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First Timer Questions

Husband and I are going to Boston for the weekend next month and would love to sample some local cuisine and beers. Besides the obvious Sam Adams, are there any other good local beers we should try? Any good (casual) pubs or restaurants that we should hit?

I know this is pretty vague, but we haven't nailed down our hotel yet so I don't know what area we'll be in. We'll probably have a rental car, but obviously it would be ideal to find a cluster of places within walking distance from a good hotel option.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I'm not a big beer drinker, but I always enjoy Boston Beer Works Blueberry Ale, Harpoon IPA, and Cisco Whales Tale.

    1. I would suggest visiting the Harpoon brewery for a tour of their new visitor center and beerhall.

      Boston/Mass has a bunch of microbreweries doing good stuff these days, particularly Clown Shoes, Cambridge Brewing Co., and Slumbrew. There's plenty of pubs and casual spots at stops along the Red Line (Davis Square and Harvard are very convenient) so I'd recommend finding a place to stay with MBTA subway access.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Boston_Otter

        I 2nd the Harpoon Brewery tour. Their warm pretzel with all those lovely dipping sauces that come with is defintely worth a hang in their beerhall, plus they usually have some beers available there you can't get anywhere else. Easily accessible from anywhere via the Silverline from South Station.

      2. If you are really into beer I would suggest staying somewhere inCambridge. I just feel that we have better beer bars, easier to drive/ park in, and more accessible to the highways if you plan to travel the area. The Kendall Square are is convinent to the T and right across the river from Boston. Meadhall, Cambridge Brewing Company, and Lord Hobo are three great beer bars in that area. Each have good food ( though some don't like CBC food). Sam Adams, Harpoon, Nightshift and Idle Hands Breweries all give tours. Both Sam and Harpoon are T accessible. night Shift a and Idle Hands are just north of the city in Everett (15 min from Kendall w/ out traffic). Other good local beers are Trillion, Jacks Abbey, Pretty Things, Bantam hard cider, Berkshire Brewing, Blue Hills, Wachussets, and Cape Ann Brewery.

        1. Need some more details to recommend restaurants. You should probably have a meal in the North End (Italian neighborhood). It is charming and lively, but there are many, many restaurant choices. It doesn't really matter where you are staying downtown as Boston is small and easy to get around either walking or by subway. If you are going to be just in Boston, don't bother with the rental car. It will be expensive to park and of no use getting around.

          1. I am a big fan of the Salty Pig. It is in the Back Bay and is pretty centrally located. They have a great selection of charcuterie and cheeses along with great pizza, sandwiches and specials. Their selection of micro brewery beers is also very good. It is casual and lively and really good.

            1. Would help to know where you're from. What types of cuisine are you looking for? Are you staying casual the whole time?

              I'd echo Viperlush on the Meadhall (100 or so beers on tap with a reasonably well curated list) > Cambridge Brewing (local brewpub that does some really interesting stuff) > Lord Hobo (tap list is about 1/3 the size of Meadhall, but also much more well thought out). Lord Hobo has the best food of that bunch.

              Other beer-centric places:

              Publick House in Brookline. That might be nicely combined with dinner at Ribelle or even after lunch at Cutty's.

              Deep Ellum in Allston. I'd put this in the Lord Hobo category of having a little smaller selection, but what they do have is fantastic. You could combine that with a trip to Lone Star Taco Bar which is right next door (same owners).

              1. I'm a huge fan of Jack's Abby beers (Brewed in Framingham.) Hoponious Union is probably their most well known beer and is my favorite, but I like pretty much anything they put out. Jack's Abbey can be found at most good beer bars around, but they not most "mainstream" bars.

                Also as a side note, most Sam Adams beer is not brewed in this state, their brewery in Jamaica Plain is mainly a test brewery. Still worth a tour, but I wouldn't load up on Sam Adams here just because they market themselves as from Boston. They are a national brewery at this point.

                1. Thank you for all the great responses so far!

                  We are leaning toward staying at the Residence Inn Downtown Seaport (we're Marriott Rewards junkies and this was the highest rated Marriott hotel on TripAdvisor) which appears to be across the river from Cambridge. We are very comfortable with using public transportation, so hopefully we'll be able to get to Cambridge and the North End from this area.

                  We currently live in NJ but I'm from central PA and my husband is from Tampa. We prefer casual places for short weekend trips, but I'm sure a must-do fancy meal could fit into our schedule! I'm a strict vegetarian and my husband is a hardcore carnivore, but I can be perfectly happy in any restaurant situation. The only cuisine we definitely aren't interested in is Indian - we have a TON of that where we live.

                  We love going to pubs or wine bars. Some of our favorite places are "sit at the bar and nibble on appetizers/tapas/cheese and charcuterie all night" types of establishments!

                  Thanks again for all the great suggestions so far...keep them coming!

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: punkin712

                    The Seaport is not right across the river from Cambridge, it is across the Fort Point channel near downtown. It would be about a 10 minute walk to South Station, which would put you on the Red Line and a short ride to Cambridge from there.

                    1. re: Science Chick

                      UGH! Sorry about that...I was checking out another hotel at the same time and confused the two. Sounds like this area is still a fairly short distance from Cambridge, so that's a good thing. Thanks for your help!

