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With Hilltop almost gone, what is now the most Iconic Boston Area Restaurant?

Not saying Hilltop was the most Iconic, but we are losing the old stalwarts.

I expect Kowloon or Union Oyster House or Parker House will be the most popular answer, but with Hilltop and Locke-Ober and Pier 4 gone what do you consider to be the most Iconic restaurant around?

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    1. Maybe Ken's Steakhouse, No Name, The Continental or
      Prince Pizza, not necessarily good.

      1. I'd say either Durgin-Park or Legals.

        97 Replies
        1. re: Boston_Otter

          The thing about Legal Seafood is that the name is "iconic Boston" but the original location is long gone. To me, at least, there's no current Legal's location that really fits the bill.

          I'd nominate Durgin-Park, Union Oyster House, or the Thacher Street Regina Pizzeria.

          1. re: Allstonian

            I totally agree. It's like the old "fishcakes and baked beans" problem. Everyone from out of town thinks of Legal Seafood as the iconic Boston restaurant, but then they get here and realize oh, it's a chain, huh. And oh, I can't actually get fishcakes, baked beans, and brown bread anywhere?

              1. re: Boston_Otter

                What Boston area do you eat in? There are TONS of places where one can order fish cakes and beans (cod cakes usually). That said, I can't name anywhere that serves that iconic dish that itself qualifies as such.

                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                  I miss the disgusting gordon's cod cakes in a can. we would slice them in four and brown them in butter in a cast iron skillet and eat them on a Thomas' english muffin with Hellman's mayo.

                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                    I'm in Camberville vicinity. I just remember a thread from last year where people were trying to actually find the classic dish of fishcakes/beans/brown bread and were having an extremely hard time finding it on the menu anywhere. I've only seen it at one restaurant myself, out on the Cape (Spanky's Clam Shack in Hyannis).

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      Yep - that's the issue. There are plenty of diners etc. that offer just about any combination of 2 out of the 3 - fish cakes + baked beans + brown bread. But there is hardly any place (and no place in the GBA) that has a plate with all 3 items.

                      (BTW, Boston_Otter - I think it was you who mentioned that Mandy & Joe's in Brighton Center has a liverwurst sandwich on the menu. Jenny Ondioline & I found ourselves lunching at the Agawam Diner up in Rowley this past weekend, and I was pleased to see that they, too, offer a liverwurst sandwich.)

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        actually it was me, im always looking for the triple (fishcakes/beans/brown bread) and its a rare bird,

                        It seems to be the brown bread that brings it down as i would take Pearl hot dog/beans/brown bread as a sub

                        More a tribute to The Big Guy, my father, who would live on this combo if he could, but hell, call me Ishmael.

                  2. re: Boston_Otter

                    That's right, say it often enough and perha's you'll convince everyone else and maybe they'll disappear. As a proud Bostonian, I have no difficulty finding them

                    1. re: sawxfan

                      Where? And what does your being "a proud Bostonian" have to do with your ability to find this legendary combination?

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        I too am skeptical that you have NO difficulty finding a fishcake/baked bean/brown bread plate in the Boston area.
                        Where?
                        Where?
                        Were?

                        Just tell me where and they get my business.

                        CapeCodGuy, that find is remarkable and truly a old school find. nice work.

                      2. re: sawxfan

                        Just name the places so everyone can indulge

                        1. re: ac106

                          For starters
                          The Thirsty Whale in Newburyport has a fine rendition

                          1. re: sawxfan

                            not exactly Boston, but ill take it!

                            1. re: sawxfan

                              Well, that's only 40 miles or so outside of Boston, so it's closer than many of the others. Thanks!

                              The complaint has always been that it's next to impossible to find these three items together in Boston itself. There are plenty of places on the North Shore or the Cape or wherever, but that's not Boston. At this point, I'd be willing to find them someplace inside 128.

                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                Almost forgot- Cabots in Newton has it too. Since I only go there for Ice Cream, I don't know if its homemade, I'd be surprised if it is.

                                1. re: sawxfan

                                  Cabot's has a beans and franks plate with brown bread (I've had it, as a matter of fact, and there is no part of it that is house-made) - but no fish cakes.

                              2. re: sawxfan

                                Warren Tavern in Charlestown had it on the menu the last time I was there a year or two ago
                                Yankee Lobster has it on the Menu
                                Doyle's occasionally has it as a special.

                                I couldn't tell you if its homemade because I've never tried it at any of these places.

                                1. re: sawxfan

                                  I've eaten at Doyle's quite a few times, but I've never seen fish cakes/beans/brown bread as a special, although I'll take your word for it that it may occasionally appear.

                                  Yankee Lobster does have a cod cake plate on their menu, served with a remoulade, no beans or brown bread.

                                  There are "Maine crab cakes" but no fish cakes, with or without beans and brown bread, anywhere that I can find on the current menu at Warren Tavern:
                                  http://www.warrentavern.com/dinner-menu/
                                  http://www.warrentavern.com/lunch-menu/
                                  http://www.warrentavern.com/brunch-menu/

                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                    Summer Shack serves Cod Cakes and Baked Beans but you have to ask for the brown bread because that only is included with the cranks and beans.

                                    1. re: Infomaniac

                                      And, of course, then you have to eat at Summer Shack.

                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                        I must say, though, that I've made Jasper's recipes for brown bread and baked beans and they are really good, so that might not be a bad way to go if you're eating there.

                                        1. re: bear

                                          I make brown bread at home too....it takes 2 minutes of mixing and 2 hours of steaming. Honestly, it is the easiest possible thing to make. If I'm going out, that won't be something I would go out for.

                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                            I hear you. I've only eaten at SS a couple of times and thought the fish and chips were pretty heavy and greasy and the lobster roll wasn't bad but I could do without the cucumbers.

                                            Now, completely off topic, what kind of pan do you use for your brown bread?

                                            1. re: bear

                                              This is a very cool use of a slow cooker for brown bread:

                                              http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

                                              but add raisins, they are essential

                                              1. re: hyde

                                                Hey, hyde, thanks for that. I bought a couple of steamed pudding pans with a flute in the middle because it was hard to consistently find cans that would work. I'm not in love with them, though, and have avoided making the brown bread until I can figure how to steam them in a convenient water bath.

                                                http://www.amazon.com/Steam-Pudding-C...

                                                I never thought of using canning jars. That should solve everything!

                                                1. re: bear

                                                  I have two old Chock-Full-Of-Nuts coffee cans that keep around to make mine. Grease, fill, cover with foil/elastic bands, place in water bath in dutch oven and steam x 2 hrs. Voila!

                                            2. re: Science Chick

                                              Yah but, finding that darn can with those ridges to steam it in.

                                          2. re: Science Chick

                                            What's wrong with eating at Summer Shack? The Cambridge location puts out some of the freshest oysters in the area, expertly shucked every time. They also have fried chicken that is among the best in Boston, and excellent lobster preparations. I'll eat at the Summer Shack and be quite happy.

                                            1. re: black_lab

                                              I forgot about the fried chicken. I've been meaning to give it a try since it's been mentioned a few times on the board.

                                              1. re: black_lab

                                                I work 1/2 a mile a way, and have had so many mediocre meals there I don't even bother any more.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  the pan roasted lobster is one of my favorite dishes in Boston; i will try to go back again. I also think that the fried clams are respectable.

                                                  That said, most of the menu is mediocre; i agree.

