A Special Place to Savor in Boston's South End
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It's one of those places that you should really save for special occasions: engagements, birthdays, anniversaries, and other momentous occasions throughout life. Set off a busy main road in Boston's South End, Mistral does not at all reflect the bustling neighborhood in which it is set. Rather, stepping into the light-filled dining room, quiet business diners reserve tables for early dinner meetings, where they'll likely be seated next to couples in love, and out-of-town-fathers visiting their children, treating them to an always-delightful meal. The meal, service, and ambiance is always spot on. Has Danny Meyer moved to Boston?
The food never disappoints. Their seasonal pizzas are an elegant version of the Italian specialty. A favorite? The pizza with beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and truffle oil. You might not usually want to pile on more carbohydrates atop carbohydrates, but here's the exception. The creamy potato marries the buttery, tender tenderloin to the crisp-tender thin crust. A drizzle of truffle oil elevates it to a whole new level. One could feast their way through the appetizers, with the grilled portobello "carpaccio"; foie gras and short rib tortellini; and tender lamb's lettuce salad with creamy goat cheese, crisp pecan melbas, and a sweet apple cider dressing. And for entrées? The fish is always tender, fresh, and delightful, and rotates with the seasons. For carnivores, an abundance of heartier dishes abound, from beef tenderloin, paired with a Bordelaise sauce and horseradish whipped potatoes, to a succulent roasted rack of Colorado lamb, served with a rich dauphinoise gratin of potatoes and crisp-tender vegetable garnish.
The restaurant's name is inspired by the fierce winds prevalent in the south of France. Yet there is no cold, harsh, roar (be it the service, or décor) to be found in the dining room. There is a slight French-Mediterranean influence found in reading the menu, and certainly the region's inspiration is apparent through the décor. But Mistral is unlike any other French-inspired establishment, a unique and truly special place that rivals some of the best restaurants in New York City. Try it for yourself and savor a truly special experience.
I've Always Been in Love with Boston's Chinatown and You Should Be, Too
A Chinatown tour guide shares the secrets of her enduring love affair with the neighborhood and community that's become her home.
My relationship with Chinatown started as many affairs do: intrigue with a hint of danger. Back in those dirty old Boston days, Chinatown’s reputation was pretty dodgy. The "Combat Zone" moniker hung around like the scent of stale beer and smoke the morning after. Walking home through the city at night, I was warned to avoid this neighborhood. That advice always seemed counterintuitive to me, since the rest of the city was dark, while Chinatown was alive with happy people and fully lit with its unique mix of neon and fluorescent light, equal parts charming and hideous.
We have matured, both of us, since those early days and I𠆝 like to think we’re both much improved. Like many a marriage, the zesty early days have matured into a deep, abiding love. A therapist once shared this wisdom with a friend of mine, “It takes a long time to get to know someone.” Indeed, I know her more and appreciate the secrets she still holds. (Chinatown, I mean, not the therapist.) Just a few weeks ago I came upon a basement mahjong parlor I&aposd never seen before.
Getting to know her
You can still see the name “South Cove” in many of our community organizations. It hints at our origins, as the South Cove of Boston Harbor was landfilled to accommodate a growing city. Beach Street, one of our main thoroughfares, welcomes visitors with a beautiful Paifang—our Chinese gate𠅊nd reminds us of our founding in 1806 when it was the beachfront of Boston’s South Cove.
From our Cantonese laborer origins, to a more diverse community today, Chinatown retains deep roots, along with some remnants of ancient tribalism. You might see Mandarin speakers give the slightest shrug or sniff at Cantonese speakers Taiwanese flags battle for prominence with Chinese flags on the run-up to the October 10 holiday marking Taiwan’s founding as the Republic of China.
Learn to eat spicy food and you&rsquoll never know the cold.
I&aposm well aware that my outsider status and my half-Japanese heritage gives many older Chinese people reason to distrust me, and I’ve tried to earn my way in—respectfully. Early forays into Cantonese restaurants were a great education, but I longed for a little spicy heat. Ultimately, when I asked for chili oil, I learned the saying: “Learn to eat spicy food and you’ll never know the cold.” A poetic way of saying it was OK—maybe I𠆝 waited just long enough to show appreciation for Cantonese restraint. Maybe.
When I began to lead food and culture tours through my adopted neighborhood, I became aware of elder Chinese men lingering around the perimeter of my group. They watch, listen, as I share the philosophy and history of the gate. They observe my enthusiasm and size-up my authenticity. The first nod of approval from one of these Gong Gongs—grandpas—was something I’ll never forget.
Struggle builds character
This community has weathered many challenges. I often reflect on the outright hostility and assaults our early immigrants faced as racist rhetoric was used to demonize them as predators, criminals, deviants. The union organizers’ endgame was leveraging the fear of "other" to build their membership. The Chinese Exclusion Act is largely unknown in the general population. I invite my guests to imagine leaving your family—in a culture where family is everything—landing in a new country alone, not speaking the native language, with people openly aggressive toward you. How would you fare?
