HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


First Time in Boston MUST EATs Local Favs

Hey All
My Brother and I are planning a few days in Boston in late March. Neither of us have ever been to Boston so I am coming to you for help. The only plans we have made thus are travel related. We have not settled on a hotel yet and will determine that based on location of activities and restaurants. If you could provide some chow worthy suggestions, it would help with our "Taste of Boston" trip. We would love to check out some Pubs and we are both HUGE seafood fans. As far as ethnic fare, we may do some type of Asian but are mainly trying to get a feel for this area of America and are mainly interested in local fare. All suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you end up having some type of Asian food then you must try Xinh Xinh on Beach St. in Chinatown. That is the most delicious Vietnamese place I have been to and I have been to quite a few.

    Xinh Xinh
    7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

    1 Reply
    1. re: Johnresa

      I'll second Xinh Xinh for Vietnamese, and recommend Chinatown as a good place for Asian food in general. Good Chinese places there include King Fung Garden, Peach Farm, East Ocean City, Pearl Villa, and Hong Kong Eatery. Good dim sum can be had at Hei La Moon, Emperor's (aka Empire) Garden, China Pearl, and Chau Chow City. Penang is excellent for Malay, Pho Pasteur and Pho Hoa are decent Vietnamese alternatives to Xinh Xinh, Shabu Zen does good hot-pot, and Ginza is probably the best Japanese place there.

    2. For Pubs: the Publik House in Bookline!
      For Seafood: Atlatnic Fish Co.

      4 Replies
      1. re: saltyair

        Atlantic Fish isn't bad, but I'd much sooner recommend Neptune Oyster or B&G Oysters for seafood.

        1. re: saltyair

          My food experience at Publik House was underwhelming, though it's very popular on this board.

          Pubs with good food can be found, and I'd recommend River Gods (Cambridge), R.F. O'Sullivan's (Somerville, close to Porter Square in Cambridge, and well regarded by many here for burgers), and Matt Murphy's (Brookline). Miracle of Science (Cambridge) and Audubon Circle (Boston) aren't bad either.

          1. re: bachslunch

            I like your pubs list, but prefer Publik House to O'Sullivan's.

          2. re: saltyair

            I agree that the Publick House and Atlantic Fish, while fine for what they are, do not belong on a "must have" list.

          3. I just had a friend in from England and two things we did, food-wise, were big hits:
            The Union Oyster House (in Government Center) for clam chowder (only because we couldn't get to their wet bar - too popular, but looked amazing!). This is the oldest operating restaurant in Boston, and was one of JFK's favorite lunch spots when he worked at the MA state House
            and Anna's Taqueria for burritos. Boston has major burrito wars, and you'll hear a lot of different answers about which grab-and-go burrito is the down-and-dirty best. Anna's was the first I ever tried, and is still my favorite after 5 years. I always bring out of town guests here, and they rave about it.

            7 Replies
            1. re: polias

              is the oldest operating restaurant in Boston,- Polias
              Don't sell it short it is the OLDEST OPERATING RESTAURANT IN AMERICA.
              Skip Atlantic Fish Company and the Publik House, both second rate.
              Great Irish Pub= F.J. Doyle's in JP or J.J. Foley's in South Boston, not on Kingston St.
              Mama Maria or Prezza in North End for Italian.
              Helmond in Cambridge for Afgan
              Hammersley's for general fine dining in an elegant atmosphere
              No. 9 Park for overall excellence
              Silvertone is a cool later night hang out on Bromfield and the food is great and simple.
              Strangley Boston has a real shortage of decent seafood restaraunts outside of chains
              Good Luck

              1. re: polias

                I would advise in the strongest possible terms to avoid the Union Oyster House, which I can only recommend for raw oysters and a beer at the bar, not for anything else.

                If what I've read is accurate, JFK was actually a big fan of Locke Ober -- in fact, they named their lobster stew after him.

                For burritos, Anna's is excellent, as are El Pelon near Fenway Park and Taqueria la Mexicana in Somerville's Union Square. And if the Taqueria Mexico near Brookline's Coolidge Corner is as good as the one in Waltham, it's well in the running for best Mexican food in Boston.

                1. re: bachslunch

                  I think sometimes as chowhounders we forget to look at things from a tourist's perspective. Folks visiting Boston for the first time might actually want to go home and tell their friends that they ate at the oldest restaurant in america. I think the UOH is a great experience if you stick to oysters, chowder, and beer at the oyster bar. When showing out of towners around I usually like to stop there for oysters as a starter and then head over to the north end.

