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visiting Chicago with family, River North (lots of questions)

Publican Quality Meats looks amazing and right up my alley (especially that gyro). Is there anything in that area that would keep the kids entertained afterward, like a playground or park, to bribe them into heading that way?

That's good to know about Public House. Sounds like it's not something to go out of our way for, especially with the seating arrangements. Howells & Hood looks great, thanks so much.

Aug 18, 2015
njpm in Chicago Area

visiting Chicago with family, River North (lots of questions)

Is there another place you would recommend in place of the Slurping Turtle? Any place that serves dumplings and noodles is a hit for everyone in my family, so I'd love any alternative recs in the area. Ramen-san looks delicious, as does Roka Akor (the mocktail options caught my eye). Union looks great, too, and I think my kids would enjoy watching the grill in action. So many choices!! (And we're already booked for a walking tour of Eataly--can't wait!)

Also, I noticed in another thread that you work at the Merchandise Mart and saw there's a Canstruction exhibit happening. I saw on the Canstruction website that it's open to public viewing but couldn't find any info about admission fees or hours. Do you happen to know if we would need to pay to go see the exhibit? My kids would really love it. Thanks!

Aug 18, 2015
njpm in Chicago Area

visiting Chicago with family, River North (lots of questions)

Thank you so much for all of this info!! I'll definitely research the places you mention around the Field, Shedd, the science museum, and Grant Park. (Bongo Room sounds like a bingo for my kids.) My husband will be thrilled about Do-Rite Donuts and Toni Patisserie. One thing I forgot to ask is about outstanding ice cream/frozen treat places--can you recommend any that would be easy to get to (on the regular tourist path)?

We're already signed up for a walking tour of Eataly--it's confirmed that one will open in Boston in the next year or so, so I'm very much looking forward to using the Chicago one as a kind of preview of what's coming our way. And the French Market sounds great. We will try to hit that as well.

Aug 18, 2015
njpm in Chicago Area

visiting Chicago with family, River North (lots of questions)

My husband, two children (ages 8 and 6), and I are super excited to visit Chicago in a few weeks. We're staying at the Kinzie from Sunday to Friday and would love suggestions on where to get great chow within a 10 to 20-minute walk at places that won't blink an eye at children and that don't require a weeks-in-advance reservation for eating between 5 and 6 PM. So far, I have my eye on GT Fish & Oyster, David Burke Prime, the Slurping Turtle, the Purple Pig, and Lou Malnati's. Except for one splurge dinner (David Burke, most likely), we'd like to keep the tab around $100-$125 with a couple drinks, not including tip. Children's menus are not necessary, and we're fine with grazing from a few apps rather than ordering entrees for everyone to keep the bill reasonable. Any type of cuisine is fine; I'm intrigued by Tanta but think it will be a little too "risky" with my kids to justify the prices. I feel like my choices are safe, but will they be good? With all of the incredible places to eat, I'm trying hard to choose places that satisfy the foodie adults as well as the kids (behavior will be fine--they're used to eating out a lot in Boston, but their palates are not the most sophisticated…I'm working on that, though!).

I've noticed that a lot of places have happy hour specials, which we don't have in Boston and which I'd love to take advantage of. Do you need to sit at the bar for those in most places (where I'm assuming it's frowned upon to have children belly up) or just be at the restaurant during established times to take advantage of those?

Are there places around the hotel you would recommend for a good traditional (eggs, pancakes, etc.) breakfast? Also, we get a discount at the Public House; is it worth it, or would we find better food elsewhere? The menu looks great for our needs and the 9-page drinks list looks amazing, but I've been fooled before!

Are there any great bakeries or food trucks we should seek out (ideally, near places where we could have a picnic)? And lastly, we're planning on doing the usual tourist stuff (Field Museum, Shedd, Navy Pier, boat tour, science museum, Grant Park); are there any places around any of those that we shouldn't miss? (I've skimmed through past threads and it seems like the area around the Museum of Science and Industry, in particular, is pretty bleak.)

Thanks so much for any feedback you can provide! We're so looking forward to visiting your beautiful city!!

Aug 15, 2015
njpm in Chicago Area

Bday Room Rental--Boston and Surrounding Towns

I've always wanted to try the Hawthorne's side room for an event your size but am not sure about the price/food situation. My husband's 50th is coming up, and that's one of the first places I plan on researching when the time comes.

