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

MaxEntropy: Great post, thanks! And yes, I love the restaurant at Simon Pearce! My brush with culinary fame was when I saw Mario eating lunch in there one time. Anyway, food and wine at Simon Pearce are excellent, and the space is beyond romantically beautiful.

It's just a little far away, and there are times when I want the ambiance of a beautiful world class city like Boston, as opposed to the remote bucolic wilderness of Vermont. I live in the country, so the city is more of a draw to me. Boston is my closest drive-able major city for dinner.

I too have one last reservation at Hamersley's. I still remember my last dinner at the old L'Espalier too. :-) As bummed as I am for me, I'm glad both chefs had a long storied career, and moved on when it suited them. Special restaurants are backdrops to many happy moments in our lives, right?

Have a great time at Hamersley's. I'll definitely check back in here after my No. 9 dinner in October.

With all the "spirited" comments in this thread, both for and against me, I truly appreciate all the well-informed advice and passionate debate. That's why I like this site!

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

viperlush: I do eat in NYC, and Providence, fairly regularly. NY has what seems like unlimited "special occasion" type places. Too far to drive there and back for dinner though. Providence has some nice places, but none I would consider better than what I can get in Boston.

I love Boston, and I'm hoping to settle on a new special place.

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

Any opinions on Ostra? Seems like part of a corporate empire, but the space, wine list, and menu look good.

Specifically, how does it compare for better or worse, to No. 9 Park? (And yes, I am searching the site for opinions too. :-)

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

VintageMolly: Thank you, and I agree. I understand the finances involved, and it does actually seem like the amount of money needed to launch a restaurant in Boston prevents anything but the corporate hotel types.

L'Espalier, my previous favorite restaurant, was a good example. It was magical in it's Gloucester St. brownstone, and I totally understand the owner taking the money to move into the Mandarin. I would have done the same. The guy killed himself for years in a postage stamp sized kitchen, then suddenly had the chance to cash into a lucrative hotel deal.

I'm honestly extremely happy that he was able to cash out. I'm bummed for myself, because eating in a glorified hotel lobby isn't the same as eating in a quirky brownstone.

You seem annoyed that I don't want to eat in the "gasp, suburbs", but I live in the suburbs. I love the suburbs. I love restaurants in the suburbs. For me, part of the fun of a special occasion is dining in the "city". I'm not going to drive 60-75 minutes to eat at a casual local neighborhood place in Cambridge, Somerville, or Brookline, when I have casual local neighborhood places 10 minutes away in the casual local neighborhood that I live in. Right?

I'm looking for something special in "the city" that I don't have already have in my suburbs. Like you say, increasingly, it no longer exists. I agree with you.

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

teezeetoo: Right on, I am in agreement about how hard it is to run a great restaurant.

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

InmanSQ Girl: Good post, thanks.

1) 80 Thoreau: Thanks, I will check it out. Wine list is awesome. Website looks great.

2) Nashoba place: I checked it out, and the venue looks cool, but the wine list is...I have to say...a nightmare. The top entry is a "blueberry merlot". Their only "sparkling wine" is their own "hard cider". It seems like someone making alcoholic drinks in their bathtub. I like local wines, the Westport sparkling wine from MA is cool, had it at L'Espalier. But Blueberry Merlot? That's an automatic "no way".

3) I agree with your sentiments about chefs/restaurants, but I don't get what your point is. Believe me, I agree 100% that being a chef is a nightmare, and my heart bleeds for anyone who works in the restaurant business. I routinely go to local chef/owner/operated places, and I say all the time that I feel so sorry for anyone trying to make an honest living running a restaurant. It's a nightmare, long hours, dealing with people, working every night, every weekend, etc. Anyone who does it should be a millionaire, you couldn't pay me enough.

That being said...What does it have to do with the fact that I love Hamersley's, and want to find a similar place? You seem to be arguing that I should settle for a corporate hotel restaurant, and I'm demanding that someone work 150 hours a week to please me. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, then I'll just stay in my hometown, and eat at a nice locally owned place 15 minutes away. I'm looking for a place special enough to warrant a drive into Boston. Hamersley's, and before that L'Esapalier, fit that bill. If there is no such place anymore, then that is ok to admit. I'm not demanding such a place exists. I'm just asking if there is one. It sounds like you're saying, "No, Hamersley's was the last, there are no more". That's totally acceptable to tell me. I was just asking people's opinions, because that what this website is for, right? :-)

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

pollystyrene: Not sure...I appreciate the recommendation of Mamma Maria, it looks very good. Just not sure it feels like a "special occasion" place. Again, there are tons of places mentioned here that sound great, and if I lived in the area, I guarantee I would try most of them.

