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Boston with a 15 month old

Hi everyone,

My hubby, 15-month-old daughter and I will be spending a long weekend in the Boston area next week.We will be staying with family in Cambridge. They are food lovers and I'm sure they will have some great suggestions but thought I would post here since the last time they dealt with a baby was over 20 years ago :)

From what I've read here, Boston seems to be pretty baby friendly, which is great. Our daughter is not overly picky. So here's what I'm looking for.

1- good coffee. we tend to like "third wave" indie coffee shops. We'd really like a spot that's walking distance from our place (nearMassachusetts avenue and hancock) for morning coffee, or at least a really easy commute by public transit.

2- good snacks/prepared food to bring home. I would like to treat my hosts to some nice foods to show my appreciation! Read about Formaggio - any other suggestions?

3- I would love some good seafood, lobster, pysters etc. My husband won't touch the stuff, so someplace casual where I can grab and go would be great.

4- I would like to take my hosts out for a nice dinner. I was reading about Oleana, it sounds great but is it ok to bring a baby?

5- other suggestions: any musts, let me know! We love pretty much any kind of food. as long as the atmosphere is casual enough for me to enjoy taking my daughter, I'm open. Myers and Chang sounds interesting. My daughter would probably enjoy some neapolitan pizza. We plan on doing lots of sightseeing so suggestions near the aquarium, children's museum, etc. are appreciated.

Thanks in advance! :)

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  1. I think Dwelltime might be a good fit for your coffee needs: http://dwelltimecambridge.com/

    I don't love the space, but they are very serious about their coffee. And it's only about a 5 minute walk from Mass Ave/Hancock.

    1. Courthouse in Cambridge or Alive 'n Kickin' should fulfill your grab and go lobster, lobster roll, oysters need. I don't think Oleana is necessarily comfortable with a little one: it's crowded without much wiggle room between tables. If you want Turkish without the "upscale" and comfortable with a little one but with good quality, try istanbu'lu. Also if you want to bring some nice treats home, try the Armenian markets and bakeries on Mt. Auburn (Severn, Arax or Sofra Bakery which is owned by Oleana on Belmont street in Cambridge).

      1. 1369 is a local coffee shop - it's on Mass Ave, a couple blocks towards Central from Hancock.

        Ditto the previous response on Oleana - it's pretty tight. Inman has a variety of creative restaurants though - depending on what you're looking for, Puritan & Co, East by Northeast, and East Coast Grill could be interesting as a nicer dinner.

        I'm also a big fan of Veggie Galaxy, which is a vegetarian/vegan diner in Central Square. If that kind of food appeals to you, it's a lot of fun. Also near Central, Flour is a bakery that has sandwiches and absolutely delicious baked goods. It could be a good place to grab cookies/muffins/snacks to bring home, too.

        Cardullo's in Harvard Square is a gourmet food shop with a lot of imported food, including a pretty strong deli counter. If you're looking for prepared or antipasti style snacks to bring home, that could work too.

        1 Reply
        1. re: addiez

          Personally, I would not consider 1369 to be a third wave coffee shop. The coffee is fine, though I'm not a fan, but it's not in the same category as Dwelltime, etc.

        2. I love Oleana and it will always be my special occasion place. But it is crowded. If it's warm enough for the patio to be open, however, I think you'd be ok with a baby if you get a reservation for right when they open and when you are likely to get seated in the garden. Short of that, I second the notion of getting some take out treats from the chef's bakery, Sofra....you can get some real tastes from the restaurant as well as lots of other goodies, including unusual sweets. It is expensive and crowded...only for take out...and supplement it with some treats from the watertown markets and formaggio would make a grand feast at home. Search for Sevan, Arax, Massis, Watertown markets. They get varying reviews on particular take out foods. Also might be fun for you to stock up on some spices and unusual items to take home.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Madrid

            I've taken a toddler to the patio at Oleana and it was fine. Agree- reservation is a must, for right at opening, then you can request patio. have a backup plan in case of rain or other backfire.

