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How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

jbp: Awesome, I will check both of those out. I do tend to shy away from a second restaurant of the original, but sounds doable!

And I know nothing of 80 Thoreau, I'll definitely look that up. Thanks again.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

dfan: Haha...I'm actually not that hard to please. First, one needs to put specifics when asking for CH recommendations. Otherwise, we read 100 thread titles of "What's a good restaurant in Boston?" Second, this is for a special occasion type place, so yes, I'm more fussy about that. If it's a one-off night out for dinner, I'll go anywhere, no problem.

Thanks for additional rec of Bondir! And Bergamot.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

TimTamGirl: Yes, 100% spot on, thank you for expressing more eloquently what I was trying to say.

A rule of thumb is, I don't want to be the only guy in the restaurant wearing a tie.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Bob Dobalina: You sound eager to be outraged about something. Not that it matters, but I'm a capital L liberal. I just don't like the drive to Cambridge. And it reminds me of a foodie/trendy vibe going on there, that I'm not entirely into. As Obama said, sue me. ;-)

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

I meant look and feel. There are restaurants in NYC that have a style that would never fly in Boston, and vice versa. There are no restaurants like the old L'Espalier in NYC, for example. Nor in LA or Miami.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Thanks for the Bondir's recommendation. I'll check their website again. There was something about it that didn't appeal to me the first time, but it sounds like there is a consensus that it fits the bill.

(That's why I appealed to CH, because I know you guys can give me info that I can't get on my own.)

As a side rant: Why do restaurants post almost no pictures of their dining rooms? All restaurants do this. Some literally have zero. They have fancy websites, no pictures of the room. They'll have a "gallery" that shows 200 pictures of a piece of lettuce on a white plate. Or a blurry chef throwing something in a pot. It's like, yeah, thanks, I know what lettuce looks like. You spent a million dollars creating a restaurant space, and then don't put one picture of it on your website.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Haha...Yes, exactly!

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

marketpeach: Thanks for the additional recommendation for Bistro du Midi!

Again, I think I may have overstated the lighting issue when I said "definitely dark". I didn't mean that I want to wear a miner's lamp on my head, I just meant "pleasantly lit". I like warm lighting, maybe a candle on the table. As opposed to a place with awesome food, but set up like a brightly lit counter-style seating.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

cjd260: I'll check out Rialto, but yeah, if I liked hotel restaurants, I'd probably just go to L'Espalier.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Doesn't necessarily have to be dark like a cave. I just meant nice ambiance. So for instance, I prefer tablecloths, though it's not a deal breaker.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

youngho: Thanks for the recommendations of La Voile, Bistro du Midi, and Lucca! I will check them out. (I have no reservations about them, have never been.)

I don't have a preoccupation about Cambridge. I said I'd prefer to avoid Cambridge and the suburbs, but if there was an amazing place that was a clear winner, I would go to Cambridge or the suburbs.

about 1 hour ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

I *love* Hamersley's Bistro.

I live a little over an hour away, west of Boston, and for every special occasion, or when I just want a great evening out, I book a table at Hamersley's. Now that it is closing, what would you recommend as possible alternative?

I am really fussy, so please consider the following:

1) What I love about Hamersley's is the convenient location, beautiful ambiance, professional waitstaff, stellar wine list, gracious service, comfortable dining room, great food, and Boston institution.

2) Before Hamersley's, L'Espalier was my go-to place, until they moved from their romantic townhouse to a boring generic hotel. I hate hotel restaurants with a passion. I loved the ambiance of eating in a brownstone; in a hotel, no way.

3) I love Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, but it's a pain to drive there.

4) I've been to Sorrelina, Troquet, DeuxAve, Mistral, Toscana, and Menton, and I liked them; I'm happy enough to eat there. But none of those places has the comfortable special occasion vibe that Hamersley's has. Sorrelina is too trendy, Troquet is a little off, DeuxAve too casual, Mistral too formulaic, Toscana not special enough food, and Menton is a pawn in an business empire.

5) I liked Lumiere in Newton, but it didn't feel special enough. More like a place that I would go to all the time if I lived in Newton, but wouldn't travel far to go to.

