Despite not living in BOS full-time anymore I get lots of requests from out-of-town folks visiting the area asking where they should eat/drink. Over past month I’ve been forwarding the below email, which I originally wrote to David Waxman of MMPartners, who was in town from Philly earlier this summer. I thought it would be fun to share this email here, as follows:
(FYI, I gave you a real long ramble below — way longer than I expected and I hit on some real estate stuff — so here are the cliff notes and read below if you want more flavor)
Boston Coffee: Render (about 20 min walk from your hotel)
Cambridge Coffee: Crema (my sister’s spot – bakery too) or Voltage or Dwelltime
Cocktails: my two fav right now are Brick & Mortar (Central Sq) and Back Bar (Union Sq Somerville)
If I had to single out 5 restaurants I’d prob say:
Sarma (somerville – a schlep from hotel but worth it)
Journeyman (somerville – also a schlep but see below)
Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston)
If you haven’t been back to Fenway/Kenmore area since your BU days it’s prob worth the trip even if just to go to Island Creek Oyster Bar or Eastern Standard. Same group – both excellent. Also both have killer cocktails, as does a small cocktail bar in the same development called the Hawthorne. I would get to one of these spots one night. 500 Comm Ave.
From a real estate perspective it’s also worth checking out all the development that’s has/is happening on the other side of Fenway — on both Boylston Ave and Brookline Ave. The retail has had some starts and stops but the neighborhood is now humming. Best BBQ joint in the city is there — called Sweet Cheeks.
I’m biased to Cambridge / Somerville but there are just a few more things in BOS you may want to check out. One of my fav coffee spots is on Columbus Ave in South End prob about a 15 minute walk from your hotel — it’s called Render. Pour overs only and always good. Also in that neighborhood is a place called Toro this is just outstanding — the food and vibe. Chef/owner there just won James Beard and the team there is hot shit. They actually just opened one in NYC that is also killing it. It’s awesome. Same group has a small italian joint in the same n’hood called Coppa. Also killer. Would be good for lunch one day if you are hanging in South End.
Other area that is worth seeing – which has transformed since you left BOS – is the Seaport District and Fort Point Channel. You could explore around there for a few hours. Most of Seaport is under construction and the end product will be pretty uninspired from a place perspective but the scale of development is mega. Congress Street near the channel is worth walking around. It’s physically beautiful and has seen lots of new restaurants, which are all solid. Row 34 is exceptional and open for lunch (same team as Island Creek) and there’s a bakery called Flour off the street a few paces that is a BOS favorite and has some really good stuff. Next to it is a market you should peak into called Bees Knees. Good idea but 2 or 3x’s as big as it should be.
OK, so Cambridge and Somerville…
If you go anywhere in Somerville I would say hit Union Square. There’s a bar called Back Bar that i adore. It’s in an alley behind a restaurant called Journeyman. Also awesome. owners are friends and they are as good as it gets. I could see something like Back Bar in Brewerytown. Around the corner is a new german spot called Bronwyn – worth a peek and beer there too. I could see this in Brewerytown as well. In fact, all of Union Square is worth a walk. It’s got a nice grit to it, is diverse and just works. Best cafe spot in that hood is prob Bloc 11, which is in an old bank building. You’ll dig it.
Here’s my list for Cambridge:
Kendall Square – (this is n’hood we got our start in – put all below projects together for LL clients)
Area Four (hypbrid cafe + bakery + pizza) – all great. cool concept.
Commonwealth – go for brunch on Sunday if you go.
Tatte Bakery – exceptional – this is the woman I was telling you about earlier. The one on third st is in a lab building and the fact that this cafe exists there – and thrives – is amazing. Evoo also great and is that first restaurant deal we did in this n’hood years ago. Firebrand Saints for a burger and beer also – worth popping your head in just to see the art work (graffiti wall and installation on 4 TVs).
Central Square –
one of my fav n’hoods anywhere. There’s a cocktail bar called Brick & Mortar that you should check out. If you get there ask for owner Gary (also of Firebrand Saints above). He’s a pal and knows more about (and supports) street art than anybody I know. You’d like talking to him about it. Check out the H Mart a block away. I’d be curious to hear what n’hood in Philly you could see H Mart working in. Also in the n’hood is Craigie on Main, which you’ve prob heard about. Been one of the top restaurants in the City for a while now and worth considering for a night.
Havard Square –
My sister and her best friend run a cafe called Crema that you should hit. Great coffee and all baked goods done on premise. Wildly successful and just perfect for Harvard Square. Also check out Clover in Harvard Square — fastest growing QSR op in area that started as a food truck and now has 5 restaurants and 8 trucks. Clover has been a law office client since truck 1 and this is why I was down in DC hanging around H Street, as Clover will hit DC next. For restaurants in Harvard Sq: Alden & Harlow, Russell House and Rialto all great. My fav place there now is prob Beat Hotel. It’s a basement space that somehow works. Live music, great drinks, good food. While lots of best corners in Harvard Square have the boring national stuff there’s still lots of goodness there and always packed. Some of highest rents in New England right now.
Two more places I’ll mention that aren’t in any of above n’hoods but are currently at top of my list:
Guilia (between Harvard and Porter Sq) – been there four times and just tremendous. worked on this project too and it’s one my all time favorites. Husband wife run, sincere place, exceptional food and as good as anything anywhere right now. If you want to adventure a bit further into Somerville there’s a place called Sarma that is on par with Zahav — similar middle eastern / Mediterranean leaning to food. Both these places are casual and are as good as anything I’ve had in NYC over past few years. In fact, all the stuff above is as good as anything I’ve had in NYC lately. Enjoy. Feel free to shoot me a note while you are there. lots I’m missing but I’ll be impressed if you had the patience to get through this email.