Boston hosted the last season of Top Chef (of which I am an avid fan) so I knew that it was a city full of great cuisine. As the foodie that I am, I was so excited to explore the food scene while I was in Boston for the Women in Travel Summit. I even made a custom Google Map women to pin all the places I wanted to try.
Whenever I am headed to a new city, I do a lot of research about the best restaurants. One of my pet peeves when traveling is wandering around in search of a good restaurant, only to get so hungry that I settle for a mediocre or chain establishment. If I’m going to pay for it with money (and calories!), the food better be worth it. Eating less than great food is just not worth it to me.
I typically start the search with a general Google search, search terms like “Best Restaurants in _____” or “Top 10 places to eat in _____”. Sometimes those get good results, but typically they are more touristic, less foodie kind of places. Like for Boston, Cheers Bar came up. Very famous, not great quality.
So the second caveat to my search is to look for local food bloggers’ recommendations. These are the people, like me, who love to eat at new restaurants and try new chefs. They have a pulse on their local food scene, and can speak about the dishes and places that are truly the best.
Utilizing these two methods, I came up with a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try in Boston. I managed to visit almost all of them in my short 3 day stay in Bean Town, and here are my reflections on my meals:
Mike’s Pastry — 300 Hanover St
One of the older and more famous bakeries in the city, Mike’s Pastry is a perfect stop as you walk the Freedom Trail. Known for cannolis & biscotti, this place looks like it’s been around for ages. It has a crowded & fast paced vibe, but the gilded ceiling is adorable! While I enjoy a cannoli, their other baked treats also look delicious. So I opted for a peanut butter cupcake, which was so rich and moist! The frosting was light and fluffy, but the peanut butter flavor came through strongly.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace — 4 South Market Street
A fun place to explore, there is no shortage of food options here! If you walk down the central plaza of the marketplace, you’ll see more stalls and restaurants than you’ll know what to do with! It’s definitely hot and crowded inside, so take a stroll through first before you make any decisions. There is local Bostonian food, Italian shops, ice cream stalls and chain shops. Boston Chowda seemed to be the most popular spot in here, with a line of over 25 people waiting for a scoop of the clammy goodness they dish up. A winner of many chowder awards, this spot is full of comfort food, including their pot pies!
Legal Seafoods — Several locations, but I went to the one at 255 State St
Famous Boston local chain, Legal Seafoods has been around for years and is always on the “Must Try” lists. My aunt even recommended it to me! I went here for dinner on the first night and sat at the bar. The staff was not super friendly, but the ambiance was nice. I ordered two Boston staples, a bowl of clam chowder and crab cakes. The Clam chowder was just alright. There was just a little too much heavy cream for my taste, and it was kind of bland. But the chunks of clam and potato were nice. The crab cakes were also sort of bland and under-seasoned, but I appreciated the large clam pieces. I wish they had been more crispy.
Thinking Cup — Several locations, but I went to the one at 236 Hanover Street
Carrying one of the top coffee blends in the country “Stumptown Coffee“, Thinking Cup has a little bit of pretentious vibe when you walk in. But the coffee is legit, so I guess it’s deserved. I ordered a simple plain latte, and it was perfect. The coffee was bitter without any burn, and the milk was perfectly frothed. The decor inside was dark and luxurious, a great spot for a casual work meeting or doing homework in style.
Summer Shack — 50 Dalton Street
Ranked by a blogger as her favorite lobster roll, I was pretty excited to go to this place after a long afternoon of walking on Newbury Street. I ordered the lobster roll per instruction, and was not really blown away by it. They definitely gave me a lot of lobster, and it was super fresh. Plus, the mayonnaise to meat ratio was spot on. But I thought it was under-seasoned, the bread was stale and it lacked any imagination. Maybe it was just too traditional for me, but at $25, I expected a lot more. Plus, the decor was so kitschy (fish tanks, nets on the wall and lobster decor, to name a few….) that it felt like a cheap tourist trap. Overall, this was my least favorite food experience during my Boston stay.
The Salty Pig — 130 Dartmouth Street
On a high note, my lunch at the Salty Pig was excellent. Nearly every dish on their menu features pork in some capacity and they house cure a bunch of their deli meats. I wish I had been hungrier, because their charcuterie boards looked AMAZING. Supposedly the pizzas are really good, but I opted for the Salty Pig sandwich. I was there on Sunday, so their salty pig parts of the day were salami, mortadello and prosciutto. The flavor they got out of these cured meats was simple but had the salty, briny flavor that it should. Plus it just tasted fresh! Topped with scamorza Cheese and a house-made Giardiniera on a crispy locally made baguette, this sandwich was a perfect lunch.
