One week in Boston
I'm a 42 year old food blogger from Bangalore, India, and am going to be visiting Boston between the 28th Oct and the 3rd Nov with my husband. We are flying in and will not have our own transportation. I'm interested in food experiences that are either "typically Boston/new England" or those that are unavailable here at home. Having done curated culinary tours in Italy I am not so interested in Italian food (but am interested in the evolution of Italian to American-Italian). The food things that are on my "wish list":
- a raw oyster bar (was thinking Neptune) but my husband is allergic so there needs to be something for him too.
- lobster rolls (was thinking from a food truck?)
- clam chowder (of course)!!
- craigie on main (what are prices like?)
- sowa market
- food trucks (I think most are in back bay?)
- meet a local chef
- eat fresh sushi
We are not party people and we both have joint issues so endless walking is out of the question. It'll have to be a combination of the T and cabs. In terms of budget we'd like to keep it to $20 per head for lunch and about $30 per head for dinner.
These are the other things I thought would be interesting. I'd be so grateful for any advice from Boston hounds who could help me weave the food into the other stuff.
- whale watch
- harvard square
- beacon hill
- north end
- a quiet island/beach
I have seen opinionatedchef's post about localities and restaurants, Btw.
Welcome. I hear that Bangalore is one of the best places to visit in India. RE oysters and lobster roll, Neptune is a good choice for both pricey but best quality. Go during off hours (no reservations). You are in the North End and its fun walking and sampling (Monicas, Salumeria Italiana, Maria's Pastry Bova Bakery) and pretty close to the harbor from there (short cab ride) and can go on a whale watch or short ferry to the harbor islands. I haven;t been to Craigie but it gets good buzz here. Bergamot and Bondir, whicha re also in Cambridge are alternative and can be coupled with your Harvard Square visit. Arboretum is beautiful this time of year and nearby(short bus ride) are VeeVee and Ten Tables. Beacon Hill is uniquely Boston neighborhood that is steep but walkable and people actually live here (i.e. not just ye olde candle shoppe). Eating is OK (Beacon Hill Bistro, Lala Rokh for Persian). Overall, prices will be higher than your limit but perhaps you can alternate between splurges and cheap eats.
Thank you for your response! And should you ever wish to visit this neck o' the woods let me know. This may be a dumb question - but what are considered "off hours"??
And what's a reasonable amount to expect to spend per head on lunches and dinners (am going by dc-area standards with the 20 and 30 buck thing - I used to live there and it's my only benchmark.)
Any food truck reccos?
Neptune Oyster opens at 11:30 every day and from recent posts I gather there is often a line when they open, so you'd need to get there then or go mid-afternoon, which would be the only off hours. say 2:30 - 5....but I haven't been recently, others may chime in who have. They will call when table is ready so you could stroll around North End a bit (I get the joint problem, I have it as well) but just a short walk will give you the flavor of the neighborhood. Before 7 is early for dinner here but people know how hard it is to get into Neptune.
if you search "food trucks" and aquarium on this board you will come up with lots of recs. Depending on what restaurants you choose and whether or not you are drinking alcohol and eating dessert, you should be able to get by with less than $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner if you are willing to consider cheaper eats. Most restaurants have prices posted online with their menus though some don't.
consider Oleana in Cambridge if the menus on line appeal to you. google whale watch boston and boston harbor islands...they leave from around the aquarium which is not such a long cab ride from the north end. I'm not sure if the boat trips to the Harbor Islands are funning in early November, however. There is a nice short and cheap boat from the aquarium to the Charltestown navy yard (mbta.com, boats) that would give you at least some water views. Don't eat in Charlestown, the Tavern on the water there has horrible food but it's worth a drink out on the deck to enjoy the water and city views.
I also recommend stopping at Maria's pastry.
Also, Boston is a small place and you should be able to walk a lot of the places you go. We stayed on the waterfront and only took transit to go to a Sox game and to Harvard Square.
If you like Ice Cream don't miss Toscanini's (it's not far from Oleana if you end up going).
Raw bars: can't go wrong with Island Creek Oyster Bar, which is a lot easier to get a table at than Neptune. Plenty of other decent places to get oysters around town as well like Russell House in Harvard Square, etc.
Lobster rolls: ordering lobster rolls is not something I really do as a local. If I want lobster I buy a live one and cook it. Based on board recs though, James Hook, Yankee Lobster, Alive-n-Kicking, and Lobsta Love would be good bets for takeout or food truck style lobster rolls, and Neptune would probably be the best bet for a sit-down restaurant.
Clam Chowder: this is kind of a tough one. I used to like the chowder at Legal Seafoods but that was many years ago. Some Legals may be better than others according to posts on the board. Some people also like the chowder at Island Creek.
Craigie on Main: This place will definitely be a budget buster for you, as main courses are $38. You also have to book weeks in advance to secure a reservation. You could always go and try their famous burger, though. Just make sure you order it early enough before they run out of them for the day.
SOWA market closes on October 28. If you are here early enough you might have a chance to check it out. I have never been, but they do appear to have food trucks there which might be your best bet for finding them easily. I would recommend Speed's AKA Super Dog which is the most classic Boston food truck.
