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Only in Boston or Best in Boston

Besides food from Cape Verde, what is available in Boston that I can't get anywhere else in the US/Canada. OR, what is done very well there and should not be missed? Local or international. Snack, meal, dessert- whatever.

I do not eat clams or other shellfish/mussels.


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  1. A shame you don't eat clams, I'd send you up to Ipswich to The Clam Box, Oh well! Maybe a lobster roll at Neptune, nope that's shell fish.. How about some steak tips at The New Bridge Cafe?

    1. There are few local foods that don't get exported somewhere, so finding things unique to this area is a challenge. For instance, plenty of locally-caught fish gets shipped elsewhere: haddock, cod, tautog, wild striped bass, golden tilefish, monkfish, bluefish. (The way local shellfish and crustaceans are prepared offers some uniqueness, but you're not interested.)

      Colonial-era and native foods are a possibility: Indian pudding, jonnycakes, sweet cornbread.

      Our regional variant of the roast beef sandwich is called the North Shore roast beef sandwich. It originated in a local beachside shack called Kelly's, though there are many imitators. It's marinated and slow-roasted rare beef round, sliced thin and served on a buttered, griddled sesame-seed kaiser-type roll (usually called a bulkie here) with American cheese, mayo, and a sweet barbecue sauce. (I like sliced white onions on mine, too.)

      If you cast your net to include RI, there's some local weirdness there, like NY system wieners, coffee cabinets and coffee milk, dynamites (a spicy ground-beef mixture in a sub), pizza strips, and frozen lemonade.

      Southeastern Mass is the home of the chow mein sandwich, 1950s-vintage Chinese-American chow mein (crispy noodles soaked in a gluey sauce) served on a hamburger bun. Not gourmet, exactly, but certainly local.

      We have some local idiosyncrasies of terminology: in some neighborhoods, the traditional submarine sandwich is called a spuckie. In others, a sub refers to a cold sandwich on a long roll; a grinder is an oven-toasted sub. Likewise, in some localities, what most people call a milkshake, we call a frappe; a milkshake is just milk and flavored syrup, no ice cream. You might see a "tonic" aisle in some supermarkets, which is where you'll find sodas of all kinds, not just the traditional gin mixer. A Hoodsie is an ice cream specialty made by local dairy Hood: vanilla and chocolate ice cream served in a cardboard cup (and once, a wooden spoon, but that might have been retired). But the foods themselves are nothing unique.

      I'm sure I'm missing some important ones.


      4 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        What about baked beans????? (Kidding.)

        While ours isn't the only American city with a strong Lusophone presence, we have one of the largest. Brazilian barbecue is mainstream these days, but the fish stews at a place like Muqueca still seem pretty unique. The only city where I've seen a comparable number of Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants is Newark. Casa Portugal is another good option, though perhaps less rare than Muqueca.

        1010 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

        1. re: hckybg

          I lived in Newark for four years. The neighborhood is called "Ironbound" and it is very Portuguese.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          Sounds like I have to visit RI soon. They also keep showing up on searches for Portuguese and Cape Verdean food....

          1. re: t19103

            The New York System wiener is interesting, to my mind not as good as the Cincinnati-style chili Cheese Coneys I grew up with, but definitely a close first cousin to that legendary dog. Grilled pizza is another Providence specialty, and there is lots about it on the Southern New England board.

        3. 1. speed's is a well regarded hot dog stand; I do not know where you would find equivalent dogs
          2. local fish can be had at fish in the tank chinese restaurants and Island Creek and Neptune. I had great chinese fish at CK Shanghai last night though no one else seems to get fed well there.
          3. some well respected local high end dining such as Clio, Craigie on Main, as well as some good Italian such as Erbaluce and Rialto.

          Craigie on Main
          853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

          69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

          1. Though vietnamese food seems to be spreading, we may still be unusual in our Cambodian and Laotian offerings. I know mostly those in Lowell, though I think others can steer you elsewhere.
            Phien's Kitchen- Laotian
            Simply Khmer, Tepthida Khmer, Sonmonorom, and Red Rose- Cambodian

            Phien's Kitchen
            586 Westford St, Lowell, MA 01851

            Tepthida Khmer
            115 Chelmsford St, Lowell, MA 01851

            Red Rose Restaurant
            716 Middlesex St, Lowell, MA 01851

            1 Reply
            1. re: justbeingpolite

              That's a good suggestion. Floating Rock (Cambodian) in Cambridge is also quite good, and a lot easier to reach.

            2. Local beers. Ipswich, Pretty Things, Clown Shoes, Wachusett and recently Mystic, Slumbrew, Backlash, and Blatant. Harpoon IPA is a local icon, but pretty widely distributed.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LStaff

                I'd add Cambridge Brewing Company to that list. Jack's Abby seems to be promising as well. And no doubt the list is still incomplete.

                Cambridge Brewing Company
                1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139

              2. A chacarero sandwich.

                1. Grape-Nut Pudding is something I haven't seen anywhere else (and its cousin, grape-nut pudding ice cream).

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    Grape nut ice cream is very popular in Jamaica so I grew up eating it and really never see it anywhere in the US. A childhood buddy of mine was shocked to run into it in Rhode Island. I will definitely put ice cream on my list.

