Your table awaits

Email|Print| Text size + By Alison Arnett
Globe Staff / July 25, 2004

Once known for a stodgy diet of baked beans and cod, Boston cuisine has flourished in the last 15 years or so, and its restaurant scene is varied and lively. Nationally known chefs such as Todd English of Olives and Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger join with young chefs who celebrate New England seafood and local produce. From the North End to the South End, waterfront to Back Bay and beyond, there's never a danger of going hungry.

Step right up

Boston is a walking city, and there's plenty to eat within the limits of a pleasant stroll from Convention Central.

138 Portland St., 617-523-8383
Just a block from the FleetCenter, Anthem serves updated American classics; the ambience is casual but upscale. Entrees: $9-$23.

Grand Canal
57 Canal St., 617-523-1112
Irish and pseudo-Irish pubs abound in Boston. This one is as authentic as any. The staff can pull a perfect pint of Guinness, and though the food is secondary here, it's hearty and well-priced. Entrees: $7-$14.

Boston Harbor Hotel, Rowes Wharf, 617-439-3995
The finely nuanced cuisine is matched to wines at this rather eccentrically designed restaurant. With chef Daniel Bruce's delicious food and a divine view of the harbor, it's a great place to be. Small plates, $14; large plates, $28.

10 City Square, Charlestown, 617-242-1999
The flagship of Todd English's empire is just across the Charlestown Bridge. Although he probably won't be in the kitchen, his over-the-top Mediterranean food will be on the plates. Entrees: $25-$35.

Rustic Kitchen
200 Quincy Market, 617-523-6334
Kingfish Hall
188 S. Market St., 617-523-8862
There's food everywhere in the carnival-like Faneuil Hall. But to really dine, try chef Bill Bradley's well-crafted dishes at Rustic Kitchen. Entrees: $9-$14. Across the outdoor patio is Kingfish Hall, a Todd English restaurant specializing in seafood. Entrees: $24-$40.

69 Prince St., 617-248-8814
This neighborhood is chock-full of restaurants, and one of the best is Sage, where chef Anthony Susi sends out an eclectic mix of Italian classics and New American. Entrees: $17-$30.

Sel de la Terre
255 State St., 617-720-1300
French country fare is the draw at this sophisticated restaurant near the New England Aquarium. Chef Geoff Gardner creates lively, satisfying flavors, and the little bakery in front can solve the need for a meal on the run. Entrees: $10-$24.

210 Hanover St., 617-720-0052
The real flavors of Southern Italy are celebrated in this handsome, reasonably priced place. Entrees: $16-$30.

98 Salem St., 617-523-3112
This little restaurant tweaks Italian classics beautifully. Entrees: $11-$32.

Union Oyster House
41 Union St., 617-227-2750
Concentrate on the oyster bar in the front of this restaurant, continuously in business since 1826, because the raw oysters and clams are the best bets on an otherwise pedestrian menu. Entrees: $17-$23.

Take the subway

Park Street Station is a hub for several subway lines and is also a good stop for restaurant hunting. But other areas –-- from the Financial District to Back Bay -- are also easily accessible by T, within a few Orange or Green Line stops.

No. 9 Park
9 Park St., 617-742-9991
South Boston native Barbara Lynch has created a restaurant that reflects the city and cutting edge cuisine in this 1803 Bulfinch mansion across from the State House. Entrees: $27-$45. MBTA: Green Line to Park Street.

4 Avery St., 617-375-8550
The glass-walled room seems to hang over the city, and chef Dante deMagistris's contemporary Italian cuisine adds to the enchantment. Entrees: $24-36. MBTA: Orange Line to Chinatown

52 Temple Place, 617-542-8111
French technique and Indian spicing meld gorgeously in plates by chef Thomas John. Diners either love or disdain the swank decor. Entrees: $21-$39. MBTA: Orange Line to Downtown Crossing, Green Line to Park Street.

8 High St., 617-426-1234
A temple to high-style cuisine in a very urbane restaurant, Radius is a worthy destination for those who keep a gourmet checklist. Entrees: $21-$39. MBTA: Red Line to South Station.

Jacob Wirth
31 Stuart St., 617-338-8586
This German-style beer house serves great sausages and sauerkraut along with generous slabs of Boston history. Entrees: $13-$26. MBTA: Orange Line to New England Medical Center.

New Shanghai
21 Hudson St., 617-338-6688
There are scads of restaurants along the crowded streets of Chinatown; this is one of the best. Ask for chef C.K. Sau's Shanghai specialties. Entrees: $12-$18. MBTA: Orange Line to Chinatown.

90 Exeter St., 617- 236-1134
The real reason to eat at this night club-cum-restaurant is chef Rene Michelena's fabulous small plates. Always creative and delicious, his cuisine makes fusion work. Entrees: $9-$30. MBTA: Green Line to Copley.

140 Boylston St., 617-695-9463
If wine trumps even politics as your passion, this restaurant near the Theater District is just right for you. The wine selection is expertly chosen and reasonably priced, and there's a long list of wines by the glass. The menu is matched to the wines. Entrees: $23-$36. MBTA: Green Line to Park Street.

Hop in a cab

A few more T stops or a cab ride will put many more restaurants on your list.

Jasper Whites Summer Shack
50 Dalton St. 617-867-9955
If lobster in the rough is what you associate with Boston, try this "clamshack" in the city. The oyster selection and grilled fish are also worth seeking out. MBTA: Green Line E train to Prudential.

