View of skyline from Top of the Hub, observation deck of the Prudential Building
Boston is a city with a lot of charm. It also has a lot of history, especially its significance leading up to and during the American Revolutionary War. It is a small city with a big town feel. It is a fun weekend trip. It is definitely small enough where you can experience a lot of great spots in the city within 2-3 days. There are a lot of great neighborhoods and spots in Boston. In my opinion, it is more enjoyable to just walk through those neighborhoods rather than searching out the tourist sites. On the other hand, the city is notorious for streets that randomly start or end. It is not a logical grid. I remember my dad getting lost and driving around in circles when I was younger. In the age of GPS, it is much easier to manage. On the other hand, the city is very compact. The heart of the city is about 3 miles. Accordingly, it is easy to walk or Uber around. It is probably more of a hassle to rent a car and try to find parking if you do not plan to leave the city. Moreover, Boston has an amazing food scene. In particular, the seafood is great. New England, specifically Maine, is known for the lobsters. I am partial to the Clam Chowder and Fish and Chips. Definitely put plenty of sea food on any itinerary. In addition, the Italian food is among the best I have eaten anywhere. Absolutely try a couple of Italian restaurants, especially in Little Italy in the North End, whenever you are in Boston.
Next, Bostonians are very proud of their city. They are extremely serious about their sports. As such, do not poke fun of their city or their sports teams. I would have totally went to a baseball game at Fenway Park since it is one of the few historic ballparks still standing but the Red Sox were out of town when I have been there. Definitely do not try to mimic their accents or pronunciations. In addition, try to avoid saying the name of the towns in Massachusetts. If you are not a local, you are definitely going to butcher them. There are a lot of silent letters or atypical emphasis on letters. I took some flak from the locals for pronouncing Worcester as “War” “Chester”. It sounds more like Worster with the “c” and “e” silent. If you really want to say the names of the towns, definitely watch How to properly say Massachusetts town names. In addition, the disdain for New York is a real thing but it is mostly in good fun.
- Neighborhoods and Great Spots
1. Freedom Trail
It is definitely a very touristy thing to do in Boston. My friend from Boston confessed that he has never even done it. Nevertheless, it is a good 2.5 mile path to follow to see some of the most historic buildings, statues, and monuments in the city. Of course, a lot of the charm in the city is its historical importance, especially in regards to the American Revolution. If you went into all the buildings, it could take a whole day. However, I was more than content just staying on the path and viewing everything from the outside. The trail starts at the Boston Common Visitor Center. In the Wizard of Oz, the characters followed the yellow brick road. For the Freedom Trail, follow the red brick road with the occasional Freedom Trail stamp. At the beginning of the trail, it abruptly ends at the State House on the northeast corner of Boston Common. Just turn around and go back down the East Side of the park. You will see the Freedom Trail continue there. Other than that part, it was relatively easy to follow the trail. My favorite parts were at the North End, where the Paul Revere House and statue are located, and Bunker Hill at the end of the path.
- Top of the Hub/ Back Bay
It is $19 to walk around the observation deck of the Prudential Building, the Top of the Hub. There are spectacular 360 views of the city at the top. However, I only went up because it was a clear day. I would not have spent money for the views if it was raining or cloudy. I initially had reservations for the Top of the Hub restaurant a floor above the Observation Deck. However, I preferred paying $19 for the deck instead of $60 for a 7 oz filet mignon just to avoid fee for the deck. There are so many great restaurants in Boston that I felt my money could be better spent.
The Prudential Building is located in Back Bay, which is a residential neighborhood on the Charles River and west of the downtown area. It is renowned for its Victorian brownstone homes. It is a lively part of town. On Newbury and Boylston Streets, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars. Copley Place is an upscale shopping mall in Back Bay. Again, its most recognizable and tallest building, Prudential Center, is in the heart of the neighborhood.
- Faneuil Hall (4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109)
It is a marketplace that is bustling with tourists. When I hear the name pronounced, it sounds very similar to the name “Nathaniel”. Quincy Market is the epicenter of the activity. It looks like a historic building but really is not. It is basically a food court inside and a bit overrated. While there are certainly plenty of options inside the market, nothing really looked amazing. Boston Chowda is definitely worth a try. It has very good clam chowder. As a tourist, walking through Faneuil Hall should be on the to do list but limit your expectations. It is also a bit of a challenge to walk through the crowds.
