Jun 13, 2019

A 24 Hour Food Tour of Boston

While we only had 24 hours in total in the city of Boston we made our way around the entire city for some of the best seafood and more.

June 7th – June 8th, 2019

The last time I was in Boston was in the summer of 2010. It was right after my husband Aaron and I had started dating. That summer he flew out to New Jersey to visit me, and we took our first road trip together up to Boston, Massachusetts. We were 19 and the trip was different than the ones we take now. Not only were we not legally allowed to drink or go hang out in bars (a change after we had been living in Switzerland), but we also didn’t appreciate food at the level we do now. I’m embarrassed to say we chose to eat at more touristy places like Legal Seafood rather than all the cool restaurants Boston has to offer. I still love Legal Seafood – it’s just not unique to Boston!

Since it had been so long since my last trip, my Mom and I decided to drive up and visit our friend Zoe while I had a free weekend at home in New Jersey. We only had 24 hours in total in the city of Boston but we made our way around the entire city for some of the best seafood and more in that limited timespan. Below I’m sharing a food tour with some of my favorite spots in Boston.

A 24 Hour Food Tour of Boston

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Boston Public Market

100 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02108 | bostonpublicmarket.org

I prefer the cute stalls of this permanent central market to the more tourist-driven food of Quincy Market. This is an indoor, year round market located in the North End filled with stalls from local New England vendors. You can find everything from kitchen goods like local stone cheeseboards, to spiced nuts, ice cream, seafood, fresh baked bagels and popovers. There’s also a seasonal farmers market on Thursdays from June through November selling local fruits and vegetables.

Red’s Best

As soon as we got out of the car my mom and I realized that crushed granola bars wouldn’t hold us over until dinner. Red’s Best was a quick fix with a lobster roll ready in under five minutes. Generous amounts of lobster claw and tail meat tossed in a mayonnaise mixture were piled into a griddled top-split buttered roll. The owner of Red’s has worked to develop softwareto track the seafood from small fishermen to the stall and shows it all on an infographic on the wall as they hope to lift the veil of shadowy practices surrounding much of the fishing and farmed seafood industries. I meant to go back to pick up some of their clam chowder and fresh catch fish to bring back to New Jersey but got sidetracked. 

Must order: lobster roll

George Howell Coffee 

I know I am a coffee snob but sometimes it can be surprisingly hard to find a good latte where the milk or espresso isn’t burnt. We lucked out in the Public Market by finding George Howell. After a long road trip I needed a pick-me-up, and it was so good that we  ended up coming back to George Howell again the next morning. They make great standard lattes and coffee but of course I enjoy the fun specialty items. Their “Vermonter” is a latte made with Vermont maple syrup, which I am currently working to replicate with my Nespresso machine. 

Must-order: the Vermonter latte

Neptune Oyster 

63 Salem St # 1, Boston, MA 02113 | neptuneoyster.com

This narrow 42-seat oyster bar in the North End is always packed. I thought my friend was exaggerating when she told me that people started lining up two hours prior to opening. Sure enough Saturday morning at 9am there were people lining up. While dropping by at an odd hour wasn’t enough to immediately get a table, we could add our name to the waitlist.

We settled into our seats at the bar and I started with a glass of rosé, paired with a sea bass crudo. It’s served topped with a cherry compote the same color as the wine. Since I actually made it into one of Boston’s most popular oyster bars I had to go all out. I ordered the Triton seafood platter. It comes with six Neptune pearl oysters (from Barnstable, MA), six mussels, three jumbo shrimp, three littleneck clams, three quahog clams, lobster salad tossed in a mix of herbs (what I took to be a combination of tarragon, chives, shallots and parsley), and crab salad. 

I had already had a lobster roll from Red’s Best earlier in the afternoon so I opted to try their Wellfleet clam chowder instead. It’s made fresh to order, though I hear the Maine lobster roll with drawn butter is one of the best in the city. 

