First time Boston next month! Will stay at the Intercontinental, so near the South Boston waterfront. Flying in on a Saturday, and leaving the next Wednesday evening for NYC. So, 4 nights in total. It’s work-related, so I don’t have every day to eat and wander around.
I’ve already done some research, based on HO and google, and below are my top picks. Any standouts, or have I missed anything special? Any peculiarities regarding the ones below, or ordering advice? Suggestions for cocktail bars? Thanks!
Fox & The Knife
Reelhouse Oyster Bar
Flight Club Boston (drinks)
James Hook & Co
Smith & Wollensky
Toscano (want to visit the Beacon Hill neighbourhood Sunday afternoon)
I would not choose Ocean Prime or Smith & Wollensky, both national chains and nothing “Boston” about them. And, at least in the case of S&W, not very good. In the Seaport there is Chickadee, which is very, very good. In the South End, SRV is one of my favorites although it’s been awhile as I have not been around much lately. Others will have more up to date advice. Enjoy your trip!
If you want a great lobster roll and other outstanding seafood, skip James Hook and head to Neptune Oyster in the North End. It’s a tiny place that fills quickly and doesn’t take reservations. Get there early; if you aren’t seated immediately, they’ll call you when space becomes available. There are solo seats at the bar. While you wait, stroll around, stop in at Modern Pastry to get dessert for later, and pop into a nearby restaraunt for a drink.
Where are you from/what are you looking for in your first visit to Boston? Food you can’t get at home/otherwise in your previous travels?
Neptune Oyster is amazing; we have enjoyed it many times. Buttered lobster roll, fried oysters on pork confit, cioppino, anything with crab, oysters. Depending on the weather and the wait time, it can be worth it. Walking around the North End while waiting to get in to Neptune Oyster can be an enchanting experience. It’s still for me and I’ve lived in Boston since 1989.
The former chef of Neptune, Michael Serpa, has gone on to open several seafood restaurants in Boston.
I have not had the chance to try any of them, unfortunately, but given the many times we loved Serpa’s food at Neptune, consider checking them out.
I agree with Gretchen; no reason to chose a nationwide chain while in Boston or anywhere else.
It doesn’t sound like you have time or are planning to cross the river and visit Cambridge. Our favorites (and we are far from alone) across the river are Oleana in Cambridge and sister restaurant Sarma in Somerville. Neither especially easy to get to via public transportation. Middle Eastern. Superb. Moeca in Cambridge also just got a best new restaurant award from Bon Appetit. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/best-new-restaurants-2023/
Walking around Harvard Square, where Moeca is located, can also be a fun experience.
You might want to look at Boston Eater, which doesn’t have a paywall.
I hope you enjoy your trip, and please report back!
@damiano One of my favorite HO’s coming to my hometown and the only advice (out of your list) is to definitely cross off bartaco. I’ve been to both the Boston and Westchester (Port Chester NY) locales…let’s just say that the crowds who go are not discerning about food.
Also, I’ve been to Toscano Beacon Hill a few times many years ago. It gives off a faux-fancy Italian vibe but it’s nothing special. But the wine pours were generous and the pasta dishes were decent in a fancy neighborhood that is somehow bereft of good food.
I’ve heard good things about Alcove. We’ve never been but we have gone to Night Shift brewery next door and I always feel envious of the people eating there (Night Shift is a fun scene, but I wish the food was better).
We spied Reel House Oyster Bar (not the East Boston location) this summer when entertaining out-of-town friends and it’s a fantastic location. But I don’t know anything about the food there.
Do let us know how we can help to whittle down your list. Boston can sometimes be tough to navigate for such a small city.
I have not been to Peregrine in person, but we have enjoyed their original sister restaurant Juliet in Union Square, Somerville, many times. We got delivery from Peregrine during the pandemic, and it was fantastic. And Peregrine is right on Beacon Hill, could be a lovely stop on a stroll there.
As for using the Boston area MTBA public transit system, I did it for decades pre pandemic. I would encourage anyone who wants to use it to try google maps to get the most reliable information on routes and timing. Google in my opinion provides much better info than the trip planning tool on the MBTA web site. The T has not been functioning well for quite some time now. Multiple shut downs and reduced speed on the subways.
Sarma is really hard to get a reservation, accepts walk ins at the bar. Worth trying for sure if the menu appeals. I’d go there 3 times a week if I could afford it! The outdoor garden dining at Oleana is magical. Even if you can get a reservation (also difficult), of course they can’t guarantee outdoors because of weather. Sitting in the back room indoors facing the garden is also wonderful. Oleana also accepts walk ins at the bar.
And yes, Uber can get you anywhere in Boston area, if you are willing to pay surge rates when they become applicable. I don’t remember when you left Boston area, Honkman, but traffic now at many times is much worse than pre pandemic. So “fast” is an increasingly relative term.
I’ve only eaten at the Quincy location of Reelhouse and it’s fine, but nothing special. It has a global food influenced menu. Good reminder on the East Boston location, as I believe that’s the original. There is a Reelhouse Oyster Bar right off Seaport (closer to OP’s hotel) that is smaller and I think raw bar focused. I’m sure the raw bar is fine, but the best thing of that location is probably the ocean view. If OP is not as concerned with the view, Row 34 in Seaport/Fort Point line is also good and has a solid menu. If Boston specific is a must, then the Union Oyster House raw bar is the only food worth having at that restaurant (history aside). Otherwise, two good seafood spots in the Back Bay - Saltie Girl and Select Oyster Bar.
Some other things that I think Boston does well:
Bahn Mi - you’re close enough to Chinatown to stop by one of the Bahn Mi shops (163/Mei Sum/Banh Mi Hong Que) - note that many of these shops are cash only
Belle Isle (Winthrop) or Courthouse Seafood (Cambridge) - for proper New England fried clams with bellies
I’m well aware I can only scratch the surface of all that Boston has to offer in just a few days. So, my expectations are low. Luckily, and thanks to you all, I’ve already seen many perfect suggestions.
I’d love to have seafood, lobster rolls in particular. Neptune Oyster sounds perfect. I also have a preference for typical Boston/US foods, including perhaps a good burger. And then ideally places that are walking distance from my hotel, or say 15 min away by car max.
Your hotel is close to the Barking Crab. The last time I went was decades ago, and it was terrible.
Yelp might be helpful to read about recent experiences with waiting times at Neptune Oyster. The North End neighborhood is charming to walk around and you can do part of the Boston Harbor Walk to get there from your hotel.
The former chef at Neptune, Michael Serpa, is now the owner of the recommended Select Oyster.
If you will have a rental car, keep in mind that parking in Boston is often extremely difficult. Also keep in mind that there may be an influx of tourist leaf-peepers in the area during your visit here. The leaf season is later than it used to be due to climate change.
Lot’s of good advice from local HOs, I’ll just reinforce the suggestion to avoid national chains, e.g. S & W and Ocean Prime. Toscano is sturdy but not very exciting. Fox and the Knife should be on your must-try list.
Some favorites I haven’t seen mentioned yet: Saltie Girl, Row 34, and splurge-worthy places Menton and Mooncusser.