Let’s face it—while the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston is about as charming and picturesque an area as you will find in a major city, it really isn’t a destination spot for dining. Sure, there are a few excellent restaurants along Cambridge Street and Charles Street, but it isn’t packed with top dining spots like, say, the South End or Allston. And that seems to be just fine with locals who don’t want the mostly tiny eating and drinking places to get too crowded, especially in the case of those spots hidden away on some of the side streets. That includes a laid-back restaurant on Chestnut Street called 75 Chestnut that is almost exclusively a place for the neighborhood folks, along with some from the nearby MGH, tourists who stumble across it by accident, and those in the know.
The restaurant is located in a section of Beacon Hill called the “flat,” since it is a level area built with landfill (and almost feels more like a part of the nearby Back Bay in some ways). Charles Street is basically the commercial hub, running along the eastern edge of the flat, with the roads between Charles Street and Storrow Drive being almost completely residential. This is the spot where 75 Chestnut resides, and its location in an area of high-end row houses, historic buildings, and tree-shaded streets gives off the impression that this must be a high-end and almost clubby type of dining spot—and a number of years ago, this would have been considered mostly true before the place changed. Today, what was once a special-occasion restaurant is now more of a simple and cozy spot with a rustic-feeling dining area, a small but comfortable bar, and a classy, elegant overall vibe that is leftover from the former incarnation of the place.
The menu at 75 Chestnut focuses mainly on slightly upscale versions of classic American fare and comfort food, with lots of stick-to-your-ribs dishes that favor meat lovers, though vegetarians should be able to find something to their liking as well. Some of the highlights include a rather spicy chili with roasted polenta wedges; a “tower” of appetizers with fried calamari, pumpkin ravioli, and garlic bread; a terrific Caesar salad with romaine lettuce and shaved parmesan cheese; a moderately thick clam chowder with herbs, Maine potatoes, and bacon; a Mediterranean platter that includes a tremendous red pepper hummus; a juicy grass-fed “bistro” burger that rivals some of the city’s best; a smoky sirloin steak sandwich marinated in a slightly sweet port wine sauce; a char-grilled pork chop with shallot mashed potatoes; a Nantucket stew that will satisfy lovers of seafood with its shrimp, scallops, swordfish, halibut, salmon, and sea bass; and marinated steak tips that approach the towering heights of such places as the Newbridge Cafe and Floramo’s in Chelsea. The restaurant has a decent though not outstanding beer list, a much more impressive wine list, and various options for cocktails.
Neighborhood restaurants tend to be great alternatives to the big chains and the ultra-trendy (and ultra-crowded) spots, and while Beacon Hill doesn’t really have much in the way of either of these, it is refreshing to see that local hangouts such as 75 Chestnut continue to thrive these days. It may be a bit too low-key for some, but if you’re into quiet conversation in a local spot while enjoying some high-quality comfort food with a drink or two, this place may be for you.
75 CHESTNUT. 75 CHESTNUT ST., BOSTON. 75CHESTNUT.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.