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NY foodie family seeks unpretentious boston greatness

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We are visiting our son this weekend in Cambridge. We have 2 kids, plus the college boy. Everyone will eat steak/no one will eat fish except the parents. We're looking for a cool, great restaurant in Somerville/Cambridge. I was thinking about East Coast Grill, but I haven't been there is 25 years!

Doesn't have to be fancy, but festive is good. We're celebrating a kid's birthday and the family reunion with the college boy.

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  1. Hi East Coast Grill is not a bad choice. It is still good and will have things the meat eaters will enjoy. If you are willing to venture across the river I would also suggest Eastern Standard Kitchen in Kenmore Sq. Great restaurant and Chowhound favorite plus they have a diverse menu that should appeal to everyone in your party. Reservations strongly suggested.

    1. You might also check the menu at Rendezvous in Central Square. This is a gem in the unpretentious Boston scene.
      http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com/

      On the current menu you can't go wrong with the grilled chicken or skirt steak.

      Penny
      http://www.bostonzest.com/

      3 Replies
      1. re: BostonZest

        What do you two think of EVOO?

        1. re: upperwestchowmom

          Not one of the two but cheeky enough to reply :-) I like the food at EVOO very much. But I always feel a little rushed there; on our last couple of visits the hubby & I were done in an hour. SO maybe not my choice for a celebratory dinner where I want to linger.

          We had a great meal at Catalyst in Kendall Square a couple of weeks ago. It was my first visit, I went with my parents. The LOVED the food - my Dad was raving about the oysters and the steak. I liked the room because there was a lot of space between the tables (we were seated in the front) and it didn't get too loud, despite the large crowd at the bar in the room behind us. Dinner was leisurely but not too slow. And the waiter shared our sense of humor when we joked about celebrating my brother's birthday without him - even brought out dessert with a candle on it. It didn't feel pretentious to me, but I've only had that one visit, maybe others will chime in.

        2. re: BostonZest

          +1 on rendezvous and highland kitchen. the latter is definitely more of a casual neighborhood scene, but both have very good food and service.

          while i enjoy the food at evoo i don't think the service is on a par with the prices.

        3. I think Highland Kitchen can be pretty fun.

          http://highlandkitchen.com/menus/High...

          or, since the weather is looking good, way outside of the box would be picking up some great bbq at Formaggio's and having a picnic on the Charles or a nearby park.

          http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/Satur...

          1. If you are willing to cross a little over the Watertown line, Strip T's definitely fits the description.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Matt H

              good call

              1. re: Bellachefa

                as long as you go to Strip T's early - you can't hear anyone after 7 PM. I won't go anymore unless we can be seated by 6. I like a side of conversation with my dinner. For that reason, with a group and after "early bird" hours, I prefer Rendezvous, EVOO, Catalyst.

                1. re: teezeetoo

                  ribelle is owned by the chef at Strip T's and also is deafening though my food was excellent. it might be ok to eat there on a week night at 6 or earlier.

            2. both HK and ECG have great young, energetic, fun vibe. Also, both do fun happenin' brunch (but no reservations.) you have car/cab?

              If you get very excited by new and unique preparations, both Strip T's (10 min ride from Harv Sq) and Ribelle (Brookline, other side of the river frpm Cambr.) are your best bets here, imo. Rib. is a month old; Strip T's has been a big CH fav for its few yrs (chef/owner came from 6 yrs at Momofuku.) Neither has menu descriptions that even beGIN to indicate how great the food is.
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/898030

              Oleana in Camb, near ECG, has a truly unique menu of Turkish,Arabic etc. Woman chef/owner is James Beard winner. (But this is not a 'happenin' scene, just fyi.)They also are famous for elaborate unusual desserts, incl a very dramatic Baked Alaska riff that looks very celebratory with a candle!

              Make sure you all go to Toscanini's for ice cream during your stay. Justly famous for unusual flavors; open late in Central Sq, Camb.; always hoppin'. (10 min ride from Oleana and ECG.
              )Have a great visit!

