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Essential Boston?

BobMack Apr 19, 2007 11:45 AM

It's my first time going to Boston and I can't wait to get there. I'll be there for two days and I'm hoping to taste some of the essential dishes that the city has to offer. I'm staying in Brookline with a friend but I'll be around town doing the tourist thing. I'm catching a Red Sox game while there so what are the essential eats in and around Fenway Park as well?

I eat anything and everything but I really want to eat food that defines Boston.


  1. l
    lergnom Apr 22, 2007 05:59 PM

    If you want a list of "Boston" favorites, with the emphasis on history and place, then that would include:

    Pizzeria Regina - near North Church. Don't get a lot of toppings and it's a classic old style pie. The oven is from the 30's or so.
    Durgin-Park. Time was this was the only place open in Quincy Market. The food can actually be pretty good, especially for lunch, and the atmosphere is largely unchanged. Eat upstairs in the old part.
    The North End. Has been mentioned.
    Locke-Ober. A classic Boston institution now run by Lydia Shire.
    Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe. In the South End. Breakfast or lunch only. A classic survivor of the old lunch counter era. Terrific turkey hash.
    The list can get long depending on what you like to eat. I agree that really great ice cream is a weird Boston thing and that Toscannini's, Herrell's and JP Licks (which is in Brookline) are the best.

    1. gini Apr 20, 2007 11:36 AM

      Near Fenway:
      Pop a squat: Sausage & peppers from The Sausage guy outside the park before the game.
      Sip some wine: Trattoria Toscona on Jersey St. Excellent Tuscan food in a casual and comfortable atmosphere.
      Throw back a few: Eastern Standard - competent bartending and good bistro food. It will be packed before/during/after the game.

      Around town:
      Neptune Oyster, North End: Raw bar, hot buttered lobster roll and a gorgeous bar. It has been said that this roll is too rich. Those people obviously don't love butter the way I do.
      B&G, South End: Oysters, again; I don't love their lobster roll, but it has its fans and I wouldn't be fair to this New England tradition without mentioning the other contenders.
      Dok Bua, Coolidge Corner: Arguably the best Thai in Boston
      While you're in Coolidge Corner, you might get a kick out of Bazaar, a small Russian grocery store.
      O Cantinho, Inman Square: Portugese - especially fond of all small plates including salt cod fritters and braised baby octopus - haven't seen much of this in LA and would urge you to try some.
      Moqueca, Cambridge: Brazilian - specializes in soups/stews
      Santarpio's, East Boston: Pizza - order a sausage pie well done.
      East Boston also has a slew of excellent South/Central American joints.
      There are a few bakeries in the North End that might be of interest including Maria's and Modern.
      If you can get there, try to go to Formaggio Kitchen in Huron Village, Cambridge. It's the penultimate/meta-cheese shop to end all cheese shops. Yes, I'm waxing redundant.

      Skip all Mexican food. For your own good.

      I see that you're also a fan of icecream. Try Toscaninni's, Herrell's or Christina's for some homemade splendor.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gini
        bachslunch Apr 22, 2007 04:23 PM

        For ice cream, I'll enthusiastically second Toscanini's and Herrell's, and also suggest Emack & Bolio's.

      2. andytee Apr 20, 2007 11:11 AM

        If you are coming from LA, don't bother with Boston Mexican. It will only make you appreciate what you have at home.

        The cuisines I think Boston really excels in are Portugese/Brazilian, anything Seafood (esp. the old school fried clam places) and Vietnamese.

        With two days, you probably won't make it to the North Shore for fried clams, but do hit Neptune Oyster in the North End. O Cantinho for Portugese is also a good pick.

        Enjoy your trip.

        1. g
          Gordito Apr 20, 2007 11:03 AM

          I'd say if there is one thing that Boston has and other US cities (at least outside of New England) mostly do not, it is really good Portuguese cuisine. We are big fans of Casa Portugal in Cambridge, though there are other places too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gordito
            bachslunch Apr 22, 2007 04:22 PM

            I'll second Casa Portugal and also suggest Atasca, O Cantinho, and Sunset Cafe for this cuisine. All are in Cambridge in the Inman Square or Kendall Square area.

