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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.

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

I like Providence.

Just that Boston is the preeminent city in the area, and I love Boston. I enjoy visiting the city. Seems like I should be able to find a special, comfortable, up-scale restaurant there.

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

peelmeagrape: Thanks for the kind words. I feel like a dinosaur at times because I like nice ambiance and service.

And yes, I like Sorellina. But it feels more like a nice place to have dinner, and less like a destination, special occasion place.

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

eviltwinjen and black_lab: Thanks for the comments! I will definitely consider Rialto, and maybe TW Food. I laughed at your mention of the nightmare of parking in Cambridge. YES! If I want a relaxing dinner out, all dressed up, on a rainy winter night, why do I want to drive in circles on one way streets, then illegally park, walk a mile in the rain, and hope that I don't get towed?

Valet parking? Ideal. Walkable safe on-street parking? No problem. Illegal parking three miles away? That's a problem.

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

jajjguy: I looked at the TW Food website, but they have zero pictures of the interior (one of my major pet peeves). I saw a couple random shots on Yelp that looked pretty good.

But yeah, I have considered trying Craigie, but I often hear comments such as Carty says, that's it's a weird scene there. That's my main reason for avoiding Cambridge. When you, as a proponent, say that "people differ on the ambiance and service", that is a huge red flag to me. I will never go to a place where they say the food is great, and the service is iffy.

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

Yes, I think that may be worth a try. I've been to Menton but not No.9 Park, how would you contrast the two?

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

LeoLioness: Good question...Mainly, imagine a "special occasion" such as a 10/20/25 year anniversary, where you want to go out and have a special wonderful evening regardless of cost. That's my #1 criteria.

I didn't list anything in order, but I'd say the American/French/Italian is a deal breaker. No sushi bars, sorry. Also, bad service is a deal-breaker.

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

Gordough: You are astute. To clarify...I had a nice dinner at Menton, but I've never felt a burning desire to return. The best I can describe it is to say it's "soul-less". Everything is good, but in a calculated way.

I should say that I really like B&G Oysters as a casual bar/restaurant. So I'm not opposed to Lynch.

I am considering No. 9 Park. But you make a valid point...Is it in the same mold as Menton?

Carty: I'll let go my preferences when you give up your personal dining preferences. Think of some genre or style that you really don't like, and I'll tell you to get over it. :-)

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

Blumie: You're baffled why I refuse to prefer Cambridge, and I'm baffled why you can't accept my criteria.

Cambridge is a PITA to travel to. And parking is often a PITA also. There are also hyper-trendy restaurants there that are part of a foodie-scene that I really don't enjoy. The trendy part can also be said for South Boston, and yet I like Hamersley's, because it bucks the trend.

You say there are "many great restaurants where one can dress up for a celebratory dinner". But you didn't list any.

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

Since so many people have mentioned Rialto, I'll definitely check it out. Thank you, hotoynoodle!

teezeetoo: What does TW stand for?

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

Yes, MCslimJB, I agree. But since the restaurant spends boat loads of money on marketing, photos, and a website, why don't they show pictures of the decor? Why do I have to rely on some tourist with an iPhone to take a grainy blurry picture of the dining room, and post it on Instragram? It's insane, really.

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

A hotel restaurant is a cold business venture. It has nothing to do with the heart and soul of a chef cooking for people.

I'll try to explain like this:

L'Espalier was in a gorgeous brownstone, with romantic exterior, and interior, fireplaces, odd quirky rooms. The kitchen was a claustrophobic nightmare, I've heard. But, as a diner, it was insanely romantic.

They moved to a hotel...

I'm sure they spent millions of dollars on the new dining room. It's opulent, comfortable. There is a faux library room. You enter through a stainless steel and glass elevator. There are no windows on the street. There is a faux gas fireplace. There is faux paneling. The food and service are the same as the old place. IMO, the original L'Espalier was a labor of love, and the new one is a soul-less corporate business venture.

I am actually really happy for the L'Espalier owners that they cashed in on a great business deal. But for me, personally, I would never go the new place again. It's fake.

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.