“In Boston they ask, how much does he know?"
April 26, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving away from home-sweet-home Boston in two months. What should I make sure not to miss before then?

Along the lines of this question, I'm looking to make some more great Boston memories before I leave (possibly for good). I grew up in the area, so I'm already very familiar with the major attractions like the aquarium, the Commons, and the major museums (MFA, ICA, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Science). I went to Tufts, so I'm excessively familiar with Redbones (though I do love it). Right now, I live near Central Square, so I've been discovering local delights like Dim Sum at Mary Chung's, Saturday night motown and soul dancing at Zuzu, Traniwreck at the MidEast Downstairs, and the sweet manna that is Coast Cafe chicken. There have to be similar unpretentious gems outside of Cambridgeport, right?

I like: cheap food (great ethnic places are a plus), slightly offbeat nightlife options, cozy dive bars with great beer selections, coffee, art, and books. I don't like: bro culture or over-crowded, over-priced places.

I have a car, but prefer to use public transportation when possible.
posted by oinopaponton to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I know I'm a geek, but I never get tired of the Freedom Trail. And is the North End market still in existence? I loved that market, not to mention all the lovely espresso/cookie places in the North End. Finally, hope you get to do something I never did and still dream about -- go to a Red Sox game at Fenway.
posted by bearwife at 10:10 AM on April 26, 2010

I find myself in Boston a few times a year for meetings - on my way out of town I usually try to grab burritos from Anna's Taqueria, because they are cheap and heavenly. They have (or had) locations in Porter Square and Davis Square, perhaps elsewhere.

More generally, I would say start hitting all of your current favorite haunts as frequently as you can, because those are the ones you're going to really miss after you move away.
posted by usonian at 10:11 AM on April 26, 2010

You've been to Baraka Cafe on Pearl street, right? (this would qualify under great ethnic places that are like eating at grandma's, if grandma was a chatty woman in a hijab)

The Arlington Public Library? (I'm ashamed to admit I've lived in the area for years and only recently went inside - it's amazing.)

The Middlesex Fells? (another I'm ashamed to admit I just recently visted them...)

Supposedly Lord Hobo (newly opened where the B-side once was) has a huge beer selection.

Pie of any stripe from Tupelo's in Inman Square (Dinner is quite good, but the woman who is Petsi Pies owns this joint.)
posted by canine epigram at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2010

Mostly, I love food, so these are recommendations in that vein:

I love this restaurant, and I often hear the most unexpected people recommend to me when I ask for a new place to try: Cafe Jaffa in Back Bay, closest to Hynes Convention Center T stop, or take the 1 down Mass Ave.

I suspect you've been through the North End rounds since you grew up in Boston, but if you have never done the full on hour long wait outside Giacomo's in the North End on a Saturday night, I recommend you try to get it in. Since they don't take reservations but their food is so good, the line stretches for an hour even in the middle of winter. We made it through last January in six inches of snow by bring a bottle of wine (shhh) and making friends with the couple in front of us.
posted by CharlieSue at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2010

If I were in your situation, one of the last things I would do is pick a warm evening as close to summer as possible and go for a walk through Boston Proper.

I'd get off the T at Charles/MGH:

-walk down Charles Street to the Common

-Walk through the Common to the Public Garden

-Walk through the Public Garden (and around a bit) to Back Bay (Newbury Street)

-Walk Along Newbury Street to Dartmouth

-turn left down Dartmouth and walk into Copley Square (and stare at Trinity Church for a bit)

-continue down Dartmouth into the South End to Tremont

-Turn left at Tremont and walk through the South End to Kneeland

-turn right at Kneeland and then turn left onto Washington

-follow Washington up through Downtown Crossing and take a left at Brompton

-Follow Brompton up to the end, take a left at Tremont, go back to Park Street station

Ugh. I feel weird typing that out imagining that I'm saying goodbye. Good luck wherever you're going.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you seriously geeky? If you've not been to the MIT Flea Market, you should go while you can.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2010

seconding Mayor Curley's suggestion about walking.

