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Cheap eats in Boston around tourist locations (Freedom Trail,Aquarium,Science Museum,etc)

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My husband and I are going to be in Boston in two weeks and since we are two poor college students we are trying to find some cheaper meals while in Boston.
Since we are mainly going to Boston for the historical aspect I was wondering if there were many cheaper places to eat around the Aquarium,Freedom Trail, Museum of Fine Arts,Harvard Museum of Natural History,etc?

By cheap I am thinking $10 or less per entree. I am interested in different ethnic foods,particularly Brazilian,European and Latino. Being from the Midwest I am eager to try all sorts of new food,not sure if the hubby will go for it unless there is a lot of meat involved.:)

I know inexpensive seafood is kind of a oxymoron but are there any reasonably priced seafood establishments in Boston that do not cost an arm and a leg? We were thinking of going to James Hook and Co. as I have heard good things about it and it is pretty inexpensive. We are willing to splurge a bit more for seafood because we do not get good seafood in the Midwest.

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  1. On the Freedom Trail, go to Galleria Umberto, on Hanover Street in the North End. It's only open from about 11 to whenever the food runs out (1:30 or so), but you will eat like kings for well under $10 apiece. The arancini (a fist-sized ball of rice holding beef, cheese and peas in a tomato ragu, rolled in bread crumbs and fried) and calzones are particularly excellent.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      For Galleria Umberto if the line is to the door it's at least 20-30 min wait, if you get there and the line is long and don't want to wait go to Salem street and go to Ernesto's for 1/4 pizza slices that are good Neapolitan pie, if you are in harvard square you might want to try Pinocchio's for a good sicillian slice or a burito at Anna's tacqueria. Places in Chinatown can also make your dollar go further if you get a pork bun at a bakery or banh mi sandwich or sit down at New golden gate, peach farm or new shanghai (spicy sichuan ).

      Ernesto's Pizza
      69 Salem St, Boston, MA 02129

      Umberto Galleria
      289 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

      La Galleria 33
      125 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113

      Anna's Taqueria
      446 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Pinocchio's Pizza & Subs
      74 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

      1. re: lc02139

        Just to clarify, there is not an Anna's Taqueria (a local chain that has passionate critics, but I've always liked them) in Harvard Square -- lc02139 may be thinking of Felipe's Taqueria (which I also like quite a lot) in The Garage on JFK Street. The same location has a very nice Indian fast-food place called Chutney's whose sandwiches are excellent value for money.

        Felipe's Taqueria
        83 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

      2. re: Jenny Ondioline

        That place sounds amazing! I would love to try the arancini as I have never had anything like that before.Will have to make an effort to go there.:)
        Thank-you so much for the recommendation!

        1. re: prima_donna87

          I can't recommend Gallaria Umberto enough. The arancini are amazing, the pizza great, everything else is also awesome. The only thing I don't recommend there is the pizzette, a roll with meat and peas and a slice of cheese over it. It would be pretty good anywhere else, but is the least good thing there. To give you an example of how cheap it is, you could get and split one arancini ($2.75), one panzarotti (potato croquette with cheese $1.35), one calzone (my favorite ham, ricotta, salami $4.00), one panini (salami, ham and cheese rolled and baked inside a roll $1.85), and a slice each ($2.70). With two drinks ($1.25 soda to $4 beer/wine), and you'll spend under $13 on a ton of food, plus drinks. No tipping since it's counter service (and they always refuse them when I've seen people try to tip anyway). That's an example, and it would be a very filling lunch for two (or three!).

          1. re: kimfair1

            Why split it's not like the meal costs more than eating at Mc'ds, and you don't want to wait inline if you really like something.
            Yes the people( Ralph, Paul) that run Galleria Umberto are some of the nicest people and a great meal deal.
            I order an arancini and 2 slices and can't seem to get to the other things on the menu.

