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Apr 26, 2011 03:41 PM

VISITING BOSTON? One Hound’s Guide to Historic Areas and Restaurants

I have gone to school and lived here 40 years and I really like to steer few-day visitors who are food-oriented>> towards great dining in attractive and historic walking areas- so they can have the best of both worlds. Below is a very long detailed piece I put together for visitors. *This is not a consensus guide, just my suggestions . I’m sure other Boston CHs will jump in with their own thoughts. We all want you to have some great food while you’re here!*:

For the most attractive and historic parts of our city, I would direct you to the area around the Public Garden, Commonwealth Ave., Copley Sq. and Newbury Streets; the South End; Quincy Market /North End/Waterfront; and Charles Street/Beacon Hill, all lovely historic areas that show off the best of our city


*North End/ Waterfront/ Aquarium/ Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market*
If at all possible. one must go to the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End. This is many aficionados' fav pizza place, period. It is the original(and ONLY worthwhile) location of what is now a chain, and most importantly, its pizzas taste like no others , partly because of the WWII oven they use, which is more than 'seasoned' by now. This pizza tastes like it does in Rome. It is also a tiny, jam-packed, loud, FUNKY space; unique, not decor-changed since the 50's maybe. Unless you have no other option, don't go on a Saturday, and go for early lunch or early dinner to avoid lines.

Regina’s is located on the outer edge of the compact North End, so after pizza, walk over to the Hanover St. (main drag) area and feel the history of this unique neighborhood. Its oldest extant buildings are from the early 19th c.; through the centuries it has been peopled successively, by : rich Bostonians, blacks , Jews, Italians. It has been Italian since the early 20th c. While harbor-dwelling yuppies have been encroaching of late, it still has lots of sidewalk life, Italian being spoken, bocce being played. For a filling snack, Galeria Umberto Rosticeria is unique for its large arancini, calzone and Sicilian pizza by the slice. There are some wonderful gelato/cafes on Hanover St. I particularly like the gelato at Café Sport. Modern Pastry is across the street, with wonderful almond biscotti ,torrone, and sfogliadel ( a very unusual 3 cornered hat of layered/crunchy pastry filled with a farmer's cheese/candied fruit mixture.) Avoid Mike’s Pastry. For very upscale Italian dining, Prezza is highly touted. And the tiny jam packed no-reservations Neptune Oyster is the temple of the freshest seafood, impeccably prepared for traditionalists and foodies alike and always in the Top 5 lists. For Italian food goods, Salumeria Italiana gets raves. The North End is also home to the 18th c. Old North Church and 19th c. Seamen's Home etc. If you like to discover-by-walking, the end of Hanover St away from downtown Boston- leads onto the waterfront area. This is also architecturally and historically fascinating because it is very intact with its 19th c. warehouses/wharves (now waterview condos). With all I've described, you might find it worth your while to go to Regina's and the North End for lunch and the afternoon and maybe dinner. You could incorporate the nearby Aquarium,IMAX and dinner at Neptune Oyster or Sel de la Terre (excellent ,modern French style.) Street parking is near impossible in the North End. Throughout the summer, religious festival weekends turn the North End into quite the zoo.

Quincy Market is the old historic marketplace from 18th and 19th c. Boston. It was the prototype for most of the other U.S. 'Commercial Historic Restoration/Tourist Attractions'. It’s large handsome warehouse and market buildings are now full of endless shops, restaurants and vendor carts. It’s o.k. for sampling some finger food or ice cream but not more. However, Durgin Park is a Boston institution where, if you order correctly, you can have a memorable time (lobster, clams, baked beans, Indian Pudding). Nearby are CH lunch favs- Zo, Sultan's Kitchen , and Sam la Grassa's for huge sandwiches.

Somewhat near Quincy Market, in the area of South Station, are two of Boston’s top rated and most expensive restaurants. OYa is perhaps the most creative Asian food in Boston, consistently listed in the top 3 local restaurants. Menton is a silk purse prix fixe paean to European luxe and service perfected.

