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What sets Boston apart as a dining city?

s
Swankalicious Dec 17, 2012 07:28 PM

I'd be curious to know what other CH'ers think. I think it's our bounty of ethnic neighborhoods. I don't think we're hitting on all cylinders with fine dining, innovation, or service (I'm generalizing--I do think some spots are superlative). However, you can't beat our neighborhood eateries, the little ethnic pockets that just ooze charm and authenticity and honesty and deliciousness. You?

  1. c
    cambridgedoctpr Mar 15, 2013 07:23 AM

    i read an article saying that fish in Boston and Seattle are the most likely to be properly identified. I think that i already mentioned the high quality of the fish markets especially those in Cambridge; they are great.

    1. u
      Uncle Yabai Mar 9, 2013 11:54 PM

      I thought this was harsh, but pretty funny.

      http://www.theonion.com/articles/pret...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Uncle Yabai
        Luther Mar 10, 2013 08:10 AM

        I think it's especially relevant in this thread because while a lot of it is sort of inaccurate satire (Boston is legitimately top-tier for education, science, technology, medicine, pro sports), in the area of culinary superiority (fine dining at the very least) Boston is exactly as depicted in that article.

        1. re: Uncle Yabai
          MC Slim JB Mar 10, 2013 10:26 AM

          I enjoyed this take on The Onion piece: http://www.putthatshitonthelist.com/2013/03/sorry-but-joke-in-onion-piece-about.html

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB
            f
            fara Mar 14, 2013 07:10 PM

            Wow, that article really argued my point above. I'm sure they must have read this post before writing the article. Boston does lack in bad restaurants.

          2. re: Uncle Yabai
            b
            bear Mar 10, 2013 11:18 AM

            I enjoyed the Globe rebuttal here.

            http://www.boston.com/culturedesk/201...

          3. f
            fara Dec 23, 2012 08:17 PM

            I guess I'm in the minority here- but what struck me after first moving here was that *most* places are pretty good....as compared to NY, where it is pretty easy to walk into a bad restaurant. I lived in Manhattan and the outer boroughs for a while, as well as outside of the Northeast.
            In Boston restaurants generally don't survive unless they are good. I can't remember having any inedible food while out here. So, no failing grades - that's what sets Boston apart :)

            1. n
              nyc_to_ma Dec 21, 2012 08:13 AM

              One thing no one has mentioned is the beer scene -- I think it is fantastic and one of the few things that sets Boston above New York, DC, New Orleans, Miami, and other cities I regularly visit. Denver or Chicago might be comparable, but I think we're the best beer city on the east coast.

              Many restaurants and bars serve beer from local microbreweries, and many places I visit here no longer even offer Heinekin, Stella, etc. I like that Harpoon and Sam Adams are often the most boring option offered, and I like that the beer I drink is often brewed 5 or 10 miles from where I am.

              1. m
                mwk Dec 20, 2012 09:05 AM

                I think what sets Boston apart as a dining city is the complete and utter disrespect it seems to engender from most of the so called "experts" who live here (please note that I said MOST). Is there another place where the locals are so quick to pile on the disdainful comments? Personally, I've had plenty of cruddy meals in NYC and a couple of non-memorable ones in Chicago and Providence as well.

                7 Replies
                1. re: mwk
                  MC Slim JB Dec 20, 2012 09:30 AM

                  Whenever someone says the word "expert", that's when Chowhounds reach for their revolvers.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/12

                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    t
                    teezeetoo Dec 20, 2012 04:51 PM

                    I'm old, I've travelled a lot, I've lived in several cities including growing up in NYC and living in Washington, DC and Seattle and I still don't know how I could compare Boston accurately to other cities its size now that I'm a visitor to other cities and considering that so much changes after you leave (moving to DC from NY 43 years ago was pretty cataclysmic in terms of food adjustment, but I've watched DC develop into a pretty good, if generally overpriced, food town). I don't know what people mean when they say Portland ME or Providence is a better food town: each of them has some lovely restaurants and some fine purveyors but neither of them has the range of Boston. Portland Oregon has amazing local products and a vibrant food truck culture, plus great farmer's markets, but I can't really tell you about the range of ethnic choices (seems to me more like a hip "alice waters" cuisine town, but visiting 4 or 5 times doesn't really qualify me as a commentator). San Francisco, like Portland, Oregon has great local produce but I though it's Italian restaurants were boring and I wasn't blown away by it's Asian food, which didn't seem to me as good as Vancouver's or Toronto's. I probably would rate Vancouver and Toronto as two of the most interesting food towns I've been to, but again, as a tourist, I'm hardly knowledgeable below the surface. I never compare Boston to NY: what is the point? It's smaller, culturally different, and it certainly is vibrant on its own. I'm happy to live somewhere where I generally have a grand range of options and some very good shopping which is equally important to a good home cook. And, while I haven't read the article MC references, other than great Tex Mex and barbecue (and I'm not sneezing at that) San Antonio has crappy food unless you are happy with chains.

