The Boston area boasts a large number of upscale restaurants that offer top-notch tasting menus for a fixed price, putting diners in the hands of the chefs. That price is often quite high, relegating these restaurants to the special-occasion-only pile in most diners’ minds. However, some of these restaurants have begun diversifying their price points, finding ways to draw in diners on a more frequent, more casual, and less expensive basis.
From snacks and wine at a standing bar to late-night bites inside a brewery, here are some ways to experience some of Boston’s best high-end restaurants at a fraction of the usual cost.
2447 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge
Chef Carl Dooley is about to introduce an a la carte option to the menu at The Table at Season to Taste in Cambridge, which typically features just a four-course prix fixe. The catering space-turned-tasting-menu-restaurant will add an eight-seat patio this May (assuming the weather cooperates), as Boston Magazine reports. The outdoor space will accommodate walk-in guests who can order a la carte items, including dinner dishes and bar snacks. The restaurant does not have a full liquor license but serves an assortment of apéritifs, wines, beers, and ciders.
There’s one other option for a la carte dining — well, snacking — at The Table: Stand at the bar and order from a small menu of snacks, such as house-made terrine with pickled shallots and multigrain toast ($11) or a sunny-side egg and kimchi with roasted peanuts and Jonah crab ($9).
9 Sanborn Ct., Union Square, Somerville
On Thursday through Sunday, Journeyman serves a tasting menu that runs between nine and 11 courses, showcasing local foods and wood-fired cooking. It runs $115 per person (tip included); there’s a $15 to $25 discount if you buy tickets ahead of time online instead of just making a reservation.
But on Monday through Wednesday, Journeyman transforms into its more casual sibling, Heat, serving an a la carte menu with items such as duck, pork, or mushroom skewers ($6-$8), lobster spring rolls ($14), a scallop crudo with green strawberries and burdock ($10), and more. No tipping; service is already included in the prices.
(Want to enjoy Heat’s more casual, a la carte feel while still spending the big bucks? Try the $83 “steak and bake” — a 12-ounce strip loin with a fried egg and baked potato.)
354 Congress St., Fort Point, Boston
In its earlier days, Menton served only tasting menus — among the highest-priced ones in town. Now in its seventh year, the fanciest Barbara Lynch restaurant has expanded its options to include an a la carte dinner menu alongside the $155 “Chef’s Whim” tasting menu, as well as a lunch menu with a two-course “express” prix fixe ($34) and a la carte dishes. None of these are cheap by any means, but they’re certainly less wallet-busting ways to experience a restaurant that will costs hundreds of dollars should you go for a full tasting menu and drinks.
But perhaps the best way to experience Menton in a slightly more affordable way is to visit its swanky Gold Bar, which accommodates walk-ins at its six-seat bar and in the 10-seat lounge area. The a la carte menu includes a variety of crostini ($12), oysters and cocktail shrimp ($3/each), Menton’s famous foie gras frankfurter and potato salad ($24), desserts ($9 to $12), and more, along with a fine cocktail (and mocktail) selection.
14 Tyler St., Ward Two, Somerville
Located inside of Aeronaut Brewing Co., Tasting Counter’s focus is tasting menus; there’s no a la carte option at lunch or dinner, and the very elaborate tasting menus start at $60 (lunch) and $180 (dinner) and increase depending on the day of the week.
But head to Tasting Counter on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night between 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., and the restaurant’s upscale vibe chills out as it transforms into a late-night wine bar with snacks that mostly cost $5 each (think miso duck sandwiches, spicy noodles, and fried dumplings) and wines that start at $8 a glass.
Update, 4/18: Tasting Counter’s Natural Wine Bar is now open five nights a week — 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
47 Massachusetts Ave., Back Bay, Boston
Asta offers its tasting menu — and only its tasting menu — for dinner five nights a week, priced at $80 and $110 for five and eight courses respectively, but this month, it’s bringing back a lunchtime fried chicken and biscuit pop-up that first appeared in June 2016. The aptly named pop-up, “Fried Chicken & Biscuit,” kicked off its 2017 season on April 1 and will reappear every Friday and Saturday (and Marathon Monday) from noon to 2 p..m. throughout the month. Follow Fried Chicken & Biscuit on Instagram for adorable chicken photos and news about when it will pop up again in the future.
Got any other tips for experiencing Boston’s priciest restaurants in slightly more affordable ways? Drop a comment below or hit up the tipline.