My Very Own Boston's Best
I was having drinks w/ a girlfriend recently and she mentioned she was going to Chicago in September. I immediately rattled of a list of bars and restaurants she just had to go to. Between my sister living there providing an awesome home turf for our Midwest visits, and one of my favorite bloggers, I feel like I’m in the know about the “must eat/drink” spots in Chicago. Sure, some of them are touristy, but Lou Malnati’s is pretty on point for deep dish, in my humble, New York crust-loving opinion.
This got me thinking about my go-to Boston spots and how I don’t think I’ve referenced any of them on here. Not that I’m a Boston blogger anymore (sad panda), or that anyone would actually reference this space as a guide for the best food and drink around town, but for my own fun I decided to put together a list of some of my top spots around Boston.
-Sound Bites (Somerville)
I used to live less than a block from this place, which meant that it was a staple in my weekend routine; the Broadway Bowl was my go-to hangover cure. They have a full bar, but a quick heads-up: if you’re just getting juice or coffee, there’s a DIY service station.
-The Beehive (South End)
If you can’t make it to the Beehive for brunch, you’ve got to at least grab a drink. It’s a funky scene w/ an assorted crowd, but well worth the wait. They do Saturday and Sunday brunch and there’s live jazz. It doesn’t get any better than that; except the food, which is insanely tasty. Get the eggs shakshuka b/c you’ve never seen it on another menu, am I right?
-Island Creek Oyster Bar (Kenmore)
Brent and I were just here on Sunday, so I could be a little skewed b/c it’s so fresh in my memory, but I’m still dreaming about this chowder. They put a spin on classic chowder by adding bacon and using biscuits as croutons, and let me tell you, it is a welcome upgrade. My least favorite part of clam chowder are the clams, and bacon does wonders in masking those little buggers.
-Union Oyster House (Faneuil Hall)
You’ll probably be going here b/c of the history and proximity to Faneuil Hall anyway, so do yourself a favor and get some chowder. If you want a traditional Boston chowder, in all its creamy and delicious glory, this is your bowl.
-Townsman (Leather District/Chinatown/seriously, what is this area of the city called?)
Lordy, what is it about cured meats and salty cheeses that gets my blood pumping so vigorously? (probably all the nitrates and sodium, but let’s not dwell). Townsman executes a charcuterie board like Serena’s serve; a thing of power and beauty, not to be taken lightly, and after witnessing it firsthand, you’re likely in a daze for a while.
-Coppa (South End)
In full transparency, I haven’t actually been to Coppa, but it’s not from a lack of trying. Good luck getting a reservation here; if you’re planning a trip to Boston next spring, you might have a chance. The place is…cozy, and by cozy I of course mean tiny. Like I said, I haven’t dined here myself, but I’ve been to Toro, ran by the same Chefs, and I’ve only heard amazing things.
Brent and I took my sister here for her birthday last year and I immediately regretted all the birthday celebrations I missed out on by not having them at this adorable spot. It’s quirky and dark and you feel like you’re in on something ultra-cool. The drinks are strong and the servers treat you like you’re family, so what else do you need? Oh right, the food. The food! We ordered our favorite small plate three times b/c it was that good; potatoes bravas (butchering the spelling, I’m sure), for when you go and want to try it yourself.
-Barcelona (South End)
This place is unique in that unlike nearly every other restaurant in the South End -crowded and cramped- Barcelona is an expansive affair and practically sprawls in comparison. It will be crazy crowded, but because there's actually room to move, it won't seem as bad. Add to that the fact that the food is incredible and inspired and you’ve got no shortage of reasons to visit.
-Grill 23 (Back Bay)
Whether it’s an anniversary, engagement, graduation or birthday, Grill 23 is the perfect place to celebrate. Of course I’m biased (as only ex-employees can be), but the Grill is constantly voted Best Steakhouse in Boston, so it’s not like you’ll leave unimpressed. Unless you’re allergic or idiotic, get the coconut cake for dessert. The towering slice of moist yellow cake, layered between coconut filling and tangy cream cheese frosting, paired with smooth and creamy pineapple sherbet is quite possibly the best flavor combination ever. And that’s coming from someone who swears by chocolate peanut butter creations, so the fact that there’s neither of those in this dish and it’s one of my absolute favorites is saying something.
-Bricco (North End)
Brent took me here for our very first Valentine’s Day; call me sappy, but this spot has a special place in my heart. It was dark and raucous, in the way only the best restaurants are, and you’re in the middle of the North End, so you’re steps away from a multitude of incredible bakeries and gelato options for dessert.
Out of the Box
These spots are some of my faves, but don’t necessarily fit in any of my allotted categories:
-Cuchi Cuchi (Cambridge)
This would be a great spot for a birthday dinner; it’s old Hollywood and burlesque and simply oozes excitement. The food and drinks are a creative mix and everything is delicious. Actually, if I remember correctly they do small plates. Okay, pretend this is in the small plates category.
Truthfully, I probably could have assigned a category here: best ice cream. Again, partial bias since I used to make that scrumptious ice cream, but they do crazy flavors and every single one is made in house from scratch. I was going to list them in the “brunch” category, but I just checked their website and it looks like they’re not doing their regular Sunday brunch anymore; they used to do cinnamon buns bigger than your head and buck a shuck oysters, so this was obviously the place to camp out on Sundays. It looks like they do brunch throughout the summer, teaming up w/ some other local restaurants, so you might still have a shot at that massive cinnamon bun.
-Bleacher Bar (Fenway)
This bar has no remarkable food or drink, and you’re likely to have to bring your own toilet paper into the stall w/ you. What it does offer is a one-of-a-kind view of Fenway Park; a massive window looking directly through centerfield and into the stadium. The bar is nothing more than a dive, but it’s got a great view and you pretty much have to go if you’re in Boston. It’s in the middle of Fenway, so you can leave after your skunked beer and head to any of the other 20 bars in the vicinity.
-Brass Union (Somerville)
Any bar that provides board games is worth the trip; any bar w/ Pac Man and a shuffleboard court is worthy of my undying devotion. It’s in Union Square, so be prepared to wait in line for corn hole w/ all the hipsters and yuppies in the land.
-Hong Kong (Cambridge or Faneuil Hall)
This wasn’t going to make the cut, until I realized that it’s Hong Kong, of course it’s fucking making the cut. I’ve had more scorpion bowls and teriyaki sticks and tone-deaf karaoke here than I can remember (mostly b/c I was completely hammered), and I had to do right by it and put it on the list. This is where Brent and I sang “Mr. Brightside” in the early stages of our courtship, where I’ve smuggled in my own snacks from the nearby Tedeschi, where I’ve eaten zebra cakes decorated w/ maraschino cherries after they found out it was someone’s birthday. I prefer the Harvard Square location, but both are equally as sticky and sloppy. If you do go to the Harvard Square one, make sure you go upstairs; the downstairs is actually trying to be a respectable Chinese restaurant, which you want no part of.
And since I even entertained the thought of excluding Hong Kong from this list, I just had to find a few scorpion bowl pics to smooth things over. You can't see the actual bowl in one of them, but those telltale staws indicate its presence.