*South End*
The South End is Boston’s amazing well-preserved and very large Victorian district, chock-a-block w/ handsome brick and brownstone rowhouses grouped around pocket parks in the middle of all the side street cul-de-sacs. There is a large gay population, young stylish couples with strollers, beloved dogs everywhere, lots of super restaurants(mostly bistro style) and an active sidewalk cafe and strolling culture. Union Bar and Grill and Aquitaine and Erbaluce are my own favorites. Union is handsome, dark, comfy with American regional food(lovely cornbread in a skillet brought to you when you sit down).Aquitaine is an authentic French bistro with great Steak Frites and simple traditional roasted or grilled food (also an excellent duck confit sandwich w/ melted gruyere for Brunch.)in a very handsome atmosphere and beautiful historic neighborhood. 4 blocks away is Tremont 647 and their fun Pajama Brunch, where all their servers, chefs etc. wear their pjs . Mike and Patty’s is a beloved neighborhood gem for breakfast and lunch.The Gallows and Coppa are two recent bistros with many fans.

On a far edge of the South End is Toro, a very loud crowded Spanish tapas place owned by one of our most famous innovative chefs, Ken Oringer, whose Clio is one of Boston’s 2 most innovative and expensive Asian influenced restaurants . On a different edge of the South End is Myers+Chang, a casual hip 'new Chinese' menu , with great drinks and weekend dim sum. Nearby is Oishii for very expensive innovative sushi. On another edge of the South End is Mistral, a dramatic bustling elegant space with Northern Italian foods, popular with the expense account set, and Masa, a comfy Southwestern bistro.

*Back Bay *
Make sure to experience one of Boston's most beautiful features: Comm(onwealth) Ave between Mass(achusetts) Ave and Arlington St.(next to the Public Garden, the oldest arboretum/public park in the U.S. ) This part of Comm. Ave was designed after the Champs Elysees in Paris and is a 9 block long strip of tree, bench and statue- lined park with handsome 19th c. mansions lining both sides. It is parallel to and one block away from Newbury Street, Boston’s center of couture and art galleries , with many restaurants. Right around the corner from the Public Garden end of Newbury Street is Parish Cafe on Boylston St. with great sandwiches designed by and named for different Boston chefs . At the other end of Newbury St. is Sonsie, a handsome swank spot with a broad menu and loud bar, which is popular with the Euro crowd. Also near that end of Newbury St. are Clio, Deuxave and Island Creek Oyster Bar, the first two known for innovative high end dining and the latter for abundant fresh seafood.


*Beacon Hill and Charles St.*
Across the Public Garden, away from Comm. Ave, is Beacon Hill, Boston’s well preserved elite neighborhood of 18th and 19th c. brick town and rowhouses.Also the spot for our famous gold domed State House. Historic Charles Street, full of restaurants and shops, runs along the base of Beacon Hill. In that neighborhood, Figs has good simple Italian pizzas, pastas etc. Lala Rokh has delicious Mediterranean-Persian food with grilled and stewed lamb and eggplant taking the spotlight. It is a very quiet comfortable resting spot after a long day of walking. It's sister restaurant on Charles St. is Bin 26, for Northern Italian.Away from the Charles St. edge of Beacon Hill, and near the State House, the intimate bohemian Grotto has excellent well priced and creative Northern Italian influenced food. Nearby is #9 Park, an elegant Northern Italian spot , owned by local-girl-made-good and dining-empire builder, Barbara Lynch.

Dimsum carts or dim sum menu ordering: Winsor Cafe for the latter. Hei la Moon and Chau Chau City and Great Taste for the former. Peach Farm for meals.

Bakeries with many savories as well as sweets: Mei Sum, Eldo Cake House, 101 Bakery, Ho Yuen

Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches): 163 , Mei Sum


*Fenway Park*
Next to our beloved old baseball park is a terrific Mexican taco place, La Verdad. Their tacos of carne asada(grilled beef), pescado(fish),are the real deal and the best i have had here, and be sure to also get their refried beans . For more upscale and seafood before a game- Also nearby is Island Creek Oyster Bar(upscale and seafood) and tiny Trattoria Toscana . A five minute drive away is our amazing Museum of Fine Arts, world famous for its substantial collections of French Impressionism, American paintings and decorative arts, and Japanese art. (The new Art of the Americas wing has just opened in 2011.) The Gardner Museum, Venetian Palazzo famous for its art collection and flower filled Courtyard, is next to the MFA.

Boston has many ethnic cuisines represented here. Our most established immigrant groups are Irish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Armenian. In recent years communities from Russia, Cambodia, Brazil and Central America have grown substantially. Unfortunately, most great ethnic eats are located in the less attractive parts of Boston and its close towns. Some are easier to access than others via the T , but street parking is usually available.

Here are some Adjacent and Nearby Towns and Areas w/ CH fav ethnic (and other) spots:


Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian, Israeli, Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Chinese, Szechuan, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Russian, Japanese, Brazilian..........If Boston has an ethnic group, this is where you will find its restaurant contingent.

