Boutique Alternatives for Boston Restaurant Week

by Maggie Battista on February 25, 2011

in Blog, Events, Massachusetts, Restaurateurs

Boutique Alternatives to Boston Restaurant Week

A bitterly cold February evening. Seven chatty food writers. A brand new pizza restaurant. Almost 10 wood-fired pizzas.

All that just starts to set the stage for a long-awaited dinner I attended with a few fun ladies. We gathered at Pizzeria Posto (Somerville, Massachusetts) to indulge in cheese, red sauce and some rapid-fire conversation, only paused long enough to take another bite of pie or big gulp of booze.

Each of us came to the dinner table with our own stories, personal and professional ties to the food world, and fairly hilarious takes on what’s going on in food these days. And the cool thing: our food writing had lead each of us down very interesting paths (and vice versa). One had just bought a bar (wow), one had recently taken the culinary school leap (wow) and yet another was a culinary school teacher who should probably be a comedienne (totally wow and totally funny).

Despite coming from different places, many of us got a little sad thinking about Boston’s Restaurant Week. In some ways, it’s still a great way for food lovers to sample high end cuisine at affordable prices. It’s also a way to fill seats during a time when people don’t typically eat out. But some restaurateurs have to compromise quality and vision in order to meet price requirements and consumer expectations. It works for some, it sucks for others.

Boutique Alternatives to Boston Restaurant Week

Personally, I’m always looking for my next favorite neighborhood joint (long live the B-side!) and make sure to show the love to my favorite boutique restaurants year-round, so they can keep doing what they do best: deliver delicious food in a warm setting. In turn, they aim to never compromise on flavor, ingredients or service. So for those not interested in Boston’s Restaurant Week, I asked these great ladies: Which single restaurant would you encourage others to visit instead and why? I’m so grateful that they shared some of their favorites, and wanted to share the food love with you.

Erin Nichols, Erin Cooks, XoXo Erin and Yummery, recommends: Garden at the Cellar (Cambridge, MA)

“Garden at the Cellar offers diners a warm and inviting experience complete with gentle lighting, cozy tables, and peekaboo glimpses into the bustling kitchen where you’ll always find the staff hard at work creating a meal that each patron will find irresistible at first bite. Try the crispy Chicken and Thyme Croquettes and the tangy Roasted Beet Salad to start – I promise you won’t be disappointed, and regardless of what your entree might be, I’m absolutely ordering you to tack on a side of the to-die-for Rosemary Truffle Fries. I’m completely addicted to those golden uniform slivers of carb heaven!”

Boutique Alternatives to Boston Restaurant Week

J.J. Adams, Palate-to-Pen and My Life with Bartender, recommends: Green Street (Cambridge, MA) or Central Kitchen (Cambridge, MA)

“Personally, I don’t  dine out much. When I do venture out, I head to either Green Street or Central Kitchen in Central Square. Green Street is owned by a friend of ours. The wine list sates my need for a good glass of vino and the drafts impress my mister. I usually select something from their comfort eats: chips and dip, double patty burger, mac and cheese, etc. Central Kitchen is my spot for  moules marinière and steak frites. I usually sit at the bar so I may solicit wine suggestions from the bartender. Both rooms are dimly lit and comfy.”

Shelby Larsson, Lady Gouda and Eat Boutique, recommends: Citizen Public House (Boston, MA)

“The newest venture from the folks behind Franklin Cafe, Citizen Public House is a comfortable, yet unique neighborhood  restaurant.  While they  (rightfully) get attention for their great selection of whiskey, craft beer and wine, the menu is what  keeps me coming back.  Pay  attention to their  nightly specials for creative and tasty dishes.  When you arrive, try to  secure what I call “the money seat” – a snug bench at the end of the expansive bar, which is a cross between my two favorite ways to dine: booth seating and bar dining.  Or grab 11 of your closest friends, give the restaurant a heads up, and you can have your own personal pig roast – not your typical Restaurant Week fare at all.”

