The Scenario: Your parents have just arrived on campus, pleased to see that you haven’t gained all of the “freshman fifteen” in a month and a half of college. You show them around campus, stopping by the Student Center and emphasizing that this is where you eat on a daily basis. Eventually, you hear the five magic words from your parents, “We’re taking you out tonight.” Without missing a beat, you slyly say, “Well, there is one place I’ve always wanted to try out…”
Atlantic Fish Company
761 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
Seafood is to Boston as engineering is to MIT; around here, you’ll find it everywhere, and it’s made us world famous. Located across the street from the Prudential Center in Back Bay, Atlantic Fish Company is a fish and lobster lover’s dream come true, complete with a raw bar serving fresh clam and oyster. And for your seafood-hating little brother, they have a limited selection of steak and chicken entrées as well.
When I first visited Atlantic Fish Company with Dad, I first noticed the interior décor: heavy wood accents and seascape murals add a nice touch to the white tablecloth setting without screaming “Ahoy matey!” You won’t find an aquarium, neon lighting, or any pieces of flair at this establishment. All around me, tables were filled with either business professionals or young twenty-somethings accompanied by their parents.
Our waiter was warm, friendly, and spoke with a thick Italian accent. He rattled off a long list of the day’s fresh catch and recommendations, adding to the already-large menu and making my decision that much harder. We immediately ordered clam chowder, as Dad had been dying to try the only New England specialty he knows. Rich, creamy, and loaded with clam, it comes as no surprise that their chowder is award-winning.
For my main dish, I finally chose the Pan-Seared Scallops, served with pistachio-basil pesto linguine and artichoke hearts. I was thoroughly impressed with the tender, perfectly-cooked scallops, as I’ve had one too many overcooked, tough, sorry excuses for seafood in my life. Dad was a little disappointed they didn’t have crab legs (his favorite), but was more than satisfied with his Grilled Swordfish Steak. We finished the meal with a cup of excellent coffee, strong enough to pull me out of a food coma without keeping me up all night.
Sure, Legal Seafood might be closer to your parents’ hotel room. But why settle for a chain restaurant experience (that you could have in states as far away as Florida) when you can enjoy a bigger, better selection of seafood in Boston proper for one night only? And another tip: as you and your parents “walk off” your dinner from Atlantic Fish Company, stroll down nearby Newbury Street, mention how cold it’s been getting lately, and they may just treat you to a winter coat, too. Now there’s a lesson in optimization.
The Scenario: Although your parents are excited to visit you, they also want to explore the tourist hot spots around Boston. To avoid trudging around 2.5 miles of old churches and graveyards of the Freedom Trail, you cut to the chase and begin to hit a few key spots: Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, and the North End. Lunchtime strikes, and you can smell the pastas, pizzas, and parmigianas wafting through the narrow cobbled streets of Boston’s own Little Italy.
La Famiglia Giorgio’s
112 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113
As the name suggests, La Famiglia Giorgio’s is a family-friendly restaurant good for lunch or dinner, with more group table settings than two-person tables. Inside, the atmosphere is warm, cozy, and proudly Italian, from the picture of the Pope to the giant countryside fresco covering one wall.
The menu is typical of most Italian restaurants, containing pages of appetizers, pastas, chicken, veal, fish, pizzas, and calzones, in addition to an extensive wine list. The most-used word on the menu is probably “family,” with everything being “family-portioned” or “family style,” and in a paragraph about the restaurant, it claims that all customers are part of the “family.”
My friend and I split a caprese pizza and Saltimbocca pasta, and sure enough, we could have fed a family of four. The pizza, topped with Mozzarella cheese, rich tomato sauce, and a pinch of chopped basil, had a fresh home-baked taste (the difference is in the crust: not too doughy, with a satisfying crunch). The Saltimbocca pasta sauce was light with a strong taste of white wine, served with soft mushrooms and prosciutto over ziti, cooked al dente. We asked to take our leftovers home, as did every other family in the restaurant.
Service is very friendly and attentive without being overbearing. In case you missed the clues, the waiters are caring and seem to share in the importance of family.
La Famiglia Giorgio’s offers a 20 percent off student and teacher discount on most entrées, so make sure to bring your ID and present it when you place your order. Feeling rich after our meal, my friend and I walked around the block and into Mike’s Pastry, where we spent our savings from lunch on gelato and Italian sweets. It’s hard to go wrong with Italian food in the North End, but if you are with your family, skip the overpriced tourist traps and the romantic restaurants with wine pairings listed under every dish. Instead, head over to La Famiglia Giorgio’s where they keep it all in the family.
The Scenario: It’s Sunday morning, and your folks are packing up and leaving soon. Brunch is the perfect meal for this last day, big enough to keep them full on their journey home but delicate enough to be eaten in the morning. Your parents have already spoiled you throughout the weekend, so you’re looking for an affordable option in a part of town they haven’t already seen.
439 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116
Boston’s South End neighborhood probably has the highest concentration of restaurants serving weekend brunch, many at unbelievably low prices. Masa is no exception, with a wide variety of south-of-the-border American fusion brunch dishes for about $10 each. On Saturdays until 3 p.m. and Sundays until 11:30 a.m., Masa also serves a special prix-fixe Brunch Fiesta for only $7.95, which includes a bread basket, a starter, an entrée, and tea or coffee.
Never one to pass up a good deal, I opted for the Brunch Fiesta with the plantain empanada for my starter and huevos rancheros for my entrée. Rather appropriately, the bread basket contained blue cornbread, complete with three memorable spreads (apricot habanero, cranberry chipotle, and my favorite, molasses butter). The plantain empanada was starchy and sweet, and the pastry crumbled under my knife as I attempted to scoop up as much of the delicious cinnamon cream cheese as I could. The huevos rancheros was filling, but could have been improved by swapping the grilled flour tortillas to toasty corn tortillas and by adding a scoop of guacamole in addition to the pico de gallo and sour cream. The Sante Fe Eggs Benedict, with perfectly poached eggs served atop biscuits instead of the usual English muffin, was a favorite in my group as well.
Service and presentation are perhaps Masa’s two biggest weaknesses. Although we were quickly seated thanks to our reservation through OpenTable, it took a good fifteen minutes for our order to be taken and another long wait to get our check at the end. The restaurant was not even at full capacity, making me wonder how hectic it must get on Thursday Salsa nights, when they serve $1 tapas. Many dishes came out of the kitchen messy; I first mistook the asymmetrical placement of the empanada with the streak of cream cheese to be artistic, but then I realized that it was just the result of hurried and poor presentation after comparing it with my friends’ plates.
But all in all, for under $10 with tip, I can’t complain much. Even its nearby competitors such as Aquitaine and Union Bar and Grille can’t outdo Masa in terms of value; their prix-fixe brunch options are more expensive for roughly the same amount of food. For a New England take on Southwestern fare, Masa will not disappoint.