Jul 30, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Morano Gelato Chestnut Hill, the realness

Spurred on by this thread, I had a date with my 6-year-old last week and took him here for dessert. He has a difficult time making the simplest decisions (kids these days!), so I appreciated the fact that we could get 2-3 flavors per cup. He chose the baby size ($3) of sweet milk combined with stracciatella, and he declared they both "tasted the same" as he finished the entire thing. I didn't get a chance to disprove him. I chose lemon basil, strawberry, and hazelnut in my small ($5). The strawberry was the clear winner, with tons of visible seeds and a flavor that screamed pure summer. I wished the basil was a little more assertive in the lemon basil, but the lemon was deliciously intense and zesty. The hazelnut went surprisingly well with the other flavors but I did not get many chunks of actual hazelnut in my scoop. I'm looking forward to sampling the other flavors throughout the summer and beyond.

Jul 09, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Pig Roast at Citizen's Public, vs Posto, plus hat tip to Pennypackers

A few (maybe 3?) years ago, 6 of us had a delicious roast suckling pig at Tavolo in Dorchester. It was my only time doing the roast pig thing, and I'm fuzzy on specifics, but it was great fun. Chef Nuno (no longer there) came out to chat with us, our server was super friendly and efficient, and there were plenty of leftovers, including the head my husband and I picked at the next day. IIRC, the skin was crispy, the meat was tender, and the sides were generous and great accompaniments. We're fans of Tavolo in general and that evening didn't disappoint.

May 31, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Creative mocktails for 16th birthday

Island Creek has several delicious-sounding mocktails on their drink menu (I've enjoyed Wags #2 with pomegranate syrup, and my son liked Abigail's Delight--herbal pineapple soda) and although it's not the cheapest place around, if you carefully choose a few raw bar items, a soup or salad, and/or an app/side, you may squeak by for $20/person (although the fish and chips is now $19!). Other than price (which I know is pretty significant), it fits your other criteria.

This weekend, there was a family with two kids, I'd guess around ages 8 and 10, sitting on the patio at the Hawthorne and everyone (including the server bringing drinks and nibbles to the table) seemed to be quite happy. My husband and I were actually thinking of taking our kids there right when it first opens now that the patio is open--ICOB/Hawthorne is one of our favorite combos.

Hope you have a great time wherever you end up!

May 26, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Looking for good seafood place for dinner that's kid friendly

I have two kids, ages 7 and 6, and I highly recommend Island Creek Oyster Bar. The staff have been extremely welcoming to us the many times we've gone as a family (my son is turning 8 next week and requested we go there for fish and chips), the only reservations usually available are during the earlier time frame you're looking for (usually 5 or 5:30), and the menu (both food and drink) is excellent. It is midrange to expensive, depending on what you order, but the atmosphere is casual yet lively enough to appeal to a wide range. Most importantly, the room can get pleasantly noisy, which helps when you have younger children in tow.

I know Legal Seafoods doesn't get a lot of love on the board and the food is definitely not up to Island Creek level, but certain locations (I'm thinking of the Kendall Square location in particular) is very accommodating to families and children. Same thing with Jasper White's Alewife (in Cambridge) location. If you order basic, simple preparations of seafood at either restaurant, you're pretty safe, and the fried chicken at Jasper White's is my younger son's favorite.

I hope you have a great experience wherever you end up!!

Great Boston restaurants with my kids

I have to admit that we don't get to the North End that often and when we do, we usually hit up Pizzeria Regina. When we're in the mood for Italian, Tavolo in Dorchester and Delfino's in Roslindale are closer and therefore our go-tos. I hope you love Island Creek as much as we and many others do!

Feb 27, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Great Boston restaurants with my kids

I have two kids, ages 7 and 6, and we've had great success (with both food and service) at the following places (T stop in parens): Ribelle (Washington Square, Brookline), Island Creek Oyster Bar (Kenmore Square), Commonwealth (Kendall Square, Cambridge), Taiwan Cafe (Chinatown), Pizzeria Regina (North End), Tavolo (Ashmont, Dorchester), and Eastern Standard (Kenmore Square). We go on the earlier side, which may not be an issue for you since your kids are a bit older, and when I call to make the reservation, I double check to make sure the restaurant is OK with kids in the dining room. My husband and I love dining out, so we've tried to bring our kids with us at early ages to acclimate them on how to behave so we can enjoy it as a family. Our youngest has recently requested trying a tasting menu, which pleased me to no end. Have a great trip, and I can't wait to hear where you end up to add to our list!

