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Lacking a "go-to" restaurant

Mr. Swank and I explore various restaurants quite a bit, with and without the Young Swanks. But we're fair-weather diners. There are very few restaurants that we return to time and again, as regulars. We love dim sum brunch, but we're one in a cast of thousands. We're fans of places like Tenoch in Medford and Qingdao Garden. We love them dearly, but we're usually there for takeout or a fast meal.
I'm looking for the type of place to form a relationship. Where a waiter or host might remember us. Where a bartender might recall a favored drink. A place we could frequent every week or so, without getting bored.
Do you have a restaurant like this? If so - what is it?

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  1. The bar at No. 9 Park is like that, but I know my wallet couldn't handle a weekly dose of it. Others that come to mind are Rendezvous and Bergamot.

    Also, there's a good phone app called OnTheBar, which lets you follow your favorite bartenders' whereabouts or find out who's manning the bar at your favorite restaurants.

    1. We're getting cozy w. the Washington Sq Tavern in Brookline. The sirloin steak entree is fantastic. I've only had beer, wine & sangria so far. They have some great selections.

      1. A friend of ours goes to Eastern Standard every week, sometimes more than once, for the reasons you mention. We tease her that she really needs to branch out...but she knows all the bartenders, and often goes there to have "lovely lunch" - a bit of this and that to nibble on and a drink or two. The bartenders are accommodating to requests & will make drinks that have rotated off the regular menu, or make up something new if she requests.

        2 Replies
        1. re: gimlis1mum

          I second Eastern Standard. I always sit at the bar and it's 100% true that the bartenders remember you very quickly and are extremely accommodating (and it doesn't hurt that the drinks are second to none). The menu is extensive enough that you won't be bored...though you'll quickly find some favorites. There are other places I like just fine for weekly visits but none can match ES for the consistent warmth of their service.

          1. re: peelmeagrape

            It's funny - I've been to Eastern Standard several times and always been happy, then I had a fairly subpar experience this weekend. Service wasn't good, meals were fine... quite unexpected.

        2. The bar at Prezza and Lucca were my go to places when I lived in the North End.

          1. We are lucky to have 3 in rotation, sitting at the bar.
            Sycamore for cocktails, wine and excellent bar snacks and sides.
            Lineage for wine, oysters and Chef's whim dinner to share.
            Brewer's Coalition for craft beers and mussels.
            Best reason we love these places is that we can get home on the Green Line or bus #11 (walk!). No need to worry about drink and drive!

            1. Don't know your neighborhood, but "go to" for us means staying close to home where we can walk to our favorites, say hi to the regulars, and maybe drink and not drive too. For us, the cozy places include the Washington Square Tavern, Fireplace Grill and, when we're not looking for liquor, we drive to Shanghai Gate. But I do find I'm willing to give up the "new, new thing" for reliable goodness and pleasant familiarity so I'm not searching for "earth-changing" here. Ribelle will open soon in my neighborhood and, who knows, after the initial frenzy, it may well join the "regulars" on my roster.

              1. there are a lot of good restaurants with bar programs, and my guess is that you know them better than i do.

                9 park, craigie, rialto, uni bar, icob all fit your parameters.

                1. For me it's Tavalo and Steel and Rye.

                  1. We're known at most of our Kendall area haunts like Cambridge Brewing, Lord Hobo, West Bridge, Area Four, Catalyst and Flat Top Johnny's (beer on patio only). Clearly it's impossible to eat/drink at all these places once per week, but we at least know one bartender at each spot.

                    Zoe's is also on the go-to list, but only for delivery. Love that place.

                    1. Highland Kitchen, the bar at Bergamot, Rendezvous, West Bridge....

                      1. Highland Kitchen is one that comes to mind. The customer service is why HK has such a devoted following - the FOH knows and remembers your name. That and the great chow and drinks are good reasons to keep coming back. It's why HK is our "go-to!"

                        1. Near home, we frequent, love and are recognized with "regular" orders of food and drinks at Toraya, Za, and Moulton's Seafood.

                          We eat less frequently at Bergamot but they at least appear to recognize us, especially at the bar (Paul and Kai).

