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A Chowhound Challenge: Older, Finicky Theatre District edition

Greetings, savvy hounds! Hoping for some dining advice in or near the Theatre District -- an area I don't know well.

My parents are taking us to a matinee for Hanukkah, followed by a nice dinner out, on a Saturday in December. There will be a group of six: My somewhat older parents, a sister and brother-in-law in from the Midwest (but sis is Boston native), and Mr. Swank and myself.

Looking for a tasty, satisfying group dinner spot for about 5:30pm on a Saturday that could cater to a small and perhaps finicky group that doesn't want to overspend. Parents are on a somewhat fixed budget (and they are treating); more than budget, they have a very set version of what quality means. They are not into ethnic cuisine. They are willing to spend but not for food they find "weird" or confusing. I suggested Chinatown (they do like Chinese) and they said no. For some refernece, previous city meals with them have been L'Osteria North End, or 75 Chestnut. They are big fans of The Cottage in Wellesley.

My sister and brother-in-law are adventurous but sort of want to "see Boston." Sis hasn't lived here in 20 years, bro-in-law is from Chicago and a steak and potato person...so...would like to take them to a newer place that feels urban and unique. They would do Chinatown, but parents aren't having it.

Any ideas? Mr. Swank and I will eat anywhere or anything. Walking distance of WANG Theatre would be good.

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      1. With the caveat that I haven't been there in quite awhile, have you looked at Teatro? It's more urban than L'Osteria but safe for the not-adventurous. It used to be quite loud, but perhaps not at that hour. Davio's would probably fit the bill food-wise but is more pricey. Neither is new, but I haven't been impressed by the 'new' places I've tried down that way (which is not to suggest I've tried everything!).

        1. Teatro or Troquet. My mother is also picky and set in her ways re: food. Will not eat anything " ethnic" either ( would rather chew off her own arm than eat anywhere in Chinatown) and nowhere with staff younger than 30. Is always an issue. Best of luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kat

            Troquet is really spendy ...

            This is quite a challenge. Does it have tone within walking distance?

          2. J.J. Foley's might work. It would probably be my first choice given your restrictions. Da Vinci is upscale and good Italian and provides a different direction. Bistro du Midi is probably a little pricey for your folks, but check out the menus. I have not eaten at Abby Lane but it has the distinct advantage of being right across the street from the Wang and looks pretty mainstream.

            19 Replies
            1. re: teezeetoo

              Foley's was my thought too. A little casual but old school Boston. Easy walk if its not freezing. Easy for the Brother-in-Law and not pricey.

              Probably no issues seating which there can be at Myers & Chang ( or thats my experience).

              Picco isnt far but it seems to always be full.

              1. re: hyde

                Are you serious? This sounds like a horrible idea to me. Old, finicky parents who like The Cottage in Wellesley, out for a Hanukkah celebration post matinee... and you'd send them to JJ Foley's? It's a great place to grab some beers and OK bar food, nothing more.

                Not to mention that walk to the South End location is godawful. (DTX location is a bit closer I think).

                Maybe Kingston Station would work. Foley's? No way.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    The Kingston St Foley's has a much more stripped-down food menu than the South End though, mostly just basic bar appetizers and sandwiches. Definitely not "a nice dinner out".

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      And in fact there is no business connection between the various Foley's establishments around town (which include J.J. Foley's Fireside Tavern in JP, Foley's liquor store in Brookline, and Foley's Backstreet Grille in Stoughton).

                      I believe the owners of the DTX and South End Foley'ses are cousins, but that's it.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Interesting--I thought that at least the South End/DTX locations shared owners, but that explains the wildly different food approaches.

                  2. re: Beachowolfe

                    I guess you are right.

                    I was thinking of my parents who into their 80's would have found the place a hoot and would have laughed out loud that you find a walk of 800 yards "godawful".

                    Also beer, and i dont think their food is that bad.

                    Sue me.

                    1. re: hyde

                      thinkin about it... how much are you worth?

                      1. re: hyde

                        How is it 800 yards from the Theatre District to E. Berkeley Street? And it's not a pretty walk that you could enjoy, like the walk to Bistro du Midi or Troquet.

                        1. re: MartyF1112

                          A little over half a mile, a 10-12 minute walk. Two quick stops on the Silver Line bus. That stretch is a little desolate at night.


                          1. re: MartyF1112

                            It was a guess. I lived in the neighborhood for ten years and its a two minute bike ride. One block up on E. Berk and all the way up Tremont, 1/2 mile +, around 800 yards or so. It is NOT "much farther".

