Boston is without a doubt New England's dining capital, so pack an appetite. After all, this is the city that has given its name to such widely loved dishes as Boston baked beans, Boston brown bread, and Boston cream pie. Boston restaurants can be busy, so make reservations when possible.
A Taste of History
Daniel Webster liked to toss back oysters at the Union Oyster House (41 Union Street, 617-227-2750, www.unionoysterhouse.com). John F. Kennedy's favorite booth in the upstairs dining room is marked with a plaque. This historic restaurant, located on the Freedom Trail near Faneuil Hall, lays claim to the title of America's oldest continuously operating restaurant — it's been serving seafood since 1826. The building actually dates to the 1600s, and its hand-hewn wood beams and floor boards and warm atmosphere will transport you back to old New England. And yes, they serve Boston cream pie.
For well over a century, Durgin-Park (340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 617-227-2038, www.durgin-park.com) has delighted tourists with its notoriously surly waitresses, casual vibe, noisy atmosphere, and hearty portions of classic Yankee favorites. Save room for strawberry shortcake or Indian pudding.
Although it is not yet twenty years old, the Langham Hotel's all-you-can-eat Chocolate Bar is already legendary in Boston. Available seasonally on Saturday afternoons, it features an amazing array of treats to delight any sweet tooth. For reservations, call 617-956-8751.
Your kids don't remember Sam and Diane, but if you do, you may want to grab a bite at Cheers Beacon Hill (84 Beacon Street, 617-2279605, www.cheersboston.com), formerly the Bull & Finch Pub, where you can dine on casual fare and see plenty of memorabilia from the hit television show, Cheers, which aired from 1982 until 1993 and was inspired by this Boston setting.
Seafood is the main event when you're dining in the Bay State's capital. A reliable choice for reasonably priced seafood is the regional chain of Legal Sea Foods restaurants (www.legalseafoods.com): in Boston at Park Square (617-426-4444), Copley Place (617-266-7775), Long Wharf (617-742-5300), the Prudential Center (617-266-6800), Logan Airport Terminal B (617-568-2811), and Logan Airport Terminal C (617-568-2800); and in Cambridge at Kendall Square (617-864-3400) and Charles Square (617-491-9400). There are also LTK — Legal Test Kitchen (www.ltkbarandkitchen.com) — locations in Boston (225 Northern Avenue, 617-330-7430) and in Terminal A at Logan Airport (617-568-1888). Here, the menu is multicultural, and the theme is high-tech. Not only does the restaurant have WiFi and digital menus, you can dock your iPod at your table.
For something very casual, try the Barking Crab (88 Sleeper Street, 617-426-2722, www.barkingcrab.com), where you can sit on the deck peeling your own shrimp and cracking your own crabs to your heart's and tummy's content. Kids will also feel at home at Jasper White's Summer Shack (www.summershackrestaurant.com), with locations in the Back Bay (50 Dalton Street, 617-867-9955) and in Cambridge (149 Alewife Brook Parkway, 617-520-9500).
Where's the best clam chowder? It's a tough choice between these Chowderfest Hall of Fame members that have won the annual Boston Chowderfest three times and been retired from competition: Turner Fisheries at the Westin Copley Place (10 Huntington Avenue, 617-424-7425) and the Chart House (60 Long Wharf, 617-227-1576, www.chart-house.com). Other recent Chowderfest title holders include Ned Devine's Irish Pub (Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 617-248-9900, www.neddevinesboston.com) and Houston's (60 State Street, 617-573-9777, www.hillstone.com).
Cuisines from Many Cultures
You can take a culinary trip around the world without ever leaving the Boston area. In Chinatown, the three-story Chau Chow City (83 Essex Street, 617-338-8158) may be the largest Chinese restaurant you have ever seen. The restaurant, which has a children's menu, serves Cantonese cuisine and specializes in seafood and fish dishes; Chau Chow City's third floor is devoted to dim sum.
Cajun food is on the menu and jazz is on stage at Bob's Southern Bistro (604 Columbus Avenue, 617-536-6204, www.bobthechefs.com); treat your family to Bob's Sunday jazz brunch. Fajitas & 'Ritas (25 West Street, 617-426-1222, www.fajitasandritas.com) is a fun, affordable Mexican restaurant near Boston Common; here you can build your own nachos by buying only the ingredients you crave: lettuce for forty-eight cents, sour cream for seventy-one cents, and so on.
Just outside the city in Brookline is a Japanese restaurant that claims to be New England's largest. With or without the kids, Fugakyu (1280 Beacon Street, 617-734-1268, www.fugakyu.net) will dazzle you with its artful sushi preparations.
For hearty, traditional German fare and a beer-hall atmosphere, Bostonians and visitors alike have been heading to the Jacob Wirth Restaurant (31 Stuart Street, 617-338-8586, www.jacobwirth.com) since 1868. The kids' menu features everything from foot-long franks to butternut-squash ravioli.
The North End is the place to head for Italian delights. Maurizio's (364 Hanover Street, 617-367-1123, www.mauriziosboston.com) is named for its talented chef, Maurizio Loddo, who will surprise you with generous portions of sumptuous Italian and Mediterranean specialties. At Bricco (241 Hanover Street, 617-248-6800, www.bricco.com), you can savor some of the city's finest Italian cuisine, or indulge your late-night cravings with a wood-fired pizza, served from 11 P.M. until 2 A.M. Tuesday through Saturday. You'll also find one of Boston's best family-owned, old-school pizzerias in the North End. Pizzeria Regina (11½ Thacher Street, 617-227-0765, www.pizzeriaregina.com) is known for its fresh ingredients and brick oven-fired pies; be prepared to wait for a table.
Make the trip to Cambridge for Indian food at Tanjore in Harvard Square (18 Eliot Street, 617-868-1900, www.tanjoreharvardsq.com), featuring fresh preparations from a variety of regions.
For a taste of medieval Europe, reserve a spot at the banquet tables at Medieval Manor Theatre-Restaurant (246 East Berkeley Street, 617-423-4900, www.medievalmanor.com), where you'll be entertained by jesters and minstrels while eating with your hands.
Boston has a long and proud Irish tradition. More than 600,000 visitors celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Boston each year. In 1999, the Boston Irish Tourism Association (617-696-9880, www.irishmassachusetts.com) was founded to promote and preserve Irish history and culture and to promote Irish events in the city. One of its first major accomplishments was to create the Irish Heritage Trail (www.irishheritagetrail.com).
Irish pubs are, of course, another Boston tradition — there are about 100 of them in Boston and Cambridge, and most are perfectly fine places to take children for lunch or an early dinner. The Black Rose at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (160 State Street, 617-742-2286, www.irishconnection.com) features Guinness on tap and live Irish music nightly. Kitty O'Shea's first restaurant was in Dublin, and the Boston incarnation of this Irish-themed pub (131 State Street, 617-725-0100, www.kittyosheas.com/boston.asp) is located in a Victorian building in the heart of the Financial District. The Purple Shamrock (1 Union Street, 617-227-2060, www.irishconnection.com), located on the Freedom Trail across from Boston City Hall, serves Irish and New England dishes and has nightly entertainment that ranges from live bands to karaoke.