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.

Cambridge

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 Kate Holowchik’s creations are 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’s 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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Small State, Big Eats: Where to Dine in Rhode Island Now

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Prateek Shewakramani may have gone to Providence to go bar-hopping with friends, but he found some of the best food he’s ever had — and that’s saying a lot from someone who lives in New York City.

“The wings at the Rosendale are some of the best I’ve ever eaten, even better than the hundreds here in NYC — tons of flavors and fried just right,” he said. “And the chicken and waffles I had the next day was an amazing brunch. Everything is so close-by you can walk and get a few different experiences and vibes — you still have the old family-run places, but there are all of these new places popping up with creative menus and twists on traditional cuisines.”

Among his favorites is Local 121, half restaurant, half “saloon-like” bar that after years of being used as a dining hall by Johnson & Wales University—whose culinary school has become a Providence talent incubator—was renovated to reveal beautiful original woodwork. Today, cafeteria trays are nowhere to be found, but the hideaway spotlights local beers, creative cocktails, and such inventive apps as pizza with a fried-dough crust.

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Shewakramani is just one foodie singing this small city’s praises, which is also a favorite day trip for area chefs. Michael Schlow makes it a point to do at least one summer drive from his home in Boston for a lobster roll at Hemenway’s, and Rachel Klein, an alum of several Boston hot spots including Liquid Art House and Providence’s X.O. Café, thinks of her former home fondly.

“It’s an awesome city — it’s so small but there’s so much going on, especially on the food scene. You’ve got Gracie’s, Nick’s on Broadway, and now Champe Speidel’s opened Persimmon.”

Robert Sisca, another J&W grad who lives in nearby Cranston, R.I., commuted over an hour to Boston’s Bistro du Midi before deciding this winter to keep it as locally sourced as his produce. Now with a shortened commute as the corporate executive chef at the ProvidenceG, a historic building that includes swank Garde de la Mer, the all-seasons upscale bar Rooftop at the G and Providence GPub, he’s able to dedicate his time to inventive menus, training kitchen leaders, and working with local farmers and vendors. The results are apparent tableside: delicate Hamachi crudo with Asian pears, green garlic, and almonds (pictured), smoked white asparagus soup with a poached egg, prosciutto, and frisse, and layers of crispy-sweet French toast topped with duck confit, lingonberry, and a cured egg yolk all grace the menu.

Where to Dine in Rhode Island

But the creativity doesn’t stop on the plate, says ProvidenceG director of operations Jeff Mancinho. “Art is such a foundation here, just like the culinary scene. We’re trying to integrate it all and capture everything that is Rhode Island,” he said. Mancinho’s latest endeavor includes working with local artists on digital pieces for his renovated space that will transform over time, and reflect the city’s attitude of changing with the times.

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Providence hosts outdoor arts festivals and music events almost each weekend from spring through fall and as home to the Rhode Island School of Design there’s a larger focus on integrating compelling media into the everyday (including painting murals on large brick building “canvases” downtown) says Christina Robbio of the city’s visitors bureau. The most famous art installation, the eighty bonfires installed on rivers running through the city center as part of the WaterFire sculpture by Barnaby Evans, are incorporated into several evenings of music and entertainment annually.

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Huli Pau! Four Top Oahu Mai Tais

Rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice, orange curaçao, rich simple syrup and orgeat. The classic Mai Tai. As the story goes, Victor J. Bergeron laid claim to inventing the Mai Tai at his California restaurant Trader Vic’s in 1944. But imbibing on this iconic cocktail is, to many people, an island paradise in a glass. After all, Bergeron says he created the drink one afternoon for friends who visiting from Tahiti; the Tahitian word maitai literally means very good. Today, Hawaii keeps the Mai Tai loving tradition strong. It’s the official cocktail of luau and is found on virtually every island cocktail menu. And while it’s hard to have a bad one, here are four top Oahu Mai Tais that are not to be missed.

French Topless Mai Tai, Azure-The Royal Hawaiian
Azure is not only known locally for its quality seafood menu but its top-notch Mai Tai. That’s probably because it’s on the same property as the Mai Tai Bar, located on the manicured ground of the Royal Hawaiian, Hawaii’s second oldest hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace of the Pacific. Both places have solid cocktail menus and renowned Mai Tais. For an upscale cocktail experience, head to Azure for the French Topless Mai Tai. This handcrafted libation has won a best in show spirits award in San Francisco. It’s a twist on the traditional Mai Tai, made instead with Korbel brandy, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, pineapple juice, and effervescence, but just as rewarding. Make a reservation at Azure-The Royal Hawaiian.

Top Oahu Mai Tais

Ilikea Mai Tai, Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge
There’s good reason Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge won the title of World’s Best Mai Tai in 2011. The classic cocktail is polished with Amaretto, Canton Ginger Liquor, kaffir lime, and caramelized pineapple and topped with pineapple-Bacardi sorbet. If you only get one drink at the Wai’olu, make it this one. In fact, the rooftop bar has sold more than 30,000 Ilikea Mai Tais since winning the prestigious award five years ago. In addition to its superb cocktails, the open-air bar overlooking Waikiki offers a picture-perfect view of the Friday night fireworks. Make a reservation at Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge.

Top Oahu Mai Tais

Mac Nut Mai Tai, 53 by the Sea
Rum aside, a key ingredient of the Mai Tai is the orange curaçao. 53 by the Sea takes the tradition up a kick with its housemade macadamia nut-infused orange curaçao. The result is sweet and smooth. Even better, each Mac Nut Mai Tai comes with a small bowl of housemade candied mac nuts. 53 by the Sea, is a stately mansion-esque looking restaurant located at 53 Ahui Street in Honolulu. As the name suggests, it’s located ocean side, ensuring you’ll have a great view with each sip of your Mai Tai. And from 4 to 6:30PM, the restaurant has a lively happy hour at its cozy bar. Make a reservation at 53 by the Sea.

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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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