Two and a half years after announcing plans to open a Boston location, the German-born Italian chain Vapiano makes its Boston debut in the heart of the Theater District, where it offers freshly made pastas, (Bolognese, chicken alfredo, pesto) salads, pizzas from smoked gouda to roasted eggplant for lunch and dinner; cafeteria-style service and affordable prices (entrees top out at $11.95). An easy casual air, it also strikes a stylish note thanks to a high-ceilinged, upscale-chic setting with an open kitchen, glassed-in herb garden, two outdoor patios and an intimate bar and lounge. Great spot for pre-theatre eats.
191 Stuart St., Boston
Jerry Remy's Sports Bar
Rising from the real-estate ashes of the old WBCN headquarters, Jerry ("Rem-dog") Remy's is your new 325-seat sports mega-bar where stepping inside feels like you've just materialized within a Vegas sportsbook. Only instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, legalized gambling and live feeds of Carrot Top, you now have a new go-to for killer burgers, barbecue courtesy of a monstrous Texas smoker pumping out plenty of St. Louis Style Ribs and Texas Style Beef Brisket, and 20 taps of cold domestic and microbrew beers to wash it all down—a stone's throw away from the backside of right field. And because baseball wouldn't be baseball without the breeze on your face and the sun on your back, the 45-seat outdoor patio and the collapsible floor-to-ceiling bay windows in the front and back of the house will be open come the warm weather, allowing you to hear the roar of the park itself when Pedroia smacks one into the gap.
1265 Boylston St Boston @Fenway Park
Legal Test Kitchen "LTK"
From its debut in 2005, Legal Test Kitchen (LTK) was a pioneer in the city’s developing Seaport District. It’s within easy walking distance of attractions such as the stunning new Institute of Contemporary Art, the World Trade Center, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the seasonal Bank of America Pavilion for big-name entertainment, and multiple shiny new hotels including the Seaport, the Westin Waterfront, and the Renaissance Boston. It's the only Leagal Sea Foods that stays open until the wee hours...as late as 2 a.m.! The menu features new dishes every six weeks.
And if you're in between flights or early for one, stop in at Legal's airport locations at the United /Jet Blue Terminal C or at the American Airline Terminal B.
International Japanese noodle franchise Wagamama makes its U.S. debut, and it's an instant Faneuil Hall phenomenon that's spawned another sister eatery in Cambridge. Streamlined yet sprawling indoors and out, it's ladling up inexpensive ramen, curries, stir-fries and more to be washed down with beer, wine and fresh juices.
Wagamama, Quincy Market, Boston and Harvard Square, Cambridge
Putting a fresh spin on the eat-and-run phenomenon is b. good, a forum for feel-good fast food cannily situated within sniffing distance of Back Bay Station. From its Starbucks-modern design scheme (earth tones, track lighting and oeuvres by local artists) to its disclosure of each dish's calorie content, b. good will dupe few diners into mistaking it for Burger King.
The menu offers healthful alternatives including a Southwestern veggie burger (a flavorful patty of grains and black beans souped up with avocado, cilantro, chipotle salsa and black beans), turkey sandwiches (5.4 grams of fat) and "real fries" (which probably should be called "unfries," since they're prepared in an oven). Despite the imprimatur of L'Espalier alumnus Tony Rosenfeld, who developed the recipes, the menu is more Au Bon Pain than haute cuisine. But for fast food junkies, this could be the place…and the food is actually good for you.
131 Dartmouth St.
Boston, MA 02116
In what seems to be the newest Hub area I can recommend a hip hideaway I recently discovered in the Fort Point Channel area. Hard to find, since there's no sign outside, but it's on Congress St. at the corner of "A" street. Open every night but Monday with entertainment, this underground bistro features a wide menu of simple but tasty fare ranging from spicy shrimp, BBQ chicken, and steak tips to pizzas and sandwiches. From snacks to hearty dinners, and a busy bar, this has become the newest meeting place for the hip crowd. Sunday nights, it's all Sinatra with Al Vega and his trio (still going strong) plus a young Mark Mahar, who captures the essence of the Chairman of the Board, as we gaze at Sinatra's giant portraits on the wall. The friendly staff and cozy decor invite you to return to the 50's and get your retro fix. Sunday nights seem to be really swingin', so if you want a table in the lounge, get there early.
355 Congress St., Boston
filled a nice niche in the hub's theatre district. It's a place to
go after theatre for dessert and coffee, drinks and even a light,
yet elegant meal. Kim Moore and co-owner Paul Conforti have been
working on this concept for a while, and the hard work has paid off.
A constant work in progress, it's a great meeting spot before or
after theatre. My wife is a "chocaholic," and after her two-day birthday
bash O.D.-ing on chocolate desserts in some of Boston's finest restaurants,
it was no contest! Finale won hands down for its fragrant, steaming,
freshly-made warm chocolate mousse cake with molten center, along
with the milk chocolate "teardrop" (chocolate mousse served
with banana sorbet and butterscotch sauce). A chocolate lover's orgasmic
treat! They specialize mainly in desserts, non-chocolate as well.
(Check out their classic cheesecake with strawberry compote.) You
can actually watch the chef prepare his dramatic presentation via
an overhead mirror. If you want more than one dessert, try their
sampler plate. There's also a light supper menu (before or after
theatre), and a lunch menu of gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads.