                  1. re: joth68

                    On the other hand, some of us go to new cities and want to eat where the locals eat, not where the tourists eat. I always like to assume that a chowhounder is in that camp.

                    1. re: Blumie

                      I agree with the assumption that most chowhounders would prefer to eat at places frequented by locals, however, I still think it is worthy to give advice on how to turn a tourist trap into an enjoyable experience.

                  2. re: bachslunch

                    Coming from the west, mexican food in this town just does not compare, anna's is really not all that great... El Pelon is much better, the best mexican food place i have found is near Davis Square (actually powderhouse circle near tufts) called Tu Y Yo, some excellent family recipes, very different than standard chain food mexican.

                  3. re: polias

                    yeah, skip the burritos. i mean, i like the options in boston just fine, but there's nothing particularly special about them--as in i think you can much the same in many other parts of the country.

                  4. Boston is more about neighborhoods than a type of food. Olde New England was not a hotbed for cuisine. Other than certain seafood dishes, there is no real "local" cuisine. The famous clam shacks are not in town and are mostly only open in the summer.

                    Probably the most famous, most Boston neighborhood is the North End - which is next to downtown and is Italian (as in the old Prince spaghetti commercial "Wednesday in the North End of Boston is Prince Spaghetti day"). Search the board. There are scores and scores of places, from Pizzeria Regina with its antique oven to upscale modern Italian.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lergnom

                      Yes - definitely Pizzeria Regina in the North End. Don't miss it!


                      1. re: Jill Brazil

                        For North End possibilities, please check out the research I've done here:


                        You'll find the North End is overwhelmingly populated with Italian restaurants.

                      2. re: lergnom

                        The closest we have to a "local" cuisine other than seafood is old fashioned Yankee cooking, a classic version of which is done decently at Durgin Park, a slightly updated version of which is done nicely at Green Street Grill in Cambridge, and an upscale version of which is done well at Locke Ober.

                      3. This is so helpful.

                        A related question ... We are going to be in Boston in two weeks. We will mostly be doing "chowhoundly" things, but friends have suggested that, for a "big deal" experience we try Locke Ober. It's only 3 blocks from our hotel and gets top reviews. Is it worth the $$$? Thanks. GregJ/Wash DC

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: GregJ

                          I think you definitely check Locke's out, if only for a drink.

                        2. Well, if it were me, I would not miss Ana Sortun's restaurant: Oleana in Cambridge. I think L'Espalier makes a very good argument for proud New England cooking with a French influence. I would also try one of Todd English's restaurants (Boston's own mega chef). Even though he's no longer at the top of his game, I would at least try his more casual Figs restaurant (and avoid your pizza fare disaster at Regina by the same token) If I were to go Asian, I would say to hit Boston's other celebrity chef restaurant: Blue Ginger (chef Ming Tsai).

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: joebelt

                            I think it's safe to say that joebelt is in the minority in his dislike of Pizzeria Regina in the North End. Most chowhounds, including me, consider it the best pizza in Boston. Also, I'm not sure if many would agree that Blue Ginger is worth the trip to Wellesley.

                            Oleana is beloved by many chowhounds, and although I felt it was overrated based on my overall experience there, I did have one dish, the ricotta dumplings, that knocked my socks off.

                            1. re: pollystyrene

                              Good for you. The majority of the people I know find pizzeria Regina to be nothing more than better than average greasy pizza. We all like Figs, Cambridge 1 or Iggy's a lot better. To each his own.

                              1. re: joebelt

                                Fair enough. I like those places too although I haven't been to Iggy's in years (since it moved in fact). But those are totally different types of pizza than Regina which I (and lots of my friends) love. In fact, whenever I return to Boston, Regina is one the places at which I have to eat before leaving (much like Taiwan Cafe). I assume you don't like Santarpio's either?

                                1. re: Dax

                                  Santarpio is better than Regina's but it's still barely decent pizza far from authentic Neapolitan pizza. Regina & Santarpio are still in the junk-food category, I don't think you can say that of Figs or Cambridge 1.

                                  1. re: joebelt

                                    Are you saying that Cambridge 1 has authentic Neapolitan pizza? Because that's just incorrect information, all preferences aside.

