Where to Eat in Boston

Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 13:32
Midwinter attendees won’t want for dining options
Spice grilled Tofu Steak with Indonesian Fried Rice at Franklin Cafe.

Welcome to Boston, ALA attendees! The city has a world of mouth watering restaurants to sate every palate. 

Boston is made up of distinct neighborhoods that each offer a view into the life of Bostonians, and this guide is arranged that way as well. The city is compact and walkable, and it has a good public transportation system of subways and bus lines to get you to whichever neighborhood you choose to dine in.

We hope you enjoy your stay in Boston and enjoy some good grub. Bon appétit!

Price Guide

Average prices for appetizer, drink, and entrée, not including tip.
$    Less than $15
$$    Around $20
$$$    Around $30
$$$$    More than $30

Waterfront/South Boston

LTK. LTK stands for Legal Test Kitchen, a hot spot that features the best from the Legal Sea Foods empire as well as Legal’s more extensive testing menus. Legal’s clam chowder has been served at every Presidential inauguration since 1981. If you can’t justify spending money on a big dinner, try chowder and salad, or oysters Legal (baked with spinach) and maybe a mojito. You always get yummy warm rolls with butter, but they do offer a gluten-free menu.
$$$$. L, D daily. 225 Northern Ave. 617-330-7430.

Sel de la Terre. There are three locations now, but the original is at Long Wharf. Recommended by barflies and foodies alike, Sel de la Terre serves French Provencal fare in a lively atmosphere. Bouillabaisse, the classic seafood stew with tomato, garlic, and saffron broth, is a highlight of the menu. An extensive wine list and scrumptious breads and pastries make this is a festive, special-occasion place.
$$$$. L, D daily, brunch Sat.–Sun. 255 State St. 617-720-1300.

The Franklin Café has two Boston locations, one in South Boston and the other in the South End. The food is fresh, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, and uses local produce when available. The bar is smallish but lively with a great selection of wines, beers, and mixed drinks. The full menu is served until 1:30 a.m., so if you’re craving delicious mashed potatoes at 1:00 a.m., no problem.
$$$. D daily. South Boston: 152 Dorchester Ave. 617-269-1003. South End: 278 Shawmut Ave. 617-350-0010.

South End

Addis Red Sea. This Ethiopian restaurant is a wonderful experience and it’s always fun to go with a group. It starts with injera, a crepe-like spongy bread that you use to hold, pick up, and dip your food. The spices in the dishes are distinct and flavorful. Combination dinners cost $15–$25 per person and are a good way to go if you want to sample a number of things.
$$. D daily, L Sat.–Sun. 544 Tremont St. 617-426-8727. 

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe. Open since 1927, this diner is the place to come for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast—French toast, pancakes, turkey hash, and more. The prices and the patrons could both come out of a time machine. There’s no bathroom, so plan accordingly.
$. B, L Mon.–Sat. 429 Columbus Ave. 617-536-7669. No website.

Les Zygomates. Les zygomates is French for “your smile muscles,” and this French-Mediterranean restaurant should exercise them well. The food is bistro style and a prix fixe menu is offered, with an extensive wine list and often top notch jazz in the bar. The owner learned his craft in Paris and welcomes you comme ca. A nice choice for a splurge.
$$$$. L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. 129 South St. 617-542-5108.  

Mela. You will be able to taste the distinct spices in each of the Indian dishes, which is quite an experience. Big portions mean two people could share some naan, samosas, and one entrée and both walk out feeling sated. Vegetarians and carnivores alike welcome.
$$$. L, D daily. 578 Tremont St. 617-859-4805.

The Red Fez. For Middle Eastern food, this is a great place to go and try a little bit of a lot of things with a date or a group of friends.  They serve entrees as well as mezzes (small plates); try baba ghanouj, hummus, olives, falafels, or kibbeh, with a couple of entrees. The bar serves a few Middle Eastern wines and beers, and on Saturday nights there is live Arabic music.
$$-$$$. L, D daily. 1222 Washington St. 617-338-6060.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

The Black Rose. If you’re into pub grub and want to sample many different beers in a Boston institution, try the Black Rose. It’s loud and busy, has an Irish waitstaff, and bands play some nights.
$$. L, D daily, B Sat.–Sun. 160 State St. 617-742-2286.

KingFish Hall. This fun and noisy seafood restaurant is part of celebrity chef Todd English’s empire. You’ll feel like Alice in Wonderland as you twirl in the clam-shaped booths, especially after a signature cocktail or two. Unfortunately, it’s pricey.
$$$$. L, D daily; brunch Sun. 188 Faneuil Hall Marketplace. 617-523-8862.