After WWII brought the end of the Exclusion Act era, arriving women enjoyed freedoms here that were uncommon back home. Ruby Foo became a successful restaurateur. Mary Soo Hoo, was a fierce advocate (affordable housing, clearing out the adult theaters) and co-founder of the Sampan, which is the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. Many business owners today are one generation away from this generation of founders.
As the population doubled, the residential housing was cut in half to improve highway access. Growing hospitals soon scooped up more property and today, the neighborhood battles the headaches brought on by Airbnb and luxury development. And yet, Chinatown has thrived.
While a couple of empty lots languished, new restaurants arrived. Overall, the neighborhood grew in some ways, shrunk in others. Venerable old restaurants continue, alongside second-generation restaurateurs. The once Cantonese-centric scene has become a diverse and vital destination. Northern / Mandarin, Xi𠆚n, Hunan, Sichuan, Taiwan, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, fancy modern bakeries and traditional ones persist, and the dim sum is amazing. Two large banquet halls were, until recently, still bustling with steam carts in the mornings seven days a week. One is where I was married.
Any enduring relationship must be strong enough to hold difference.
A sign of growing and changing population, recent times have seen public expressions of protest for democracy in Hong Kong as well as some against China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Any enduring relationship must be strong enough to hold difference.
While we fight a massive development proposal that would divide the Leather District and wall off Chinatown from her neighbors, adding zero housing, affordable or not, we consider the long shadows cast by history. The next chapter in this grand dame’s story is being written in the notices taped on quiet storefronts. We cannot know yet whether our Chinatown community will have resilience enough to survive this current challenge. I will be here to help give it every chance and one small outsider’s voice.
Here are some places I love and long to return to:
For dim sum
Hei La Moon
We had our Chinese wedding here, and HK relatives raved. It&aposs a classic Cantonese dim sum / banquet house with all the classics like har gow and yuchi gow, plus some Sichuan additions like cold poached chicken in chili sauce. The OG cart includes sticky, sweet, savory, and spicy chicken feet.
It&aposs a venerable multi-generational spot and the only place where Hai Kim (giant stuffed crab claw) is available on the regular.
I take my tours to Great BBQ for fantastic char siu and great duck, and I crave the soy sauce chicken legs, terrific cuttlefish and duck at Best BBQ.
15 Hudson St. / 86 Beach St.
For inexpensive HK diner-style
Hong Kong Eatery
Think quick and comforting wonton mein with a side of great barbecue.
For home cooks
This is my go-to for dried Hokkaido scallops essential in homemade XO sauce (they also sell a great one) and fancy fried rice as well as all the sea cucumber your herbalist recommends.
For Cantonese seafood
Fish tanks in the window signal a true Cantonese seafood house. Their white board (in Chinese and English) tips you off to the freshest catches. Don&apost miss garlic scallops on bean thread noodles served on the shell.
For your bakery cravings
Savor old school faves, mooncakes large and small, and as a bonus you can watch the bakers working if you linger a bit over your choice.
For your Mala fix
Enjoy ethereal fish hot pot, xiao long bao, and Taiwanese comfort foods. Make sure to try the dry fried green beans.
Five Spice House
This newer spot is quickly getting a reputation for the numbing tingling (ma) and spicy (la) flavors
For Peking duck and Northern specialties
Visit the only true Peking duck in Chinatown and ask Doris for the wonderful braised lamb—which is not on the menu).
Jacqueline Church is a freelance writer and owner of Boston Chinatown Tours. Ask her sometime about what it’s like to marry the favorite son in a Cantonese family. Better yet, ask her to come eat with you in Chinatown.
Talking Taste: Chef Hana Quon + The Urban Grape
Join us for a special dessert and wine pairing featuring two Boston South End favorites: Chef Hana Quon, pastry chef of Cafe Madeleine, and TJ Douglas, founder of The Urban Grape. Chef Quon will guide you through her recipe for Milk Chocolate + Hojicha Tart with Toasted Rice Whip, followed by dessert wine and after-dinner drink recommendations from TJ Douglas to enhance your meal.
Bake live with us, or simply watch along!
At Café Madeleine in Boston&rsquos South End, Chef Hana Quon practices the centuries old trade of a pâtissière, combining rigorous and scientific standards with an artistic and whimsical soul. Her passions include perfecting the art of viennoiserie, highlighting New England&rsquos seasonal produce, and educating a wider audience about French pastry. Originally hailing from Maryland where she received degrees in English literature and Linguistics from the University of Maryland, Quon pivoted to pastry under her mentor Frédéric Robert, James Beard Award winner and former pastry partner to famed restaurateur Alain Ducasse. Quon also studied French pastry in Paris under MOF Jean-Michel Perruchon and worked at Sébastien Bouillet&rsquos pâtisserie in Lyon. She has received many honors for pastry such as being named one of 2015 Zagat 30 under 30 Chefs Redefining the Industry, serving as a 2017-2018 Neighborhood Salon Luminary for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and most recently winning the prestigious 2020 Boston Rising Star Chefs Award for Best Pâtissière.
