Ruth Reichl, some years ago, said in an interview for a piece I did for The Boston Globe on restaurants here that “every city gets the restaurants it deserves.” Eight out of the 12 restaurants in that piece that were scrutinized for high prices that didn’t seem to match what was served have closed: Rialto, Radius, Icarus, Pigalle, Sasso, Locke-Ober, Excelsior, Aujourd’hui.
Boston excels at lunch: No town in the United States offers a better and more affordable range of places where you can get sandwiches and pizza. In the past few years, noodles have arrived: A big bowl of ramen will set you back between $12-15. Not affordable day in and day out, but nice to enjoy once in awhile.
After reading the wonderful book by William Grimes about the history of dining in NYC, it’s apparent where Boston stands at this moment in time. Long ago, NYC was a place for lunch–people went home for dinner or to private clubs. It’s much the same here: The hoity-toity folks have private chefs. Families eat as families at home. When friends get together, it’s for dinner parties in homes. (Ever been to a pot luck?) It’s chiefly people dating or out-of-towners who as tourists or visiting kids at school that populate the restaurants for dinners.
That’s all changing: Terrific informal places are emerging, and they are the future. Chief among them is Babbo Pizzeria & Enoteca. Added to this will be EATALY–not a restaurant, but an enormous store–that will influence how people think about food and what they expect from dining.
One big trend in NYC in dining is vegetarian dining or the appearance of vegetarian dishes on menus. It’s a great approach, and clearly the future: A restaurant increases profit margins, it’s healthy, and it’s seasonal. But it requires people who know how to cook.