1 or 2 nights in Boston -- historic ambiance w/ quality food?

I am worked at Harvard for years. I had to quit working when we adopted from foster care, so I haven’t been to the Harvard Faculty Club in a long time. I used to host many events there. It probably has the ambiance you are looking for, but the food back when I knew it, was OK, sometimes good, but not great. I was curious about whether Harvard affiliation is necessary (website is ambiguous) so I just called them. I was told they are reservation only for all meals, but general public is welcome. There is no dedicated parking…just street parking. This is not geared to tourists. And this is the Faculty Club on Quincy St. in Cambridge…not the Harvard Club in Back Bay Boston, which is a private club that I’m happy to say I’ve never experienced.

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You might want to check out the Hungry I on Charles Street.

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Thanks again. Stoddard’s looks like fun, albeit not exactly the scene I was aiming for. I’ll add it to the list nonetheless and continue exploring your other recommendations.

This place looks really nice. How would you describe the food? Is it a compromise or a place you’d be happy to recommend despite the rigid criteria I’ve set forth?

I could be mistaken, but I seem to recall having brunch at the Faculty Club years back. I’ll explore this one further too; thanks!

Warren Tavern in Charlestown is the historic ambiance for sure. The food is not very good at all, however. A drink there might be a good way to experience the place. The street parking there is very difficult and much of it is resident parking only.

I personally love Neptune Oyster but it is not that “old” and does not take reservations. They get mobbed and it is very small. You can get on the list and they will call you when space is available.

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There is nothing like Carbone here unfortunately. I’m not entirely clear on exactly what you are looking for. However from your list above Mamma Maria still does an excellent job and the setting on North Square is rich with history.

I feel Neptune has slipped (https://www.hungryonion.org/t/neptune-oyster-boston-north-end/3911). It has become more of a tourist destination (i.e. will be sitting with lots of people photographing their food). Also my recent experiences are that the price to value has slipped, while the service is still iffy. I’d opt for the newly opened but outstanding Saltie Girl (https://www.hungryonion.org/t/saltie-girl-back-bay-boston-ma/5594) in the Back Bay instead for lunch.

If you’re looking for a chophouse, Grill 23 might check the boxes for you atmosphere wise.

Thanks Uni, particularly for the Saltie Girl rec. It looks terrific!

I’ve noted Grill 23 as well and I’ll sit down with my wife this evening and make some decision.

The chef formerly at Neptune Oyster opened Select Oyster in the Back Bay some time ago. I haven’t had a chance to try it myself, but reviews seem positive.

Over the years when visiting Boston we have enjoyed 75 Chestnut housed on a lovely historic street in Beacon Hill. Sort of an upscale tavern menu and great cocktails, charming too. Same ownership as Cheers but better…

For the chophouse thing, Boston Chops is very good in a beautiful room with 20 foot ceilings. It used to be a bank.

The Oak Long Bar is a nice room, too, but the food and service have been haphazard for me.

Jacob Wirth is horrible. Durgin Park is horrible and entirely touristy. Union Oyster’s food is terrible but a beer and some oysters on the first floor will give you the ambiance you are looking for.

With the caveat that I haven’t been there in years and mostly went for brunch, I do think it meets most of your criteria. The food was good, if not especially outstanding, and service was excellent. The atmosphere is really lovely, with exposed brick and a cozy feel, right in the Beacon Hill area, so plenty of history around there. Others may have more recent experiences to share, but I would recommend it for the criteria you seek.

For historic ambience, you can’t beat Doyle’s in JP.

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I love the ambiance at Doyles, but the food has gotten even worse in recent years. Sit at the historic bar and get a drink. Eat elsewhere.


I love Doyle’s. Been going there regularly since "84.

But I agree, the food totally sucks. Drink a few beers there and then head to other parts of JP to eat.

Agreed, and to add on to this, I wouldn’t go to Green Dragon or Cheers for food. Cheers (either location, Fanuiel or Beacon st) are not historical and are essentially designated tourist traps, but since you are will technically be a tourist, I can’t fault you if are curious to check it out. I will say though, if you skip it, you aren’t missing much.

Since you mention Locke Ober specifically, the new restaurant there, Yvonne’s, is a beautiful space in the same old Historic Building. The food, however, is not “old school,” I would consider it new American. It is not cheap, so if the food isn’t down your alley, maybe just grab a drink there and check out the building.


Thanks very much. I’m sure I’ve been to Cheers before, although I have no memory of it. I doubt if we’ll bother. It’s an old list and not everything is relevant. Thanks for letting me know about Yvonne’s – I’m checking it out right now!

this is a frightening statement

I second both Hungry I and Yvonne’s. Yvonne’s is a cheeky take on historic Lock-Ober - check out the paintings. From a distance they appear to be classic portraiture - but are something very different when you get close. I think the food doesn’t get sufficient love - we’ve been twice and had stellar meals both times. Baked oysters always seem to be on the menu - occaisionally as Oysters Rockefeller. We’ve enjoyed their “feasts” - e.g. Chateaubriand - and they make my SO’s favorite dirty martini.


Thanks for the Yvonne’s tip, where my fave, Locke-Ober held court for à century +…

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold