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Upcoming trip - loose outline enclosed, advice needed!

  • c

Okay Boston Chowhounders - I have come up with a bit of a schedule and am looking for guidance.

Coming from Chicago in two weeks without a car, but I'm not afraid of cabbing, walking, or a bit of public transit. Staying at the Sheraton right by the Prudential Building from Thursday-Sunday and Sunday-Tuesday I'll be in the theater district at the Revere. I'm not a breakfast guy, so I'm cool without.

Thursday -
Arriving late enough that I probably won't be eating lunch (dozen oysters at Island Creek when they open maybe?)

Dinner at No 9 Park. It appears they don't take reservations for the bar, but I'll be alone and arriving by six, so this seems like it would be fine.


Friday -
Up in the air - I'll be alone, I am debating going to Salem. If I don't, and there's someplace I'm missing that does weekday lunch, let me know!

Dinner at Craigie on Main
Dessert at Toscanini’s.


Saturday -
Another day completely on my own, but I'll definitely be staying in Boston.

I have a lunch reservation at L'Espalier, I'm doubting whether I should do it, it's spendy, especially after Craigie.

Dinner is tricky - my wife will be working all day, is unsure when she's off, and probably won't want to hit the town. The only thing I can think of is Legal is down the block from the hotel and does carry out. This seems like a better idea than room service.


Sunday -
Brunch at Mike and Patty's.

Pre-dinner cocktails at Drink

Dinner at Erbaluce.


Monday -
Lunch at Neptune.

Stop in at Union Oyster House for a drink perhaps....the idea is to go, but not for a meal.
Dinner at Blue 13 - this place gets mixed reviews, but I'm a sucker for liquid nitrogen. Feel free to
persuade me one way or the other.


Tuesday -
Pre-flight lunch at Flour

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    1. re: KevinJF

      He means Blue, Inc., the Jason Santos place.
      The OP should search the board for the recent trip planning threads - your plan is almost identical!

    2. you've got some great meals planned, so i don't see the need to blight your mouth with seafood from legal's, even as take-away.

      brasserie jo is a skip from your hotel. i really like eating at the bar and it's a very casual vibe. you could get take-out from douzo or chili duck, even cafe jaffa -- all easy walking distance and better food than legal's.

      island creek opens at 4 and besides oysters, their food is excellent. so is their cocktail program and service. as a solo diner i have always felt far more welcome at icob, or its parent, eastern standard kitchen, than i ever have at no. 9 park. i also feel that the inconsistency of execution at no. 9 makes me feel cheated because of their steep pricing. honestly, all that combined with the utter gouging on wine prices, i have given up on the lynch empire entirely. others on this board feel differently.

      if you don't travel to salem, friday lunch i would vote coppa or toro, also an easy walk from the sheraton.

      saturday, you could consider a lower-key place like aquitaine for lunch.

      sunday, drinks at no.9, then take a lovely walk through the public gardens and common to erbaluce.

      7 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          Thanks for the advice! I think it's all coming together.

          Brasserie Jo looks like a good option if I can drag her out (right around the corner, shouldn't be hard) and if not, Chili Duck looks good for take out. Legal definitely wasn't an ideal choice and I'm glad you gave me strong alternatives.

          I've decided to skip L'Espalier. I'm sure it's lovely, but I'm thinking it's a bit overboard. Also probably going to skip Salem - there's plenty to do around town. Friday and Saturday I plan on grazing - popping into a few places and having a small something - Neptune gets enough raves I think they'll get some repeat visits. Coppa's bone marrow pizza looks like a winner and I can hopefully snag just a drink at Blue Inc during their lunch service.

          Toro was a place that fell off my radar for some reason and now that I look at it, it's back. Toro will be Tuesday's dinner now.

          I've read a lot of praise about No 9 Park, but I now see much of it is dated....I wanted to hit a Lynch place, forgetting Drink is part of the empire. I may just sit tight at ICOB.

          1. re: chris

            Next door to ICOB is The Hawthorne, one of Boston's best new cocktail bars.

            1. re: kimfair1

              The Hawthorne looks totally my style and next to ICOB will be a great one two punch. Thanks!

