My wife and I took the Limo Liner luxury bus to Boston last Friday to spend a long weekend and sample some of Boston's fine seafood offerings. We have visited Boston once or twice a year for some time and really like spending time there. Normally we take the train or drive, but the luxury bus concept was new and totally enticing to us, so we bit.
Limo Liner is a bus outfitted with just 28 luxury reclining leather seats, so there's plenty of legroom. There's an attendant on board who serves up a "meal" (small selection of either a salad or a sandwich), various soft drinks and who presides over the on-board entertainment. You also get a movie that plays on the pulldown screens dotted throughout the cabin ("Greatest Game Ever Played" on the way up and "Sixteen Blocks" on the way back). The area in the back has facing seats and at least one table that will accommodate four, and it is designated cell-phone free. Oh yeah, the bus also has an unsecured wireless network that you can use as you travel. The cost is around $76 (give or take a couple of bucks) one way, so it beats the Acela on price alone. The one downside is that the ride is bumpy, so it's like being in a first class plane that has ongoing turbulence.
The bus leaves from the NY Hilton and ends at the Hilton Back Bay (the reverse for Boston travelers). We decided to stay (pretty much for that reason) at the Hilton in Back Bay and never regretted our choice (really nice room with a sweeping view and friendly staff throughout the stay).
But enough about all that stuff, let's talk about the food. We had free breakfasts three of the four days we were at the Hilton, so we were limited mostly to dinners for our seafood sampling.
We arrived about 4:30 Friday, a cold and rainy day, so after we unpacked and got settled we made our way to Turner Fisheries through the malls instead of outside. We had made a dinner reservation through Open Table. They gave us a premier table, service was wonderful, food less so, but not bad. We each had the 2.5 pound lobster ($60 apiece) but they were somewhat overdone (parts of the claws were blackened, and these were supposed to be steamed lobsters), a little dry and rubbery as a result, sad to say. The fried oysters were interesting and tasty but had not been detached from the shells, so we had to pull them apart to eat them. We both liked the clam chowder, but it didn't stand out in any particular way. All in all it was a creditable but ultimately not-worth-it kind of meal. We had a nice Chablis with our dinner, but we thought their wines were overpriced in general.
Saturday we went for an early dinner to B&G Oysters, our personal favorite. My wife had the fried Ipswich clams ($24) while I went with the lobster roll, and we both had the clam chowder. B&G makes the very best clam chowder of all, in our opinion, although whenever we've had it we begin by thinking "...it's not so good this time..." but end by thinking "DAMN!! This is the best clam chowder I've ever had..." I think this is because the texture is so consomme-like rather than being thick like a standard chowder. The fried clams were excellent but probably not worth $24. The lobster roll was definitely worth its cost (don't remember, around $24 also). Their lobster roll is plain, no celery, no mayo, just pure lobster and lots of it. (BTW, they make sensational fries, as well...) We had a Gruner Veltliner that we thoroughly enjoyed with our meal. Their wine prices are a little high but there are reasonably priced choices on the menu, at least in our opinion.
Sunday we tried McCormick and Schmick in the Park Plaza hotel. They gave us the one booth with a view limited to the server's station, so we asked for another seat, which meant a 20-minute wait. But the lobster (2.5 pounds each) was better and less expensive than what we had at Turner's. Their lobster was bright red all around and wonderfully chewy and juicy. The clam chowder was unremarkable. Service was friendly and efficient and they have a good wine list at reasonable prices (especially when compared to Turner's). We had a bottle of Jordan Chardonnay with dinner, thought the prices were very reasonable all around. All in all a good meal at reasonable prices.
Monday was the one day for which we did not have a breakfast coupon at the Hilton, so we headed over to Legal Seafoods in the arcade on Boylston for lunch. We split a salad and a clam chowder for apps and each had the lobster roll along with a nice Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I liked the Legal lobster roll better than B&G because they mix in some diced celery and mayo, which is the way I like it, but Maureen thought B&G's was better. We both liked the chowder and think it's among the best we had, coming in a close second to B&G's version. It too isn't as thick as standard chowders, a plus in our book.
Afterward we walked over to Fenway and took the stadium tour, somewhat disappointing in its brevity. We've taken the same tour of the ballpark at Camden Yards, and there they bring you on the field and into the visiting dugout as well as bringing you into the luxury suites. The Fenway tour skipped those two elements, but the rest of the tour was a lot of fun. We had no idea the Green Monster seats were so nice. Our guide absolutely refused to say the word "Yankees", instead referring to "that team from New York", much to our delight (us being diehard Yankee fans, but keeping quiet about it).
From there we wandered around till dinner time and then went to the Atlantic Seafood Company for dinner. We were lobstered out, so Maureen had the grilled scallops and I had the seafood jambalaya. Lemme tell you, that seafood jambalaya is one huge dish, loaded with seafood. It's not for the faint of heart or the faint of appetite. Good food, though, and nicely seasoned. Maureen really enjoyed her grilled scallops and the potatoes, but she wasn't crazy about the glazed carrots. This is another generous dish. We both liked the clam chowder but, like Turner's, there wasn't anything particularly interesting about it. We had a very nice bottle of Chablis with the meal. We thought it was a good meal at a reasonable price, and we enjoyed chatting with the bartenders as we ate at the bar.
In addition to the above, we stopped once for a beer at Jacob Wirth (Maureen had never been in the place), and once at Atlantic Seafood (different visit) during the day for an excellent portion of steamers.
I'm sure we picked places a lot of native Bostonians would have avoided, but you know the lay of the land and we don't. We'd be curious to hear from you natives what places we should try next time. I know natives think Back Bay is a culinary backwater, but it does offer convenience and a lot of choices. We'd be happy to try some other places on a future trip and report back on what we think of them...
Condolences on the slow death of the Sox and best wishes for Papi...
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