Boston: A City of Cosmopolitan Tastes

Pierre-Henri Laurent, December 2000

Boston, the "Hub City," has never lacked attractions of a world-class level for any visitor. In one area, excellent and varied restaurants, the last decade has produced a strong group of new establishments that have proven themselves and a few older restaurants that have continued their first-rate offerings. The following list includes the best of the eating places that are within walking distance of the Back Bay meeting hotels or within three "T" (subway) stops. A shorter list of more moderately priced places in the same area has been included, followed by a group of distinguished restaurants in Cambridge and the nearby western suburbs. All telephone numbers have the area code 617 unless otherwise indicated.

Dinner prices of the following range from $20 to $40 for a main dish and exclude drinks, taxes, and tips; all either require reservations or strongly suggest them.

Biba, 272 Boylston St., 426-7878. A glamorous, even stunning, setting both with a great Boston Garden view and a large variety of dishes which, many believe, constitute the best in Boston. A warm place with eclectic dining. Try the lobster pizza, believe it or not.

Brasserie Jo, 120 Huntington Ave., 425-3240. Alsatian nouvelle cuisine that features many reasonably priced meat and fish dishes and some luxurious desserts. Every French, German, and Belgian beer is available. Some favorite dishes are the onion tart and the spiced shrimp bag.

Capital Grille, 359 Newbury St., 262-8900. One of the newest chefs in town who emphasizes creative dry aged-beef entrée combinations with delectable sauces. Superior service and a subtle but striking décor.

Clio, 370A Commonwealth Ave., 536-7200. Another relative newcomer to the Boston cuisine scene in the Eliot Hotel, with a menu that ranges from lobster to venison. A spectacular room where everyone is treated royally and with tastes from the cuisine of several continents.

The Federalist, 15 Beacon St., 670-2515. So near the State House that it must and does have excellent contemporary American food and a historical setting for refined dining. One of the few in the East with abalone on its menu, but all of the seafood is extremely satisfying. Famous wine list from 1795 on. Very small room (78 people).

Grill 23 and Bar, 161 Berkeley St., 542-2255. A favorite with steak lovers, but also strong on seafood, especially local North Atlantic varieties. A very good bar menu for light lunches, mostly on the reasonable side in terms of price.

Lala Rokh, 97 Mount Vernon St., 720-5511. A Beacon Hill eatery with Eastern Mediterranean to Afghan food. The Persian/Iranian dishes are the centerpieces of this comfortable and very agreeable favorite of the ethnic-cuisine lovers. Amazingly good value for the dollar.

Mistral, 223 Columbus Ave., 867-9300. In the South End, with a French/Italian-inspired fare in a Provence atmosphere. An intimate setting in which fish is the real attraction, particularly when done with tomato and multiple herb sauces.

Nine Park, 9 Park St., 742-9991. A pleasant walk through the Boston Common and Garden leads to this classical American veteran chef who favors a seasonal menu with regional specialties. Very upscale but informal atmosphere in the café section which has a no-reservation-needed policy. Good lunch bet.

Olives, 10 City Square, Charlestown, 242-1999. A "T" ride or cab will introduce you to one of the outstanding chefs in the city whose hearty, even abundant new northern Italian recipes are truly exceptional. Although noisy, and with reservations for six-and-over only, it still gets culinary superlatives from amateurs and experts.

Radius, 8 High St., 426-1234. A newcomer with décor, service, and variety. Now consistently ranked by experts as equal to the best, particularly in how well it does so many main dishes. Plates with garlic, coriander, and cumin are very popular as are the classical salad constructions and numerous fruit-based desserts.

Truc, 560 Tremont St., 338-8070. The newest on the list but already acclaimed as one of the nation's best. With an award-winning chef of the French school whose major lamb and beef dishes have clever uses of herbs and spices, this establishment is equal to Radius and Biba in overall terms.

The following are more modestly priced restaurants ($15–$20 entrees).

Jae's Café & Grill, 520 Columbus Ave., 421-9405. Asian and fusion food, that is popular with the adventurous young gourmets who seek inventiveness and a non-Western fare.

Legal Seafood, 100 Huntington Ave., Tel 266-7775, and 26 Park Square, 426-4444. The traditional seafood spot for decades. Zagat recently commended the Park Square establishment for its reintroduction of quality seafood. A good bet, especially for lunch with dishes under $15 that are frequently better buys than the more expensive entrees.

Panificio, 144 Charles St., 227-4340. At the foot of Beacon Hill is this quite inexpensive neighborhood room that many in the Back Bay say is the first relatively "Cheap Eats" in Boston. A bit of everything, including impressive breakfasts and a series of different Italian American specials everyday.

Pho Republique, 1415 Washington St., 262-0005. The best in Chinatown but it is Vietnamese, and they do special things with fish and poultry and with flavors that are rich and satisfying. Stands out in the Metro area, which now has several good Vietnamese/Cambodian restaurants.

Sage, 69 Prince St., 248-8814. The best in the Italian North End. More reasonable and higher quality than some of the more mentioned spots in the area, primarily because it maintains a consistency of delicious food that is impressive.

At a further distance from the meeting hotels—in Cambridge and the western suburbs—are five restaurants that are worth the trip.

In Cambridge or Somerville are

Dali, 415 Washington St., Somerville, 661-3254. The Iberian, tapas, Mediterranean restaurant of note. An informal setting that is crowded and noisy but a very appealing experience for the trip

Harvest, 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, 868-2255. Off Harvard Square, in an alley, but American cooking that is outstanding because of its regional seafood and produce in virtually every menu item. Known as the proving ground for several top-notch national chefs.

Upstairs at the Pudding, 10 Holyoke St., Cambridge, 864-1933. A historic building that houses the Hasty Pudding Club of Harvard. Recently rejuvenated with both French and American cuisine with noteworthy entrees. They usually are superior in the meat and poultry areas but completely so in their sinful chocolate desserts.

In the further western suburbs out Rte. 9 from the Copley Plaza, two now nationally recognized (Food and Wine magazine) restaurants and chefs and well worth a taxi trip.

Blue Ginger, 583 Washington St., Wellesley, (781) 283-5790. Asian-American entrees that are so constantly enticing and fulfilling that they have put the chef on his own national TV show. Ultra-chic location but few seats (circa 60). One of the best in New England

Lumière, 2293 Washington St., West Newton, 244-9199. A very new but already gourmet-recognized small restaurant with French cuisine and American overtones run by a couple who combine intelligent and helpful service, attractive low-key contemporary surroundings, and a brilliantly produced menu.

—Pierre-Henri Laurent (Tufts Univ.) is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2001 annual meeting.