                                                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                    I've had nearly inedible limp oily fried clams there as well…

                                                  2. re: StriperGuy

                                                    I still can't wrap my head around a well respected chef, who actually wrote a chowder cookbook and was bff's with Julia, can serve mediocre tourist chowder.

                                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                                      it's all about the benjamins and not having to be cooking in an actual kitchen anymore.

                                                      jasper is no longer young.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        bs - he sold out to crappy chowder after writing a chowder cookbook. at least his special lobster still gets rave reviews. I admired him many years ago. Now he is a sellout. No reason for mediocre chowder when you were once a chowder expert.

                                                        1. re: Bellachefa

                                                          hate chowder so can't say either way.

                                                          his restaurants take in millions and he doesn't even have to be there. call it selling out, but maybe he views it as providing a comfortable retirement in his dotage and an inheritance for his kids.

                                                          he's pushing 70 ffs and can comfortably rest on his laurels as one of the first great chefs to drag boston out of the culinary dark ages. ya know, lol, where a special meal involved brown bread and baked beans. blech.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                            millions? millions????????

                                                            why you desire to give him absolution for introducing great food at Jaspers and then selling out is beyond me.

                                                            resting on his laurels has nothing to do with quality control in his restaurants that are not taking in millions for him. he sold out. the fried chicken is pretty good

                                                            summershack has been around for quite a few years. he sold out and took excellence and dumbed it down.

                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                              i said the restaurants take in millions. you're looking at 4 high-volume properties with 300-400 seats. why does this figure make you so incredulous?

                                                              it has nothing to do with absolution. he's more of a businessman than a chef now and is succeeding very well.

                                                              when he closed jasper's he swore he wanted nothing to do with fine dining ever again. he signed a $1-million/1-year consulting contract with legal's while he was writing a book and formulating summer shack. he engineered the concept, got in bed with the lyons group for money and off he went.

                                                              you may hate the chowder, but his places are busy all the time.

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                from my matchbook collection. these gotta be 30 years old?

                                                                Jasper's was one of my all time favorite's

                                                                 
                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          i read an article by a cook at Jean-Georges who said that the chef/owner never touched any food in the kitchen during her tenure save a bagel that he ate himself. Yet the restaurant remains great; the chef does not have to cook to maintain standards.

                                                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                            And do you think these standards are the same at Summer Shack as they are at Jean-George's.

                                                              1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                i was just making the point that chefs do not need to actually be on the line to guarantee a consistent, high-quality product.

                                                      2. re: black_lab

                                                        We went there, against my better judgement, last month. Lobster roll flavorless with paltry amount of overchopped lobster. DH fish tacos were lacking in flavor/substance. Server completely lacking in knowledge in response to menu questions. It was horribly mediocre and we shelled out ~$60.

                                                        Regarding "iconic" however, I think a place should be around for quite some time and be a destination restaurant that really represents the essence of a city's offerings before it earns that title. Summer Shack certainly does not in any respect.

                                                        1. re: Science Chick

                                                          I too have found it over-priced for just fair food, but then I could never really afford the Shire/White/Lynch level establishments to eat at them enough to form a consistent picture.

                                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                                            A while back, I got their lobster roll and it had lots of chopped cucumber that appeared to be lobster until you looked more closely and tasted it. It sure did make the roll look stuffed. I sent it back. On another note, this past weekend, I went to the one at the Mohegan Sun before a concert. I got the tuna poke appetizer and it was delicious!

                                                    2. re: Allstonian

                                                      Cabots Does have Fish Cakes on the menu
                                                      http://cabots.com/seafood.html

                                                      Yankee Lobster certainly does have baked beans and brown bread- It's called the Cod Cake Platter if you go you'll see that they have it (the description of what's included unfortunately is not on the menu) but they do have it.

                                                      Warren Tavern may have changed over to a summer menu but this was their menu when I was there last. Its under the New England Cod Cake Platter

                                                      http://www.allmenus.com/ma/boston/150...

                                                      1. re: sawxfan

                                                        Okay, we have confirmation of one place. Although that photo doesn't bode well. Thanks for the tip!

                                                        1. re: sawxfan

                                                          Jenny Ondioline and I had lunch at Cabot's today. I searched the printed menu through and through, and fish cakes do not appear there at all. BUT - a fish cake plate with baked beans and brown bread was one of the daily specials. So there you go.

                                                        2. re: Allstonian

                                                          been to the warren tavern occasionally over many years and I've never seen fish cakes, brown bread,or baked beans.

                                                          1. re: Madrid

                                                            i lived right up the street from the tavern for about a decade and had oh, approximately, a million cocktails there. i ate there exactly once.

                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                              we go with the kid. to say we are not impressed with the adult food is an understatement.

                                                            2. re: Madrid

                                                              Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees or you have to pretend "it's just not there"

                                                              I've been there many times and had it at least a few times

                                                              http://www.allmenus.com/ma/boston/150...

                                                              1. re: sawxfan

                                                                Not on the menu now according to the website

                                                                1. re: cambridgeMike

                                                                  Not all menu items have a web presence. I believe they nowhave their summer menu out.i I was just there a little over a year ago and it was on the menu.

                                                                  1. re: sawxfan

                                                                    I was there three months ago and it was not on the menu.

                                                                    1. re: Madrid

                                                                      I just called and was told it will be back on their rotating menu in a few months.

                                                                      1. re: sawxfan

                                                                        I will concede that some places (usually seafood) will pull them off the menu until the cooler months. we will need to re-visit this whole argument come october 1st.

                                                                        1. re: hyde

                                                                          curious fixation on horrible puritan food. my hardscrabble italian ancestors made a bit of flour and oil delicious. the english who settled here must have thought food was punishment.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            It's the Yankee way. Those bits of coffee can shrapnel in the brown bread remind us that life is suffering.

                                                    3. re: sawxfan

                                                      So we have gone from:

                                                      "Just go to any Tavern or Diner in Southie or any diner that dots Route 1 up to Gloucester "

                                                      To:

                                                      One place in Newburyport

                                                      One place where it *might* be an occasional special

                                                      One place that you have to order off menu to get it

                                                      2 places that you recommend but haven't tried

                                                      1. re: ac106

                                                        Keep pretending it doesn't exist and hope that it disappears altogether, yes?

                                                        It's a shame you are so ashamed of your culinary heritage. I, on the other hand am prou of it

                                                        1. re: sawxfan

                                                          Yes. I am part of the vast conspiracy to eliminate the ubiquitous delicacy of cod cakes. Because I am ashamed of them

                                                          Now I am off to my illuminati meeting!

                                                          1. re: ac106

                                                            I'm just amazed at the "rage" and "anger" if someone mentions cod cakes, baked beans, brown bread and Boston in one sentence.

                                                            I haven't been to Southie in a few years but there were several diners and taverns that had it as a friday special. You'll never find it on line because none these places have websites or facebook pages..

                                                            1. re: sawxfan

                                                              Where is this rage of which you speak? We'd love to hear more of these many, many places that have this trio. In fact, found one in York Beach, Maine this afternoon, the Goldenrod. But the idea that every diner in New England serves fishcakes, baked beans and brown bread? Don't matter if you're proud of this dish or not: not enough places serve it. Anyway: not my monkeys, not my circus.

                                                              1. re: sawxfan

                                                                I don't understand how you get "'rage' and 'anger'" and shame about our culinary heritage from people saying that it's become difficult, if not impossible, to find this formerly classic combination in Boston proper.

