When foodies next look to be spoiled outside the five boroughs, they should consider a trip north, where Boston has the historical culinary edge. After all, it was the home of Fannie Farmer, America’s first lady of cooking and author of the “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.” She pioneered the American food scene decades before Julia Child moved to Cambridge and took over the leading role.
This borough of beantown hosts the popular Boston Restaurant Week held for two weeks each March—the 2013 edition runs March 17-22 and the following week, March 24-29—with two-course lunches for $15.10, three-course lunches for $20.11, and three-course dinners for $33.10 at Boston’s top dining establishments.
One area where Boston can flex its culinary muscle is the hotel-dining scene. The trinity of New England cuisine, chowder, baked beans, and clams are alive and well, but there is a lot more depth to Boston hotel dining then these venerable classics. Hotels around town are dishing up a mix of American favorites and innovative cuisine in a variety of elegant settings, all easy to reach by foot in this relatively compact city. Most are located just off the Freedom Trail, Boston’s famous “follow the line of red paint” on the sidewalk that links 16 sites, so you can get a sense of the city’s historic relevance to matters other than culinary, too. Although hotel dining doesn’t come cheap, you may be able to splurge if you book a bargain-priced Megabus seat to Back Bay Station.
Omni Parker House | 60 School Street | 617.227.8600 | omniparkerhouse.com
If you’re tired of Nouvelle Cuisine and want to get back to basics, you’ll have no trouble finding hotel dining rooms that are steeped in tradition. The Omni Parker House Hotel is where Parker House rolls and Boston cream pie were invented in the 19th Century. As the oldest continuously operating hotel in America, its history is apparent in its menu’s commitment to classic New England cuisine. Specialties include nursery-style dishes, like baked scrod and clam chowder, prepared with local seafood. It is served by an entertaining yet professional staff who enjoy wowing guests with a list of who has dined there (think Kennedy’s), and who has worked there (Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh).
The Fairmont Copley Plaza | 138 St. James Ave. | 617.267.5300 | fairmont.com
Boston’s other dining grande dame is the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Its Oak Room serves up a great steak in a timeless, wood-paneled setting, and the adjacent and equally clubby Oak Bar has a creative Martini list and a terrific raw bar. If it’s mirrors and marble you are after, you’ve come to the right place. This somewhat quirky Boston hotel even has its own in-house dog that guests can book to take for a walk.
The Langham | 250 Franklin St. | 617.451.1900 | boston.langhamhotels.com
It is not all chintz and crystal at Boston hotels. The Langham serves its Metropolitan Tea each afternoon in a cavernous space that used to be Boston’s Federal Reserve Bank vault. The hotel’s Café Fleuri serves a chocolate-themed extravaganza brunch each Saturday, from September till June. 85 chocolate desserts are available, all baked in house, and served in an unlimited buffet. Chocoholics from around the East coast make regular pilgrimages to The Langham for this over the top treat.
Millennium Bostonian Hotel | 26 North St. | 617.523.3600 | millenniumhotels.com
A modern flair is also present at the Millennium’s North 26 Bar and Restaurant. Its light wood décor and clean style is a welcome respite from the chaos found next door at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It is popular with those looking for a break from the throngs of shoppers and tourists. The menu, classics prepared with a light hand, does not disappoint.
The Ritz-Carlton | 10 Avery St. | 617.574.7100 | ritzcarlton.com
The Ritz–Carlton is home to the Jer-Ne Restaurant and Bar, which is bathed in morning light, making it a favorite spot for power breakfast meetings. Its modern décor is stunning, but it is no competition for Chef Ludwig’s innovative breakfast-take on the New England classic, lobster. He serves it in an omelet bursting with succulent, rosy lobster meat, with just enough egg to hold it all together. You get all the pleasure and none of the work that usually comes with the often clumsy and laborious lobster eating experience.
Four Seasons Hotel | 200 Boylston St. | 617.338.4400 | fourseasons.com
The Four Seasons Hotel’s Bristol Lounge offers postcard views of the Boston Public Gardens from its floor-to-ceiling windows. The Bristol is the place to be on Wednesday nights for its “Burgers and Burgundy” themed menu. You can pair one of the restaurant’s Bristol burgers with a glass of Burgundy wine for a casual and well-priced bite. The Bristol Lounge also offers cooking classes on select evenings, a decadent Viennese dessert buffet from nine-till midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, and live jazz each evening.
Mandarin Oriental | 776 Boylston St. | 617.535.8888 | mandarinoriental.com/boston
The recently opened Mandarin Oriental’s M Bar and Lounge is a great place to have a nightcap. Three hundred vintages are available from its wine wall, which can be paired with artisan cheese from the climate controlled cheese room. The soothing color palate is relaxing after a busy day of sightseeing.
Wherever you choose to dine, you won’t go hungry in Boston and you just might increase your appreciation for comfort food, New-England style.