Dine Like a Local in Boston: An Insider’s Guide to the Best Neighborhoods for Eating Well

Just because you’re a tourist in Boston doesn’t mean you have to eat like one; with some of the country’s best colleges, leading medical breakthroughs, and a true global population, Boston is a world-class city with world-class dining, all nestled into compact, walkable neighborhoods … just perfect for burning off some calories. Here’s where to dine like a local in Boston.

Faneuil Hall/North End

If your time here is short, a walk back in time at this landmark meeting hall with guides in 18th century costumes makes for kitschy fun. But besides mispronouncing Faneuil Hall (rhymes with “manual”), thinking this is the only place to eat in the area would be a mistake. While you will find any number of great pubs — the Hong Kong, Anthem (pictured), and circa-1654 Green Dragon among them — following the scent of garlic along the historic Freedom Trail makes for more fun. If you’re in the mood for a brewski, Bostonia Public House carries several varieties of Sam Adams, crafted just a couple of miles away, along with excellent cocktails, affordable three-course, prix-fixe lunches, savory bar bites, like parmesan polenta fries, and a great beet salad with whipped ricotta, pistachios, and honey.

Dine like a local in Boston

Those old enough to remember the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history, the Big Dig, will dig the Rose Kennedy Greenway, especially beautiful during the summer and fall with its 1.5-mile string of parks, a carousel, contemporary art exhibitions, and swings. A jaunt through brings visitors to either the waterfront with great views at Joe’s American Bar and Grill or Little Italy, where dozens of restaurants open their windows a la the Old Country. Hanover Street may be the most popular — especially Bricco for pre-dinner drinks, such as espresso martinis, and apps, like grilled octopus, — but tucked-away Mama Maria always delights. If it’s raining, check out the covered patio at Il Panino. And if you haven’t had your fill of history, don’t forget to visit Old North Church, where Paul Revere’s infamous “One if by land, and two if by sea” signal is said to have been sent. Is dessert more your scene? It’s worth waiting in line at Modern or Mike’s Pastry for a cannoli and watching servers artfully wind string crisscrossing the ceiling around takeaway boxes.


Penny-pinching college students are fans of iconic Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers, an institution since 1960, but there are plenty of other smart choices in this home of Harvard University. Creative cocktails at Parsnip like Breeze Through the Trees (featuring pine liquor, gin, lemon, grapefruit, and rosemary) are winning co-eds over, but with mouthwatering mains, like sea bass and duck, at big-plate prices better for when Mom and Dad are in town, Night Market is another new fave. Inventive Asian street fare features banh mi bites for just $2 and daikon fries for $7 with sake slushies to cut the spicy bite. There’s an impressive number of other new restaurants in Harvard Square, including The Sinclair (pictured), a mashup of chef Keenan Langlois creative comfort foods, and an adjoining music hall that’s Boston’s only outpost from independent New York company The Bowery Presents.

Dine Like a Local in Boston

Alden & Harlow is a hit among those too cool for school (don’t forget to check out their grilled carrots at dinner), but if you really want a good weekend brunch (and to “paahhk the cahh in Hahvahd Yahd” for just $3), check out PARK. It’s worth a walk afterward to the Harvard Museum of Natural History for a peek at the amazingly lifelike glass flower collection or to try and spot the narwhal in the Jumanji-like Great Mammal Hall. Cute boutiques, like Mint Julep and Black Ink, abound, and book-lovers will delight in the grand staircase at Harvard Coop (hint: they have a public bathroom).

Further afield in Cambridge’s Central Square, James Beard Award Winner Tony Maws cranks out just 20 bar burgers a night at Craigie on Main, and the mussels and frites at Central Kitchen are a great fill-you-up for just $14. Tech hub and MIT home Kendall Square is booming with several new restaurants, including Smoke Shop, one of Boston’s only BBQ options. Wash it all down at Mead Hall, with one of more than 100 beers on tap, or take a stroll through a real-life “secret garden” high atop the concrete jungle, accessible by elevator in a parking garage at 4 Cambridge Center.

