A steaming bowl of New England clam chowder at Legal Sea Food, a dozen freshly-shucked Native Cherrystones and Littleneck Oysters at Union Oyster House and a thin-crust Neapolitan at Pizzeria Regina in North End—these are all among Boston’s best bucket-list restaurants, ranking among some of the best regional cuisine in the country. But a sentimental favorite should be among the first culinary destinations on every Boston visitor’s itinerary, the elegant Parker’s Restaurant at the 160-year-old Boston Parker House, now a jewel in the Omni Hotels family.
Since 1856, Parker’s has been one of America’s Top 10 Most Iconic Restaurants for extraordinary historic and culinary reasons. The venerable restaurant’s legacy includes hiring the first celebrity French chef in America, Chef Sanzian, to launching the culinary careers of Emeril Lagasse, Lydia Shire and Jasper White. And two important cultural icons worked there: Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh served as a baker from 1912-1913 and Malcolm X was a busboy in the early 1940s during the Pearl Harbor invasion.
The guests here are a VIP list of Who's Who including members of the Saturday Club (Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other hungry literary greats), and more U.S. Presidents than most Jeopardy contestants can name. In fact, corner table number 40 is especially coveted, as it’s where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier. It’s in high demand, so book it early for special occasions. Not by accident, Boston Omni Parker House is regularly voted “Most Romantic” and “Best Wedding Venue” thanks to table 40, antique Waterford crystal chandeliers, soaring ceilings, richly woven carpet and ornate hand-carved woodwork decorating the interior.
But the most important thing is what’s on the menu. Parker’s is the only place anywhere where you’ll find three early American classics made in the same kitchen where they were invented: Boston Scrod, a coastal New England baked whitefish; golden-brown Parker House Rolls, a staple at the American dinner table; and the irresistible Boston Cream Pie. It comes perfectly presented as an individual cylinder serving with satin-smooth double chocolate frosting, slivered almond “crust,” pastry cream filling and light-as-air sponge cake. Yes, cake. Boston Cream Pie (originally called “Chocolate Cream Pie”) is in fact not a pie, though many bakeries commonly present it in a pie pan.
Admirers have tried to recreate and adapt this timeless dessert, so there are hundreds of recipes floating around. If you’d like to try your hand at the pastry, click here for the recipe courtesy of the culinary historians of the Boston Parker House.