          2. b
            Bidnezz Apr 20, 2007 08:04 AM

            Oh man, I'm not from Boston, but I live here now. There are a ton of great places in Coolidge Corner, which is probably where you're staying in Brookline. There is all kinds of ethnic food here, but when I think of Boston, I think Seafood and North End. You should go to the Barking Crab downtown, it's near the Courthouse Station stop on the Silver Line, or near South Station on the Red Line. They have all kinds of seafood, and it's right on the channel, and if the weather is nice you're outside and you look at downtown. You can also do the tourist trap restaurants like "Ye Olde Oyster House" which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, restaurant in the U.S. You can get good Mexican or Thai or Indian anywhere.... eat seafood! Be happy!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bidnezz
              bachslunch Apr 22, 2007 04:20 PM

              I'd strongly urge against Barking Crab unless you like dirty digs, awful service, a scuzzy view, and hit-or-miss food at rather high prices. Bidnezz's "Ye Olde Oyster House" I'm guessing is the Union Oyster House (est. 1826), and I'll second avoiding it except perhaps for having oysters at the bar.

              Neptune Oyster or B&G Oysters (Boston), East Coast Grill or Dolphin Seafood (Cambridge), and (despite the howls that will come from some quarters) Legal Seafood (various locations) are all preferable options for seafood.

            2. t
              twentyoystahs Apr 19, 2007 12:58 PM

              You should do a search on the board..this is a question that is often asked and there are lots of posts that will give you lots more ideas than just this one thread will do..
              That being said..when I think of Boston I think of seafood....
              You definitely wanna have some good clam chowder, maybe a lobster, some fresh fish, oysters....some thoughts that come to mind include:

              B & G oyster bar: casual spot in Boston's South End, a funky neighborhood that is just filled with a variety of restaurants. I'd sit at the bar, suck down a few oysters, order the delectible (but pricey, around $24) lobster roll, and enjoy.

              A similar spot is Neptune Oyster Bar --pretty much all the same offerings but I like their menu a little better 'cause there's a slight italian bend to it..this spot is located in the North End, which is Boston's "little italy.."

              And while you are in the North End, you must visit Pizzeria Regina. A Boston institution where you get your pie served alongside some classic Boston character. Been around since the 1920s...you can get a real sense of neighborhoody Boston here. Plus the pizzas are delicious --cooked in an old brick oven..

              East Coast Grill: This is in Cambridge (just across the River..) I love this place..again...seafood...but the emphasis is on fresh, grilled fish --very simple but flavorful...also has a bit of a bbq bend so lots of interesting flavors. Great energy, fun vibe...can also saddle up to the bar, start with some oysters (btw, make sure you try Wellfleet oysters,,or Duxbury..or really any local ones, while in Boston....)

              more in a minute

              4 Replies
              1. re: twentyoystahs
                bachslunch Apr 19, 2007 05:46 PM

                If you go to B&G Oysters, I'd also recommend the clam chowder, which is the best I've had in Boston.

                I'll second the other suggestions twentyoystahs put forth, plus strongly second Joanie's recommendation of Durgin Park (especially for the Indian pudding) and bostonbob3's North End suggestions (and add Galleria Umberto). Chinatown is also an excellent spot to go.

                1. re: bachslunch
                  Bostonbob3 Apr 20, 2007 05:52 AM

                  The Galleria Umberto caveat is that it only serves lunch, and then only until they sell out of food. Which is usually within 2 hours.

                  Great food though, at unbelievably low prices. And you must - MUST - have some wine in a Dixie cup.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3
                    twentyoystahs Apr 20, 2007 07:35 AM

                    actually, they start selling out of "food" pretty early but the line keeps going until they are out of everything, i.e. "pizza.." . i went the other day at about 12:45 and though they had pizza and aracini, and maybe a calzone or two, they were out of just about everything else. i was really craving one of those fried potato and cheese balls (i forget the name). no luck :(

                    1. re: twentyoystahs
                      lergnom Apr 22, 2007 05:53 PM


              2. b
                Bostonbob3 Apr 19, 2007 12:26 PM

                Where are you coming from, BobMack? (Outstanding first name BTW.)