In my mind, there is a difference between a really good restaurant, and a place that you'd drive over an hour just to have an anniversary dinner.

I have really good to excellent restaurants near me. What I don't have is high end city dining.

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

black_lab: Not just traffic, but parking. L'Espalier had valet parking, Hamersley's has valet parking, No. 9 has valet parking.

Some people have seriously suggested driving to Cambridge, then trying to find a metered parking place blocks away. On a cold rainy night? Not going to happen. I mean, yeah, I could also take a Greyhound bus for my anniversary dinner too.

Back to traffic, I think it's a wash driving to the far side of the Common, and enduring the Mass Pike exit to Storrow Drive.

And speaking subjectively, Boston is prettier at night than Cambridge. ;-)

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

MaxEntropy: Yes, I know. And I realize I'm increasingly a dinosaur in dining terms. The trend is extremely casual, counter service, "small plates", etc. I'm more of a linen tablecloth and jacket & tie type. Youth must be served, though, I get that. :-)

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

Small Plates: I understand what you're saying. I've had good to very good experiences at B&G so far, so I guess I'm willing to still go with it. If/when I have a bad experience, I'm sure I'd be in your camp.

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

hotoynoodle: I know what you are saying. I guess I'm willing to take a beating on wine if the place feels special.

Interesting about B&G...I've been there numerous times for oysters, and I've found it to be very professional. It's actually a selling point for me when I was considering No. 9.

But yeah, if I had a terrible experience, I wouldn't go to another of that chef's places. I understand.

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

teezeetoo: Thanks, I'm going to No 9 in early October. I'll check in back here afterwards, so people can either cheer or excoriate me. :-)

Honestly, I didn't dislike Menton. It just felt a little contrived. Like they started out with a zillion dollars and made a nice restaurant. I suppose you could say the same for No 9 Park, but the location seems a little warmer to me. I dunno, we'll see!

Wine bar or French brasserie-near Grand Central?

Not sure how close you need it to be, but personally, I like the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. Or, the Campbell Apartment bar, also in Grand Central.

Apologies, I know that neither is French oriented.

For French brasseries, I'm sure you can find one within 10 blocks or so. Can't help you there though.

Sep 06, 2014
johnblacksox in Manhattan

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

Ha, well, yeah, I like the things I like. Who doesn't? If we all liked every restaurant in the world, Chowhound wouldn't exist, right?

Back Bay/Beacon Hill, semantics. Guilty as charged about South Boston though, smtucker went off on me for that too. :-)

Traffic to No. 9 Park is no worse than to Hamersley's. And yes, I am actually going back to Hamersley's one last time, on a random night, because I couldn't get reservations for my "special occasion night".

That's how I found out they were closing. I called to make reservations 4 weeks out, and they were booked. I was like...Huh? Why are you booked? And they said they were closing, and many people were reserving. So I basically asked for any date at a reasonable dining hour, and got one 6 weeks out. Crazy, but evidently, I'm not alone in liking Hamersley's. ;-)

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

I meant South End, not South Boston, sorry.

And let's just say that in the (late) 1980's, the South End didn't look like it does now. :-)

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

I should probably post a wrap-up, since so many people were nice enough to share their personal recommendations.

The restaurants mentioned here all look really good in their own rights. If I lived or worked in the Boston area, I'm sure I'd eventually try most of them.

But as I said, there are certain restaurants that "feel" like a special occasion type destination. You don't eat there all the time, but when you do, you want everything to be perfect and, well, special. The bar is set higher, across the board, than just eating good food.

For me, the old L'Espalier in its brownstone location was the perfect example. Recently, Hamersley's was my go-to special occasion restaurant. What do I love about it? I love that the chef is there, cooking, almost all the time. I love that he's not a celebrity on TV with 5 other Hamersley's outposts in various shopping malls on 495. I love that it was in South Boston before South Boston was cool. I love the valet parking, and easy access to/from the Mass Pike. I love the brick exterior. I love the tablecloths, carpeting, warm lighting. I love the numerous great champagnes by the glass. I love the wine list. I love the classically prepared seasonal food. I love the warm welcome, and the warm proper service. I love that it's always crowded, and that most of the people are well-dressed. The servers seem happy, the diners seem happy.

Anyway...I did actually look at the websites of *every* place mentioned here.

