Gimme lobstah!
June 23, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

My gentleman friend and I will be spending the weekend in Boston. We've been before, so we've covered the Newbury stretch and would like to branch out a bit this time. We'd like to eat and drink at some great local places (no chains, please). Neptune Oyster is on our list. What are some of your favorite restaurants and/or bars in Boston and why? (We're staying at a hotel on the Waterfront, but are certainly not limited to that area.) Thanks all!
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh, if you're on the waterfront, try Lucky's (for a fun speakeasy-type place) and Drink (an amazing cocktail bar). Lucky's is just fun, Drink is educational and delicious -- but if you're here on the weekend, get in early. It's a small and very popular place, and you really get more out of it if you have a bartender who can take the time to talk to you, find out what you like, and tell you about the drink he or she has made you.

Also, I love the restaurant Toro in the South End. They don't take reservations, so get there earlier in the evening, or be willing to wait for an hour or two. (Or hop up to a bar seat if it opens up)
posted by olinerd at 8:43 AM on June 23, 2010

B&G Oysters is amazing -- probably the best food I had in Boston -- but expect to pay accordingly. We had lobster rolls for a week and none was in the same sphere as B&G's. We also went at lunch, which was nice as it was uncrowded and there were a few specials.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:49 AM on June 23, 2010

My favorite slightly-nice, not-too-expensive bar-type place is Silvertone, and it's near Park Street and the Common. There are a lot of places doing comfort food these days, but these guys have been doing it well for years. As with the recommendations above, you might trying going sometime other than rush hours, as it gets busy.

Chacarero has unique, fresh, inexpensive Chilean sandwiches - there's a reason they have huge lines during the week at lunch, but on the weekend you shouldn't have a problem.

And if you're willing to spend a little dough, Craigie on Main in Cambridge is my favorite high-end restaurant, and it's not far from the T. Enjoy!
posted by ldthomps at 8:56 AM on June 23, 2010

I like the Union Oyster House, especially for the atmosphere. It is is also solidly on the "Must See" list.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:58 AM on June 23, 2010

ldthomps: "Chacarero has unique, fresh, inexpensive Chilean sandwiches - there's a reason they have huge lines during the week at lunch, but on the weekend you shouldn't have a problem."

They're closed on weekends :(
posted by Perplexity at 8:59 AM on June 23, 2010

Go to the South End

Seconding Toro in excellence and in wait time. I recently was told there would be a three hour wait.

Orinoco is amazing Venezuelan food. Try the arepas and a mojito. The Beehive has great food and live music. Delux is my all time favorite dive bar. They have cheap drinks, and a great mix of good old drinkin' music. You can sit under the Elvis shrine, which is always fun. They also have remarkably delicious food. Homemade tortilla chips and unique quesadillas. If Drink proves to be too crowded, you can always check out The Franklin, which also has delicious and interesting cocktails.
posted by samsarah at 8:59 AM on June 23, 2010

The Gallows is a new place in the South End that is currently getting *a lot* of love on Chowhound. I haven't been there yet myself, but I thought with this kind of praise it couldn't hurt to pass along.
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:29 AM on June 23, 2010

Orinoco is great. Delux is fun, and the food is pretty good for a dive. I like Lucky's for drinks, but I think their kitchen is not too good; I got their fried chicken last Friday and my GF got their mussels, and each was let's-not-ever-eat-here-again level of gross.

I would definitely avoid Silvertone; it's nothing special and it's in a basement.

If you're in the mood for Asian, you might try Myers and Chang in the South End which has some good East/West fusion and nice drinks.

However, my strongest recommendation is for Hungry Mother in Cambridge (take red line T to Kendall Sq.). The menu is Frenchified southern food and is extraordinary. If you go, sit at the bar and chat with Nede ("Ned" with an e), if he's working; he is a phenomenal bartender; I generally just ask him to make whatever he feels like, and it's always great. Often, he makes up his own recipes. One of the most successful I can recall was telling him I wanted something "herbal" and ending up with something with a hand-crafted rye, umpteen things I've never heard of, and an imported German herbal bitters. I would go every night, if I lived closer.

Another idea might be to go to the Oak Room Bar at the Fairmont Hotel by the library (I'd skip the over-priced restaurant); they make good cocktails and their burger is pretty good and actually not too expensive. It's all oaky and clubby there. Waiters are delightfully rude.
posted by dam1975 at 9:35 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dali in Cambridge has amazing tapas and an awesome, sexy, surreal vibe. It's a can't-miss. The Sunset Grill in Allston has a legendary beer selection, good food, and is in a cool neighborhood. Legal Seafood is great but you don't want chains, so try East Coast Grill in Cambridge for excellent seafood. Ooh, and Bukowski's in Cambridge is a fun bar, also with an impressive beer selection.
posted by tetralix at 9:43 AM on June 23, 2010

I agree the Union Oyster House is worth a visit but just do oysters and beers at the bar. Do not sit down to eat dinner there unless you want to overpay for mediocre food and atrocious service.