Armenian, Lebanese, Turkish food shops and bakeries: Eastern Lamejun, Arax, Sevan
Diner Breakfast: Deluxe Town Diner

*Cambridge Harvard Square*-
Chocolates(New England's most famous artisanal)- Burdick's
Harvard Square Institution(Mediterranean leanings)- Casablanca
Indian- Tamarind Bay, Tanjore
International Artisanal- Ten Tables, Bergamot
Lunch: Sabra, Casablanca

*East Cambridge, Inman Square*

Portuguese- Casa Portugal
Afghani- Helmand
Seafood, Mexican/Latin,American Southern - East Coast Grill
Artisanal Farm to Table- Bondir
Innovative Asian Small Plates- East by Northeast
Creative Turkish and Mediterranean- Oleana
Ice Cream- Christina's

*Cambridge, Kendall Sq.*

Elegant International- EVOO
Taiwanese- Mulan
Afghani- Helmand
American Southern- Hungry Mother

*Cambridge Central Sq.*

Craigie on Main- always listed in Boston's top tier; broad unusual menu specializing in meat and offal, but including seafood and vegetarian.
International Flamboyant/Fun Girls Night Out- Cuchi Cuchi
Ice Cream- most innovative in the Boston area- Toscanini
Dim Sum- Mary Chung


Innovative International- Gargoyles and Bergamot
Upscale Taverns- Foundry on Elm and The Independent
Breakfast,Brunch- Sound Bites
Cheap Indian Buffet lunch- The Kebob Factory

*East Boston and Chelsea
Mexican, Central and South American - Angela's, Jalisco, El Charro


Trattoria Toscana
130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

Peach Farm
4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

Neptune Oyster
63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

Mei Sum Bakery Coffee Shop
40 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Christina's Homemade Ice Cream
1255 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Sultan's Kitchen
116 State St, Boston, MA 02109

24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

Gargoyles On the Square
219 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Mary Chung Restaurant
460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

Sam Lagrassa's
44 Province St, Boston, MA 02108

1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

Tremont 647
647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

Tamarind Bay
75 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

EVOO Restaurant
350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

Sound Bites
704 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

Deluxe Town Diner
627 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

Union Bar and Grille
1357 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118

Salumeria Italiana
151 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109

Toscanini's Ice Cream
899 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139

569 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

Cuchi Cuchi
795 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Casablanca Restaurant
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Durgin Park
340 Faneuil Hall Market Pl, Boston, MA 02109

Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

Hungry Mother
Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

La Verdad
1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

439 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

Casa Portugal
1200 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

Hungry Mother
233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02141

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

Cuchi Cuchi
Boston, MA, Boston, MA

Sel de la Terre
1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA 01760

348A Cambridge Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

Winsor Dim Sum Cafe
10 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

Ten Tables
5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

Eldo Cake House
36 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA

3 Center Plaza, Boston, MA

Lala Rokh
97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108

Sonsie - Boston
327 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115

Deluxe Town Diner
627 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

The Independent
75 Union Sq, Somerville, MA 02143

18 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Durgin Park
1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

Regina Pizzeria
Thatcher St, Boston, MA 02113

69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

East by Northeast
1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

118 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

Foundry on Elm
255 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

Island Creek Oyster Bar
500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

#9 Park
Boston, Boston, MA

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  1. Fantastic, useful post, OC! I expect I'll be pointing people to this often.

    The only significant item I feel was missed was the handful of excellent pubs in the Boston area.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Area Man

      areaman, PLEASE would you write a list of the best, w/ their neighborhood/areas, so i can add that info.?

      i also have not included any mixed drink or wine places, so i hope others can give me info to insert- a few of the best places, w/ their neighborhood/area. Thanks so much.

      **i well know that this is not a perfect post, so i am really hopeful that local CHs will fill in the holes so i can improve it.**

      1. re: opinionatedchef

        Hurry please. We'll be there for the BoSox /Cubs series and NEED that pub list.
        OC, have already printed out your post to take with us. Many thanks.

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          I took a crack at this in between putting cover sheets on my TPS reports. I welcome additions/corrections.

          Boston has a well-chronicled history of Irish pub enthusiasts, and has also flirted with brew-pubs, grub-pubs and gastro-pubs. Regardless of category, the following spots are known for good food and beer in a casual setting.

