The Day-Off Lunch GuideWhere to eat lunch when you don’t have anywhere to be.
Shout out to national holidays. Also, shout out to our weird local holidays, to birthdays, to “sick” days, and to days when you just wake up, put on the Office Space soundtrack, and say f*ck it. These days are gifts, opportunities to actually enjoy the city instead of slog your way through it. These are the days when crossing the river for a meal, or spending three hours at a restaurant, or getting to that one place you’ve wanted to eat at forever is possible. And in our opinion, the best way to do any of these things on your day off is to have lunch - it’s just as good as dinner, but you spend a lot less money and have a much better shot at not waiting for a table. Here’s where to go.
One of your priorities on a day-off (in addition to wearing sweatpants until noon and being one of only 10 people in America watching the third hour of The Today Show) should be to do some day drinking. At Trillium in Fort Point, you can drink some of the best beers in the world in addition to enjoying an American menu that’s way better than what you’d expect out of a brewery. We recommend starting with the oysters before moving on to the spicy gnocchetti sardi with pork and fennel ragu.
The line at Neptune usually starts forming around 11, a half hour before it opens. The people in that line are called tourists, and while you normally avoid them, today you’re all just part of a brotherhood that’s escaped the fate of a sad desk salad. Join them, prepare to be asked to say something in a Boston accent like you’re some kind of circus monkey, and enjoy one of the best oyster bars in the city with the best oyster bars in the country.
Eating and drinking by the water should be one of our god-given rights as Bostonians. But we actually have relatively few places to do that, thanks to a half-century of bad urban planning when the city’s leaders must have been afraid of pirates or something. The roof deck at the flagship Legal’s in the Seaport is frequently crowded because it’s unquestionably one of the best places to eat while also smelling the salt air. You can get a few of the Legal’s standards up there, but mostly it’s a solid sushi and raw bar menu, so head up there and reclaim what’s rightfully yours.
Sofra, a small Turkish cafe where you might spend the meal bumping knees with the person next to you, is one of the best restaurants in the city. But you probably don’t eat there much, owing to the fact that, unless you’re an undertaker, there aren’t a lot of reasons to be in this quiet corner of Cambridge. When you have time on your hands, though, you should head up here, because the meze, pitas, and pastries give you combinations of flavor you didn’t even know existed.
Orinoco is hidden on a quiet South End corner, so there isn’t usually much of a crowd for a weekday lunch. That’s good news for you, because it’s a comfortable little place where you’ll want to stay as long as possible, ordering one caipirinha after another to help you work through some big and well-made Latin dishes, like arepas, empanadas, and passion fruit barbecue ribs.
Be careful as you make your way to Saltie Girl. It’s just a couple blocks off Boylston in the heart of the Back Bay’s cluster of office towers, and if you normally work in one of them, then there’s a chance you’ll bump into your boss as they’re running in and out of Dig Inn. But once you get inside you’ll find an atmosphere that’s pretty much the opposite of an afternoon budgeting meeting. Saltie Girl is a little party of an oyster bar, and from the torched salmon belly to the fried lobster and waffles, you’ll love just about everything on the menu.
The Daily Catch is another one of those tiny North End restaurants that almost always has a line. In this case, the line is very much deserved, and you won’t mind spending some time on the sidewalk when you’re killing some excellent squid ink pasta and plastic cups of wine.