Category Archives: Dining

Restaurant review: UpStairs on the Square

Upstairs on the SquareAfter 31 years co-owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes have decided to close their successful restaurant in Harvard Square.  When word of their closing was announced, I spoke to my very good friend and fellow blogger, 40-Something Life about having a last hurrah at UpStairs.

I suppose this isn’t quite a review as much as it is a tribute to a restaurant that has been uniquely true to itself over its 30+ years in business.  For my final dinner at UpStairs on the Square I made reservations for the Soirée Dining Room and we were seated near the beautiful fireplace in the back third of the room – sometimes called the Jewel Box because of the round windows and champagne bubbles in silver leaf that decorate the walls.

Upstairs on the Square appetizersDinner was superb from start to finish with flawless service that was attentive without being intrusive. We started our meals sharing the beet trio $17.00 and grilled oysters $18.00. While both starters were delicious the half dozen grilled oysters served on a bed of salt were so good that I kicked myself for not having ordered them before. The oyster shells were hot to the touch, but the meat of the oysters only warm providing a uniquely delicious dining experience.

For our main plates we opted to try some of the house favorites. Tracey (40-something life) ordered the crescent duck served with beets and the juice of blood oranges $33.00. The duck was succulent with a salty exterior that made it impossible not to devour.  Upstairs on the Square main dishesI opted for the monkfish which was served with mushrooms and sauce that was so addictive my dining partner had to dip her bread into it a second time to enjoy it again. I had contemplated ordering the salmon but our waiter had suggested I try the monkfish and I’m happy he did. The fish was delicious with the bottle of Laroche Chablis we had ordered with our dinner.

Upstairs on the SquareFollowing our meal, we were provided complimentary glasses of sparkling wine served in classic champagne glasses.  Perhaps it was the bubbles or just knowing that we’d not return again but neither Tracey nor I wanted the dinner to end so we ordered  a cheese platter $15.00 and glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.  The cheese plate included (from left to right) Charmoix – a cow’s milk cheese from Belgium, Gran Pyramide de Chevre – a goat’s milk cheese also from Belgium and a Comte (my favorite) from France.

I will miss this restaurant and would encourage anyone in the area to make one final reservation – preferably for their Soirée Dining Room before they close for good on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013.

UpStairs on the Square you will be missed.

Upstairs on the Square on Urbanspoon

South End restaurant gossip: Barcelona Wines eyeing Sibling Rivalry’s space

gossipPersistent rumors suggest that Sibling Rivalry’s plum location in the South End will soon be a Spanish tapas and wine bar.

Word on the street is the owners behind the popular Spanish tapas restaurant, Barcelona Brookline, will go into the space formerly occupied by Sibling Rivalry at 525 Tremont Street in the South End.

When I reached out to the ownership, I received neither a confirmation or denial, but a promise that more information would be shared soon.  It is hard to say what may happen, but when I hear more, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

South End restaurant gossip: jm Curley’s to move into 28 degrees space

gossipIn late October I heard rumors that  jm Curley in DTX was considering opening a new location in the space formerly occupied by 28 degrees in the South End. However, when I contacted Suzanne Dagenais – GM for jm Curley & Bogie’s Place – she responded that the ownership remained open to new ventures but there would not be “any more jm Curley’s in the South End or elsewhere.”

Fast forward to mid-November and word on the street is that the owners of jm Curley have inked a deal that will have them moving into the space formerly occupied by 28 degrees.  If this turns out to be true it will be great to have them in the neighborhood.  Not familiar with jm Curley’s?  Check out their website,

UPDATE – NOV 15: I was contacted again by Suzanne Dagenais.  She confirmed the owners are looking at this space, but have not finalized negotiations (this runs counter to what I was told about the deal being inked).

According to Suzanne, should a deal go through, the space would be for a separate concept not yet determined.   It is hard for me to believe that owners would agree to move into such an expensive space and not have a full business plan if only so they can get financing.  What I’ve concluded from Suzanne’s email is it is unlikely jm Curley’s will open, but the owners are probably looking at a higher end option to make the space economically viable.

Could the soon to be departing jm Curly chef Sam Monsour be involved with the jm Curley’s owners in this new space? Time will tell I suppose.  More about Chef Sam Monsour’s departure can be found in EaterBoston’s article.

Addicted to pasta

PastaSince the SoWa Farmer’s Market opened in May I’ve been purchasing homemade pastas from Valicenti Organico every Sunday but sadly the market closed at the end of October. I’m addicted and my homemade red sauce tastes so much better when paired with fresh pasta.

 Where do you buy fresh pasta and what is your favorite?