                    1. re: t19103

                      Grapenut and raisin ice cream can be found at Rancatore's in Lexington (not sure about the Belmont location). My wife grew up eating grapenut ice cream in the Fall River area and loves it.

                    2. re: Boston_Otter

                      I first had grapenut pudding in Ithaca NY many years ago.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        Wait? Grape nut PUDDING? Where do I get that? I have googled and it seems that there is a place in Harvard Square that makes it called Mr. Bartley. Looks like a custard that contains grape nuts. I hope to try it.

                        1. re: t19103

                          Mr Bartley's is worth visiting -- good burgers and yes, good grape nut custard. It's a pretty well known desert in the area -- a lot of "traditional" places have it.

                          1. re: t19103

                            Toscanini's, many CHs' fav boston ice cream, has Grape Nut Ice cream on their current menu. Def the bee's knees.

                        2. I think ice cream in Boston is better than most other cities in US/Canada. Places to try (i'll list in order with my favorites first) include Toscanini's, Christina's, J.P. Licks, Rancatore's, Emack&Bolio's.

                          I also think certain Italian-American deli foods are better here than most other places (although probably other places in the Northeast are good too)....so things like chicken Parmesan or Italian subs, or spinach & ricotta calzone.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Dave MP

                            Bostonians in general have a deep love for ice cream that I haven't seen in most other parts of the US. Having grown up in the midwest, where many ice cream shops shut down for the winter months, I was surprised to see folks in Boston defiantly eating ice cream in the middle of heavy snowstorms.

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              Best thing about eating ice cream in the winter: your cone will last all afternoon without melting. Getting a triple scoop at Emack & Bolio's on Newbury and walking to Government Center before finishing it will blow your mind.

                              Similar to the regional love of ice cream: donuts. Honeydew and Dunkin are the most obvious (and unworthy) incarnations, but we still have Kane's, Linda's, Verna's, Donuts with a Difference, and more.

                              Kane's Doughnut House
                              120 Lincoln Ave, Saugus, MA 01906

                              Donuts With A Difference
                              35 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                              Verna's Donut Shop
                              2344 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

                              Linda's Donuts
                              247 Belmont St, Belmont, MA

                              1. re: emannths

                                I don't know why but more than once I have seen the statistic that New Englanders eat more ice cream per capita than any other area of the country.

                                1. re: frond

                                  It's been a very popular statistic for decades, although the one time I tried to investigate it I wasn't able to find any solid evidence that it's true.

                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                    I don't disagree with that statistic, but it sounds like a Globe lead in for one of their slideshow stories of "Best ice cream in Boston"

                            2. re: Dave MP

                              i keep forgetting about ice cream - as it is a rare indulgence. But i think that Boston merits special attention for ice cream. I was a big fan of Herrel's in Harvard Square.

                            3. I couldn't possibly speak for what you would never find elsewhere in the u.s. or canada; there are so many unexpected North American centers of ethnic populations, but I feel rather confident that the food at Oleana in Cambridge- would not easily be found elsewhere in N.A. > an amalgam of Turkish/Moroccan/Mediterranean influences w/ farm to table , artisinal focus. You may see dish names on the menu that are familiar to you, but their preparation is not likely to have been something you've encountered unless you have eaten in those other countries.

                              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                This is great. Thanks so much guys! I am going to print out the thread and take it with me on my trip. I hope the girls (non-foodies) are cooperative....

                                1. re: t19103

                                  t, just in case this is your first visit and this might be helpful:

                                  Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:

                                  Also, some extra Boston food profile info for you:


                                  shopping for Boston food souvenirs:

                                  welcome and hope you have great trip here.

                                2. re: opinionatedchef

                                  If you don't want the sit-down, special occasion atmosphere of Oleana, the offshoot bakery by the same people (Sofra) is also fantastic.

                                  134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                                3. Honest to God, the Sicilian slices at Umbertos are unique to Boston. I have never had similiar pizza anywhere.......anywhere. On Hanover St in the North End. And the price is right.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: dmullin699

                                    That's funny, because what I like about Umberto's pizza is that it reminds me so strongly of the school cafeteria pizza I ahd growing up in Texas. (This isn't a knock: Umberto is one of my favorite things about living in Boston.)

                                  2. I might be wrong but you don't often see steak tips on the menu anywhere except for the greater Boston area.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Mike5966

                                      I think that's more or less true -- I haven't seen them elsewhere. And that goes for the whole family of "tips" that are popular in Boston -- steak tips (teriyaki or BBQ), turkey tips, lamb tips, etc.

                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                        Thanks, that's what I thought. I would therefore direct the OP to check out the two recent "best steak tips in Boston" threads:

                                        1. chowhound.chow.com/topics/812858
                                        2. chowhound.chow.com/topics/791621

                                        My personal favorite steak tips within Boston city limits (i.e., excluding New Bridge in Chelsea) are the ones at J.J. Foley's in the South End.

                                    2. This definitely isn't a "Best of Boston", but another local oddity that I thought I'd point out is so-called "American Chop Suey" (aka macaroni & beef). You'll find macaroni & beef all over the country, but I've only heard it called American Chop Suey around here.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                        Nah. It was called American Chop Suey on my New Jersey high school menu.

                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                          Regardless of what it's called, it's usually pretty disgusting!!

                                        2. t, this is the brand new Boston magazine 50 Best Boston Restnts. Thought it might be helpful: