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Jan 8, 2014 11:31 AM

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, 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: On the corner across from Coppa, with a unique concept, vintage barware, cookbooks, ephemera. Very cool little shop.

            Leff is still kicking, still kvetching:


          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):‎
                            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.