Specialty drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are available. They
also have a take-out counter for goodies to go, packaged in a unique
ribbon-tied gift-box. This cafe, bakery, desserterie has proven to
be a winner, and has stayed the course for more than two years, having
recently added a second "Finale" in Harvard Square, Cambridge, that
seems to be pleasing the palate of the Harvard crowd as well. (See
One Columbus Ave, Boston
Figs is fun. It's the more casual
off-shoot of Todd English's top restaurant "Olives" in
City Square in Charlestown, whose no-reservation policy doesn't faze
the always-filled room where waiting is expected. And worth the wait
I might add. Figs is their less formal eatery that now has four locations,
and where the signature oblong pizza is unlike any you will experience.
If nothing else, you have to order it for the table; thin crisp crust
with toppings that defy the imagination. My favorite is the one topped,
naturally, with prosciutto and figs. But don't think pizza is all
they offer. Pastas, chicken salads, desserts and daily specials,
it's all there and in ample quality. Service is fast, friendly and
it's just a fun place.
67 Main Street, Charlestown, (617) 242-2229
42 Charles Street, Boston, (617) 742-FIGS
Morse Fish Company
Funky, not fancy, this is a "cheap eats" find! Walk down Washington Street in the South End and it looks like you've entered a war zone with all the construction going on, but pay no attention, folks. Right across the street from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, there's a little gem of a fish place that has been serving the South End residents since 1903 -- and they're still hanging in, ready to celebrate their 100th next year. Aside from selling fish to cook at home, Morse serves lunch (lobster salad sandwiches - $7.95) and dinners (salmon - $9.95) that remind me of the early Legal Sea Food days in Inman Square in Cambridge. No frills, just a wide variety of fresh fish and very reasonable prices.
They're open Monday through Saturday, 11-8, Fridays 11-9, and Sundays 12-6 for lunch and dinner. If you're looking for fancy, this is not your spot, but for fish cooked the way you want it at prices that won't put a dent in your pocket book, check it out. Once the Washington Gateway area is completed, they'll be set for another hundred years.
Morse Fish Company
1401 Washington St, Boston
New England Soup Factory's soup
maven Marjorie Druker is on a roll. Two suburban locations -- Brookline
Village and its Newton twin -- larger, and with even more goodies
from which to choose. Although the soups are the hot items (and there
are usually 8 varieties), there are sandwiches, salads, a few entrees
(honey teriyaki chicken breast, tamari-marinated salmon, and vegetable
lasagna) and scrumptious desserts as well. Hannah's apple strudel
is really good! There are only a handful of tables to sit at, since
they do a dynamite take-out business. All the soups are home-made
-- the triple-strength chicken soup with noodles is to die for, and
the carrot and ginger is not too far behind. Three different sizes
for the soups-bowls, pints, and quarts. For a bowl of soup, the tab
is around $5. The Soup Factory is fun, and tasty food for little
money. Open seven days, Monday - Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
New England Soup Factory
2-4 Brookline Place, Brookline (across from the "T") (617) 739-1899
244 Needham Street, Newton (617) 558-9988
The closest you'll get to a Parisian bistro is this cozy boite next to the Hub's theatre district on Charles Street South. The husband and wife team of Chef Marc Orfaly (busy in the kitchen) and wife Kerry (taking charge of the front of the house) has created a wonderful French-style menu, rich and savory with the most unusual creative taste combinations to please the most sophisticated palate. From appetizers to desserts, so much from which to choose. Their signature appetizer is a crispy phyllo tuna roll with pickled vegetables and dipping sauce -- a fabulous presentation. The roasted pear and slivered endive salad sprinkled with candied walnuts and blue cheese was a good choice. For entrees, the deliciously prepared roasted salmon with mustard gratin and parsley gnocchi, or Thai-style lobster would be my suggestion for a seafood entree. For meat, their crispy duck or braised lamb shank will make you feel you're dining on the Champs-Elysee. The tiny bar (it seats 6) also serves appetizers or dinner with a special bar menu -- wine and beer only. Leave room for dessert. We lucked out on the evening's chef's special, a melt-in-your-mouth gingerbread topped with a light gingerbread mousse and a dollop of whipped cream. We inhaled it and departed for the short walk to the theatre . . . happy, and very satisfied.
75 Charles Street South, Boston
The Hi-Rise Bread Company is worth
the short trip to Cambridge. Small space, large menu . . . it's literally
a bread-making establishment, and what great breads and brioche!
They've recently expanded their horizons and now they serve wonderful
soups and sandwiches to the crowds who flock there. Roasted free-range
chicken (stuffed with whole onion and herb-crusted, $12) is wonderful.
You'll enjoy quiches, pies and pastries in a very informal atmosphere
-- food served in baskets and picnic-like tables in a tiny space.
Try it on the weekend for brunch and breakfast; it's open at 8 a.m.
and brunch is served Saturday and Sunday starting at 10. It's also
great for take-out. This is one of those off-beat culinary treats
which you'll want to share with your out-of-town guests. For great
food in a different atmosphere, it's a winner!
The Hi-Rise Bread Company
208 Concord Avenue