                    1. re: teezeetoo
                      Matt H Dec 21, 2012 04:57 AM

                      This is a very good point, every good food city I visit comes across as exceptional if I pick the right restaurants to visit on my trip. It is impossible to compare the city you live to one you visit as you mentioned.

                      For example you mentioned Toronto. I lived in Toronto for over 10 years and visit very often and agree it is a good food city, but after living in Boston I would say both are on par when you weigh their respective strengths and weaknesses. When family and friends visit me in Boston they go back home to Toronto and rave about how well they ate on their visits and some have even made comments that they wish TO were more like Boston when it comes to certain types of restaurants. Now if they moved here and started to eat around town and experience the highs and lows, naturally that excitement would start to level off as it does with anywhere you live for an extended period of time.

                      1. re: Matt H
                        g
                        gourmaniac Dec 21, 2012 06:27 AM

                        Good points both TZ2 and Matt. When I go to other cities, I'm chow crawling and not just existing. e.g. when I go back to Toronto, I have a couple of days of great eating and rarely choose a place for convenience, which i often do in Boston. I think most places now have some worthy chow and when visiting, I seek it out. I should do this more in my hometown.

                      2. re: teezeetoo
                        Allstonian Dec 21, 2012 06:47 AM

                        Very well said - thank you!

                        This line in particular encapsulates why I really dislike discussions of why Boston doesn't have as good something-or-other as such-and-such another place: "I never compare Boston to NY: what is the point? It's smaller, culturally different, and it certainly is vibrant on its own." This is true not only in regards to the everlasting and tiresome "why isn't Boston as awesome as NYC?" but really any other comparison between Boston and another city. Why isn't Boston more like San Francisco, or Las Vegas, or Seattle, or Toronto, or Portland, or Portland? Because every city is different. That's what makes things interesting.

                        1. re: Allstonian
                          Bob Dobalina Dec 21, 2012 08:15 AM

                          Many Bostonians have an inferiority complex, which I believe directly stems from the historic tradition of Red Sox futility and humiliation.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina
                            greygarious Mar 10, 2013 12:24 PM

                            I was raised on Long Island and have lived near Boston for 40 yrs. I think the sports rivalry between NYC and Boston is stupid and that the whiners here roundly deserve the ridicule their whinging engenders: http://www.theonion.com/articles/pret...
                            Put up or shut up, AFAIAC.

                  2. MC Slim JB Dec 20, 2012 08:10 AM

                    From a blog post I wrote 15 months ago in response to an idiotic Travel & Leisure list of “Americas Best Cities for Foodies” (yeah, I know, they said “foodies”). In it, Boston came in it at #23, behind such culinary meccas as San Antonio, Texas and Savannah, Georgia. A bit out of date, but it hits most of the highlights I'd want highlighted:

                    ---

                    * A plethora of ex-pat communities served by modest restaurants doing the traditional cuisines of their homelands, largely for their fellow immigrants, so not dumbing down the food for Americans. Consider that Bostonians can enjoy Afghani, Albanian, Algerian, Argentine, Armenian, Australian, Azorean, Brazilian, Burmese, Cambodian, Cape Verdean, Chilean, Colombian, Cuban, Dominican, English, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Greek, Guatemalan, Haitian, Hungarian, Irish, Israeli, Jamaican, Korean, Lebanese, Malaysian, Mexican, Moroccan, Nepali, Persian, Peruvian, Polish, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Russian, Salvadoran, Scottish, Serbian, Spanish, Syrian, Thai, Tibetan, Trinidadian, Tunisian, Turkish, Venezuelan, and Vietnamese cuisines, among many others. It’s nice to see real Sichuan making a resurgence in town, and the new presence of Egyptian and previously little-seen African cuisines like Senegalese. These represent a hugely important strain of Boston's culinary richness, the treasure most often overlooked by casual observers.

                    * Many independent chef-owned small restaurants doing New American with a seasonal, local emphasis. This is probably our greatest wellspring of creativity and value in fine dining.