For my next special occasion dinner (in October), I'm going to try No. 9 Park.

Pros: Location is ideal. Valet parking. I'm sure the food, wine, and service will be great. Restaurant looks beautiful inside. White tablecloths, etc.

Cons: It's part of the Barbara Lynch(TM) empire. I had a great dinner at Menton, but it had a blah corporate ambiance, not at all "warm". It wasn't a hotel restaurant, but it might as well have been.

I'm hoping that the Back Bay location is warmer, it looks it from the pictures.

Thoughts on my choice?

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

Northender...Prezza looks great. I'm just not convinced it's a special dinner type place. Again, if I lived in the area, I'd love going there.

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

teezeetoo...From the Guilia website: "Parking in our neighborhood can sometimes be a challenge -- we recommend taking public transportation if you can!"

So...yeah...No way, for a special occasion.

Lots of people have given examples of really good, nice, neighborhood restaurants. If I lived in the area, I would love to go to 90% of these recommendations. It's a different story for a special occasion place, where I don't want to deal with traffic, parking, maybe "iffy" service, maybe a not so great wine list, maybe most people wearing t-shirts, etc.

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

MaxEntropy...Thanks...Good idea with Meritage. I do sort of like the Rowes Wharf area, but the restaurant looks like a typical nice hotel restaurant. Still, it's an interesting idea, and I'll look more into it.

If it was the type of place I could get dressed up and have a beautiful view of the harbor, I might be able to get over my hotel-restaurant-phobia.

Harvest is less likely, as I'd probably be more likely to consider Grill 23 in Back Bay than their outpost in Cambridge. And I'm not a big steakhouse guy. ;-)

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

dori_pm...I checked the website, and it looks a little casual.

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

kenner83, thanks for the idea...I hadn't even considered that. But based on the replies, they sort of confirm my fear that the service and food would be a problem.

It's too bad a knowledgeable restaurant group doesn't take over that spot. It would be a fun location.

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

ChinaCat...I've been to DeuxAve recently.

It was "ok". No tablecloths, on the corner of a busy street. Huge walkup crowd at outdoor tables.

Food was EXCELLENT. I mean really, everything I ate was awesome. That was the best part of the evening. Wine list was great.

The service was a little too familiar, and the space wasn't warm. It reminded me a lot of Sorrelina in terms of crowd and ambiance. Great place to grab dinner spur of the moment, but I wouldn't mark my calendar to eat there.

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

Leo...Well yeah, actually, parking, interior, and neighborhood are all part of going to a special occasion restaurant.

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

Carty...Thank you! You summed up exactly what I am talking about.

We all have unique likes and dislikes. I don't want people to try to convince me that I should eat in Cambridge, when I specifically said I preferred not to.

And again, you're spot on with No. 9 Park, I'm going to try that...

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

Aclochofa, thanks...

Based on my web research, Bergamot looks a little too casual for a special occasion type place. And Rialto is in a Canmbridge hotel, so two strikes there. The website looks a little heavy on the celebrity chef angle too.

No. 9 Park is my leading choice, even though I was kind of "blah" about Menton. The ambiance at No. 9 Park looks warmer.

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

cjd260, thanks!

No. 9 Park is actually the front runner.

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

I checked the website for Brasserie Jo, and it looks like a corporate hotel restaurant. It actually touts the fact that the chef owns the "Eiffel Tower Restaurant" in Las Vegas.

So...Yeah, not what I'm looking for. But if you enjoy it, great.

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

I just checked out La Voile, and it looks very nice. I may check it out. Not sure it's special enough though. It looks more like a great place to eat if I happen to be in Newbury St. area.

The wine list posted on-line is unusually sparse. They don't even list wines or Champagne by the glass.

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

Well, my impression of Cambridge dining is that there are more restaurants that are a scene than normal. Honestly, the same can be said of the South End these days. Still, you can't deny the comments I've heard about dining in some of the trendy Cambridge restaurants.

Logistics are also a major concern. It is so incredibly easy to get to Hamersley's, and the old L'Espalier. It's a pleasure to go there.

Cambridge is a PITA to drive in. If I have to get off the Mass Pike, sit in traffic for 30 minutes, then illegally park on a distant side street, that is a deal-breaker. Any place that has valet parking automatically gets moved to the front of the line.

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

It looks nice, I'd love to eat there. Just that I'm not sure it fits the bill as a destination restaurant for a special occasion.

If I lived in Boston, I'm sure I'd try it. But my excursions to Boston are very limited, so I'm looking for a really consistently special experience.