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A mixed vegetable and tofu dish.
A dish from Nightshade Noodle Bar.
Nightshade/Facebook

How to Dine Affordably at Fancy Boston Restaurants

These high-end restaurants have some options that are a bit easier on the wallet

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A dish from Nightshade Noodle Bar.
| Nightshade/Facebook

Boston has a wide range of restaurants fit for special occasions, but not every occasion can be special, and not every restaurant feels like the right fit for an average Tuesday night — but maybe it could. It’s possible to get a taste of some of Boston’s fanciest restaurants without entirely breaking the bank.

From special bar menus to brunch, from patio nibbles to a la carte options at otherwise tasting-menu-only venues, here are less expensive ways to experience some of Boston’s finest dining.

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Nightshade Noodle Bar

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Located just outside of Boston in Lynn, Massachusetts, sits Nightshade Noodle Bar, a Vietnamese- and French-focused restaurant specializing in multi-course tasting menus. Throughout the week, diners can choose from seven ($85), nine ($110), twelve ($140), or fourteen-course ($160) menus, but on Thursday, the five-course tasting menu costs just $50 per person. Find dishes like the Viet-puttanesca, ginger scallion Chinese broccoli, kabocha squash bot chien, a type of fried rice flour cake, and more.

Tasting Counter

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Tasting Counter, a modern Somerville spot that sells tickets, is best known for its dinner tasting menu, a nine-course feast that costs $325 per person. Those looking for a slightly more affordable option should buy a ticket for the three-course lunch instead. At $110, it’s not the cheapest mid-day bite in the city, but dines can still experience a smaller version of the restaurant’s celebrated tasting menu. Lunch tickets are available for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Black lime puff dessert at Tasting Counter’s wine bar
Black lime puff dessert at Tasting Counter’s wine bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Tanám, located in Somerville’s Bow Market, is best known for its epic kamayan feasts, prix-fixe meals meant to be eaten with the hands for $89 per person. But there’s plenty of Filipino-American fare on the a la carte menu with a minimum of $20 per person.

Pork belly buns from Tanám.
Pork belly buns from Tanám.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Juliet, Eater Boston’s 2016 Restaurant of the Year, is perhaps best known for its three-course tasting menu for $58, although it also offers a la carte dinner. That’s not all that happens at the restaurant, though — brunch is a more affordable option for those who don’t mind dining in the morning, with entrees hovering around the $20 mark. Plus, Juliet makes the whole menu available for some reservations for a “pay what you can” seating, aimed at helping students, neighbors, and others who can’t afford the cost of the full meal. 

French onion soup at Juliet.
French onion soup at Juliet.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Pammy's

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Natural wine-focused New American restaurant Pammy’s is best known for its choose-your-own prix-fixe menu; for $72 per person, diners can choose three dishes from the regularly changing seasonal menu. Forgo the reservation to take advantage of the a la carte menu (as well as the exciting wine list); walk-ins are welcome when seating is available, and dishes like its famed lumache with gochujang-spiked bolgnese appear on it. This hot spot can get busy, though, so avoiding peak dinner hours will give the best shot at a seat.

Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse

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The standard menu at this Northern Italian steakhouse with multiple locations, with its steaks, pasta, salad, and more, advertises some pricey selections, like the Maine lobster with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans for $55, but for a slightly more affordable experience, sidle up to the bar and ask for the bar menu — a selection of sliders and primi piatti priced around $15 to $20 make for a solid dinner on their own. Also check out the to-go shop, offering breakfast items, paninis, soups, salads, and more.

Mooncusser Fish House

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Mooncusser Fish House, an upscale seafood restaurant from the team behind 80 Thoreau in Concord, has a spinoff in the same building that provides a more casual taste of the restaurant. Mooncusser is located upstairs in a uniquely shaped Back Bay building, with a seasonal prix-fixe menu for $95 and an optional wine pairing for $55, while the seasonal Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood window offers lunchtime options like deviled eggs for $7, fried chicken sandwiches for $11, and fish and chips for $16.

The hot dog at Cusser’s
The hot dog at Cusser’s
Brian Samuels

Though Asta’s regular service features a tasting menu only ($120 for seven courses with a $75 beverage pairing, the restaurant occasionally partakes in what it calls “distractions,” or recurring daytime a la carte pop-ups.