                                                                I also don't understand your obsession with this meal since you don't appear to care for it yourself - you've seen it on the menu here and there, it's in diners and taverns all over Southie but you can't name the places and they're not on the web, oh, and you can't vouch for the quality of any of these renditions BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY TRIED IT ANYPLACE. A proud culinary heritage is a fine thing - please tell us about a restaurant that serves this combination and lives up to that proud heritage. That's all we're asking.

                                                                1. re: Allstonian

                                                                  I've mentioned the places that have it. Everyone seems to go out of their way to prove me wrong. I can't help it if it's not on the "web menu". Unfortunately I can't remember the name of every diner and dive I went to in Southie, it's probably been at least 2 years since I've been there. And I'm not responsible for the fact that probably 50% of the restaurants in the Boston area (most likely much more than that) do not have a web presence.

                                                                  1. re: sawxfan

                                                                    We're not trying to prove you wrong, we're trying to collect leads about places that serve this trio, because not enough do. (One more, far north, discovered this weekend: The Goldenrod in York Beach, ME.) I'm not sure why this comes off as adversarial to you, although it clearly does for some reason.

                                                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                      I agree...we don't want to prove you wrong, we just want verified sightings. We want to eat the stuff and want to know where to reliably find it. Nice to know there are lots of places in Southie that serve it, but we can't go there if we don't know the names. Not your fault if you don't remember, and certainly not your fault about lack of web presence, but we are not trying to fight you or prove you wrong, we are trying to work with you to find the dish! thanks for calling Warren Tavern, sounds like it might come back in the fall.

                                                                      1. re: Madrid

                                                                        Today, at Whole Foods on River St near Memorial Drive, I saw brown bread from Pain d'Avignon. It was cylinder shaped with a flat bottom and puffy top. I've never seen it there before.

                                                                2. re: sawxfan

                                                                  no rage. I'd actually like to see it available more widely.

                                                              2. re: sawxfan

                                                                My family didn't arrive here till relatively recently, so Ye Olde New England cuisine isn't my culinary heritage. But outside of historical curiosity, I don't see much to celebrate there: it's mostly a poverty cuisine originating in an England notorious for its bland and overcooked, mostly boiled food.

                                                                I think we've managed to save most of the good bits. The porridge and brown bread and oversweetened beans, I can live without.

                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  You should have a look at a delightful little book entitled "The Trancendental New England Boiled Dinner." I've forgotten the author's name but it is a charming piece that rates The Perfect Dinner on a scale represented by Benjamin Franklin on the low end and Jonathan Edwards on the top. There is a screed against incorporating onion which is decried as a tool of The Devil.

                                                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                    For $1.20 plus shipping, I might just have to spring for a copy of that! Looks very entertaining: http://www.amazon.com/Transcendental-...

                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      You won't regret it. Please be sure to let us have a review.

                                                          1. re: Allstonian

                                                            I would still say Legals...even if they aren't in their original location. Oldies but goodies remember the original place, and visitors and locals go there seeking old fashioned New England seafood.

                                                            1. re: uman

                                                              legals and cheers are boston for out-of-towners. For natives, that has to be settled be someone born and raised here.

                                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                I wasn't born and raised here, and I lived here 1973-77 and then 1989 on, so I guess I don't qualify to vote.

                                                                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                  erm, doesn't iconic mean something that represents boston universally? especially to those from elsewhere?

                                                                  we on this board may disparage cheers and legals but throngs of tourists bust down their doors.

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    "Especially to those from elsewhere?" I don't think that connotation is broadly accepted, so locals are justified in wanting better icons of Boston restaurants than the godforsaken, godawful Cheers bar or the now chain-y, soulless Legal.

                                                                    As I said before here, the traditional bygone icons (e.g., Anthony's, The Hilltop) represent a benighted time in Boston's restaurant scene, one best left mostly unrecalled. Potential new icons, restaurants whose appearance marked a watershed between the bad old days and our now much more interesting scene -- let's say, for argument's sake, Hamersley's, No. 9, Eastern Standard -- aren't quite old enough to rate as iconic yet.

                                                                    On balance, I'd say losing the old icons isn't the worst problem we could have. Won't be long before you can awe the kids with tales of Barbara Lynch as a young tyro.

                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      at its most simple, an icon is a person or a thing regarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community, or cultural movement.

                                                                      i'd say 90% of tourists searching this board ask which night of their itinerary should include dinner at legals. like it or not, we can't wish that something become iconic.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        So maybe there's a useful distinction to be made between tourist icons and icons as identified by locals who know better. Smart gastro-tourists like Bourdain recognize the folly of best-of's anointed by tourist guidebooks: he generally seeks the advice of Chowhound types instead.

                                                                        (Though to be fair, the current Fodor's Boston highlights the following as its "Fodor's Choice": All Star Sandwich Bar, Area Four, Clio, Hungry Mother, L'Espalier, Neptune, o ya, Orinoco, Rialto, Sycamore, Uni, Antico Forno, Atlantic Fish, Eastern Standard, ICOB, Lumiere, No. 9, Oleana, Posto, Sweet Cheeks, Troquet, West Bridge. Pretty trap-free list, not bad at all.)

                                                                        Tourist icons are easy to identify. Sure, let's include two dozen Legal chain outlets and the idiotic Cheers bar on that list, and say, screw those places. The harder, worthier question remains: what is iconic to locals who have dined out here obsessively for decades?

                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                          Mei Sum, with some of the same ladies working there as when I moved to Boston in '88.

                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                            so, lol, how does mug n' muffin, mentioned up-thread fit in there?

                                                                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            Legal *is* soulless and corporate, I'll agree with that, especially since I remember the original location so fondly. However we adopted a special needs child and he is a very picky eater. One place he likes is Legal, for the rolls and the kids hot dog, which comes on a nicely toasted bun. i"ll admit a liking for their tuna burger, chowder, and seasonally, gazpacho......one of the best versions I've had in the city.

                                                                            The blackened raw tuna, fried oysters, and calamari are also good, as are the salads. The tuna burger is only on the lunch menu, but you can ask for the lunch menu and order from it at any time. I haven't ordered the higher priced items in decades, if ever.

                                                                            So, if you get caught there, as I do from time to time, it is possible to find something good to eat. And it beats the 99, where my son also likes to eat.

                                                                          3. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                            I don't get the hate of Legals to the point of calling it 'soulless" To me it is what it is. It's serviceable. It's simple, predictable and a safe bet. It doesn't pretend nor promise to jump thru culinary hoops. It simply is what it is.

                                                                            I've NEVER had a bad meal at any of their outlets. That is why they called themselves "Legal" Their quality control of seafood has an impeccable track record. I have never sent a dish back. Sure some dishes are pedestrian. When I am on vacation, this type of establishment wouldn't be my first choice, nor my first recommendation. However it is a safe choice. Even more so for those visiting from land lock lands that aren't so comfortable with fish and shellfish. There's nothing wrong with a safe bet.

                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                              I've had bad meals at Legal Seafoods: oily yucky fry jobs, limp flavorless lobster rolls. I really try to avoid them.

                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                I've had bad meals there too, but they always seem to be at the same locations...Copley Place(not the one at the Prudential), Braintree(the old location haven't been since they moved) and Natick/Framingham. On the other end of the spectrum, I've always had really good meals at the one in Chestnut Hill and the one in the Prudential Center. They have one of my 2 favorite baked stuffed lobsters.

