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Entertaining 30 clients: Magical experience in a great town- where?

Greetings Chowhounders! Every year, I entertain my 30 best clients one night at an annual conference that, this year, is in Boston. I am completely unfamiliar with the dining scene there, but very excited, as I always hear great things. The goal of the evening every year is amazing food, a great atmosphere, and a chance to NOT talk business for a night. This is the 7th year running now, and we've had some simply amazing experiences at the following places:

Araka- St. Louis
Restaurant August- New Orleans
The Carlyle- Portland
Kevin Taylor- Denver
Restaurant 1789- Washington DC
J.G. Domestic- Philadephia

All great experiences, wonderful places to dine (I highly recommend each of them, if ever you find yourself in those towns).

I am looking to duplicate/improve upon those for this year- My goal is a wonderful night, with great food.

Budget (cut a bit this year- darn recession!): $100 a person
# of attendees: 25-30
Private Dining space/room: Highly desired.
Location: Prefer near the Convention Center, but willing to cab it (a reasonable distance).

If the venue has a great local story/flair to it, all the better. Many of the attendees are (actual) historians, so a bonus there.

Chowhound has helped in each of these events every year in the past- I am so hopeful for the same excellent guidance for this year in Boston! Thank you!!!

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    1. re: C. Hamster

      Woops! Sorry about that. The John B. Hynes Veteran's Convention Center.

    2. Unfortunately, most places in Boston with "history" attached to it are not co-extensive with good food (as in traditional "New England"-style places.)

      However, if you want a good story, dine at Scampo at the Liberty Hotel, which used to be a jail (and the attendant bar pun of Clink). I think they have private rooms too and you may be able to get in under the $100/pp limit.

      Or to really mess with people, you could go to Medieval Manor and have a contest of how many historical inaccuracies you can spot. (This is very much tongue-in-cheek)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Hi! Story/history are all 2nd (or 3rd) to dining experience. Very sorry if I implied a great story was a must.

        1. re: larspeart

          No worries. Scampo may still be a good choice for you. It is relatively easy to reach from the Hynes (whether by T or cab).

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            plus if the weather is nice, you could hold your function out on the (umbrella'd) patio at Scampo (instead of the function room), maybe even start with hor d'oevres...

      2. If you can squeeze a little higher budget, check out the Salon Room at Mistral.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Blumie

          They look wonderful- The Salon seems especially attractive, per our needs/their expectations. I wonder perhaps how much more of a budget I would be neediing to squeeze. Thoughts on their likely costs?

          Thank you!

          1. re: larspeart

            Having hosted events there in the past, food alone averaged around $95/pp (for a 3 course meal with 3 entree selections, preceded by some of their fantastic pizzas as appetizers during the cocktail reception). You could do it a bit more inexpensively, I think they have a set menu as low as $75/pp, but that only provides on entree choice, so that's not really a reasonable option in my mind. If you are doing an open bar (average 2 drinks per person) and wine with dinner, figure an all in cost of $150-175/pp (depending on the wine), inclusive of all taxes and service charges. There is no better private dining room in Boston that I have been to (food, service, atmosphere). Give them a call, the event staff is a pleasure to work with and may be able to be creative with your budget. The room is perfectly sized for 30 people. Any more and it would start to get cramped.

        2. Seconding Mistral if you can swing the cost.

          1. The Boston Public Library has an event/dining venue which would be right up there for history, an attractive venue and great food. Events are catered by "A Catered Affair", which is very well known for their food. I think they would be willing to work within your budget. It is in close proximity to the Convention Center.
            Also try the MFA and the Gardner Museum for hosting. The MFA has a great restaurant called "Bravo" and beautiful outdoor garden.
            Already mentioned is Scampo at the Liberty Hotel - this would be a very exciting venue for an event and they have attractive outdoor space - perfect for the time you will be here.
            I'll also suggest the Barbara Lynch Gruppo family of restaurants. They are pricey, but perhaps you can work with them to host something fun at "Drink" or "B&G Oyster". Also call them to see about the Chef's Table at Menton or in the South End. It may be above the $100 budget, but I believe it is worth pursuing. I am sure to get pushback from loyal CH'er's, but I am just throwing out any options that may work for you.

            5 Replies
            1. re: snowcone

              Ha! I love it! You've accidental hit on a hit, I think- They are librarians, in fact! I'm still loving all these that are coming in- THANK YOU, and keep them coming!

              1. re: snowcone

                Too funny. Librarians at the BPL. I attended a lovely 60th birthday party catered by "A Catered Affair" a couple of years ago, and the food was very good. Service was quite good, too.

                1. re: bear

                  I think I'll put a call into them and Scampo today, but if there are other ideas, I am totally game for listening. Tha nk you all so very much for the assistance.

                  1. re: bear

                    The Catered Affair does an awesome job, my family has used them for a number of events, food and service both top-notch.