 

The fried chicken and biscuits pop-up is particularly popular. It appears a few times throughout the year, generally on Saturday afternoons, and features fried chicken biscuit sandwiches for $13; sometimes, they’ll also serve another type of sandwich and something sweet. The best way to stay in the loop is by keeping an eye on Instagram.

A restaurant facade with large, reflective windows and a black sign outlined in red
Asta
Bill Addison/Eater

Nightshade Noodle Bar

Located just outside of Boston in Lynn, Massachusetts, sits Nightshade Noodle Bar, a Vietnamese- and French-focused restaurant specializing in multi-course tasting menus. Throughout the week, diners can choose from seven ($85), nine ($110), twelve ($140), or fourteen-course ($160) menus, but on Thursday, the five-course tasting menu costs just $50 per person. Find dishes like the Viet-puttanesca, ginger scallion Chinese broccoli, kabocha squash bot chien, a type of fried rice flour cake, and more.

Tasting Counter

Tasting Counter, a modern Somerville spot that sells tickets, is best known for its dinner tasting menu, a nine-course feast that costs $325 per person. Those looking for a slightly more affordable option should buy a ticket for the three-course lunch instead. At $110, it’s not the cheapest mid-day bite in the city, but dines can still experience a smaller version of the restaurant’s celebrated tasting menu. Lunch tickets are available for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Black lime puff dessert at Tasting Counter’s wine bar
Black lime puff dessert at Tasting Counter’s wine bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Tanám

Tanám, located in Somerville’s Bow Market, is best known for its epic kamayan feasts, prix-fixe meals meant to be eaten with the hands for $89 per person. But there’s plenty of Filipino-American fare on the a la carte menu with a minimum of $20 per person.

Pork belly buns from Tanám.
Pork belly buns from Tanám.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Juliet

Juliet, Eater Boston’s 2016 Restaurant of the Year, is perhaps best known for its three-course tasting menu for $58, although it also offers a la carte dinner. That’s not all that happens at the restaurant, though — brunch is a more affordable option for those who don’t mind dining in the morning, with entrees hovering around the $20 mark. Plus, Juliet makes the whole menu available for some reservations for a “pay what you can” seating, aimed at helping students, neighbors, and others who can’t afford the cost of the full meal. 

French onion soup at Juliet.
French onion soup at Juliet.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Pammy's

Natural wine-focused New American restaurant Pammy’s is best known for its choose-your-own prix-fixe menu; for $72 per person, diners can choose three dishes from the regularly changing seasonal menu. Forgo the reservation to take advantage of the a la carte menu (as well as the exciting wine list); walk-ins are welcome when seating is available, and dishes like its famed lumache with gochujang-spiked bolgnese appear on it. This hot spot can get busy, though, so avoiding peak dinner hours will give the best shot at a seat.

Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse

The standard menu at this Northern Italian steakhouse with multiple locations, with its steaks, pasta, salad, and more, advertises some pricey selections, like the Maine lobster with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans for $55, but for a slightly more affordable experience, sidle up to the bar and ask for the bar menu — a selection of sliders and primi piatti priced around $15 to $20 make for a solid dinner on their own. Also check out the to-go shop, offering breakfast items, paninis, soups, salads, and more.

Mooncusser Fish House

Mooncusser Fish House, an upscale seafood restaurant from the team behind 80 Thoreau in Concord, has a spinoff in the same building that provides a more casual taste of the restaurant. Mooncusser is located upstairs in a uniquely shaped Back Bay building, with a seasonal prix-fixe menu for $95 and an optional wine pairing for $55, while the seasonal Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood window offers lunchtime options like deviled eggs for $7, fried chicken sandwiches for $11, and fish and chips for $16.

The hot dog at Cusser’s
The hot dog at Cusser’s
Brian Samuels

Asta

Though Asta’s regular service features a tasting menu only ($120 for seven courses with a $75 beverage pairing, the restaurant occasionally partakes in what it calls “distractions,” or recurring daytime a la carte pop-ups.

 

The fried chicken and biscuits pop-up is particularly popular. It appears a few times throughout the year, generally on Saturday afternoons, and features fried chicken biscuit sandwiches for $13; sometimes, they’ll also serve another type of sandwich and something sweet. The best way to stay in the loop is by keeping an eye on Instagram.

A restaurant facade with large, reflective windows and a black sign outlined in red
Asta
Bill Addison/Eater

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