                                                                                1. re: catsmeow

                                                                                  I've had several bad meals at Copley as well, but good luck at Kendall, which is closest to our house.

                                                                              2. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                It's not hate, but indifference, and the fact that Legal is no longer even a local chain, with a dozen locations all the way down the East Coast to Georgia.

                                                                                I too have experienced consistency issues, with mediocre to poor experiences at the Pru, Copley Place, The Street, and the current and former Park Plaza locations. I think the rooftop bar at Legal Harborside is cool, if you can ever get in anymore. Tourist icon, sure; local icon, not in my book.

                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                  i have had more bad food than good at numerous locations to the point of never wanting to go to another ever. sure, they start with excellent product and sandy block does a bang-up job on the wine program, but the cooks and shuckers simply cannot execute and the service is often painfully and embarrasingly bad. oysters full of shell bits, fish cooked to death, limp, lifeless veggie sides, brown lettuce in the salads. ugh. i could go on, but my point is it is far from a safe bet and more often -- for me-- a total waste of money and a frustrating exercise in holding my temper which is not my idea of even a decent meal.

                                                                                  we often wound up at the kendall location (and pissed off) because of its proximity to the theater, but thank the gods that area has exploded with much better options.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    My SO is similarly tired of the Kendall location, near her work, but we've been enjoying Legal Harborside (1st floor). The service seems a bit more attentive (and expert) than the typical Legal outpost. The menu is certainly more interesting. We are addicted to the tuna crudo and maple-cured salmon bruschetti, and others that rotate. In a dozen or more visits I can't recall any missteps by the kitchen. Have only been to the 2nd floor once, and can't draw any deep conclusions, but I was impressed by some unique specials (a swordfish bone-in "tomahawk" steak - only one per fish - a sight to behold).

                                                                                  2. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                    I had one of the worst restaurant experiences of my entire life at the Legal's near the aquarium many years ago, swore never to go back and never have.

                                                                      2. I have more questions than answers.

                                                                        Does iconic have to mean so-so, unevolved food?

                                                                        How old does a place have to be to rate iconic?

                                                                        If iconic, as in representative of Boston, is that Boston back when or Boston today?

                                                                        And, is that the Boston of Chowhounds or the Boston of the average Joe who just wants to go out to dinner?

                                                                        Penny
                                                                        http://www.bostonzest.com/

                                                                        1. Even though local, legals has turned into a mass producing chain which I wouldn't consider iconic.
                                                                          I think the Chart House has to be considered. It's been on a prime piece of real-estate for years and survived the big dig

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: libertywharf

                                                                            The Chart House is a chain as well, with nearly 30 locations.

                                                                            1. re: Gabatta

                                                                              Ok, then I guess the chart house is out. But I still think of it when the way back conversation comes up and there's just the one in Boston.

                                                                            2. re: libertywharf

                                                                              I don't think a national chain makes the cut as an iconic Boston restaurant finalist.

                                                                            3. It's sad to say that there really aren't many iconic Boston restaurants left.

                                                                              If pressed, I'd say L'Espalier (even in its new location) or Pizzeria Regina (NE original). No 9 Park is probably getting close. You could ague Durgin Park and Union Oyster House as well, but it's hard for me to sincerely name places where the food is middling.

                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                The iconic Boston restaurants, to the chagrin of many, is narrowing down to the old private clubs - Chilton, Union, Somerset, TCC.

                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                  I can't see how these are iconic, I have lived here all my life and don't know what any of them are.

                                                                                  1. re: ac106

                                                                                    If you haven't heard of them, your family hasn't been here long enough and doesn't have that kind of money.
                                                                                    What about the Algonquin?

                                                                                    1. re: trufflehound

                                                                                      How do private clubs belong in a discussion of iconic Boston restaurants when over 99% of the public can't get into them? The Hasty Pudding Club would certainly qualify otherwise, but even though I've been there numerous times, it wouldn't be on my list because the average mook from Medford to Minneapolis can't eat there.

                                                                                      1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                        Apparently, they are iconic to the people who have been here long enough and have that kind of money. The only problem with dining at them is that you have to endure the company of the members.

                                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                        1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                          I'm public and I'm acquainted with all of them. I'm a skillful interloper..:) Food is good, especially at Somerset, and members at all of them are a hoot. Nice experiences over the last 40 years.

                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                            I'll stick with world renown, ever-iconic, Mug n Muffin.

                                                                                            1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                              Norwood is where it's at. When I lived in Westwood, which is dry, we had to go to Norwood for beer. And a muffin.

                                                                                        2. re: trufflehound

                                                                                          The Algonquin did not allow women to use the front door until the 1990's.

                                                                                          A pox on them!

                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                            but you can wear pants to the ritz. :)

                                                                                    2. re: Gabatta

                                                                                      I would add Hamersley's Bistro to any list that includes the more modern, chef driven options. I believe it opened in 1987 and is still going strong.

                                                                                      1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                        i know what you mean about "middlin' "(and ones own taste), but i also am aware of quite a few visitor reports (sophisticated eaters included)that have included positive accounts of eating at DP and UOH. Like the recent British visitors who were very happy to have a ($17) salad at Steph's while watching and feeling part of that Newbury Street scene, there's something to be said for memorable visuals and ambience in the iconic places....

                                                                                      2. No Name - for the chowder and location -nothing else.

                                                                                        Durgin Park for the service, room and servicable food. Sadly as time goes by it is hard to replace the salty waitresses.

                                                                                        Regina's North End - great pie and classic waitstaff

                                                                                        Woodman's - why I often don't know - I'd rather eat across the street.

                                                                                        Does Ken's Steak house remain old school? My mom worked there and at Duca's/Maridor back in the day.

                                                                                        Newbridge Cafe - oh those steak/lamb tips and smothered chicken

                                                                                        Santarpios for a garlic pie and grilled combo and iconic waitstaff.

                                                                                        Mr and Mrs Bartleys - lime rickey (why is it no longer mrs.?why the name change?)

                                                                                        Sullivans - Castle Island hot dog all around

                                                                                        Never Union Oysfer House - that they preshuck oysters is unforgivable for an oyster house - no matter how historic.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                          Just went last Saturday to Ken's. It is old school, still. I had my onion roll, iceberg&tomato salad, and a very nice Queen cut prime rib. To top it off, an old school dessert = Baked Alaska. I enjoy taking the elders to this place, I have to say. It's replaced Pier 4 (which replaced Jimmy's Harborside) for me on the old school night out with the elders circuit.

                                                                                        2. Durgin Park or the Union Oyster House

                                                                                          1. At opposite ends of the spectrum: Parker House and No Name. Those were the only two I'd heard of as a kid living outside Boston.

                                                                                            1. Interesting topic. Although, I do love arguing over minor details :)

                                                                                              When you say "iconic" I associate that with at least a regionally but more likely nationally known place. That's why I don't really understand listing places like Woodmans, New Bridge or Prince Pizza. I don't think people on the South Shore or Worcester would have heard of them never mind nationally.

                                                                                              So, maybe if it got noted by Michelin in the 1970s or mentioned by Zagat or Julia Child on PBS back in the day it could qualify.

                                                                                              I guess you have to discount Legal as there isn't a historic flagship location. Since Ken's is in Framingham and most people probably only think its the name of salad dressing, I am going to disqualify that too. Chart House, no.

                                                                                              I would say Durgin, Union, and maybe Regina.