                            In NYC one walks this far to buy a newspaper.

                            I will concede that its not a pretty walk, which is why they put the gallows here.

                            My point was my view is skewed as my parents would have not thought twice about the walk.

                            1. re: hyde

                              It's not an especially safe walk. I have worked in the area for 25 years.

                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                Then you remember when it was REALLY bad.

                                I will restate.

                                "Though not a particularly pretty walk and possibly questionable late at night, the walk from jjFoleys to the Wang Center is about 1/2 a mile and should take no more than 10 minutes."

                                Thats it. Im out.

                                1. re: hyde

                                  I had two joint replacements in my forties. walking distance is very person dependent. When I could walk, I walked miles upon miles and also ran miles. Now after my third joint replacement, I am lucky to walk a block.

                                  1. re: hyde

                                    I suggested Foley tfirst so let hyde off the hook! I was thinking of the Kingston Street one which is exactly 800 meters (1/2 a mile). If you are mobility-challenged, that's maybe more than you want to walk. I had thought of J.M Curleys but that's closer to 3/4 of a mile. Swank will know if his family would comfortably walk either distance. Bistro du Midi and Teatro seemed too pricey for his question re: his family picking up the tab. I also suggested Da Vinci which I think has a less expensive pre-theater and is definitely closer. So sue me! I'm not really getting the deep investment in the distance issue as it's always a personal matter how far you want to walk. I tend to assume folks check this out for themselves and also recommend they check out menus for anyplace they are considering. Seems reasonable to me.

                                2. re: hyde

                                  actually, the gallows were further down -- closer to what is now malden st.

                                  and obvz the whole area looked nothing like it does now.

                              2. re: hyde

                                Its MUCH farther than 800 yards from the Wang to JJ Foley's on E. Berkeley St.

                                And a crappy/creepy walk at night.

                              3. re: Beachowolfe

                                Imagine if they suggested taking the T as well! Horrors!

                          2. Is the South End too far? If not, maybe Myers and Chang or Coppa?

                            The more I think of it though, I think Marliave's is the best suggestion. It's within walking distance and I think could satisfy both parents and sis/brother-in-law. The main downfall is probably the cost.

                            1. Bistro du Midi may (just barely) fit the requirements, although it might be slightly pricey.

                              1. I think Teatro would be perfect. My mother's an unadventurous eater and Teatro is one of the few places that suits us both. The food and service is consistently good and it's a great value. We particularly love the beet salad, eggplant rollatini, spinach ravioli and the pasta bolognese. The chocolate crema is good, too.

                                1. How about Petit Robert Central in Downtown Crossing.


                                  I think that menu might have something for everyone and the prices are a bit lower than some of the suggestions.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: BostonZest

                                    Location-wise this is a smart choice, but the food is completely forgettable. What about Bistro du Midi, Marliave, or Teatro?

                                  2. I'd agree with the Teatro rec as well. If that doesn't quite work or is too pricey, perhaps JM Curley would work? More homey meals like pork chop, fried chicken or steak frites. A little less expensive. Tasty burger. Close to the theaters.

                                    1. I tend to view the least adventurous diners as the gating factor, I'd lean duller for the parents than more adventurous for the sister.

                                      I haven't been, but the newish Abby Lane looks like it might fit the bill. Right across from the Wang, with a rather square menu: http://www.abbylaneboston.com/menus/A...

                                      Side note: that's one of the more obnoxious restaurant websites I've seen lately.


                                      1. I actually don't like Abbey Road - I went once and was not impressed. I also don't think my parents would like it at all.

                                        I agree with recommendations of Petit Robert Central, Marliave, and Teatro. One other that I'd add to the list is Sip. They have great "normal" steak and potatoes type options, some fun small plates, sushi, and a great wine list. I've gone before shows before and had a great experience.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: addiez

                                          I second Sip. Fun atmosphere, wide variety of food choices. Also, as a great bonus, if you eat there they will validate you for FREE parking for the whole evening. Nice savings right there. :)

                                          1. re: kt1969

                                            the food at Sip is really not good at all though. All of their desserts seem premade & pre-frozen.

                                          2. re: addiez

                                            abbey road was to me the equivalent of a mall restaurant somewhere in fly-over country. utterly forgettable and totally unbelievable that it's under santos' direction.

                                            love jm curley but it's small and can feel kinda elbow-to-elbow. along with jj foley's neither feels like a special night out with the rents after a show and as a hanukah celebration.