That being said, here are my criteria for my next "go to" restaurant:

- It cannot be in a hotel, or a second restaurant of a famous chef. I want this to be a standalone restaurant, not part of an empire.

- It can't be a "seafood" restaurant, or asian. It has to be American, French, or Italian please.

- It has to have excellent service. No exceptions.

- It should have a good wine list. It should have Champagne by the glass.

- I am not crazy about the Cambridge dining scene, and would greatly prefer to avoid Cambridge. Suburbs of Boston are acceptable, such as Newton, etc. But the more convenient to the Mass Pike, the better.

- It has to have great ambiance, and feel romantic. Definitely dark, definitely not "family friendly". Noisy is fine. Again I should point out that I consider Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain to have great ambiance, and I consider Hamersley's to have great ambiance.

- I have to be able to wear a jacket and tie, and not look like a freak. I understand that every restaurant nowadays has someone in a t-shirt and jeans, but I shouldn't look out of place wearing a tie.

- It should feel like Boston. If I'm in a restaurant that looks like NY, Chicago, or Miami, I'm not interested.

- I'm considering these places, based on a list of "best" restaurants in the area that I haven't been to yet...
Bondir - Pros, looks cool. Cons, Cambridge, worried it's a "scene".
Bergamot - Pros, looks cool. Cons, Cambridge.
Asta - Pros, location, sounds awesome. Cons, website is secretive, no idea what it looks like inside.
Erbaluce - Pros, location. Cons, not sure it's a special occasion type place.
Sycamore - Pros, seems nice. Cons, looks a bit casual. Wine list is weird, and not in a good way.

(I considered Ribelle, but it looks too much like a cafeteria. Also checked out The Gallows, but they don't take reservations, and they sound super obnoxious on their website.)

Based on all of that, I am leaning toward trying Asta. Maybe Sycamore. Maybe Bergamot. Otherwise, I may need to get used to making the trek to Ten Tables.

Any advice? Let me have it!

Thanks in advance...

about 16 hours ago
johnblacksox in Greater Boston Area

Top 10 Most Overblown Food/Beverage Trends

- Counter dining at high end restaurants

- Restaurants with capitalized acronyms in their name

- Speck, beets, fingerling potatoes

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in General Topics

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Salsa's, YES! I'm amazed that more people don't know about this place. Great food! It's in a sketchy neighborhood, so I can understand being apprehensive, but the food is really good.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

The fort is a joke. White Hut is good if you want a hot dog, no argument there.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Cafe Leone = Strip mall Italian, No.
Touch of Garlic = Food quality is lacking
Bamboo House = Pretty good, ok.
Abudanza = Legendary horrible food and service

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Big Mamou = Yes!
Max's = Cougar white trash bar scene, NO.
Figaro's = Strip Mall CT italian, NO.
Theodore's = Dive bar, "ok".
Student Prince = Rude, bad food, NO.
Adolfo's = Red sauce homage to local mafioso, NO.
Cafe Lebanon = Strip mall middle east, NO.
Ginger Blossom = Best local chinese, Yes.
Bueno y Sano = Best local mexican, Yes.
The Federal = Godawful pretentious and tacky, NO.
Lattitudes = See "The Federal", plus Cougars, NO.

I'll add that there are no "nice" restaurants in Springfield. It's a poor city with low standards. And I say that as someone who loves Springfield and loves eating out.

I eat regularly at Big Mamou, Pho Saigon, Panjabi Tadka, Red Rose Pizza, and Felix's. If you stick to honest local food, you'll be fine. If you go for the places that are supposed to be "fancy" or "trendy", you'll be horrified by the experience.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Sutter Meats Northampton

I went last week, and it's great!

This is all fresh meat, like back in the day of real butchers.

For those that mention River Valley, I've found that RV has fresh local ground beef only, but any other cut of local meat is frozen. I don't want frozen meat!

I'm going out of my way to patronize Sutter's, as it's a luxury to have a real butcher. This is usually something you can only find in places like NYC.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

18% Gratuity Included...Wha???

Interesting. I assumed it was something like that.

I wouldn't mind if all restaurants just included service, like they do in most of Europe. It just struck me as odd in the US.

Thanks!

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Dog freindly restaurants.Have you ever brought along your pooch ?