Fenway/Kenmore Square

Most of the peanuts and Crackerjacks around the nation’s oldest ballpark don’t exactly hit it out of the park in a culinary sense, although there are plenty of great places to pre-game before a Sox game. Try Game On or Boston Beer Works — or if you missed out on tickets to the country’s oldest ballpark, stick around Bleacher Bar for a direct view of centerfield through the wall.

Fastball-loving foodies can enjoy a cloth-napkin experience even dressed in a ball cap and shorts at Eastern Standard, where sidewalk dining in the summertime is a grand slam with its butterscotch bread pudding and Jackson Cannon’s cocktails. Neighboring Island Creek Oyster Bar (pictured) is a perfect place to get a taste of bivalves from local suburb Duxbury and other fresh seafood.

Dine Like a Local in Boston

Seaport District/Waterfront

Boston’s newest and trendiest neighborhood has a distinct feel from the rest of Boston, especially with its contemporary rooftops and seaside sidewalk dining, making it a summer favorite for locals and visitors alike. It’s easy to pass an afternoon in the sun trying out the extensive tequila menu at Rosa Mexicano (sober up with guacamole smashed tableside) or with a tiki cocktail at the patio at Committee, where Sunday brunch features a DJ. For the best view from above, check out Outlook Kitchen and Bar at Envoy Hotel with cocktails made from local spirits, or admire the scenery both inside and out at the Institute for Contemporary Art, which welcomes chefs and DJs for its Summer Fridays entertainment series. It’s TGIF at Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, too, featuring free big-screen flicks projected onto a screen with al fresco dining weekly (Jaws makes for an ironic treat.) You can still enjoy the view even if it’s steamy or sprinkling from the third-floor, fully enclosed, glass-walled lounge at Legal Seafoods, or hop on over to Bastille Kitchen (pictured), where the new Sunday brunch offers another opportunity to enjoy the upscale-French-bistro-meets-ski-lodge digs.

Bastille Kitchen

There’s plenty else to do, with childish fun dumping tea into the harbor at the Boston Tea Party Museum, outdoor concerts at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, and lawn games and DJs at Lawn on D.

Downtown Crossing

What was once the city’s gritty transit hub has been revitalized and now buzzes with shoppers flocking to international budget retailers like Primark and H&M and Massachusetts giants TJ Maxx and Marshalls. But it’s all about flash and panache at Yvonne’s, without a doubt Boston’s hottest new restaurant. Despite the waiting list — and list of celebrities who make it a point to come here for shared plates and massive sharable drinks (i.e. the ginormo Moscow Mule, below) — pastry chef Liz O’Connell’s creationslike an After Dinner Twinkieare always playful and never take themselves too seriously. That’s the point of dessert after all, isn’t it? Speaking of playful, many of the city’s theaters are nearby, including the Cutler Majestic and Opera House, and there are free fine-arts to be had on Boston Common park, which features free Shakespeare each summer; this year catch Love’s Labours Lost.

Dine like a local in Boston

South End

With its historic brownstones and meandering brick paths, the South End is romantic by day and sexy at night — but morning may be when this neighborhood hits its stride. Several of the city’s best brunches are all within a mile of each other, including Masa’s 2-course for $9.95, Tremont 647’s Pajama Brunch (come in your most comfortable attire), and Cinquecento, which is $9.95 for coffee, fresh juice, a starter, and a main. Even better, Cinquecento and nearby Gaslight offer free parking for a post-nosh stroll. Mimosas not your thing? Wink + Nod nails the speakeasy concept, or opt for a glass of wine with charcuterie at Coppa or Italian small plates at newcomer SRV, which stands for Serene Republic of Venice.