Sushi: Boston is not really known for its amazing sushi. O Ya has gotten the most attention, and it may well also be the most expensive restaurant in Boston. Sakurabana downtown might work for its central location.
For all you outdoor and waterfront ideas, are you aware of the weather here at that time of year? It can be quite cold, and for that reason Provincetown will be very quiet and boat rides may feature frigid winds.
Last thing, $30 a head for dinner would be considered cheap eats here for the most part and you will have to really watch what you order if you want to eat at the fancier places for those kind of prices.
Your ideas for things to do will require considerable walking. I would suggest the Kennedy Library, a Duck Tour if they are still doing them in late Oct, the Couryard at the Public Library in Copley Sq. For lunches I suggest B & G Oysters in the S End, Rino's in East Boston (great lobster ravioi), pastrami sandwich at Sam Lagrassa's, KO on A St in S Boston for Australian savory pies. You can do dinner at Rino's but expect a 2 hour wait. Check out Rialto in Cambrige on Monday night at the bar for $1 oysters. In Somerville I like the hamburgers at O'Sullivans.
re: professor shorthair
Hmmm. Thank you people.
The only fancy, splurgy one I want to do is Craigies, unless there is something else you guys think is really worth it. Am happy to book ahead - you suggest I book right away?
I will dump the sushi idea :)
@nickls, ok then... we're coming to you for dinner when you boil us that lobster :)
I'll plug Neptune Oyster's clam chowder as well: it's not as overwhelmingly thickened as many others, but it does still have a beautiful rich, creamy texture. If your husband can eat seafood apart from oysters, I would suggest splitting the clam chowder and a lobster roll (go the hot one) at Neptune Oyster (that would be plenty for two people and it would help keep the cost down), and save the oysters for somewhere like ICOB or Russell House, where the oysters are still supposed to be great but the clam chowder and lobster roll are lesser or not available. Russell House is in Harvard Square, so you could team it with a short walking tour pretty easily, and it's just a good place to eat and drink, so even if it doesn't end up being your oyster spot it'd still be a good place to rest your bones while seeing Harvard. And Neptune Oyster's in the North End, so those two tie together nicely - especially when followed by a visit to Modern Pastry for cannoli, sfogliatelle, or lobster claws (the sweet, not the crustacean).
You mentioned Provincetown and a quiet island or beach, and here you might have some trouble. Provincetown is beautiful, even in cold weather; but you'd be far enough off-season that many shops and restaurants would be closed. If you do want to go, it's about a three-hour drive from Boston that would be quite beautiful if there were still foliage, but we seem to be having an early autumn so there might not be much left. There's also a ferry that takes only about 1.5 hours, but I'm not sure if it would still be running, and at that time of year being on the Harbor in any capacity runs the risk of being bone-chillingly cold and quite choppy (though there is indoor seating on the ferry, which would at least protect you from the elements). If you're deadset on seeing an island, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket would be your best bet because they're large enough to have a season through Christmas; however, they're both a bit more expensive, and you'd have to drive/bus at least an hour to get to a ferry that would take you to either one.
The Arboretum is beautiful, but it's a bit set apart from other points of interest in a way that might make it hard for you if you can't do long walks. There are heaps of benches to sit on and rest, but getting to the nearest places to eat, drink and shop (Roslindale Square and Jamaica Plain's Centre and South Streets) would probably involve a cab or bus ride from Forest Hills Station. There's also the issue I mentioned about about the early autumn, which might mean you'd be looking at a somewhat bleaker landscape than usual for the time of year.
As an alternative, I would suggest the Public Garden. I know it's only small, but I can still spend hours there: the statues are really underrated and under-noticed (the George-Washington-on-horseback and the 'Make Way for Ducklings' statues are well-known, but there's heaps of others, including a breathtaking monument to the first use of ether as an anaesthetic, modelled after a 'Pieta') and the trees, plants and pond are beautiful, and it's conveniently right at the foot of Beacon Hill. I also *love* walking around the North End. Again, it's geographically small, but it combines an amazing range of sights: the old Italian neighbourhood; the historic buildings, monuments and cemetaries; the gardens and parks (especially around Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church); and the Harbor at the back. There's also some beautiful shops and heaps of little cafes, bars, bakeries and restaurants to dip into and sit for a bit - some are clearly tourist traps (avoid Mike's Pastry at all cost, please), but many, such as Neptune, Modern Pastry, and Regina Pizza are still quite lovely and delicious. Normally I'd advise combining the Public Garden, Beacon Hill and the North End into a single rambling afternoon, but I think that might be a bit much for you from what you've said; but I definitely think they're all worth a visit.
Enjoy your trip!
The only accommodation I'm aware of in the North End is La Chapelle Suites, a converted chapel that is now a B&b. I've never stayed there, but they get good reviews online. Otherwise you're looking at the waterfront hotels close by, but not actually in the North End. Sent from my cell phone, so I'm sorry I can't send a link.
