CHs, I have just spent a day preparing a first draft of this for some friends .I have lived in Boston for 40 years; was a professional chef for 30 years and have strong interests in food, historic preservation, art and gardening. I would appreciate improvements/additions that you feel are needed, but please keep in mind who this was prepared for.
A Foodie's Guide to Boston's Sights and Restaurants
For Short Term First Time Visitors Who Are Not Foodies but Gardeners and Museum People
Welcome to our historic and handsome city. I have just prepared this for some Midwest friends who are soon visiting Boston for the first time.
North End/ Waterfront/ Aquarium/ Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market
I hope you go to the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End. This is many aficionados' fav pizza place period. It is the original(and only worthwhile) location of what is now a chain, and most importantly, its pizzas taste like no others , partly because of the WWII oven they use, which is more than 'seasoned' by now. This pizza tastes like it does in Rome. It is also a tiny CROWDED, loud, FUNKY space; unique; not decor-changed since the 50's maybe. If you haven’t been there, don't go on a wkend ,and go for lunch or earlier dinner to avoid lines.
Regina’s is located on the outer edge of the compact North End, so after pizza, walk over to the Hanover St. (main drag) area and feel the history of this unique neighborhood. Its oldest extant buildings are from the early 19th c.; through the centuries it has been peopled successively, by : rich Bostonians, blacks , Jews, Italians. It has been Italian since the early 20th c. While harbor-dwelling yuppies have been encroaching of late, it still has lots of sidewalk life, Italian being spoken, bocce being played. There are some wonderful gelato/cafes on Hanover St. I particularly like the gelato at Café Sport, and Modern Pastry is across the street, with wonderful quaresimali( a version of almond biscotti) and sfogliadel, a very unusual 3 cornered hat of layered/crunchy pastry filled with a farmer's cheese/candied fruit mixture. (While many will steer you to Mike’s Pastry, I won't.)The North End is also home to the 18th c. Old North Church and 19th c. Seamen's Home etc etc. If you like to discover-by-walking, the end of Hanover St away from downtown Boston- leads onto the waterfront area. This is also architecturally and historically fascinating because it is very intact with its 19th c. warehouses/wharves (now water view condos). With all I've described, you might find it worth your while to go to Regina's and the North End for lunch and the afternoon. You could incorporate the nearby Aquarium, and Sel de la Terre for dinner (excellent ,modern French style.)You could also go the local seafood route and try Neptune Oyster in the North End. For a quick and unusual snack, Galleria Umberto Rosticceria has Suppli (or Arancini) deep fried Parmesan Risotto balls filled with peas, cheese, tomato and ham.
Quincy market is the old historic marketplace from 18th and 19th c. Boston. Its development into a commercial tourist mecca was the prototype for all the other U.S. 'Commercial Historic Restoration/Tourist Attractions'. It has endless vendor carts and shops and restaurants. Good place to sample some finger food or ice cream but not a lot else. It IS the location of one of Boston's oldest and nationally famous restaurants- Durgin Park- a real bastion of old fashioned dishes (prime rib, roasts, Chowdah, Lobstah, Boston Baked Beans and Indian Pudding) with old fashioned, loud, friendly or rude waitresses to add to the color.
The South End
The South End is Boston’s amazing well-preserved and very large Victorian district, chock-a-block w/ handsome brick and brownstone rowhouses grouped around pocket parks in the middle of all the side street cul-de-sacs.There is a large gay population and young yuppie couples with strollers. Lots of super restaurants(mostly bistro style). Union Bar and Grill and Acquitaine and Tremont 647 are my own favs. Union is handsome, dark, comfy with amer.regional food(delish. cornbread in a skillet brought to you when you sit down).Aquitaine is an authentic French bistro with great Steak Frites and simple traditional roasted or grilled food in a very handsome atmosphere and beautiful historic neighborhood. Tremont 647 has a FUN Sunday brunch, their famous Pajama Brunch, where all their servers, chefs etc. wear their pjs . Tremont is also known for its national-competition winning BBQ and grilled meat and seafood along with Asian and Mexican influenced foods; laid back and fun atmosphere. On the far edge of the South End is Toro, a very loud crowded Spanish tapas place owned by one of our most famous innovative chefs, Ken Oringer, whose Clio is probably Boston’s most innovative(Asian influenced) restaurant (and very expensive). .
Make sure to experience one of Boston's most beautiful features: Comm(onwealth) Ave between Mass(achusetts) Ave and Arlington St.(next to the Public Garden, the oldest arboretum/public park in the U.S. ) This part of Comm. Ave was designed after the Champs Elysees in Paris and is a 9 block long strip of tree, bench and statue- lined park with handsome 19th c. mansions lining both sides. It is parallel to and one block away from Newbury Street, Boston’s center of couture and art galleries , with many restaurants. Right around the corner from the Public Garden end of Newbury Street is Parish Cafe on Boylston St. with great sandwiches designed by different Boston chefs. Further away from the Public garden on Boylston St. is Copley Plaza, one of Boston's most famous architectural wonders. The square is bounded by 2 late 19th c. stone churches. The most famous, Trinity Church, was designed by America's premier architect in the late 19th c., H.H.Richardson. Across the street is the stately Boston Public Library, designed by famous architect students of Richardson. Behind Trinity Church is the equally famous and innovative I.M.Pei- designed John Hancock Tower, covered with mirror glass that reflects the sky and structures surrounding it.
Beacon Hill and Charles St.