Opened by chefs Frédéric Robert and Hana Quon in 2014, Café Madeleine is a small artisanal French pâtisserie located in the historic South End district of Boston. The charming neighborhood shop specializes in handcrafted viennoiserie and classic French pastries created daily using only the highest quality ingredients imported from France and local fresh produce from Massachusetts farms.
As the wine buyer, head sales person, and architect of the Progressive Scale for The Urban Grape, TJ is directly responsible for the store&rsquos successes. He has been profiled by the New York Times, Food & Wine, Imbibe, Real Simple, Health magazine, MarketWatch, Eater National, Boston Magazine, Boston Common, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Boston Business Journal, The Improper Bostonian, and Terroirist, among other regional and national publications. The Beverage Journal named TJ one of ten &ldquoBlack Drink Innovators to Watch&rdquo in 2020. TJ has been featured on shows such as Basic Black (WGBH), The Hub Today (NBC), Dining Playbook (NESN), New England Living (CBS), and Chronicle (WCVB), and is a frequent guest wine educator at corporate meetings and retreats.
Thanks to TJ&rsquos leadership, The Urban Grape was a finalist for Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Award for Best Retail Store in the US, and was called &ldquoBoston&rsquos Revolutionary Wine Store&rdquo in a cover story for Beverage Dynamics. He has taught classes on drinking progressively at, among other places, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, the Boston Center for Adult Education, Boston University, and the Boston Wine Expo. TJ is a seven-time returning Sommelier for the Nantucket Wine Festival and has been featured as the resident wine expert on the New England lifestyle show, &ldquoHome, Life, and Design.&rdquo
Best Restaurants of Boston’s South End
This post has long been overdue. Every time I wanted to write about my favorite restaurants in Boston, and specifically the South End (and I am thoroughly convinced that South End dining is the best dining in Boston), I would just yield to the tempting images of succulent food born in my imagination and head over to one of those places instead of actually writing about it. But this time, I am broke strong and hey, Restaurant Week is coming up, so I decided to finally share all my not-so-secret-but-precious restaurant gems in Boston. From French haute cuisine to mouthwatering Spanish tapas to classic American staples, this post will be your must-try guide to the best restaurants in Boston’s South End.
This cozy tapas place on Washington street is one busy Boston hot spot. The fact that Toro can afford to not take reservations and only serve walk-ins already says it all: the average wait time is about two hours. The Chopped-winning chef will blow your mind with some of his house specialties: the grilled corn on the cob slathered with melted garlic aioli, juicy hamburguesas with pickled onions, and flavorful smoked duck drumsticks are definitely worth the wait. The place itself is very cozy and casual – chalk-board drawings, long tall tables and my personal weak spot – open kitchen – will make for one amazing dinner experience. This place gets my own Best of Boston award!
Aquitaine on Tremont boasts classic Parisian chic without the pretension. Excellent service, a relaxed atmosphere and outstanding food make this restaurant my number two pick. It is perfect for a date night – very romantic but not cheesy. The only quibbling drawback is that the tables for two are set very close to each other, so you might get involved in other conversations, but why is that a bad thing?! Plus after a glass of wine or two, I start talking much louder, so I hear no one but myself. Besides your classic French dishes such as French onion soup, steak frites and Sole meuniere, which are very tasty, this restaurant has the best dessert in Boston – its chocolate caramel bread pudding is out of this universe. Crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside, this desert is one indescribable burst of flavor.
Stella on Washington is an elegant Italian restaurant. Its summer patio is one of my favorite hangouts in Boston. The dominance of the white colors in the décor makes it very Milan-esque and posh. In terms of food, I always go for roasted salmon and spaghetti squash or one of its grilled flatbreads with combinations like roasted duck and pickled onions or braised short rib and fig jam. (Gosh, I think I will start drooling soon).
Stephi’s is my go-to weekend brunch place. I might be a bit biased because some of my friends work there, so it just feels like home when we go there every Saturday for the famous house Bloody Mary as one of the perfect hangover cures, but I am definitely not biased toward Stephi’s’ food – it’s simply delicious. The pretzel-crusted crab cake benedict…words fail me. The savory meatloaf hash, arepa con chorizo or the classic Stephi’s burger are exactly what you need on a wintery weekend afternoon. You can also order a custom-made Bloody Mary for complete satisfaction – add salami & cheese, classic olives, peppers or even a Slim Jim and be happy.