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Sail Away: 7 Dock and Dine Restaurants in New England

Boaters in cooler climes live for it — the day they can finally put their shrink-wrapped boat in the water. Here’s to the good life — summer days of boating to restaurants where you can dock and dine after a day on the water. We’ve got seven dock and dine restaurants in New England that offer transient dockage (but call ahead to the dock master to be sure). Cheers to summer at sea.

SALT Kitchen & Bar, New Castle, New Hampshire
Located in the elegant but unpretentious Wentworth by the Sea hotel here, SALT is a sought-out seafood spot, thanks to its handsome dining room. Dock your vessel (at the independently owned and operated dock located on property), and try the freshest of fish like the Hook and Line Caught Haddock (toasted ciabatta breadcrumbs, capers, tomato basil confit, lemon parsley butter ,and fingerling potatoes). Make a reservation at SALT Kitchen & Bar.

Dock and Dine Restaurants in New England

Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, Boston, Massachusetts
You can pull in to one of the 38 slips at The Marina at Rowes Wharf and celebrate summer by ordering the showstopper Roasted Two and a Quarter Pound Lobster (served with sweet corn pudding and saffron lemon butter) at this dockside restaurant in the five-star Boston Harbor Hotel. Tip: Dine and show your receipt — you can stay at the Marina for up to four hours. Note: Be sure to call ahead for docking space. Make a reservation at Rowes Wharf Sea Grille.

Dock and dine restaurants in New England

22 Bowens Wine Bar and Grille, Newport, Rhode Island
Keep it local and dig into Narragansett Steamed Mussels — caramelized leek, sherry garlic butter, potato sticks, and smoked tomato aioli, to be sipped with a seasonal cocktail like Wading on the Wharf (grapefruit vodka, elderflower, jalapeno, citrus soda). Dock at Bowens Wharf. Make a reservation at 22 Bowens Wine Bar and Grille.

Dock and Dine Restaurants in New England

Temazcal, Boston, Massachusetts
Dock your boat in Mexico — kidding, but if you moor up at Liberty Wharf, this Mexican-inspired restaurant has direct dock and dine access — just walk up the gangway. Take a seat on the waterside patio and order one of the fresh fish specialties like the Swordfish Salguero (fresh grilled swordfish steak, lobster, spinach, mushroom, tomatoes, saffron cream sauce, and Mexican rice). And, of course, don’t miss the guac. Make a reservation at Temazcal.

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Restaurants and Bees: Where to Get Buzzed on Dishes + Drinks with Local Honey

Blog header Trace copyBe aware: Bees are getting a lotta love these days — in restaurants! Here are some sweet spots where you can get buzzed on cocktails as well as enjoy entrees and dishes—made with honey from on-site hives. The apiary trend is nationwide, but you’ll note that in Boston, restaurants and bees are, well, a thing.

City Table, Boston, Massachusetts
The bees that buzz on the rooftop at the Lenox Hotel forage at a distance of up to three miles for flower and plant nectar, returning for turndown service each night. They get the royal treatment: Beekeeper Dean Stiglitz travels to the hotel every Monday morning in season to tend to the bees. The hotel’s City Table restaurant features several honey-inspired dishes including Avocado Toast (fried egg, sticky honey, diced avocado, and red chili flake glaze). And the hotel’s City Bar serves cocktails that use the honey — sip The Queen Bee (gin, green tea, honey and prosecco) or Colonel’s Choice (Calvados, Maker’s Mark, Combier, honey and garnished with an orange slice). Make a reservation at City Table.

Restaurants and Bees

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, Boston, Massachusetts
OAK is housed in the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which also houses three beehives located next to the rooftop herb garden. Best Bees Co. tends to the bees, which produce 30 to 40 gallons of the sweet nectar annually. The honey is used to make the Rooftop Honey Butter, which is served with the Hearth Baked Bread and the Buttermilk Panna Cotta, among other dishes. And, wait, there’s more buzz. Wild mason bees are some of the most effective pollinators on Earth, and the hotel just debuted its new Bee Hotel, located in the hotel’s herb garden next to the honey bee apiary. OAK will offer a selection of pollinator menu items like the Avocado & Peekytoe Crab Toast (the avocado is pollinated by the bees). Make a reservation at OAK Long Bar + Kitchen.