              1. re: chris

                It's also not the zoo that drink can be (Drink is a real "scene" with loads of people there to be seen, and not to drink the great cocktails they make there).

                1. re: kimfair1

                  I kind of had a feeling about that, so the plan is to arrive at Drink AT 4 pm, when they open....so I'm hoping to avoid much of that.

                  1. re: chris

                    That's a good plan. The best times I've had there were going early on off nights, so you can actually discuss what you like with the bartenders, rather than fight off the vodka tonic drinking scenesters.

        2. I hope you have not missed this thread, very similar plan including Salem. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856612

          Your program looks generally good but I agree that you can do MUCH better than Legal Seafoods. I would also suggest that you look at the Sunday brunch at Craigie on Main, which I think is outstanding. And I have to agree with hotoynoodle, the one time I went to No. 9 Park I felt really fleeced, and not all that happy with my food. YMMV.

          1 Reply
          1. re: GretchenS

            Indeed I have - lots of great advice on that thread and the (in progress) followup report is helpful as well.

          2. If you do go to Salem I would recommend Finz on the waterfront for a meal. Had a really nice lunch there a couple weeks ago.

            Some great choices - personally I wasn't impressed with Erbaluce but perhaps you will be.

            Toscanini's is the best ice cream ever!

            Get the lobster sandwich (hot) at Neptune. And stop at Modern (biscotti and nougatine) and Maria's (cannoli) for goodies.

            Have a great trip!

            7 Replies
            1. re: TeacherFoodie

              Toscanini can't be the best ice cream ever, cause Christina's is better!

              1. re: Blumie

                I also enjoyed Christina's but found Toscanini's to be creamier. Depends what you like I guess.

              2. re: TeacherFoodie

                Your post (and the loads of replies) helped significantly in my planning....Erbaluce is going to be part of Restaurant Week and the menu looked good....that said, RW in general is iffy, but at least I know exactly what it's going to cost and I'm willing to gamble it.

                1. re: chris

                  where did you find the erbaluce RW menu?

                  1. re: chris

                    you don't have to eat off the rw menu. you may want to make a reservation though since those weeks are so very busy.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      It's booked. I've done RW in Chicago and it's pretty much 50/30/20 for being "great," "okay," and "offensive."

                      1. re: chris

                        My advice is don't order a pasta dish.

                2. I would note that Erbulace is probably the most raved about/disliked restaurant on this board. I personally think the chef is trying to do some very interesting things, but falls short in execution/taste. I note that the last person who had like 200 comments on her itinerary post went and thought Erbulace was very dissapointing. My co-worker thinks it is the best Italian place in Boston, so who knows, I guess it just depends on who you ask.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                    my meals there have been great from start to finish. the chef is intensely detailed-oriented. like the pear slices we had on a cheese plate came from the same orchard as the honey also on the plate.

                    the wine list is all-italian and full of off-beat values, not just stuffed with mammoth $$$$ barolo and amarone that would bully the food.

                    this is a very modern interpretation of italian food, by an american chef of italian descent.

                    is it out of the ballpark everyday? dunno since i can't afford to eat there everyday!

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Only young Barolos are bullies; the more mature ones play better with others. Unfortunately, the former are more prevalent on wine lists.

                      I am a big fan of Erbaluce's chef/owner Charles Draghi, since his days at Marcuccio's. Marcuccio's and Sage are the two restaurants that I wish were still in the North End.

                      I think the root of the disagreements about the food is based on his style, as explained on the Erbaluce website:

                      "punctuating the dishes with the bright flavors of fresh herbs, and sauces based on fruit and vegetable essences, as well as various roasting juices, without the attendant heaviness of added butter or cream reductions. Freed from this heaviness, the dishes have bright, focused flavors, with the freshness of the ingredients being the primary characteristic sensation for diners."

                      A lot of people like cream and butter.

                      1. re: KevinJF

                        Scotchandsirloin likes cream and butter (not surprisingly). However, I've been to some truly great restaurants that do some incredibly strange things, often without heavy sauces (SaQuaNa in France comes to mind), and pull them off, in my opinion, much better than Erbulace. That being said, Sage while in the N.End used to be one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Boston, so I like the chef's history, if not his current work.