                7 Replies
                1. re: Bostonbob3
                  BobMack Apr 19, 2007 12:35 PM

                  Coming from LA (yes I'm a Dodger fan). What about Boston cream pies? Is that a myth?

                  1. re: BobMack
                    Joanie Apr 19, 2007 12:44 PM

                    You can get it at the Omni Parker House, but don't get much else on the menu. The Oak Room at Copley Plaza has it too and they have great $$$ steaks in an impressive dining room if that's your thing. Many similar requests to yours if you read. Durgin Park is another typical recommendation, prime rib and indian pudding.

                    1. re: BobMack
                      Bostonbob3 Apr 19, 2007 12:45 PM

                      No, Boston Cream Pie really was "invented" at the Parker House, a hotel downtown. They also originated Parker House rolls. And strangely, both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Min worked there.

                      As for Boston Mexican places, I'd pass, given that you're from Los Angeles (I went to Loyola Marymount BTW,. Go Lions!).

                      Are you limited to the Fenway/Kenmore area, or do you want city-wide suggestions?

                      1. re: Bostonbob3
                        BobMack Apr 19, 2007 12:48 PM

                        City wide suggestions work. I'm going to be getting around as much I can while I'm there.

                        1. re: BobMack
                          Bostonbob3 Apr 19, 2007 12:54 PM

                          I live in the North End (our Little Italy), so here are my favs in the neighborhood:

                          Mamma Maria
                          Neptune Oyster
                          Antico Forno
                          Pizzeria Regina

                          There's tons more info on the North End if you do a site search. Actually, it's a great tool for every Boston neighborhood/cuisine style.

                          1. re: Bostonbob3
                            hiddenboston Apr 19, 2007 01:00 PM

                            The North End should definitely be on your list. Bob listed some great places here--my personal favorites on his list are Rabia's and Regina's.

                            You might want to seek out some of our "restaurant rows" while in town. Some places to hit are:

                            Moody Street, Waltham
                            Hancock Street, Quincy
                            Mass. Ave., North Cambridge to Arlington Center
                            the Allston neighborhood (lots of cheap eats)
                            Coolidge Corner, Brookline

                            Lots of good eatin' ahead for you! Enjoy!

                        2. re: Bostonbob3
                          garlic breath Apr 20, 2007 12:49 PM

                          To add to the surreality (did I just make up that word?), Malcolm X, Ho Chi Min, AND Emeril Lagasse all worked at the Parker House. Talk about strange bedfellows...

                    2. c
                      CivettaCom Apr 19, 2007 12:21 PM

                      I know Mexican food doesn't exacatly scream Boston, but Ken Oringer is certainly one of the biggest name chefs in town, and he just opened a place on Lansdowne St. called La Verdad. When it gets a little warmer, he's opening a window at the restaurant to sell tacos (all kinds of unusual varieties) to Sox fans. It's definately worth trying while you're here...After all, how much clam chowder and Boston baked beans can you reall eat?

                      1. b
                        Bostonbob3 Apr 19, 2007 12:11 PM

                        Marc's right on with his picks, but you should also have a sausage with peppers and onions at Gate B outside Fenway (the ones inside the park pale in comparison to the outside vendors).

                        Be sure to squirt on a liberal amount of Sirachai sauce for the full effect.

                        If you're in the mood for really good Indian, India Quality is outstanding, and quite near the park (in Kenmore Square).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bostonbob3
                          CivettaCom Apr 19, 2007 12:24 PM

                          If we're talking park food, you've got to try a Cubano from El Tiante. It's a stand on Yawkee Way, and, yes, it's owned by Luis Tiant (a.k.a. El Tiante), who's often there signing autographs.

                        2. hiddenboston Apr 19, 2007 12:05 PM

                          This thread should help you get on the right track:


                          There are some good restaurants near Fenway that you might want to check out, including Woody's on Hemenway Street (pizza), El Pelon Taqueria on Peterborough Street (Mexican), Mission Bar and Grill in Brigham Circle (upscale comfort food), and, a bit further up the road in Brookline, Dok Bua (Thai).

                          Have fun!

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