          2. Dwelltime is a good idea, though more comfortable is Crema in Harvard Square. It's a nice space inside, and they have tables outside, and it's on a wide pedestrian space where the baby could walk around, listen to the street performers and go peek at the flowers in Brattle Florist. The coffee there is very good as are the pastries.

            While you're there, you can go to Cardullo's for specialty foods, and/or Burdick's for excellent chocolates, and Follow the Honey for special honeys and products.

            I wouldn't take a toddler to Oleana. For Neapolitan pizza, go to Gran Gusto. It's also child-friendly in that parking is very close and it's right across the street from a great, huge park.

            We always go to Flour Bakery after the Children's Museum, but it would also be fun to go to James Hook for lobster rolls, etc.

            Near the Aquarium, try the great array of food trucks on the Greenway. Again with my theme, but there's a lot of wide open grassy space that people hang out in, and if it's nice out, you don't want to be inside. The North End is walkable from the Aquarium, so search for ideas there. (You can also get great food gifts there.)

            1 Reply
            1. I don't have suggestions about coffee, but here are a few other ideas:
              - Central Bottle & Wine is the other side of Central Square and has interesting things in addition to wine
              - I agree about Oleana, and Rendezvous also has tight seating. Green St is a little less upscale but probably more baby friendly
              - For the Children's Museum, try Flour, a food truck, or takeout from TR street food, across the street from the Museum. Barrington's has very good coffee near the CM but is totally not child-friendly.

              1. Dave's Fresh Pasta is easily accessible from Davis T, tons of great local snacks and prepared foods, and perfect for getting together a picnic then taking right up Holland Street to the excellent playground at the corner of Holland and the Traffic and Parking Office.

                1. Wow, thanks everyone! some great suggestions! I am looking so forward to this long weekend trip. And I'm sure my daughter will appreciate all the park and greenspace recommendations :)

                  dwelltime and crema sound right up our alley. especially since I'm sure baby won't understand the concept of sleeping in while on vacation :) one of my favourite spots here in toronto is also called crema.

                  Sofra is on my list, and even more so now that it looks like Oleana is out. I'm of armenian decent so I will definitely enjoy some armenian pastries. My cousins would probably enjoy some treats from the suggested bakeries too :)

                  Also will definitely check our Cardullos and Flour and Central Bottle!

                  Of the places suggested, which do you think would be a nice place to take my cousins to thank them for their hospitality, keeping toddler in mind? I don't want to risk the rain/patio with Oleana. Really like the menus for Puritan and Co, East by Northeast, and Gran Gusto...

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bunnylicious

                    I think Gran Gusto is the most "family friendly". I haven't been to puritan so I can't comment and I like East by Northeast but, rather like Oleana, it has something of a "hushed" feel to it that doesn't remind me of family festive.

                    1. re: bunnylicious

                      The recommendations so far have been great. Another couple coffee options are Area Four which is about a 20 minute walk away from where you are staying. Also one Red Line T stop away in Kendall is Voltage Coffee which is my personal favorite. Btw, I do love Crema in Toronto as well, visit every time I'm back in TO.

                      As far as your night out with your cousins, East by Northeast is a favorite of mine. The room is very small though, but having a 2 year old ourselves we have been able to eat there without any major issues. Puritan and Company is great and a much larger space, but have never taken our toddler there. Another option in Cambridge which has always been child friendly is West Bridge in Kendall, check out the menu and see if its something you would be interested in.

                      1. re: bunnylicious

                        I haven't been to Puritan & Co. yet either, but that chef's previous roost is just a block from where you're staying, Garden at the Cellar, and that's a great option for some really nice food if it turns out everything is falling apart and walking a block makes more sense. Enjoy your trip!

