Bar Bites: Classics
When we're in the mood for classic fare, a reliably delicious cocktail, and a great scene.
Location: Boston, MA right across from the Public Garden
Eat: A taste of Provence in the heart of Back Bay, this quaint, approachable, and delicious French bistro has been serving amazing dishes in a very desirable location for years. And finally, finally, Seth and I decided to drop in for brunch after a friend’s rave review. I had heard great things about it many times before, so I’m not sure what took us so long to go in, but seriously, I’m so glad we did!
We went for brunch on the weekend, when we had a leisurely meal at the bar, of course, and enjoying chatting with the bartender amidst eating some really delicious, and pretty, food.
While I had heard about the infamous Bloody Mary that’s served with a giant prawn, I went in a different direction and tried a different cocktail that was exactly what I didn’t know I wanted. That’s the key to a great bartender, right? Seth tried a new one too and we were both thrilled. Not only were the drinks balanced and interesting, they incorporated flavors we enjoy, but served in a less-familiar-way to us. Love it.
Food-wise, we were starving which meant I couldn’t hold back, especially since we had not been here before. My dietary restriction noted, the bartender handled that note with ease. We enjoyed the awesome tuna tartare which was served with a beautiful micro-green salad and yummy black olive tapenade. Then, I ordered the omelette that was perfectly cooked and filled with chorizo, zucchini, and herbed goat cheese. Scrumptious! I ate too quickly as usual, and missed it immediately. Seth’s lamb belly and potato hash was also incredible and I tried to steal a few (or more) bites. Amazing flavors and a very cool presentation. The saffron hollandaise was a real treat!
If you think we skipped dessert, then you would be mistaken! While I wasn’t in the mood for sweet, the bartender (wisely) suggested a cheese platter. I was sold! Three cheeses, some delicious cashews, and two cool fruit spreads, this was a really great way to end an already excellent intro to this restaurant. Looking forward to coming in again for dinner to try even more dishes, and dropping in during the warmer months when their outdoor seating looks like a delightful way to enjoy the day.
Location: Boston, MA in the Fairmont Copley Hotel
Eat: One of our favorites for brunch, lunch, dinner, late night snacks, or a leisurely vacation-style cocktail, Oak Long Bar has great food, a fantastic bar staff, and all the trimmings for a fancy meal any time of day. My husband loves the burger, and I currently am enjoying their avocado crab toast on GF bread as well as the corned beef hash. Once the bartenders know you, as they tend to remember everyone, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful space and delicious food.
Location: Boston, MA in The Four Seasons Hotel
Eat: A favorite for as long as I can remember, this timeless spot has some of my favorite memories associated with it as well as my favorite GF truffle fries, which I cannot resist any time we visit. A great people-watching scene as well as an attentive bar staff, we love coming here with something to celebrate, or just because it's the weekend. The extensive GF menu is always a draw in addition to a great cocktail list and a bartender who recognizes us every time. Sweet spot: we had lunch at the Bristol moments before getting engaged!
Location: Boston, MA in Boston Harbor Hotel
Eat: Call me partial to anywhere associated with our wedding, but I don't care when a hotel bar is this cozy and relaxing no matter when you stop by for a meal and/or drinks. A great dinner menu (lobster guacamole!), a variety of fun cocktails, and an ambience that says, "stop what you're doing and just relax." I love stopping in here for dinner on a winter evening, or in the summer after a long day in the sun. Dim lights and a quiet atmosphere early, and even live music, the setting changes with the crowds as the late night scene is just as fun. Fun fact: this is where we had the after-party for our wedding and it brings back incredible memories looking at the photos in the space, or even taking a glimpse in the room if we drop by the hotel.
Location: Boston, MA
Eat: A shopping trip to Back Bay or a Sunday stroll, you can't miss the famous Stephanie's Newbury Street corner location. Outdoor seating in the summer, bustling booths year round, and a fantastic custom Bloody Mary (I like to add shrimp) at brunch, this place serves great classics any time of day. One of my top brunch options, we tend to choose Bar seats near the window to get a nice breeze, but also steering clear if the weather suddenly turned. The veggie omelette is my usual, but I'm happy to report GF menu options are clearly marked!