Faneuil Hall is also located in a prime spot in Boston. North End, an Italian neighborhood with plenty of Italian restaurants, is immediately to its north and the waterfront is immediately to its east.
Definitely spend some time at the waterfront. Christopher Columbus Park is a pretty park. You can walk along the waterfront on Harborwalk. Long Wharf is one of the best spots to take pictures of the Boston skyline. In addition, there are plenty of good seafood restaurants at the Waterfront. Legal Sea Foods and Chart House are a couple of popular ones right by the water. I went to Granary Tavern for the fish and chips.
- Boston Common (139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111)
In terms of total size, Boston Commons is modest compared to other city parks. Nevertheless, it is a very green and pretty spot in the city with some lakes, sprinklers, and walking paths. At the south side of the park, there is an iconic statue of George Washington. In the northwest corner, you can see the Massachusetts State House. You will also see parts of the Boston skyline from within the park. The park is also in a good location north of Back Bay, west of Chinatown, and south of North End. It is worth walking through or spending a couple of hours there.
6. Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215)
Fenway Park is home to the Boston Red Sox. It is historic and the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. I have not been in town when the Red Sox have been home so attending a baseball game at Fenway is still on the bucket list. Even if you cannot go into the game, you can walk around the outside of the park and there is plenty going on at the nearby streets.
7. Mugar Omni Theater (1 Museum Of Science Driveway, Boston, MA 02114)
The Omni Theater is located in the Museum of Science. It has a giant dome IMAX screen. The screen is on half of the dome. I have been to a lot of IMAX movie theaters. The curved screen at the Omni Theater is definitely a unique experience. It is $10 per adult and $8 per child. While the theater was a fun experience, the movie Journey to Space was not very good. It was basically an advertisement for space travel rather than a movie.
The museum is on the Charles River Dam Road. Accordingly, it is definitely worth it to walk across the bridge over to Cambridge. The waterfront has an awesome view of Back Bay and its skyline highlighted by the Prudential Center. From the waterfront, you are also close to CamdridgeSide Galleria Mall. It is a solid mall if you want to walk around to shop or eat at some chain restaurants (e.g. Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chiang’s) for a few hours.
Boston is a big time college town with a lot of universities. Of course, Harvard and M.I.T. are the most prestigious and reside in Cambridge. Harvard also has the distinction for being “”the oldest institution of higher education in the United States”. In terms of Cambridge, it is more residential and spread out than the city. It would be a nice place to live but there is generally really nothing a tourist really needs to see. Naturally, the campuses of Harvard and M.I.T. are the main tourist attractions. Harvard definitely has the prettier campus. Harvard Square, right next to it, also has a lot of shops and photogenic buildings. It is the historical city center of Cambridge. The M.I.T. campus was mostly an eye sore and the buildings were dreary. Nevertheless, the Great Dome on Memorial Drive, next to the Charles River, is iconic and worth a picture.
If you do head into Cambridge, I definitely recommend eating at:
Sofra (1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138)
It is a Turkish bakery and great spot for breakfast. It is not a formal sit down place. You order at the counter and hope that a seat is available. The food was great. I ordered an egg sandwich and an Orange Blossom Morning bun. The egg in the sandwich was cooked perfectly. The bun made the dish. It tasted like a brioche bun on the outside and a croissant on the inside. Nevertheless, the morning bun was the highlight. I have never eaten anything like it. It was like a muffin on the outside and croissant on the inside. In addition, the interior falls apart in chunks similar to a well made apple fritter. The orange blossom flavor was different and tasty. The frosting on top was very sweet. The bottom was some type of sugar fruity crumble. Whatever it was, it was amazing. In terms of uniqueness and taste, the morning bun rivals the best pastries I have eaten. The other breakfast dishes looked great too. I also enjoyed the Chrysmantium iced tea. It was very flowery: the way I like tea.
1. Neptune Oyster (63 Salem St # 1, Boston, MA 02113)
I ate the best seafood in Boston at Neptune. It may have had the best clam chowder I have ever eaten. The chowder had the perfect balance of not too watery but not too thick either. Of course, the clams were fresh. Another differentiator was that it was seasoned and garnished extremely well. While the raw bar was not the best I ever had (I was blown away by Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver recently in May), it was excellent. I ordered the oysters and clams. They were very fresh and I could pleasantly taste the ocean still in them. The cocktail sauce was very hot. I preferred the one that tasted more like soy sauce. The Acadian Redfish & Chips were also great. The fish was incredible: very fresh and smooth. On the other hand, it could have been breaded a little more. The fried breading seemed too thin. The couple next to us ordered the swordfish and it looked immaculate. Not surprisingly, Neptune is also known for its lobster rolls.