                  2. re: snowcone

                    A catered Affair runs the higher end restaurant in the library, no?

                  3. Crud! The BPL/Catered Affair is totally booked for the night I'd need- back to the drawing board- Any other ideas?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: larspeart

                      Another thought would be to call The Catered Affair and ask if they know of a venue you could use that night with them doing the catering.

                      1. re: larspeart

                        The Rustic Kitchen in the Park Square area does a live cooking show in a studio-type set up. It would not be the best in terms of food, but could be fun and memorable. Not sure of the schedule. The cost is $75 pp.

                      2. The library sounds great for you, but if you are still considering other options, there is no place much more Bostony than Locke-Ober. They have private rooms, too.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: pemma

                          Very much still looking, so thank you for the suggestion. I have left messages now with Locke-Ober, Scampo, Marcos- North End, and Mistral, though they seem out of my budget (prior years, would not have been a problem...).

                          1. re: larspeart

                            Marco is pretty small for your group. Better to check out 2 of the private rooms at Mama Maria, one for 28 or one for up to 40: http://mammamaria.com/

                            1. re: larspeart

                              How about Troquet. Excellent wine bar with very good food and right across from the Public Garden, a 10-15 min walk from Hynes.

                              1. re: gourmaniac

                                Hi. Thanks for the suggestion- they look great! But, they can onl;y accomodate up to 14 people.

                              2. re: larspeart

                                Have you looked into Harvest or Rialto? Both are frequent sites of Harvard-related dinners, and Rialto at least has a private room. It seems like it could seat 30, I am not sure. They are similar to 1789 not in food but in their role in their respective academic communities (i.e. places where students make their parents take them or where faculty go). I think 100/person would be sufficient. I noticed that Rialto had a four course prix fixe a couple weeks ago for I think 75. Harvest is historic in Harvard Square, though not in an old-fashioned way. But it has been a real incubator of talent in Boston for decades and was founded in the hey-day of Harvard Square modernism, by one of its proponents, architect Ben Thompson.

                                1. re: hckybg

                                  These are great ideas- No one called back from earlier today at the 3 I sent out feel;ers to, so I may need a few more suggestions, haha! I'll for sure look into Rialto and Harvest- The cooking/studio class sounds like a ton of fun, but not the right kind of venue for this event, I don't think.

                                  1. re: larspeart

                                    Has Sorrelina been mentioned? It's owned by the same people that own Mistral ("little sister", get it?) I have not been, but it gets good reviews. A bit pricey though.

                            2. Another possibility is Les Zygomates in the Leather District. Right by South Station in a very cool, historic building and they have several rooms that can be partitioned off for private parties. They should be able to craft something for you in your price range (they have a prix fixe for $39 with several entree options)....plus they have a great wine list to work with for the function. Final added bonus is live jazz every evening, which may or may not be included in your party.


                              1. Ugh- Striking out still. Lots of no-callbacks, a coupl;e that were way-way over budget, and the rest were booked. Ugh!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: larspeart

                                  Which ones were way over budget? Would be helpful to know for future inquiries. :)

                                2. Locke-Ober has a private dining room and would be a magical place for your guests.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    I have a call into them, actually. They might be the place.

                                  2. I tend to think of magical experiences first in terms of food over atmosphere and service, so I'm less inclined toward places like Mistral, which I think has pretty ordinary French-ish bistro food jazzed up with some luxury ingredients, and wrapped in a lot of ambiance and high-touch service.

                                    If I had an adventurous crowd of people to entertain for business on that budget (something that, alas, rarely happens -- the adventurous part, I mean), I'd take them to places like Erbaluce (Piedmontese), Coppa (small plates Italian with great chacuterie and wood-oven pizzas), Trattoria Toscana (modest, traditional Tuscan fare), JoJo Taipei (traditional Taiwanese), West Bridge (a new French-leaning New American place), Bergamot (another indie-chef French/New American), or perhaps even the Russell House Tavern (a casual gastropub with great food of its type, plus a private room of your size, which most of my other suggestions lack), and maybe Sichuan Gourmet Brookline (traditional Sichuan).

                                    Or take over China King, a Shandong/Beijing place in Chinatown, and get eight Peking ducks. They make their own noodles and pancakes and dumpling wrappers there: it's really something. You could spend the $60/head you save on good wine somewhere.

                                    But most of them aren't fancy: the food's the thing.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      I'll second Erbaluce. They have a private room, are about the right size and budget, and know how to make a night feel special with food and wine. Used to be a gay dance club, how's that for history?

                                    2. Mama Maria's which sits above one of the loveliest historic squares in Boston, in the North End, will do a private party for up to 40 and has a lovely venue for it. Don't know what the price would be but it might work for you. The food is very good. EVOO in Cambridge might be another option: also have a private room that would accommodate and a very good kitchen. Walking distance from the Hynes I might check La Voile (don't know if they can accommodate a party of 30 but you can go on line and check) or sel de la terre.