                                            will pile on for teatro. the noise has been mitigated and as with all columbus group places, the service is always great. they also open at 5:00 on saturdays. so take a walk through the commons after your show and then head over for dinner.

                                            is beacon hill bistro an option? nice walk through the common and public gardens, then over to charles st.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              Everybody, it's Abby Lane! Nothing to do with the Beatles.

                                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                                  lol. correctomundo. more like abbey lame.

                                            2. I think Teatro is your best bet. Food never disappoints and service is sensative to theatre-goers. I would make a reservation for a 5:30 seating, as it is a popular before theatre spot. We've taken all age groups there with an excellent result.

                                              1. So, this suggestion admittedly is not at all chow-y, but if the parents like unadventurous Chinese, what about PF Chang's? It isn't that spendy and is within walking distance.

                                                1. Marliave is really good, but I don't think it is terribly budget friendly.

                                                  Since Italian seems to be considered "non weird" food for your parents, what about Maggiano's? I know it's a chain and all, but the food is decent and it's reasonably-priced.

                                                  There's also the places at the Transportation Building, Rock Bottom Brewery and California Pizza Kitchen.

                                                  I'm just shooting for the least-challenging options, since that is what you will need to keep the picky folks happy.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: mwk

                                                    I am almost afraid to ask, but - what is the CH opinion regarding Jacob Wirth?

                                                    1. re: Swankalicious

                                                      sadly - no. good beer, but for the twenty five years I've dined there they never transformed to food beyond serviceable. I wish they would.

                                                      1. re: Swankalicious

                                                        The American side of the menu is passable; the German food is dreadful. Decent beer, fun drunken howl-along with a pianist on weekend nights.


                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Really? they can't even execute a decent wurst plate anymore? Its probably been almost 10 years since I've been, but I remember the wurst plate and schnitzel being good.Last meal I had there was schweinshaxen and it was good - not the best, but not dreadful either.

                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                            The elder Swanks are favoring this option. Hopefully I can suggest an alternative!! Thank you for your input, everybody.

                                                            1. re: Swankalicious

                                                              Jacob Wirth? Yikes ... It's awful, food-wise.

                                                              Is Davio's too spendy ?

                                                              I haven't been to Teatro for years but obviously people like it.

                                                              My last few meals at maggianos have not sucked.

                                                              1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                The food at Jacob Wirth's isn't great, but stick with the simpler items from the American side of the menu and you'll get by. The atmosphere makes up for the food to some extent, and I've certainly eaten there of my own volition because it *is* a fun place.

                                                                LStaff, it's possible the wurst plate is still passable, but the last time I tried the German food - within the past 5 years - I had the schnitzel, and it most emphatically was NOT good.

                                                                1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                  Well if you must, then just suck it up and lie thru your teeth that you like the food and make the best of it. My mom once insisted that we have a ladies luncheon at Oscars at the Waldorf in NYC. There was no talking her out of it and how fantastic she said it would be. At the end of the day, I avoided the buffet and she loved it.

                                                                  If it's their treat and their celebration, then enjoy the historical room and have fun. If it makes them happy. . . . .

                                                                  1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                    The elder MVIs, who sound like your folks, would go for this, too. Aside from the noise level, I think they'd be fine at Jacob Wirth's. Sometimes proximity is best, especially if the weather is awful. Frankly, at the age my parents have achieved, I try not worry too much about it. As long as they can hear (Dad thinks every restaurant in Boston is way too loud), as long as there's a certain cleanliness to the place and as long as it is close to a destination if we are going somewhere else, that's all that counts. We went to the theatre two years ago when they were here and ended up at McCormick and Schmicks (Dad's choice before seeing Shear Madness), which was just vile. We laugh about it now. And I've had my dad complain about things at places that are really good, like Giulia in Cambridge and Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square. Now when they come to town, I just let him choose, and then I order extra booze if the food stinks.

                                                                    1. re: mvi

                                                                      I was wondering if anyone would mention Wirth's. Actually...I kinda liked it. And my dad - who grew up working in the family sausage factory in Worcester, MA, said it was pretty good.
                                                                      Given that it is a Hannukkah celebration, I should warn you JW's is pretty pork-centric.
                                                                      Further down the street are pretty good burgers at Rock Bottom.
                                                                      Neither one is fancy

                                                                  2. re: LStaff

                                                                    To be fair, I haven't eaten from that side of the menu in a long while, either, but I have always characterized those German dishes as tasting as though they were made in the morning and sat on a steam table all day. I don't expect they feel any pressure to up their game there.


