HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Visiting Boston for first time-would love some Foodie help

I will be arriving in Boston this coming Friday, May 3rd. So my first request is for a good restaurant somewhere between the airport and Salem where my friends live that we can hit after I land for dinner. Thai, Italian, Sushi, New England, Seafood, anything would be fine. I would prefer it to be on the casual side with really good food.
Second: Pastries and Bread! So where are the best bakeries in Boston? I don't like cupcakes/cakes. I am wild about well made chocolate croissants, crostada's, galettes, pies, cookies and really good bread. I guess to be more specific, French, Italian or New England bakeries.
Third: Would love a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant in Boston (or between Boston and Salem) with local, seasonal ingredients, housemade pasta/Napolitano style pizza? Something like Pizzaiolo in Oakland, CA.
Third: Dare I ask? The best clam chowder?
Fourth: Is there food that Boston is famous for other than Lobster rolls and claim chowder that I should try? I have read some of the other discussions and definitely plan to go to Neptune Oyster for the lobster roll, Island Creek Oyster Bar and West Bridge (I like the lunch menu better at WB so will most likely do lunch there).
Fifth: A delicious deli, bakery or restaurant between Salem and the airport that makes really special sandwiches with local, organic ingredients and awesome bread. I want to pick up something to take on the plane for my flight home.
Sixth: I love visiting Farmers Markets while traveling. Where is there a really quality Farmers Market worth visiting in Boston or between Boston and Salem? FYI, I will only be available to go to a FM Sat-Wed.
Last, I think: exceptional gelato or ice cream in Boston or between Boston and Salem.
thanks in advance for your ideas!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Alas, it is a bit early for Farmers Markets here in the Boston area. Most start up in June. (Right now the only local produce is coming from hoop houses, stuff like spinach and maybe radishes.)

    On the other hand, it is never the wrong time of year for ice cream. If you can get to Cambridge, try Toscanini's or Christina's. If you happen to pass through Belmont or Lexington, try Rancatore's. While not exactly between Boston and Salem, these three are in the general area of Boston and well worth a visit.

    6 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      The Brookline Winter market is still happening each Sunday and SOWA opens on May 5th complete with Farmers' Market.

      Copley Square and the rest of the city markets begin opening mid-May.


      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        POS, Since I am not quite sure of all of the places that my friends will be taking me to sight see, we very well may be in the Belmont or Lexington area-- so I appreciate you throwing Rancatore's in there. Sounds like Toscanini's should not be missed so I will definitely make it there.
        Too bad about the FM's. In CA we have year round FM's so I forget at times we are a bit spoiled in that regard. I'll have to catch one on the next trip.

        1. re: houndbythebay

          As noted by BostonZest, there are a few winter markets still happening. However it is just not the time of year for a great variety of local produce. In April and early May there are overwintered crops (like parsnips), storage crops (like winter squash), and the very earliest of spring crops (like radishes or spinach grown in hoop houses). After all, it is not uncommon for us to get some snow in April and frost is still a possibility going into the first week of May or so.

          1. re: houndbythebay

            The owners of Toscanini's and Rancatore's are brothers.

          2. For Italian w/ Neapolitan pizza I'd urge you to go across the river to Cambridge and hit Gran Gusto. Top 3 in any genre of Boston pizza, could argue the best.

            For ice cream, Toscanini's was voted best in the country by NYT, and has lots of fans here. Also in Cambridge. Most like their 'burnt caramel' flavor, my fav is the B3, but you can sample all you want and decide yourself.