                                                                                              I don't think disappearing institutions is unique to Boston though. Bourdain did a whole episode on "Disappearing Manhattan" and has noted similar patterns in other cites (London comes mind)

                                                                                              Hilltop didn't HAVE to fade into oblivion. It's not like it was per-ordained. The manager saying "people don't want big steaks anymore" is just flat out stupid considering the amount of steakhouses in Boston proper alone.

                                                                                              They didn't adapt. They could have modernized their menu or embraced the kitschy old school vibe of the place, but increased the quality, ran a better bar program. Plus probably a million other things but they didn't and now they died.

                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: ac106

                                                                                                FWIW, Woodman's is regularly written up in travel articles, especially NYC-based ones (e.g., NYT, New York magazine), and has been for a while. It's the best-known representative of a particular New England experience. (Whether it's the best representative is another argument entirely, though I admit to being a fan.)

                                                                                                That said, I agree that Durgin Park, UOH, and Regina are probably closest to what the OP had in mind as Boston icons.

                                                                                                Legal has a higher national profile than any of 'em, but, as stated, it doesn't have an original location to represent it, unlike, say, Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. (Which, ironically, has its headquarters in Boston!)

                                                                                                1. re: brandywiner

                                                                                                  I'd opt for The Clam Box over Woodman's, CB has been here since 1933.

                                                                                                  1. re: treb

                                                                                                    Maybe for food quality, but a guy actually named Chubby invented the fried clam at Woodman's which whether or not it is a superior product, makes the establishment more 'iconic' imho

                                                                                                    1. re: treb

                                                                                                      i think of them more as part of the north shore than Boston itself.

                                                                                                  2. re: ac106

                                                                                                    I imagine the really bad press around them being sued for skimming tips from their waitstaff didn't help, either.

                                                                                                    1. re: ac106

                                                                                                      ac, Even though I agree with you regarding Woodman's and Prince Pizza not being iconic, I have to tell you that Quincy (which is the South Shore), had a Prince Pizza right next to the original Dunkin' Donuts, and right next to 7E's Clam Shack, which was the Quincy version of Woodman's. I would have to say that one of the last "icons" would be the North End's Regina Pizzaria.
                                                                                                      Enjoy,
                                                                                                      CocoDan

                                                                                                      1. re: CocoDan

                                                                                                        I remember that pizza place from when I was a boy, it was right near the bowling alley my dad had a league at! I always wanted us to go because I liked the leaning tower (in fact, I thought the place was called The Leaning Tower of Pizza, what do you want, I was a kid) and we never did. Oh well *sigh*

                                                                                                    2. The Continental is in a time warp although not in a bad way. Their food is decent and some of their specials are quite good.

                                                                                                      I have never eaten in the dining room, only the bar. They still give you chicken wings, fritters (?), bean dip and popovers before the meal. Very old school, but charming in a way. The majority of servers seems like they have been there for quite some time.

                                                                                                      I wouldn't hesitate to go back there. Much better food than what the Hilltop offered, from what I hear, in the past few years.

                                                                                                      1. I'm in the group that believes "iconic" doesn't mean "great food", but rather just by mere mention conjures up "Boston" . So chains don't count. Jimmy's Harbourside, Locke Ober, and Pier 4 used to be at the top of the list. Union Oyster House and Durgin Park certainly belong on that list. So does Top of the Hub, Regina's in the North End, and maybe No Name. If pressed, I name The Parker House as the most iconic of all.

                                                                                                        1. A cultural icon is an object that represents some aspect of the values, norms or ideals perceived to be inherent in a culture, or section of a culture

                                                                                                          Because the definition doesn't = good food, I'd nominate Union Oyster House.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                            If something doesn't = good food, does the discussion even belong here in the first place?

                                                                                                            1. re: Gabatta

                                                                                                              If people want to talk about it, I'd say "yes".

                                                                                                          2. Please don't let the world think the Union Oyster House is an icon of Boston dining. It's a relic of a bygone age, an awful tourist trap whose one reason for existing, a decent first-floor raw bar that shucks to order, is thankfully no longer a novelty.

                                                                                                            Maybe the problem is that "iconic" is synonymous with "long-running", and Boston doesn't have many places that have been around for more than 30 years that you'd willingly go to on your own without out-of-town visitors insisting on it.

                                                                                                            Boston is a bit like London: lots of amazing history, but our culinary past is pretty awful. We've come a long way in the past 20 years, but the stuff before that is mostly kind of embarrassing.

                                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                              An "iconic" restaurant is about perception, not reality.

                                                                                                              It doesn't necessarily have to serve good food.

                                                                                                              Exhibit A: Hilltop itself.

                                                                                                              I think Union Oyster and Durgin Park serve bad food but they are iconic in my book.

                                                                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                Part of my problem is that I think that The Hilltop, Durgin-Park, and to a lesser extent Anthony's Pier 4 and the Union Oyster House all used to be significantly better, but an acquirer bought them or a second generation took over and milked profit from them by sharply dropping the quality.

                                                                                                                Memory is a tricky thing here -- did the place really get that much worse, or is it that my tastes have changed? -- but I tend to believe lifelong fans of The Hilltop who never stopped going and noted the steep decline. Maybe we need to bound the status by time period -- "It was the cat's pajamas in the Seventies" -- as opposed to iconic for all time, especially for places that are still going.

                                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                  Good question. Did my palate evolve such that even if the Hilltop had maintained its mid-1980s standards (last time I went there with any regularity), I would say feh to it now?

                                                                                                                  I think the milieu (how'd you like that 10 cent word, huh?) made a difference. In college or graduate school, setting out in the world, doing "adult" things like going to the Hilltop as pretty much an event.

                                                                                                                  Looking at it objectively, I don't think the food was any good even back then, but the atmosphere, the dining companions, and the sense of boundless possibility just made things "taste" better, maybe.

                                                                                                                  Look what you've done, you've got me all misty-eyed, damnit.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                                    I also wonder how much the circus atmosphere, the enormous crowds that places like Anthony's and the Hilltop drew in their prime, and the attendant long waits might have colored my youthful perceptions. "This place is overrun: it must be good!"

                                                                                                                    I know better than to trust the wisdom of crowds now, but I imagine being caught up in the proverbial herd as a younger diner.

                                                                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                      the wine list at Anthony's was stupendous in the 90s when i arrived while the food was serviceable. It was worth it just for the wine prices which were better than at Troquet.

                                                                                                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                                                        That was true right up until they closed, though you had to be choosier.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                                      I went to the Saugus Hilltop a few times in the late 80s, early 90s after moving up here from NYC after college, and the food wasn't particularly any good in my book, steaks that they sometimes cooked well, sometimes didn't. Lobster pie that was a bit of a mess, sides that were sort of edible...

                                                                                                                      Maybe they went downhill a bit, but also the world of Boston food has come a LONG, LONG way.

                                                                                                              2. A different side of the story.

                                                                                                                Hilltop was iconic because of Route 1 and their massive sign that people recognized who traveled that area of Route 1.

                                                                                                                This goes back before Rte. 93 and Rte 95 where even built, as Route 1 was the main highway north and south of Boston.

                                                                                                                That area of Route 1 made a lot of restaurants iconic, including Kowloon, Prince Pizza, Augustine's, Putnam Pantry, and although not a restaurant, The Green Apple (anybody remember that place). There are probably some I'm forgetting, but this area of Route 1 was developed, and you could pull off and get something to eat without getting off the the highway.