The wait time for Neptune on the weekend is epic. It is a small restaurant so it fills up fast. Guests line up 30-40 minutes before it opens so they can grab a seat. We showed up 15 minutes after it opened on a Sunday. At first, we thought we got lucky because it did not seem that long. However, we eventually realized that the line was just to put our names on the list. We were given an estimate of 2 ½ hours for 5 people. We waited for 2 hours. By the time we were seated, we overheard the host estimate a 4 hour wait for a party. Is it worth the wait? It depends. They call you when your table is ready so you can walk around Faneuil Hall, the rest of North End, or the Waterfront while you wait. If you plan on being in the area anyway, then the wait is worth it. I would never stand in line in front of a restaurant for two hours.
2. Atlantic Fish Co. (761 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116)
The atmosphere was great. The restaurant has an upscale look and feel but the patrons act and dress casual. It is an enjoyable mix. Most importantly, the seafood was awesome. I ordered a clam chowder bread bowl for my appetizer. The clams were very fresh and the chowder was creamy. In addition, the dish was very unique. The bread bowl came in a glass bowl. As a result, there was chowder inside the bowl and more chowder outside of it that drenched it. I have mixed feelings about it though. The chowder inside was hot. On the other hand, the chowder outside of the bowl was cold because the heat was absorbed by the outside of the bread bowl. The sourdough bread bowl was solid. It was thick and soaked up the chowder well. Nevertheless, I could tear pieces of the bread off a bowl and dip them in the chowder so I am not entirely sold on it being pre-soaked with chowder on the outside. It was still good but I wonder if it could have been better.
I have no mixed feelings about the fish and chips I ordered. It was one of the best I have eaten anywhere. The fish was cooked perfectly: smooth, tender, and fell apart in flakes. The fried batter was thick and very crunchy. The fries were fries and nothing special. Even if you do not want fish and chips, I definitely recommend ordering a fish dish. The other seafood dishes coming out to the dining area looked great too.
3. Luke’s Lobster Back Bay (75 Exeter St, Boston, MA 02116)
Luke’s is an alternative from a casual sit down meal. It is a chain that has expanded to many cities but its roots are in New England. The setup of the restaurant is similar to a fast food joint like Chipotle. You order at the counter then grab it to go or find a table to sit down at. There is limited seating so you might have to wait a few minutes for a table. Of course, Luke’s is known for its lobster rolls. They looked amazing. I do not like or eat lobster but my friend, who is from Boston, does. He noted the lobster roll was very good. It had plenty of butter and Italian dressing. On the other hand, he also observed that the lobster was frozen. In addition, he noted that there are a lot of spots in Boston that use frozen instead of fresh lobster. I went to Luke’s because I heard it had one of the best clam chowders in Boston. It lived up to the hype. The chowder was excellent. Like Neptune’s, it was not too thick and not watery: the perfect balance for a creamy soup. I also ordered a side salad. Although it was $2, it was not worth it. It was just a small cup of lettuce with some beans and blueberries.
4. Granary Tavern (170 Milk St, Boston, MA 02110)
I came here for the fish and chips. The cod was very fresh and delicious. On the other hand, I had just been to Alaska so I have had better cod. The breading is thicker than I usually like. I prefer flakier breading that is similar to the texture of a croissant. Nevertheless, the fried batter had a good crunch to it. Overall, I definitely recommend Granary Tavern if you are looking for some very good fish and chips in Boston. The other food looked tasty too. From the outside, the tavern looks like a warehouse but the décor is very pretty inside as a sit down restaurant.
5. Boston Chowda (1 Faneuil Hall Market Pl, Boston, MA 02109)
It has a kiosk in Quincy Market. Naturally, I had the clam chowder. It was very good chowder. I also enjoyed the large bread bowl. It was delicious to eat the bread after it soaked up the chowder. The portion size was generous. I received plenty of chowder. There were plenty of clams in the chowder too. Nevertheless, it was a little thicker than the chowder at Neptune and Luke’s Lobster, which I thought had the perfect viscosity.