                    * A solid assortment of regional French cuisines.

                    * A handful of well-regarded small restaurant empires headed by semi-famed chefs like Barbara Lynch, Ken Oringer, Jasper White, Lydia Shire, Michael Schlow, and Todd English (though English has mostly abandoned Boston to build a much larger national empire).

                    * Local seafood restaurants. Frankly speaking, Boston has long been a bit overrated on this score, but that's improving with the opening of several mid-priced places that are neither chain outlets nor faux clam shacks. This is in addition to our usual overlooked good-seafood spots: Portuguese, Azorean, and Brazilian restaurants (of which Cambridge Street in Cambridge has a useful concentration) and Chinatown’s Hong Kong-style live-tank seafood joints.

                    * An improving breadth in regional Italian cuisines, including Emilia-Romagnan, Tuscan, Roman, Campanian, Sardinian, Abruzzese, and Sicilian. This new focus on traditional Italian cookery is a welcome counterpoint to Boston’s longstanding reputation for Italian food, which is built on the kind of safe, tourist-friendly, red-sauce-heavy Italian-American fare that dominates our famous North End neighborhood.

                    * A mini-boom in the gastropub movement, mid-range places taking American tavern fare to a higher level with old-fashioned care and craft: in-house pickling, smoking, curing, charcuterie-making, whole-animal butchery, etc.

                    * A pretty strong Chinatown, though there are some regional Chinese cuisines that could be better represented.

                    * A wide range of sub-continental cuisines, including Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and especially regional Indian cuisines, including Punjabi, Mughal, Hyderabadi, Mumbai, Tamil, Bengali, and Indian Chinese. For this, we can thank our universities and local biotech, high tech, medical, and other industries that draw many students and H-1B workers here from South Asia.

                    * New strength, quality and diversity in the food truck category, a boomlet only abetted by our mayor’s decision a couple of years ago to cut down a longstanding thicket of municipal red tape that was hostile to mobile restaurateurs.

                    * Vegetarian and vegan options that are improving steadily, as well as more restaurants that accommodate folks with other dietary preferences or restrictions: gluten-free, seafood-free, halal, etc.

                    * A strong craft cocktail movement led by a solid core of serious Golden Age revivalists. A second generation that trained under these folks is fanning out, spreading the wealth to other bars and restaurants. There are still way too many flavored-vodka concoctions flowing about Boston, but we've come a long way in ten years. Our elite craft cocktail bars rank with the best in the country.

                    * A pretty good and improving set of restaurants and bars that cater to beer geeks.

                    * A small but growing number of cafes featuring artisanal, hand-crafted coffee.

                    Boston still has some soft spots: Jewish deli, diners, regional Mexican, Austrian, German, Czech, izakayas and ramen stands, Indonesian, Laotian (unless you count the city of Lowell 30 miles away), Scandinavian, soul food, slow-smoke barbecue, many African cuisines, and so on. We lack world-class high-end dining; our best-regarded luxury restaurants might rate a single Michelin star. Nobody has gone all-in on modernist cuisine, though there's some molecular dabbling here and there. We could do with more and better wine bars.

                    We have far too many expensive chain steakhouses, fake Irish pubs, upscale Yanqui-Mex joints, and national casual-dining chain outlets. Worthy family-run places like Tawakal Halal Cuisine, a fine little Somalian restaurant in East Boston, close after only a few months in business, while lines still form out the door of our several Cheesecake Factories. P.F. Chang’s draws crowds of customers who have never set foot in the real Chinese restaurants that sit a stone's throw away in Chinatown.

                    But those are quibbles, or reflections of a corporatization of restaurant culture that is epidemic in America, not unique to Boston. When you look at the entire spectrum from high to low, I believe we have a tremendous dining scene for an American city of our size. It helps that Boston’s dining populace has come a long way in adventurousness and sophistication from the bad old days of 20 to 30 years ago, though we still have some headroom there.

                    Spend some time traveling around North America, to cities that are within five or ten spots of us in the population ranking, and it's easy to be grateful you live here, especially if you're willing to go a little bit out of your way to dine out. You just have to be just slightly more daring and catholic in your tastes than the typical Travel & Leisure subscriber.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      Niblet Dec 20, 2012 11:28 AM

                      Fair and comprehensive. I'd add also the challenge noted by poster above, that the restrictions on liquor licenses makes it difficult for independents to get into the game and up the ante. There's been progress for mobile food trucks; next I'd like to see Boston reduce some of the constraints and fees on the issuance of liquor licenses.