                                    1. re: gini

                                      I don't think the ones at Iggy's or Figs would qualify as "authentic Neapolitan pizza" either. More room for me at Regina.

                                      1. re: gini

                                        Respectfully that is not at all what I said. the end.

                            2. There are WAY too many "touristy" places listed... these are the types of places to stay away from. They tend to be crowded... but the food is mediocre at best.

                              I write a food blog for Boston: www.bostonfoodandwhine.blogspot.com

                              You can find lots of food recommendations there. My favorite places tend to be in the South End and/or Cambridge, but Back Bay has several good places too. My favorites? Oleana in Cambridge. Metropolis in the South End. Tangierino in Charlestown. Tapeo's on Newbury Street. For more expesive options, Clio in Back Bay or No. 9 Park in Beacon Hill are both amazing. There are SO many good places... if you have specific neighborhoods or types of food you want to try, email me directly off my blog for some specific recommendations. Have fun on your trip!


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: tschuetz

                                tschuetz, I do like your favorites list directly above and will gladly second all of them.

                                I'm hard pressed, though, to see which of the places listed on this thread (except Durgin Park, which has pretty good food, and Union Oyster House, Jacob Wirth, and Cheers, which do not) would be considered touristy.

                                Also, Back Bay does have a few good to excellent spots (Via Matta, La Voile, Tapeo, Parish Cafe, Trident Bookstore, The Other Side, Sorellina, Clio, L'Espalier, maybe Chilli Duck for its Thai menu) but a whole lot of awful dreck as well. It's not the first area in Boston where I'd personally send folks to find good chow.

                                1. re: tschuetz

                                  I went to a mexican place once near newbury street, it was on a stree off there, it was good but i cant' remember the name now, any ideas? it is a smaller street?

                                  1. re: sophiaspring

                                    This may have been Casa Romero?? It is in an alley off of Gloucester between Newbury and Comm Ave... best located as being behind L'Espalier. http://www.casaromero.com/index.php?s...

                                    * Some of the best sangria I've found in Boston

                                2. If you are used to NC oysters you should try our local ones, several recs below. Also this area has long had a large Portuguese population; there are a number of Portuguese restaurants in East Cambridge and a couple Cape Verdean ones in Dorchester.

                                  1. May want to try Jumbo Seafood in Chinatown, you can choose your entree from the fish tanks in the lobby, Jacob Wirths, on Stuart is an 'old school' Gernam Pub, good pub grub and beer, Galleria Umberto in the North-end good pizza, rice balls etc., long lines but very reasonable they usually run out of food by 1ish, Al Capones on Broad St great, and huge, chicken parm subs, Sultans Tent on Broad St for Meditteranean food, Milk St Cafe for vegetarian, but you'll never know it, lunch. Enjoy!

                                    1. I would also add Baraka Cafe in Cambridge (central square). Great food, awesome atmosphere, unique place. Its a bit of a walk from Central Square, but fully worth every step!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ayala101

                                        second baraka, it is actually not much of a walk, a few blocks from central.

                                      2. If I only dinned at one place, it would have to be Oleana.

                                        1. For a taste of Boston I'd recommend East Coast Grill in Cambridge for grilled fish, barbecue, oysters, and great appetizers. In the North End, Regina's for pizza, Galleria Umberto for lunch, and the Daily Catch. Matt Murphy's Pub in Brookline for their fish and chips. For Asian offerings, sushi at Oishii in Chestnut Hill, Thai at Dok Bua in Brookline, Cambodian at Floating Rock in Revere. And for clam shacks the Clam Box in Ipswich and Essex Seafood in Essex. For breakfast, Charlie's in the South End. Enjoy!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: chuck s

                                            Great list -- these are many of my favorites too and a visitor who tried 1/2 of these places would leave our fair city very very happy.

                                            1. re: chuck s

                                              I've eaten at clam shacks from Provincetown,Mass. to Bar Harbor,Maine and the Clam Box and Essex Seafood are two of the best I have eaten at.

                                            2. Depending upon where you're coming from, if you like liquor you could try some cocktails. Boston has some very well crafted cocktails at some of the better bars and there things that many smaller cities won't have. Much higher level of ingenuity (and often alcohol content) than, say, a mojito or a cosmo. No. 9, (high end and expensive), Eastern Standard, (mid-end and not cheap), Green St. in Cambridge, very good Yankee type food with incredible cocktails, cheaper than the other two.