            1. re: lc02139

              If you were only going to eat there once, then splitting items means you get to try more of the menu on your only visit (or in my case allows me to eat all the things I love on the menu each visit). My wife and I order a huge amount of food, and then have a very light dinner later that night (no breakfast). we get:

              2 arancini (can't split them, we both love them too much)
              1 ham,ricotta,salami calzone split
              1 panini split
              1 panzarotti split
              1 slice of pizza (for me)
              2 mineral water.
              $18 and change, best deal in town.

              1. re: kimfair1

                I guess you are right that sounds good, I would substitute the spinach calzone. I agree on not splitting the arancini.

                1. re: lc02139

                  While I like the spinach, spinach and cheese, and spinach sausage and cheese calzones, I love the ham ricotta salami. As I said before the only item that I don't think is worth the miniscule amount of money they charge for it, is the pizzette.

          2. re: prima_donna87

            Galleria Umberto is great. Good to get there about 10:45 to avoid any lines out the door - have a back-up place in case you *do* end up in line & don't want to wait (my experience is, it's worth it). Some of the restaurants in the North End today are just plain awful (and beyond).

            1. re: threedogs

              The line is always worth it, and has been for the 30 years I've been going there. The only time I hated every minute was once when there was an afternoon Bruins/Rangers game at the Garden, and the place was packed with a line out the door by 11. It was the only time I ever experienced people cutting in line as well. I gave them a very hard time about it, but they were 4 huge hockey fans with their girlfriends, and I didn't want to end up in an emergency room for arancini!

              1. re: kimfair1

                It sounds worth it to stand in line and we can indeed eat like kings for VERY cheap. We are going to have to check this place out for sure.

        2. North End: Pizzeria Regina. The few alternatives in the $10/entree range will be disappointed IMO.

          Fish: Courthouse Seafood restaurant has some of the lowest prices around while still putting out a good product. I believe they let you pick out fish in the adjacent fish market and they'll cook it for you if you're looking for something other that cod/haddock/clams/scallops. Limited hours (they close between 6-8 depending on the day of the week). Also, if you're looking for oysters, there are plenty of $1 oyster deals around the city, so if you're on a budget, there's no need to pay more than that.

          Near Harvard, you might consider walking 10-15min to Porter Square, where you can get very good Thai at Rod Dee. You could also take the bus down Mass Ave to get Sichuan Chinese at Thailand Cafe.

          Try The Snack Bar on Cambridge St for inexpensive Portuguese/Azorean. You can get here by bus from Harvard easily as well.

          Near the Aquarium, I'd hop on the Blue line over to East Boston and Revere and go to Santarpio's (pizza), Thmor Da (Cambodian), or Mexican at a place like Taqueria Jalisco. A walk into Chinatown will get you good Vietnamese at Xinh Xinh and good Sichuan at New Shanghai. You can usually have a feast of dim sum at Hei La Moon for no more than $12pp, though with only two people you won't be able to order everything that passes by your table.

          If "European" include French bistro, the entrees at Jackie's Table are all in the $10-15.

          Just to calibrate your expectations, it's rare (ha!) to find a burger in the Boston area that's less than about $9, so finding meals with <$10 entrees is challenging without resorting to bar food and sandwiches. You'll find your options increase greatly if you can expand your budget to ~$15/entree, at least in the ethnic food realm. I think most of the places above are going to be about $10/entree, but in some cases this could be $10-13 instead of $9-11.

          Hei La Moon
          88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

          Santarpio's Pizza
          111 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

          New Shanghai Restaurant
          21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

          Courthouse Fish Market
          484 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

          Xinh Xinh
          7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

          Thailand Cafe
          302 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

          Rosticeria Jalisco
          293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

          Regina Pizzeria
          Thatcher St, Boston, MA 02113

          Snack Bar
          691 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

          6 Replies
          1. re: emannths

            It's easy to get a great burger for under $10 at Mr Bartleys in Harvard Square.

            1. re: emannths

              I just want to second Courthouse Seafood if you go to the Science Museum on a nice day. It is a 15 minute walk into East Cambridge from the Science Museum. Low on ambience, but the people are nice, the fish is fresh and I always leave happy.

