Steps away from Faneuil Hall, North 26
Between the seemingly five-mile long vendor scene inside Quincy Market and several outdoor patios lining the brick sidewalks, Faneuil Hall’s dining choices are overwhelming. Yes, the hustle and bustle is great for crowd-watching, but the pace doesn’t exactly make for a leisurely meal.
This is precisely why we were happy to stroll just far enough from the fray to enjoy both people-watching and peace at North 26 at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel. Known for casual, locally sourced fare (think lobster rolls fresh out of the ocean), this quiet restaurant is all about seasonal produce. And its location makes it perfect for watching the world go by.
When we got to North 26 for a sunny late lunch, there was a choice – sit inside or on the outdoor patio. Albeit lined with huge windows, the interior was a little heavy (think dark walnut woodwork) for such a light day, so we chose the patio (all the better to see you with, my dear).
Located next to Haymarket (you can see the locals selling their wares), we went to work on the menu while taking in the local “sights.” Translation: we chose our meals, dug into the basket of amazing cranberry walnut bread, and began commenting on a tour group exercising their “stay together” skills while crossing the busy street.
We started our meal with a seasonal goodbye – Andalusian gazpacho. Made with super ripe tomatoes (you could tell by the rich flavor), this liquid salad was flavorful with cucumber and fresh herbs. It gave us hope for what might be coming when the chef has his way with upcoming fall bounty. On the other side of the soup spectrum was the lobster bisque with sherry crème chantilly, possessing a smoky flavor (although a bit oversalted) and creamy base with floating chunks of meat. Then came the Maine crab cake with spicy remoulade. The portion could have been larger, but it was a nicely packed, lightly fried patty of lump crab. Thank you, North 26, for not mixing it with too much breading like others do.
The first of the entrees, Caesar salad with shrimp, was a huge plate of crisp Romaine hearts mixed with just the right amount of dressing and topped with shaved parmesan and country croutons. The flavor could have been a little more Ceasar-y, but kudos to the kitchen for the white anchovies piled on top. The three grilled jumbo shrimp had that welcomed “snap” when you bit into them.
With the crisp bite in the air, signaling fall’s approach, we decided on a hearty dish – the Tuscan marinated chicken with ricotta ravioli. The grilled chicken was sliced thin but maintained its juiciness, a testament to being grilled perfectly. It was sitting sidecar to a healthy portion of creamy ravioli pockets of ricotta. The sauce was made with fresh basil and San Marzano plum tomatoes, considered by many to be the best of its kind in the world.
A menu heavy in seafood choices, our last stop was fish & chips, a lunch item only. The local haddock was flaky and lightly battered, with a dough texture. Skin-on fries were piled high and the dish was served with house-made remoulade. It wasn’t a favorite, but it wasn’t disappointing.
Next time we visit, we’re going to try the Australian rack of lamb or perhaps the wild mushroom grilled flatbread pizza. Because as you know, all that people-watching works up an appetite.
North 26 is located within the Millennium Bostonian Hotel at the 26 North Street at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.