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Best non-restaurant food spots in Boston (or other "foodie" recommendations)

I don't like the word "foodie", however it's used a lot on this site...so, I'm looking for a good list of foodie destinations in Boston. I have been to Boston many times, but never for an extended period of time. I've been to Quincy Mkt (not that interesting, in my opinion) and have strolled through the North End several times. I've been to Neptune Oyster, L'Espalier, Mike's Pastry for a lobster tail, and have had enough pizza and Italian food to satisfy that craving for years.

I will be staying at the Inter-Continental, which looks great for a business trip but it doesn't seem to be walking distance to a whole lot otherwise. I do have a reservation at Menton, but I am mainly looking for recommendations for great shops: unique kitchen stores, gourmet shops, cheese shops, great bakeries, seafood shops, Asian markets in Chinatown (or other great spots to visit in Chinatown?), best cocktails (I'm talking hipster craft cocktails, heavy on the bitters), local coffee roasters, local food artisans of any kind (cheese, chocolate, coffee, beer, spirits, etc.). I am from L.A. and have spent the last 10 years living in Manhattan...a lot of people say that Boston doesn't offer the same types of shops and products, but every city/region has their own stuff and I want to find it. Any help leading me in the right direction is appreciated.

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  1. Some ideas, a few of which are walking distance from your hotel:

    Shops for groceries, cheese, salumi, and/or sundries: Salumeria Italian, South End Formaggio, Farm & Fable, Savenor's

    Kitchen stores: Eastern Bakers (more oriented to commercial kitchens), Eagle Kitchen Supply, The Boston Shaker

    Chinatown Asian markets: Li Jian, C-Mart

    Bakeries: The Modern, Flour, Bread & Butter, Great Taste, one of Watertown's Armenian bakeries like Araz or Sevan, Tatte, Sofra

    Craft cocktail bars: Drink, Tavern Road, Shojo, No. 9 Park, Clio, Green Street, Rendezvous in Central Square, backbar, Deep Ellum, Eastern Standard, The Hawthorne, West Bridge, Craigie on Main, Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Brick & Mortar, Ribelle, Bronwyn.


    11 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I'm officially out of it. Farm & Fable? Where/what the heck is that? Bee's Knees should probably go on that list, if only because it is so close to the Intercontinental.

        I wonder if Drink can still make the DLB, sans Ben. Talk about "heavy on the bitters".

        ("I don't like the word "foodie", however it's used a lot on this site"... Jim Leff is rolling in his grave.)

          1. re: Alcachofa

            Shouldn't feel bad, as it's very new: https://www.facebook.com/farmandfable On the corner across from Coppa, with a unique concept, vintage barware, cookbooks, ephemera. Very cool little shop.

            Leff is still kicking, still kvetching: http://jimleff.blogspot.com/


          2. re: MC Slim JB

            What's your go-to suggestion for breakfast? Not Sunday brunch - just any morning all around yummy breakfast spot.

              1. re: lobsterkiller

                Hmm. Chinatown for congee, dim sum, or pastries: Winsor, Bubor Cha Cha, Mei Sum, Great Taste, Cafe de Lulu. Or a banh mi at 163 Vietnamese Sandwiches or Mei Sum.

                Greasy spoon bacon and eggs at Max's Deli. (There are a lot of these options, actually, none particularly memorable.)

                Pastries and coffee at Flour Bakery.

                Breakfast sandwiches and coffee from the Clover Food Labs truck on the Greenway (though most trucks are closed for the winter.)


              2. re: MC Slim JB

                I really enjoyed Drink and especially enjoyed the food - didn't even intend to eat there, but I saw too much fun stuff come out of the kitchen. I was seriously disturbed by their "method" because my particular bartender just did not listen to his customers. He had his own agenda and he was afraid to show us what he could do. We all ended up ordering very specific drinks because he simply was not listening to us. I would go back and try a different bartender, perhaps.