                          I also felt like a regular at Drink for several years - until the lines became too long too often and most of the founding talent moved out on their own - now our routine cocktail haunt is the much smaller Clio bar (Todd Maul) and to some extent at Island Creek in the large bar (Vik) and high top area (manager Tom G-S is amazing there).

                          1. I would favor Rendezvous. Introduce yourselves to Steve (he's always there). I promise he will remember you.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: rsnyder

                              my angle is different --am in the industry so know lots of staffers and owners.

                              steve johnson has been one of my favorite restauranteurs for years --since his days at mercury bar. he is quiet yet very engaging, unassuming and so very talented. his manager/wine director, nicole, does a lovely job and is a sweetheart too.

                              i see quite a few movie matinees so esk and icob are regular haunts for me, and west bridge now too, but that sometimes can be cacophonous and stresses me out. (last thursday was there at lunch-time and left with a pounding headache after less than 45 minutes and only one drink.) same reason i hit the bar at the ritz and i have known those guys for many years. (food is totally meh though.)

                              other places i love too, but feel too friendly to mention them objectively. i know i get "special" treatment.

                              1. re: rsnyder

                                Have to second Rendezvous. SO and I fell in love with Steve's food during his Blue Room days. He is indeed always there, and "adults are in charge". My antidote for a rough day is the chilled shellfish salad and cucumber cocktail.

                                1. re: MaxEntropy

                                  Two of my favs at Rendezvous. That shellfish salad is still on the menu? Must revisit. Thanks! :)

                              2. Thanks for starting this conversation Swanalicious!

                                It brought forward thoughts on the topic. Past "go-to" and present ones with an understanding that for the most part the restaurants changed because our lives changed not because we still don't love the old favorites.

                                For many years Al Forno in Providence and another, long gone place in Providence were our regular restaurants. We were living in Rhode Island at the time and these were half way between our principal residence and the Yacht Club we sailed from many times a week in summer.

                                When my husband took a job in Boston, we bought a pied-à-terre and followed a friend from one of these places to Hamersley's Bistro. That was our Friday night spot. You would find us at the end of the bar enjoying the service of a top bartender.

                                We quickly learned that we were meant to be city kids and sold the house in the 'burbs.

                                When that friend from Hamersley's became a partner in the Blue Room in Cambridge, we moved our seats to that bar. Reggie welcomed us and until a major shake up in our lives we were there week after week.

                                When Craigie first opened on Main street we spent a lot of time there and then followed Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli to Island Creek Oyster Bar.

                                Today Island Creek with its delightful dining bar and Tom's wonderful service atmosphere is an easy choice. It's a quick walk from our home and we highly recommend it to anyone who will listen.

                                But, that leaves out other places that I'm ashamed to say we haven't visited in recently. Rendezvous in Central Square is amazing and we always feel welcome and have a wonderful meal.

                                We just recommended Trattoria Toscana to visitors but realized we haven't been in a long time.

                                Your question reminded me to make time for the old favorites.


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: BostonZest


                                  How do you get seats at the bar at ICOB ? If I might ask......

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    C. Hampster, You can call ICOB and reserve seats at the "dining bar." That's space beyond shucking station that is surrounded by dining room. It is about 10 seats.

                                    Sometimes we go early when they first open and ask if any of those seats are available. We are perfectly happy seating in the regular bar area is they are not.

                                    We also go on off nights and off hours, like after the game crowd is in the park and out of the restaurants.

                                2. In order:

                                  Tosca, Hingham

                                  Wild Ginger, Norwell

                                  Cafe Tosca, Hingham

                                  El Sarape, Weymouth

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    X2, All good selections, except we've never been able to warm up to El Sarape.

                                    We also like Port 305 and Siros at Marina Bay. Pretty good bartenders and fairly creative cooks. Of season is best. Gets a little busy in the hot weather.

                                    1. re: CocoDan

                                      I remember you telling me about Port 305 and we meant to get there before the summer crowds. Just put a reminder on my calendar for post Labor Day. Thanks!

                                      1. re: CocoDan

                                        Do you know which place Meredith formerly from Tavalo ended up at?