Boutique Alternatives to Boston Restaurant Week

Adrienne Bruno, Hungry Bruno, recommends: Silvertone Bar & Grill (Boston, MA)

“It’s not as ‘fancy’ as some of the places on the Restaurant Week list, but Silvertone downtown on Bromfield Street is reliably good as an after work or late night spot for when standard bar food just won’t do. Not that they don’t have a good bar, because they do (the bartenders are great, actually) but the real appeal is in the macaroni and cheese. And the steak tips. And the meatloaf. And the calamari. And… I’ll stop now.”

Pam Aghababian, Cave Cibum, recommends: Neptune Oyster (Boston, MA)

“Three words: Hot. Lobster. Roll. As the winter drags on, a little reminder of summer is important. Neptune’s hot lobster roll calls to mind warm evenings by the beach, enjoying fresh-from-the-water seafood. Imagine a mess-free steamed lobster, already dipped in butter, and served with a pile of fries, and you’ve got one of the best lobster rolls in the city, no bib required.”

Maggie Battista, Eat Boutique, recommends: Highland Kitchen (Somerville, MA)

“When my week’s been just too full of too much and I’m dreaming about – more like, begging for – my weekend cocktail, I always see myself at Highland Kitchen. I imagine the warm, no-attitude welcome. I remember the cocktail menu that’s not too cool to respect tradition and smart enough to change it up frequently. I see myself snug at the corner table with a big pile of Buffalo Brussels Sprouts and an ever-changing Pig and Pickle Plate, their take on a charcuterie platter, filled with crisp pork belly, some spreadable innards and some refreshing pickled fruit. And get this: when I finally get to Highland on the weekend, it always lives up to the hype in my head.”

Now you tell us: Which single restaurant would you encourage others to visit instead and why, in Boston and beyond?

The photos appear courtesy of the following photographers: (1) Dan4th Nicholas, (2) William Selman, (3) artsnsociety, (4) Lauren K, and (5) Jeremy Brooks.

Maggie Battista

Founder at Eat Boutique
Maggie, is the founder of Eat Boutique. She started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she spotlights cookbook authors and food makers. She’s written for Style Me Pretty, Food52, Time Out New York, Spencer Magazine, and writes a cocktail column for the popular wedding blog, Snippet & Ink. Maggie's also created retail experiences for the largest floral and event design company in New England. She regularly travels far distances to find the next great chef, farmer, food maker or host. You can follow her worldwide – and homemade – gastronomic adventures on Twitter at @mizmaggieb or @eatboutique. Maggie's writing her first-ever cookbook Food Gift Love to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in fall 2015.

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  • Angie

    Thanks for the tips! I’m headed to Boston w/ family (their 1st time to the city) in a couple weekends. We’ll be sure to check out some of these places!

    • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

      Yay! Boston is a great food city – all comfort food and great cocktails. I hope you have fun!

  • http://www.jennagavula.com Jenna Gavula

    Hey hey, Eat Boutique! Kudos on the Boston Love! No need to apologize to out of townies.. they can add this post to their travel list! I know I always like to hear about great spots in others cities.

    Thanks again!
    - Jenna Gavula
    http://www.jennagavula.com

    • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

      Merci, Jenna. And the local food lovers/writers who gave the advice have great sites.

  • http://pharmafoodie.blogspot.com PharmaFoodie

    I whole-heartedly agree with your view on Restaurant Week and I love the list you compiled – Highland Kitchen and Neptune Oyster are two of my favourites, but I was very impressed with Citizen Public House. It’s just inconvenient for those that live in Cambridge.

    By the way, thanks again for your tip on Market Basket – I got myself a handful of great plantains and finally ate oxtail over the weekend!

    • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

      Yay for plantains, PharmaFoodie! Glad you found some. Now I’d like to hear about your oxtail! :)

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