Location: Boston, MA
Eat: A joyous French bistro in the great South End, I love coming in for an early Sunday brunch when the bar seats are aplenty, and the mood is still quiet and reserved (our usual timeframe). Many great GF dishes available and often you can ask if the fries are safe (not made in cross contaminated oil) which they frequently tend to be! They make bloody Mary's too that pair well with just about everything, and are also open for lunch and dinner.
Location: Burlington, MA
Eat: A fairly new addition to the burbs restaurant scene, this wonderful restaurant prominently features delicious steak, craft cocktails, and a vibrant dining experience. While they also provide an entirely GF menu, it barely varies much from the main one! I love it. If steak isn't on your mind when you dine here, I would recommend any of the seafood offerings, salads, and tempting side dishes - the grits are addicting and buttery. I enjoy sitting at the high-top booth bar area tables for a fun perspective on the space as well as top-notch people watching. We love the private dining room as well (they have many sizes available) for a more intimate experience with those lucky enough to join you. The GF menu is vast, the staff is fun and friendly, and the food is fantastic. Down side? It's very popular so I strongly recommend a reservation for a group or plan on arriving early to snag bar seats! Then, relax, eat, and enjoy!
Location: Lexington, MA in the Inn at Hastings Park
Eat: One of my favorites for a cold winter's night as this restaurant is located inside a beautiful Inn in Lexington, MA, I love it here for many reasons: the food is fresh, innovative, and very "New England," but also the staff are incredibly welcoming making every time you visit that much more meaningful. We usually sit at the small bar and enjoy great cheese platters, classic salads, and awesome main courses (my husband loves the burger and I usually go for the seafood being featured). I love that the kitchen is extremely accommodating for my allergy and will make sure every bite I have is safely gluten free. Strongly recommend coming in for a cozy dinner, or a beautiful brunch in the lovely dining room which is actually where we had our wedding shower - the restaurant and Inn do amazing events!
Location: Boston, MA (South End)
Eat: What an awesome restaurant! Great food, friendly staff, live music, upbeat atmosphere and cool decor, and it's perfect for a big gathering of friends to party and eat well (my recent birthday celebration was here!). But if group meals aren't your thing, I adore this location for the upstairs bar area where I've had a few brunches with my husband enjoying a lazy Sunday filled with large, delicious plates of midday fare and some fab cocktails.
The menu has been described as "New American," and I take that to mean it often has something everyone will enjoy! Accommodating my food allergy easily, I happily ate mussels and swordfish last time I was in, and look forward to my next dinner time visit as there were a lot of great options available! The live music in the evenings and jazz during Sunday brunch make this a wonderful location when you are itching for music (always) but are also very hungry and want something extra yummy (also, always).
Make a reservation for groups as it gets quite crowded, but we've always had pretty good luck snagging prime bar seats on weekends!
Location: Burlington, MA, Back Bay, Cambridge, and the original in Portsmouth, NH
Eat: An eclectic, high-energy comfort food stalwart that I have enjoyed ever since my family went to the original in New Hampshire many, many years ago. At the time, I was quite young, very small, and had an appetite the size of a linebacker (so not much has changed?). Proudly, I ordered a stack of pancakes (not GF way back then), and was promptly told that they were too large an order for little me by the server. Ha! My parents said I could proceed with my giant pancake dreams (the server seemed wary) and away we went.
I’m pretty sure I ordered a giant frappe along with those pancakes, both of which were truly awesome and yes, it was a gargantuan amount of food for someone my age and size. Or really, it was a lot of food regardless of the consumer. I definitely didn’t finish either the pancakes or frappe, but I did make a decent dent. Enough so that the server was impressed and my parents were (somewhat) surprised. Pancake goals, indeed.
Nowadays, this funky and joyful restaurant featuring breakfast all day as well as lunch and dinner options, has locations in downtown Boston as well as their newest in Burlington, MA. We recently visited for brunch as their menu has beautiful words that include “gluten free pancakes,” and “gluten free bread,” both of which made my heart sing. Even better, our server was extremely knowledgeable about gluten allergies and said that they have a SEPARATE grill for their pancakes and other GF options. With that news, I almost ordered the whole menu. But, being a little more cautious in my (older) age, I opted for a veggie omelette with GF toast and an order of the GF pancakes that I could share with Seth.
Once again, I couldn’t finish everything, but believe me, I tried! Enjoying gluten free pancakes in a happy, bright environment surrounded by others having a fun brunch is an experience I cannot have everywhere, so The Friendly Toast has got my vote. I can’t wait to go back for more pancakes and to try more of the awesome, expansive menu. And I’ll probably order a frappe as well, for good measure. ;)
Pro tip: Download the No Wait app so you can skip the line! It works like a charm. This place gets packed and I would hate for you to get hangry waiting for your pancakes.