                    2. CapeCodGuy Dec 20, 2012 05:40 AM

                      To those who complain of high prices, try living on the Cape and paying big $$$ for uninspired, often dreadful fare. To those who complain of lack of variety, live in Dallas for awhile where you can drive for miles and never pass anything but a chain restaurant.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: CapeCodGuy
                        Veggo Dec 20, 2012 07:11 AM

                        I mostly agree on the Dallas scene. Endless chain restaurants, does anyone there cook at home? I recently endured 15 months there, with welcome help from several diligent hounds.
                        As for Cape prices, spend a couple months on Turks & Caicos, and you will go home and kiss the ground you own!

                        1. re: Veggo
                          CapeCodGuy Dec 20, 2012 07:54 AM

                          Sure, but as much as some locals would declare otherwise, the Cape isn't an island where everything must be transported by boat or plane. There's really no excuse for the prices to be what they are.

                          1. re: CapeCodGuy
                            Bob Dobalina Dec 20, 2012 08:07 AM

                            You discount the rotaries.

                      2. g
                        grant.cook Dec 19, 2012 05:48 PM

                        Not as good as NY.. far better than Tulsa..

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: grant.cook
                          Veggo Dec 19, 2012 07:14 PM

                          Until you break bread with J.J.Cale...

                        2. g
                          gourmaniac Dec 19, 2012 08:39 AM

                          Nice topic Swank. I agree with most posts here. What sets Boston apart for me is seafood. Not the way most tourists ask on this site: what is the best seafood restaurant. In fact, Boston is surprisingly weak in this. Instead, many places serve pretty good seafood and that isn't true elsewhere. A standard pub fare place can have good fried clams (e.g. pleasant cafe) or lobster rolls from fish markets (Alive and kicking, James Hook). When i think of seafood in Boston, I think of what ethic preparations are good here. Whole fish at Turkish or Cantonese restaurants come to mind. I wouldn't think to order seafood in a Chinese restaurant or pub in the midwest but i don't hesitate to do so here.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: gourmaniac
                            b
                            Blumie Dec 19, 2012 08:51 AM

                            I think our seafood options -- except in limited areas like fried clams and lobster rolls -- are weak compared to other major cities.

                            1. re: Blumie
                              g
                              gourmaniac Dec 19, 2012 09:24 AM

                              I'd agree with NYC, Seattle, San Francisco and New Orleans but otherwise, I think we compare well. YMMV.

                              1. re: gourmaniac
                                d
                                DoubleMan Dec 19, 2012 09:29 AM

                                Yeah, we're much better than....Cleveland. Womp womp.

                                1. re: DoubleMan
                                  g
                                  gourmaniac Dec 20, 2012 07:15 AM

                                  Womp womp indeed. Thirty years ago, we weren't better than Cleveland. I guess the main point is to what are we comparing Boston. I don;t think it's fair to compare with large cities like New York, i think we are much better these days for ethnic food especially outside Boston itself, but do not compare favorably with Toronto but Boston is a better seafood city than Toronto, maybe even better for seafood than Chicago, a much larger and better food city overall. Pound for pound, i think Providence and both Portlands are better but much smaller cities than Boston.

                                  1. re: gourmaniac
                                    d
                                    DoubleMan Dec 20, 2012 08:13 AM

                                    I'd say Portland, OR is just simply better, much better, in fact, and not just pound for pound. Reading Portland's Eater page makes me jealous compared to Boston's. Although I guess Boston is better for fine dining. For mid-range, Portland may be the best city in the country, and I'd much rather have that.

                                    I think we should be compared to similar cities - so similarly sized, wealthy cities with a youngish, well-educated and well-traveled populace. SF is a pretty close approximation in terms of metro area size and population. They are so far ahead of us it is not funny, but, of course, they have great access to awesome local stuff.

                                    While Boston has improved in recent years, so have most places. I think we just don't have an exciting restaurant scene compared to a lot of other cities, both larger and smaller. Leaving aside NY, LA, and Chicago, we still don't compare that well to SF, NOLA, Philly, Nashville, Austin, Charleston, Portland, Seattle, and increasingly DC. How many restaurants does Boston have that are nationally relevant or even known? (2-3?) And how many are new? (none?)

