Cheap eats in Beantown?
March 27, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Cheap eats and good beer in Boston. I'm in Boston for a conference in mid-April, and I'm looking for cheap dinner options. I'll be downtown but I'm more than willing to travel the T for good, cheap food. Any recommendations for good beer are also welcome.
posted by mollweide to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (32 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what you mean by "cheap" but for beer and food you should check out Jacob Wirth's. If you are by yourself you can sit and eat at the bar.
posted by thomas144 at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: If you take the red line T out to Davis square, there's a great BBQ place with an extensive beer list - Red Bones. For really cheap eats near Harvard (I'm not sure about the 'good' part) you can go to Grendel's Den, around Harvard Square, where the meal's half off if you order a pint.
posted by Herman Hermanson at 11:01 AM on March 27, 2008

Those are good options. Someone also recommended to me the other day Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (I don't think they serve beer though, and I haven't been yet). I am a big fan of Wagamama, which is in Cambridge and in the Quincy Market. It's sort of a pan-asian situation going on there, but not too expensive, and I think delicious. Beer is also not its forte.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2008

Best cheap deal in town is Anna's Taqueria, there are three (maybe four) Brookline on Washington St., Porter Square and Davis Square in Somerville.

For the money it's hard to beat a beans and rice quesadilla with Guacamole. With a small lemonade it used to come in under $5 but I think it's a little more now. They go crazy with the ice, I'd ask them to half the ice.

I used to be quite fond of Little Stevie (shitty's) pizza on Boylston st. It's weird and dingy and kind of dirty but you get a gigantic slice for super cheap. I haven't been there in a while so I can't remember how cheap, but cheap.

Boston is not bad at all for cheap food. I'm in Portland, Maine, now, which is a cheap city with expensive food.

Oh yeah, I like Budha's delight, a faux meat vegetarian place in Chinatown that I've been eating at for the last 14 years. El Peron has really good mexican in The Fenway, and the Thai place next to it is also cheap and pretty good.

Oh yeah, great great pizza and also pretty amazing pasta at The Penguin in Longwood, behind Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Everything here except Anna's is in Boston proper.

Happy eating.
posted by sully75 at 11:16 AM on March 27, 2008

For a huge selection of beer, go to the Sunset Grill in Allston (take the B Line to Harvard St.). They have 300+ different options. If it's too crowded, go next door to their sister restaurant Big City - they only have 100 or so options, but there's a big pool hall that's relatively inexpensive. Food and drink aren't cheap, but it's not unreasonable.

The Publick House in Brookline (C Line to Washington Square) has a good selection of Belgian beer, but is a little on the pricey side. I've only had drinks there, so I can't testify to the food.

The Pour House (any Green Line to Hynes Convention Center) is very, very cheap. Nothing special about the food or beer, but there are half-off specials most days - you can get a meal and a beer for about seven bucks.

If you end up going to Grendel's, right around the corner is Charlie's Kitchen which I've started to grow fond of. Typical dive bar, but the drinks are pretty cheap and the food isn't bad.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:18 AM on March 27, 2008

Oh, there are two brewpubs in town that are also quite good - John Harvard's in (you guessed it) Harvard Square, and the Boston Beer Works. The Beer Works has one location near North Station and another by Fenway.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:20 AM on March 27, 2008

Wing It! Cheap and super-tasty chicken wings with . This is the thing I miss most about Boston. They've got maybe 3 tables and a roll or two of paper towels shared among them, so be prepared for super-casual dining or get takeout or delivery. My favorite was the boneless wings with Jamaican Jerk sauce. Yummy. (Take the Green line B train to Harvard Ave, and then walk back along Commonwealth Ave a few blocks. There used to be a T stop called Fordham right in front of this place, but it's not showing up on the MBTA website.)
posted by vytae at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2008

"...with a ton of different sauces." Not sure what happened there.
posted by vytae at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2008

My wife and I visited about a year and a half ago. Any of the little Italian places in the North End were great. There was also a cool little basement place called Silvertone near the Opera House that had a nice ambiance and reasonable prices.
posted by cdmwebs at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2008

THREE BREWPUBS HA HA HA! Cambridge Brewing Company near the Kendall T stop also makes their own beer.
posted by mkb at 11:29 AM on March 27, 2008

Redbones is a must. While you're there, stop by Downtown Wine and Spirits and pick up some exotic bottled beers. The Publick House in Brookline is also easily T-accessible and has a very good beer list and quite good food. Those are probably my two favorite destinations for good beer and food together in the Boston area.
posted by pombe at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2008

When I think tasty cheap eats, I think of Fajitas and Ritas just off Washington Street.
posted by Plutor at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: is also great for such recs, if you're not familiar.

My favorites in this category are:

Shay's in Harvard Square. Coming out of the main entrance to the T, you'll head straight down JFK street, passing Mt Auburn St. It'll be on your left. It's down a few stairs, and it's the only place in the square with a real patio, so sit out there if the weather's nice. Amazing, juicy burgers with great fries. Good beer. Great, relaxed, "Cheers"-esque ambiance. Small but selective beer selection.