              10 Replies
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Sorry, but the area of Brookline where Ribelle is located is probably one of the most inconvenient places to get to from Cambridge.

                Also, in my experience most children would not find a lot to be excited about how to Oleanna's menu.

                1. re: Gabatta

                  I assume you mean by T? By car it's simply over BU Bridge, right on Comm, left on St. Paul, right on Beacon... Took me 20 minutes from Kendall last Wednesday during rush hour.

                  1. re: mkfisher

                    I'm talking about any mode of transport. Why would someone staying in Cambridge and looking for a Cambridge or Somerville option (of which there are many) want to trek over to Brookline? IMO, it's just a bum steer for what this OP is looking for. It's really easy to get lots of places from Cambridge; relative to others, that area of Brookline isn't one of them. If there was a Red Sox game (as there will be Fri & Sat), the 20 minutes might have been much longer by your chosen route.

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      Totally agree that Brookline is not the right answer for the OP. Was speaking more to the point you made about that area of Brookline being inconvenient from Cambridge.

                    2. re: mkfisher

                      it is not that bad by the T from cambridge if you are near the red line; you just have to transfer to the green line.

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                        Any time you're going downtown and back out it kind of sucks.

                        One could take the 47 bus from Central and get off at the green line there. But I echo Gabatta's point that giving suggestions for places in Brookline as an answer to a Camberville query is stupid.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Yeah, bus or train it's going to take nearly an hour or possibly more depending on the state of the MBTA that day. I'll go places in Brookline if I'm really interested, but I definitely wouldn't want to spend that much time on public transportation if I was on vacation. Especially not when there are so many good places in Cambridge.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            agreed--- no matter if we drive or take the t, trip from cambridge to washington sq( ribelle location, publick house) has always taken at least 30mins( even in a cleared -of-snow-car-free- drive)

                            1. re: kewpie

                              add the extra challenges of doing it with a large group which is unfamiliar with the area and possibly not all that comfy with public transport.

                              plenty of spots in cambridge/somerville that are easy to get to and fit the query.

                    3. re: opinionatedchef

                      Skip toscaninis and go to Christina's instead. Closer from Oleana, better, and they actually pay thir bills

                    4. Cambridge and Somerville have changed a lot in 25 years. They've become the places where talented young chef/owners go to open restaurants, because opening in Boston is so expensive, mainly due to the cost of liquor licenses. Tons of great options on the north bank of the Charles -- with the right group.

                      I'd call the young kids the gating factor in this decision. For instance, go to the excellent Highland Kitchen fairly early, and it 's pretty family-friendly. Later in the evening, it's more of an adult place, a boisterous bar with good food, and as it doesn't take reservations, you can end up facing a long wait.

                      Plenty of terrific places I might suggest if it were just you and your college-age son: Bondir, Bergamot, Ten Tables, Puritan & Co., East by Northeast, West Bridge, Hungry Mother, Green Street, Catalyst, Giulia, a few others. But with younger children, I'd say either the menu is too challenging or the scene is a bit too grownup.

                      In that light, I'd suggest Russell House Tavern, Area Four, East Coast Grill (mostly what you remember, despite new owners), Posto, Gran Gusto, and The Painted Burro. They have menus and atmosphere suitable both for adults and kids, and they all take reservations.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Russell House isn't my personal favorite, however it has a good atmosphere and location, and is always a crowdpleaser for groups. College age Harvard students we know always get excited about being taken there, and consider it a great "nice" meal out.

                        Agree that ECG would still be good for this type of meal. Ask to get seated in the lava lounge if possible.

                      2. How old are the kids?

                        I think Highland Kitchen is a good idea if you go early (before 6). I am less impressed with East Coast Grill for dinner, but the younger people in your party might like it and they take reservations (note: not on Saturdays).

                        I do like ECG for brunch and they take reservations for parties of 5 for that now.

                        1. Here's all you need, don't even look at any other posts. Written by the pro.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/741449

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: treb

                            point well taken; Kathryn is the striper+Slim of the New York Board.

                          2. Oleana? Mediterranean food with a creative spin.