Photo Courtesy of Gallows
I love Gallows for three reasons – the amazing view of the Boston Cathedral, its funky design elements and delicious Poutine, a classic Canadian dish comprised of French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Gallows also laid the foundation for one of the most magical weekends of my life – Memorial Day weekend of 2011. It was our first summer in Boston and we were just discovering the Sound End for ourselves. Our friend Dave took us on a South End bar crawl and Gallows was among many other restaurants and bars, but there was something very special about this place. Maybe it was Anchorman on TV, or the classic 90’s hip-hop, or their delicious house cocktail The Grapes or Wrath, but I experienced the moment of Zen-like happiness. It’s when you realize that life is good and you’re surrounded by amazing people and you live in the best city in the world, that you almost want to scream to release that nubbin of excitement inside you. The bar is also famous for its burgers and charcuterie.
6. Union Bar & Grille
Photo Courtesy of Union Bar & Grille
For me, Union is neck and neck with Gallows, not to mention they’re next door to each other. I don’t have a particular favorite dish here – all the food is very tasty, with a Southern twist. The bar area is my favorite – it’s charming and cozy. The banana bread beer tastes like liquid desert, and the pomegranate martini will knock your brain out your skull. The crowd is very South End-y, which gives it a neighborhood feel and makes everything even better.
Photo Courtesy of Starchefs.com
Beehive on Tremont is definitely a scene – the place gets crowded on weekends and the bar becomes filled with single Bostonians shooting looks at each other from across the bar, which is very entertaining. The live jazz (and other equally pleasing genres) is a big plus. Last time I was there, a girl with a deep, beautiful voice was performing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in a throaty, bluesy interpretation. Her voice crawled inside of me and honestly made my eyes water. This is a place where I would bring people from out of town to show them the real Boston scene. My menu recommendations are mezze platter and Moroccan couscous. By the way, the chef also won on Chopped.
8. Orinoco/El Centro
Photo Courtesy of Orinoco
These two eateries are located on Shawmut, right across the street from each other and both of them offer awesome Latin American cuisine. Orinoco is famous for its Venezuelan specialties: its delicious arepas and empanadas and rustic interior design will win over anyone who is interested in going ethnic. El Centro is a traditional Mexican restaurant and a perfect summer place. I always go for the fish tacos – they are one of the best in Boston. Alex prefers the chorizo quesadilla and swears by it. Everyone is super friendly and eager to please.
9. Salty Pig
If you crave good beer and good charcuterie, Salty Pig is the place to go – literally the best charcuterie I’ve tried in Boston. And it’s not just the cured meats – it’s the condiments perfectly paired with savory meats and cheeses. You can find good salami or prosciutto in many places, but try finding balsamic onion jam or red wine jelly anywhere else. My perfect charcuterie sandwich is grilled crostini, Dijon mustard, spicy soppressata, chicken liver mousse, Robiola cheese and balsamic onion jam. The bathroom walls are plastered in Far Side cartoons, and the rest of the interior is decorated with chalk drawings, which make the place super funky. And how surprised was I when I learned they were drawn by Abe, my classmate from EF International. It’s a small world, indeed.
10. Tremont 647
Last but not least on my list is Tremont 647, a true neighborhood bar/restaurant. We devour its $2 tacos almost every Taco Tuesday. On weekends, they feature pajama brunch, which doesn’t even need further explanation. The southern cooking is outstanding. During the summer, they do bourbon pork Mondays – that’s when Alex goes completely insane. Being here just feels right and if you live in the neighborhood, you’ll see the same happy faces all the time. Its next-door neighbor – Sister Sorel – is a cool lounge space that reveals the true spirit of Boston’s South End.
11. B&G Oysters
B&G Oysters receives an honorable mention from me. I haven’t dined there yet but I love the bar and the oysters. We’re having dinner there next week so I’ll keep you posted.
So here you go, check these places out and let me know what you think about these Boston gems. I dare you not to like these amazing restaurants.
Most of these venues participate in Boston’s Restaurant Week that starts March 17 – a good reason to leave your stove or your favorite delivery behind and immerse yourself in the ultimate culinary experience of the Boston South End. Enjoy!
Such an awesome way to see a unique part of the city. We spent the afternoon doing the South End tour with group of extended family – my parents, my husband, and sister. There was truly something for everyone…fun facts about the neighborhoods for the history buffs and delicious eats along the way for everyone. My parents, who have lived outside of Boston for 40+ years, loved hearing new and interesting stories about this neighborhood. Every detail was well thought out and executed. I highly recommend – you will learn new things and taste new things, even if you have spent your whole life nearby. We will definitely be back to try Bites of Boston tours in other neighborhoods.
Eat, Explore, Experience
Whether you are a native Bostonian, new to the city, or just visiting, our tours provide a unique way to explore and experience Boston. If you enjoy getting off the beaten path, walking, exploring and eating, our guided food and neighborhood tours may be a perfect fit for you.
We believe food is best enjoyed when served in the context of your local surroundings. So,on all of our tours, delicious local food tastings, combined with a hearty helping of historical, architectural and cultural information, provide the perfect recipe for a fun-filled Boston food adventure!