                                                                                                                I remember summers as a kid in my dads car with no air conditioning, driving to visit relatives in Quincy from the Merrimack Valley, with the windows in the car down, and the smell of steak grilling as you past by Hilltop.

                                                                                                                Hilltop was only iconic if you traveled that part of Route 1, and Union Oyster, Parker House, Regina's, Woodman's, and the like are iconic for a totally different reason, and what that reason is we can all have our own views.

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                                                  I'm going to guess Green Apple isn't related to a Golden (other fruit)?

                                                                                                                  1. re: L2k

                                                                                                                    Green Apple was before my time but I think it went through stages as a jazz club, them Gentlemen's club, them who knows what.
                                                                                                                    The building and neon sign were very sketchy, and the parking lot never really looked like anyone was there.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                                                      Female Impersonators at the Green Apple!!

                                                                                                                    2. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                                                      I grew up in that area - so I would add the Ship and the Continental to that classic Route 1 string. many memories

                                                                                                                    3. Probably Durgin-Park or the Union Oyster House. And Doyle's Cafe in JP is sneaking up there as all these other spots close.

                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                                                        I'm glad you mentioned Doyle's since it is one of the few things has has barely changed since my time in the Commonwealth in the 1970's (which is probably why I vote "Eddie Coyle" the best Boston movie of all time). UOH has been there for so long I think it qualifies as iconic even if one cavils about the food. people of my generation wax sentimental about Emerson's in Randolph (getting "grogged") but it was far from an icon. DP must qualify. If they were still around I'd vote Jimmy's over Pier Four although I did have a perfect farewell lunch at the latter back in 2007. It was exactly what I wanted it to be,which is not to say that it was excellent.

                                                                                                                        No Name lingers, too. But so much is gone I agree with the poster about the Clubs but even they have changed. And Doyles now sells Budweiser! Horrors!

                                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                            Oh, GOD!

                                                                                                                            I knew we were on a long, historic downslope when the Mass Pike took the arrow out of the Pilgrim's hat.

                                                                                                                          2. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                                            if you're adding doyle's i'll toss in jacob wirth. 1868.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                                              Eddie Coyle, what a great movie. Obligatory food/drink comment: Much of the movie was filmed at their hangout bar which used to be on Mass Ave between Newbury and Boylston, roughly where the Tower Records/Virgin/Best Buy/whatever in the Michael Graves building is now.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                                                I love that movie, too, and just reread the novel, which accounts for the film's gritty, authentic feel: most of the film's dialog was directly lifted from the book's pages. Mitchum's Boston accent is impressive.

                                                                                                                                The Newbury Street bar was the Kentucky Tavern. I don't remember it, but local dive-bar historians like Brother Cleve do, and fondly.

                                                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                  I recall it very well and practically cry when I pass by visiting town.

                                                                                                                                  We used to see GV Higgins holding court in Locke-Ober. he was a hoot.

                                                                                                                          3. Hilltop and Union are apples and oranges in any definition of iconic. Therefore the torch could not be possibly be passed to Union.

                                                                                                                            Union is purely an international tourist trap destination. I don't know a single person who would walk thru the doors of Union unless they were forced by an out of town guest - for at least the passed 20 years. (I just looked at over 300 pictures posted on yelp and not a single one looked edible)

                                                                                                                            Is there a local chowhound amongst us who has voluntarily visited Union a couple of times in the past year?

                                                                                                                            Suburbanites will come to Boston on the weekends and will still go to Durgin, would still go to Jimmy's or Anthony's Pier 4 as part of their local adventure of exploring the city or shopping at Haymarket. In the fall a road trip to pick apples and have a banana split at Kimballs. That's what Hilltop was. An adventure to be part of a cattle call. And sometimes we would take out of town guests there. And some people actually liked the iceburg salad and dressing.

                                                                                                                            Union may be iconic to the tourism board, but as far as the residents of the greater boston area for the past few decades and beyond

                                                                                                                            They are apples and oranges.

                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                              Must the pleasures of an iconic restaurant be confined to locals? Many out of territory travelers get a real thrill putting their elbows on the bar at UOH, with it's rich history.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                  Looks to me like many of the places we might call iconic are ancient tourist traps well past their prime. I don't know how you avoid that: old is old, after all. But I'm crossing my fingers that visitors look past the icons, which all date from an era before our local cuisine was very interesting or well-prepared, and often don't even represent their native eras as well as they used to.

                                                                                                                                  I think the Lydia-era Locke-Ober was about as good a Boston restaurant icon as we ever got: she shined up the gorgeous trappings and updated the menu enough to take it out of fly-in-amber status while leaving a few historic dishes untouched. Really a shame it's gone.

                                                                                                                                  While the food is pretty meh these days, I kind of like the idea of Doyle's Cafe as an icon. It's historic, an Irish pols' hangout, an original among Boston's countless cliched Irish-American taverns. There are a few that escape phoniness that way (J.J. Foley's Cafe in the South End comes to mind), but you could make the case for Doyle's as the archetype.

                                                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                    I put Doyle's on par with Kelley's Roast Beef (the orig. in Revere) and would not consider either iconic because, although they are institutions for locals, most outside of Boston have ever heard of them. Whereas many know of The Parker House, famous for their namesake rolls, Boston Cream Pie, and baked schrod, each an iconic food IMHO.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                      Very good distinction, between "iconic" and "institution". I'd argue that Cheers is "iconic", though hardly an institution.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                      I haven't been to either in a while. Must get to Foley's every so often.

                                                                                                                                2. I'll add the Pleasant Café in Rossie, Mug n Muffin in Norwood, and Wayside Inn in Sudbury.

                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: trufflehound

                                                                                                                                    As iconic ? Really? WTF is Mug n Muffin?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                      haven't heard of any of those either.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                        Mug and Muffin...now that brings back memories! Never been to the one in Norwood.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                          You've never heard of the Longfellow's Wayside Inn? 'Course you have!

                                                                                                                                          http://www.wayside.org/

                                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                            Never heard of the Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale??!!?? It's not amazing food, but the decor is like walking into a time machine, my grandfather and my uncles would drink there back in the day (50's and 60's). It's not destination dining, but people love there pizza (I just think it's okay, but whatevs), and I have said before on these boards that the fried clams are a hidden gem, if not as pricey as a gem!

                                                                                                                                      2. There's always Amrheins in Soutie.

                                                                                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: catsmeow

                                                                                                                                          I think people need to look up "Iconic" in the dictionary.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                            Blinstrub's was iconic back in the day! Amhreins? not so much. imho

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                              iconic
                                                                                                                                              adjective
                                                                                                                                              › very famous or popular, especially being considered to represent particular opinions or a particular time:

                                                                                                                                              1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                ?????

                                                                                                                                                If Blinstrub's wasn't iconic, I don't know what you would suggest?

                                                                                                                                                http://billrrrr.hubpages.com/hub/Judy...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                  Well, color me 'edumacated'.

                                                                                                                                                  You have a fair point although I think, compared to someplace like The Parker House or Durgin Park, Blintstrub's is relatively unknown to middle America. But you could talk me out of it!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                    i've lived in boston since 1981 and this is the 1st time i've heard of blinstrub's.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for posting. Now I feel less ignorant. I've lived in the Boston area since 1958 and it was news to me also.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                        This is pretty interesting in case you want to educamate yerself som moa of an old icon lost. I only know about it from the older set of friends and family who frequented it.

