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Oct 10, 2011 06:39 PM

Tell me about eating in Boston...

I know this is open-ended. We are moving there and I would like your impressions- whatever you care to share with someone new to the area.

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  1. Where in Boston are you moving to and where are you moving from? Can you tell us about eating where you are currently?

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        1. It's good to have a long-time Chowhound joining the Boston board. Soon you will get to know the contributors here as well as you do those who are part of the boards where you're now active.

          This is a bit of an open question and I would have to suggest that you begin by scanning the recent topics and clicking over the read the ones that appeal to you. And, of course by adding your own specific questions or comments to the current conversations.

          Someone new to the area should know that we have good depth in ethnic foods thanks to our diverse student population. Not every culture is represented well, but there is enough quality to make this an interesting place to explore other foodways.

          One contributor, "eattv" recently did a wonderful 30-day report on Boston's ethnic scene. Those are worth reading.

          We have a strong local food movement and great farmers' market, CSA, system. I live in the heart of the city, shop mostly local with a CSA, a regular organic produce delivery (Boston Organics), fish and meat shares and I fill in what else I need at Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Except for two small chains (Market Basket, and Roche Brothers,) the mainline grocery scene is dreadful.

          We have a small but thriving Chinatown and a section of the city we call the North End that was once mainly Italian but is slowly in transition. But, you can still find great little markets there and a collection of good restaurants.

          Our food truck/street food scene is new but fun and growing. I've spent the past summer writing about that part of the food scene and have really enjoyed it.

          The downside of our food scene, to me, is that we are chained to death by national and local food factories. They fill ever decent size restaurant space in a good location. Fortunately, their latest move seems to be out of the center of the city to the convention center area. Perhaps that will give some of our wonderful small, chef/owner, locally sourced, and creative dining places room to step up to the next level if they decide to do that.

          With an assist from this board, you will be able to avoid the chains and dine in small local places and never set foot inside a food factory.

          That will get you started and I'll left lots of space for other ideas and other points of view.


          1 Reply
          1. re: BostonZest

            I do recommend eattv's wonderful 30 day sprint through our ethnic food world. An earlier post by striperguy included great references to our ethnic markets, etc. To Penny's list, above, I would add the great shopping at such fine fish markets as New Deal and Court House, the great ethnic foods available in the Armenian stores in Watertown such as Arax and Severns, and the general reliability of the vegetables and fruits available at both the Armenian markets and at Russos in Watertown. We have some fine local meat purveyors including River Rock and good Asian shopping options at HMart, Super 88 and Mings. So, if you are a cook, you won't lack for good source material. As to restaurants, the posts are numerous and it will help if you specify location and type of food you'd like to find. welcome.

          2. One biggie for me is that thinking of Boston as a Italian-and-Seafood town isn't particularly accurate. Yeah, it's easy to find indifferently executed, overpriced Italian-American classics in the North End. But with only a couple exceptions, any good Italian food is found outside the North End in relatively new restaurants. And even then, it's not like they're all over the place.

            The other is that 1) there aren't many good restaurants that focus on seafood and 2) New England style seafood cuisine seems to be based NOT on showcasing the freshest possible seafood, but instead on things like clam chowder, fried clams, and baked fish under a pile of ritz crackers. To me, it seems much more like the birthplace of Sysco seafood! I gather that historically Boston-proper was never a fishing port, and therefore heaps of fresh seafood were never really part of the equation.

            We do excel in availability of lobsters, steamers, oysters, and scallops, and if you can find a good fishmonger or restaurant, local fish like bluefish, porgy, black bass, and flounder. And we do have a few good fish restaurants. It's just not the paradise of seafood that many expect when the step off the plane at BOS.

            Oh, and there's essentially no Mexican food in Boston, with the exception of Angela's Cafe in East Boston and a few scattered tacquerias (some of Salvadorian origin). Most of the Indian places seem to set a rather low bar, though I'm no expert in that area.

            We're going well with Southeast Asian cuisines (Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian), especially if you include the north suburbs. We have a number of good Chinese places of various regional focus. The selection for Japanese is limited, but gets the job done.

            We have a great (though expensive) craft beer scene. Cambridge Brewing Company brews world-class beers, and there are at least a half-dozen exceptional beer bars. With many local brewers, and with Harpoon and Sam Adams being regional fixtures for over a decade, many "ordinary" restaurants and bars in the area have a surprisingly good selection of beers.

            We don't have a proper butcher in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville, as far as I know. Many stores have meat departments that can help, and specialty cuts are available, but not from a butcher. With Formaggio Kitchen, Russo's, Christina's, Penzey's, Capone's, and the Asian markets in the area, I think we're doing pretty well when it comes to other specialty markets.


            Formaggio Kitchen
            244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

            Cambridge Brewing Company
            1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139

            7 Replies
            1. re: emannths

              Well, Boston's Fish Pier was built nearly a century ago when Boston (together with Gloucester and New Bedford) were the center of groundfishing on the East Coast. There is a deep history here, but the local approach to seafood was pragmatic, not a grand cuisine. I will spare a history of salt cod (while we often think of the Canadian Maritimes and the local Lusophone and Italian communities as the primary locus of salt cod, Yankees ate it too). The key thing is that we overfished here, and it's shellfish that remains the more reliable local option (even so, the summertime mobs at the clam shacks on the North Shore up to Maine are not generally getting as much local shellfish as they'd like to imagine - there's not enough supply for that seasonal demand).

              And speaking of Lusophones, let's not forget the fact that the longtime presence of people from the Portuguese & colonial diaspora on the southeastern corner of New England from Gloucester to East Providence has given us a rich gift that is unusual elsewhere in the US. For my money, kale soup (the New England variation on caldo verde) is a much more "authentic" regional soup than the gloppy overthickened crap that passes for clam chowder in many (even otherwise) esteemed establishments.

              1. re: emannths

                McKinnon's Meats in Somerville may not be the snazziest place, but they're definitely a "proper butcher" and are good about taking requests for specialty cuts.

                1. re: Boston_Otter

                  In addition to McKinnons, there's Savenor's on Beacon Hill and Cambridge and several butchers in the North End.

                  1. re: 9lives

                    Isn't there a new butcher in Brookline?

                    1. re: Madrid

                      Meat House in Brookline, Madrid. Pretty good. also nothing wrong with Dewars and I get my chickens and some of my meat from Mayflower Poultry (my dog is devoted to their bones).

                      The Meat House
                      1285 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                      1. re: teezeetoo

                        You can get fresh capon at Mayflower; that's a good resource for those who know how much better capon can be than a roasting chicken or turkey.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          i love their capon and the organic chickens they have on friday and saturday. and the jumbo eggs - i miss the days when they had duck eggs!