                                              A fun place with good but not fantastic cocktails is the B-Side lounge, also in Cambridge.

                                              All of these places have at least decent food and a good beer selection as well.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sailormouth

                                                Here are some of my favorites that I would recommend - Silvertone Bar for steak tips and cocktails in Downtown Crossing, Giacommo's in the North End and Antonio's on Cambridge Street for Italian, Chacarero for tasty sandwiches - Downtown Crossing again. The King and I on Charles Street for Thai. Pho Hoa in Chinatown for Pho and fresh spring rolls - plus a visit to a nearby bakery for hot custard tarts. I really like Union Oyster House and Durgin Park for old standards. Henrietta's Table at the Charles Square Hotel in Harvard Square for brunch. El Oriental de Cuba for cuban sandwiches and maduros, Centre Street Cafe for good food - both in Jamaica Plain. Flour Bakery in the South End for treats and great breakfast items (scones, muffins).

                                                Enjoy your trip and your food!


                                              2. Because you said the word pub, I simply must plug Deep Ellum in Allston. Small place, friendly feel, and incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated with regard to beer, cocktails, and creative pub food.

                                                1. My ideal Boston trip:

                                                  North End: Lunch at Neptune Oyster($$$) or Volle Nolle for the sandwiches ($) in the North End, Cappucino at Cafe Vittoria, Pastry at Modern or Maria's. Not a big fan of the North End for Dinner, sorry.

                                                  Upscale Dinner: No. 9 Park($$$$) right on Boston Common

                                                  My Favorite Brunch: Formaggio Kitchen($) in Cambridge off of Harvard Square, cheese, pate, hanging sausage, and a coffee

                                                  South End for Brunch: Aquataine($) or Butcher Shop($$)

                                                  Chowder: Neptune does a damn good chowder or Union Oyster for the touristy fun one

                                                  Lobster Roll:B&G, Neptune, or Kingfish hall but they vary

                                                  Pizza: Regina in the North End, Figs Beacon Hill or Charlestown, UpperCrust is ok too

                                                  1. if you are big seafood fans, go to Legals (I know its a dreaded chain but the fish is excellent and you will have the option of many kinds of oysters, fish, etc), Eastern Standard Kitchen, and Great Bay for cocktails and cheap oysters during happy hour. B&G Oysters in the South End is expensive but very good.Have some excellent chinese seafood at Jumbo Seafood or Ocean Taste or Eastern Pier. Try Neptunes if you don't mind a scene and waiting and, if you are a fish and chips fan, combine this with Pubs at Matt Murphy's in Brookline or JamesGate in JP. Try Pescatore in Somerville if you want to explore outside of the main Boston area.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                                      Please go to Aquiataine for Brunch. SIMPLY incredible. Their Sat. menu is well priced but we also enjoyed today's brunch. The french toast my friend had was so custardy and lovely. I enjoyed my fresh seared tuna Nicoise salad. This place is flawless. INCREDIBLE.

                                                      LOVED Trattoria Toscana on Jersey near the Fens across from Brown Sugar. My new fav Italian. Having cute waiters does help. The risotta was sublime, the crostini to die for...loved the gnocci..SUPERB

                                                    2. while it is too late for you, just to add to the list of good places in Boston, Cafe Baraka in central square on pearl street (off street from mass ave in central) is excellent. Grain and Salt in Allston for indian/pakistani food, Tu Y Yo for mexican are a few i think of.

                                                      1. This thread has veered way off topic, so I will remember some Boston favorites, having left a year ago. Here are some places I wish were here in LA:
                                                        Burdick's (Chocolate and dessert, Harvard Square)
                                                        Various North Indian (Tamarind Bay, Kabab Factory, India Quality, Punjab Palace, Indian Dhaba).
                                                        Floating Rock (Cambodian, Revere on the Blue Line)
                                                        Boca Grande (Burritos, all over the place)
                                                        Simon's (Espresso and drip coffee, Porter Square)
                                                        True Grounds (Coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches, Ball Square)
                                                        Helmand (Afghan, Kendall Square)
                                                        Formaggio Kitchen (the crown jewel of Boston foodieism)

                                                        The only quintessentially Boston place that comes to mind is Pizzeria Regina in the North End. In spite of its reputation, Boston did not seem to have particularly good seafood.