Location: Somerville, MA
Eat: I cannot forget to include this local staple as it's just filled with charm, delicious food, and a long line for brunch. No joke: this no-reservations spot (none at all) has a widely known reputation for some of the best brunch around and that line does exist. We joined friends for brunch here over the summer and arrived about 35 minutes ahead of opening, and we were nowhere near the front of the line to get in! However, the staff manages the crowd very well, keeping it organized and calm - sometimes giving out snacks! - and making sure everyone gets a seat come opening time.
The staff is super friendly and knowledgeable about food allergies, recommending dishes that are popular for us gluten-free-required folks. I had the huevos rancheros and it was awesome, but there were a lot of other great dishes available. Featuring southern comfort food, this popular destination also has a large dinner menu, even a specifically GF one, that has yummy fare including shrimp and grits, simple salads, spicy jambalaya, and a special spicy coconut curried goat stew that I have heard is just wonderful.
Brunch is one of my favorites, but I cannot wait to go back for dinner. When I lived closer, I frequented this lively location, but since their food is just as great as I remember, it's time to stop by a lot more often!
Location: Brookline, MA
Eat: A charming neighborhood "joint," this restaurant has a lot of memories (and great food) built into it for me! My husband and I had one of our very early-on dates here, I've brought friends visiting the city a number of times, and it was one of the last places I dined without worry before my Celiac diagnosis. Seriously, I was told to eat gluten for a week prior to my final procedure to confirm it (standard), so we came to Regal Beagle and had a feast of every food I knew would be off limits shortly thereafter. And while I didn't feel great after that evening, I was glad to know it was because of my Celiac, and not the restaurant whatsoever!
On a more positive note, I love that we can still come to dinner here and have a fun night out as the menu features plenty (!!) of gluten free options and a knowledgeable staff that helps out when identifying dishes that can be adapted for my allergies. As of late, my favorites include the tacos, grilled Caesar salad, mezze platter with veggies, and the burger (skip the bun).
The menu features a variety of American comfort food as well as seasonal dishes with the menu changing fairly often. A great location for lunch, brunch, or dinner, the dimly lit environment is calming and perfect for a date night, or when you'd like to hide in the back at the bar sipping a fancy cocktail and enjoying a joyfully yummy dinner catching the Sox on TV.
Location: Boston, MA
Eat: I know that this isn't exactly a true sit-down restaurant, but I had to include my favorite place for great coffee, Gluten Free sandwiches, and some of the best (in my opinion) GF cookies in the area. I've been coming to this cafe for years and I love that while it's absurdly busy at all hours, it's also a fun environment to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or a late afternoon lattè and a cookie. It's bustling with a line out the door almost always, and you'll wait at the counter for your name to be called, signaling your order is ready.
Breakfast sandwiches and lunch fare is all available on gluten free bread and I love them all. In the morning I usually get the ham/egg/cheese on GF bread and it comes out piping hot and just perfect for an easy and quick meal before shopping in Back Bay. For lunch, or later than breakfast, I tend to favor the Jimmy the Greek sandwich on GF bread that's filled with hummus, veggies, olives, and awesome artichoke hearts. The meat-based sandwiches look great too, but for some reason I always gravitate toward this one.
Dessert-wise, the gluten free (and vegan) snickerdoodles are out of this world, and the GF chocolate chip cookies are so good I can barely stop at one, always wishing for another. I often tell family and friends that it's very hard to find a place in Boston to run in and grab a (celiac safe) GF snack/dessert, which is why I'm so thankful that Thinking Cup exists. Also, the Stumptown coffee is top notch and the baristas will make you any fancy caffeine-filled beverage (or otherwise) you're in the mood for to go with your treats.
Fun facts: I had my first-ever iced cashew milk chai lattè here and it was delicious as I strolled through the Public Garden. I often stopped here before/after wedding dress fittings or wedding appointments for a GF snickerdoodle because I couldn't resist, even when in wedding mode. And finally, this lovely location is where I met two of my great friends that I met through the ever-amazing gluten free community within the Instagram world! We all had the breakfast sandwiches and chatted about our lives, gluten free and happy. Just a delight! :)