HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


newbie to boston--PLEASE HELP!!!

Hi Boston Chowhounds. I'm gonna be visiting for 3 weeks, and will be staying at Massachusetts Ave. near Boylston St. I'm soooooo getting dizzy from just looking at the map of Boston, and would definitely like some help in getting around the area to look for good chow. Please help me to find good
-Chinese food
-Vietnamese pho (or noodles of all asian kind, really)
-seafood (lobsters mainly, but also oysters, calamari, octopus, and fish)
-food court/take out type
-dessert type (ice cream, gelatos, cakes...)
-diner for light sandwiches and burgers, or even pizza or pasta to go
-breakfast type (with good coffee)
-market for all types groceries

Any other suggestions for good food is much appreciated!

Can anyone also tell me whether this is downtown Boston that I'm staying in?? Boy, I'm going to be really lost..

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you are staying Boylston/Mass Ave you are in Boston near the Symphony. You are near a Whole Foods market for groceries.

    To satisfy some of your other requests:

    For seafood, my favorite is B&G Oysters in the South End. There is also Neptune Oyster in the North End though I personally favor B&G.

    For Chinese, we do have a pretty good Chinatown. If you like Peking duck, I highly recommend King Fung Garden though you typically need to give them 24 hour notice to prepare the duck. They also make really good homemade noodles and scallion pancakes. For wonton noodle soup, I like Hong Kong Eatery.

    There are several places where you can get a good burger. Some favorites of mine are 75 Chestnut in Beacon Hill and Audobon Circle near BU.

    For sandwiches there is a place on the other end of Boylston St near Arlington called the Parish Cafe that almost exclusively serves sandwiches, each of which is the creation of one of our local Boston chefs.

    Don't get yourself too terribly dizzy looking at the map of Boston. It is a pretty small city and quite walkable.

    Enjoy your trip!

    2 Replies
    1. re: lissy

      Hi Lissy,

      Thanks for your reply. I'm sorry, but I'm still not down with the Boston lingo yet, but "Boston near the Symphony," does that mean downtown Boston or not?

      And what's BU?

      Thanks a bunch!

      1. re: jennjen18

        "Downtown" is a relative term. Yes, you're in the land of some skyscrapers, but the neighborhoods are more useful terms -- you're near Symphony and Back Bay; then probably more of a "downtown" would be the Financial District, which is near the North End and Chinatown, but not really all that far from Mass Ave, on the order of 2 miles. (Symphony is short for Boston's Symphony Hall, which is at the corner of Mass Ave and Huntington -- just a couple blocks from Boylston.)

        BU is Boston University.

    2. For Greek, try Steve's on Newbury Street. Seafood try Summer Shack across from the Sheraton Hotel. Italian head to the North End: Sage, Mamma Maria and Giaccomo's are great but pricey, for more red sauce type dining I like Piccola Venezia or Cibo, bothon Hanover Street in the Nroth End.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jheilig

        Steve's on Newbury also does a pretty good diner-style breakfast.

      2. There's a food court in the Prudential Center shops, as well as a Legal Seafood (you can get clam chowder takeout). I haven't spent enough time in the city recently to feel confident about current chow recommendations.

        The subway is fairly accessible, too, and might make it easier to get around, since as you can tell by the map, the streets aren't laid out in a nice grid -- get a preview at www.mbta.com. You're probably closest to the Hynes/ICA stop or the Symphony stop. (Parking's a pain.)

        1. You are within walking distance of Chef Chang's, which has excellent Chinese food (IMO much better than most, if not all places in Chinatown) and has fantastic lunch specials. Its on Beacon Street just past Park Drive. Walk to Kenmore Sq and it's 3 blocks up Beacon.

          In the same block is the Busy Bee, a luncheonette out of the 60's with good diner food and particularly good breakfasts. It closes at 4 or so pm.

          El Pelon is also within walking distance in the Fenway if you want excellent Mexican. Near El Pelon is Brown Sugar if Thai is in your plans.