Sweet & Savory
The rich history and renowned food scene found in Boston’s South End provide the perfect ingredients for a fun and memorable experience in one of Boston’s most vibrant and tasty neighborhoods.
Arts & Eats
Home to a large student population and colorful street art, Allston’s collection of fun local eateries and impressive public art murals go hand in hand in giving this neighborhood its unique vibe and making it a great destination for both eating and exploring.
Culture & Cuisine
Boston’s Chinatown is a small neighborhood with big history and delicious eats. Come explore with us to discover the best of traditional and modern day Chinese dishes, and the fascinating stories this this culture-filled neighborhood has to offer. Join us for a culinary and cultural stroll and we’ll show you how.
Bites of Boston
Lobster, Chowder, Baked Beans and Boston Cream Pie! Have you heard of these iconic Boston culinary classics? Join us downtown and we’ll share the best spots to find these classics, as well as the history behind how they came to be locally famous dishes.
Don’t Take Our Word For It
I am from the Boston area and grew up here all my life but had never taken the time to explore some of the city’s most historic sites and learn about them. This tour was the perfect way to do so with really fascinating history and some walking mixed with delicious bites around town. I opted in for the beer add-on and loved trying some beers I had never tried before. This is the perfect date-day activity as I went with my girlfriend who also loved the tour. Our guide was extremely friendly and knowledgeable too making the experience even better. We can’t wait to take the other tours that Bites of Boston has!
Don’t Take Our Word For It
This tour is wonderful for both visitors to Boston and for locals! I brought friends from Toronto on the tourand we all loved it. The restaurant stops are fabulous, the guide was really amazing, and we learned so much about the history of the South End— which is certainly one of the best foodie neighborhoods in town. They are full of suggestions and information about the city so it is a great way to kick off a stay in Boston. Highly recommended!
Don’t Take Our Word For It
The Allston Arts & Eats Neighborhood Food tour was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon in August. Amanda was a wonderful tour guide and she brought us to some great places in Allston. The murals were also very cool and it was nice to learn about how each mural came to exist. Having lived in Boston over 10 years ago it was fun to eat at places that were fairly new and serving up food that was absolutely delicious! If you are looking for a fun activity the next time you are in town I would highly recommend this food and art experience.
Don’t Take Our Word For It
We’ve lived in MA all our lives and have enjoyed so many Boston neighborhoods and restaurants but have never ventured into Chinatown. Our loss and today became a great find! Nicole and Laurel were great guides and we learned a lot about the origin of the food we sampled and the history of the families that own the establishments, as well as the history of Chinatown. We’ll definitely return to explore more of Chinatown because of this introduction. Thank you Nicole and Laurel for a nice day.
Don’t Take Our Word For It
I participated in 3 Bites of Boston tours while visiting my son recently. As a tour operator myself, I can attest this company is first class. All 3 guides were professional, enthusiastic, and extremely informative, not just about the food we sampled, but also the history of the area. I expected it to be all about the food (which would have been just fine with me!), but these tours are so much more. Great fun, and a wonderful way to become acquainted with the different areas of Boston.
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A Special Place to Savor in Boston's South End - Recipes
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If it’s “give me Boston or give me Paris,” this upcoming birthday brunch, you may be able to trick yourself into a bit of both at Frenchie. This modern French bistro offers a cozy little brunch spot in Boston’s South End that’s totally worth adding to the brunch bucket list. Opened in early 2017, this spot would please even the most discerning Francophile, both with its warm and beautiful space and its authentic menu.
Photography: Boston Pollen
Frenchie Eats and Sustainable Sips
Expect French classics like garlicky escargots, mussels in white wine broth, salted cod croquettes, or croques monsieurs. Order a “side” of croissants and pain au chocolat, or in true birthday blowout fashion, go big and order the pain perdu with spiced apples and crème fraîche. Peruse the wine list for organic blends and pet nats, wines from sustainable vineyards and bottles straight from the owner’s father’s winery. What we’re saying is, it’s your birthday. You do you.
Photography: Kira MacLean | Erica Whiteside | Kelly Plakias | nomnom_boston
Decked out in sweet florals and wordy neon signage, Frenchie isn’t just a flavor of francophile but it’s a look at everything that’s hot in design right this very moment. And yet, like something you’d find in Le Marais, the glassed-in dining space offers a nod to the most quaint Parisian cafes that have been around seemingly as long as Paris itself. If you’re on the hunt for a brunch spot that’s birthday portrait worthy, this could be your sweet spot.
Photography: No. 284 Boston | nomnom_boston
South End Community
As beautiful as the space is, and as strong as the menu is, the overwhelmingly special thing about Frenchie is its location. Not just because the South End is perfectly manicured, but because the thread that runs throughout the restaurant is a real neighborhood vibe. It’s a place you might choose for your brunch bucket list because you don’t live in Boston, but it’s also the place you’d come back to on every future trip to the area. Imagine if you lived around the corner? Yep, we’d be there daily too.