                                                                                                                                                        http://blinstrubas.com/blinstrubsclub...

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                          I've lived in the Boston area all my life and we had our high school "after prom" dinner at Blinstrubs. A little bit before your time, though. Simply put, an icon is a symbol. So in that sense I suppose Blinstrub's could possibly be referred to as an icon, but not now. Only Then.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                        R.I.P. Buzzy's. It was iconic. Those drunkards who successfully navigated the Grand Prix turns of Storrow Drive after closing time at the bars for a knish and RB sandwich without getting killed or caught (credit to J.J. Walker) are retiring now with good memories. Include me in.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                          BUZZY'S!! good call.

                                                                                                                                                          the owner of buzzy's cashed out for a small mint to dick friedman so the latter could build the liberty hotel.

                                                                                                                                                          one sommelier job i had, that buzzy's owner brought screaming eagle to a very special collectors' dinner. 1st time i got to try it. he holds a special place in my heart even if the wine wasn't "all that".

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                            Buzzy's and Hilltop, they were on regular rotation back in the day for me. On odd days it would be a pizza from Pizzeria Uno in Harvard Square, which was one of the first outside of Chicago, so it was different back then. Then upscaled into Division 16 (a minute of silence for the best burger in town, evah).

                                                                                                                                                            Nowadays, I would probably kill myself in 6 weeks with that rotation, so it's more Emma's salads and sandwiches for me when I'm feeling the need for grease. Or a High Price sausage sandwich. Or maybe a Pinocchio's cheesesteak, with all the trimmings.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                                                                              Division 16 burger was great but i will go to my grave defending the one at Tims Tavern as the best ever.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hyde

                                                                                                                                                                I'm with you, sob, I miss Tim's.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                  And it was a great ancient neighborhood bar. Watching the Quencher close causes similar pangs. They're not making 'em like that anymore.

                                                                                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                              2. Cafe Marliave deserves a mention. Though not open continuously the whole time, they did open in 1875.

                                                                                                                                                Though the original is long gone, Legal Sea Food is probably one of Boston's best known

                                                                                                                                                I don't think it's necessary to be among the city's best restaurants to be "iconic." In NYC, I'd guess that Tavern on the Green would be considered by many to be iconic.

                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                                                  Tavern on the Green was indeed iconic. I enjoy Legal in many cities, but I think iconic requires more history to qualify.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                    P.S. - Any restaurant in a mall, e.g. Legal in Chestnut Hill, will never be called "iconic"...:) Good food, though.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                                                    Since Legal Sea Food started in Boston over a hundred years ago I think it definitely qualifies as "iconic"

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                      anyone remember the Russian Tea House? I think Prince will have to take over for the Hilltop spot as iconic Rte 1 or the orange dinosaur mini golf, but that's not really food... The Ship is another iconic landmark on Rte 1 although its changed owners so many times and I have no idea how the latest incarnation is.. Having grown up in Metro West , I don't think that area has ever had an icon besides Kens, which I actually never ate at, although Joan and Eds and Ho Jos may have qualified as minor icons if they still existed..

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                        Legal Sea Food did not open over a hundred years ago. There was a "Legal Stamp Market" grocer owned by the Berkowitz family, which was not a fish market. The Legal Sea Food market opened in 1950, and the original restaurant opened in 1968.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                                                                                                                                            Sorry. I was over-connecting the dots :) I'd still say that something that age that's still in business is pretty iconic.

                                                                                                                                                            http://www.legalseafoods.com/About-Re...

                                                                                                                                                      2. In its heyday Hilltop defined who we are - as opposed to who we were, what others had pigeonholed us as, or who we aspired to be. The Chateau currently fits this bill.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pappabear

                                                                                                                                                            Yes, this translates well to the true meaning of iconic. Prior to their chain-like globalization, I believe Legal's may well have fit that definition as well. Now....not so much.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Personally I think it is not about the food in the end.

                                                                                                                                                            Union Oyster House is a crappy tourist trap, but it is also (I think some debate this) America's Oldest Restaurant, and the look and feel give you some nice old Boston vibe. The food sucks, I know this is chowhound, but in this particular case you are talking about a cultural institution, historic location, tourist destination that happens to serve (crappy) food. I don't think I've ever even had more than a beer there, but I certainly consider it a living icon of Boston culture and history. I'm glad it exists, I just choose not to eat there.

                                                                                                                                                            I would put Durgin Park also in a similar sphere though some of the chow used to be at least passable, and I have eaten there long ago.

                                                                                                                                                            25 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                Exactly, and I agree with both choices to be at the top of anyone's list as iconic Boston restaurants. I would add The Parker House for the very same reasons. To me 'iconic', in this context at least, means that you can mention the name to nearly anyone across this country and the name connotes "Boston". IMo far too many of the places mentioned here have been local institutions perhaps, but not fittingly called iconic.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                  One plus for Parker House, the Parker House Rolls and Boston Cream are are still great.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                  How would you know the food sucks if you've never had more than a beer there?

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: redips

                                                                                                                                                                    Countless, countless reports from hounds I trust and admire, ain't that the point of this whole thing.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: redips

                                                                                                                                                                      The food us horrible . The beer is cold

                                                                                                                                                                      This is a universal truth.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you, I knew that to be true before CH even existed.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                          I too have only had a cold beer and some acceptable, yet pricey, raw bar there, but honestly, how bad can a plate of fried sea scallops or scrod actually be? I'll give you that $22-$25 is borderline criminal, but is it really that lousy? Sometimes I think certain places get piled on because that's the fashionable thing to so here at Chowhound. Just like everyone is "supposed" to be enamored with Neptune Oyster. (which on my admittedly limited sampling is severely overrated)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                            Sorry disagree, you can really screw up fried food, I had some fried clams at Legal in the Pru that were so oily soggy I couldn't eat them.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                              ever walk by a place and smell the rancid oil from outside?

                                                                                                                                                                              <<shudder>>

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                                That one fucking grate right on the corner smells so awful.

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't understand how any tourists could ever walk by that thing and then choose to eat inside.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Beachowolfe

                                                                                                                                                                                  Tourists? I doubt they've even heard of the place

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sawxfan

                                                                                                                                                                                    they walk past it on the freedom trail and it's listed in many guidebooks.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                I can top that. I once ordered fried haddock at a seafood restaurant/market (not in Mass.), and was served exactly that. Fried. Haddock. No coating, batter, or anything else. The cook apparently though you just dropped the filets in the fryer like french fries!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                  The Legal at the Pru is a training restaurant. avoid it!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                  I am not interested in theories of CH having "fashionable" or "piling on" with certain restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The fact is that fried fish is limited by the quality of the fish that you start with.

                                                                                                                                                                                  How bad can it be? Being that you are on Cape Cod, you have to know that some scallops or scrod are right off the boat and are consumed a short time later. Some fish tends to be served in not as timely a fashion. Delicate, white fish is or bluefish are particularly sensitive to freshness. Tuna, if properly maintained has a better shelf life.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Mention and UOH both serve cod. I ok now they don't start with the same quality fish.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I've had some really good fried fish.perfectly flaky fish, not oily and crisp crust. I've also had soggy, oily batter with just a slight off taste or overcooked fish, likely to try to mask the less than pristine fish.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                                                                                    So educate me then in how the fish quality or prep at UOH is lacking, as all you've said is somehow "you know" they don't use a high quality cod.