Restaurants and Bees

Fearrington House, Pittsboro, North Carolina
This restaurant located just outside of Chapel Hill has a beehive on property that’s overseen by one of the restaurant’s sous chefs and a local beekeeper who assists in the harvesting of the honey. Dishes in which the honey plays a cameo role include the Sweet & Sour Tuna with Fresh Chickpeas, Yuzu, Cucumber, Salsify, Avocado, and Fearrington’s honey. Make a reservation at Fearrington House.

Restaurants and Bees

Japengo at Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii
“The global decline in honeybee population has also seriously affected the Hawaiian honeybee population, resulting in legislation at the state level to encourage honey production and sales throughout the islands,” says a hotel spokesperson. And so, the hotel created its own honeybee colony and a honey program called Hula Meli, meaning “Dancing Honey.” The honey that’s harvested from the apiary is used in a signature cocktail served in all of the hotel’s dining outlets, including Japengo; the Bee’s Knees cocktail combines Hendricks Gin, triple sec, and fresh lemon juice with the honey. The cocktail is shaken with crushed ice and served in a tumbler with a garnish of fresh honeycomb from the hotel’s hive. Make a reservation at Japengo.

Restaurants and Bees

Randolfi’s, University City, Missouri
James Beard semifinalist and chef-owner Mike Randolph features classic Italian here — with a twist. A unique ingredient you might not find on your nonna’s menu is chef de cuisine Tommy Andrew’s honey. The chef moonlights as a beekeeper — he has two hives in his backyard, as well as others at a separate location. The menu features the honey in several dishes including the oven-glazed vegetables, the cheese plate, and honey ice cream, as well as some of the cocktails. Make a reservation at Randolfi’s.

Restaurants and Bees

Trace, San Francisco, California
Trace is the W hotel’s signature restaurant, and the hotel has been harvesting wild honey bees for four years and is now home to 40,000 bees and 10 hives located on the hotel’s rooftop on the 32nd floor; 40 pounds of honey per hive are produced per year. The natural honeycomb is used in the restaurant’s menus, including the Roasted Beet Salad with burrata, pistachio, baby greens, and honey, and its Ginger Pork Skewers with rooftop honey and sesame seed. Make a reservation at Trace.

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Boston Chefs Pick Their Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 Faves

Want to check out a new restaurant or squeeze in some al fresco dining in the waning days of summer? Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 — August 14-19 and 21-26 — is the perfect opportunity to keep you and your wallet full with two-course lunches for $20 and three-course dinners starting at just $28. Here are some menu highlights courtesy of some of the city’s top chefs.

Bastille Kitchen
Though the Innovation District may be called such because it’s the epicenter for many of the city’s tech companies, the neighborhood also is home to some of Boston’s most creative restaurants — including Bastille Kitchen. Chef Adam Kube gives diners something to cool off with this August with seasonally appropriate avocado gazpacho and also serves up some special Dine Out fare, such as oat and quinoa-crusted chicken breast with a refreshing asparagus and grapefruit salad. “I wanted to offer guests dishes that are delicious and satisfying, but also bring a sense of lightness and freshness and aren’t too heavy,” Kube said. “I also wanted to offer guests the opportunity to try a few signature dishes that have been top sellers since day one, including our tea-smoked mussels marinière — our homage to the Boston Tea Party — and prime skirt steak frites, our interpretation of this classic French dish, which flies out of the kitchen every night.” Top it off with such Dine Out desserts as black forest torte with port wine and cherry reduction and vanilla crème brûlée with a pistachio butter cookie. Make a Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 reservation at Bastille Kitchen.