Back Bay Harry’s opens Friday at 5PM

Back Bay Harry'sLast week I mentioned that Back Bay Harry’s would open later this week in this post.  Starting Friday at 5pm you can check out this place first hand but tonight I stopped in at the restaurant as Back Bay Harry’s welcomed a lot of industry types and media to check out this new restaurant on the corner of the Back Bay and South End. Below are some photos from tonight’s celebration.  Let me know if you end up visiting Back Bay Harry’s and tell me what you think about the new space and Chef Santos’ food.

Back Bay Harry'sChef Jason Santos was in good spirits while he directed the capable crew who were busy feeding a lot of hungry guests who had come out to see the new restaurant on the eve of its opening.

Back Bay Harry's barThe friendly crowd was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy the opening party, while they drank from Back Bay Harry’s spacious bar.  The photo below gives you an idea of what to expect from the newly designed dining room which has lots of booths that look very comfortable.Back Bay Harry'sBack Bay Harry’s 142 Berkeley Street – Boston, MA

Back Bay Harry’s to open next week

Harry CollingsTables and chairs are in place at the newly remodeled restaurant, Back Bay Harry’s, located on the Back Bay / South End line, and rumors suggest an opening later next week.  For those unfamiliar with the new restaurant opening in the space formerly home to Geoffrey’s, Back Bay Harry’s is a hip, casual restaurant and bar.  Harry Collings (Back Bay Harry) has teamed up with local celebrity chef, Jason Santos, the man behind Gargoyles (closed in 2011), Abby Lane and Blue Inc. Together they have worked hard to keep their menu affordable with main plates ranging $18-$22 and offering less expensive options with salads, sandwiches and pizzas; perfect bar fare.

Harry Collings

The newly redesigned bar which was moved to the opposite side of the restaurant and runs along Stanhope Street seats approximately 60 both at the bar and in surrounding high tops; all with great views of televisions if you want to watch a game. Look for fun weekend bar food specials, featuring some of Santos’ favorite items as well as a vibrant cocktail menu to sate your thirst while you nibble on snacks and appetizers, that range from $4-$12. Harry CollingsYou can like Back Bay Harry’s page on Facebook or check back at their website to see when they finally open, but as I mentioned previously look for an opening later next week.   Back Bay Harry’s is located at 142 Berkeley Street on the South End / Back Bay line.

Back Bay Harry’s

Harry CollingsEarlier this summer I sat down and talked to Harry Collings (owner of the soon to open Back Bay Harry’s).  At the time he had hoped they would be able to open by the end of September. Unfortunately the restaurant / bar has yet to open but the work inside is coming together and it appears if this location will be opening very soon. Last week the final remnants of Geoffrey’s Cafe came down and a new awning and sign was installed to the exterior.

Stay tuned for more to come shortly.

Zagat 2014 Boston restaurant survey

Boston MapLast week Zagat published findings from their 2014 survey on Boston restaurants, which includes more than 1,200 restaurants and the collective opinions of more than 8,500 diners.

Their survey showed that Boston has a resilient and growing restaurant scene with many newcomers challenging established favorites.  Zagat’s Top Food List gives top honors to a new restaurant this year, the North’s End’s Neptune Oyster (up from No. 4) followed by another seafood restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar (previously unranked). The remainder of the top five restaurants include Oleana (No. 3), Craigie on Main (No. 4, previously No. 15), and Lumière (No. 5)

Their survey also found Bostonians eat out 3.7 times per week (for lunch and dinner combined), and report spending an average of $44.19 per dinner.

Want to read more? Check out Zagat’s blog here.

28 degrees Boston closes

28 Degrees Boston28 degrees Boston is no more. A sign posted on their front door indicates that after serving the neighborhood for 8 years they are now closed.  This sign validates my post on Facebook this past Tuesday when I mentioned I had been hearing that the space was rumored to have been sold.  Of course, considering the restaurant’s history it was hard to take the rumors seriously but the sign on the front door of 28 degrees sort of says it all.  If you have any details – shoot me an email at

Thanks for the memories 28 degrees. I won’t lie – I had some fun evenings there.

Hand Taste Collective comes to BoMA

BoMAThe Hand Taste Collective is a Cambridge-based group that has previously hosted two pop-up dinners at Somerville restaurants, Daddy Jones and Spoke Wine Bar.  Next Monday they will cross over the Charles River to take over BoMA Restaurant and Bar.

Monday, Sept-9 Hand Taste Collective Pop Up hits BoMA

According to Scott Kearnan’s article on, the menu will fuse “southeast Asian flavors with a New England sensibility”.

Kearnan writes, “Expect a “surf ‘n’ turf” of liberated marrow and snails, pickled mackerel and roasted maitake; sweetbread banh mi with liver mousse and carrot pickles; and “campfire veggies” served with guanciale and soy-cured yolk.”  I’ll be honest, I have no idea what half of those ingredients are but photos from the Hand Taste Collective facebook page look scrumptious.