- Italian Food
In New York, Little Italy is a gimmick and tourist trap. The food is decent but extremely overpriced. In Boston, the Italian food in its Little Italy, in the North End, is spectacular. In addition, the portion sizes are generous and the prices are reasonable. A lot of the top restaurants and spots are hole in the wall size establishments and located within 2 blocks.
1. The Daily Catch (323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113)
It is one of the amazing and busy Italian restaurants in the North End. Its most popular item on the menu is the homemade Black Pasta, which is squid ink pasta. The Daily Catch has a appetizer or entree size for the three Black Pasta dishes ($14.50 vs $24). If you opt for entree size, the server will bring the pan to your table so you can eat out of it. I ordered the Putanesca: pureed olive-anchovy butter sauteed with mushrooms, onions, and peppers. The squid ink pasta was perfect, soft, and chewy. It was also very unique. I added scallops for $6 and was glad I did. They were cooked perfectly. The scallops were totally soft instead of rubbery if they were cooked poorly. The other two options for Black Pasta are Afredo and Aglio Olio (ground squid). The Aglio Olio is the most popular of the three. In addition, I returned a couple of days later for lunch and ordered the swordfish. It was one of the most incredible fishes I have ever eaten. It was tender and smooth. If there were bones, I would give the analogy that the flakes of meat fell off the bone. The sundried tomato basil sauce was also great. The fish entrees also come with a side of pasta: linguine. It was a generous portion and awesome. The pasta also had a lot of garlic. If Black Pasta is not your thing, I highly recommend the fish.
Like the other top Italian spots in the North End, it is a small space and popular. As a result, the restaurant fills up quick. I got there at 4 PM on Saturday and just beat the rush. My friend and I got there at 11:35 AM on a Monday for lunch to beat the rush. Even before it hit noon, the restaurant was full.
2. Carmelina’s (307 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113)
Carmelina’s is another amazing Italian restaurant in the North End. For my appetizer, I ordered the meatballs. The portion size was generous with 4 large meatballs. While they were not the highest grade of beef, the tomato sauce really made the dish great. For my entree, I ordered the spaghetti and littleneck clams. It was incredible. I have never tasted spaghetti like it. The noodles were soft and chewy. They were like thick Ramen noodles. The white wine sauce was great. The dozen clams in it were also fresh and delicious. Everything else that was being cooked in the kitchen looked great, especially the pasta dishes.
3. Giacomo’s Ristorante (355 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113)
The lines are known to be epic for Giacomo’s. It opens at 4:30. I ate there on a Thursday. I got there around 5 and the place was already packed. I got the last open table. I also walked by the restaurant on a Friday night. I noticed a couple was already camping out at 4 to beat the lines. At 5, the line was already out the door. The food lived up to its reputation. For my appetizer, I ordered the fried calamari. The calamari was fresh and tender. It was breaded lightly, which I thought was the perfect balance between calamari and breading. It had a nice crunch to it. The appetizer also included jalapenos and red peppers. They were also breaded and fried. However, they were spicy and had a strong kick to them, which is not my preference. The marinara sauce was excellent. For me entree, I ordered the butternut squash ravioli. The pasta dough was perfect. The butternut squash was not too sweet. I actually prefer it a little more sweet, more like yams. The balance between the amount of pasta dough and the squash was well proportioned though. The sauce was good and added to the dish. Nevertheless, it was nothing extraordinary. The fra diavolo sauce is what Giacomo’s is known for, which is something for patrons to keep in mind. In addition, I saw a couple of tables that ordered the zuppa di pesce. They were massive plates of linguine that included 1/2 lobster, mussels, scallops, shrimp, scallops, and calamari. If you enjoy pasta and seafood, it is definitely a dish for you. It is supposed to be for 2 people but it looked like it can definitely feed 3.
The lines are long because the food is great and the restaurant is small. It was definitely a tiny, intimate space. The service was rapid fire fast. The food arrives quickly and you will feel hurried by the waitstaff. The waitress was ready to grab my plate as soon as I finished my last bite then gave my check in the same motion. It is understandable because they want to churn tables. Nevertheless, the always in a rush New Yorker in me enjoyed and appreciated it. I get annoyed with having to flag down inattentive staff for my check so I prefered the alternative. Regardless, there are generally long waits for Giacomo’s and it is not a great spot for a group that wants to lounge and enjoy each other’s company. If you go, understand that your primary mission is to eat great food.
4. Mike’s Pastry (300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113)
It is a popular Italian bakery in North End that features awesome cannolis. They have many flavors to choose from. I ordered the amaretto cannoli and it was amazing. It was definitely one of the best cannolis I have ever eaten. I also loved the hazelnut cannoli. The pistachio and oreo flavors were good but the former flavors were better. Besides the cannoli, I have also ordered the Nutella cheesecake. It was average. It was thick and solid unlike the best cheesecakes I have eaten that are smooth, almost like mousse.
5. Modern Pastry (257 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113)
Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are the two popular bakeries in Little Italy. Depending on who you ask, they may pick Modern Pastry over Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. Regardless, both places are awesome for cannolis. Modern Pastry has key advantages in regards to quality and consistency. First, each cannoli is made to order. You can pick the filling, shell, and toppings. Next, there are less flavors so the chances of a dud flavor go down. Personally, I prefer the many flavors at Mike’s and they are bigger. Nonetheless, you cannot go wrong with Modern Pastry. Lines can be long at both spots.
6. Coppa (253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118)
It is a small, hip restaurant for Italian tapas with some very unique dishes. I ordered the meatballs and one of the pizzas. The meatballs came in three and were spectacular. The beef was great and the tomato sauce was amazing. I had some mixed feelings about the pizza I ordered: bone marrow. I have eaten bone marrow before and loved it. As such, I was intrigued by it as a topping on a pizza. In addition, I saw online reviews that have raved about it. The taste and the smell were definitely different. It took me a slice to get used to the combination. I thought it was good but I am not sure I loved it. I would recommend a more conventional topping (e.g. pepperoni) if you do not want to be adventurous. In terms of the crust, it was very thin. It was like a crunchy flatbread. I prefer the crust thick enough to be chewy and doughy. Nonetheless, the dough and crust were good. The other food I saw other tables order, especially the pasta and charcuterie, looked great. I also ordered a blueberry soda. The drinks are from Maine. Blueberries from Maine are awesome and the sodas are great too.
4. Bakeries/ Desserts
The orange blossom morning bun at Sofra’s was my favorite sweet in Boston. Below are the other great sweets I found:
1. Flour Bakery (12 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02110)
It is a popular bakery for its pastries and sandwiches. It is specifically known for its sticky buns. The pecans and sauce on top of the bun were incredible and gave the “Wow” factor. The brioche bun was also delicious. They were like donuts. I was also at the bakery near the end of the day when they only had a sticky bun bread pudding. The pudding was good but it is not for everyone. Since it is pudding, it can get a little soggy at the end of the day. As such, it is why the regular sticky bun, with the brioche bread, is the top seller. Nevertheless, the bread pudding version still has the caramelized pecans on top, which is the best part of the sticky buns.
2. Tatte Bakery (70 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114)
It is an incredible bakery with various locations throughout Boston. Everything (pastries, sandwiches, etc.) looked delicious. I went to try its mixed nut box because I read about it on a list of must eats in Boston. The box was made of cookie. It was or at least tasted like a shortbread cookie. It was certainly very tasty, thick, and had a good crunch. The box was full of mixed nuts that included pecan, pistachio, hazelnut, walnut, and cashews. The nuts were caramelized together. There was also a thick layer of caramel at the bottom of the box. Everything in the nut box, including the edible box, was great and I have never seen or eaten anything like it.
3. JP Licks (150 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114)
It is a popular ice cream chain in Boston. I was absolutely blown away by how great the ice cream tasted. It was among the best ice cream I have eaten anywhere. Their most popular flavor is the cookies and cake batter. It definitely delivered. It was so soft and rich. I walked in the ice cream shop full and intended on only trying one flavor. After I tried the pistachio, I knew I had to get a scoop of it too. It was some of the best pistachio ice cream I have had in my travels. Nevertheless, the cookies and cake batter flavor was softer. If there is one flavor you need to try at JP Licks, go with the cookie and cake batter.
Boston has a legitimate Chinatown in terms of size and variety. On the other hand, I was not that impressed with the overall food. Regardless, it is where you can get late night eats in Boston.
1. Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant (63 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111)
It is split into two connecting sections: a small restaurant and the bakery. It is a nice hole in the wall type spot to get some made to order dim sum. It is a good alternative to a formal sit-down restaurant for dim-sum. I ordered the preserved egg and pork congee, fried turnip cakes, and beef rice noodles. The congee was very good. The turnip cakes were deep fried and very crispy because of it. I prefer them pan fried with more of a sear like they usually are at dim sum spots but I definitely enjoyed them deep fried too. The beef rice noodles were decent. The beef was good but the noodles fell apart way too easy. They need to be thicker and stay wrapped around the beef so you can eat them together. I also highly recommend going to the bakery to get an egg tart. It was one of the better ones I have had in awhile. The egg had perfect smoothness and sweetness. The crust was very good.
2. Hong Kong Eatery (79 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111)
It is one of those hole in the wall places with the Chinese barbecue meats hanging on the windows. These spots are generally good for barbecue meats over rice, noodle soups, congee, and other rice and noodle dishes. I ordered a soy sauce chicken and roast duck over rice. Both were very good. It came with Shanghai bok choy. The dish was $1 more than I am used to but still not that expensive. Hong Kong Eatery is solid and what I expect from this type of restaurant.
3. Hei La Moon (88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111)
It is the big name for dim sum in Boston. While dim sum is one of my favorite Chinese foods, most spots for it are good but there is nothing special that really differentiates them from other good ones. Hei La Moon is decent and what I expect. The restaurant is very big. Nevertheless, it is nothing exceptional that you need to try. The beef rice noodles were very good. I also enjoyed the roast pork buns: steamed and baked. The dough on both were soft. The spare ribs over rice noodles were ok. I did not care for the sticky rice. I also went at 9 AM in the morning. Not all of the items (e.g. fried turnip cake) were available. On the other hand, the lines are very long at prime hours. I walked past the restaurant at lunch time during the weekend and the line was out the door.
4. Gourmet Dumpling House (52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111)
It is one of the most popular spots for soup dumplings in Boston. The lines are out the door. Even at 11:30 PM at night, it was bustling. In my opinion, their dumplings were good but did not live up to the hype. I have definitely had much better. First, we ordered the pork and leek dumplings and paid the extra 25 cents to get them fried. The meat was good but the ratio of dough to meat was off. There was too much dough compared to the meat in the dumplings. Next, we got the soup dumplings, which were the “mini juicy” ones on the menu. The dumpling skin for them were perfect. However, the meat and soup were nothing special. They do not measure up to the best soup dumplings I have had elsewhere.
5. Hing Shing Bakery (67 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111)
It is a bakery in Chinatown. I grabbed a roast pork bun and red bean cake on my way to South Station for the bus ride home. The roast pork bun was very solid. The dough and meat was very good. Considering I ordered them at the end of the day and not closer to when they came out of the oven, I was impressed that both the bun and meat were still tasty. In terms of the red bean cake, the red bean paste was very good but I did not care for the cookie part of the “cake”. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend this bakery for a quick or on the go bite.
6. Acai Bowls
1. Jugos (145 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116)
I have had trouble finding great acai bowls outside of warmer, tropical climates. Jugos was no different. The bowl was decent but not great. I ordered the “Kai”, which blended the acai base with strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and banana. It was tangy, sour because of the berries. I like it that way. On the other hand, the base has a texture more like a smoothie than the more solid ones I prefer, similar to sorbets. The granola on top was good but nothing special. The blueberries were big and delicious. In my experience, a great honey really puts an acai bowl over the top. The “Kai” did not feature any.
- Mother Juice (100 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02108)
I stopped by Mother Juice to try its acai bowl. The presentation was great. The fruit was very sweet and fresh. It came in a clear cup so you could see every layer and ingredient in the bowl. The base was not bad but it was not my favorite. I like it to taste like a blended sorbet, an in between hard ice and a smoothie, with a cool chill as the perfect temperature. Mother Juice’s base tasted too solid. It might have been the almond butter that made it really thick. Then again, I have eaten an excellent acai bowl with almond butter before. I am also allergic to coconut milk so almond milk was substituted. That swap might have also contributed to the issue. Moreover, the granola was only average. The bowl could also use a honey on top to improve.
It was a decent acai bowl but I would not call it a must try. The smoothies, juices, and other food looked great. If you are looking for something healthy, light and clean, Mother Juice is worth a visit.
7. South Station
If you are going to or leaving the city via train or bus, you will probably cut through South Station. If you want to grab something to go or hungry when you get into the station, Chinatown is an option. There is also a pretty good food court inside the station. I enjoyed Oath Craft Pizza (700 Atlantic Ave, Boston, MA 02110).