Durgin-Park. Serving traditional New England fare, this restaurant has been here since before you were born—since 1826, to be specific. Prime rib, cod, baked beans, slaw, and a trademark Indian pudding will cause you to start dropping your “r”s. The waitstaff, once known for their rudeness, are nicer now.
$$$. L, D daily. 340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace. 617-227-2038.

McCormick and Schmick’s. The major rival to Legal Sea Foods and just as good in its own way. The seafood is fresh and delicious, and the excellent service and atmosphere will remind you of an English gentlemen’s club. Expensive, but there are good lunch and happy hour deals.
$$$$. L, D daily. 1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, North Market Building. 617-720-5522.

Chinatown

China Pearl. If you like dim sum, this is the place to go in Boston. The experience at China Pearl is like a human conveyor belt of tantalizing morsels. It can put you over the edge—but it’s worth it.
$$. B, L, D daily. 9 Tyler St. 617-426-4338. No website.

East Ocean City. Not the place for vegetarians, this establishment serves authentic Chinese food. Seafood is a specialty, but there is also a plethora of beef, duck, and pork options. Bring friends—so you can sample their choices.
$$. L, D daily. 25-29 Beach St. 617-542-2505.

Pho Pasteur. This Vietnamese restaurant is near both the Theater District and a large movie theater, so it’s a perfect place to go to before or after a show. Fast, no-nonsense service complements the terrific food here, and there are plenty of options for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
$. B, L, D daily. 682 Washington St. 617-482-7467.

Beacon Hill

Anna’s Taqueria. Straight-up, simple, hearty, fast Mexican food. You can eat and eat well for under $6! When you’re walking around Beacon Hill get your energy up with a filling burrito or some carnitas. Vegetarians have options too, but make sure to specify the veggie rice, because the regular rice is made with chicken stock. Cash only.
$. B, L, D daily.  242 Cambridge St. 617-227-8822.

Panificio. Beacon Hill is quintessential Boston, and the best way to take it in is by viewing the homes, antique stores, and restaurants on Charles Street. The restaurant is located on the last block and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; but if all you try are the baked goods and coffee, that’s a great start.
$$$ ($ for coffee and baked goods). B, L, D daily. 144 Charles St. 617-227-4340.

King and I. Also on Charles Street, King and I is a decent Thai restaurant in a city that really needs more. King and I has a vegetarian menu and a fair number of regular menu items that aren’t cooked in oil, and they are also open to adding and mixing up items.
$$. L Mon.–Sat., D daily. 145 Charles St. 617-227-3320.

North End

Antico Forno. The name means old oven, and out of this oven comes some of the best brick oven pizza in Boston. Antico is more than pizza, though. Its ribollita or Tuscan white bean soup is gets a lot of raves—the perfect thing for chilly nights. A favorite in the neighborhood.
$$–$$$. L, D daily. 93 Salem St. 617-723-6733.

Carmen. Intimate, romantic and expensive is a top choice of North End residents. Chef Jeff Malloy’s Italian cuisine consistently earns highest ratings from Zagat and other food guides. Candlelit and sure to please—if your expense account allows. Reservations recommended.
$$$$. D Tues.–Sun., L Fri.–Sat. 33 North Square. 617-742-6421. 

l’Osteria. Another consistent Italian favorite with the locals. l’Osteria has a warm and friendly atmosphere with plenty of extraordinary specials, especially the chicken and veal dishes. It’s a great choice for lunch too.
$$$. L, D daily. 104 Salem St. 617-723-7847. 

Grezzo Restaurant. The food at Grezzo is Italian-inspired and all organic, raw, and vegan. They serve specialty drinks along with vegan and biodynamic beers and wines.  The food is on the pricier side, so going in for a drink or two along with a couple of desserts is an acceptable option.
$$$. L, D Tue.–Sun. 69 Prince St. 857-362-7288.

Mike’s Pastry/Modern Pastry. Many wonderful North End restaurants do not serve dessert. Why? It’s because everybody has dessert at one of these Hanover Street rivals. You decide who has better cannoli and join the best debate in Boston.
Mike’s Pastry: 300 Hanover St. 617 742-3050.
Modern Pastry: 257 Hanover St. 617-523-3783.

The Green Dragon Tavern. Established in 1654, The Green Dragon was a favorite haunt of Paul Revere and it still has a good 17th-century feel to it. The food is typical Irish pub grub, without many vegetarian options apart from the appetizers.
$$. L, D daily. 11 Marshall St. 617-367-0055.