              (PS If you are real walkers, you can walk off the Courthouse Seafood by either walking further into Cambridge toward Harvard Square/Harvard Art Museums, or back in and toward the North End/Park Street area for freedom trail, OR you can do your sightseeing from a kayak on the Charles, boat launch near the Science Museum!)

              1. re: melon

                would agree that the restaurant side of courthouse is a great idea. if you are walkers, from science museum to courthouse is completely do-able.

              2. re: emannths

                I think Courthouse Seafood looks really good.We will have to makes sure to go there.
                We are not sticklers about it being under $10 but do want all of our meals to be really expensive,we want to splurge but have cheaper meals as well.

                Where is a good place to get a $1 oyster? My husband has never had oysters before so I want him to try them and would like to find a good place that has them.

                1. re: prima_donna87

                  The are several $1 oyster deals around. One good one is $1 oysters before 6 pm at the Legal Seafood in Harvard Square (by the Charles Hotel) - although I think only Mon - Thurs. They have a nice outdoor patio.

                  1. re: greenzebra

                    I'll second Legal's $1 oysters. Dependable quality, and usually some variety in origin is available. They're available at all their locations, I think. The one by the aquarium also has some outdoor seating, if that appeals to you.

                    There's probably a thread on this board that talks about all the $1 oyster specials.

              3. Harvard Square: Grendelsden.com, Charlie's Kitchen. these are both local student and grad student hangouts and while there is not much in terms of authentic ethnic choices, these places will give you atmosphere and filling food and save you money for more inspiring choices elsewhere. Grendel's in general serves high quality salads and ask the server for recs.

                Grendels: great lunch specials and half price food at certain times with $3 purchase of drink (does not have to be alcoholic). Fish available, don't know quality.

                Charlie's Kitchen
                10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                1. Here are some longer info threads for you.The first, which is a guide to boston by area and restaurants, will mention dinner places generally above your budget, but check out the lunch and snack places mentioned as well.

                  ONE CHOWHOUND’S GUIDE to Boston areas and restnts:

                  Boston Food Profile:

                  Ideas for Food Souvenirs;

                  May is a particularly beautiful month here; welcome in advance!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    Nice work on consolidating all this info. I like this neat and tidy list!

                  2. A few blocks northwest of Harvard Museum of Natural History is Beacon Street, which has 3 interesting places. Zoe's for Northern Chinese, Petsi's Pies for (duh) pies and Sullivan's that has a burger that some love (me included). Off the beaten path but much better IMO than the Harvard Square scene.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gourmaniac

                      I agree about RF O'Sullivans their burgers are huge, cooked to order and right under your $10 limit. They come with fries that are really about an 1/8th of a potato each fry, so good, it does take a little time though.

                    2. In Harvard Square, Clover has great sandwiches/soups/fries and is quite easy to eat for less than $10. Everything is vegetarian, but don't let that put you off, it is really good food and IMO the best 'cheap eats' in Harvard Square. Another option is the recently opened Otto's Pizza, which sells pretty decent slices for $3/piece; Pinocchio's and Zoe's on Beacon St are also great recs.

                      In Chinatown (reasonable walk from the Aquarium), you have lots of options, including the aforementioned New Shanghai (a bit pricier than $10 pp for dinner, but not too bad). Winsor Dim Sum Cafe is another good dim sum option and pretty cheap. I also like Taiwan Cafe and Best Little Restaurant.

                      New Shanghai Restaurant
                      21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

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

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: greenzebra

                        taiwan cafe's set menu lunches are very reasonable.

                        1. re: qianning

                          These are all great suggestions.
                          If you find yourself leaving the Museum of Science sometime after 4 but before 6, you can also walk around the corner to the Hotel Marlowe where the restaurant there, Bambara, has a nice variety of specials on their bar menu for $2 each. The choices include a generous portion of calamari and an even larger portion of grilled flatbread with goat cheese and arugula. I have made a meal out of these many times.