Next you’ll reach Rockport, famous for Motif Number 1, a replica of a traditional New England fishing shack. The Motif is painted by artists and photographed by visitors year-round. Located on Bradley Wharf in the center of Rockport, it is typically surrounded by easels and canvases in various stages of completion.
For a classic New England lobster roll, venture a little outside of town to The Lobster Pool. The little red shack is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Perched on a rocky outcrop with limited parking, the shack offers traditional coastal dishes. You can stake out a spot on the grass for a quick meal or carry out a picnic lunch for the beach.
A Local’s Food Guide to Boston’s South End
The South End is one of those neighborhoods only locals seems to know about. To the visitors of this great city, consider this your private invitation to step beyond the invisible tourist fence and frolic in my ‘hood. It’s a bit off the Freedom trail, so don’t expect to find another souvenir tee or Paul Revere impersonator. But if it’s palate satisfaction you seek, this is the place to be, with thigh-smackingly good wings, heavenly sweets, fresh off the press sandwiches, and a pre-Prohibition era watering hole, brought to the hungry masses by kickass chefs and delivered with wicked awesome service. Here are my top picks for where to get your foodie fix in Boston’s South End. And don’t forget to tell them Shannon from C&C sent you!
While it may not be the shiny new penny, Tremont 647 sure has the new kids on the block watching their backs. Holding down the corner of Tremont and Brookline for 19 years now with casual confidence, it takes something special to not only remain, but thrive. My hat goes off to the cuisine, prepared by a rock star, female-driven kitchen staff, attentive servers, and all around good vibe. The driving force behind it all is executive chef/owner, Andy Husbands, with a vision and passion for food that just won’t quit. We had the pleasure of dining by the open kitchen with Andy as expediter that night, punctuating unidentifiable kitchen code with laughter and wit, as he divulged a bit of his philosophy with us. At his core, a desire to make really good food that hits the spot and makes you beg for more. “One bite should lead to another,” defines his quest as a chef and creator. He’ll put his burger against any restaurant patty out there (Do I smell a challenge?), and has crushed it in the world of BBQ in his spare time (rib pun… sorry). From apps to dessert, we gave our thumbs up, but it’s really the whole package that garners this place a round of applause. I think I might just become a regular.
Favorites: Wings, Beef Dumplings, Confit Chicken, and Bacon Bark • Insider Tip: Small plates are great for sharing, and even a few of the mains comes in half portions, for the smorgasbord route • Go: They do a fun pajama brunch (pjs encouraged!) on the weekend and Taco Tuesdays are a lively night • www.tremont647.com
At just 400 square feet, this unassuming sandwich shop is more than meets the eye. No frills and little seating, some of Boston’s best meals between two slices of bread come from behind the counter of owner Nikki’s pint-sized brick and mortar. “The best part of a good meal is the sandwich you make from the leftovers,” she says, and that’s exactly the concept behind what’s happening at Blunch. Part breakfast, part lunch, this sandwicherie has been slicing and pressing crowd pleasing sammies for years with a strong local following. Not only do they kill it with thoughtful, developed flavor combos that pack a punch, every sandwich is pressed (aka awesome). And where some cafes claim it’s all about the bread, Nikki takes the opposing view, saying they tried “fancy” at one point, but it’s the simple goodness of local baker Quinzani’s bread that takes to the heat best and lets the insides shine. There you have it: sandwich perfection. One last thing? Do yourself a favor and bring home one of the in-house baked goods. You won’t regret it.
Favorite: The Colonial (it’s all in the preserves!) or the “Whim” of the Day • Insider Tip: They’ve been catering to the gluten free community for years, with special prep and ingredients to ensure there’s no cross contamination (a big plus for anyone with a real allergy). And, YES, Blunch has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives • Go: Breakfast or lunch (either all day!) • www.eatblunch.com
Doughnut. Is there no word sweeter in the English language? This craveable treat, loved by old and young, is brought to new heights by Blackbird Doughnuts. Self-proclaimed “Boston’s finest gourmet doughnut,” I found no reason to doubt the bold claim. While you ponder over risen vs. cake, peek through the massive window to the kitchen and you’ll see these guys know a thing or two about making carbs as good as they can be. Open for just a few months, Blackbird has quickly advanced to neighborhood staple status. With a kaleidoscope of ever-changing flavors, from classics like vanilla glaze and chocolate cake, to showstoppers Irish coffee, salted toffee, and buffalo frito (yeah, I said it), there’s no chance for taste bud boredom. What crazy flavor comes next? I don’t have the answer, but I leave it to these dough mavens to dazzle us with their next made from scratch daily creation.
