Tired of shouting over shrimp cocktails? Love chatting with a friend while sharing Chateaubriand? This is the first in a series of articles about quiet restaurants in major cities and is dedicated to those of you who agree with Lord Byron's comment, "Since Eve ate the apple, much depends on dinner."
Ten Boston Restaurants
Keep in mind that quiet may not mean the latest hot spot, the best bang for the buck or the cuisine of a celebrity chef. But it does mean having a lovely evening in a restaurant where the tables are more than two inches apart and the dinner and the diner are more important than the music.
Boston's Top Ten "Quiets" were selected by long-time resident David Lubchansky, who has traveled the world as an executive with Grand Circle Travel.
1. Persian Delight. LaLa Rokh, 97 Mt Vernon St, Beacon Hill, 617-720-5511, www.lalarokh.com. This Middle Eastern jewel exudes serenity with acoustical paneling and upholstered chairs designed to reduce the noise level; cell phones are prohibited. Appetizers: $5 - $8; entrees: $14 - $19; signature dishes: kashk-e bademjan (roast eggplant appetizer), morgh pollo (chicken in light tomato broth and rice with spices).
2. French Charm. Hungry I, 7 1/2 Charles St, Beacon Hill, 617-227-3524. After descending below sidewalk level to a brick-covered alley to enter the restaurant, you'll find yourself in a small, romantic, candlelit setting that evokes the French countryside. Ask for a fireside table or, in the summer, one in the lovely garden. Appetizers: $10 - $14; entrees: $24 - $36; signature dish: venison au poivre noir.
3. The Big Splurge. L'Espalier, 30 Gloucester St, Back Bay, 617-262-3023, www.lespalier.com. Has 3 serene dining rooms. Prix fixe menu is $70 p/p. Signature dish: roasted muscovy duck.
4. A Classic. The Oak Room, Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, 138 St James Ave, Back Bay, 617-267-5300, www.theoakroom.com. Unlike other Boston steakhouses, the Oak Room is traditional, elegant and just right for conversation. Appetizers: $10 - $17; entrees: $26 - $45; signature dish: Chateaubriand for 2 ($86).
- Tip: The lobby bar serves the best martinis in town.
5. Mexican Un-madness. Casa Romero, 30 Gloucester St (side entrance), Back Bay, 617-536-4341, www.casaromero.com. Housed in the same brownstone as L'Espalier (#3), this is a much less expensive alternative. Dine on the quaint outside patio in the warm weather. Appetizers: $5 - $11; entrees: $14 - $24; signature dish: pork tenderloin marinated in oranges and smoked Chipotle peppers.
6. South End Serenity. Icarus, 3 Appleton St, South End, 617-426-1790, www.icarusrestaurant.com. The South End is home to the most lively and popular restaurants. This is the only one, however, where you can enjoy a calm, romantic evening; light jazz on Fri. Request a corner booth or table. Appetizers: $9 - $16; entrees: $26 - $34; signature dishes: grilled shrimp with mango, seared duck breast.
7. Storied Tradition Rejuvenated. Locke-Ober, 3 Winter Pl, Downtown, 617-542-1340, www.lockeober.com. This historic landmark (est 1875 and a favorite of Frank Sinatra and JFK) has been reinvigorated with an updated menu by new chef and co-owner Lydia Shire, but the glorious atmosphere remains. Avoid sitting near the entrance -- insist upon a table as deep as possible in the stunning downstairs dining room. Appetizers: $13 - $24; entrees: $24 - $62; signature dishes: JFK lobster stew, oysters, baked lobster Savannah, Indian pudding.
8. Harbor Views. Meritage, Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Downtown, 617-439-3995, www.meritagetherestaurant.com. This lovely hotel restaurant, with breathtaking harbor views, has an extensive wine list. Dishes are available in small or large portions and priced accordingly -- small plates, $15 & large plates, $29. Signature dishes: red winebraised boneless short ribs, braised skate in carrot-ginger broth.
9. Cozy and Romantic. Troquet, 140 Boylston St, Theater District, 617-695-9463, www.troquetboston.com. Skip the sometimes noisy Wine Bar and head upstairs to the dining room where the tables are well-spaced. Food is paired with wine (served in 2- or 4-ounce glasses for sampling). Great for pre- or post-theater dining. Appetizers: $7 - $12; entrees: $19 - $34; signature dishes: hazelnut chevre tempura, veal cheeks with pureed parsnips.
10. North End Knockout. Rabia's, 73 Salem S, North End, 617-227-6637, www.rabias.com. A cozy and intimate room with outstanding service. Beer and wine only (no liquor). The menu is typical Italian, but largely based on seafood. Appetizers: $7 - $12; entrees: $14 - $27; signature dish: Frutti di Mare al Forno (baked lobster meat, shrimp & scallops).
Brasserie Jo's Bar
We asked C. Paul Luongo, the unofficial mayor of Back Bay, to recommend a centrally located dining-bar that's hip yet quiet. His pick: Brasserie Jo, 120 Huntington Ave in the Colonnade Hotel (617-425-3240, www.brasseriejo.com) across from the Prudential Center. Note: Chef Jean Joho also runs the Everest and Brasserie Jo in Chicago and the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas.
Alfonso De Lucia, maitre d', oversees the bar and restaurant with a friendly yet firm hand. There are 18 stools at the long, French bar where you can chat with your neighbor, read a book or watch the Tour de France on TV.
House white wine is $6.50/glass. Signature beer: Hopla from Alsace-Lorraine. Free olives. Dine at the bar (light meals served until 1am) or in the 1940s style dining room which opens at 6:30am (Mon-Fri) and 7am (Sat & Sun). Great place before/after a concert at Symphony Hall, down the street.
Note: Lunchtime fashion shows, organized by Marilyn Riseman, held on Fridays when the Symphony gives afternoon concerts.
- $Tip: Delicious, perfectly boiled eggs with mustard, kept in the kitchen, free for T/S readers who buy a drink. Just show your copy of the newsletter to the bartender.