Must-order: Triton platter

Oak Long Bar + Kitchen

138 St James Ave, Boston, MA 02116 | oaklongbarkitchen.com

The Oak Long Bar + Kitchen is located within the Fairmont Hotel in Copley Plaza. The high-ceilings and ornate bar make for a great spot to grab cocktails and order a few small plates to share. I started with a fresh Copley Square Farmer’s market special cocktail. The cocktail is made with mezcal and tequila, carrot-turmeric syrup, lemon bitters, apricot shrub and smoked salt. 

As always I ordered as if more than three people were sitting down to dinner. The lobster roll was good, but didn’t stand out as much as some of the others I enjoyed on the trip. The salt and vinegar fries came with a malt vinegar aioli that I would like to put on just about everything going forward. 

While messier to eat, the chicken liver mousse toast was one of my favorites. It’s served with pickled apricot, radish, vidalia onion marmalade, and frisée topped with spicy bacon vinaigrette to balance the flavors. We shared an entrée of smoked mozzarella gnocchi with wild mushrooms, braised kale and a sous-vide egg (cooked perfectly at 64-degrees).

Must-order: chicken liver mousse toast & smoked mozzarella gnocchi

Mike’s Pastry

300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 | mikespastry.com

We happened to be walking by this popular pastry shop in the North End early in the morning. There was no line and we took the opportunity to stop in for some of their famed cannoli. The smell of sugar hung in the air while I tried to decide which types of cannoli to order.

My Aunt from Connecticut happened to be up in Boston and met up with my mom and me for breakfast. As an Italian she is a tough critic of this mascarpone-cream filled dessert. She considers these from Mike’s the best she’s ever had. In fact rather than eating breakfast with us, she opted to eat her cannoli instead!

My favorite was the amaretto cannoli with light almond flavor wrapped in a brittle fried shell. “Who gets chocolate chip with all these options?” Well I definitely do when it’s the most popular seller! The simple iteration is a classic for a reason. 

Must-order: cannoli

Tatte Bakery & Café 

Multiple locations; Back Bay location 399 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02116 | tattebakery.com

This all day bakery and café now has multiple locations around Boston. While the original location is in Brookline, Massachusetts, we stopped in for breakfast at the downtown location at One Boston Place. It’s a great spot to stop for breakfast and lunch. I ordered their special cascara soda rather than coffee. A light but still caffeinated iced drink perfect for summer.

As usual I ordered several dishes for the table and we shared them all to get to try a variety of menu offerings. They are known for their Shakshuka, North African breakfast dish. Their version consists of eggs cooked in a spiced tomato sauce topped with feta and served with challah bread. The French toast was a perfect mix of sweet and savory. Two-inch thick slices of house-made challah bread are soaked overnight in their egg mixture. They are served topped with a light and fluffy ricotta goat cheese mousse, raspberry jam, sliced almonds and fresh strawberries. The muesli was a lighter breakfast option. Served with whipped Greek yogurt topped with house-made granola, and an assortment of fresh fruit topped with honey and sesame. 

Must-order: shakshuka

Polcari’s Coffee 

105 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113 | polcariscoffee.com

As soon as I walked in the door of Polcari’s with my friend Zoe, both she and her dog were greeted by name. I felt like a North End local. The shop has a long and interesting history. It’s been open since 1932 and they still keep all the coffee blends in jars behind the counter. They also weigh the coffee on the same vintage scale as they did when it opened. The only difference is they now take credit cards.

The historical store was passed down to a longtime employee from the store’s original owner in 2005 prior to his passing. The store is open at fairly odd hours so don’t expect to get your first cup of coffee of the morning there. Stop by later for a bag of the Mr. Polcari’s house blend which combines their dark and light roast or various spices sold in large barrels around the store. 

Must order: house blend

Saltie Girl

279 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116 | saltiegirl.com

Saltie Girl is a newer restaurant that opened in 2016. In a city as old as Boston is considered brand new. (Fun fact: Boston has the oldest continuously operating tavern in the United States. The Bell in Hand Tavern in Government Center open since 1795). We walked through Boston Common and through the route of the weekend’s Pride Parade to get to this small Back Bay restaurant. 

