On a recent visit, I explored Boston’s culinary scene and came away impressed with the distinctly diverse dining options available in this seacoast city. Along with a memorable meal, I looked for an ambiance that was quirky, artistic or historic, for an added vibe befitting a place that bills itself as the “Athens of America.” Each of these four Boston eateries earned high marks for a distinct sense of place.
Bistro du Midi: Overlooking the Boston Public Gardens from its second story location, this upscale dining spot’s decor captures the essence of the Midi region of France. On warm afternoons, sidewalk café tables set the mood for a bit of Parisian-style people watching. Upstairs, original Renoir and Miro art works add French elegance to the candle lighted dining room that spreads its windows open to verdant views of the gardens. Dining tables are dressed with white linen table cloths and Riedel stemware. The menu, by Executive Chef Robert Sisca, serves authentic Provencal cuisine complimented by Head Sommelier Todd Lipman’s impressive wine selections. Favoring the bistro’s seafood dishes, I chatted with sommelier Todd who described the wines very knowledgeably. I found his recommendations paired perfectly with each course. After dinner, we walked through the public gardens past time-worn sculptures and a tree-sheltered fountain. It was a perfect finale to the evening. Dining tips: Because the divine chocolate soufflé takes time, order it at the beginning of your meal. This is a great spot for dinner before a nearby theater or opera performance. Look for their pre-theater specials on the website. www.bistrodumidi.com.
WINE EVENTS AT BISTRO DU MIDI: Every month Head Sommelier, Todd Lipman, invites some of the world’s top wineries to showcase their wines at Bistro du Midi.
Details: Main Dining Room (upstairs) – reservations recommended Café and Bar (downstairs) first come first serve. Café menu is available all day weekdays starting at 11:30 and beginning at 3:00pm on Saturday and Sunday, until 10:00 Sun-Wed and until 11:00 Thurs-Sat The Heritage On The Garden | 272 Boylston Street Boston | tel: 617.426.7878
Clink Restaurant: Ensconced in the Liberty Hotel, Clink comes by its name honestly, despite having once housed a den of thieves. Stop by the Alibi Bar for libations before heading upstairs where former prisoners would likely have killed for a seat at one of the restaurant’s tables, each with a view of a long line of formerly occupied jail cells. Once the Suffolk County Jail, complete with granite walls and jail bars, Clink offers fine dining with an extensive reasonably priced wine list, all in an environment designed to foster a sense of both humor and history. The delightfully decorated multi-floored space is the perfect setting to enjoy an evening meal along with a glass of Champagne.
For dinner, my companion and I were seated at a table next to windows with a clear view of the Charles River and the city of Cambridge.The restaurant specializes in serving the freshest North Atlantic seafood, seasonal New England fare and carefully chosen heritage meats. On the menu when I visited was a “just picked from the garden” green pea soup flavored with porcini cream and fresh mint. My main course was an absolutely wonderful dish of scallops served over a bed of black squid ink pasta peppered with a light jalapeno pesto sauce. From a dessert list of five offerings, we settled on the Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble topped with house-made brown butter ice cream and were not disappointed.
Impressive too is the spacious upstairs lounge just outside the restaurant. With a bar at one end and inviting banquettes scattered around the space, we enjoyed a musical trio playing soft music. Because it was a warm evening we headed for a stroll across the pedestrian bridge close to the hotel. From the bridge’s vantage point, the city lights of Boston’s skyline glimmered as they reflected off the waters of the Charles River. Dining tip: Clink’s lobby bar lounge creates a romantic mood, perfect for your Saturday night date. Details: Breakfast from 6:30 a.m., Sunday Brunch from 10:00 a.m. Lunch from 11:30 a.m. Dinner: from 5:00 p.m. until late. www.clink.com
Boston Harbor Hotel: As we all know, a critical element in any successful travel experience is having the right home base. I was fortunate to have found the perfect place to call home during my stay in Boston, my home away from home, the Boston Harbor Hotel. Far more than a mere place to lay my head at night, the Boston Harbor Hotel was an experience in itself. From the moment I arrived, the staff went out of their way to make me feel as though they were welcoming me home. They spoke with warm smiles and volunteered guidance and assistance before I even knew I needed it. Soon after I arrived, the hotel staff furthered that feeling with a welcome bottle of wine and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. My spouse and I especially enjoyed not having to leave the hotel on our first evening in town. We merely dropped downstairs to the waterfront Sea Grille Restaurant for its harbor views where we feasted on Maine lobster with corn on the cob, drawn lemon butter and blueberry cobbler for dessert. Staying at the Boston Harbor Hotel made me feel that, no matter what Boston adventures lay ahead of me, I had a comforting place to return, re-energize and prepare for the next day.
The location of the hotel also played a key role in getting around the city. Berthed right on Rowes Wharf, the hotel was within easy walking distance to Boston’s North End, Faneuil Hall Market Place and even over the bridge to Cambridge for a look at the historic “Old Ironsides,” officially known as the USS Constitution. Best of all, I was able to walk out the hotel’s back door early each morning for a wake-up stroll along the harbor before enjoying breakfast at one of the Sea Grille Restaurant’s outdoor café tables. Dining tip: Linger over coffee or tea here with a view of the working harbor before heading out for a day in the city. www.bhh.com.
Pier6 Restaurant: For the ultimate in casual dining right on the Boston waterfront, Pier6 Restaurant fits the ideal of Sunday brunch by the sea. On two levels, the second floor dining room with panoramic views of the Boston skyline has a cozy feeling with its bar seating and high tables. The more casual first floor with its canvas-canopied bistro is just the ticket for sipping a specialty beer accompanied by salty ocean breezes and views of working fishing boats.
Pier6 serves gourmet burgers and salads but their forte has to be the wide array of seafood on the menu: calamari, crab cakes, raw or fried oysters, lobster rolls, grilled swordfish, seared scallops, all in abundance.
On weekends, close to noon, tables fill and the crowd becomes lively. Especially on sunny days and weekends, reserve ahead for a window seat. Dining tip: For evening visits, arrive early enough to watch the sunset as the Boston skyline lights up over the water. Details: Lunch or brunch, from 11 a.m. daily. Dinner from 5 p.m. Bar open until 1 a.m. www.pier6boston.com. Phone:(617) 337-0054
Related Article: A wonderful day trip from Boston: the Southern Maine Coast known as “Lobster Central.” Read “Head Down East for Maine Lobster.”
Before traveling to Boston, visit the city’s website at www.bostonusa.com The city’s website lists a comprehensive array of activities and current events.