                        1. re: bunnylicious

                          If you're of Armenian descent, you should make it a point to stop in some of the spectacular Armenian markets/groceries on the Cambrige/Watertown line. Specifically, I'd check out Eastern Lamejun, Arax Market, Massis Bakery, and Sevan's Bakery. Amazing stuff, and just around the corner from Sofra.

                          1. re: keith

                            Yes, and I would actually skip Sofra in that case.

                        2. Simon's 2 is probably your closest excellent coffee, followed by dwelltime, Crema, and voltage. All excellent.

                          Alive and kicking is a perfect solo lunch spot, with or without baby: lobster sandwich on picnic table.

                          1. Thanks everyone, I will make sure to report back upon my return!

                            1. Just returned from a wonderful trip! I had forgotten just how great a city Boston is. And so baby-friendly! Thanks again for all the suggestions. I have to return soon to try the places that remain on my list!

                              We enjoyed some delicious homemade meals, esp. breakfasts, made by my cousin, so wonderful and tasty that we didn't end up eating out as much as expected. but what a treat to eat homecooked food made by someone other than myself :) So here's what we enjoyed.

                              Burdick's: had some yummy treats at both locations. Loved the hazelnut orange cake.

                              Crema coffee: the vibe is totally different from the (unrelated) crema in toronto. I couldn't believe how huge and packed this place was. Really enjoyed the coffee!

                              Upstairs on the square: had some lovely salads and pizzas here. Not neapolitan style, but my daughter really loved the green leaf pizza :)

                              flour bakery: daughter loved the banana bread mixed with some yogurt. sticky bun was good. service was painfully slow and disrganized though.

                              otto pizzeria: liked some of the unique flavour combos like mushroom-cauliflower. again not really neapolitan but baby enjoyed her tomato-ricotta slice :)

                              cookie monstah food truck: nice peanut butter cookie

                              sofra: loved this place. brought back a ton of snacks for the flight home :) was surprised to see they had kouign aman, yum, better than any i've had since my last trip to paris 3 yrs ago. loved everything! pistachio mascarpone donut, chocolate passion fruit tart, crackers, some kind of baklava bread pudding hybrid... even the coffee was delicious. my cousins think we get better traditional armenian baked goods in montreal , so they thought we would enjoy sofra for its creative desserts.

                              oleana: turns out this is my cousin's favourite restaurant. we managed to pull this off with no reservation, 730 seating in the courtyard. perfect setting. we were blown away by the food. everything was stunning. i found myself wanting to lick my plate repeatedly. burrata with chickpeas and lovage, snap pea saganaki, carrot dukkah dip, mussels, soft shell crabs, deviled eggs, hummus with basterma, cheese pie ... my daughter was well-behaved, she had some space to walk around when she got restless, and she thoroughly enjoyed the spinach falafels :)

                              also had the requisite lobster roll on a day trip to gloucester :)

                              So, Boston is a super baby-friendly city, lots of great activities, delicious food and friendly people :) can't wait to go back :)

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: bunnylicious

                                Sounds like a lovely trip! I'm so grateful when visitors post a report with hits and misses so we can better steer the next round. Thanks for your impressions. I'm jealous of the perfect Oleana patio night!

                                1. re: yumyum

                                  "I'm jealous of the perfect Oleana patio night!" - Me too.

                                  I did not know that traditional Armenian goods were readily available in Toronto. Sofra was definitely a good move then.

                                  Thank you for the write-up.

                                2. re: bunnylicious

                                  locals: that fantastic carrot dukkah is available for sale at Sofra, btw.

                                  1. re: bunnylicious

                                    Thanks for the report! So glad you were brave enough to tackle Oleana despite all of us saying you'd never get a table....just goes to show you don't know until you try! I also find myself wanting to lick my plate there.

                                    1. re: Parsnipity

                                      indeed, you never know... i'm glad my cousin insisted. :)

                                      thanks again for all the great recommendations, can't wait to go back to Boston!