I am not a dog owner, but I have absolutely no problem with well-behaved dogs in restaurants.

In France, it's commonplace. I've eaten at Michelin starred places where dogs are at tables indoors. Doesn't bother me at all.

In Nice at a fancy restaurant, the waitstaff put a linen napkin down on the banquette for a small dog.

In Paris, the waitstaff brought a bowl of water and some treats for a dog.

Believe me, I'd much prefer to sit next to a dog than a table with a small child. Most likely, the dog will be quiet and the owners respectful. Children are 100 times more objectionable.

As long as the dog isn't barking, or running around loose, I give you my blessing, even in fancy restaurants.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Not About Food
2

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Thanks, but I'm definitely not looking for a "clean diner feel". I was pretty clear that I was less interested in "authenticity", and more interested in "upscale atmosphere".

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Thanks, Frodnesor...You are correct. I plan to return for Versailles for lunch, but I'm looking for fancier for dinner.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

I forgot to provide a conclusion for where I went...

I ended up going to OLA in Miami Beach, and liked it so much, we went back the next night. I preferred Miami to the Miami Beach "scene", but I thought OLA was great food and great service.

I went to Versailles for a coffee, and I liked it a lot, but yeah, it's not what I would call an "upscale" place.

I should point out, I'm not trying to be snobby, I like holes in the wall at times. This was a time where I didn't want formica tables, and laminated menus.

My wife went to YUCA for lunch one day, and liked it, but not the same as OLA.

I should add that Bread+Butter looks great, and I'll definitely try that next time I'm in Miami. I'm still trying to stay on the mainland side, after all.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

18% Gratuity Included...Wha???

I traveled to Miami for the first time last week, and every nice restaurant I went to had included a mandatory 18% gratuity to the bill. (This was dinner for 2, not a large party.)

First off, I don't really care, the service was fine, and I normally tip 20%, so it's not like I wouldn't have paid it.

But...It struck me as REALLY weird. No other city does this. I had to actually ask the waiter that I interpreted the bill correctly.

So, my question is, what is it about Miami that you include an gratuity on a normal tab?

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Paying with credit card: Should I tip in cash?

I'm never sure about this, so I'm asking the advice of wait staff and/or restaurant owners...

Say my tab is $100, and I'm going to tip $20 on it. I'm paying with a credit card, but I have cash for the tip.

Is it better if I...

(A) Pay the entire $120 with the credit card.

(B) Put $110 on the credit card, and leave a $10 bill separately.

(C) Pay the $100 on the credit card, and leave a $20 bill separately.

Or does it make no difference to you at all?

Thanks!

Feb 11, 2014
johnblacksox in Not About Food

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Cool, thank you, I'll check it out!

Jan 17, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Ha, I don't do the club scene either!

Jan 17, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Visiting Miami for a few days, and I'm interested in Cuban food for dinner, but I'm sure most of the best food comes from hole-in-the-wall type places.

I'm looking for a nice dinner, nice ambiance, good service, decent wine list, white tablecloth type place. Cost isn't a factor, I don't mind if it's expensive or even "over-priced".

So, are there any good upscale Cuban places like that in either Miami or Miami Beach? I don't mind if it's not the most authentic Cuban food in the city, as long as it's good and meets the above criteria.

Thanks!

Jan 16, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Non-pretentious restaurant for 5 year anniversary dinner

I second the person who recommended the Modern dining room.

The bar at the Modern is not romantic or appealing to me. It's ridiculously crowded, with a low ceiling, and claustrophobic feel to it. It's like a dark crowded bus station serving drinks.

The dining room, on the other hand, is awesome. Some tables overlook the sculpture garden, and you can see into the museum from others, so it's very unique and cool.

Service is great, friendly and attentive.

Given your criteria, I have to warn you that you are likely to get something like "foam on a spoon". (lol) Last time I went, there was some foamy thing, literally in a test tube, to start.

So if you're totally turned off by stuff like that, be forewarned.

But again, it's a beautiful place, great food, expensive, but the service is not pretentious. And jeez, you're staying at the Peninsula!! :-)

I think it's a great choice, and someplace unique to NYC.

Hope you have an awesome time.

Aug 21, 2013
johnblacksox in Manhattan