                          1. re: KevinJF

                            Oh well then. I was trying to say something positive, because I don't hate the place or the chef, but I guess I read too fast.

                  2. Salem..........

                    My suggestion would be to go to the neighboring town of Marblehead instead. Have lunch at the Landing or the Barnacle; both of which have fabulous views of this world class harbor. (Stick with the basics - lobster roll, fried clams, chowder etc. and you won't be disappointed.) Amazing history and Colonial architecture. Friendly people. A small town New England hidden gem.

                    The thing about Salem is that most of it's tourism focus has been on all the "witch" stuff. And that is all just frankly very shoddy. Attracting busloads of tourists to what are basically souvenir shops that call themselves museums. UGH. To it's credit, there is one actual museum there which is outstanding. The Peabody Essex Institute. It's worth a day trip on it's own. Also, Chestnut Street offers amazingly preserved Federal architecture. But if you have one day to explore this part of the world in the summer, I think Marblehead is the way to go. It is a truly charming little town. It does not do much to promote itself as a tourist destination. So - and I know this sounds snobby - it attracts better tourists! To the point where it is hard to tell a tourist from a local. The local merchants and restaurants are known for their hospitality to "visitors"! And the visitors feel right at home.

                    Have a great trip!

                    You can get to both via MBTA. Salem is also on the commuter rail.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: nsgirl

                      If you go to Salem I recommend taking the ferry from Long Wharf. It's a nice way to get there. If you are interested in the history of Salem it is worth a visit. You can go out to the willows and get some great ice cream and popcorn at Hobbs. This part of Salem was beautiful and less touristy. I am sure Marblehead is beautiful as well.

                      1. re: TeacherFoodie

                        salem has the largest neighborhood of extant federalist architecture homes about a 15 minute walk from the train. loads of famous colonists lived there, the streets are shady with ancient trees and it makes for a lovely stroll.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Chestnut Street is a national treasure.

                    2. hi chris, welcome in advance. A couple of thoughts:
                      Salem is tremendous for architecture/preserved neighborhoods and the PEM which always has some neat changing exhibits, and the only intact 17th c.?Chinese historic house in the U.S.(iirc) A recent visitor , Teacher Foodie, really enjoyed her Salem lunch at the waterfront Finz. (Go to her member page to find her thread reporting on her visit here 2 wks ago.) Marblehead is a true gem but much more difficult to get there.

                      Mike and Patty's is not a comfy sit down brunch spot, from what i've read on CH. If you want to stay local, I would rec Aquitaine (Pressed Duck confit sdwch w/ gruyere?!) in the South End. But for a raucous more bohemian all-ages Cambridge scene, I highly rec East Coast Grill- oyster bar, Latin, Mexican, BBQ, seafood, Bloody Mary bar; great fun and plentiful highly flavored food.A place that will really stay in your memories!

                      I think you wrote Blue 13 but meant Blue Inc.I feel awkward not recommending it because we have been major fans of its (new)chef/owner for 15 yrs+. But we were very disappointed when we went. However if you do go, the Tuna Poke and Banana Leaf Wrapped Duck w/ mango Sticky Rice are sure to thrill. His signature dishes for good reason.

                      As mentioned above, Erbaluce gets very varying reports. If you decide not to go there or Blue Inc.,I would quickly urge you to go to Oleana in Camb, w/ one of/the most unique menus in town, reflecting an immersion in all foods Mediterranean/Turkish/Moroccan. They also have a beautiful peaceful garden patio (not reservable; get there when they open.)

                      For your Sat dinner, I might suggest making a later reservation somewhere closeby in case your exhausted wife rallies and can handle a short cab ride . Aquitaine and Teatro both are well liked but best of all might be Island Creek Oyster Bar because the service is top notch along with the food and decor, and it is a large place (more flexible w/ reservation changes/late arrivals) though acoustics are so well designed that quiet conversation is unhindered there.