Franklin Cafe
278 Shawmut Ave., 617-350-0010
A quintessential neighborhood joint in the South End, this funky place with a roaring bar scene and good food has become a must visit for the young and hip. One reason -- and why it's good for conventioneers to know about -- is that the Franklin serves food until 1:30 a.m. Entrees: $12-$19. MBTA: Silver Line bus to Washington Street at Union Park.

Grill 23 & Bar
161 Berkeley St., 617-542-2255
Steak is big in Boston -- which may sound funny to those delegates from the Midwest and West. This elegant restaurant is arguably the most popular in the city, and its devotees swear by its aged steaks, hefty portions of fish, and rich desserts. Entrees: $24-$36. MBTA: Orange Line to Back Bay.

UpStairs on the Square
91 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-864-1933
Wild colors and patterns abound in this many-staired restaurant -- you might feel you've dropped into Alice's Wonderland. The food, both at the casual downstairs restaurant and the more formal one upstairs, will make you believe in magic. Entrees: Monday Club Bar, $11-$25; Soiree Dining Room, $20-$39. MBTA: Red Line to Harvard Square.

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505
There are many delights at this very Cambridge restaurant: Ana Sortun's wonderful Eastern Mediterranean dishes; the outstanding desserts, and the beautiful garden open for summer dining. Entrees: $21-$23. MBTA: Red Line to Kendall Square or Central Square.

370A Commonwealth Ave., 617-536-7200
Chef Kenneth Oringer takes chances and the diner benefits in this sleekly designed restaurant. Though the taste sensations are intense, this is not a place for the full-plate crowd. Entrees: $28-$38. MBTA: Green Line B, C, or D train to Hynes/ICA.

Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050
Chef Jody Adams's food is always a pleasure: She cooks as though it's for you alone. Rialto attracts the elite from the city and The University -- Harvard, of course. Entrees: $21-$39. MBTA: Red Line to Harvard Square.

For a quick, cheap bite

Joe & Nemo's
138 Cambridge St. and 426 Washington St.
A recreation of a landmark hot dog joint in Scollay Square, the Cambridge Street branch boasts historical photos and Boston atmosphere, while the Downtown Crossing branch serves through a window. $1.50-$4.50. MBTA: Red Line to Charles/MGH (Cambridge Street) or Orange Line to Downtown Crossing (Washington Street).

426 Washington St., 617-542-0392
You'll have to wait in line, but this Chilean stand puts out delicious sandwiches made on slightly sweet bread and stuffed with avocado, cheese, tomatoes, green beans, and meat. $4.25-$6. MBTA: Orange Line to Downtown Crossing.

Haymarket Pizza
106 Blackstone St., 617-723-8585
Upper Crust
20 Charles St., 617-723-9600
A slice of pie can be a humble cheese wedge for $1 from the window at Haymarket Pizza, near Faneuil Hall Marketplace; one more topping is $1.50 a slice or two for $2. At the more upscale Upper Crust on Beacon Hill, cheese or pepperoni slices go for $2.50 every day. MBTA: Orange Line to Government Center (Haymarket Pizza), Green Line to Park Street (Charles Street).

Sushi on every corner

16 Hudson St., Chinatown 617-338-2261
1002 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-566-9688

Spanking fresh sashimi and colorful rolls. The sake selection is tops, too. Sushi/rolls: $3-$11; entrees: $15-$25. MBTA: Orange Line to Chinatown or Green Line C train to St. Mary's Street.

Westin Copley Place, 10 Huntington Ave., 617-266-2788
This tiny spot between a shopping mall and hotel serves up fanciful rolls and plenty of sake. Sushi/rolls: $4-14 ; dinners/combinations: up to $34. MBTA: Orange Line to Back Bay.

Peking Tom's Longtang Lounge
25 Kingston St., 617-482-6282
Scorpion bowls and other wild cocktails, sushi and variations (such as ceviche), and Chinese favorites like Peking duck. Sushi/rolls: $10-$15; entrees: $9 to $24. MBTA: Green Line to Park Street.

It's all Legal

For many visitors, Boston means seafood, especially lobster. Legal Sea Foods, a local empire that has spread to several other cities and Florida, specializes in very fresh fish and something for everyone. Entrees: $13-$25.

Copley Place: 100 Huntington Ave., 617-266-7775. MBTA: Orange Line to Back Bay.

Long Wharf: 255 State St., 617-227-3115. MBTA: Blue Line to Aquarium.

Park Square: 26 Park Plaza, 617-426-4444. MBTA: Green Line to Arlington.

Prudential Center: 800 Boylston St., 617-266-6800. MBTA: Green Line E train to Prudential.

Kendall Square: 5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, 617-864-3400. MBTA: Red Line to Kendall.

Charles Square: 20 University Rd., Cambridge, 617-491-9400. MBTA: Red Line to Harvard Square.

Farther afield

Blue Ginger
583 Washington St., Wellesley, 781-283-5790
Ming Tsai's seafood riffs with East-West flavors are especially enticing. Entrees: $19-$32. Commuter rail from South Station (Framingham/Worcester line); cab back.

Al Forno
577 S. Main St., Providence, 401-273-9760
Joanne Killeen and George Germon started a trend with their imaginative take on Italian food, with the freshest and best ingredients. Amtrak train from South Station with cabs to the restaurant. Entrees: $18-$40.

1293 Washington St., West Newton, 617-244-9199
Michael Leviton incorporates French technique into a sparkling New American palette. Entrees: $24-$34. Commuter rail from South Station (Framingham/Worcester line); cab back.

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