Feb 26, 2015
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Lunch in Dover NH area?

I'm by no means an expert, but I used to live and work in Dover and visited last summer to catch up with friends in the area. I had two young boys with me and also wanted to avoid chains, so we tried La Festa for pizza if that suits your fancy at all. I'd recommend ordering a whole pie to get it made fresher than the myriad of slices they sell (which didn't impress me too much). The place is very casual, but it was spacious, quick, and reasonably priced. The garlic knots were very dense and not worth the calories, in my opinion, but they seemed to be very popular.

A place I've always wanted to try is the Terra Cotta Pasta company:

From the picture, it looks mainly like a take-out space but there does seem to be a table or two to sit at. I used to work on a different floor in that old mill building on the river.

To be honest and if it wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience, I'd recommend heading to Street in Portsmouth: (not directly in downtown Portsmouth but not far from it at all). I've had the cemita and the lamb burger, both of which were incredible. Again, it's very casual and is very popular but well worth it.

I hope a local will chime in with more recommendations because I still visit the area enough to want a reliable place or two. From what I remember, there were more than enough local places in downtown Dover but the chains toward the former Weeks traffic circle were always packed to the gills.

Please report back wherever you do end up!

Jan 21, 2015
njpm in Northern New England

Interesting restaurant for a group in upper valley.

Don't know if this is too far for your group but my SIL (who lives near Hanover) treated my husband and I to a dinner at the Tip Top Cafe in White River Junction, VT, a few months ago when we were visiting her:

Our very pleasant server seemed to be a customer favorite (the table next to us requested to be seated in his section and he stopped to say hi to other parties even though he wasn't waiting on their tables), and there was a large group in the middle of the dining room that seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The fries with garlic aioli were outstanding, and I had the gumbo (not vegetarian), which had just enough heat not to overwhelm the fantastic flavors (the sausage was locally made and it was delicious). My husband had a vegetarian gnocchi special that he declared pillowy and yummy.

We're from Boston and we thought the meal could easily compete with many places around here at a slightly lower price point than we're used to paying. It was a cozy, completely unpretentious place that we really enjoyed and would definitely be regulars at if we lived in the area.

Nov 11, 2014
njpm in Northern New England

dover, nh, with 2 kids

Want to report back in case anyone else is ever in my boat. We did go to Dante's in Barrington the first night (a beautiful 15-minute drive from Dover). The parking lot was packed but we chose to sit in the dining room, where there were only three other occupied tables. (For families, I'd choose the lounge, since I was the youngest by about 20 years and felt like the other patrons and some of the servers were giving my kids the stink eye even though they were fine. Maybe I was just self-conscious....) There's also an outdoor patio that was half full. Kids got homemade breaded chicken tenders, standard steak fries seasoned with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese (one kid loved it, the other not so much), and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and pizzelle for $6.99 per meal--not a bad deal. I got veal parm ($16) with fresh linguini ($1.50 extra). Huge portion with lots of chunky tomatoes in the sauce, pasta was fine though not worth the extra charge, and two veal cutlets were tender but not as crunchy as I was hoping given the description of being coated in panko. Glass of house chianti was serviceable. Best part of the meal was the sliced bread and the delicious dipping oil/balsamic with chunks of sliced garlic. Service was scattered but pleasant. Overall, I'd give the experience a solid B.

Next night's dinner was at La Festa, where we arrived at 5:30. Place was hopping and we got slices (cheese for the kids, one pepperoni slice and one slice of sausage with peppers and onions for me) and an order of garlic knots. The garlic knots were indulgent carb bombs-dense dough rolls slathered in garlic butter and parmesan with a little minced parsley for color. As for the pizza, I appreciated the sheer number of different pizza varieties prepped for reheated slices but the actual pizza was average. Crust was flabby, pepper and onion slices were sparse, and taste was bland. I wonder if ordering a whole pie would yield better results since presumably it would be made fresh. My boys had no complaints, however, and I saw how popular it is with families. Plus, I thought the $25 or so for 6 large slices, three drinks, and an order of garlic knots was reasonable.