When I used to live in the Fenway, I loved walking from my apartment to the North End and back, ambling past the South End or Beacon Hill as fancy took me. For North of the River, I would start with a lunch or brunch in Inman (either Punjabi Dhaba or All Star or the S&S Deli depending on your predilection and budget) then walk up North Beacon towards Dali, left on Kirkland then take random turns north and west wards, exploring the various grand little houses in that triangle that is bounded by North Beacon, Kirkland and Oxford. Once you get to Oxford, head south into Harvard Square, then continue walking west along Garden, left on Huron then down the hill continue walking west, making random detours to look peek at houses or alleys or pathways sequestered away from the main streets, then back to Harvard Square when you've felt like you've gone far enough west. If you still feel like walking, go through Cambridgeport south of Mass Ave. towards MIT, then back north along Norfolk to Inman.

For food, I would stop by Louie The Lobster Guy (aka Alive and Kicking Lobsters) because, in all truth, depending on the city that you're moving to, you may find ethnic cuisine that's superior to the Boston equivalent, but unless you're moving to Portland, Maine, you're likely going to be hard pressed to find lobster that will be better.

Bars with great beer include Deep Ellum, Bukowski's, and the aforementioned Lord Hobo (though, I think on a sliding scale, Hobo might be more pretentious or annoying for new since they've got the new place buzz going on right now) ... I would also argue that Boston, more than most other North American cities has great Irish pubs that do specifically cater to Irish expats rather than Americans looking for a theme bar. Top among these (imho) is The Druid in Inman Square, but Matt Murphy's in the Brookline is worth checking out, as is Brendan Behan's in JP. Also, as far as bars go, Highland Kitchen can be worth checking out if nothing if not for Tuesday night spelling bees.
posted by bl1nk at 11:05 AM on April 26, 2010

In addition to the above, if I were leaving town, I'd get myself to:
- Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square.
- Brookline Lunch and Mary Chung in Central, and drinks at Cuchi Cuchi near there.
- Pho in Chinatown (any of the pho shops are great, really) and/or dim sum.
- Artu in the North End. Possibly also the Daily Catch.
- Silvertone near Downtown Crossing. Also possible the Falafel King on Winter.
- Down toward JP I'd be sure to stop at JP Licks, the El Salvadoran place near Brendan Beehan pub, and Doyle's for that old-school Boston feel.

But, yeah, I like the idea for getting out for some walks/bikerides/drives, as it's often the scenery that makes the town.
posted by ldthomps at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2010

If you are moving somewhere not on an ocean, then get to the beach often in the next 2 months. Take the Blue Line to Revere Beach, take the ferry to P-Town (after Memorial Day), drive up to Gloucester, and Hampton, and Ogunquit. Well, you get the idea. I left the Boston area 16 years ago, the only thing I really miss is the ocean.
posted by hworth at 11:10 AM on April 26, 2010

I'm going to try to be good and limit myself to Boston, because I could really go nuts telling you about locations nearby. So, you've walked all over Beacon Hill on a beautiful day, right? Because that is not to be missed. And although I realize it is completely corny, please take a ride on the Swan Boats, preferably with a small child you are fond of, if you haven't before, and bring something with which to feed the real swans.

Also, I think the dioramas in the old classic Boston Public Library, the McKim Mead and White number, are an undiscovered treasure of the city.
posted by bearwife at 12:36 PM on April 26, 2010

christian science church's maparium!
posted by rmd1023 at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2010

Dim sum at Empire Garden. It's delicious, but also gets mega-bonus points for atmosphere.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:47 PM on April 26, 2010

Christina's ice cream (and spice shop!) in Inman Square. I moved back from Boston in 2004 and I still run to Christina's the first chance I get every time I'm back! Oh, and Tacos Lupita on Elm St. in Somerville...cheap and way better than Anna's, in my opinion. Try the pupusas -- tasty!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:56 PM on April 26, 2010

seconding Christina's ... the one thing that I know I will miss if I ever leave Boston is access to good ice cream shops that don't make a big deal of the selling, say, Khulfi flavored ice cream.

ooh, another thing I'd bring up, if you're going to go wander around Huron Village, you ought to stop by the Formaggio street side cookout stall. It's open on Saturday afternoon and runs until they sell out of their daily inventory. It is a little pretentious and BoBo, as is most things associated with Formaggio Kitchen, but it's a nice change up on the standard Redbones style BBQ plate of meat. They sell a hot dog that's served inside a grilled hollowed-out baguette, which is great to snack on while you roam the city.