                      If you end up going with your take- out idea, i think there are better options than Legal, but i am not up on who offers take away in that area. Maybe Sonsie or Bistro Midi......There are also some good Thai places on Mass Ave that could prob send your order over in a cab.

                      For Sat lunch, maybe after you get a sense of where you'll be that day, we can better advise a l'espalier alternative.

                      In case this might be helpful:

                      Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        Oleana and east coast grill are definitely not to be missed. Oleana is a hidden gem, located in a converted house which is in an area where you would not go if you didn't know about the restaurant. You could go to Toscanini's after for ice cream - it's a short walk. If you go to east coast grill, Christina's ice cream is next door.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          There is a direct MBTA bus to Marblehead from the Wonderland station on the Blue subway line.

                          I also highly recommend Oleana and East Coast Grill (for brunch).

                          1. re: Madrid

                            hi m,that's so great! i know you know how much i love marblehead.The bus you mention- do you know if it runs frequently enough to not restrict a visitor too much? thnx.

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              the 441 and 442 run at least once an hour throughout early morning to early evening from Wonderland (blue line) to Marblehead, including weekends. The 448/449 is a much more limited express service, early morning and late afternoon only, for commuters (not weekends) that runs between downtown crossing and Marblehead.

                        2. Alright - a lot to take in - thanks to everyone.

                          I've done some modifications to my itinerary......skipping the side trip to Salem and Marblehead looks like a great spot, but I'll leave that for next time.

                          Dinner and drinks Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne.

                          Lunch at Coppa. I'll then make my way to Cambridge on food through Beacon Hill.
                          Cambridge Brewing Co for a beer.
                          Dinner at Craigie and ice cream at Tosci.

                          Freedom Trail in the morning (doing a tour)
                          Stop at Mike and Patty's on the way back for brunch (solo)
                          Probably going to check out the Museum of Fine Art
                          Dinner is somewhat up in the air due to logistics, but I have had some good advice and will not be doing Legal.

                          Brunch at East Coast Grill
                          Drinks at Drink and dinner at Erbaluce

                          Lunch at Neptune
                          Dinner at Toro

                          Breakfast at Flour

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: chris

                            Another suggestion close to your hotel for Saturday is Sorrellina. It's upscale Italian and a bit pricy, but it is excellent and a pretty room (perhaps sit at the bar).

                            1. re: chris

                              Cambridge Brewing Company is a great idea. Easily the #1 must visit spot in Boston for beer geeks.

                              1. re: chris

                                Chris, take a few moments after Coppa to explore Formaggio South End across the street.
                                It is one of the best cheese shops anywhere with a nice selection of better wines and packaged foods too.

                                There is also a fun Syrian Market a few doors down that is worth a walk through.


                                The hours are sometimes unpredictable but they do have some cool stuff for food lovers.


                                1. re: BostonZest

                                  the syrian market is great..it's been there for decades. lots of hidden treasures there, very packed in.

                                  I love formaggio as well, also packed with lots of treasures, but on a few items, you will find exactly the same thing at the syrian market for far less in $$$ than at formaggio.

                                2. re: chris

                                  chris, EXCellent revision! i think your chosen spots will be memorable ones! I do hope you'll have time to do searches for the specific restnts because it is on some of those threads you will learn about certain dishes that are particularly CH loved, and certain dishes often not loved (like the clam chowder at NO or ICOB).

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Thanks! I'm very excited to check out the town! I have to admit, I feel that I MUST try the chowder at Neptune. It seems incredibly polarizing, so I have to try it.

                                    1. re: chris

                                      Chowder at Neptune was my second biggest food disappointment of the trip, after dinner at Erbaluce. I enjoyed my chowder more at Legal Seafood which is sad. The chowder at Neptune was mostly liquid with sparse clams and teeny tiny pieces of potato (maybe 10). I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

                                      Skip the chowder and go for some treats at Maria's or Modern, or gelato at Caffe dello Sport.

                                      1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                        chris, foodiecanuck just reported back from his recent visit to Boston from Toronto and he loved the chowder at ICOB. though i don't remember being blown away by it, he likened it to the hog island (san fran) clam chowder which is the best i've ever been served .