                      1. re: punkin712

                        Don't fret. The Residence Inn Seaport is NOT as far away from downtown as the rest of the Seaport district. The RI is actually in the Fort Point area, only a 5 minute walk from South Station. I work near there. That RI is also brand new so that is probably why it is getting good reviews.

                        Also key for you is that the brand new Row 34 is a block away. Multiple craft beer choices and oysters.

                        The Harpoon brewery is a bit of a hike but doable from there.

                        1. re: Alcachofa

                          Whew! We locked in a reservation at the RI and decided against getting a rental car. We don't mind walking and we'll certainly be up for taking public transportation so hopefully we can hit a bunch of different neighborhoods.

                          We'll be there December 13 - 15...any special holiday things going on that weekend that we should add to our list?

                          1. re: punkin712

                            I just noted this on another thread, but Meadhall will be doing the 12 Brewers of Christmas for the first twelve days of this month. You're going to miss it by a day, but I bet they still have some pretty rare stuff left on the 13th.

                            1. re: punkin712

                              Trillium brewery is across the street. You can get some samples and then buy a growler for your room.

                      2. re: punkin712

                        That neighborhood is a very hopping dining and drinking destination.

                        You can also walk to the Harpoon brewery.

                        1. re: punkin712

                          For the type of thing you like, you might add the Salty Pig in Back Bay, Belly Bar in Kendall Square in Cambridge, and the Hawthorne in Kenmore.

                          1. re: punkin712

                            I'm thinking you would love Toro, an always packed,loud, fun, tapas bar that gets alot of raves on this board and in general. you'd want to cab it, but the cab will drive you through the heart of our historic and beautiful South End.

                            Since this is your first visit, i hope this might help you get oriented:

                            Guide to Boston by Areas and Restaurants:



                            Dinner Spots that I would highly recommend :

                            Oleana- really unusual Turkish/Mediterranean menu; (owner's farm)-to-table;charming patio. Aside from the food being delicious, this is a real 'foodie's delight' because the menu will be full of things you will not see elsewhere in the U.S. Cambridge

                            Erbaluce- unusual inventive No.Italian Piedmontese. South End

                            Craigie on Main- famous for offal but also seafood. Cambridge

                            Neptune Oyster- crowded tiny, always a line, top quality raw bar; inventive seafood along w/ trad.Leave your name and stroll the fascinating North End. (no resvtns-NR
                            Island Creek Oyster Bar- the BEST service, large room yet intimate, more trad but some inventive.

                            Toro- possibly the loudest room in Boston, full-out Tapas (the inventive often more successful than the trad) yet their Paella is unbeatably unctuous .South End .NR

                            Aquitaine- THE spot when you're exhausted and you want to be taken care of. Classic French Bistro food beautifully done in a beautiful room, w/ gracious top notch service. South End.
                            Strip T's (in a 'suburb', 10 min cab from Harvard Square) Casual small treasure for serious foodies; Momofuku chef; great inventive Asian- inspired, but also exc.fried chicken and unusual terrific burger. Watertown.

                            Ribelle- new Brookline expansion for Strip T's owner/chef. A very broad menu w/ two or three times more components than you would likely see on other menus. With dishes this inventive and full of surprises, the food is the focus for the night, and the starches and veggies are as exciting as the meats and seafood.

                            Sycamore- 30 min car or train ride West to affluent Newton Centre and this welcoming veteran run spot with many unique twists (see the Daily Duck, Lamb or Pork board- with four mini entree ,starch and veg.medleys.)

                            For brunch, you cannot have more fun than at East Coast Grill in Cambridge. 25 yrs as a real locals' fav for all ages; latin, mexican,bbq and and seafood; Bloody Mary bar; great vibe.
                            Myers and Chang, near the South End, has all the pluses of East Coast Grill for brunch, but it is Asian. This place is always hoppin' and the food,service and bar are super. The air is full of happy campers having fun.

                            For more refined brunch, Aquitaine and Mistral ($French elegant) are popular. South End.

                            The Boston CH board is very active and helpful. They will give you their favs and latest finds as well.

                            1. re: punkin712

                              Great news is that the Harpoon brewery is just a few stops on the Silverline from where you are. I'm not what you might call a beer geek, but I always thought their offerings were good and you can get some beers there you can't anywhere else, along with your tour. If you hit the beer hall, don't forget to try one of their warm pretzels with some of their fab dipping sauces.

                            2. you could have a pleasant walk to the North End on the Rose Kennedy Greenway

                              3 Replies
                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                    I'm no Brucie but I was tolled that the weather next week was gonna be cold , rainy or both.

                                    Myself is getting away to balmy Jersey on Tues.

                              1. 1.PICCO is a great spot to start for good food and beers
                                2.Lower Depths in Kenmore, followed by dinner at Eastern Standard
                                3. MeadHall is great for beers, but lacks ANY atmosphere
                                4. Publick House is worth the trek
                                5. Lord Hobo

                                1. There's a large Marriott in Cambridge (Kendall/Cambridge Center area), which would put you in very easy walking (stumbling) distance to Lord Hobo, Cambridge Brewing Company, and Mead Hall. It's also right across the picturesque Longfellow Bridge from pretty parts of historic Boston (Beacon Hill, Boston Common).
                                  For your beer tour, don't miss Lord Hobo, also try to hit Deep Ellum in Allston.