It is a kiosk inside South Station. I got into the station late and was looking for something to eat. Oath Craft Pizza was one of the only spots still open. It serves makeshift pizzas on flatbread that are very quick to make. The flatbread was excellent. I ordered a “Muffled Trushroom” for me and a “Bella” for my friend. The former had clunks of mozzarella. I prefer it completely melted in. The mushrooms were very good. I tried a slice of the “Bella”: mozzarella, roasted cherry tomato, roasted garlic, ricotta, balsamic drizzle, pamigiano, and fresh basil. I preferred that pizza. Of course, it was not the best pizza I have eaten. Nevertheless, it was very good and I could have done worse late at night.
While the food scene in Boston is incredible, the coffee scene was disappointing. There are plenty of acceptable options for specialty coffee. Nevertheless, most of them do not measure up to the top coffee shops I have experienced.
1. Gracenote (108 Lincoln St, Boston, MA 0211)
It easily had the best coffee I drank in Boston and the only shop in the city I thought measured up to the top coffee shops around the country. The microfoam and latte art were perfect. There was a hint of bitterness at the top of the drink but the beans were basically extracted flawlessly (the sweetness and not the bitterness flavor of the beans). The latte was rich and smooth throughout the entire drink. Gracenote is a cute, boutique shop in Chinatown. There was limited seating. Accordingly, it has great coffee but may not be the best place to sit and hang around.
2. Curio (441 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141)
It is a coffee shop in Cambridge. It probably had the second best coffee I tried in the Boston area. The microfoam at the top of my latte was very rich and smooth. That texture was consistent throughout the drink. There was a slight bitterness at the top but not much after the initial sips so the extraction of the beans was almost perfect. I also liked the shop itself. There was enough space with tables and seating at the bar to comfortably read.
3. Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar (665 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111)
It is a coffee shop that doubles as a wine bar. Consequently, it is open late. I came here after dinner and tried a chai latte. The latte art was very pretty. The drink was very sweet and had a strong peppermint flavor. I enjoyed it so much that I came back the next morning to try the regular [coffee] latte. It was decent but not nearly as good as the chai latte. The latte was slightly off in regards to the water to milk ratio. In other words, it was too watery. I could tell the drink was off by the many bubbles on top of the microfoam. It was not as rich and smooth as it could have been but it was close to being very good. On the other hand, I love the decor and space of the location. There was plenty of comfortable seating to do work or relax. In addition, there are plenty of power outlets throughout the shop.
4. Flat Black Coffee Company (260 Franklin St, Boston, MA 02110)
It is a good coffee shop in the financial district. I ordered a latte. The latte art was non-existent but the drink made up for it with substance. I enjoyed the clear cups so I could see the consistency of the richness and smoothness throughout the drink. I also like that the texture was thick and not watery. I have had a few instances at various coffee shops in Boston where the water to milk balance was off and the drinks were too watery. The balance at Flat Black was ideal.
5. Thinking Cup (85 Newbury St Boston, MA 02116)
It is a solid coffee shop in Boston. Its coffee beans are Stumptown sourced. Stumptown is one of the best coffee roasters and shops in Portland, Oregon. I ordered a latte. The art was good. There was a slight bitterness so the coffee beans were not quite extracted flawlessly. Moreover, it was also slightly watery. Nevertheless, it was a solid latte. The space and decor was excellent. There was a lot of seating. However, it was very busy around 1. I had to wait a bit to get a seat because there were a lot of customers.
6. Render Coffee (563 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118)
I ordered a latte at Render Coffee. It was some of the most beautiful latte art I have seen anywhere. However, it tasted a bit watery. It was not as smooth and rich as the lattes I have had at some of the better coffee shops around the country.
7. Barrington Coffee Roasters (303 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02115)
I had a solid but not great latte here. The microfoam on top was good. However, there was bitterness throughout the drink which means the beans were not extracted as well as they could have been.. Nevertheless, I still thought the drink was good.
8. Pavement Coffee House (1096 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215)
There are six locations in Boston. That number is enough for me to classify it as a chain. For a chain, it was decent. It was definitely much better than Starbucks. Nevertheless, my latte was not spectacular. The microfoam and top of the drink was bleh in general. However, it did get better after the start. It was consistently decent and smooth afterwards in the rest of the drink.