Dine Out Boston Summer 2016

STRIP by Strega
With a new multimillion-dollar facelift that’s transformed an aging grande dame into one of the city’s coolest hotels, it’s only appropriate that the Park Plaza’s restaurants would serve as the historic property’s sexy accessories. STRIP by Strega offers up a modern feel with dark colors and sensual artistic touches, along with full steakhouse fare and a new jamming DJ brunch on Sundays. Executive chef Farouk Bazoune offers up both lunch and dinner options, focusing on sourcing seasonally and locally. “Due to the availability of so many fresh, local ingredients, summer is the perfect time to dine at local restaurants. Dine Out Boston is just one more reason to give a new restaurant a try,” he says. Look for the perfect combination of savory and sweet on the dinner menu with a melon and prosciutto appetizer. “It hits all the taste buds with light, crisp flavors coming from the lime, mint and melon that are balanced by creamy notes from the brie cheese, and sweet and savory notes from the aged balsamic and prosciutto. And personally, I love our chilled corn and crab soup, which is perfect for a hot summer day.” Meat lovers can enjoy a juicy strip twin filet with a light green bean salad and salsa verde on the dinner menu. Make a Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 reservation at STRIP by Strega.

Dine Out Boston Summer 2016

Serafina may be known for its thin-crust pizzas, but executive chef Brendan Burke sees Dine Out as an opportunity to welcome fans of myriad main dishes into the fold. “We actually offer an extensive menu packed with plenty of salads, meat, seafood and homemade pastas, so I wanted to use Dine Out to highlight a few signature dishes and seasonal items are perfect for enjoying during warm weather,” he explained. “Guests can expect plenty of summery ingredients like watermelon, Maine lobster, and grilled organic chicken and grilled salmon. Seasonality is something we take seriously and we’re always finding new, fresh ingredients to incorporate into the menu.” Watermelon makes its way into tomato gazpacho with red pepper flakes on the Dine Out menu and there’s a “lobster salad salad” with burrata cheese, avocado, fried green tomato, and pesto aioli. For some of that homemade pasta, check out cavatelli with duck confit, too. Make a Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 reservation at Serafina.

Dine Out Boston Summer 2016

Besito-Chestnut Hill
Just right for a hot day given its origins closer to the Equator, Mexican food is prime for summer diners — especially when they’re given choices says Besito Chestnut Hill chef Sebastian Navarrete. For just $28 (at both that location and the other in Boston’s suburban Burlington neighborhood), the Dine Out offerings includes three courses from the full menu. “The culinary team stays true to [the restaurant’s] Mexican roots and incorporates only the finest, authentic chili peppers and spices to complement its carefully sourced selection of ocean-fresh seafood, marinated prime meats, and garden-fresh veggies.” Think chicken tacos with fresh-made salsas, roasted salmon Manchamanteles with mole sauce, a crispy banana slide, and pineapple salsa, or indulgent queso fundido. All lunch and dinner Dine Out specials come with tres leches cake. Enjoy a slice while relaxing on Chestnut Hill’s redesigned outdoor patio with wrought-iron lanterns and a brick fireplace. Make a reservation at Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 reservation at Besito-Chestnut Hill.

Dine Out Boston Summer 2016

Legal Oysteria
New to the Dine Out scene, chef Ryan Landry wanted to offer some of the restaurant’s signature dishes for guests in the historic Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. “Charlestown is beautiful in the summer … There’s no better time to visit,” he said of the space overlooking City Square Park on the Freedom Trail. Among the hits on the lunch and dinner menus are a white-clam pizza, Ligurian fish stew with monkfish, shrimp, squid and clams, and brick-oven braised cod. Seafood always pairs well with lemon, so expect a ricotta pie with candied lemon for dessert at dinner, and on the lunch menu, ricotta also makes an appearance in fritter form, served with spicy honey. Make a Dine Out Boston Summer 2016 reservation at Legal Oysteria.

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