Back Bay Harry’s — 142 Berkeley St
In hunt for a place with TV’s to watch the Badger Game, I stumbled into Back Bay Harry’s, which was just down the street from my hostel. I sat comfortably at the bar to cheer on the Badgers, not planning on ordering any food. But then I took a look at their menu, and couldn’t resist. Their menu was full of appealing dishes, including steak tartare, goat cheese ravioli and duck confit. I had stumbled onto a gem! I wanted to make up for the mediocre clam chowder from the night before, and was not disappointed by their chowder at all. It was light but super flavorful, and the buttery notes from the creamy broth was delicious. I also loved that they included house made croutons and bacon to bring out some of the flavors of the clam. On the side, I also ordered some fried pickles ( a girl’s gotta have a salty snack when watching sports!) which were perfectly. Lightly battered, this house made pickles were spicy, but nicely cooled by a delicious dill ranch aioli to dip in.
Appleton Cafe — 123 Appleton Street
An adorable neighborhood joint, I tried twice to go to this little coffee shop. It was closed the first time, and I was so anxious to try it, that I came back the next day. Nestled on a quiet cobblestone corner, I would totally hang out here if I lived in the neighborhood. I ordered a simple latte, (which was good, but could have been better), and a recommended pastry, the Apple Pie Cheesecake Bar. A local food blogger raved about it, and it sounded too good to pass up. It was well worth the likely thousand calories I took in, because the crumble was so crispy and the cheesecake was perfectly moist and buttery. It went really well with the coffee, and I’d be happy to start every Sunday off with one of those.
Mei Mei Food Truck — Dewey Square Park
This was the first thing I ate upon arrival in Boston, and it was completely by happenstance. I was starving from my early morning flight and stumbled off the silver line at South Station. I was prepared to walk to my hostel, only to be met by a group of food trucks, one of which was Mei Mei! I was so pumped, because its only here on certain days of the week. To my luck, Friday was one of them. Intrigued by its uniqueness, I ordered the Double Awesome. A messy delight, it is a green onion pancake inside a sandwich, topped pesto, cheddar cheese, and two fried eggs. You need to sit down and eat this, but it is so so worth it! It was a savory and rich sandwich that was full of flavor, but still maintains that unique Asian fusion flavor profile.
Picco — 513 Tremont Street
A cozy neighborhood pizza joint, this place was bumping even at 10:30pm when I went there. The bubbly crusted pizzas looked amazing, and the beer list was impressive. But I was there for the ice cream. When you walk in, you don’t assume it to be a craft ice cream spot, until you see the chalk board list of funky flavors like Prune Armagnac and Cinnamon. I ordered the coconut chip, while my friend ordered the banana toffee. After one bite of the Banana Toffee, I knew I had made the wrong choice, although my coconut chip was still awesome (the chocolate was high quality). But the Banana Toffee, wow, was it good. The ice cream was a banana base but came out super creamy. The house made toffee was perfection, just crunchy enough without being brittle. And there were small bites of shaved chocolate that just completed the whole thing.
B&G Oysters — 550 Tremont Street
As always, I saved the best for last. My super foody friend recommended this place to me (along with about every Boston food list out there) and I couldn’t wait to try it. I even made a reservation there I was so excited to go! The cozy atmosphere feels vintage with a U shaped chrome counter in the middle; but, also super modern with a beautifully patterned tile blue wall along the outside. I went with my coworker with the intention of only ordering oysters. But then I saw the rest of the menu and knew it was going to be an expensive night. We did a selection of oysters chosen by the chef, all of which were briny perfection. You could taste how fresh they were, and a simple raw preparation allowed you to taste every aspect of the oyster. My favorite was the umami oyster from Rhode Island because the flavor was little deeper and richer than the other varieties. For my entree, I ordered the swordfish dish, which rested over a house-made Parisian herb gnocchi, creamy sweet potato puree topped with crispy hen of the woods mushrooms. To say this dish was perfect would be an understatement. Every component of the dish was impeccable on its own, but when you taste the complete bite, you are amazed by the flavors and balance you experience. The swordfish was perfectly cooked with a slightly crispy outside, and the gnocchi was super soft and light. The mushrooms were braised in some type of vinegar to enhance the acid level and the sweet potato puree brought a sweetness and richness to the dish. After such a spectacular entree, I knew that desert was a must. You can’t just leave your taste buds hanging! So we shared the pot of chocolate mousse, which came served in a minature mason jar that was just too cute. The mouse was light with a deep chocolate flavor, enhanced by the sea salt & toffee topping. It was a great way to finish a spectacular meal.