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A Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington Brainteaser

Hi Chowhounders,

Hoping you can help me solve this brainteaser. We have two sets of visitors coming into town over the next week, which means lots of dinners and lunches out. Normally, this is no issue. We love using this opportunity to dine out at places we've been wanting to try. This time, it's a little more complicated, as there are some new dietary restrictions in place due to one of our diners having a bun in the oven and another not being able to eat red meat or dairy. This significantly impacts the places we desire to go, as we prefer not to be extremely limited in the choices or have to ask for drastic menu changes to make it work. If we're going to go to great places, we want to be able to try everything!

So that's the situation.

Here is the brain teaser:

Looking for 4 dinner places: 2 in Boston and 2 in the Somerville/Arlington area.

Also looking for 3-4 lunch options in the Somerville/Arlington area.

Dinner entrees should be in the $18-28 range. Bonus points for a lower price point for 2 of the dinners. Lunch in the $8-$15ish range.

Menu items should not rely on soft cheeses, beef, undercooked eggs, any sort of terrine, smoked fish, fois gras, sausage, homemade mayo, etc., but should feature flavorful food.

No one likes salad. Can only do a seafood only restaurant 1 time.

Yesterday, we went to Highland Kitchen, which went over well.

Here are places we are planning to go to: Legal Harborside, Menotomy Grille and Tavern. Was hoping to go to Bronwyn, but the chicken seems to be off the menu, so that may be out. Looking for at least 2-3 more in the Boston area and 3 or more places in Somerville, Cambridge, Arlington.

Here are places we have ruled out due to the menu, but would normally want to try: Blue Dragon, T.W. Foods, Strip T's, Park (or whatever it's called in Harvard Sq), Puritan and Co, Bondir, West Bridge, Painted Burro, etc.

Thanks in advance for your help and creativity.

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  1. In Cambridge for Dinner: Rendezvous and/or Green Street Grill should fit the posted requirements.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FeeFiPho

      area 4 over there too.

      i would take a complete pass on legal's and go to island creek instead.

      lala rokh doesn't get much traction on here but i always enjoy myself there and there are many veg-oriented dishes.

      unless we're talking some place like belly wine bar, i don't know of many places that serve meat that don't also offer poultry and seafood options. even coppa has great options for seafood and vegetarians, so this seems kinda like a non-issue to me. the current west bridge menu (on-line) has 7 entrees, 3 of which are "to share". only 1 of the 7 is red meat and none contain dairy.

    2. Myers & Chang is my go to option when there are dietary restrictions. They are super accomodating.

      1. It might be worth looking into whether the chef is able/willing to get creative or provide more information. For example, the chicken with cheese pancake at Oleana is unbelievable, but I don't know whether Turkish cheese would be considered a soft cheese.

        Two dinners in Cambridge: EVOO and Oleana. Both generally have very creative and filling vegetarian options, which should fit your category. East Coast Grill, too, does a great vegetarian platter that's still quite flavorful.

        I'm less knowledgeable in Boston. I would maybe suggest Myers + Chang, which is unbelievably cognizant of allergies and similar issues.

        1. Maybe The Helmand? There's a lot of lamb/beef but there are also a lot of vegetarian options and also chicken and fish. Food is certainly flavorful!

          1 Reply
          1. re: pemma

            Yes, my veggie friends love Helmand. Great place that gets surprisingly little love here or at least surprisingly few posts. Busy though, so make reservations.

          2. I always take my pregnant and/or vegetarian friends to flora on Mass Ave in Arlington because they are very accommodating to food requests. Not only that - there are often 2-3 nice veg courses on the menu. They have medium plates (which serve well as a main for me) that are $13-$15 and main courses in the $23-$27 range with one $30 lamb dish. The menu options are varied and delicious.


            1. No lack of affordable lunch spots in the Arlington area. Sofra, Gran Gusto, Za, Szechuan's Dumpling (sp?), Gourmet Taipei, Amsterdam Falafel, Toraya, Madrona Tree, Gustazo, and La Paloma are all near there and would fit the bill. I'm sure I'm missing 10 more. Different levels of take out vs. sit down at each, but not sure what you were looking for there. For lots of others, search for Arlington in past threads.

              1. What about North by Northeast in Cambridge for a nicer dinner? Pretty dairy limited, good veg options.

                Also, not sure why Painted Burro is off the menu. Tons of non beef options, and given their tacos are great, you can easily ask for one customized w/o the offending element.

                1. I think you may be overthinking this. Some of the places you've ruled out will probably give you all (including the dietary restricted people) a much better meal than somewhere like Menotomy tavern, which is brand new and seemingly not quite up to par on service yet. I would take another look at TW Food, Bondir, West Bridge (had a fabulous dinner there recently, very reasonably priced, super service and plenty of options for your constraints), and Strip T's.

                  For pregnant people (having been through this twice recently myself), unless soft cheeses are illegally imported from Europe using unpasteurized milk, the risk is way overblown. Soft cheeses here are pretty much uniformly made from pasteurized milk and are therefore safe. I'm sure someone will weigh in with some crazy exception, but as someone in animal health and quite knowledgeable about listeria, I blithely ate all manner of soft cheeses through 2 pregnancies. I also ate undercooked eggs because my understanding of Salmonella risk is that vegetables in salads are a much higher risk for actual contamination, but I can understand why someone would be nervous. My personal feel about pregnancy constraints is that service and comfort are more important than menu- somewhere likely to honor reservation time so you're not standing on your feet, somewhere you won't have to walk a long ways due to lack of parking, that kind of thing. I've tackled the bathroom at Strip T's pregnant several times, but for a taller/larger/less agile very pregant person, it might be tough. Oh, and the willingness to make super creative preggertinis is a plus- Bergamot scored high on this count for me and Oleana did not because they refuse to "use up" their mixers/syrups on non-alcoholic drinks.

                  1. "soft cheeses, beef, undercooked eggs, any sort of terrine, smoked fish, fois gras, sausage, homemade mayo" Pretty much everything I want in life.

                    1. I think you could add Tryst to your Arlington list, and The Independent in Somerville. Posto in Somerville too.

                      1. You might check out Journeyman. Their current tasting menus have chicken and very little (if any) red meat.

                        1. Thanks, all for the recommendations. So far we've ended up doing Highland Kitchen, Legal Harborside (should have listened to you to skip-- they were over an hour late seating us for our reservation, which left our pregnant diner feeling quite unwell), Cinquecento, Menotomy Grill, and Posto (thanks for the idea!). Cinquecento was the only one that faltered a bit on the special requests (they were totally nice about the order, to their credit, but then didn't get it right upon delivers, so one person ended up with just plain pasta for $25.)

                          Tried to go to Bronwyn, but they didn't return our phone calls to ask if they could meet the dietary restrictions.

                          Hoping to do Helmand, Myers and Chang, or lala-rokh tonight, per your recommendations. Will file away the rest of the recommendations for the future. Thanks so much!

                          1. Seafood, I know it's not Arlington but it's right over the line in medford... Moulton's Seafood, Winthrop St Medford.

                            1. Not sure if you're still looking for recommendations, but I've found Scampo to be super accomodating to special requests, and everything I've ever had there is great. Also, for lunch, I'd take guests to Clover in Harvard Square - it's all vegetarian and there's very little dairy on the menu anyway.