                                    Do you really think Providence is better pound for pound? I always hear raves for Providence, but I find most places I've been to there quite mediocre. (I do wish La Laiterie was closer, though.) Portland, ME, on the other hand, has quite a few knockouts and it's 1/9 the size of Boston. And new, interesting places are opening there at a pretty good clip. I just saw news that the Bar Boulud chef left NY to open a place in Maine. I hope we get more similar defections (a la Maslow).

                                    As far as ethnic food, I think we stand out for chinese, especially szechuan. We have decent vietnamese, and, because of Lowell, strong Cambodian and Loation. But what else? Thai (except for maybe 3 of the 100 or so places in the area - same goes for Italian), Japanese, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, etc.

                                    I suspect that our stupid laws and regulations are a big part of the problem with how they rig the game in favor of chains and large restaurant groups. Unfortunately, the only lobby that has a diner-focus is the one from those TV guys who are (*word that will get moderated*) for those same interests.

                                    And too often the powers that be here are shortsighted when it comes to this industry, choosing places that can guarantee high rents for five years rather than fostering places that might benefit the scene and city over the long term (see: Earl of Sandwich).

                                    It's also a shame that a city like Cambridge, which has more control over its liquor licensing and is dealing with landlords like MIT and Harvard, with whom they could play hardball since they approve zoning from these non-taxpayers, isn't trying to change the game a bit. Instead, they are just scared to have things with a liquor license open up anywhere except Mass. Ave. and Kendall - which means higher rents and higher prices.

                                    1. re: DoubleMan
                                      g
                                      gracenote Dec 23, 2012 08:40 PM

                                      I was at Farmstead in Providence this week. The cheese room had a red label posted by the Board of Health. Evidently the inspectors have been after the owner when they learned he smoked his own meats (need a certain license.) Then they decided that the cheese room was not at a safe temperature. And the thing is, they really don't know what the temperature should be, so they are chasing their tails. (got this info from one of the staff members)

                                      1. re: DoubleMan
                                        KWagle Mar 14, 2013 10:52 PM

                                        I concur with the recommendation of our Sichuan food. I haven't had better in NYC, DC or Chicago (though there are individual dishes I have to go to DC to get) and at least one Hound who regularly travels to Sichuan province says we have it pretty good here. We also have some fine Taiwanese food, though that's much easier to find elsewhere.

                                    2. re: DoubleMan
                                      a
                                      antimony Dec 20, 2012 09:44 AM

                                      As someone who grew up in Cleveland -- there are lots of things that set Boston apart from it. And a few that go the opposite direction. Though none of those are seafood.

                                      NYC isn't the only standard to judge by. At one point I think half the Tibetan restaurants in the US were in Boston, if not more than that, but compared to actually being in Tibet it was slim pickings, after all.

                                      I've only lived here ten years or so, though, and I don't eat seafood, so I'm not sure what there is that's uniquely Boston. I think it might take moving somewhere else to see what I miss.

                              2. Veggo Dec 18, 2012 12:29 PM

                                I can't think of another city in the US that has as many private clubs for dining that are not accessible to the public.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: Veggo
                                  m
                                  Madrid Dec 18, 2012 07:32 PM

                                  but would most hounds want to eat at those private clubs?

                                  1. re: Madrid
                                    Veggo Dec 19, 2012 08:07 AM

                                    Not if they prefer noisy public settings and rubbing fannies and bumping elbows with strangers and tables 2 feet apart.

                                  2. re: Veggo
                                    StriperGuy Dec 19, 2012 08:39 AM

                                    Yes, and all of them are dying due to the lack of young new members who actually give a darn about poorly executed, old fashioned food in overly stuffy surroundings.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                      h
                                      hazelhurst Dec 19, 2012 09:37 AM

                                      Well, I've eaten in just about all of the Boston Clubs in my time and, while I cannot speak for today, some time back none of them were slouches. (A ladyfriend took me to Chilton once where I had a great pair of shad roe). And I speak as a New Orleanian where our clubs (which are numerous) cannot afford to have bad food. I think "stuffy surroundings" are what one makes of them. It is easy to get used to them, at least from my mundane point of view. But I have to say that Boston food has improved mightily since my stomping days there back in the 1970s. Even NYC, which turned its back on really good immigrant food in the 1950s, has come around.

                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                        Veggo Dec 19, 2012 04:28 PM

                                        I dunno, I know of numerous clubs that only consider legacy members and are closed to outside applicants. Perhaps when the 'young' you reference tire of the public annoyances, and advance in their career to where they prefer and can afford peace and quiet, there may be a renaissance. Hang in there!
                                        I have no problem with your 'overly stuffy' surroundings. I like them. But I'm 60, well past the Clearasil generation.