            3 Replies
            1. re: HungryMack

              HungryMack, thanks for the Gran Gusto idea. I just checked their menu and it is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thank you!!!! I will let you know how it goes. Can't wait! I also plan to try Toscanini's-maybe more than once. If it's the best ice cream in the country, once will not be enough. :-)

              1. re: HungryMack

                I made it back to the SF Bay Area so I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Gran Gusto. I made reservations for my first night in town as I couldn't wait to try it. My friend and I shared the Roman pasta dish (I believe it was called "Tonarelli") and a Margarita pizza. Both were excellent! We also shared a piece of their Ricotta cheesecake which was definitely worth the calories. Obviously, ricotta gives the cheesecake a much grainier texture than cream cheese does so if your palate only likes the smooth version then you would want to steer clear of this one. The only disappointment was the salads. While the ingredients were fresh, they were way too heavy handed with the salt. The service was good too.

                1. re: houndbythebay

                  Happy to hear that you enjoyed Gran Gusto :)

              2. my geography is fuzzy but I think you'll go through Waltham on your way to Salem, so I'd try Il Capriccio or La Campagna for dinner. We are not renowned for our French bakeries: I like Japonnaise of the available options.For bread, Clear Flour in Brookline is head and shoulders above most others. I'd second Gran Gusto for pizza and, when in Cambridge, second Toscanini for ice cream though Christina's is good also. I would go to Prezza for Italian though it's hardly a "pizza" joint, and I still like Regina's or Otto's for pizza. Domenics in Waltham might do for your sandwiches between Salem and airport though there are others As to what's "Boston" beside seafood, I'd suggest you hit the wonderful Armenian stores and bakeries in Watertown, and perhaps try Portuguese food (Casa Portugal comes to mind).

                1 Reply
                1. re: teezeetoo

                  If she is heading there from Logan mostly likely she would go via route 1 (Lynn, Revere, Saugus) which takes you thru a dining waste land full of mediocre places you can find anywhere-5 guys, Chilis, Margaritas, fast food, etc.

                  Closer to the airport is Santarpios In E Boston for pizza.

                  A boston tradition would be Kelleys Roast Beast in Revere. Also a location in Saugus.


                  Or for tiki type dining you could go to Kowloon in Saugus. Lots of folks go for the experience and scorpion bowls. Food is what you expect.

                  There are plenty of farm stands on the North Shore but as mentioned it is really too early for good, local produce other than greens. Here is a thread that mentions some up there. Most have great bakeries for bread, pies, donuts, etc

                  Here is a link to the chow blog on what to eat near the Peabody Essex Museum. If you have time definitely visit. It's wonderful place.

                  ETA: Karls just recently moved from Saugus to Peabody. Worth a visit and could meet your sandwich needs.

                2. With regards to bread bakeries... my two favorites in Boston are the Clear Flour bread bakery in Brookline (not to be confused with Flour) and Iggy's in Cambridge (best bread and sticky buns)... both are very very small (not large/hype like Eataly or Le Pain Quotidien in NYC). I also like Finale Park Plaza on Columbus Ave for great pastries. For all the rest, I would take a trip down to Charles street in Beacon Hill (which is an enjoyment in itself because it is one of the most beautiful areas in the U.S. to just walk around). There you will find great pizza/Italian food at Figs or Toscana (a bit expensive though) or the best inexpensive diner-type breakfast/brunch you'll ever have at a wonderful place called The Paramount (lines out into the street start early on weekends - WONDERFUL pancakes). Then, adjacent to The Paramount - on the corner you'll find Cafe Bella Vita where you can have good gelato and you can walk around outside with your cone a visit the Public gardens... With regards to farmer's markets... they have them all over the greater Boston area, but I think it's a bit early (some start in June). When I lived there, I always went to the one at Copley square. Have a great trip. Boston is absolutely beautiful!

                  1. Salem has one of the best bakeries around IMHO. Try their almond croissants. Flaky and buttery with a creamy almond paste in the center.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Pegmeister

                      Pegmeister, thanks for the tip on the bakery in Salem. That is great news. I will coerce my friends to take me there each morning if possible. And will try the Almond Croissant for sure.

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        What's the name of the excellent bakery in Salem?

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          That would have helped wouldn't it! The name of the bakery is AJ King

                          1. re: Pegmeister

                            AJ King really is an awesome bakery, good sandwiches too.