It sounds like the food will be paired with equally exotic libations including natural wines, tiki drinks and beer.  If you have an adventurous palate and are looking for something different to try, make reservations for September 9th at BoMA in the South End via OpenTable.

BoMA is located at 1415 Washington St. in Boston’s South End.

South End restaurant news: Francesca’s Cafe to close

Francescas Cafe South EndFrancesca’s Cafe is closing, after serving the South End for nearly 20 years from their cozy home on the corner of Union Park and Tremont Street. Earlier this afternoon I spoke to the staff and they confirmed Francesca’s closing. There is no word if the owner plans to reopen in another location.

In March I reported rumors about a pending close in my post Francesca’s Cafe South End. I speculated Francesca’s days may be numbered after South End resident, Fredmond Kiley IV, quietly purchased the building in what was rumored to be a cash deal.

Time will tell if this is the final chapter for Francesca’s or if the owners will look for another space to reopen. I’d love to suggest they look at the 7-Eleven space that will be closing at 1306 Washington Street in SoWa later this year. Time will also tell what the landlord will do with this prime real estate – rumor has it he’d like a high end restaurant or cafe.

Five Horses Tavern grand opening today

five horses tavernAfter hosting friends and family night earlier this week, Five Horses Tavern on Columbus Avenue will have their grand opening tonight. as tonight).   If you live in the area, walk over this weekend to check out the newest restaurant to open in the neighborhood.

Five Horses Tavern is located at 535 Columbus Avenue in the South End.  Eater Boston earlier this week published a write up about Five Horses Tavern here.

South End restaurant gossip

Not all gossip is good and in the case of Yakitori Zai – the Japanese barbecue restaurant that opened in June – the rumors that I’ve heard are definitely not good.  The remodeling signs that are in the windows of this newly renovated restaurant are due to the brand new ventilation system that the owner installed.Yakitori Zai South End Boston I don’t know all the details but rumor has it the issue is that Yakitori Zai’s new ventilation flumes are visible from the street. I hope there is more to the story, because the South End certainly has far more significant blights; one need only look left from Yakitori Zai to see the abandoned and crumbling Sahara Restaurant – talk about a blight to the neighborhood.South End Boston

Fortunately, I have more exciting, albeit more ambiguous gossip to share about the eagerly awaited Five Horses Tavern. My curiosity got the best of me and I walked over to the restaurant the other day. I was able to meet one of the owners – Sarah Hanson – who walked me through the property.

Five Horses South End BostonI promised Sarah I wouldn’t say anything about the work they did, but for those familiar with the Columbus Cafe space – be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. This team has done a remarkable job and the space is both much better designed and beautiful.  The neighborhood should be very excited to have this property – I know I’ll be checking them out when they open shortly.

Back Bay Harry’s

Back Bay Harry's LogoHarry Collings knows the LGBT community is looking forward to the opening of his new restaurant and bar, Back Bay Harry’s, and his team is working diligently so they may open in September. Earlier this week Harry gave me a private tour of the space that has been completely redesigned by HGTV designer and Massachusetts native, Taniya Nayak.

The changes to the space are significant (and for the better in my opinion). Harry is doubling the bar area, moving it to the opposite side of the room that runs along Stanhope Street. The bar will run the full the length of the restaurant, ending at the newly renovated and more open kitchen. The bar will give way to high tops, followed by dining tables and comfy banquets by the front windows and along the left side of the restaurant.

Harry Collings poses in front of his new restaurant, Back Bay Harry's

Harry Collings poses in front of his new restaurant, Back Bay Harry’s

The license for Back Bay Harry’s will allow for dinner to be served until 1AM and the bar can remain open until 2AM. Harry indicated that he plans to be open for lunch and dinner and to serve brunch on the weekends.  Although the menu is yet to be finalized, you can expect affordable American fare.  I promise to share more on that subject – the food – in a future post. I want to be among the first to say welcome to Back Bay Harry’s and to wish them luck.

Restaurant Week Boston Summer 2013

Boston Restaurant WeekBoston’s Summer Restaurant Week, starts on August 18th. Participating restaurants will offer a prix-fixe menu that includes a 3-course lunch for $20.13 and a 3-course dinner for $38.13.  If this is your first time making reservations during Restaurant Week, consider the following tips:

- Make your reservations this week since the most desirable places book quickly. If possible, make reservations for Monday or Tuesday when a restaurant is likely to be less busy.

- Not all participating restaurants are worth visiting.  If most of the restaurant’s main plates are < $25.00 then you’re not saving any money. Look for restaurants that normally charge a higher price point.

- Select a restaurant you have never visited. Use the opportunity to explore new places.  You may be pleasantly surprised and discover a new favorite.

Want to see what restaurants are participating, learn more about the program or make a dinner reservation? Check out the website,