                                      2. re: Veggo
                                        StriperGuy Dec 20, 2012 07:56 AM

                                        I was at an event at the Union Club just two weeks ago, and like every other time I've been to one of the Boston clubs, the members in the dining room were mostly over 70, the food we ate was borderline Sysco, and the overall atmosphere was more dusty museum than vibrant locus of the power elite ;-)

                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                          Veggo Dec 20, 2012 08:21 AM

                                          "vibrant locus of the power elite"? I'm comfortable with gentlemen over 70, who wear bow ties, and display manners and decorum and extend a firm handshake and look you in the eye and remember your name.
                                          Who are your vibrant power elite? Youngsters who give you a vanity photo shaking your hand, and your pocketbook? Just curious...
                                          Oh, and at Union Club, UBC, TCC, Summerset, Myopia, Chilton, Essex, Dedham C&P, Nahant, they dust regularly, and polish the silver.

                                          1. re: Veggo
                                            MC Slim JB Dec 20, 2012 08:38 AM

                                            I think you might have missed StriperGuy's winky emoticon there, Veggo.

                                            I've had a few meals recently at the Algonquin, and was favorably impressed with their food, though I wouldn't say it's especially innovative or extraordinary, more like a respectable second-tier New American fine dining restaurant in Boston.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                                              Veggo Dec 20, 2012 09:06 AM

                                              The wink was a feint.

                                            2. re: Veggo
                                              StriperGuy Dec 20, 2012 11:25 AM

                                              I don't object to an older crowd, but any organization whose average age of membership is North of 70 clearly needs to recruit new members if they are going to be around in a few years.

                                              I've read more than one article discussing how country clubs everywhere are struggling for relevance today... really the same issue.

                                              And don't get me started about Myopia. Gosh I attended their annual holiday dinner a few years back as a guest. It was great to be a fly on the wall observing high North Shore Wasp Gothic, but I wouldn't confuse the food they served with anything other than second tier catering fair.

                                              The lunch I had at the University Club about 5 years ago was like something served at the Indianapolis Marriot.

                                              This is chowhound, and really let's focus on the food. No top tier chef would ever work at one of these places.

                                              I have no objection to private clubs, but they all feel a bit lost in time, and somehow not the locus of Boston vitality that they once were. With the exception of Myopia (the horsey set) and the few that have squash courts, you really just seldom anyone under 70.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                                Veggo Dec 20, 2012 01:54 PM

                                                I'm not passing judgment, I'm simply observing one aspect of how Boston is distinctly different as a dining city, which is the OP's query.
                                                But I do think that some could use mentoring from the old guard, from social skills to ethics, while we still have the opportunity. Food quality is not of primary importance, there are more significant take-aways from a 3 hour meal.

                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                  StriperGuy Dec 20, 2012 06:59 PM

                                                  There you have my 100% agreement, social skills, ethics, a certain sense of responsibility, increasingly rare today...

                                        2. Bob Dobalina Dec 18, 2012 12:10 PM

                                          What sets Boston apart is the chow in Cambridge and Somerville.

                                          1. l
                                            LeoLioness Dec 18, 2012 10:02 AM

                                            Sets Boston apart.....from what? Ethnic enclaves and urban residential neighborhood restaurants are hardly unique to Boston....

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: LeoLioness
                                              d
                                              DoubleMan Dec 18, 2012 11:33 AM

                                              Ha. Exactly. And many other cities do those better and for less money.

                                              I think Strip T's exposed a lot of the weaknesses here. Maslow is great, don't get me wrong, but is he a national-level talent (at this point in his career)? I don't think so, but you wouldn't know it judging by how Strip T's has come on the scene. He could be winning a Beard award in a year or two, which is a bit nuts.

                                              I'm hoping he starts a trend of young, talented chefs leaving NY for here to more easily make a name for themselves.

                                              I like the place, but there should be 20 restaurants like that - actually creative, consistently executed, well-priced - around the city.

                                              1. re: DoubleMan
                                                s
                                                Swankalicious Dec 18, 2012 04:18 PM

                                                I agree. Strip T's is very good, but the way some people froth over the place you'd think the guy was pumping liquid gold into his burgers. It's GOOD. In fact, it's very good. But the main reason it gets tons of press is because he's (a) a Chang protege and (b) the townie-restaurant-turns-food-nerd-hangout fairytale has captivated people a bit.
                                                The restaurant itself shouldn't be unique--ideally...

