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Best Boston Baked Beans?

Will be in Boston the middle of August, and will be dining fairly high end every night. For lunch one day, I'd really love to sample an authentic rendition of this dish, if such a thing still exists. Couldn't find anything recent on this topic, so would appreciate any input.

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  1. Boston Baked Beans are more of a homemade thing these days. I make my own if I want them. The closest ones to the taste of mine are at Soul Fire BBQ.

    I suppose a tourist place like Durgin Park might have them on the menu but I have no idea if they would be house-made or from a can.

    Diners have traditionally served them but I don't know of any that have a great version today. Hope someone else can be of more help to you. I'd love to find someone who makes some that I would love.


    6 Replies
    1. re: BostonZest

      Durgin-Park does still claim to make their own, and I'm inclined to believe it - the beans, along with prime rib and Indian pudding, are their cornerstone dishes.

      Many local BBQ joints make very tasty beans from scratch, bit those aren't really "Boston baked beans."

      Local diners do traditionally serve beans, but I'm pretty sure that most of those are from a can.

      1. re: Allstonian

        Years ago on another food related site, someone picked a fight with me, claiming that I must not live in Boston because every diner here served fish cakes, baked beans and brown bread. It eventually turned out that he had been in Boston once, for 36 hours, in 1983. But he was positive the streets of Boston were paved with fish cakes and baked beans!

        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

          I actually remember that fight and when i thought hard about it the only place i could come up with was Mandy & Joes in Brighton Center. They have fish cakes on the menu, and hot dogs and beans, liverwurst, sardines and jell-o.

          whats not to like?

          1. re: hyde

            Ah, but do they have fish cakes *with* baked beans and brown bread on the menu?

            1. re: Allstonian

              ok, you got me. I do not think they have brown bread.

              But they have pudding!

              Come on, some slack? When was the last place still had a liverwurst sandwich left on their menu?

              Of course they also close at like, three oclock in the afternoon.

              1. re: hyde

                Hey, I'm all in favor of a diner with a liverwurst sandwich on the menu! Just funnin' you because that was the argument on that other board - the guy insisted that you could get a blue plate special of fish cakes with baked beans and brown bread at just about any diner in Boston. Which might have been the case in about 1963, but isn't now.

    2. Martha Stewart just did an episode on beans last week-google her cooking classes. She did a great Boston Baked beans in the traditionally way.

      1. Marliave has really good homemade baked beans.

        1. If you are out exploring Beacon hill or near the Public Gardens/Boston Common you can have an easy-going pub lunch at The Seven's Ale House on Charles st. All of their sandwiches are served with either beans or slaw and the beans are tasty and the sandwiches good. My fav is the turkey ruben.

          1. The Best Boston Baked Beans are Grandma's Baked Beans at East Coast Grill in Cambridge (Inman Square). The chef gave me his recipe, which was really rather simple and exactly like every online recipe out there, but I still can't duplicate his results. One problem for you may be that they're open for lunch only on Saturdays (you can request them during their Sunday brunch, but they're not on the menu). These beans belong on the dessert menu. Their barbecue is pretty good, but I go there for the beans. If Saturday lunch is out but you're in the area one evening, pick up a quart on your way back to the hotel.

            1. I'm late to the party. I'm Boston born and bred and extremely proud and certainly not ashamed of my heritage. I still have my Boston accent and I'm not a bandwagon Sox fan and don't respond with a "I like all of them" when asked who my favorite is...
              Baked beans, Cod Cakes and Brown Bread is very much alive in Beantown and has never gone away. Just go to any Tavern or Diner in Southie or any diner that dots Route 1 up to Glocester and down to Plymouth.
              Durgin Park is a classic iconic Boston Restaurant steeped in History. The quality of the food has never waivered in the decades that I've been going and I've never had a disapppointing meal there. It is certainly not a tourist trap and you'll find plenty of locals that go- I know because my family and I are one of them

              11 Replies
              1. re: sawxfan

                Don't mean to be a trouble maker, but WHAT diner between Boston and Gloucester on route 1? There used to be a couple but I don't know of any remaining.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I assumed this was probably referring to the Agawam Diner? Not sure, though, it's been a while since I've been there and I can't find an online menu.

                  1. re: Chris VR

                    Don't know how accurate this is, but here you go:

                    Jenny Ondioline and I found ourselves lunching at the Agawam by chance, just a couple of weeks ago. Beans and franks yes, no fish cakes or brown bread. No indication that the beans were homemade, but they were fine.

                    (Also, I'm very happy to report that after a bit of a slip in the quality of their legendary pies, they are back on their game again in that department.)

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      It's true: that slice of coconut cream was as good as any I've ever had anywhere, and I'm a stickler about my coconut cream pie. Big rebound from where they were a few years ago, when we were only going out of nostalgia.

                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                        I had a slice of lemon cream pie there a few weeks ago: very, very good.


                    2. re: Chris VR

                      Don't mean to be a stickler, but the Agawam diner is not between Boston and Gloucester... it is North of Gloucester by a smidge which is why I did not even consider it in the mix (on my usual fishing trips to Gloucester I never pass anything resembling a decent diner) in fact to hit the Agawam, you'd have to jog West, stay on 1 and bypass Gloucester.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I did know that, but it is on Rte 1 north of Boston, so I figured that may be how it got into the poster's mind.

