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Boston - Monday night, casual dinner, serious foodie

Hi. Visiting from Chicago for business. Planning to go to dinner with a small group 3-5 near Liberty Hotel Cambridge (?). One is a serious foodie who prefers small plates, sharing, etc. Examples of Chicago restaurants that worked well include Girl and the Goat, Sienna Tavern, Sable, Mercado and Bar Toma.

Cost is not a huge concern - moderate to expensive is ok, ludicrously expensive or a place known to be extremely high priced may be of issue. Generally, good food, good service, interesting fare and preferably "Boston". Not looking for the standard white table cloth steak business dinner.

Thanks to all in advance.

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  1. Alden and Harlow in Harvard Square would work well. I ate there for the first time last night and was very impressed. It is also an easy trip from the Liberty Hotel via T or cab.

    Another great option would be Coppa in the South End. Toro would work well also, but does not take reservations.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Matt H

      highly recc Coopa and Alden and Harlow as well.
      gotta nix aquataine . it feels soulless and corporate and contrived.
      plus 1 on Hammersley-- 20yrs+ fantastic overall

    2. Liberty Hotel is a little bit in no-man's land for the sort of thing you're looking for (though Scampo, right in the hotel, is an excellent restaurant and possible to orchestrate a table-sharing situation with a proactive swath through the menu).

      Alden & Harlow is a good suggestion. Another place worth checking out is West Bridge (also a short cab ride).

        1. Rendezvous in Central square Cambridge has tapas on Monday night...great value, great food. A bit across the river cab ride or on the Red Line from Charles/MGH stop near your hotel. Just two stops and you get the lovely view going over the river. You can get a reservation and order from both tapas and regular menu. They have a cassoulet tapa now that's great...well, they all are.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Madrid

            Totally agree w/this Rendezvous req. Went last Monday & had a terrific array of tapas e.g. Grilled sardines, roasted huge shell-on shrimp, tender fried oysters, meaty roasted lamb ribs, cassoulet of pork, duck & sausage,etc. plus delish desserts, great service, atmosphere & pricing. Plenty of other good selections on the regular menu too. http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com/

          2. I think the LIberty Hotel is in Boston.

            I am from Chi-town, and when i think Boston, I think seafood. And so, I would recommend Island Creek Oyster Bar or Neptune Oyster (which does not take reservations.) I have always found a seat at the bar at Island Creek.

            The pan fried lobster at Summer Shack is one of my favorite dishes in Boston though the rest of the food is merely good. You can take the red line from your hotel to Harvard Square; we have a miniature subway system here, but it works well from harvard square to Boston.

            Coppa has good Italian food but is loud, ditto Toro.

            You could go for the 1.00 oysters at Rialto in Harvard Square, but you would have to be there by 6 30 or so and sit in the bar area.

            1 Reply
            1. Thanks. I'll try to update post event. Appreciate the ideas!

              1. 'foodie' and 'boston' are opposites imo. Boston is Island Creek Oyster Bar and it's fantastic but is not a small plates innovative spot. A 10 min cab would get you to Oleana, a major foodie destination, and primarily Turkish .
                But I agree with Alden and Harlow and Rendezvous
                as maybe your best bet for small plates, good atmosphere, great food. A&H 25-30 min cab.; Reendezvous 15 min. cab.

                This is way more info than you want, but you might find it useful if you come back for a longer stay:

                Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:



                Dinner Spots that I would highly recommend :
                If Creative, unique one-of-a-kind food experiences are a priority for you, I would hop to Oleana and Ribelle in a heartbeat. And Asta and OYa for much higher tickets.

                Oleana- predominantly Turkish, w/ a lot of creative riffs. One of the 3 or 4 Boston restnts where you will have truly unique food that you will not have elsewhere. Spices and grains. beans and greens, a world to discover and savor. Many feel the mezze are the strong point, but entrees can be unforgetable as well. As the menu is always changing, the only way to do it right-- is to go back often. If I were a visiting foodie who had 'been there, eaten that', I would happily alot 2 nights to Oleana during my Boston stay Blazing winter hearth , and charming patio in season. Cambridge

                Erbaluce- unusual inventive No.Italian Piedmontese. South End

                Craigie on Main- famous for offal but also seafood. Cambridge

                OYa- v.v.expensive Japanese American inventive. South Station

                Neptune Oyster- crowded tiny, always a line, top quality raw bar; inventive seafood along w/ trad.Leave your name and stroll the fascinating North End. (no resvtns-NR
                Island Creek Oyster Bar- the BEST service, large room yet intimate, more trad but some inventive.