          Steve's is good for Greek as is Cafe Jaffa which is about a block (east?).

          Seafood -- I'd avoid Summer Shack, (just MO) and revert to Legal which is in the Pru Center.

          Pru Center has a smallish food court and a large Shaw's supermarket.

          For Pho, head to chinatown now that Pho Pasteur on Newbury St. is closed.

          JP Licks Ice Cream in near the corner of Mass Ave and Newbury Street

          1 Reply
          1. re: C. Hamster

            Jaffa is at 48 Gloucester St, and is a place I frequent. I endorse their falafel and lamb, although I almost always order a sandwich rather than the more expensive grownup dishes.

            Also, jennjen18, you will be near a Shaw's (Copley), a Whole Foods (Symphony), and a Trader Joe's (Boylston St.), as well as a restaurant called Domani, which gets mixed reviews here but IMHO the chef does some good things.

            For Chinese/Vietnamese, search the board. You are walking distance from Chinatown and, as mentioned, Chef Chang's. You are a T ride from Little Q Hot Pot, which totally rocks the house. You can get easily to Dorchester, which also has good Vietnamese (search the board, you'll find it).

            For fancy, expensive Italian, you could walk to Via Matta. There's also the famous North End. The problem with the North End is most of the places flamboyantly suck and take pride in their mediocrity. Search the board first to find out what doesn't suck in the North End. If you go in blind, chances are you will stumble upon the suck, and no one around these parts wants the suck.

            You'll also be near the South End, which is a cool neighborhood but ridiculously over-priced. It does, however, house the Franklin Cafe, which makes good food. Also, you may want to check out Anchovies, which is hit-or-miss and occasionally annoying (on the fly and incorrect check mathematics) but, I reckon, pretty bitchin'. Generally speaking. There are other places in the South End too which I'm sure other people will describe better than I can.

            And you can walk to Eastern Standard, in Fenway, which is also good.

            Additionally, I really wanted to dislike the trendy and too-crowded Toro in the South End, but it was so good I couldn't do it.
            End EDIT!

          2. You are staying in what is called Back Bay. Downtown is a different area but not too far away. As someone said, Boston is very small and everything is close by subway (T) or even to walk. There are several stops near you. There are many food choices nearby as well and you have received good suggestions. If you do not want Whole Foods, there is a Shaw's nearby on Huntington in betwwen the Prudential Center and Copley. Ask how to get to the South End for good restaurants too. Stella and Toro are excellent. Very close to where you are. BU is Boston University. And, no one says "Massachusetts Avenue". It is called "Mass Av". Commonwealth is Com Av. You get the idea.

            Hope you have a good time!

            1. You are staying in Downtown Boston which means that you are walking/T (that's Boston lingo for the subways and buses) distance from everything you're looking for. Various restaurants in Chinatown will meet all of your Asian food requests. Try Hei la Moon or one of the other frequently recommended dim sum places. I like Pearl Villa (not China Pearl). There are also a couple of Vietnamese places and som egood Malaysian there. There is even a chinatown food court. As for seafood, this board generally likes Neptune Oyster and though it has its detractors, many believe Legal Seafoods to be consistent and good. Check out the many posts on the North End for your Italian needs. If you're interested in something a bit different, you are not far at all from Addis Red Sea in te south end for Ethiopian. Have fun!

              1 Reply
              1. re: tomaneng

                Boylston & Mass ave is not downtown (near Berklee) - that's confusing info, especially since everybody else has got it right - it's really on the border of Symphony and Back Bay. But the Hynes/ICA station is on the corner and you can get on the green line streetcar/subway. Take a train towards downtown (inbound) and get off at Boylston and walk 2-3 blocks to Chinatown. Chinatown from Berklee would be too much of a walk for me - of course, I'm not exactly in shape.

              2. For coffee in the morning, try Sonsie. Its full service restaurant that opens the front section just for coffee and pastries in the morning. Nice seats overlooking Newbury St. and won't set you back any more that Starbucks. It is located on Newbury St. in between Mass. Ave. and Hereford st.