                            1. re: phatchris

                              +1 for A & J King. If you go on Saturday, they have Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Bread, in loaves and rolls. It's not to be missed!

                      2. My current favorite bakery for bread is Bricco Panneteria. It is off Hanover St in an alley behind Bricco Restaurant at 241 Hanover St in the North End.

                        The stated hours are 8AM-11PM but I've been in and they've told me they are there all day and night baking bread. I suggest you call first if you want bread at "off hours."

                        Obviously, every bread is not always available all hours but it's a great spot.

                        That with some cheese and cold cuts at Salumeria Italiana on Richmond St would make for a nice meal on the trip home.

                        In the North End, I'd recommend Daily Catch for Sicilian seafood dishes in a very casual spot and Prezza for upscale.

                        The North End is not directly on the way from Salem to the airport but is a short detour and very easy to get from there to Logan.


                        Second Gran Gusto for pizza.

                        Portuguese food is a strength in Boston. I usually go to Atasca but don't eat it often enough to say say I prefer it to Casa Portugal or others.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: 9lives

                          thanks for the link to Bricco Panneteria. It looks awesome-rustic, and delicious, just what I wanted. And I'm all over the cheese and bread for my trip home. That beats a sandwich any day of the week.
                          As for your Sicilian recommendations, my paternal grandparents immigrated here from Sicily so I am all over that! I read the menus and both look like they are worthwhile.
                          I have never tasted Portugese food because it's not big in the Bay Area, so I appreciate the idea. thanks again

                        2. For a great bakery check out Clear Flour in Brookline. Awesome breads, very authentic baguettes, rustic pastries.

                          1. 1) What about Rincon Limeno in Eastie for Peruvian Fried Seafood? You could also hit up Belle Isle in Winthrop on your way out of the airport for a lobster roll.

                            2) Bread: Clear Flour in Brookline. Breakfast pastries (especially their croissants): Canto Six in JP.

                            3) Gran Gusto is a good idea. Others: Taranta, Prezza.

                            4) Lobster rolls, clams, etc: Neptune or Island Creek. If you want to just chow oysters and look at a nice view, Sam's.

                            5) I'm not a really a sandwich person, but here are some sandwich places people like: Hi-Rise, Darwin's, Flour, Sam Lagrassa's, All Star Sandwich Bar, Parish Cafe. I would say Hi-Rise fits your criteria, except for perhaps the locale.

                            7) JP Licks is also an institution, but Christina's is fabulous as well. I stopped going to Toscanini's after the tax debacle.

                            Have a great trip!

                            1. Re reading, By the Bay, SF Bay? Revising my recs a little..based on limited experience.

                              Love Gran Gusto but prefer A16 in SF..similar but...

                              Peruvian..I've eaten at some higher end Peruvian in SF, haven't fully explored Peruvian in SF.. but Rincon Limeno is great idea..great food and geographically perfect...

                              Oysters, In Boston, we love West Coast oysters cause they are scarce. I'd recommend you sample oysters from our Northern area..Cape Cod/N..Wellfleet, Duxbury and North..pass on Virginia,etc

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 9lives

                                Yes, you are correct! SF Bay is where I reside and I love A16!
                                As for Peruvian, that sounds good too. I haven't fully explored it here either.

                              2. bay, given what you have, foodwise, in SF, i will make some specific recs and nixes: Peruvian in the Castro (El Limon?) trumps Rincon Limon any day. And RL is in one of our dirtiest and grungiest parts of town (though we never miss Foreign Cinema in SF...!) Bakeries: we have NOTHING as phenomenal as La Boulangerie on Pine but you can find some very good bread here. I doubt you'll be going to Brkline (no reason, really, for such a short and 1st time visit) so Iggy's is a great suggestion (as close to Acme as we have) as well as AJKing in Salem and Bricco Panneteria in the North End (I think you would also enjoy Regina's Pizzeria (thin crust, tastes just like Rome but not Naples) and Modern Pastry for their sfogliadel and torrone and "almond biscotti"(bad name for an amazing product). Also in the No. End, Cafe della Sport used to have exc gelato but i haven't had it in yrs.