Across the Public Garden, away from Comm Ave, is Beacon Hill, Boston’s well preserved elite neighborhood of 18th and 19th c. brick town and rowhouses.Also the location of our famous gold domed State House. Historic Charles Street, full of restaurants and shops, runs along the base of Beacon Hill. In that neighborhood, Figs has good simple Italian pizzas, pastas etc. Lala Rokh has delicious Mediterranean-Persian food with grilled and stewed lamb and eggplant taking the spotlight. It is a very quiet comfortable resting spot after a long day of walking.On the upper side of Beacon Hill, Grotto has excellent well priced (and less-tomato-saucey) Northern Italian food and seafood.
Next to our beloved old baseball park is a terrific Mexican taco place, La Verdad. Their tacos of carne asada(grilled beef), pescado(fish), and chiles rellenos(cheese stuffed mild green chiles, battered and deep fried) are the best I have ever ever had. Ditto with the Torta(sandwich) of fried chicken cutlet, guacamole, beans, lettuce and sauces, on soft roll; and be sure to also get their refried beans and silky soft citrus cinnamon flan .Open for lunch and dinner (just don't go there when a baseball game is being played!) and a 5 minute drive from our amazing Museum of Fine Arts, world famous for its substantial collections of French Impressionism, American paintings and decorative arts, and Japanese art.
Another good place for lunch or dinner, after a day at the MFA or the neighboring Gardner Museum(a Venetian palace with its beautiful one of a kind large atrium courtyard- filled with breathtaking changing flower displays) is Betty's Wok and Noodle. Very popular, it's a fun friendly vibrant spot at dinner (quieter at lunch) with the best onion rings in town and a unique concept of 'choose your own veggie buffet' which they take and add to your choice of meat , noodles and sauce- in a terrific Asian stirfry. Our fav is the Cool Cukes salad and the chewy Shanghai Noodles stirfry with Orange Chipotle Sauce, our bowl of veggies and choice of protein! They also do a wonderful Coconut Flan for dessert.
Cambridge and Harvard Square
If you end up exploring bustling student-oriented Harvard Square, Casablanca is a long running underground bistro w/ a loyal academic following; open for lunch and dinner, interesting international foods-Moroccan, French and Mediterranean..The murals of the movie are great and it's a quiet comfie spot to have lunch and relax from the din. Harvard Square is beautifully situated on the Charles River and the historic 18th and 19th c. Brattle Street mansions make for very pleasant strolling/driving out of the Square.
for 1/2-1 day Out Of Town Excursions, I would highly recommend (starting with the highest priority):
Marblehead-(30-60 min. N of Boston)- a beautifully preserved seaside town famous for its well restored 18th and 19th c. clapboard houses and a beautiful harbor filled with sailboats and lined with mansions and yacht clubs. Our very favorite place (in all of New England!)to sit and watch the ocean - is Fort Sewall, a harbor side park on a high bench-lined horseshoe shaped bluff looking into the harbor and out to the ocean and islands and sailboats. We frequently take a picnic lunch and our books. If you're dog fans, it is where everyone in town walks their dogs. There is also a restroom on site.(* Parking is very limited, a small parking lot and narrow street leading up to the park)
The next town over from Marblehead is Salem. Here is located the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the best in the country for New England Maritime and Asian collections, along with a unique authentic reconstructed 17th c. Chinese mansion and constantly changing exhibitions. Salem in now a National Maritime Park with Visitors Center and many worthwhile things to see. Salem was one of the great 18th and 19th c. ship-owners' towns, and nationally famous Chestnut St. is unmatched for its unblemished collection of brick Federal mansions . The Grapevine and 62 Wharf are both very good casual dinner(sometimes lunch) spots.
Concord (1/2 hr. NW of Boston) beautiful land with terrific historic district of 18th c. houses in a village-like setting. Many Revolutny War sites; Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott house museums, the Old North Bridge, and The Concord Antiquarian Society museum. Paparazzi is a very casual Italian chain for lunch and dinner. Lincoln is the next town over. Beautiful rolling farmland and historic estates. The Mass. Audubon headquarters is at Drumlin Farm with lots of family activities. the Decordova Museum (contemporary art) and Outdoor Sculpture Park overlooks a reservoir, surrounded by large trees and parkland. The Codman House, owned by Historic New England, is a fascinating time capsule of a New England family's estate through 200+ years(Mansion, formal gardens and working farm.)
For gardeners and plants people, do not miss!:
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard- in Boston. Huge walking park with hundred of thousands of labelled specimen and rare trees and shrubs. Visitor center with maps and info.
Tower Hill Botanical Gardens- Boylston Ma.- 1 hr NW of Boston. Huge hilltop piece of property with gardens and plant collections of every kind. A casually paced visit can easily take 3-4 hours. Large visitors center w/ shop and café..
Tranquil Lake Nursery- 1.5 hrs S of Boston in Rehoboth Ma. (I/2 hr. E of Providence R.I.) The best of lush and alluring display gardens of unusual perennials, shrubs and trees, attached to the nursery, which specializes in daylilies and iris. A casual stroll around all the gardens can take 1-2 hrs. Providence, the city on the hill, is home to Brown Univ. and R.I.S.D.(Rhode Island School of Design). It is ,without doubt, New England's handsomest small city . College Hill has the best and largest collection of houses and mansions reflecting architectural styles from the early 18th through the late 19th c. Excellent restaurants abound, including Al Forno and New Rivers Café, Chez Pascal , Mill Tavern, and Al Forno(no reservations.) If there is a performance of Waterfire, it is a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience. http://www.waterfire.org/season-schedule
- all the best,
a teaching website
63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113
1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118
Chez Pascal Restaurant
960 Hope St, Providence, RI 02906
257 Hanover St, Boston, MA
1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215
Sel de la Terre
774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02199
82 Lansdowne Street, Boston, MA 02215
97 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108
1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109
418 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116