                1. You're in a good spot!

                  For Ice Cream, you are right near J.P. Licks, which is the first block of Newbury between Mass. Ave and Hereford St. I love the Cake Batter ice cream.

                  For a quick bite, you're also near Spike's, a good local hot dog joint.

                  For a great, simple, quick, and not too expensive Italian meal that is spitting distance from your place, just walk up Mass. Ave to Panifico, on the corner of Mass Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. Great homemade breads too, for the morning.

                  You are smack dab in between Back Bay and Kenmore. If you make a left on Comm. Ave off Mass Ave it is about a 5-10 minute walk to my favorite restaurant in Boston, India Quality, in Kenmore Square. Also in Kenmore Square is CH Favorite Eastern Standard, a hip bar/restaurant with wonderful food, and Petit Robert Bistro which is good affordable French.

                  You have lots of choices for markets...you are actually quite close to Trader Joes, on Boylston near Gloucester St.

                  1. You’re in a good location. It’s “downtown” in that it’s within the bounds of Boston proper, although technically Downtown is the financial district.

                    A good way to get your bearings is by going down Newbury St starting at Mass Ave; just keep walking. A few places you might like...

                    Trident Booksellers & Café, a comfortable space for a snack and a read
                    Tapeo if you’re in the mood for tapas and a glass of wine or sangria
                    Tealux for a great pot of tea and a sandwich

                    ...keep going and you’ll enter the Public Gardens which is especially pretty after a snowfall, and still further is Boston Common which has ice skating on Frog Pond. Beacon Hill is then nearby for cappuccino at a café on Charles St or a hot toddy at Beacon Hill Bistro or 75 Chestnut...you’ll love your time here.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Niblet

                      Sorry to belabor this point but I fear that our visitor Jenn may be needlessly confused if told she is staying "downtown."

                      Mass Ave and Boylston is neither literally nor technically downtown. If all points within the bounds of Boston proper were considered downtown then Centre Street in JP would be downtown, as would be the bars on Dot Ave, Harvard Stadium and the airport.

                      Jenn, Boston is a city of neighborhoods. The area that you are staying in near Berkley School of Music straddles the Back Bay and the Fenway neighborhoods. No one calls it downtown. Read more about our neighborhoods here: http://www.cityofboston.gov/neighborh...

                      You are certain to have great food and a great time while here.

                    2. Thanks so much for your input, guys!! But keep on compiling them.. I especially would like to know what are the goodies and baddies of Chinatown (it seems like a walkable distance). Thanks a bunch! Snacks and light lunch tips are much appreciated. :)

                      1. For a food court, try heading down Commonwealth Ave to the Super 88 (large Asian grocer, great prices) near BU in Allston. They have a large food court with a variety of Asian options, extremely cheap and reasonable quality for that genre. I often get lunch there when grocery shopping. Very near there is Brown Sugar which has excellent Thai.

                        For seafood, East Coast Grill in Cambridge is a popular option; I like them a lot for great drinks, a lively atmosphere, and a good menu.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chilibaby

                          The place to go at Super 88 (which is at the Packards Corner stop on the B branch of the Green Line -- this will all make sense when you see a subway/streetcar map -- at the intersection of Comm Ave and Brighton Ave) is Ken's Ramen, which is not in the food court proper, but in a small restaurant space of its own that's between the food court and the supermarket. Easily the best Asian noodles in town, and that includes Chinatown now that the Noodle Alcove is no more.

                          The closest good pho is another three or four blocks up Brighton Ave (you can take a #57 bus from Kenmore Square, or walk from Packards Corner) at the northeast corner of Brighton and Harvard: Le's Restaurant, formerly known as Pho Pasteur. There's another Le's in Harvard Square, in a complex called The Garage that's on JFK Street.

                        2. For quick lunch bites in your immediate area Trident Bookstore & Cafe and the Other Side Cafe are just a block away from where you are staying.

                          Charlies Sandwich (on Columbus NOT Newbury) is a must for breakfast.