I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the Dover area's food options, and it's safe to say my expectations were met. We had decent meals at local, non-corporate establishments and didn't pay an arm and a leg, and that's pretty much all I could have asked for. We'll be back next summer visiting the same friends, so I'll check in next year to see if anything has changed.

Jul 20, 2014
njpm in Northern New England

dover, nh, with 2 kids

I'll be staying in Dover this Thursday and Friday with a 7 y.o. and a 5 y.o. and will be looking for dinner each night. I used to live in the area many years ago and know that much has changed, and I'd like to stay away from chains. My kids aren't super adventurous but we all appreciate quality over the Sysco frozen stuff. A couple things to note: we'll be tired from going to the beach/visiting friends near Lake Winnipesauke, so casual but efficient service is ideal. Also, we'll be heading to Portsmouth over the weekend so I'm focusing on Dover and a 15-minute radius during the week.

With that being said, I'm considering the 15-minute drive out to Dante's in Barrington on Thursday evening because I remember it was more than decent for casual Italian in a welcoming space. I looked up The Spaghetti Stain for something closer but it got horrible reviews online.

For Friday's dinner, I'm thinking about La Festa (going on the earlier side because I imagine it gets crowded on a Friday night) but also glanced at the Farm Bar and Grille website, which sounded basic but good.

Other thoughts are picking up something to go at Terra Cotta Pasta or venturing out to the UNH dairy bar for a sandwich and a cone. Is Oriental Delight a step above standard Americanized greasy, gloppy Chinese food, or should I not even consider it? If I feel energized enough to try to go somewhere for a glass of wine and a good meal while the kids have some options as well (standard hot dog/chicken tenders with fries are fine), is that a possibility among all of the sports pub-type places that seem to be prevalent?

Any thoughts or other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance.

Jul 15, 2014
njpm in Northern New England

Lunch near Symphony Hall

When we take our kids (ages 6 and 5) to Symphony Hall, we usually eat at Ginger Exchange on Huntington (replaced Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner). It's definitely not authentic but the boys devour the dumplings and bao, and my husband and I thought their take on the Korean fried chicken (called WOW wings) was decent enough (not Bon Chon level, but...). We also liked the Korean style beef. Haven't tried the sushi.

Brasserie Jo also gets a lot of love and seems like it would be a fine place to take a child, especially at lunch, but we've never been.

Enjoy the Pops!

Dec 04, 2013
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Dining in Brewster MA besides Oceans Edge

Wow-I guess not being a "food snob" or a resident of Cape Cod really clouded my judgment. I stand by my experience, but there are apparently better choices in or near Brewster. Good to know.

Jun 28, 2013
njpm in Southern New England

Dining in Brewster MA besides Oceans Edge

I guess we were just lucky then because we really had a great evening...and I take my dining out seriously. However, I also admit that having an opportunity to be away from my young children for a couple of days may have also caused me to put my rose-colored glasses on.

I'm curious, though: does the bad reputation include the food and the service, or just one or the other? I recall being nervous about a stuffy, pretentious atmosphere but didn't get that at all.

Jun 27, 2013
njpm in Southern New England

Dining in Brewster MA besides Oceans Edge

My husband and I stayed at Ocean's Edge (the condo side) a few years ago, and we had one of the finest dinners we've ever had at Chillingsworth, just down the road from OE. I can't remember the actual food we ate (two children have obliterated my memory), but it was the unique atmosphere and warm, friendly, completely unpretentious service that made a very favorable impression. It was like eating in a sprawling country home with tasteful tchotchkes all around. There's a casual bistro-style part of the building, but we ate in the fine dining part, which offers 3+ courses for a certain price depending on the entree you choose. I also second the Brewster Fish House rec. Enjoy your stay!

Jun 26, 2013
njpm in Southern New England

Rossie/ West Rox eats

I don't know if you're looking only for restaurants, but I just tried Baker Baker (right next to Spring Street Cafe, mentioned below, and I gather both bakers either used to work or still work at SSC) and picked up an oreo whoopie pie that was pretty good. Not perfect (the pie part was a little too dense for me, but the cream filling was light and delicious), but I'm going to take a chance and order a birthday cake from them this weekend. Small space with very friendly staff and good-looking assortment of cookies, cupcakes, pies, bars, etc.

