Before your parents leave you at the mercy of Harvard's so-called meal plan, they may want to treat you to a real meal at one of the area's finer culinary attractions. The choices can be overwhelming, but here are several of our suggestions for a memorable--if not inexpensive--Last Supper. It's never too soon to make reservations, and September may be too late.
For creative nouvelle American cuisine in a subdued but elegant setting, The Seasons may be Boston's best. Overlooking Faneuil Hall Marketplace in the Bostonian Hotel, it also offers an incomparable selection of American wines. Rarities in the new Charles Hotel at Harvard Square offers equally innovative continental fare with impeccable service. Both establishments may face some stiff competition from another newcomer, Le Marquis de Lafayette at Lafayette Place, whose wunderkind chef should soon become the talk of the town.
Convenient to Harvard yard, with its own parking, Lenora (1812 Mass. Ave.) brings exquisite sauces and interesting ingredients to bear on more distinctly French fare. For less adventurous francophiles, Maison Robert (45 School St., Boston) remains true to Europe's haute cuisine. And Autre Chose (1105 Mass. Ave.) serves excellent provincial French dishes at among the more affordable prices in town.
In and around The Square, The Voyagers (45.5 Mt. Auburn St.), The Harvest (44 Brattle St.), Upstairs at The Pudding (10 Holyoke St.) and Henry IV (96 Winthrop St.) receive consistently strong reviews.
At Le Bocage (72 Bigelow Ave., Watertown), the internationally acclaimed Enzo Danesi meticulously attends to both his contemporary continental menu and his loyal patrons. Call in advance or you may lose your table to Julia Child. Danesi's protege, a Harvard grad, rivals his master with Northern Italian cuisine at 11 Capriccio (53 Prospect St., Waltham).
Once considered Boston's premier restaurant. Locke-Ober (3 and 4 Winter Pl.) remains one of Harvard's oldest and best traditions. An extensive menu includes the legendary specialty of the house, lobster savannah, along with many veal, beef, and game dishes. More gregarious traditionalists will feel right at home at Durgin Park (340 N. Market St. and also 100 Huntington Ave., Boston), where diners sit elbow-to-elbow carving succulent prime ribs. And for the native New Yorker, Grill 23 (161 Berkeley St., Boston) serves Manhattan-style beef, veal, and seafood fare.
In Boston's celebrated North End, you can find all manner of Italian food, but Francesca's (150 Richmond St.) stands out for everything from calamari to cannoli.
For something out of the ordinary, Chef Chang's House (1004 Beacon St., Brookline) elevates Chinese culinary art to a new high. Don't miss the crispy spicy tangerine beef or the other Szechuan specialities.
But when you get right down to it, Boston doesn't owe its reputation to foreign imports. New England's nautical tradition thrives throughout the area, and two seafood restaurants deserve special mention. Anthony's Pier 4 (140 Northern Ave.) on the waterfront is one of The Hub's most popular tourist attractions--with good reason. From airy popovers to steaming lobsters, Greek immigrant Anthony Athanas precisely captures New England's gastronomical heritage. As you wait for your table, the fact that you're in good company may offer some consolation; the lobby's wood-panelled walls are adorned with pictures of countless celebrities who've been there before you.
If you'd rather avoid the paparazzi, Legal Sea Foods is the place for fish. Legal (5 Cambridge Center, 64 Arlington St., Boston, and 43 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill) serves up the freshest catch of the day simply and expertly. Sample their steamers and sip famous strawberry daiquiries while you wait for your table. Sitting in the lounge amid the varied aromas may push your patience to the limit, but it's worth the wait.