                                Salem is not as culinary wasteland as the towns around it, but nothing there competes w/ Boston, dining-wise. 62 on Wharf is their best 'northern italian' spot and it is lovely, great staff and all chef-made pasta(though too hard for my taste.) I really hope your Salem mates will take you 20 minutes over to Marblehead to Fort Sewall (prettiest ocean and harbor view in New England,imo.) On Sunday you could have a wonderful brunch at 5 Corners in Mbhd and then go to Ft Sewall before coming into Boston.

                                I do wish I could say we have some great clam chowder here, but i have never had it except at home (regardless of past CH recs that I have tried.).Def don't get it at the otherwise excellent Neptune Oyster and Island Creek OB.) Your own Hog Island has the best i have had!

                                I'm also a huge fan of Toscanini and just fyi, Whole Foods carries their pints now but very limited choices.And there is a WF on Rt 1 in Saugus as you head north from Boston airport to Salem. Do ask your hosts to take you down Salem's Chestnut St and all around that area- phenomenal for e. 19th c. intact streetscapes!

                                9lives has exc idea for food for your planeride home.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  OC, It turns out my friends and I will be in Boston this Saturday from morning until we attend a concert in the evening. So I am wanting a good restaurant recommendation (not Italian because we are going to Gran Gusto on Friday night) that is something I will like as a foodie and something my friends (non-foodies) will like too. The concert is at Boston University and my friend mentioned eating somewhere around Boylston St. They don't like seafood unfortunately.

                                    1. re: houndbythebay

                                      bay, if you think of BU as a torso, one arm goes out to Back Bay/Boylston St./artsy stylish part of town. In that area, I would direct you to Sonsie, though its fans don't post much on CH. I think it's a very handsome and comfortable room, exc bar and broad menu. I direct you to the large plates/dinners over the pizzas,pastas section. We have always enjoyed the food there; seasonal and simple but not afraid of flavor. Eastern Standard gets 50/50 split opinions; more people agree that the bar is excellent. I was not impressed w/ the food the one time we tried it.

                                      The other arm goes into Allston/Brighton, land of students and immigrants and lower cost ethnic dining. There are so many choices over there in the way of Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern..... You might be better off doing some CH searchesfor that area. There IS a good Thai place right next to part of BU.Very popular and busy; huge menu.


                                      Nearby, Bon Chon chicken is a wicked popular place for its Korean style super crispy wings (choice of 2 sauces.) I just don't care for the sauces but huge number of people find it the best and most addictive fried chicken in town.

                                      Either way, after the concert, our fav dessert spot is Mixx- for amAzing frozen yoghurt / many really neat/asian leaning flavors. Taro and Lychee are 2 of my favs.

                                  1. As a proud Cantabrigian living within walking distance of Toscanini's and Christina's, I feel the need to weigh in on the most exceptional ice cream.

                                    Toscanini's has been voted best ice cream in the country, and I think it's delicious. However, depending on the adventurousness of those in your party, I much prefer Christina's. Toscanini's has delicious and fun flavors, but they're still based on the typical combinations and common ice cream ingredients. Christina's is next to a spice shop with the same owner, and they have really out-there (in a good way) flavors that are a lot of fun.

                                    Also, I'll ditto Gran Gusto. Unbelievable food.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: addiez

                                      that's so interesting to hear you say that because i feel just the opposite! i kept stopping into C's last yr and never saw any flavors that appealed or impressed other than their kulfi, which has always been the one flavor i have bought there. So either they got inspired after I stopped checking in, or T's got more iinspired, or you and I are inspired by completely diff things!

                                    2. The Salem recs of AJ King for a bakery and 62 Wharf for northern Italian are good ones. Not sure what time your flight gets in, but I'd just get back to Salem, grab seats at the bar and enjoy 62 Wharf's fine cocktails and food.