                                                                                                                                                                                    My "piling on" comment relates to the fact that although I've seen dozens of posts calling out UOH, as horrendous, I've yet to read even one specific comment actually describing someone's personal experience eating the food. Your's included.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I certainly understand the difference between fresh and not fresh seafood (although I'd shoot any cook that tried to batter fry bluefish, fresh or otherwise), but it is reasonable to assume fresh product when eating at any place that does a brisk business. I specifically mentioned fried cod or scallops as, being on the Cape, those are two relatively safe choices here, even in the most dreadful of places. And we certainly have our fair share of those. It's difficult to make oily and soggy fish as even the most unskilled cook can usually work the fryolator. Both conditions can only occur when the oil isn't hot enough. I have a hard time believing that a place with such a small menu, where 50% is fried, doesn't have it's deep fryers up to heat.

                                                                                                                                                                                    You may not be interested theories. Well, I'm not interested in conjecture and generalities.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                      I bread and fry bluefish at home, but only super fresh if I catch it myself, awesome stuff actually. And sorry I totally disagree, in my experience more places wreck a fry job then those that consistently get it right.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                        I understand. And perhaps I am blessed having so many places locally where frying is all they do, so they do it right consistently. But I hate to read bash after bash after bash, with no specifics to back it up. That's the real point. While it may indeed be true, but until I read "I ate at UOH, had the XXX and it was lousy because...", it will seem like piling on.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                          About 40 years ago, a friendly shucker at UOH suggested a very old-school way of enjoying oysters, with just a little salt and white vinegar. I still often enjoy them that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                          please call me when the blues are running! It is one of my favorite fish I was introduced to while waitressing in Woods Hole back in the day. When it's good and jumped out of the water, it is the best! I would love to try it fried. The best I ever had was tossed to us by a fisherman in the harbor which we grilled on a hibachi and ate with our fingers!

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think their best eating size is July-August, when they are about 3-4 pounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                                                              My fishing is a bit limited as I have two kids under the age of three... When they are a little older...

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                                                                                                                                Love bluefish and had similar experiences, but we were on Nantucket. Every August. The best fish when it is right off the boat. We grilled it, as well, often right on the beach as the sun went down. A little lemon, sometimes a little mayo and a tweak of celery salt. Nothing finer.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                              You are the one who has theories about piling on and CH faves, not me.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I have eaten at UOH in the dining room several times when work functions required it. Wasn't' recently but I remember soggy fried clams. A broiled scrod was "acceptable" which is the same way you described your meal. I happen to enjoy the original oyster bar, where the oysters are shucked to order..as opposed to the dr, where they are pre shucked.

                                                                                                                                                                                              As to the quality of the cod, the best cod is expensive and commands a premium price. Without specifics of UOH, do you think that any generic faux Irish bar in Fanieul hall is selling the same cod as the best restaurants like Clio or 9 park,le bernardin? Same scallops?

                                                                                                                                                                                              With that said, because of it's great history and my feeling that to be "iconic" does not require great food, I consider UOH and DP rot be iconic.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Gotta run, my fresh tuna tartare is at the perfect temp..;)

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Windsor Café, where B-Side Lounge used to be?

                                                                                                                                                                                    Okay, not iconic - but maybe well-loved in its day.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: enhF94

                                                                                                                                                                                      "The best place in Cambridge to get an eight-ball and a stab wound." The Windsor was terrifying, and I only wandered in once, in daylight.

                                                                                                                                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                                                                        One of Cambridge's most iconic, maybe, along with The Tasty, Wurst Haus, and Nick's Beef and Beer House. Now, probably Mr. Bartley's. Cantab serves a burger greasy enough to remind me of The Tasty.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CportJ

                                                                                                                                                                                          When did the Cantab start serving food again?

                                                                                                                                                                                          Not too long after the folks from Tims moved in (ie the burgers) they shut down the food service. This was a few years back now, so perhaps they've returned food?

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Kelly's roast beef. iconic, regional and pretty damn good.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I do not know if iconic is always defined as something really old, but I do know that in addition to the places mentioned already, my out of town visitors always want to go to Neptune Oyster, Eastern Standard, Craigie on Main and No. 9 Park. They also want to try the food trucks. New icons?

                                                                                                                                                                                            I try protect them from Cheers, Durgin Park and Union Oyster House, but a couple have sneaked out of my place to give them a go.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mvi

                                                                                                                                                                                              Durgin Park has always been legendary, and it still is. The food is fantastic and I'm PROUD to take out of town visitors there. Durgin Park isn't going anywhere and will still be around long after you're gone.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sawxfan

                                                                                                                                                                                                My own memory, which I wouldn't call entirely reliable, has Durgin-Park being much better before it became an Ark property. I think both the food and the unique charm have since taken a couple of big steps down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. In my mind Iconic means different things to different people.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Iconic in what sense? Longevity, ethnicity, historical, location?
                                                                                                                                                                                              Iconic to whom? The country, visitors, neighborhoods, natives?
                                                                                                                                                                                              Iconic for what? Food, service?

                                                                                                                                                                                              With these questions in mind I think it's almost impossible to name a truly iconic Boston restaurant. We have such a diverse population the demographics of which change rapidly. Is there really a restaurant that represents Boston cuisine given that an icon is a symbol/representation?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. The iconic places inarguably have history, pop culture, and colloquial quirkiness on their side. Malcolm X, Ho Chi Minh, Daniel Webster, Sam and Diane, Eddie Coyle. .

                                                                                                                                                                                                The original batter-fried steamer clam! That roast beef sandwich with a side of seagulls pecking at your fries! Two ancient pizza places deemed the old-school best! The chowder eaten by five recent Presidents!

                                                                                                                                                                                                Don't know about you, but I'm mostly trying to talk visitors out of these places. I will grant you their iconic status -- just please don't make me eat at most of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. as an aside, i'd like to thank the mods for not scrubbing this thread. we're not generally allowed a stroll down memory lane.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                                                    We're happy to take the thanks but we did make a policy change a while back to allow posts about dearly departed restaurants even if they aren't relevant to the current chow scene. So if you've been dying to reminisce about Buzzy's, The Tasty, or Deli Haus, it's fair game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                                                                                                      so can we start a thread about which of the dearly departed was the dirtiest? ;O

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I thought we could leave the Combat Zone out of this....:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                          i didn't know harry's served food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                                                            In the Combat Zone, beer counted as food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Buzzy's was a true pit backstage but actually after visiting the bathrooms and getting a quick tour of the kitchen at China Pearl about 20 years ago, I returned to the table informed my wife that we were leaving and I have never returned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Many fuzzy memories of Deli Haus. A friend of mine remarked after taking a bite out of a petrified potato pancake, "I thought I ordered them boneless."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Jimmy's Steer House, Arlington, MA

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hard to believe, it has been such a stalwart.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Fond memories of the last night at the old location: second of two seatings, Julia Child had my table for the first seating, chatted at the cross over. I imagine the last week will be a similar party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Merci Gordon, et bonne chance!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We will have to return for one last chicken hurrah! As others have shared, even with the recipe widely available - it's just not the same. Congratulations to them and happy retirement. It will be interesting to see who takes over this iconic space.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. S&S Deli in Cambridge. Now it's more of a full blown restaurant than just deli but it's been around for close to 100 years in the same location.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MeffaBabe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yea, but unfortunately it hasn't been much more than Sysco awful for about 25 of those 100 years...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MeffaBabe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    last few times I ate at S&S didn't quite recognize it as food.