Favorites: Pineapple Habanero and Pepperoni Pizza (Oh, yeah) • Insider Tip: Grab a coffee to go with those doughnuts. Sourced from JP’s Fazenda, Blackbird has their own, special blend. And ask your Pizza doughnut to be warmed • Go: Before they run out! • www.blackbirddoughnuts.com
I opened the door to Orinoco and was instantly met with sultry, slow-cooked scents that enveloped and ushered me into a Venezuelan frenzy. Like a hungry pup to the dinner bell, my mouth began to water and I longed to know the taste of what my nose insisted I try. And try, I did. Amidst colorful decor and photos from owner Andres’ family from Valencia, the food took on my hunger with mighty force. How I wished it was a warm, sunny day and not a wintry mess. I pictured myself in a sundress, bathing in the golden light on the patio with my zesty caipirinja in one hand and an empanada in the other. Instead, I cozied into the booth and drowned my cold weather blues with a few more almond/bacon dates and second helping of chicken adobo, because good food makes everything better.
Favorite: Empanada trio with [crack?] sauce (seriously, I have no idea what’s in it but I wanted to put that stuff on everything) and the Mojito Cojito (the tropics in a glass) • Insider Tip: Come thirsty and ready for a good night, because the drinks are stiff and sassy • Go: While the prix fix is offered, or when the warmth comes to stay a while • www.orinocokitchen.com
Appleton Bakery & Cafe
Bright and sunny, in looks and disposition, Appleton is lovely for take away, but begs you to come in and stay a while. Cozy cafe tables are bathed in natural daylight, making for an ideal spot to enjoy a lunch break, meet up with a friend, or read a book and savor a sweet snack. A melange of healthy breakfast and lunch options catering to the veggie lover as much as the must-have-meat eater are handwritten on the chalkboard menu. Freshly baked goods line the display case instigating a little indulgence, because, why not? Warm and friendly smiling faces greet a mixed bag of patrons, from grandma with her smallest grand baby, to the handsome novelist typing away, to the bricklayers working on the house down the street this is a neighborhood affair. To wrap it all in a bow, the staff are just the sweetest, lightening even the dullest of moods. And if you ask me, that’s all it takes to turn a good place into a great one.
Favorites: Latte of the Day and Apple Pie Cheesecake Bar • Insider Tip: Check in for menu updates reflecting the change in season, and specials daily • Go: Pancakes anytime (score!), and the waffle maker comes out on the weekend • www.appletoncafe.com
The Elephant Walk
With my infatuation for Southeast Asian cuisine, it’s a wonder Cambodian is foreign to me. At least it was until The Elephant Walk. With flavors bolder than Chinese but less aggressive than Thai, I thank Nadsa, sweet chef and master of the kitchen, for making my first time a memorable and eye-opening one. In the swanky dining room, I sipped a glass of wine and took my time perusing the selection. The menu is extensive and varied, boasting an impressive French-with-a-twist selection, but it’s the other of the spectrum that hooked me. Crisp spring rolls, a colorful julienne salad, caramelized beef tenderloin… We dined on a spread fit for a king, taking a note from the traditional style where many plates make a well rounded meal. A range of taste, color, contrast and vibrancy that can only be described as uniquely Cambodian, consider me a fan.
Favorites: An out of this world pork/coconut dish called Keing M’Noa and tuna spring rolls • Insider Tip: Portions are a good size, but a sampling of plates gives your mouth the rainbow treatment • Go: Break up the weeknight routine for a casual affair with zing • www.elephantwalk.com
It’s all about the butter at Cafe Madeleine. Take their croissant, for instance. As one might expect from a pretty, French bakery, they certainly look the part, but the taste, the experience, that’s where the magic happens. One flaky mouthful in and the heartbreaking melody of La Vie En Rose fills my ear, a suave gent with a smirk and a cigarette walks past, and fireworks pop in the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower. Paris, is that you? 84% butterfat is where it’s at. The desserts are no exception in the hands of world renowned pastry chef, Frederic Robert, as he and his skilled pastry chefs gives the American classic an elegant, French makeover. Silken, smooth, and creamy beyond belief, thanks to a sousvide style method, shortbread crust, and (you guessed it) the most decadent dairy spread Vermont has to offer. The concept of a neighborhood bakery, where anyone can pop in for a good croissant and cup of coffee, is a humble one wherein results far exceed ambitions. I found the answer to the age old mystery of why ladies of France stay so svelte there’s not need to overindulge when you’re so fully satiated. But just in case, there’s always the expertly caramelized canele to fill that last bit of real estate.
Favorites: Plain croissant and Canele • Insider Tip: Make sure to pick up the fresh fruit puree to balance the rich butter flavor of the cheesecake • Go: Pick up dessert for your Friday Night Soiree and a signature baked goodie to nibble on for the walk home • www.cafemadeleineboston.com
If walls could talk, they’d speak of family ties, change, the importance of tradition, and how regardless of the here and now, a good pint never goes out of style. Not just another Irish tap house, this has been a local landmark for over 100 years and favored pub of famed personalities and unknown alike. Pony up for a glass of Guinness and plate of bacon and cabbage or shepherd’s pie, fit for sharing, because here you’re among friends. A family affair, the business has been ushered down the generations, carried with modest pride and strong sense of heritage. The feeling at the bar is as familiar as stepping into an old pub in Ireland: warn, wooden decor, bartenders that double as confidantes, and a genuine, convivial spirit. It’s a timeless nod to yesteryear and holds down the foundation of Boston beneath an ever evolving landscape.