I second Phuket for tasty (albeit probably not the most authentic) Thai in a nice setting; lunch deals are an easy, cheap way to sample the menu, and dinner prices won't break the bank either.

Seven Star Street Bistro on Belgrade in Roslindale has pretty good takeout (lo mein, pork buns, pork strips, dumplings are our favorites). The wait times can be ridiculous but they're pretty upfront about them and also deliver.

Diane's bakery in Roslindale Square is an old-school bakery with incredibly good cupcakes, all-butter chocolate chip cookies (as well as those that aren't all butter), danish, birthday cakes, etc. The prices are really low and the woman with the glasses who works the counter is super friendly and loves kids.

Not a huge fan of Fornax except for their breads, West on Centre (everything sounds good on paper but I find their food to be bland and boring), or Sugar (food is better than WoC but overpriced and usually served with a side of attitude/carelessness).

Apr 25, 2013
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

Thanks! I know everyone has different criteria when they visit a different town, but for us, Portland really fit the bill in terms of having an abundance of varied, excellent eats within a small, walkable radius and fitting different budgets and appetites.

Apr 23, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

I'd be interested to hear what you have when you get to the Blue Rooster. While we were there, someone was raving about the poutine tater tots, and the porchetta sandwich sounded right up my time. Cutty's in Brookine Village near me has amazing sandwiches (no hot dogs, though) and is also tiny, though the prices are a couple dollars more than Blue Rooster.

We wanted to eat at Flatbread, but there was a 45-minute wait, which we didn't think the kids could handle so that's why we got the takeout. We didn't get to do some of what we originally wanted (the Sea Dogs game, Fore Street, the ferry ride), but that's what the summer's for!

I agree with you about ICOB vs. Eventide; it's really comparing apples to oranges. They both do what they do very well.

I forgot to include the pork buns at Pai Men--we did get them and they were just as good as everything else we had there. I'm still thinking about that meal...

Apr 23, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

You're absolutely right--shows you how much we get out to Somerville. We live in Roslindale (btw. JP and Dedham), so it's kind of a trek for us to get out to Davis Square without something else going on to make it worth the effort.

Apr 23, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

Returned from our trip to Portland and am very jealous of all of you who have easy access to such an incredible eating town. I'm already thinking of ways to get myself back up there ASAP to sample more, more, more!

Day 1: After checking in at the hotel (perfect location), I grabbed a Seoul Dog and divine tater tots (which my kids gobbled most of) from the Blue Rooster. The garlic mayo was abundantly smothered on the kimchi (itself smothered on the dog), and the toasted peanuts gave a nice crunch. So, so good and the hot dog was a bargain at under $4. I knew I was off to a good start to vacation. After walking around for a bit, we tried to get an early dinner at Eventide, but it was closed for a private event. We walked the few steps up the street to Duckfat and were the only customers around 4:45, which was perfect timing for happy hour. Large bucket of fries for the price of a small with horseradish mayo (kids got a kick out of the aerosol malt vinegar), 1/2 price cans of beer, mixed greens salad w/pepitas and radishes and a side of coppa, charcuterie plate with silky air-cured pork belly and smoked duck (which my 4-y.o. devoured, thinking it was bacon) left us all very happy. Of course, we couldn't leave without dessert, so we shared an order of churros (my only complaint was that they were so light and airy that they easily fell apart when dunked in the spiced chocolate and salted caramel sauces) and a salted caramel milkshake.

Day 2: breakfast at Standard Baking included croissant au chocolat, morning buns without nuts (kids appreciated the no-nuts option), raspberry galette, and demi baguette. Walked to the narrow gauge railroad (great museum!) for a train ride and then made it to Eventide for a late lunch. Husband had lunch combo with 1/2 dozen oysters and the fried oyster bun, I had the combo with the chowder and lobster roll, kids split a fried chicken bun and the battered hake, potato chips, and a side of biscuits and harissa carrots. I couldn't help but compare Eventide with Island Creek, and I'd give the edge to Eventide. First, it's open for lunch and has combos; second, that chowder is awesome with the large slices of salt pork and the rich but light consistency; third, the hake was perfectly fried with the batter (rice flour maybe?) crispy without a drop of grease; and fourth; the butter that came with the biscuits was out of this world--creamy, topped with chives and crunch granules of something sweet (coarse brown sugar is my guess). Then we rolled ourselves over to Two Fat Cats for a whoopie pie and a vanilla cupcake. (I LOVED that whoopie pie and would have gone back for more if I wasn't so stuffed.) Dinner was take-out from Flatbread (two pizzas and a salad, all of which made us wish for a Flatbread closer to us).

