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recs please for downtown stay 3 nights

I am a south Florida Chowhounder visiting Boston for the first time this coming weekend March 28. We are staying at the Colonnade near the public library and Fenway. I am interested in good food and the atmosphere can be almost any type. 3 nights are needed with some breakfast and lunch spots as well. Any cuisine will do and we have plenty of fresh seafood here (although not counting it out completely). Casual dress is preferred with nothing where we'd have to get too dressed up. A walk or short taxi ride is preferred. Thanks!

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  1. Welcome to the 'hood. I live a couple of blocks from your hotel. Some logistical questions: Will you be traveling around for sight seeing? Will you have a car? Are you OK with public transit?

    Your hotel is across Huntington Ave. from the Prudential Center, a large office/hotel/retail/apartment complex. There is one worthwhile place in the complex on the other side on Boylston St: L'Espalier. Worth going to although expensive. Reservations necessary.

    The rest of the places in the immediate vicinity are mostly not fabulous. I would recommend Sorrelina on Huntington Ave. near Dartmouth St. Also, the restaurant in your hotel, Brasserie Jo, is good.

    For breakfast, to avoid the cost of hotel breakfasts, go next door to Thornton's. It's one-half block west on Huntington Ave.

    For something different for lunch, try the Salty Pig on Dartmouth St. across from Back Bay Station. Excellent charcuterie. About two blocks from your hotel.

    1. I had a wonderful lunch on Saturday at Pho Basil on Massachusetts Avenue right across the Christian Science Center from your hotel.

      There are food trucks scheduled for the space near the fountain across from the Colonnade. Three at at time as a rule. There will be a new schedule out on April 1st that you can check at the city's link.


      This spot is listed as Back Bay-Prudential, on Belvidere Street.

      You can walk to most of the South End restaurants. I would include Hamersley's Bistro as one of your evenings. It has been a long time favorite with many Boston food fans.

      Coppa is a wonderful lunch or dinner option in the South End. I love to spend an afternoon sharing small plates of wonderful food there. And, a great cheese shop, Formaggio South End is across the street.


      1. You are not far from a local favorite, Eastern Standard, and its immediate neighbor, Island Creek Oyster Bar. They are both in Kenmore Square, part of the Hotel Commonwealth complex. A nice walk for you if the weather is nice.

        You can also walk in the other direction and you'll get to Chinatown, which has a wide range of places to try. Everyone has opinions on their favorites, which you can learn more about on this board. It's right near the Rose Kennedy Greenway which has the food trucks, and they are especially welcoming when the sun is shining.

        It has been very cold and dreary here, but hopefully spring weather will come up with you from South Florida. If so, do walk through the Public Garden which is a treasure in the spring, and then head down Charles Street towards Mass. General where there are several good restaurants, bakeries and shops to explore.

        We have enjoyed the Colonnade. The French restaurant there, Brasserie Joe, is well respected, so if it is pouring rain or you just don't feel like going far, don't discount it. Have fun!

          1. re: wandergirl

            If you go to the Buttery, ask to sit downstairs. Hopefully they will have the gas fireplace going, and the space is pretty unique. The food is good, too. It can be hard to get a table without a reservation, but it's worth a try.

          2. Sandwiches - Parish Cafe

            I do think it's worth trying some New England seafood while you're up here, since it's so different from what you get in South Florida. You might really enjoy a place like Island Creek Oyster Bar that mvi mentioned.

            L'Espalier, which BBHound suggested sounds like what you don't want to be honest. It's one of the more formal rooms in Boston (with the caveat that Boston is a very casual city). If you want a nicer meal without some of the formality, I'd suggest going to Asta.

            I'll add a +1 for Chinatown. You might enjoy a place like Q or Shojo. Both are very comfortable (read: clean and modern) for Chinatown.

            Any interest in cocktails? Craft beer?

            1. This is our upcoming celebratory staycation night on the town.

              If you stop into Bra Joe's for an expensive cocktail, ask the bartender for some carrots and bread. No really, I love their complimentary carrots!

              If you like tuna tartar- head to Sorrelina and either order your own or share an order. They happily split them. You could also share the lobster gnocchi and sop up the lobster butter with their simple yet admirable bread. they also do an amazing riff on oysters with a lovely granita.

              Jump in a cab and head to the Liberty Hotel for a lobster pizza at Scampo.

              Well that's our plans for our next stay cation, although we will be at The Liberty (an old prison that had its interior gutted while retaining the architectural bones of the jailhouse) and likely eating the lobster pizza in bed watching a movie while the hipsters bang on the prison gates.

              I too like Pho Basil on mass ave.

              1. Second Thornton's for a diner sort of breakfast (nothing fance but good). For quick coffee and baked goods/quiche/awesome breakfast sandwich, there's a Flour (Joanne Chang) a couple of blocks away on Clarendon Street.

                Coppa - italian by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette
                Toro - tapas by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette
                Salty Pig - casual, very reasonable $ and top notch pizzas, pastas, salads, charc
                Myers + Chang - funky Chinese
                Neptune - one of the best, seafood, small, usually a wait but just put your name in and grab a drink close by, theyll call you. an easy T ride to the North End (lots to see and soak up) perfect for a late post rush lunch
                Eastern Standard - bistro, a Boston fave
                Island Creek Oyster - seafood (probably want a reservation if you arent a try your luck at the bar person) plenty of places in this area to grab a drink before/after. Lower Depths for pub/beer, Hawthorne for craft cocktails
                JM Curley - weekday lunch or dinner - gastropub nr Park Station
                Merrill & Co - havent been just opened in South End (so near you) but getting good reviews

                For lunch the Rose Kennedy Mall (nr South Station) has food trucks daily if its nice out

                A lot of the best eating is in Cambridge so don't discount a #1 bus trip / cab ride over the river for Alden & Harlow, Oleana, Bondir, Bergamot, Rendezvous, or The Cellar.