                          Up the street- Cambridge Street- there are all kinds of places, including Courthouse Seafood, which is an excellent recommendation. On the corner of 5th and Cambridge, just before Courthouse, is Skampa, which offers inexpensive pizza ($3.99 for a small cheese pizza which feeds two easily) and subs. No atmosphere, but cheap and filling food. As you walk up towards Inman Square and then to Harvard Square, there are many good restaurants that are affordable.

                          There are lots of food trucks all around Boston these days, which are worth checking out. And many places offer the one dollar oyster deals, which is a real treat for people on a budget. If the weather is good, grab some take out and have a picnic or take a ride to one of the harbor islands. Have fun!

                          424 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                          Bambara Restaurant
                          25 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge, MA 02141

                          Hotel Marlowe Restaurant
                          25 Edwin H Land Blvd, Cambridge, MA 02141

                          1. re: mvi

                            Thank-you so much for your suggestions! I will have to look into Bambara as that would be fun to try.Do you have to order any drinks in order to get the $2 deal? The calamari would be fun to try.

                            I am really intent on trying Courthouse Seafood as several people have recommended it and it looks very good and good seafood is something I adore.

                            What food trucks are good? I wouldn't mind trying one,where are they generally at? I would love to try an Oyster deal,any good places to get the $1 oysters?

                            Bambara Restaurant
                            25 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge, MA 02141

                            1. re: prima_donna87

                              No, you do not need to order a drink. Often, I just have water or a glass of cranberry juice.
                              Courthouse Seafood is awesome,. It's always packed so get there at an off time. Very fresh, good fish meals.
                              There are several food trucks right at the Kendall/MIT stop on the Red Line in Cambridge, including Clover, which is vegetarian/vegan. You can take your meal to the roof top garden on top of the nearby parking garage and enjoy the breeze and the flowers up there- it's a nice secret garden. Official name seems to be Cambridge Center Roof Garden. There are more food trucks at City Hall Plaza in Boston and along the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
                              A nice place for $1 oysters on Monday nights is Rialto right in Harvard Square.

                              1. re: mvi

                                Clover has several trucks. One is on City Hall Plaza and another is in the Greenway by South Station.

                                Apparently there are supposed to be 17 more food trucks on the Greenway this summer but who knows.

                                City Hall Cafe
                                695 Main St, Fitchburg, MA 01420

                      2. Definitely try the food trucks on City Hall plaza -- they will not set you back more than $10. Clover is entirely veggie, while Bon Me is modified Vietnamese and Momogoose is a hodgepodge of Asian offering. All are reasonably fresh-tasting and a good lunch options.

                        In Chinatown, you can get more authentic banh mi ($3-4) or fried spring rolls ($1 or so each) at 163 Vietnamese sandwiches.

                        In South Boston, I recommend KO Pies -- Australian meat pies -- about $6 apiece and very filling. These are delicious and just two blocks from the Broadway T stop. A tiny place with little room to sit, but some interesting offerings.

                        Cafe Latino is tucked away underneath the 2 Center Plaza (a/k/a "the round building") that faces Government Center. You can get an enormous, tasty cubano for about $6. It's nothing more than a lunch counter and there's no place to sit, but if it's a nice weekday, grab a filling lunch and sit out on the plaza.

                        Also on weekdays, you can get a bargain sub sandwich at Al's State Street Cafe -- I'm partial to the prosciutto and mozzarella -- with chips and a soda, for $7.50.

                        For seafood, if you can find the No Name Restaurant tucked away in the Seaport district, the portions are enormous -- so you could split a plate of fried fresh seafood and be filled up.

                        Finally, also in the Seaport, check out Harpoon Brewery's "tours" -- it's really nothing more than 40 minutes of free beer (or maybe $5 -- can't recall) in their tasting room.


                        Al's State Street Cafe
                        110 State St, Boston, MA 02109

                        Harpoon Brewery
                        306 Northern Ave, Boston, MA

                        No Name Restaurant
                        151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                        Cafe Latino
                        2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                        Bon Me
                        Mobile truck; no formal address, Boston, MA

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: astrid

                          You were very helpful and I really appreciate it! I had read about KO pies and am going to have to try it.I have been to Australia and would love to have an Australian meat pie again.