You can probably get something good on priceline. Click on the name your own price tab. Select the waterfront area and choose 4 stars and make a bid. Sometimes you can get really good deals. I just booked a hotel for New Orleans for December for $65 a night (4 star). You don't get to see what hotel it is until you have bid and it has been accepted. I have generally had good luck when booking on priceline. Good luck and enjoy the trip and the food!
given your location, here's a few suggestions near to "home." Park: Dean Park is about two blocks from you and a nice place to walk on a nice day. Restaurants within walking distance: The Abbey, Umami, Fireplace Grill, Washington Square Tavern, Public House. You are next door to an adequate supermarket (not great but adequate - the Shaw's market) and a decent (not great bakery) at about 5 blocks (Athans). About a mile's walk to Coolidge Corner where you'll find bookstore, cinema, coffee of course, and good pizza at Otto's, good Japanese at Shiki, good "Mediterranean Bistro" at Cognac Bistro. For really excellent bread to take home, Clear Flour is about 1 1/2 miles from you. Also in Coolidge Corner, a Trader Joe's for good shopping, and, about a 7 block walk from you, a Whole Foods for good shopping, if pricey. Very good coffee about two blocks down Beacon at Caffe Fix. If you like to walk and the weather's good, check out the Reservoir, Lars Anderson Park, and the Cleveland Circle Reservoir and Boston College Campus. If you walk up to Boston College campus, and love art, don't miss the fabulous Paul Klee exhibit at the free McMullin Museum on campus. Enjoy your stay.
following up on tz's list, the When Pigs Fly bakery is also here(CC). They have a wide variety of non-French breads with many (20+)interesting flavors. And they have tastes of most all of them! CC is a bustling area, very food-centric. Large Jewish and recent Russian population(plenty of stores and restnts reflective of those traditions) mixed in with multi cultural environment. A unique Japanese restnt with broad traditional menu not found elsewhere in boston:
and an excellent unusual Shanghai place :
and JP Licks ice cream is super .Pumpkin, and Maple Walnut are 2 excellent seasonal ice creams there and very 'new england'.
I have to disagree about the chowder at Neptune. For the price, it is extremely disappointing. Hardly any clams and somewhat lacking in flavor. I am sure the OP can do better for chowder somewhere else.
I do recommend the hot lobster roll there though. Amazing! Large portion too!
i agree 100%. While we are big fans of N.O. for their more innovative dishes (our favs include the vitello tonnato sdwch and the scallops dishes, hamachi app, shrimp and grits......)and their lobster roll and fried clams are loved by many, we agree with those who feel the clam chowder (recipe left over from previous chef)is too thin and not noteworthy.
Since you are out in Brookline ( I lived on Tappan St back in the day) make sure you get a Tpass first thing.
I'd recommend walking or t-ing down to Coolidge Corner to Lineage. Their food is excellent and they do $1 oysters at their bar on weeknights from 5-7. Hubby can have other nibbles.
And don't walk over to Rod Dee without bringing your own fish sauce as their food is terribly bad.
I'm back, and thought I would check in with my fellow hounds to let you know how it went. In brief:
Craigie's: tops my list for great food, but better still, HEARTFELT and unpretentious service. We each ordered the prix fixe, and had a couple drinks each. Would go back in a heartbeat.
O Ya: Fabulous food, check. Good service, check. Wayyyy over the top expensive. In a last minute ultra-splurge decision, we opted for the 17-course omakase. Of those, five courses were outstandingly brilliant, eight were very good, one was decent, and three were totally meh. At that kind of price, I expect the majority of courses to be outstanding, and NONE to be meh. I also thought that the service was somewhat condescending, with an overdone, fake friendliness that I am not fond of at all.
To my mind, the difference between Craigie and O Ya goes beyond their respective cuisines; to me, O Ya is about the chef and his capabilities, whereas Craigie is about the customer and his experience.
We loved Modern in the North End, so worth waiting in line for that napoleon!
Union Oyster was great too. May I make a confession though? I am not very impressed with the idea of clam chowder. I don't know what I expected, but clams in a cream sauce wasn't it.
I <3 Lobsta Love. We gorged on lobster rolls and on a cold, pre-sandy day, the bisque was spot on.
In Brookline, we thought that The Abbey was very, very good. As was Jimmy's (especially their calamari) and the Irish Publick House. The Fireplace was so-so and a bit overpriced in terms of food and service.
Emack and Bolio was my favorite chocolate store :)
Thank you people for all of your help and recommendations!
PS: We did order in from Rod Dee on the day Sandy hit land. In one word: BLEUUUUUGHHHHH!!!!
Glad that you had a nice visit and thanks for the report. Your O Ya comments are spot on. It tends to the New York cool side of things and is way too expensive. I can't imagine what the 17 course omakase must cost. I've enjoyed interesting things the two times I've been but always left hungry fantasizing about a seven dollar order of chow fun just down the street. I still haven;t made it to Craigie and really should. Union Oyster has past its prime (maybe around 1975) but oysters and chowder at the bar are still a nice break. Modern is great as is Maria's. Near Rod Dee in Brookline are a couple of better Thai places but my favorites are in Allston and Brighton these days. I wish we had Indian to match your humblest places in Bangalore.