I also think that, as far as ethnic flavor goes, the Portuguese community in Boston is kind of underappreciated. Head up to Inman Square and get a meal at Casa Portugal, and maybe buy your next fish from the nice family that owns New Deal Fish Market. While you're there you can also indulge in some Brazilian baked goods at Casal Bakery.
posted by bl1nk at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2010

I don't like baseball and I'm at best a fair-weather friend to the Sox, but I've lived in Boston since '86 and if I were leaving, the top of my list of things to do would say "summer night game at Fenway."
posted by cocoagirl at 7:07 PM on April 26, 2010

The Harbor Islands! The ferry (I believe the round trip is $12? $14?) starts up again in May and can take you to Spectacle Island (easy walking trails) and George's Island (old fort that's fun to wander around - there are some superbly creepy tunnels!).

Not part of the ferry ride (and not even a real island anymore) is Castle Island - another fort to wander around plus the beach right along side it and Pleasure Bay. I've taken the 10 City Point bus out of Copley Square to get there, but I think there are other buses that will get you close by as well.

And unless I missed someone mentioning them above, The Publick House for a great beer selection and the always amazing and now reopened EL PELON! for delicious Mexican (across from the last stop on the B Line at BC).
posted by dayspteh at 7:35 PM on April 26, 2010

If you can, definitely go whale watching from the aquarium. Incredible.

Seconding Anna's.

If you haven't wandered around Harvard's libraries and museums, they're worth it.
posted by eleanna at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2010

Walk around the Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
posted by brujita at 9:38 PM on April 26, 2010

You're not just moving away from a place but from a time. Enjoy the sites and tastes you love while you're still here and stop trying to program your interests as if you were on a tour. If you haven't visited some Boston area places in your years up to now, that's because of who you are now and what you like at this time. I've moved away from Boston, specifically my native Cambridge, 3 times. Prediction: You'll be back but you'll have new interests and you'll discover new places you love more than the old ones.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:10 AM on April 27, 2010

Obviously you all are not bowlers, because the answer is candlepin bowling, which is almost exclusively a New England phenomenon. Sacco's in Davis Sq. is (was?) the best, but last I heard they were set to close or undergoing renovations or something, so you'll have to do some more research.

I wouldn't shed too many tears over Chinese food or burritos (and I say this as a onetime regular and enthusiastic diner at Tacos Lupita.) In your new town you will find some similarly divey and underappreciated gem of a restaurant, but you will not likely find New England brown bread like they make at Hi-Rise in Harvard Sq. or Huron Village. I might make an exception for brunch at The Neighborhood, in Union Sq. It's just too... Somerville, to exist elsewhere.

Definitely get out and walk around. I would do the Mayor one better and tell you to walk from Davis or Harvard, through Cambridge, across the Mass Ave. bridge and into downtown. Don't just plow down Mass. Ave. though, walk through the neighborhood!

At the very least, drive by the Stop & Shop with the radio on.
posted by clockwork at 6:17 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. I'm going to try to work through all of these suggestions in the measly 8 weekends I have left. I'm glad that I'm moving in June and not February, so that I can enjoy one last Boston spring.

Man, now I don't want to leave. Luckily, I'm moving to New York, where I'll have even more neighborhoods to explore.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:24 AM on April 27, 2010

I'm going to echo clockwork and 2nd Sacco's (whose site says they're not re-opening until the end of May) as well as the Mass Ave walk. It follows the Red Line to Central, goes through MIT to the Smoot Bridge and eventually up to Hynes/Newbury/Berklee to the Christian Science plaza/Symphony area. Or once you cross the bridge, you can take a right on Beacon or Commonwealth and end up in Kenmore. From there, you can pick your neighborhoods by following where all the Green Lines go.

3rding Christina's for ice cream. Although since you have a car, you can drive out and get some farmstand ice cream like Kimballs.

You can take a T ferry from the Aquarium to the Charlestown Navy Yard. It's a pleasant, short and usually at the wharf with the least amount of people. The skyline's from a different angle, and you can check out the Constitution or the warship or check out Bunker Hill.

There's also Fan Pier, which is about 10 minutes walk from South Station (or the Silver Line Courthouse stop). The pier has lots of benches and the Moakley Courthouse has a really nice green area to sit and enjoy the view. The ICA is also nearby with similarly cool views and Flour Bakery is right behind the Children's Museum for a somewhat pricey, if tasty, snack.
posted by zix at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2010

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