                          Cafe Latino sounds so good,it would be so much fun to try and I am going to have to write it down for sure.

                          So No Name Restaurant is pretty reasonably priced? Is it a sit down restaurant or a take out? Will have to check into that one as well.
                          Thanks so much for your help!

                          No Name Restaurant
                          151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                          Cafe Latino
                          2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                          1. re: prima_donna87

                            No Name is sit down, but it is no better than average quality, simply prepared food served in big portions. Rather than go there, it might be more of a Boston experience to go to Kelly's Roast Beef location at Revere Beach. It's a real Boston institution - inexpensive fare very nicely executed. My two cents is the quality is much higher there. The name may say "roast beef" - and you can get a true traditional Boston-area roast beef sandwich experience - but the clams are excellent too.

                            Kelly's Roast Beef
                            410 Revere Beach Blvd, Revere, MA 02151

                            1. re: PinchOfSalt

                              you have some fine suggestions, above. if you are walking, add Helmand's for excellent afghani food, near Museum of Science (about 6 blocks or so) and Dante's outside patio for drinks (in the hotel right around the corner from the MOS) and either appetizers or dinner. If seafood is a goal, take the train to Kenmore Square and try Island Creek Oysters. Near north station and the boston garden, try Osteria Rustica on Canal Street for lunch. Take the bus up Cambridge Street near MOS to All Star Sandwich Bar for lunch or East Coast Grill for dinner. On wheels, I'd add the kebab factory on Beacon at the edge of Somerville for the best Indian buffet lunch in the Boston area, and incredibly cheap. On wheels as well or a good walk between Memorial Drive and Central Square, go to Alive and Kickin' for wonderful lobster sandwiches, inexpensive, sit outside at a picnic table, and try some steamers too. have fun.

                              All Star Sandwich Bar
                              1245 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

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

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

                              1. re: teezeetoo

                                Island Creek Oyster Bar is amazingly wonderful but it is by no means cheap!

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

                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                  Just a caveat, I love Helmand and enthusiastically recommend it, but they are only open for dinner and they're mid-price rather than inexpensive - menu here.


                                2. re: PinchOfSalt

                                  I think No Name is "average" but not at all bad -- most food in Boston is average! For seafood it is absolutely fine -- nothing fancy, just fresh fried seafood. It's also arguably a Boston experience, because you have to wander through the isolated Seaport loading docks to find it. It is sit down -- go up to the second floor and get a battered wooden table and a pint. I don't think Kelly's is that much better quality.

                                  A caveat about my recommendations above - Cafe Latino, Al's State Street and the food trucks are mostly weekday lunch places because they serve the local office crowd. Probably won't find them open on the weekends or for supper.

                                  Al's State Street Cafe
                                  110 State St, Boston, MA 02109

                                  No Name Restaurant
                                  151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                                  Cafe Latino
                                  2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                  1. re: astrid

                                    Al's is definitely open Saturdays. Not sure about Sundays.

                              2. re: astrid

                                Just a note, you can sit at the tables in the deli when ordering from Cafe Latino. The nice owner guy even brought us extra plates and napkins to split and share the (sublime) pernil last time.

                                Cafe Latino
                                2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                1. re: astrid

                                  re Cafe Latino: "there's no place to sit"

                                  Very much untrue. When you enter into the door, the cafe latino counter is to your right. Just take a look to your left and there are several tables.

                                  Cafe Latino
                                  2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                2. Sorry, but we've removed a number of posts devoted to sightseeing in and around Boston. Where to go and what to see is a huge topic and is best suited to general interest travel sites; non-food recommendations are off topic here.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                    At 101 Arch Street in downtown Boston (not far from teh Freedom Trail, just off of Summer St near Macy's) is Chacarero where you'll find Chilean Sandwiches.


                                    101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110