Day 3: trekked to Schulte & Herr, where we had potato pancakes with lox, roasted beets, double smoked bacon, waffle with spiced blueberry syrup (which my kids wanted to drink right out of the container), and traditional egg breakfasts. Spent a looooong time at the Children's Museum (it's smaller than Boston's but that's not such a bad thing) before having no problem getting a table at Pai Men Miyake around 3. This was by far my husband's and my favorite meal of the trip. He had paitan ramen, I had the miso ramen, kids had an order of pork gyoza each, and we split edamame and daikon/carrot salad. Housemade lavender-hibiscus soda was refreshing, though I wished it was a bit fizzier. For dinner, we stupidly thought we could walk into Paciarino without a reservation, so we consoled ourselves at the Gelato Fiasco. I had a 1/2 cookie sandwich with dark chocolate mint gelato, and the cookie was incredibly delicious. I didn't end up liking the mint in my gelato after a few bites, but my husband loved his toasted coconut and the kids loved all the samples they got.

Day 4: breakfast at the hotel for convenience before packing up and heading back to Boston.

I know this is long, but a few last comments: I was struck by how small the restaurants are (except for Flatbread, which we didn't stay and eat at), which I would imagine makes for a more intimate, personal dining experience (for better or worse) than what we're used to in Boston. Except for the hotel breakfast, service everywhere we went was more than just friendly--I felt like all of the staff actually enjoyed making us feel comfortable. I also really appreciated the walkability of Portland. And although it was a tiny sample, the consistently high quality of the actual food made an impression. My husband and I were trying to rank our meals from best to worst, and the thing we both said was that Flatbread was the "worst" just because it was pizza, but it surpassed most of the pizza we get around here. Thanks again, all!

Apr 22, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

Wow-thank you so much for all the feedback! It looks like we'll skip the farmers' market and Emilitsa this time around (if only they did takeout...sigh) and head to Standard Baking Company in the morning and Two Fat Cats for an afternoon treat. We'll definitely try Paciarino rather than Eve's, and I'm so relieved that Pai Men Miyake is a keeper! Also good to know about the Public Market House. We have two Otto branches near us, so we might try Flatbread instead (especially if there are water views!), but pizza is always a good option to have with kids and I didn't even think of it in my original post.

sultana: Thanks for the heads up about Sebago; it looks like Novare or LFK is the better choice.

bobbert: When I mentioned Holy Donut and the potato/healthier aspect to my husband, he rolled his eyes and told me to ask if there are any good "old-timey" donut places in town. But we do plan on going to an afternoon Sea Dogs game, so I'm sure he won't need too much convincing if it's right near the stadium.

bakersma: You're correct in thinking we won't have a car, so we're looking for options within a mile or less from the hotel. And thank you for the Silly's info: that place looks perfect!

A couple more questions if you all don't mind: Is Dean's Sweets worth a visit, or is there a better chocolatier in town? (No car means little chance of visiting Sweet Marguerites and the Bar of Chocolate cafe will be closed in April per Facebook.) Of course, we may save the calories for all those gelato options close to the hotel.

Also, is there a good place for take-away sandwiches for a picnic? Nothing fancy, but good quality meat (my husband's not a huge fan of Boar's Head) and bread options would be nice.

Thanks again!

Apr 04, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

Taking the train from Boston to Portland for a few days in April with my 4- and 6-year-old (and husband) and will be staying at the Portland Harbor Hotel. My problem is that everything looks incredible, and I'm having a hard time narrowing down options! A few questions:

Is the Sat. winter farmers' market worth a trip? Specifically, are there vendors that sell pastries and ready-to-eat items since we won't have a kitchen?

Emilitsa is an intriguing lunch or early dinner option--can someone give price ranges?

Does Two Fat Cats sell breakfast pastries? The website lists lots of sweets and desserts, but it would be great if we could get something in the morning. I'll call them, too, as we get closer to our trip.