                                      I assume you'll go to the North End and I'd say Maria's is a good stop for Italian pastries, but I don't think of Italian when I think croissants, galettes and pies.

                                      You didn't mention fried clams for "famous Boston food" which can be had at Neptude, IslandCreek, Summer Shack and various other places.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: total13

                                        'Neptude' HA! Don't know if that was a typo or Freudian slip. Either way I like it!

                                      2. Agree with the Gran Gusto recommendation, though I would also consider Posto in Davis Square -- fantastic pizza and pastas.

                                        For bakeries, you might also want to check out Hi-Rise in Cambridge (the original location on Huron Ave; there's also a location on Mass Ave which is more of a coffee shop). They have fantastic breads, cookies, and sandwiches.

                                        1. houndbythebay a lot of the ice cream parlors on the North Shore serve Richardson's Ice Cream which is a decent local brand with some regional flavors, but not particularly upscale. Some places near the shore but not necessarily on your route include Kell's Kreme, Bannana Boat, Twist and Shake (Winthrop location is near Belle Isle)... However, I would expect most of these are still closed for the season.

                                          If you come down Route 1 from Salem, you could go to Soc's in Saugus which I believe makes their own. Caffe Di Calabria serves the same imported Gelato that most North End (Boston) shops do, although Cafe Paradiso makes some of their own flavors in house. Helado Juli's is right near the airport (across from the Airport train stop) if you want to try latino-style pops, although pretty certain such things are available in CA.

                                          A&J King in Salem would be worth looking into for sandwiches as its closest to what you are asking for. Options off Route 1 for sandwiches include J Pace in Saugus, New Deal Fruit (more basic Italian Deli fare), and possibly Karl's Sausage kitchen which added a Deli but also moved further North. There is Kelly's and other local roast beef options all over the North Shore (Beachmont is an option near the airport and also not far from Belle Isle.)

                                          The South Bay has some decent Portuguese options, in particular with an Azorean influence so consider that. The retaurants in Cambridge (Atasca, Portugalia, Casa Portugal) are more Continental Portuguese. In Gloucester you have the Azorean which is more upscale pan-Portugal food than specifically Azorean. And the Trackside Bar and Grill in Peabody last I knew was serving pan-Portugal food from a Madeira-born chef. If you came back a month later the Imperio Mariense and Brazilian catholic churches both have festivals but you are a bit early.

                                          Boston isn't "known for it," but we do have a lot more Caribbean food than the West Coast. Lynn in particular has a lot of Dominican options. Also the suggestion of Peruvian is also a good one.

                                          I might suggest Foundry or Area 4 before Gran Gusto for pizza. Angela's Coal Fired Pizza is probably closer to what you are looking for near the airport than Angela's, but the original Santarpios has a lot more Boston ambience. If you went to Angela's, I think Fuddrucker's at the next turn-in North may have Richardson's ice cream but not certain and Caffe di Calabria isn't far.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: itaunas

                                            thanks for recommending Azorean food. we have some great family friends from the Azores and I would love to try one of the restaurants and report back to my friends in the SF bay area. I read about three Azorean places in Boston... O'Gils, The Clipper and Sagres. Is one a stand out from the rest?

                                          2. If you make into Saugus, how about some donuts from Kanes? When my brother comes from the Bay area, he has to have his donuts from Dunkie's - Boston Kreme.
                                            If you make it Belle Isle - my wife claims the best around lobster roll - not too mayo-ey which is how she prefers it.
                                            All the suggestions sound great. I'll have to try a few of the CH recs myself.
                                            Hopefully the weather holds up for you. Enjoy!

                                            1. I love Iggy's. Great bread, pizza and sweets :)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Islandbeauty

                                                The best!
                                                I recommended that as well in this post... I don't like sweets much but we stopped there one morning (very early) and bought their sticky bun with coffee and I felt I was in heaven... I couldn't stop oohing and aahing.