                                            2. k
                                              Klunco Dec 18, 2012 08:58 AM

                                              These threads are tough because a lot of comes down to if we are comparing ourselves to NYC or SF or more equally sized cities like Portland, Seattle, or New Orleans.

                                              I'd say my biggest gripe about Boston in comparison to other cities is price. I would have a much more favorable view of a lot of places if they were slightly cheaper. It seems like the majority of non-ethnic restaurants or even pubs these days all start entree's in the mid twenties and go from there. Of course there are a few exceptions (Tupelo, Highland Kitchen). I realize a lot of this is real estate and expensive liquor licenses but I'm still surprised eating in NYC how comparable places can be cheaper (isn't real estate pretty expensive there? and food costs?)

                                              That said I like to think that where Boston excels (as opposed to where it beats other cities) is in small, chef-driven baby bistro type places. Small restaurants with focused menus (generally farm to table) that offer a high end dining experience in a casual atmosphere. Places like Craigie, TW Food, Bondir, Strip-T's, Hungry Mother, Salts, Rendezvous, Bergamot, Oleana. Ironically none of these places are in Boston proper but you get the idea. I'd even lump Island Creek in here even though it is a large format restaurant.

                                              I think our drink options, be it cocktail or coffee, have greatly improved in the past five years. Even wine is getting better. Places like Eastern Standard, Drink, Backbar, The Hawthorne, can stand up to great examples in other cities. Coffee is interesting because while we don't have one superlative, name brand, third wave shop dominating the landscape (think Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, or Stumptown) we have a host of smaller places that offer great espresso and coffee.

                                              My wish list would incude accesible wine bars like Terroir in NYC that could help build up demand and that aren't super expensive (cough cough Belly Wine Bar).

                                              For the glut of Italian restaurants we have, I've yet to find one that really bowled me over. I'd also kill for better, more soulful French and more quality seafood places in Boston/Cambridge (yes, I am a regular at ICOB and Belle Isle). And a higher caliber of waiters and waitresses. We have an exceptional group of service industry professionals in the city, but sadly that group is overshadowed by the number of eateries.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Klunco
                                                9
                                                9lives Dec 18, 2012 10:44 AM

                                                FYI, Stumptown coffee is available at Thinking Cup on Tremont St by the Common with a second location on Hanover that just opened.

                                                For me, 1 of the big things that sets Boston apart as a dining city is the same thing that sets it apart from most places to live. It's easy to get around by walking or public transportation. It's relatively easy to get to the nearby suburbs. The same is not true in LA or many of the larger Western cities. Living downtown, and vehicle challenged..:) I like the fact that I can get to restaurants in Revere, East Boston, Cambridge, Malden,etc and visit a lot of the places I read about here.

                                                1. re: Klunco
                                                  s
                                                  saria Dec 20, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                  Completely agree on price. People are really surprised when I tell them that restaurants here are overpriced considering I'm from NY, but the same type of food is cheaper in NY. I'm talking the mid-level restaurants, not the higher level. I was actually shocked at how low the price of my friend's tasting at Bondir (with wine pairing) was. That type of place would be pricier in NY, and yet native Bostonians commented on it being pricey!
                                                  The places that I find are over-priced are the ones a level below. I went to Butcher Shop and I couldn't believe the bill or the price of hanger steak a la carte. You can get that type of food for cheaper in lots of places in NY.
                                                  I find myself eating at casual ethnic places here not just because it's tasty, but because there's no middle ground in price range.

                                                  1. re: saria
                                                    g
                                                    Gabatta Dec 20, 2012 10:47 AM

                                                    ^ This!

                                                    1. re: Gabatta
                                                      j
                                                      joebloe Dec 22, 2012 11:06 PM

                                                      ^^ Same here. Boston is pretty good in general. We are the envy of the world in dirt cheap lobsters. We need more cheap food carts and roach coaches. The few trucks here are outlandishly priced in comparison to other cities.

                                                2. l
                                                  libertywharf Dec 18, 2012 05:10 AM

                                                  I'm not exactly a world traveller but Boston proper has a few distinctions. I agree that the no smoking laws make it desirable to go out to dine.
                                                  The parking as much as some think is a nightmare, is actually pretty easy to achieve.
                                                  Mostly I like the ease to get from Faneuil hall to the north end, china town or beacon hill.
                                                  I agree about the ethnic pockets.

