Buh-bye boxed ramen noodles. Time to toss the mortarboard in the air and celebrate with a well-deserved graduation meal—before it’s time for ramen noodles all over again. It’s spring in Boston, yes, but it’s also known as graduation season — weeks of ceremonies take place in colleges and universities, from Boston College and Boston University to Emerson, MIT, and Tufts University, all over town. Here are 10 top Boston graduation party restaurants to splurge it up with visiting family and friends (who are most likely footing the bill) and toast to a new life of promises. To the grad!
The new Palm restaurant has been replanted in the Financial District (much bigger space than its Copley Place location) and is a solid celebratory choice, thanks to an outdoor dining deck and executive chef Karen Mitchell’s classic touch. Being a steakhouse, expect dishes like Double Cut Lamb Chops, Filet Mignon, and the Prime Double Cut New York Strip 36 ounce (for two to three persons, sliced tableside). Name your sauce — brandy, peppercorn, hollandaise, béarnaise or chimichurri. And, like any good steakhouse, there is that requisite Iceberg Lettuce Wedge salad (Danish blue cheese, toasted walnuts, bacon, cherry tomatoes, chives and fried onions). For landlocked, heart-set-on-lobster out-of-towners who have climbed mountains to travel to New England, Jumbo Nova Scotia Lobsters are served here, too. The perfect ending to a successful college career — the Big Chocolate Layer Cake, a seven-layer dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. Make a reservation at The Palm.
A Back Bay beauty, with the spotlight on Mediterranean seafood at which chef/owner Jamie Mammano works closely with local fishmongers to bring just-plucked-from-the-sea fish and seafood to Ostra. Order the Paella “Valenciana Style” (Spain’s bomba rice, saffron, Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, squid, drumette confit, and chorizo) or the Grilled Sea Beam in Trevisano Leaf with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, snipped herbs. For dessert, the Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeux with Popcorn Ice Cream is a tassel tease, for sure. Make a reservation at Ostra.
Chef/owner Jamie Mammano is also at the helm of stylish, chic Sorellina in the Back Bay. The menu elevates regional Italian cuisine to Ph.D. levels — salute the newly minted graduate with the Maccheroncelli (American wagyu beef meatballs, Montepulciano sauce, and Parmigiano) and Spaghetti with Prawns, Chili, Guanciale, and Spicy Tomato Brodo. To finish, spoil the hard-working student with the Tiramisu (espresso savoiardi, coffee caramel, and mascarpone mousse). Make a reservation at Sorellina.
Harvard grads have been celebrating the graduation milestone at Cambridge’s venerable Harvest since 1975. The handmade pastas are especially popular including the Soft Egg Ravioli (Ben & Tyler’s mushrooms, arugula-hazelnut pesto, and housemade ricotta). A three- or six-course tasting menu is also recommended for special occasions. Among the tastes are the Scituate Scallop (cucumber, fava beans, radish, jalapeno gel, and lemongrass broth) and the Painted Hills Beef Striploin (fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and ramp butter) Harvest is also spot-on for brunch if you need to start the day drinking a bit earlier. Because why wait? Make a reservation at Harvest.
Top of the Hub
The sky’s the limit for the lofty grad at this restaurant that sits atop the Prudential Tower. “We have become a tradition with many families who live in the area and for those who have come to this area from throughout America and from around the world,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. There’s seating for parties of up to 10 (and a private dining for larger parties). Custom-made cakes are created and decorated for each graduate by executive pastry chef Tommy Choi and his team — think chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, vanilla cake with chocolate, butter cream or whipped cream, layers of fresh fruit, and “a Hong Kong recipe” that is light as a feather.” Or, go traditional with a Top of the Hub fave — timeless Boston Cream Pie. Toast with a glass of Champagne, and splurge with the New England Fisherman’s Bowl (local catch, lobster, mussels, clams, chorizo, kale, potatoes, and clam butter broth). Or, for meat lovers, the Grilled Filet Mignon (creamy Yukon golds, caramelized garlic, and grilled asparagus) beckons. Make a reservation at Top of the Hub.
Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar, Boston Harbor Hotel
Chef Daniel Bruce is passionate about wine. He is the founder of the Boston Wine Festival, has nurtured relationships with vintners around the globe, and his vineyard-to-table Meritage is celebrated for its unique wine and food pairings. White wine lovers will want to order seafood or one of the lighter preparations on the menu like the Roasted Atlantic Halibut (white asparagus sauce and tiny turnips). Red wine lovers should pair their pick with one of the red meat dishes or braises on the menu like the Cardamom, Black Pepper and Cinnamon Grilled Filet Mignon (aged cheddar and horseradish cream, and walnut tossed French beans). Make a reservation at Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar.
A nostalgic supper club gone modern, Yvonne’s blends cosmo cuisine with uber-service in a chic setting. Yvonne’s had big black pumps to fill — it took over the same space as the celebrated Locke-Ober, which was beloved by Boston’s elite crowd (including JFK himself. Ahem!) and was one of Boston’s (and the country’s) oldest and most successful restaurants. Order shared plates like Hamachi Crudo Toast or the Grilled “Viper” Chop with Kimchee Fried Rice. Drink away your impending student loans with large format cocktails like the Standard Punch (Rye Whiskey, oolong tea, raspberry, lemon, sage, and soda) or Crack Krakatuk (Privateer and Foursquare rums, Calvados, smoked cinnamon, lemon, and Champagne). Make a reservation at Yvonne’s.
Chef-owner Christopher Coombs designed and built his dream kitchen here in the heart of Boston at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues. His menu is all about fine dining with high value and a nightly $99 tasting menu gives diners a chance to explore it all. Dishes are contemporary French-inspired with American ingredients — in the expert hands of executive chef Adrienne Mosier, Chef de cuisine Stefanie Bui, and pastry chef Shaun Velez. Especially popular is the “Night Moves” Scituate Lobster with Gnocchi (potato gnocchi, mushrooms, green grapes, curried walnuts, and pearl onions in a citrus fricassee). For dessert, there are several unique sweets on the menu, including the Crème Brulee (brown butter pound cake, yogurt mousse, candied baby carrots, carrot citrus sorbet). Make a reservation at Deuxave
Celebrate new beginnings with the spring prix-fixe and degustation menus at Boston’s much-loved French restaurant that’s been around the block — quite literally. The intimate restaurant was a Gloucester Street landmark for years before moving next to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where it still holds court. Four luxe dining rooms are the showcase for award-winning chef Frank McClelland, who treats diners to a sampling of his New England-French fare, including Beurre Noisette Poached Maine Lobster (with shrimp dumpling, Dutch asparagus nage, grapefruit, and basil), and Jamison Farm Lamb (roasted loin, garlic sausage, birch-glazed bacon, new onions, and favas.) Make a reservation at L’Espalier.
Grill 23 & Bar
Nice touch: The Back Bay steakhouse and seafood grill will serve wine vintages for the year the grad was born (if it is not in the wine collection already, it can be ordered, so request ahead of time.) A new bar menu and premium burger selection sprung this spring and a reinvented cocktail menu, too. Shareable dishes like the Laughing Bird Shrimp Louie (grilled avocado, fried egg, and celery root crisps), Foie Gras Sliders (swapping out buns for two halves of a homemade cider doughnut that hugs a slab of foie gras and is slathered with jalapeno jelly), and the Grill 23 Six Shooter kicks New England’s freshest oysters up a notch with a spicy cerveza base. Make a reservation at Grill 23 & Bar.
You can find other terrific restaurants for your graduation celebration in the Boston area here. And, let us know your suggestions for hungry graduates in the Boston area here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.