Union Oyster House. This is another of those quintessential Boston institutions—frequented by John F. Kennedy, it now has a plaque dedicating his favorite booth. If you go, you’ll be chatted up by waitstaff who have been working there for more than 20 years and have plenty of stories of famous celebrities that “sat in your exact chair.” A good restaurant both for eating and for finding some local color.
$$$$. L, D daily. 41 Union St. 617-227-2750.

Kenmore Square

Brown Sugar. A consistent prize winner, Brown Sugar combines affordable, delicious Thai food with a serene and inviting atmosphere. Rice and noodle dishes galore include great choices for vegetarians. Brown Sugar is a city favorite, particularly among its Boston University neighbors.
$$. L, D daily. 1033 Commonwealth Ave. 617-787-4242.

Elephant Walk. Elephant Walk strikes a pleasing balance between Cambodian and French cuisines. The décor is modern with an atmosphere reminiscent of colonial  Cambodia. It has many vegetarian offerings and even a gluten-free special menu.
$$$. L, D daily, brunch Sun. 900 Beacon St. 617-247-1500.

Taberna de Haro. This Spanish tapas place is crowded, fun, and delicious. It’s a small, friendly place with an open kitchen and a fantastic wine list. Share some paella, or if you feel really adventurous, there’s squid in its own ink. The atmosphere is so European, you may feel like you’re not in Boston anymore. 
$$$$. D Mon.–Sat. 999 Beacon St. 617-277-8272.

O’Leary’s. This pub café is the real thing: An authentic, untouristy Irish pub, not a movie set. The food is a cut above pub grub. The soda bread and scones alone will please you. Also try the Guinness beef stew, shepherd’s pie, and daily specials.  Three or four nights a week, there is live Irish music.
$$–$$$. L, D daily. 1010 Beacon St., Brookline. 617-734-0049.

Back Bay Neighborhood

Betty’s Wok and Noodle Diner. A 1950’s diner vibe paired with Asian- and Latino-inspired fare to lure you in. You choose a sauce, veggies (or let the chef decide), meat, and type of noodle or rice. Huntington Theatre and Symphony Hall are next door and across the street, respectively. You may want to incorporate a show into your plans, although Betty’s can get packed afterward. 
$$. L, D daily. 250 Huntington Ave. 617-424-1950. 

The Catered Affair Restaurants at Boston Public Library, Copley Square. Food and drink are not allowed in the library, except at the Courtyard Restaurant and Map Room Café, both located in the historic McKim building. The MapRoom serves tasty salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and tea that can be enjoyed in the café or, weather permitting, in BPL’s lovely Italianate courtyard with the Bacchante statue and fountain centerpiece. The Courtyard Restaurant, is more formal, but lovely, offering lunch and a traditional afternoon tea with tea sandwiches, scones (the ginger scone is legendary), and Devonshire clotted cream.
$-$$. L Mon.–Sat. (MapRoom), L Mon.–Fri. (Courtyard). 700 Boylston St. 617-859-2251.

Steve’s Greek Restaurant. Tried-and-true traditional inexpensive Greek fare, including salads, kebabs, spanikopita, pistachio, gyros, and a limited selection of beer and wine. The daily specials (always octopus stefado) seldom vary, but its comfortable coffee-shop style and fast service will ease your mind and your pocketbook. Steve’s also has a takeout-only location at Faneuil Hall marketplace.
$. L, D daily, B Mon.–Sat., brunch Sun. 316 Newbury St. 617-267-1817.

The Other Side Café. A cozy café for the young and hip locals, although tourists will feel welcome and will get well fed cheap. The soup, salad, and sandwich-based menu provides options for dietary plans ranging from raw foodists and vegans up to hardcore carnivores. A warning: The music can get a little loud.
$. L, D daily, brunch Sat.–Sun. 407 Newbury St. 617-536-8437.

Delux. A funky little local neighborhood bar and restaurant that looks kind of divey, but don’t despair: The food is good and inexpensive. The menu is on the smaller side and changes on a frequent basis, generally with at least one vegetarian dish.
$$. D Mon.–Sat. 100 Chandler St. 617-338-5258. No website.

The Trident Booksellers and Café. The Trident is a fantastic independent bookstore with a nice variety of offbeat literary, art, and Buddhist magazines to browse. The food is not strictly vegetarian, but there are plenty of veggie choices like vegan cashew chili and Tibetan momos. Also offered is a perpetual breakfast of omelettes and breakfast burrittos. Great smoothies and coffees too. It’s the type of place where you can be alone and just be.
$–$$. B, L, D daily. 338 Newbury St. 617-267-8688.