Favorites: Curry Chips and a proper pint of Cider • Insider Tip: The wall art reflects the rich history and events over the last hundred years, with J.J.’s at the heart of it fodder for deep conversation over equally deep glasses of the dark stuff. • Go: After work drinks and a taste of what you’d get from the Emerald Isle • www.jjfoleyscafe.com
Conceived as a spot where anyone can stop in for a nice meal wherever they’re going or coming from, I have to say, this far exceeded my expectations. Cinquecento is more than just another restaurant group restaurant. Or “Italian joint.” The food here is delicious, period. As for the servers, not only are they knowledgeable about what goes into the cuisine and how it’s prepared, they are willing to take the time to make sure your experience is as good as it can be a mark of quality and longevity. Cinquecento is newish to the South End, with 2 years under its belt and no sign of slowing down. The space is very uncommon for the area: huge, open, modern-meets-rustic, Roman trattoria vibe, and yet maintains a sense of intimacy. It’s got class, panache, and a pretty killer menu with wide appeal, whether you’re up for a glass of wine and sharing a plate at the bar, or prefer to do the whole multi-course, big night out thing. I came with an open mind and left a believer. Now, if I could only get my hands on some more of that ricotta toast…
Favorites: Ricotta fresca, Rigatoni alla Norcia, and Bresaola with Figs • Insider Tip: Request a corner booth and ask for Bill • Go: After work drinks or a dressed up Saturday dinner • www.cinquecentoboston.com
Merrill & Co. (update: unfortunately Merill has closed it’s doors)
Grab some friends, throw on your finest pair of skinny jeans, and hit up Merrill & Co. for some elevated diner food. I say that with love and mean it in the best way possible. How so? The staff is super cool, laid back yet attentive, serving up food that feels both new and nostalgic. Let your hair hang down as you jam to “Pumped Up Kicks” on the sound system and dip your pizza rolls to the beat, because groovy tunes have that effect. The mood is upbeat and fun, so all you stiff, no-good-time Charlies might as well stay home. I don’t often associate dinnertime with a seat dancing. Satisfying, pleasant, nice, sure, but Merrill & Co. changes everything. This spot is all about comfort food taken up a notch with a feel good vibe. Some nights feature a DJ, others trivia competitions, and, oh yes, brunch!
Favorites: Open faced buffalo chicken sandwich, Mac & Cheese, and Root Beer Float • Insider Tip: Show up with your best buds and hunker down for some good times, or just make a friend at the bar• Go: Trivia Night! Or post-work out to negate all those burnt calories. • www.merrillandcoboston.com
Explore the Oldest City in America
This trip to Boston has it all – eco-minded luxury in an incredible historic city, an ideal location right on the Boston Harbor, and a hop-on hop-off trolley tour so you can see the most iconic sights! The Hyatt Boston Harbor features breathtaking views of the beautiful city skyline and is the most environmentally-friendly waterfront hotel in Boston. Featuring soundproof guestrooms, stunning harbor and city views, and outstanding gourmet dining options, you’ll experience Boston the best way possible.
Stay in a grand, eco-friendly hotel on the Boston Harbor’s edge. Demonstrating a commitment to the environment with its ENERGY STAR certification and Green Business Award, the Hyatt Boston Harbor is one of the top luxury hotels in Boston. This hotel boasts an exceptional location that puts you right along the historic waterfront with easy access to top city attractions via water taxi, in addition to close proximity to the airport with complimentary 24-hour airport shuttle. As a guest at the Hyatt, you’ll appreciate the intimate setting and unique boutique style, coupled with Hyatt’s premier service and accommodations.
Take advantage of the hotel’s location with a scenic boat cruise from the back dock of this waterfront hotel! For sightseeing or romance, the harbor dinner cruises pair a special ambiance with spectacular views of historic Boston, ensuring you a memorable evening. Take the free shuttle directly to convenient public transit, or ride in style on a private water taxi to Boston’s historic North End. Explore Boston’s famous tourist attractions, including Faneuil Hall, Quincy Marketplace, Boston Public Garden, New England Aquarium, Charlestown and the USS Constitution, all located near this luxurious Boston Harbor Hotel.
While your hotel claims the ideal location, your one-day Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour is the best way to explore Boston at your own pace. You’ll be able to discover the city at your leisure, and see twenty of the most popular sights, such as the Old State House Museum, Boston’s preeminent historical museum. The museum’s collection includes authentic artifacts chronicling Boston’s history, all housed within the oldest surviving public building in Boston. Other stops on the tour include Liberty Wharf, Fenway Park, Charles Street, the Boston Tea Party ships and museum, and over a dozen more!