Boston is a town on the east coast of America that can easily be forgotton as it competes with towns such as New York City and Washington DC. But for anyone who has either lived or visited the east coast then you will know Boston is the perfect place to go for a weekend or even a mid-week escape (especially for us when we were living in New York). Our great friend Sara lives in Boston so we spent countless weekends exploring everything it has to offer and wanted to share her knowledge about all the places only a local would know about.
What are your top three brunch spots?
I like Metropolis Café. It’s a little spot, tucked away in the South End, that only the locals know about. I like their pancakes (available with blueberries from Maine, just a few hours north, bananas, or chocolate chips). Craving savory? Try the Heuvos Rancheros. They offer booths, old-fashioned counter seating on swivel stools, or little tables in the front windows where you can people watch as you eat.
Ohh la la. I have heard that the brunch at Mistral, one of Boston’s best French restaurants is outstanding from a friend who says brunch is her favorite meal. I haven’t made it there yet but it’s on my to-do list. Note: you’ll want to dress to impress to go here. The evening scene is very stylish and the hostesses could double as models as they strut down the main walkway in stillettos and tiny dresses.
For something a little different, try Mela. It’s an Indian restaurant offering a buffet brunch. Their food is delicious and it’s a great way to try a lot of different things that you otherwise wouldn’t if you had to choose just one entrée. Bonus: they also offer vegetarian and vegan options as standard fare so it’s a great option for veg friends.
What are your favourite three places to eat?
For Italian, I like Giacomo’s in the South End. Traditional (they don’t even have a website—gasp!) and utterly delicious, Giacomo’s is a go-to for great Italian food. Their Giacomo’s sauce with house-specials is one of the best sauces I’ve ever had, and I like the small and busy vibe. You won’t catch tourists here: It’s an out-of-the-way neighborhood gem always filled with locals and you’ll feel like you’re a local too. They only take cash, but there is an ATM half a block away.
Strip T’s—it’s a little out of the city and you’ll need a car to get there, but this place is SO worth it. The head chef took over his dad’s traditional diner for dinner and is now serving super inventive, awesome fusion food. The flavors and deep, delicious, and very well thought out—a combination of the expected mixed with a modern twist and often some Asian flair. Everything they make is outstanding.
Technically not in Boston, but in nearby Somerville, this place is worth leaving the city for. Sarma’s is Turkish food with a delightfully inventive, modern flair is absolutely worth drooling over. You’ll want to order everything on the menu—and that’s before you notice the waitors going around with trays—dim sum style—offering unexpected options to add to your table! So fun! And the food is absolutely delicious.
What are the best three spots to get sweet treats?
My favorite bakery is The Wholy Grain. A tiny neighborhood spot tucked away in the South End that only the locals know about, they have amazing cupcakes, cookies, and treats. Their chocolate chip cookie is the best in Boston and their chocolate chip cookie pie (individually sized) are amazing. My top pick!
Flour is a staple and worth braving the almost-always-there lines. I love their macaroons and molasses cookies. Their Chunky Lola cookies are revered by many Bostonians and actual arguments have broken out over whether their vegan chocolate cupcake or chocolate cupcake is better. Their coffee is really good—and pretty much the best deal in the city if you bring your own cup. They have several locations in Back Bay, Cambridge, and the South End, but the original South End location is by far the best.
LA Burdick in Bay Bay and Harvard Square has delicious handmade chocolate in an array of thoughtful pairings, as well as other treats like cakes. They also offer dessert beverages and their iced hot chocolate is to die for.
Where are your favourite bars in Boston and what makes them so good?
Towne: I like their vibe—sleek and modern, and the location is easy to access by subway, bus, taxi, or car.
Back Bay Social Club: Dark wood and a black and white tile floor give this place a very retro-chic vibe. The crowd will be well-dressed and upscale but no pressure or judgment.
More of a restaurant than a bar, The Gallows still offers a lively bar scene. Deep in the South End, this is not a place you’ll run into tourists. It’s a neighborhood spot with a great menu and a happening, fun bar scene. All the wood used to build this place was reclaimed from barns in New England. In their own words, “The Gallows is LOUD & WELCOMING hangout in the neck of Boston’s South End. We are an extension of your own kitchen, only better…”
Where are the best shopping areas?
Newbury Street in Back Bay is THE place to shop. It pretty much has every famous brand and store, as well as some local-only. It’s the place to see and be seen. Everyone is well dressed and out for the day. Walk Newbury from Arlington, right across from where the Public Gardens is, alphabetically down to Hereford. Stop for coffee, tea, or refreshments at Trident Bookstore to keep you fueled. This super cool independent bookstore is not to be missed—and with late-night hours and a café—they serve delicious waffles until midnight!—you will surely want to pull up a seat at the counter, crack open a book which one of the friendly, awesome staff members will help you find, and stay for nice, long while.
The South End has tons of fun little shops. Start on Shawmut near Berkeley Street, and browse The Polka Dog, a gourmet dog store for your favorite furry friend, Flock, where you’ll find offbeat, funky, cool styles for yourself, and fun home goods stores on Washington Street. Toting a boyfriend/husband/father who isn’t so keen on shopping? No problem. Drop him off at Tweed, an old fashioned barber shop where he can get a straight-edge razor shave, haircut, and massage while you shop. Then pick him up, refreshed and looking spiffy, for dinner!
If we want to be a tourist for the day what would you recommend?
Start the day with a tour, either Duck Tours which drive you around the city, point out all the historical sites of interest and splash you into the Charles River (don’t worry—you won’t get wet, just your amphibious vehicle will), or do the hop-on, hop-off trolley, or rent bikes from one of the oodles of bike stops, then return it to another super convenient location, to see all the sites. Then go shopping (either on Newbury St or poking around the South End, whichever suits you better), before popping in for a manicure/pedicure in the South End (I like “My Mani Pedi” on Tremont Street between Clarendon and Berkeley), any of the places on Newbury, or moseying to Chinatown for a foot massage. (You’ll need something pampering after all that walking!) Then head to dinner and drinks at one of the places G+A recommends.
Next day, you’ll definitely want to get to some water. Either head north to Crane’s Beach in Ipswich (you’ll need to rent a car), hop on the 90-minute ferry to Provincetown (you’ll get this from downtown Boston), or if you’re not a beach-lover, go on a whale watch. You’re guaranteed to see whales and it’s so worth it. Plus the boat ride out—seeing the ocean and breathing the briny salt air—isn’t a bad way to spend a summer day!
What are your top three ‘get out of town’ adventures from Boston?
– Crane’s Beach in Ipswich—and don’t forget to stop for ice cream, cider donuts, and pick your own fruit and veg treats at Russell Farms on the way home!
– Whale watch! (see above)
– Ferry to Provincetown OR
– Newport Mansions! SO WORTH IT!!
What is the best experience/’do before you die’ experience you can have in Boston?
I’m a beach lover, so definitely the beach. The whale watch is amazing—just because seeing those huge creatures are so humbling and beautiful; Newport Mansions; And you should definitely go to Ye Olde Union Oyster House—Boston’s oldest restaurant, where you can sit at the copper bar that Daniel Webster (of the dictionary family) sat at and eat freshly shucked raw oysters they shuck right in front of you. Small rooms, low ceilings and dark wood mean things probably haven’t changed a lot since the 1800s when it was built.