Doyle's in Jamaica Plain - this is the quintessential Boston bar. It's where all the politicos go to hang out and kibbitz, but it still feels like a good, non-cheesy Irish pub. Decent food, good prices, good beer.

If you're looking for a good sandwich, try the chacarero stand in downtown Boston. I forget the exact street, but it's near the downtown crossing subway station, against one of the outside walls of Macy's. It's called, simply, Chacareros. OMG SO GOOD. $7 gets you a Chilean flatbread sandwich stuffed with meat (chicken or beef), barbecued or not, tomatoes, roasted peppers, amazing avocado sauce and, get this, green beans. Topped by a fiery hot sauce. Sounds weird, but seriously some of the best food I've ever had. I CRAVE it now that I don't live in Boston.
posted by lunasol at 12:01 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wagamama's is tasty, but in a town with $5 burritos and burgers, with artisanal bakers and chi-chi French bistros offering takeaway sandwiches on handmade bread with fresh ingredients for $7, a bowl of $12 noodles is not cheap nor is it a good value.

If you're going to be downtown around the Conference Center, your options are relatively limited. If you're willing to hoof of it past South Station to Downtown Crossing and/or Chinatown, then the go-to lunch places are Chacarero and Pho Hoa if you're really wanting good noodle soups. Pubs in downtown don't impress me, but the Black Rose is fine if you don't feel like getting on the T or taking a taxi.

Further in the city, if cheap food and good beer are your chocolate and peanut butter then the following is my ranking

In order of availability of good beer:
Publick House (Washington Sq. Brookline)
Bukowski's (Back Bay & Inman)
Redbones (Davis)
Sunset Grill (Allston)
Grendel's (Harvard Sq.)
Cambridge Brewing Company (Kendall)
Boston Beerworks (Kenmore)
Charley's Kitchen (Harvard Sq.)

In order of cheapness of food
Charleys Kitchen
Boston Beerworks
Publick House / Cambridge Brewing Company

note that cheapness is a relative thing -- even if Publick House is on the gourmet side of the food equation, you can have a main course and two pints for ~ $30 with tip. For some, that's still pretty pricey. For others, it's a standard night out.
posted by bl1nk at 12:25 PM on March 27, 2008

For a very good (quality, not quantity) beer selection and decent pub food, head thee to Cambridge Common on Mass Ave in Cambridge (north of the Square, past the Law School). Their deep-fried pickles is the perfect bar snack.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2008

The Boston area's got plenty of cheap eats if you're willing to hunt around a bit. My favorite place (that hasn’t been mentioned yet) is Boca Grande. They're great for cheap (~$5) Mexican food — closer to the taqueria standard than the Qdoba/Chipotle standard, but that's a plus in my book. They’ve got a few locations, including one between Harvard and Porter Squares on the Red Line. No beer, though...
posted by electric_counterpoint at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: There are so many delicious cheap eats around Boston. Since you are going to be downtown which is right next to Chinatown, you might as well start there. Some of my favorite places are Hong Kong Eatery (for their cheap rice plates with roast pork, chicken, and duck; around $6), King Fung Garden (known for their noodle and rice cake dishes; around $7), and Peach Farm (amazing Chinese seafood dishes, but it is a bit pricier than the other places--well worth it if you order right). If you just want a sandwich, get a Vietnamese Bahn Mi at New Saigon Sandwich ($2.50).

Another area to explore for cheap food is Allston (just take the Green Line to Harvard Ave). So many options around here. Check out Gitlo's for all day Dim Sum or Reef Cafe for Lebanese food.

Other sites to check out are eatanddestroy (sorry, a shameless plug for my Boston food site) and Chowhound's Boston site.
posted by toddst at 12:51 PM on March 27, 2008

Christopher's is a pub in Porter Square that has some interesting beer, and a relaxed atmosphere.

In the Porter Exchange Mall, you'll find a bunch of relatively cheap Japanese noodle and sushi shops.

Central Square has a bunch of cheap Indian, Tibetan, and Pizza places.

Davis Square is lousy with burritos joints.
posted by canine epigram at 12:53 PM on March 27, 2008

Where is the conference? You might be near Lucky's Lounge (if you can find it).
posted by tiburon at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2008

I messed up the link for chowhound above, try this instead.
posted by toddst at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2008

Hungry Mother has just opened in Cambridge, is very near the Kendall T stop, and has an interesting assortment of beer. The owners have a good reputation and people are excited. It's definitely worth a visit!
posted by kuppajava at 1:37 PM on March 27, 2008

Take it from a grad student- for the cheapest most delicious food around, head to Pho Pasteur on Stuart Street. That is, if you like Vietnamese cuisine. They serve beer, too, but nothing fancy.

Lunasol, sadly, that sandwich shop you praised no longer exists, due to construction.

