By Kristen Fenton
Dine out in Boston without breaking the bank at these five favorite establishments with unique appeal and matchless character. From Downtown Boston to Cambridge, the North End to the South, we’ve got you covered with select menu combinations (pre tax and tip) that will cost a mere $20 per person.
93 Salem St
Hours: Mon to Thurs, Sun 11:30am-10pm, Fri to Sat 11:30am-10:30pm
Reviews & Website
Italian for “Old Stove,” Antico Forno notably serves up traditional brick oven pizza at their rustic trattioria in the heart of Boston’s North End. Crispy thin crust favorites include the classic Margherita with homemade mozzarella, plum tomato sauce and fresh basil, as well as the Vesuvio with roasted peppers, ricotta, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced prosciutto. Meat lovers get their fix with homemade Italian sausage piled on either the La Capriccioa with mushrooms and artichokes or The Salsiccia E Broccoletti with broccoli rabe and cherry tomatoes. Pair an Insalata alla cesar or a misto verde ($6) with a pizza for two ($12-$15) and a glass of house wine or a specialty cocktail each ($9) and this Little Italy date clocks in at just under $40 total, maybe even with a few bucks to spare.
100 Chandler St
Hours: Mon to Sat 5pm-1am
Website & Reviews
Delux is a hip, funky, hole-in-the-wall that sits tucked away in the South End serving eclectic comfort food off a one page menu that changes every six months. Expect seasonally inspired entrees under $15, and a gourmet grilled cheese for $8 that boasts farmhouse cheddar, tomato and bacon one month, brie, fig and prosciutto the next. Often a flavorful braised pork dish graces the menu in sandwich, empanada or taco form, the latter (pictured) topped with pickled red onion, napa slaw and cilantro. The drinks are equal parts cheap and potent. Kitschy Christmas décor twinkles year round and walls are collaged with everything from vintage records to Elvis memorabilia. This cozy dive is cash only, but you won’t need to spend a lot to enjoy all it has to offer.
Garden at the Cellar
991 Massachusetts Ave
Hours: Tues to Sat 5-11pm, Sun to Mon 5-10pm
Reviews & Website
Situated in between Cambridge’s Central and Harvard Squares, Garden at The Cellar serves creative local cuisine in an intimate and relaxed gastropub setting. Considering their cocktails begin at a reasonable $7 you’re off to a great start, or choose from the likes of Leffe, Boddingtons and Hoegaarden on tap. Share a plate of lust inducing Rosemary truffle fries or Homemade “tater tots” ($6) before enjoying a seasonally dressed appetizer like Seared scallops or Char grilled octopus ($12). Soups and salads “From the Garden” are elevated to something special; consider the Tomato Soup with a Grilled Vermont Cheddar Sandwich ($9). If you have a palate for adventure (and perhaps a dollar to spare) take a chance on whimsical plate of Foie Gras and Donuts ($14). Because what’s date night without fluffy round balls of cinnamon sugar acting as a vessel for rich, buttery bites of seared duck liver. From classics to the extraordinary, GATC does all of it exceptionally well.
Jose’s Mexican Restaurant
131 Sherman St
Hours: Sun to Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri to Sat 11am -12pm
Authentic Mexican fare is delicious, well portioned and affordable at Jose’s where a festive south-of-the -border ambiance meets a laid back neighborhood vibe. The colorful pink and blue façade and garden lined exterior beckons patrons from a cozy residential street. Jose’s offers free homemade chips and salsa, tasty margaritas and everything from a Chile Relleno Platter ($13) to a Steak Fajita Salad ($9). Enchiladas ($11) and Burritos ($12) offer a range of traditional sauces including verde, mole or adobo, seasoned to your liking (mild, medium or hot) complete with a side of rice and black beans. Even dessert remains affordable with a Caramel Custard Flan ($5) or a Mexican Fried Ice Cream ($4). Anyway you decide to spend it, $20 will go a long way here.
10 Bosworth St
Hours: Daily 11am-10pm
Reviews & Website
A 135-year-old building in Downtown Crossing houses The Marliave in its fourth incarnation. The bar paying homage to the speakeasy era with cracked mosaic floors and pressed tin walls. Stick to the bar menus, where $10 libations like The W.C. Fields made with Pimm’s No. 1, Absolut Vodka, cucumber and lemon or The Professor containing Makers Mark, Cote de Rhone, lemon and Maraschino are worth half your tab. Don’t worry – you can score equally priced and satisfying dishes like Henry’s Soup, a French Onion fantasy loaded with sweet caramelized onions, hearty crouton, gruyere cheese and the ingredient de resistance, short ribs.
Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Kristen lives in Boston’s North End and is the author of food and lifestyle blog Indulge Inspire Imbibe.