Delux is indeed great. Also in the South End is Hamersely's whose roast chicken with lemon and parsley is one of the best dishes in Boston. The atmosphere is a bit stuffy though.

Since you're on the waterfront you should hit up Sel de la Terre for pastries and coffee in the morning and/or a nightcap on the way back to the hotel. Dinner there can be great but it's more hit or miss than it should be for the price.
posted by otio at 9:58 AM on June 23, 2010

Oleana in Cambridge is spectacular; one of my favorite restaurants, period. The food is out-of-this-world, the atmosphere is romantic, and I hear the garden is great this time of year.
posted by The Michael The at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2010

I came in here to recommend Hungry Mother, so consider this a second vote in its favor. Have fun!
posted by cider at 10:05 AM on June 23, 2010

Spending the weekend in Boston? THIS weekend? If so, slightly off topic, but I would check out the Cambridge Dance Party if I were you.
posted by teragram at 10:16 AM on June 23, 2010

The Barking Crab isn't elegant or romantic by any stretch, but it's classic Boston, they have amazing seafood straight off the boat, and it's a short walk from whichever hotel you're staying at.
posted by Plutor at 10:39 AM on June 23, 2010

We're having a meetup this weekend if you're interested.

The places my drunk hipster foodie friends like to go for cocktails:
-Eastern Standard (Kenmore Square)
-The Independent (Union Square, Somerville)
-Russell House Tavern (Harvard Square, Cambridge)
-Drink (Waterfront)

That said, my current favorite place to go is Grendel's Den, in Harvard. Food is half price if you order a drink, their bar is really good, and they have a lot of vegetarian/vegan options if you are looking for that. It's definitely a locals place and they're more than happy to let you sit and drink for hours without hassling you.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:43 AM on June 23, 2010

My girlfriend and I had a great experience at Toro a few weeks ago. Definitely get there early (just after open if possible) and grab a bar seat and some drinks for the 30 minutes before they start serving food. The food and drinks were both great (and authentically Catalan) and they even had Estrella Damm in the bottle, so I really felt almost like I was back in Barcelona.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:47 AM on June 23, 2010

Best answer: Staying away from food in this reply, since I think you could go straight to the Boston Chowhound board for that and get much more info than I could give here. Plus, my answers are a little Cambridge-/Somerville-centric, I admit.

Beer: Cambridge Common (Cambridge near Harvard Square: large selection of well kept American craft brews; very casual; not very good food; younger crowd), Publick House (Brookline: w/ Belgian-infuenced food that gets mixed reviews though I like it -- worth a trip especially if you like Belgian beer as they have easily the city's biggest draught selection; check our their other bar nearby, American Craft, for, well, American craft brews and similarly received food), Lord Hobo (Cambridge near Kendall Square: good beer and decent cocktails; food OK but expensive for what it is), Deep Ellum (Allston: mix of hipstery/grown-up; mix of Belgian and American craft beer; excellent cocktails; decent cheap bar snacks; other food mostly a let down), Sunset Grill and Tap (Allston; studenty; cheap and not very good food; probably still the most taps in town and was once a beer nerd outpost because of that), Bukowski's (downtown Boston or Inman Square, Cambridge -- though I don't like the Cambridge one's atmosphere; good taps, OK bar food), Redbones (Davis Square, Somerville: good number of taps and serves decent BBQ (though southerners may disagree)), Green Street (Central Square, Cambridge; well selected but limited taps; excellent cocktails; great fast-food-style burger), Trina's Starlite Lounge (Inman Square: fantastic, arch conception of craft cocktails, lowbrow and highbrow beer choices and cheap comfort food dripping with hipster retro: hot-dog-of-the-day, cheap burgers, fried chicken, things with chocolate-covered bacon in, etc.), The Independent (Union Square, Somerville: good range of beer; decent taste in DJs; very good cocktails; reasonably good food); Christopher's (Porter Square, Cambridge: owned by the Cambridge Common people, a bit more "mature" and slightly better food, but maybe a bit boring).

Cocktails: Green Street, Trina's Starlite Lounge, Deep Ellum, Drink (flashier vibe), Oak Room, etc., etc. places I haven't been.

So my top recs for a place where you can both drink beer and get good cocktails: Green Street / Deep Ellum / Trina's Starlite. Drink does not serve beer and is a bit "it" and not so hip as the others on my list, but it's undoubtedly got some of the best bartenders in the city. If you can handle the hipster feel and want to snack on comfort food, head straight to Trina's (I really like this place, but some don't).

Places compatible with each other in a crawl sense, that I and others have mentioned:

-- Hungry Mother is close to Lord Hobo
-- Oleana is close to Lord Hobo
-- Oleana is close to Inman Square

In Inman Square: Trina's, Bukowski's, East Coast Grill, All Star Sandwich Bar, Punjabi Dhaba (amusing semi-cafeteria-style Indian place), The Druid (strong Irish pub with good vegeburger and fish and chips), Tupelo (cheaper southern-influenced food than Hungry Mother and well regarded), some Portuguese restaurants, etc., etc.

