Group dinner in Boston/Cambridge on a Saturday night - with some specific requirements
I'm going to be in Boston in a few weeks for a visit, and am looking for a place for a group dinner on a Saturday night. I have some specific requirements (most are not deal-breakers, though), and I'm having a hard time thinking of where we should go. I'm hoping that someone will suggest some places that I haven't thought of, or that have opened in the past 6 months (and thus I don't know about them).
I think there will be 7 or 8 of us.
I'd like a place that:
1) Takes reservations for a party of 8
2) Accessible by public transit/walking and pretty central. I'm really looking mainly in Downtown Boston, South End, Cambridge (including anywhere from Harvard to Inman to Kendall). Probably we'll be heading to Kendall area afterwards, so within a 2 mile radius of Kendall Square might be best, and the closer the better). Probably want to avoid the Green Line and the Kenmore area because there's a Red Sox game that night.
3) Has good food, preferably something that isn't as good in SF. Chinese and Vietnamese could be okay, but they are both representative of cuisines that I can get better out here.
4) On the lower price range....not including alcohol, I'd want the total price per person to be under $20.
So, any suggestions? Ideas I've considered are:
Dumpling Kitchen (probably the Chinese option I'd go for if I did Chinese, though I might rather not, but they do take reservations...)
Temple Bar (on the pricy side, and reservation for that number of people could be tough on a Saturday?) But I liked it the one time I ate there.
Moqueca (maybe similar problem with reservation?)
East Coast Grill (do people like it there these days?)
The Helmand (Maybe too expensive? I haven't been in 10 years, not sure if it's still good)
Sichuan Gourmet (totally breaks my rule of avoiding Fenway, but could work as a different Chinese option)
Greek Corner (has been my default for group dinners in the past, and could be good, even though it's a bit farther out than I want, and they don't exactly take reservations during peak times)
Based on the things I'm considering, let me know if there are other good places (particularly in Central or Kendall or downtown) that could be good instead.
Looking forward to my visit, and thanks in advance!
Russell House jumps to my mind: good with groups, takes reservations, very T-convenient (Harvard), and totally doable on the cheap. I know there have been a few mutterings on the boards about a slide in quality, but I go regularly, most recently a couple of weeks ago, and haven't noticed that issue.
I can't recommend East Coast Grill - I reckon it's average at best. If you're willing to come to Inman, you could check if Tupelo takes reservations for larger groups. And if you're willing to break your Fenway rule for Sichuan Gourmet, you should look into Eastern Standard and ICOB as well. Eastern Standard in particular is good with groups and should be fine for your price range.
How about Abigail's in Kendall Square? I had a nice dinner there a few weeks ago - excellent oysters, bone marrow, very good cocktails (can't remember which ones); I had the excellent fried pork chop sandwich, my dc had the steak salad which she liked a lot. Dinner entrees are mostly over $20 but everything else - sandwiches, burgers, pastas, appetizers - is well below. Owners and staff have links to East Coast Grill and B-side, both apparent in the food and drink menus. And it's just a few blocks from the Kendall T. It was completely off my radar until I noticed it searching for new Kendall places, but I'd definitely go again.
--if you DID go the chinese route, I would remind you of Mulan in Kendall Sq. Taiwanese and gets lot of CH raves. I think their smoked duck superior to others I have had in boston, and they have many rather unique items- incl. both protein and veggie dishes.
-- Abigail's has had very mixed CH reports. Caveat: my only experience was brunch and mezzo mezzo.
--Za, pizza, is w/in the budget and in Kendall Sq. Their composed salads are what I like best about it. They have a patio (if you hit town on a warm night.)
-- in Harv Sq, I have been very impressed by the large menu of small plates at Park ( sister restnt to the Russell House. ) I wrote a long CH review. Very big space but w/ private area/alcove possibilities and lots of comfortable banquettes. And an excellent bar .
Given your parameters, for reasons of menu breadth, quality and pricing, and atmosphere and comfort, Park would be my #1 rec.
(p.s. You prob already know this, but that East Boston place, Que Padre, that you wanted to visit for their Sultanas -
-they were recently featured in the Globe? for their special Sonoran hot dogs covered in beans, guac ,....)Hope you have a great visit.
I thought about Mulan too, but I only have two dinners in Boston, and since I live in SF and will also be going to NY on this trip, I think I've decided no Chinese for those nights.
Thanks for the reminder about Que Padre! Will try to check it out, but if not, I'll be flying through Logan at other points this summer, so will definitely go soon!
re: Dave MP
This was going to be my suggestion also before I read down into the thread. Sounds perfect for your purposes. Za (suggested below) is another good option.
Orinoco in Harvard might work also, since you could order a lot of arepas/empanadas for your budget, but for a group that large I'd ask to sit outside on their lovely patio.
re: Dave MP
I was last at the lovely patio when Orinoco was Cafe Iruna, but it is a wonderful outdoor spot....depending on the weather. As a reference local garden centers will tell you it's not safe to plant outdoors before Mother's Day, giving the continuing risk of frost, and sometimes mother's day weekend can be downright cold and nasty. Even so, it's in a rather charming old house set back from JFK street, with vintage photos and feels entirely "real." Kendall feels very different, and yes, a different kind of food altogether. Also, if it matters, Orinoco is beer and wine only.
I was thinking Hungry Mother given your Kendall SQ location preference. Also you stay on the Cambridge side away from Fenway traffic. total under $20 might be tough.