                Excellent suggestions, otherwise. Thank you!

              3. Not easily reached, or Boston proper, but Moody Street Provisions (I think that's the name) in Watham is pretty awesome, curing all their own charcuterie and whatnot. Kind of pricey, but hand made with love, so it's got that going for it.

                1. Make your way to Harvard Square In Cambridge and stroll down Massachusetts Avenue toward Central Square, lots of interesting shopping and food in Harvard Square and along the way to Central Square.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: drewinmrblhd

                    Can you identify the interesting food shops on Mass Ave. between Harvard and Central Squares? I can't! Am I forgetting something?

                    1. re: Blumie

                      True that I didn't spend much time walking along Mass Ave in Cambridge during 2013, so I am not so much forgetting as perhaps not knowing to begin with...but I can't think of even one food shop between Harvard and Central worth stopping at.

                      1. re: Madrid

                        Petsi, Cafe Sushi, garden in the cellar, peoples republik? That's all I can think of.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            Barsamians used to be there,a great indo grocery....long ago,

                            1. re: Madrid

                              We used to call Barsamian's Barsinister's due to their absurdly high prices.

                              1. re: Blumie

                                I used to work there! I was the head cook for a while a long time ago....still Facebook friends with the Barsamian kids (nice kids), that being said, yup, high prices, but that was the type of joint it was

                                1. re: devilham

                                  The expansion into Cambridgeside Galleria was the "backbreaker" for Barsamian's. The lease payments were very high and the store didn't do nearly the biz it needed to do to support it. The mass Ave store was profitable but the Galleria store dragged them both down.

                                  They were 1 of Boston's early specialty food shops, ala Dean and Deluca in NY.

                                  I used to be pretty good friends with Ed.

                                  1. re: 9lives

                                    Ed was a good guy, decent boss..Trader joe's also sucked the wind out of Barsamian's sails as well

                                    1. re: devilham

                                      the prices did seem high way back then, but the merchandise was really special and unique and I always thought worth it. I had recently come back to Cambridge from a decade in the SF area and I loved the place. I'm sorry it didn't make it ...better than TJs and WF by far.

                          2. re: viperlush

                            I love Petsi Pies- where else can you recite ten digits of pi on 3/14 and get a free pie? But it's on Beacon St, not Mass Ave.

                            1. re: Parsnipity

                              Did the Putnam St location close already?

                              1. re: Parsnipity

                                There is a location on Putnam, about 100 feet off Mass Ave.

                                1. re: black_lab

                                  Isn't darwin's taking over that spot?

                          3. re: Blumie

                            Follow the honey is also on the stretch

                            1. re: Snowflake

                              Cardullo's, the Indian grocery in front of Dosa Factory.

                        1. Definitely go to Drink, and get there early if you can. It's very close to your hotel. One of the Flour bakeries is near you, too.

                          Boston is deceptively small, especially for someone from LA / New York. Your hotel is in walking distance of most of Beacon Hill, the North End, Back Bay, the South End, Seaport, Chinatown...

                          1. If you venture out towards Cambridge, perhaps check out Abodeon, which has gorgeous housewares (tableware, decor, gadgets, etc): http://www.abodeon.com/‎
                            The store is a decent walk from Harvard Square, however, so might not be worth a special trip unless you're in the area for other reasons.

                            1. Bees Knees Supply has a good cheese selection and it is right accross the channel from the Intercontinental. Row34 is right there too if you need some oysters.

                              1. I always enjoy my trips to Polcari's Coffee in the North End. They sell bags of coffee, tea, and spices, among other things.

                                1. Take a right out the front door of your hotel and take a short walk to James Hook Lobster, have a lobster roll, bun toasted.

                                  1. I'd also suggest a stop at Trillium Brewing Company if you're into beer as well as cocktails. It right across the channel from your hotel. They fill growlers, and just started bottling before Christmas. We have a lot of local brewers, but they are one of the best.