Green Street is in Central Square near River Gods (Irish pub, decent food, decent music, nice staff), venues like the Middle East, TT The Bear's, Middlesex Lounge, the Enormous Room, Miracle of Science is a good pub out there, Mary Chung's and Pu Pu Hot Pot Chinese restaurants are M.I.T. institutions, etc., etc.

Sorry, but I ran out of steam.
posted by galaksit at 10:53 AM on June 23, 2010

Oops, yes, Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square for cocktails too.
posted by galaksit at 10:54 AM on June 23, 2010

What's your price range, by the way? There are great suggestions up the thread, but it would help to know whether you're wanting to drop, say, close to $200 for a bang up multi-course, multi-cocktail meal at the Hungry Mother, or $25 for full meals for two (including a delicious guava lassi each!) from Punjabi Dhaba.

The Blue Room (right by the Hungry Mother, and close to Lord Hobo etc) is also pretty good. For that matter, the Friendly Toast, which is a dressed down hipster diner in the same complex is also surprisingly tasty. Blue Room also has a special prix fixe meal that you can coordinate with a movie at the Landmark Cinema (arthouse movies, though a chain) in the same complex--though call ahead if that's what you want to do, as there are some timing restrictions. But it is a good deal.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:16 AM on June 23, 2010

You could come to a meet up!
posted by zizzle at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2010

I'm going to suggest Cambridge One (Harvard Square) for some pretty kickass charcoal grilled pizza, and Cambridge Brewing Company (Kendall Square) for some good beer.
posted by thesmophoron at 12:23 PM on June 23, 2010

Dali in Somerville. Bring your wallet.
posted by eatcake at 12:42 PM on June 23, 2010

I second B&G Oyster, Hamersley's, Toro and The Franklin in the South End.

Other favorites in the South End are:

Harrison Ave:
Gaslight Brasserie, Rocca Kitchen & Bar
Washington Street:
Stella, Union Bar and Grille
Shawmut Ave.:
South End Buttery, Coppa
Tremont Street:
Aquitaine, Stephi's on Tremont, Metropolis Café, POPS, The Butcher Shop (across from B&G Oyster)
posted by ericb at 2:29 PM on June 23, 2010 should hit up Sel de la Terre

Yes ... and as is mentioned above it is on the waterfront near the New England Aquarium.

BTW -- Sel de la Terre is a sister restaurant to L'Espalier -- often considered the finest restaurant in Boston. L'Espalier has always been very expensive. Sel de la Terre has two locations: on the waterfront and in the new Mandarin Oriental on Boylston Street (to where L'Espalier has also moved) and is reasonably priced.
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on June 23, 2010

I keep forgetting to mention great places posted by others, but ericb is right on with Gaslight--this is another place where you can have a really great meal at the bar and get away with a few dollars left in your pocket. The mussels are just superb; they're made with Pernod and the slight hint of anise it lends to the mussels is fantastique. However, Gaslight is not a place where you would necessarily want the bartenders to get creative; they're more workmen than artisans, in my experience.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2010 should hit up Sel de la Terre


No! I think Sel de la Terre is overpriced for what you get. To me, it just feels like industrial strength fine dining for the expense account crowd. I've been maybe 6-7 times (on an expense account--I ain't hatin') and the food is never objectionable, but also not particularly noteworthy. I'd take Gaslight over Sel de la Terre any day of the week. Hell, I'd take Aceituna over Sel de la Terra any day of the week AMIRITE?!!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:45 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gaslight--this is another place where you can have a really great meal at the bar and get away with a few dollars left in your pocket.

BTW -- Gaslight is the restaurant that served as a location for the new Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz film 'Knight and Day' (which opened today). You can see it in the trailer for the film.
posted by ericb at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2010

Cambridge Common has the worst service in the world. I still eat there regularly, because of the convenience factor, but can hardly recommend it. If you're in Harvard Square, go to Daedalus, which has lovely staff and a kickass rooftop dining area.
posted by ewiar at 11:13 PM on June 23, 2010

I don't think Cambridge Common and Daedalus are really comparable -- I suggested CC purely as a beer destination, but in every other respect I would agree Daedalus is much, much better.

If I were in Harvard I would also consider Russell House Tavern (new and great) and Tory Row. Outside Harvard near Cambridge Common is also Chez Henri with excellent cocktails and a strong bar menu, including the most renowned "posh" Cuban sandwich in the area.
posted by galaksit at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2010

Not to derail (but totally to derail), is there a consensus on other Cuban sandwiches in Boston? I've been to Chez Henri several times for the Cuban sandwiches, and I don't think they're all that--usually pretty greasy and not too crispy-cheesy. The woman who sits outside my office is from Miami and said there was a little bodega kind of place by Harvard law (i.e., by Chez Henri) that did a great Cuban, but I haven't found it.

Henri's cocktails are pretty good--there's a nice version of a French 77 that's tasty.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:19 AM on June 25, 2010

he woman who sits outside my office is from Miami and said there was a little bodega kind of place by Harvard law (i.e., by Chez Henri) that did a great Cuban, but I haven't found it.

Montrose Spa.
posted by ewiar at 2:29 PM on February 19, 2011

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