                                                                  1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                    I would order and enjoy the wedge salad again. Admittedly, the fact that they still offer a wedge salad tells you when the menu was last updated, but it was entirely tasty!

                                                                    You could do a lot, lot, lot worse than Jacob Wirth. Go there, enjoy your time with family and don't sweat it. One merely-passable meal is not going to kill you.

                                                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                      everything old is new again.

                                                                      LOTS of places do wedge salads these days.

                                                                      mad men, mebbe?

                                                                  2. re: mwk

                                                                    We love Marliave before or after a performance in the Theater District. Purportedly the "oldest restaurant in Boston," it looks it, in the best possible way. I don't find it cost prohibitive at all, and the staff--as well as the food--is great.

                                                                    Marliave bends toward a French bistro vibe, offering steak frites, Beef Wellington, escargot and Croque Madame; but it rounds out the menu with a few well-executed pasta dishes and great salads and sandwiches.

                                                                    It's our favorite when visiting the Theater District. Park at the garage down the street and walk from parking, to restaurent, to theater.

                                                                    Enjoy your visit.


                                                                    1. re: rosiebcook

                                                                      The Union Oyster House, which bills itself as the oldest restaurant in the US, precedes it, I'm pretty sure.

                                                                      IMO, Marliave is frustratingly inconsistent in both food and service .

                                                                  3. It's probably more expensive than you want on this occasion, but you might look at Market Boston by Jean-Georges Vongerichten (http://www.marketbyjgboston.com/), which is extremely close to the Wang Theatre and very good.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: owades

                                                                      They also have a pre-theater pre-fix menu which would fit your time frame and would make it more affordable. Limited choices though.

                                                                      1. re: owades

                                                                        It's definitely a special-occasion restaurant, it will please all the palates in the family without feeling stodgy, and is close to the theater and is blissfully quiet. Sounds perfect- I hope the price point isn't too steep.

                                                                      2. 49 Social? I had a nice piece of filet mignon, and my sister enjoyed their lobster ravioli. Not too challenging, not too expensive, close to most of the Theatre District. I think they have deals on Savored.

                                                                        1. Avila's? Flemmings (good for the steak and potato guy)?

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                The most recent craigslist ad I saw for hiring at Ostra put its opening this month.


                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB


                                                                                  I went by it maybe 3 weeks ago and it definitely was aways away, but I thought the date was sometime in Oct. But how many places make their projected dates?

                                                                          1. What about Salvatore's ? The space looks pleasant and the food is probably innocuous, and it is right in the Theater District. My wife has been to the Medford outpost, and she reports that it is fine.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: weg

                                                                              I will say in Salvatore's defense that it is very convenient. But it is punishingly mediocre.


                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                Update for those of you on the edge of your seats: The elder Swanks have spoken. We're dining at Jake Wirth.

                                                                                Any recommendations on what to eat (or what to avoid)? The menu actually does look interesting, and the atmosphere looks fun.

                                                                                1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                                  It's a great room. They decorate old school. They have some great beers. Festive. They will be happy, and you will enjoy the company~

                                                                                  Food? Not sure.

                                                                                  Happy First in the History of the Universe
                                                                                  Thanksgiving collides with Hanakkuh!

                                                                                  1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                                    Wurst plates are decent, and the pub-food type things such as salads, fish & chips, burgers, and sandwiches are acceptable. (Oh, and the fries calamari appetizer it surprisingly good.)

                                                                                    Avoid the schnitzels and the sauerbraten at all costs.

                                                                                      1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                                        I'm late to this discussion but as this is a fait accompli, I have a few suggestions. Someone at your table will be tempted by the sausage-sauerkraut balls. Don't do it! I've been sucked in twice now (it's the beer what done it) and they are not good. I've also ordered the burger and wouldn't again as mine was overcooked and flavorless in spite of request for med rare. I probably should've sent it back but I didn't feel like getting into it. The wienerschnitzel would be well served with a light hand but alas it's greasy and heavy. I got through it with large doses of lemon juice.

                                                                                        I do recommend the fried pickles; that and the beer is the reason I'll stop in here. You might ask for the pickles well done; they can taste floury and which way it goes is a crap shoot. And I like the red cabbage. And the beet salad. My nieces adore the mac and cheese.

                                                                                        For beer they have Leffe brown, which is my go-to.

                                                                                        ETA: I just remembered this is during Hanukkah, so the sausage-kraut balls may be off the table. Which is exactly where they belong!