                  2. re: sawxfan

                    Baked beans arent flying out the door at any diner in Southie and like MCJB says, it will definitely be from a food service can.

                    "Boston Baked Beans" just arent happening here anymore.

                    1. re: sawxfan

                      "Baked beans, Cod Cakes and Brown Bread [are] very much alive in Beantown and [have] never gone away. Just go to any Tavern or Diner in Southie or any diner that dots Route 1 up to Glocester and down to Plymouth."

                      I would love to know of specific diners anywhere within that geographical range that have homemade baked beans. Bonus points if they also have brown bread or fish cakes, and quadruple bonus points for a pointer to a diner anywhere in the area that has all three.

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        They are very much not alive and very gone away, if you are talking about good eating. I havent seen brown bread for 20 years. You'll still see franks and beans and once inahwile fish cakes and beans but they're sad insitutional fare.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Turner's in Melrose has pretty respectable cod cakes & baked beans (not sure if homemade) but no brown bread.

                    2. You can get baked beans at a few Southie diners, it's true, but most of the time they are very sad, almost certainly from a can. Sorry for a New England native to admit it, but I prefer less sweet, spicier Southern-style baked beans. Sweet Cheeks does a nice version.


                      1. Thwaites Market in Methuen makes very good Boston Baked Beans still.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Infomaniac

                          Indeed they do. In that neck of the woods, Nason's Stone House Farm in Boxford (or North Andover?) on 133 does excellent beans as well, and you can get them warm on Saturdays, I think.

                          1. re: pinehurst

                            I second these two places. I also make a mean crock pot version of baked beans but these are a wonderful substitute.

                            1. re: littlegreenfrog6

                              Picked up some today at Thwaites along with a lamb pie.
                              Going to try Nason's hopefully next weekend. I haven't been tried theirs in a while.

                        2. I miss Gordon's fish cakes! Yes they were gross, but cut into four slices, griddled in butter until crispy and smooshed on a Thomas' English muffin with Hellman's mayo was no meat Friday fast fixture

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Bellachefa

                            I don't know if they strictly qualify as boston baked beans but Lafayette in Chestnut Hill Mall makes a nice bean. BT Smokehouse in Sturbridge makes killer beans but unless you have an insane craving for excellent barbecue (which we get on occasion) its a shlep for a bean.

                            1. re: teezeetoo

                              This is kind of what I was getting at. Most of our local barbecue purveyors do more of a Southern, savory, smoky-bacon-laden, capsicum-chili accented version (which I prefer), as opposed to the historic Boston style, which to my mind is dominated by sweeteners like brown sugar and ketchup, with a little bland, white salt pork (a/k/a "the queen bean").

                              Side note: I'm horrified by how many online recipes for baked beans, even from name chefs and food-TV personalities, rely on canned beans. Ridiculous.


                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                A traditional baked bean recipe should include no ketchup, or brown sugar. Maybe I need to open a baked bean food truck, with special hot dog on Sunday.

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Thinking about it, a baked bean truck, with hot dogs and fish cakes, filling the hole left by the recently departed Greg (R.I.P) out at Speeds (I will always call it that) would probably make a mint.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    Molasses was the traditional sweetener, I'm sure, but in any event, sweetness is a hallmark of the style.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Well, yes, but it should be sweetness balanced with savoriness. And molasses is nowhere near as sweet as brown sugar.

                                      I do like barbecue-style beans, or Jenny Ondioline's Texas-style beans, but I wish there were more options for made-from-scratch New England style beans.

                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                        Betty Food Shop in East Boston used to have lovely baked beans (only on Saturdays, I think) but they've been closed for a while due to a family illness (says their Facebook page). It's unclear when/if they will reopen.

                                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Molasses was traditional for Boston baked beans and among other areas of New England near the Triangle Trade ports. Maple syrup was more traditional in the North Country (also popular among abolitionist communities). The type of bean also varied: navy beans became canonical in Boston, while yellow-eye beans (my favorite: thin skinned and silken texture) or solider beans or Jacob's cattle beans became more popular in other areas of New England.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          Boston baked beans are characterized by the very forward molasses taste.

                              2. My favorite Cambridge baked beans are at the saturday bbq at Formaggio's

                                1. Quick update to this thread: I visited Durgin Park yesterday and can confirm that the Boston baked beans are worth the trip. They're definitely not from a can, and they have a surprisingly complex flavor to them, which will come as a welcome surprise to anybody who is used to the awful stuff sold in grocery stores.

                                  I also sampled the fried fishcakes, which were superb. The menu contains many other Boston-specific favorites that I didn't try, such as schrod and clam chowder, as well as some great-looking desserts. No brown bread, unfortunately.

                                  Prices are reasonable (for downtown Boston). Kid friendly.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: abc123321cba

                                    Thanks for the report! Durgin Park gets a bad rap but I have always enjoyed my meals there. It's been a while, but I think I'll take my parens there this summer!

                                    1. re: abc123321cba

                                      This thread prompted me to look up the menu which I haven't done in many years. Not surprisingly prices have gone up, but I had to laugh at this description "Steamers (sometimes sandy) $MP".