                                                  1. g
                                                    Gabatta Dec 18, 2012 04:41 AM

                                                    For a city of its size one thing that sets Boston apart in a bad way is the lack of excellent dining in the mid price range.

                                                    Almost everywhere in the US, and more than you might think internationally have similar smoking restrictions.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Gabatta
                                                      t
                                                      teezeetoo Dec 18, 2012 05:42 AM

                                                      i actually think we have particularly good dining in the midpriced range: Strip-Ts, prix fixe at Ten Tables, Rendezvous and many others, dollar oyster nights, Cognac Bistro, and I could go on. Since I think very few people eat enough in lots of cities to really play this game, I'd just say that no one who enjoys food is going to starve here.

                                                      1. re: teezeetoo
                                                        g
                                                        Gabatta Dec 18, 2012 05:54 AM

                                                        I'm not starving, but I travel domestically and internationally quite a bit and my opinion is that the restaurants here are generally overpriced for the quality of food you get.

                                                        Cognac is very uneven from my experiences. Rendezvous is great but not mid priced (at least for my budget), the prix fixe deals are OK but regular dinner and drinks there isn't cheap. According to AMEX our last dinner there cost over $150 with tip for two people having about one drink each.

                                                        1. re: Gabatta
                                                          n
                                                          nickls Dec 18, 2012 06:26 AM

                                                          There's a couple pretty obvious reasons that the baseline restaurant price will be higher in Boston than most places in the country. Boston is among the highest in real estate prices for US cities. It also has highly restrictive liquor licensing, making it that much more expensive to open and operate than other places (at least for restaurants in Boston itself).

                                                          Plus of course there's a good number of people in Boston with money, just look at the luxury condo market.

                                                          1. re: Gabatta
                                                            t
                                                            teezeetoo Dec 18, 2012 06:52 AM

                                                            I didn't mean to suggest you didn't have a "compass" of experience and I do apologize Gabatta if that's what I conveyed. I'm an "ex Ny'er" so the place to which I'm knowledgeable enough to make comparisons is generally more and not less expensive than Boston and I think most of my NY friends would be thrilled to have places like ESK, Rendezvous, etc. available in their neighborhoods. Mid-priced to me means around $100.00 to 125.00 a couple - quality below $100,00 with liquor is reasonably hard to come by except for our very excellent ethnic restaurants. Fish and shellfish here are a bargain in quality, price and range compared to most cities I've experienced but, again, and this isn't directed at you, I always think these comparisons can't be all that valid because you really only "live" in one city: we eat out in Boston about 100 times a year. We travel a lot but the next closest comparator would be NY, where we eat out maybe 15 times a year?

                                                        2. re: Gabatta
                                                          c
                                                          cambridgedoctpr Dec 24, 2012 07:32 PM

                                                          i like places such as rendezvous, craigie, et al, that i would consider mid priced; I like them. i think that Boston fails on the high end.

                                                        3. Luther Dec 18, 2012 03:59 AM

                                                          What sets Boston apart from where? Is this going to turn into another "is Boston in any way better for food than NYC" thread?

                                                          1. opinionatedchef Dec 18, 2012 01:21 AM

                                                            well swank, negative attributes can also set apart Boston as a dining city. On that side, i offer:
                                                            -Our overabundance of Italian restaurants.
                                                            - Our lack of even one thoroughly excellent SW, Mexican, or Indian restaurant.
                                                            -Our lack of an elegant kaiseki restnt.
                                                            --Our lack of elegant ethnic restaurants.

                                                            On the positive side:
                                                            -- One or two pizza places that are hard to equal, much less beat.
                                                            -- A growing percentage of Nationally famous women chefs.
                                                            --A broad representation of very good ethnic restaurants.
                                                            -- A healthy 'farm and sea to table' awareness and presence among chefs and their clientele.
                                                            --Local access to some of the country's best seafood.
                                                            --Our 'No Smoking' laws for bars and restaurants.
                                                            -- A fairly sophisticated and supportive food knowledgeable food community that , because of our abundance of colleges, continually regenerates itself and expands the food-knowledgeable population throughout the country.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                              k
                                                              katzzz Dec 20, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                              Now you got me curious. What are your one or two hard to equal pizza places?

                                                              1. re: katzzz
                                                                a
                                                                AngerHeSmiles Dec 20, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                                ditto

                                                                1. re: katzzz
                                                                  Locutus Mar 15, 2013 03:10 AM

                                                                  Santarpios and Reginas

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