At some restaurants you sit down and stare at the menu hoping that one item will jump out at you, hoping that it will turn out okay. Then there are other restaurants where you know that you can order any item at all on the menu and be extremely happy. Saltie Girl is the latter. The restaurant puts playful spins on classic seafood dishes in a fun environment.

Go with two other people. I recommend no more than that because the restaurant really can’t fit anything larger than a four-top and there’s always a wait. Plus you get to try multiple items on the menu shared amongst the perfect number and ideally bar seats to watch the happenings of the open kitchen concept. After being seated at the turquoise-tiled bar lining the entire side of the restaurant, we ordered both the pineapple cocktail for two. The punch bowl style cocktail is made with elix, yuzu, lemongrass and citrus soda.

The yellowtail crudo was served with pineapple water, yuzu, finely diced cucumber and shiso leaves topped with yuzu roe. The torched salmon belly comes layered over torched tomato, tahini and sushi rice topped with green onion. It was so good we put in a second order to end the meal on that flavor. When I see toro on a menu I can rarely pass it up. The generous and thick slices of toro sashimi melted-in-your-mouth. 

While the Gloucester Lobster roll can be ordered with either drawn butter or aioli. We went with the waitress’s recommendation of the drawn butter and it didn’t disappoint.  Large chunks of lobster are tossed in a generous amount of butter and piled into a toasted, buttered roll.

The Holy Trinity of Clam Chowder is most interesting as well as delicious variation of clam chowder I’ve had. It’s served laced with halved roasted potatoes, lardons of smoky bacon and shaved salsisy (a root vegetable with a taste similar to celery). The snow crab toast is made with thick slabs of bread topped with stracciatella, slices of avocado, and pistachio. This gave a nice contrast of crunch to the tartine piled high with snow crab. 

Must-order: Torched salmon belly, toro & clam chowder

Monica’s Mercato 

130 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113 | monicasmercato.com

The Italian North End is filled with small markets but Monica’s, located off Salem Street, is among the most popular. My friend Zoe lives in a building in the alley right across from Monica’s. When the lines are long she calls in the order and runs down the three-floor walkup to pick up sandwiches. My brother had been a few months prior, and insisted that I order the Italian sub with “hot”. Meaning the sub or hoagie comes with hot peppers. The sandwich was layered with thin slices of Prosciutto, Mortadella, Salami, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Oil, Balsamic, Hots, and Pickles. Monica’s also sells food through the basement entrance in the alley. Other offerings include fresh pastas and full Italian dinners in a restaurant around the corner.

Must-order: Italian Sub with “hot”

I was able to squeeze in multiple stops with delicious meals in a short period of time but there are still so many more spots in Boston I want to visit. Among those restaurants are the iconic South Street Diner and the Peach Farm – a family-style Chinese restaurant with seafood dishes is still on my list! I definitely won’t let another eight years go by before I make it back to Boston. 

Tips for a Trip to Boston

  • Like much of the East coast, Boston weather can be temperamental. I prefer spring and fall in Boston rather than the hot, humid summer months or freezing winter.
  • You will be walking, a lot! Take the time to walk the Freedom Trail, a historic 2.5 mile stretch of Boston with notable historic sights significant to the United States. Among the stops are the location of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere house and the USS Constitution.
  • Stop by Faneuil Hall, “America’s first marketplace” for more novelty items and souvenirs.
  • If you are visiting during baseball season, try make it to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. It’s my favorite ball park because you can get lobster rolls and clam chowder! Fenway is located right by Kenmore Square.
  • While I still haven’t been those looking for a retro diner should try South Street diner. It’s a retro diner and one of the few spots open 24 hours a day. It was originally created to serve factory workers in the area.
  • Boston is a college city. There are more than 12 colleges and universities in the city. Not including the outer Boston area of Cambridge – home to Harvard and MIT.
  • There is no happy hour in the city of Boston, by city ordinance it’s banned. Don’t spend time looking for drink specials.
  • Boston is a quieter city than New York and places don’t stay open as late. Bars in Boston close at 2am.

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