                Toro- possibly the loudest room in Boston, full-out Tapas (the inventive often more successful than the trad) yet their Paella is unbeatably unctuous. South End .NR

                Aquitaine- THE spot in the So. End when you're exhausted and you want to be taken care of. Classic French Bistro food beautifully done in a beautiful room, w/ gracious top notch service. South End.
                Strip T's (in a 'suburb', 10 min cab from Harvard Square) Casual small treasure for serious foodies; Momofuku chef; great inventive Asian- inspired, but also exc.fried chicken and unusual terrific burger. Watertown.

                Ribelle- new outpost for Strip T's owner/chef. A very broad menu of small and large plates w/ two or three times more components than you would likely see on other menus. With dishes this inventive and full of surprises, the food is the focus for the night, and the starches, veggies and condiments are as exciting as the meats and seafood. Brookline

                Sycamore- 30 min car or train ride West to affluent Newton Centre and this welcoming veteran run spot with many unique twists on Mediterranean ideas.(see the Daily Duck, Lamb or Pork board- with four mini entree ,starch and veg.medleys !)
                For Brunch, you cannot have more fun than at East Coast Grill . 25 yrs as a real locals' fav for all ages; latin, mexican,bbq and and seafood; Bloody Mary bar; great vibe. Cambridge
                Myers and Chang- all the pluses of East Coast Grill for brunch, but it is Asian. This place is always hoppin' and the food,service and very creative bar are super. The air is full of happy campers having fun. Edge of So. End

                Ribelle- as with all things Ribelle, don't let the minimal menu descriptions fool you. Cerebral, unexpected, luscious. WOW's abound. Brookline

                4 Replies
                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  On what planet is a cab ride from the liberty hotel to harvard square 25 minutes, except for brief periods of excessively high traffic on mass ave? Not to mention you're assigning Central->Harvard as a 10 minute cab ride.

                  The red line generally takes 5-6 minutes to traverse Charles/MGH (right at Liberty Hotel) to Central Sq (ie Rendezvous) and another couple minutes to Harvard Sq (A&H). That's pretty convenient. A cab ride is usually a little bit longer than that, but not by much.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    "Aquitaine- THE spot in the So. End when you're exhausted and you want to be taken care of. Classic French Bistro food beautifully done in a beautiful room, w/ gracious top notch service. South End."

                    I think Mr. Hamersley would have something to say about Aquitaine being "THE spot" in the South End.

                    1. re: KevinJF

                      I have a hard time believing that Gordon Hammersley would be that petty.

                      1. re: Bellachefa

                        agreed- prob not concerned about Aquitaine too much either--- its practically a cheesecake factory(!) ;(

                  2. I'll ditto the Oleana recommendation, and add Sarma to the list. Both owned by the same (awesome) chef!

                    1 Reply
                    1. Your hotel is in Boston on the Charles across from Cambridge. Scampo is nice but I'd get out of the hotel. Taking the red line to Harvard is a good suggestion.
                      If you want to stay within walking distance, Ristorante Toscano is on Charles Street.

                      1. was recently in chicago. great food town. (despite some knocks here, boston is a good food town. do we have an Alinea? no. do we have plenty of good foodie options? absolutely.)

                        most of these have been mentioned, but to reiterate some of bostons best.

                        island creek oyster - if you are seafood lovers, go here. easy cab or T (cab if work is paying!)
                        puritan - modern New England by Will Gilson in inman sq cambridge - quick hop over the river
                        sarma - small plates by Ana Sartun (Oleana, which is also wonderful) turkish/middle eastern/med
                        coppa - italian by jamie bissonette/ken oringer in south end. ken is probably the ~ paul kahan of boston?
                        toro - tapas by jamie bissonette/ken oringer in south end
                        rendezvous - farm to table in Central Sq
                        alden and harlow - newest addition, in harvard sq. shared plates
                        bergamot - FTT - just outside harvard sq

                        1. obi, how did your dinner go?