You may love your family, but that doesn’t mean you always love hosting them. If you’re lucky, they’ll get an Airbnb nearby, occupy themselves here and there so you can have some alone time, and happily go along with you to all of your favorite bars and restaurants. If you’re unlucky, they’ll stay on your couch, wonder if you have time to show them the Freedom Trail this afternoon, and read the menu of the restaurant where you made a dinner reservation, and say, “It seems a little loud.” No matter what type of family member is coming to town, here’s where to take them.
Your Dad Who Just Changed Into His Hawaiian Shirt
Fun Dad always orders another round, makes bad food puns in front of the waiter, and talks about wanting to “close the place down” even though everyone knows he’s going to be back at the hotel by 9:00, and asleep on the bed in front of HGTV by 9:30. Take him to Lulu’s in Allston which not only has one of the best selections of craft beer in Boston (Fun Dad’s official drink of choice), but also a bocce court on the back patio where he can challenge any takers while waiting for his jalapeno popper burger.
Your Mom Who Heard About “That Bowl Thing”
Moms love any place where they can speculate that the woman at the next table with the sunglasses might be from that TV show - you know, the one with that guy who used to play the doctor on that other TV show? She’ll be able to do that at Jonquil’s, an airy cafe on Newbury Street, which - if that woman from the TV show did come to Boston (note: she didn’t) - is where she’d end up for lunch. The menu is filled with the types of beet hummus tartines and chia bowls that your mom keeps hearing about, and it’s got a selection of funky looking pastries that she’ll definitely get for dessert, because she’s on vacation.
Parents Who Your Friends Think Are Actually Cooler Than You
You’ve seen them stuck in traffic on the way to a waterpark, where absolutely no one comes off as cool, but your friends have been tricked because your dad knows enough to not wear socks with boat shoes and your mom has moved on from the can I speak to your manager haircut. Your parents actually know how to have a good time, so take them La Fabrica in Central Square. It’s a Latin place with fun drinks, a few dishes that are set on fire, and live music almost every night that makes it feel less like a restaurant and more like a club with good food.
Your Sister Who Claims Her Toddler Is Totally Fine at Restaurants
Blue Dragon is permanently closed
Yeah, sorry, he’s not. But, being with family, your sister knows this as an opportunity to finally sit down and have a drink at a real restaurant while someone else walks him around the entire dining room 14 times. Go to Blue Dragon in Fort Point, which is not only a great spot for Asian small plates, but always seems to have a few kids around, so no one will roll their eyes too hard when you lose track of the little guy after he wanders behind the bar for a couple of minutes.
Your Little Sibling Who’s Begging You for Your Old ID
So far the only bars your little sibling has been to have been the ones in their friends’ parents’ basement, so they’re probably not ready for a cocktail bar that serves 40 varieties of scotch, or a pub where regulars down light beer at 11am. But they’ll have a great time at A4Cade, a speakeasy bar filled with vintage arcade games that you enter through the freezer door at Roxy’s Grilled Cheese (which also offers the menu inside).
Your Uncle Whose Enjoyment Level Is Entirely Dependent on Finding Parking
Island Creek Oyster Bar is permanently closed
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Why does anyone actually choose to live in the city, your uncle asks? Back home he can get in the car and be at Bertucci’s in 15 minutes - 12 if he takes his secret shortcut. Well, driving in Boston is something we almost never recommend, but there are a few restaurants where it’s a little easier if you know what you’re doing. One of those is Island Creek, a big oyster bar in Kenmore Square with a menu that will satisfy just about anyone, and where there’s almost always street parking available on the alley-like stretch of Newbury Street that’s hidden in between the building and the pike. Note though, that this does not apply when the Sox are playing at home, when the traffic around Kenmore Square will be so heavy that your uncle may have an aneurysm before he’s able to try the lobster roe noodles.
Your Aunt Whose Co-Worker Told Her She “Has to Go to Modern Pastry, It’s So Much More Authentic Than Mike’s”
Your Grandparents Who Had the Most Lovely Time at the Locke-Ober When They Were Here in 1972
Hungry I is permanently closed
Boy, The Locke-Ober, now that’s a restaurant! The waiters all wear bow ties and you can actually hear yourself think! Well, your grandparents are going to be sad to hear that, after existing in three different centuries, the space where The Locke-Ober used to be is now a speakeasy with a watercolor of Bill Murray hanging on the wall. But there are still places where they can get an old-fashioned restaurant experience with candles on the tables, French standards on the menu, and a quiet dining room that reminds them of that place they ate at the night they saw Perry Como at the old Paramount. One of those places is The Hungry I, a fine French restaurant in a Beacon Hill mansion. While normally it’s too stuffy for you and your friends on a random Friday night, it’ll be perfect for them, and you’ll still enjoy the duck l’orange and venison au poivre.
Your Cousin Who Lives in Portland Because the East Coast Just “Doesn’t Speak to Him”
Your cousin who keeps telling you that Squarespace is totally interested in sponsoring his podcast just doesn’t think there’s anything quirky enough for him in a buttoned-up town like Boston. Everyone’s walking too fast, there’s no connection to nature, and he can just feel the careerism hanging in the air. Take him to Union Square (which is where he’d live if he lived here) for the Kamayan at Tanám. Every Wednesday night, this Bow Market Filipino place that consists of just a single 10-seat table hosts a communal meal where everyone eats pork and seafood with their hands off of a table covered in banana leaves. It won’t convince him to move here, but he’ll have a good time.
Your Second Cousin Whom You Haven’t Seen Since Leila’s Wedding During Bush’s Second Term
photo credit: Natalie Schaefer
You’ll have plenty of things to catch each other up on, but when you don’t actually know if you have anything in common with the person you’re going to dinner with, you need a restaurant that comes with ready-made conversation topics. Tres Gatos in JP is a tapas restaurant that’s also a bookstore and a record store. Split the lentils and some lamb sliders and talk about whatever’s playing if you’ve already run out of family gossip.
Freaking Everybody at the Same Time
Eastern Standard is permanently closed
photo credit: Tina Picz
Everyone’s all here at once and three of them are sleeping on your floor. It’s stressful, but fun. Go to Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square. Not only is it big enough to fit your whole family but it serves a classic brasserie menu of meat and seafood that will keep just about everyone happy (everyone except your mom, who can’t believe your brother invited his new girlfriend - if she thinks she’s part of the family already, she’s got another thing coming, that’s for sure).