We'd love to hit Pai Men Miyake in the off-peak hours (I'm thinking between 2 and 4:30), but would it be a total disaster to bring our kids? They like gyoza and edamame and are generally well-behaved (like everyone's kids on CH, right??), but if it's really a special-occasion place, we'll skip it.

I'd love to go to Fore Street when it opens for the evening and would make a reservation to make sure they're okay with kids, but for those who are familiar with it, would you say it's a yay or nay in terms of kid-friendly ambiance (not too quiet so we don't get the stink-eye from other diners)? Same question for Schulte & Herr (although I'm thinking that might be a better brunch option).

Is anyone familiar with the hotel's restaurant, Eve's at the Garden, or the pasta place below it, Paciarino?

We're also considering Eventide for lunch or early dinner (we've taken the kids to Island Creek Oyster Bar here in Boston many times with much success, and I'm hoping Eventide is similar), Caiola's for Sun. brunch, Duckfat for lunch/early dinner, Browne Trading Co. for take-away lunch, and Sebago.

Any and all advice or other suggestions are welcome (food or otherwise--we're definitely hitting the children's museum and taking in a Sea Dogs game). Thanks so much in advance--we're really looking forward to it!

Apr 02, 2013
njpm in Northern New England

Places to have breakfast/brunch with Santa?

The Royal Sonesta in Cambridge is having a brunch with Santa this Saturday.

Dec 13, 2012
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Dedham/Randolph dinner: Isabella or Caffe Bella?

I've never been to Caffe Bella but went to Isabella Saturday night with my husband for an early dinner before catching a flick at the theater next door. This was our second time there and we used a Groupon that let us split an appetizer and dessert but order separate entrees. We had a crab cake app that consisted of what looked like two small arancini over a bed of tasty but a tad too creamy celery root slaw. The crab cakes ($13) were breaded and fried very well and were full of crabby flavor without a lot of filler. My entree was the fresh pasta with lobster meat, mushrooms, and peas ($25), which delivered what it promised. The lobster meat was claw meat and not at all rubbery, and the mushrooms were delicious. The pasta had good chew. My husband had seared scallops (I think it was about the same price as the pasta) with a balsamic glaze, which he really enjoyed. The dish also included a ton of arugula (too much for him to finish) and sautéed broccoli rabe. We split the chocolate cake with ice cream and caramel sauce (around $8), which was basically a popover-shaped brownie and satisfied our sweet tooth. Overall, we decided the food was above average (many people were ordering the ribeye special that night, which looked incredible) but a bit too pricey for us to visit more often. We lucked out by getting one of the last tables without a reservation, but when we left at 7, there was a line out the door. Noise level was on the high side, but I didn't feel like I had to shout to be heard. I think they have a different, less expensive bar menu, and the bar seemed bustling as well. Excellent service and nice wine list. If you end up there, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Oct 15, 2012
njpm in Greater Boston Area

Recommendations for Portsmouth? [moved from Boston board]

Street 360 (I'm not sure if that's the formal name) is a funky, casual place with "international street food" about a 3-minute drive from downtown Portsmouth. Website:
Had the cemita with fried chicken, which was incredible, and my two kids enjoyed their hot dogs. If I lived closer, I'd be there every day.

On the second floor of the Atrezzi wine store, there's a small chocolate counter with some decent handmade chocolates sold by the pound. I liked the variety of sea salt caramels but wasn't too thrilled with the homemade peppermint patties, which I found to be waxy and a weird texture.

For higher-end chocolates that are amazing, there's Byrne and Carlson (, right near Prescott Park.

Enjoy your trip! Portsmouth is one of my favorite towns, and I miss living close to it dearly.

Sep 19, 2012
njpm in Northern New England

Fun Atmospheres

The Hawthorne in Kenmore Square not only has amazing cocktails (see other posts that go into more detail) but also a fun room with the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat on. I like how there's plenty of space so you don't feel like you're sardines in a tin, and the noise level was lively but low enough that I could talk without shouting (at least on a weeknight; I'm not sure how much of a zoo it is on weekends). There's also a separate "living room," which our server gave us a tour of. She said you can request sitting there whenever you come in or when you make a reservation. You can bring your iPod and slap it in the dock hidden behind one of the pieces of artwork in the room. Depending on how many people you're with, it could be like your own private party!

Aug 11, 2012
njpm in Greater Boston Area