                                    1. I think Barrington's in Fort Point roasts their own coffee too.

                                      1. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is an excellent cheese shop.

                                        If you are burb bound and land in Wellesley, there is another excellent cheese shop called Wasiks Cheese Shop.

                                        1. Not in walking distance, but fun: Russo's in Watertown. I take lots of out of town guests there.

                                          1. don't know how mobile you want to be, but exploring our Russian delis is fun (my Manhattan friends always finish their visit with a trip to Bazaar, on Beacon Street in Brookline, take the C green line, and they stock up on unbelievably well-priced salmon roe caviar, sour cherry jam, honey, and smoked meats and now they bring a little cooler with them because they keep adding stuff). While you can get this in Brighton Beach you can't find it at anywhere near these prices in Manhattan.

                                            1. Congratulations, you've gotten the standard tourist recommendations out of your system ;-) Now let's move on.

                                              Being a city, Boston doesn't have a lot of what I'd call "local food artisans". Mostly it's got people producing good end product from materials made elsewhere, or selling similar products -- so you're talking about people retailing regional products rather than producing their own. An exception is Taza in Somerville: a chocolate-maker, not a chocolatier. I believe they still do tours, so you might like that.

                                              For Italian pastry, I think Maria's beats both Mike's and Modern. Every time I see some poor tourist toting around one of those Mike's boxes, I feel sad.

                                              Not food, but Nam Bac Hong in Chinatown is a great herbal apothecary. Get your dit da jow here!

                                              Federal Wine & Spirits is definitely worth a visit if you're onto cocktails. Talk spirits with whoever's behind the counter, they'll show you some good stuff (but you might want to omit the phrase "hipster craft cocktails", they're pretty old-school).

                                              1. Ok--here are a few additions from this side of the river:

                                                Cambridge & Somerville Winter Farmer's Markets
                                                Wine & Cheese Cask for local drinks (Bantam Cider, Pretty Things beer etc.)
                                                New Deal fish & seafood shop (or Courthouse if you want it cooked)
                                                Alive & Kicking lobster rolls
                                                Cardullo's for huge array of chocolates & teas & specialty products, can get local products like Fat Toad caramel etc. (coffee & snack at Crema Cafe at the same time)
                                                LA Burdick's for transcendent hot chocolate
                                                Barismo coffee

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: dulce de leche

                                                  You have just been officially banned from Alive and Kicking!!! Have you lost your mind? Calling it a lobster roll??? Oh the horror~~~~

                                                    1. re: dulce de leche

                                                      yes, on scali, and one of my favorites though its hard to eat it outside on that little dumpy cute patio this time of year!

                                                      1. re: teezeetoo


                                                        Dumpy Cute could be the next Shabby Chic! Brand it or copywrite it or trademark it, whatever it is you do! LOL!!!!!

                                                2. I didn't see it mentioned here, but there's a very nice upscale/gourmet food store around the corner from your hotel in the Fort Point area. It's called Bees Knees Supply Co. It's on Farnsworth St., off of Congress St. Very nice supply of breads, cheese, charcuterie, local food items, great deli and coffee


                                                  I'd also suggest you check out some of the Chinese bakeries in Chinatown such as Great Taste on Beach St. or Eldo Cake House on Harrison Ave.

                                                  In Chinatown, there's also a little food court mall thing on the corner of Beach St. and Harrison Ave. In that mall there is a Japanese Hot Dog stall which has some tasty treats. I finally got to visit there a few weeks ago and I want to go back soon. Here's the Chow thread on that:


                                                  If you want a classic Boston seafood shop, you could take a walk down to Yankee Lobster on the waterfront.

                                                  If you like chocolatiers, you might want to visit the Taza chocolate factory in Somerville:


                                                  Finally, I've recently become a big fan of a local Boston hard spirits distillery called "Bully Boy". They make a really delicious white whiskey, and an excellent dark rum. They give tours of the distillery by appointment only, according to their web site: