Grill 23, and the potential party hazards... I'm sure at least one of them would have joined you for a tequila shot. But I did get the impression that 30 ppl would be a squeeze.

                  The other running theme is a more "relaxed" Italian place as I am being lobbied for this by some guests. I may ignore them, but...

                  Does a fun, relaxed, quasi-casual italian (or italian american) place with a good wine list exist? They seem to be on either side of the spectrum, either very nice or too casual with suspicious wines. finding one in between is tough to figure out on-line.

                  1. re: c4saunders

                    Check out Gran Gusto in Cambridge. It has a second room that can seat close to 30 I believe.

                    1. re: c4saunders

                      I like Via Matta in Park Square and there was a private party in the front room (caffe?) the last time I was there.

                      1. re: c4saunders

                        If you go the Italian route consider Mamma Maria. It is not casual, but the food should satisfy everyone and they have private rooms.

                    2. re: C. Hamster

                      I admit that the food at Grill 23 is good, but i can make a steak just as well if not better at home. When going out, i want something that i cannot easily make at home. This may not be so important at a party and it must accomodate different tastes; I can understand that.

                      But i would prefer Italian or Chinese or French if i had my druthers.

              2. What about Locke Ober? It's as local classic as can be, and every meal I've had there in recent years - many celebrating this or that occasion - has been excellent. They have all kinds of private setups. I suppose some would call it staid, but I don't think the private options would be as much, and you can't get more Bostonian than LO.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Splendid Spatula

                  in keeping with the "on the water" what about restaurant Dante at the Sonesta? Anyone been there recently? I've only been for lunch, love the view, liked the food. People seem to like his other restaurant in Belmont, so maybe this woudl work

                  1. re: momoftwo

                    Cambridgedoctpr - totally agree with you on the steak issue. I was just told about a place called Craigie on Main in Cambridge. Any thoughts?

                    Checking into all these other ideas. Soon I will be better equipped to have parties in boston vs where I live. I'm surprised, many venues are really slow to private event enquiries.

                    Gabbata, do you think Erbaluce would be too casual for s/t like this? Thanks

                    1. re: c4saunders

                      Craigie is great, but I'm not sure they could accommodate so many people. Maybe Eastern Standard? they have private rooms, can handle a group, and have reasonable set menus with good choices for groups. They also have excellent cocktails!

                      1. re: kimfair1

                        My sister threw my "bachelorette party" (read: awesome dinner, ladies only, no shenanigans) at Eastern Standard and they did an amazing job with 25 people. We had a 3 or 4 course dinner with cocktail pairings for each course in one of their private rooms that's basically an art gallery. It was a lovely event.

                      2. re: c4saunders

                        I find the dining room at Erbaluce to be one of the most blah spaces around. I feel like I am eating in someone's finished basement.

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          that is hilarious. It took some time to explain the concept of a finished basement to my wife...

                          I am talking with Locke Ober. The experience does look entertaining for an event, but I am concerned about the quality of cooking after reading many savage reviews. If there is balance, fine. But if not, then the package won't work.

                          Spatula, others, what have been people's experiences here?

                          1. re: c4saunders

                            Just seeing this now, so hope it is not too late. My food experiences there have been excellent, although I haven't been in about a year. A fine duck breast last time with a soy reduction if I recall correctly, good rare beef another, and baked alaska that is lots of fun. My father is a fan of the lobster savannah - served in the big lobster - and that is totally worth it. I've never had a meh meal at LO.

                            But reading this thread again . . . did you look at Scampo at the Libery Hotel? We had a great meal there last summer. Lydia Shire, a Boston fave, runs it. Italian-ish, great location, very inventive.

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