                Have fun!

                1. Thanks everyone for the detailed responses. We will be sightseeing and probably do the Fenway tour, maybe the Aquarium, and maybe Skywalk observatory nearby. Is there something else that needs to be on the list? (in short and disguised in food based reply since topics can't stray on here)

                  Public trans maybe during the day if a train is near but bus probably not. We don't plan on getting a car since parking is $50 per day at hotel. Food trucks probably will be out since it's too cold for us to eat outside, even if it's 55 degrees (it appears to be on it's way).

                  I quickly browsed all of the recs on here and many fit the bill. The Cambridge recs look excellent and on a different level of menu offerings. Drinks aren't big on the list. There's quite a few standouts so I will have to do some more investigating on their menus. Thanks again to everyone!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: freakerdude

                    Quick note for transport since you weren't sure if a train was near: the Prudential stop on the Green Line is conveniently right outside your hotel.

                    Inbound this would take you to Chinatown (Boylston stop) or to Park St, close to some of the recommendations and the transfer stop for the Red Line which would take you to Cambridge.

                    Outbound (E branch of Green Line) is a short 3-stop ride to the Museum of Fine Arts, which is another great sightseeing destination and which (food-relevant) has a beautiful and tasty new restaurant in the recently opened Arts of the Americas wing.

                    Normally the T would be a good way to get to the Aquarium, but the relevant transfer stop just closed for construction, so I'd recommend taking a cab.

                    1. re: freakerdude

                      you're right on the major green lines. E line/ Prudential stop is closest but note that it doesnt run as often as BC and D lines that go through Copley. so often its worth it to walk to Copley to go inbound (or to take a BCD back top Copley and walk to the Colonnade, considering how intermittent the E line is. Is it 3 blocks closer, yes. Might that 3 blocks cost you a 20 minute wait on the platform depending on time of day, yes)

                      The closest green line stop to the Aquarium is Haymarket, and equi distant from the Govt Center stop that just closed. No need to cab if you are OK with a 5-10 min walk. And Neptune is very close to Haymarket!

                      Top of the Hub is a good place to get a drink - with a stunning view - but not eat. The Skywalk is cool but you're just there and then looking at this stuff from a distance VS the Freedom Trail walking tour or a Duck Tour (very fun and entertaining and a whirlwind cover everything, tour that goes in the Charles River too)

                      The #1 bus, which runs down Mass Ave to Harvard Sq, is very easy and quick. It's a main line that comes often. You'd be in Cambridge in 10 min - vs 30 minutes going in on green line and switching to red. A lot of worthy spots to eat at in Central, Harvard, Kendall and Inman.

                      1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                        The #1 bus is great. Frequent and cheap right to lots of great destinations in Cambridge.

                        1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                          Neptune sounds good and we might try it on Sunday before the Celtics game or Aquarium. Is it possible to do a walk in and get a bar seat on a Sunday 5pm? Thanks

                          1. re: freakerdude

                            It's supposed to rain all day so your odds might improve, but normally that is a crazy time like so many others. (The odder the time, the better chance....like 4pm or 1st thing...)

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              Thanks oc, we are going to give it a try. All of the recs we have followed on here have been excellent. I'll give a report when we return Tuesday.

                      2. It was a great time eating in Boston thanks to everyone here. First I have to comment on my "no seafood...we have fresh seafood here in Florida" comment. Man was I wrong and you can tell we have never been to Boston, as most places we ate at were seafood oriented and great at that.

                        English Standard - excellent place with old style interior and probably our favorite dinner. The bar had great service and bartenders mixing drinks are on a completely different level than here. Excellent oysters, seared salmon with brussels was very good, and the Daube de Boeuf with curry was something we have never tried before. This place was spot on everything and great service. Fresh ground medium roast pulled espressos...none of the months old pre ground plastic pod junk here!

                        Union Oyster House - very good lunch spot with the "We can say we ate at the oldest resto in America" flare. Clam chowder was excellent as were the oysters but the fried oyster sandwich was killa!

                        Island Creek Oyster House - younger more hip crowd than ES and the food was right on par with it as well. Again, excellent bartenders serving us. Excellent tilefish with ricotta gnochi and great oysters. Cool decor inside.

                        Neptune's Oyster - excellent selection of oysters and the hot buttered lobster roll was top notch! Small and cozy inside and again, great service at the bar.

                        Five Napkin Burger - good lunch spot across from the hotel and I knew of one other in Miami.

                        Thoronton's - close by and served a purpose...cheap breakfast. We never at at Brasserie Jo though

                        ES and ICOH take mixed drinks to a new level. We have never seen a place hand out so many cocktail menus to people behind us while at the bar. And these guys are extremely knowledgeable about their drinks too!

                        Thanks again everyone, we ate at some excellent restos with your help!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: freakerdude

                          so happy to hear of all your success! I bet your friends are feeling very lucky to have had you directing the food and bev part of the trip!

                          1. re: freakerdude

                            Thanks for following up. Sounds like you had a great time. Come back soon. There's always a lot going on in Boston.

                            1. re: freakerdude

                              Eastern Standard and ICOB are just two of Boston's many top quality cocktail spots. If you return there's another one in the same building that as good, if not better, The Hawthorne. A great cocktail bar with some yummy bar snacks, rather than a restaurant with great cocktails, like the other two. Glad you had a great trip, you ate at some great places!