          *East Cambridge, Inman Square*
          Atwood’s Tavern- American Pub (has live music)
          The Druid- Irish Pub (noted for excellent fish and chips)

          Matt Murphy’s Pub- Irish Pub (noted for excellent fish and chips)
          Audubon Circle- New American Pub
          Washington Square Tavern- New American Pub
          Publick House- European/Craft Beer Pub (noted more for its beer than food, it does have winners on the menu)

          *Cambridge Central Sq.*
          Miracle of Science- New American Pub

          Matt Murphy's
          14 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445

          Publick House
          1648 Beacon St, Brookline, MA

          Washington Square Tavern
          714 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02446

          Audubon Circle Restaurant Bar
          838 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

          1. re: Area Man

            this is TERRIF and hopefully others will supplement ( harv sq?downtown/quincy market?somerville? beacon hill/charles st? back bay?)

            maybe i dreamt it but i thought someone else responded here yesterday w/ a bunch of them in camb; but i can't find that post. Did anyone see it?

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Maybe what I posted:

              It talks a bit about Cambridge, Downtown, and Fenway options.

              1. re: emannths

                yes!!!!! thank you, em. i NEED this great info to supplement my long guide above!em's post:

                " I'll chime in here on the pub side of things. I usually look at things from a quality-of-the-beer standpoint, so don't take these to be any validation or impeachment of the food or ambiance unless otherwise mentioned.

                For a visitor, I'd put Cambridge Brewing Company at the top of my list. Their beers are truly outstanding and only available at the brewpub, and if it's a nice day, you can sit outside. They're open for lunch and all afternoon too, if you're looking for a lazy afternoon. Just down the street is Lord Hobo, which has probably the best taplist in the Boston area for a beer geek (and helpful bartenders to help you navigate the menu and provide samples). Meadhall is right there too, which has a taplist with a heavy emphasis on regional breweries (it looks like they're pouring just about every one of Smuttynose's beers, for example).

                The Kinsale is my favorite place in the downtown area--their selection is good and the prices are excellent. Stoddard's has a good list and a neat atmosphere, but be prepared for eyepopping prices ($10 for a pint of cask ale, I believe). Scholar's ( just opened this month, and may be another option--early reports are that prices are very reasonable (~$5/pint).

                Near Harvard, John Harvard's brewpub isn't bad. Russell House Tavern and Cambridge Common are good options for beer too. If you like cocktails, Green Street Grill in Central Square is great (good beer list too).

                Near Fenway, I'd consider either getting a beer at the Lower Depths (a little pricey, cash only) or walking over to the Otherside Cafe. If you've got time, you could take the T a couple stops to/from Washington Square, home to the Publick House and American Craft, or Harvard Ave, home to Sunset Grill (100+ taps of great beer, but mind the college-y feel) and Deep Ellum.

                I personally don't like Bukowski's. I find that their prices are high and their pours are frustratingly short. I'd rather put up with the limited selection at the Druid or the 10 minute walk to Lord Hobo if I'm in Inman Square, or head to the Otherside if I'm in Boston. But many people do like the place, and the locations certainly are convenient."

                Permalink | Report | Reply
                By emannths on Apr 27, 2011 03:36PM

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  I like your additions for beer-centric spots, OC.

                  However, I would just caution that you make it clear in your guide that some pubs are listed for their beer selection, and some are listed for beer AND chow. A chowhounder from out of town would likely be disappointed with John Harvard's food, for example, and we wouldn't want to discredit the board via the misunderstanding.

                  1. re: Area Man

                    I tried to make that clear with my opening paragraph, but you're absolutely right. I think people have an even wider range of expectations from bars than they do from restaurants--with drinks (nevermind specifically beer/wine/cocktails), food, and/or ambiance being given weights ranging from from irrelevant to trumping. The chow at those places, if worthy, is covered elsewhere, and can be weighted individually that way.

                    1. re: emannths

                      My apologies, emannths, I was at work and skimming the thread, and didn't realize that opinionatedchef had quoted your post from a different thread. Having re-read it, yes, you speak to the concern perfectly in your first paragraph.

      2. So generous and helpful of you. I always love to tell people about great lunch places when they're exploring new places but always feel like we never have time after talking about dinners. This is so great!

        1 Reply
        1. Great Taste does not have carts that im aware of...

          1 Reply
          1. re: hargau

            thanks for that catch. should they , or someone else, be added to that section(or any other, for that matter)?I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible, 2 or 3 spots.

            1. re: uhockey

              yay hockey! we're routing for your time here!

            2. OC, WOW! What a great job. I won't have to look to far for recommendations for a long time.
              Now I'm hungry, again.

              1 Reply