Lots of good selections above- I'd avoid the Pulick House because I always end up spending a lot of money there. Bukowski's is a better value for a similar atmosphere.
posted by emd3737 at 2:40 PM on March 27, 2008

emd3737 -- the old Chacarero stand by Macy's has closed, but a new full fledged restaurant with table service opened up just behind the Border's in Downtown Crossing. Check the site that I linked to in my previous post.
posted by bl1nk at 3:05 PM on March 27, 2008

Central Square Cambridge is full of ethnic restaurants; The Middle East for yummy lamb tongue. Mary Chung for spicy bean sprouts. The Miracle of Science for veggie burger, There's also Etheopian, Diner, Greek, etc.
posted by Gungho at 3:42 PM on March 27, 2008

Where is the conference? At the Hynes in Back Bay or at the Convention Centre near the waterfront?

If your at the Convention Centre:

LTK (Legal Test Kitchen) has a surprisingly good beer selection, including Belgium & German brews, with a really cool bar, and decent food, that includes non-seafood. Much cooler & hipper than a regular Legal Sea Foods. And the staff are really friendly, especially at the bar. The food isn't that cheap, but the fish'n'chip is ~$13 and you won't be hungry! :)

Lucky's, which someone else mentioned, has live music some nights, the food's mediocre, and a not too bad selection of beers. The place can be hard to find as it's not signposted, look for the smokers outside. ;)

The Barking Crab with great views of the city skyline has not the most exciting selection of beer, but they have Guinness & Harpoon (a local brew) but the grub is decent, and not too dear. When the weather is warmer they a have a big tent that they open up, but at this time of the year it's just a small cosy bar. Sit at the bar and chat to the Irish barmen, and enjoy the view of the city.

For lunch go to the Channel Cafe, but get there before 12.05, if you want a seat! It's a hip arty place, about 5 min walk from the convention centre, with decent food, and not too dear for lunch and you can grab a beer too! Also, really good coffee.

Slightly Further afield:

Delux in the South End is a must try for good inexpensive decent food, cash only, but usually the most expensive thing on the menu is $12. It's at the corner of Clarendon&Chandler, a short walk from Back Bay station, and is an oldish South End institution, the beer selection ain't too bad and usually doesn't consist of any major US brews.

Red Bones, in Davis Sq, which other's have mentioned does a have a fantastic beer list, and I used to love their BBQ until I tried some much better BBQ! However, Davis Sq is worth the 15 minutes easy ride on the Red Line to see a real Boston neighbourhood, if you go to Bones by yourself, sit at the Bar. The Publick House, also mentioned already, has a great beer selection, I think their food is pretty good for pub grub, but is a wee bit dear.

Maybe I'll think of some more place after I eat dinner! :)
posted by zaphod at 6:13 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

oh yeah, The Squealing Pig on Huntington Ave, good food, and the best, best prices on fancy imported beers. Much cheaper than Bukowski's or the Publick House, catch the E train on the Green Line and get off at the Brigram Circle stop cross to the inbound side of Huntington Ave, and walk back two blocks. Flann O'Brien's a few blocks away has a good beer selection too. However, the area used to be really dodgy, and could still be late at night.

Hey emd3737, when was the last time you were at Bukowski's? I've found they've gotten really really expensive for beers, about $9 for a Chimay that is about $7/$8 most other places and $6 at the Pig!
posted by zaphod at 7:06 PM on March 27, 2008

NO Barking crab! It was just shut down for the 2nd time for sanitary conditions.
posted by Gungho at 8:10 PM on March 27, 2008

bl1nk- thank you for the news about Chacarero- you just made my day!

zaphod- Totally forgot about the Squealing Pig, great suggestion! Same with Flann O'Brien's. The area's not bad- I used to work in Longwood and went there often at night and never felt sketched out.

Re: Bukowski's- you're right, prices have gone up a bit, but I still think it's a better deal than the Publick House.

Another thing to be on the look out is for happy hour specials. There's a weird state law that prohibits happy hour type alcohol specials, so a lot of places to half-priced apps or have a special cheap meal deal to bring in the after work crowd.

Another place for excellent cheap Central American food is El Triumfo on E. Berkeley in the South End. It's more of a take-out place, and doesn't serve beer, but oh my God the steak tacos and pupusas are so good.
posted by emd3737 at 9:04 PM on March 27, 2008

Great question-- your name suggests it's the same conference I'll be at, and I started a Google Map some weeks ago with some suggestions around Copley. In your mefi-mail (and anyone else's who would like it), and perhaps I'll post it after adding these updates and a bit of editing.
posted by zachxman at 3:19 AM on March 28, 2008

Here's another vote for Anna's Taqueria--it's super cheap and tasty. I wouldn't call it legit Mexican or anything, but definitely good food. And did I mention cheap? Less than $5 for a super burrito (large size shell, cheese, great fillings...I'm particularly fond of the veggies, and I'm not even a vegetarian).

So many good options have been listed already, but I'll add another that I'm fond of--dunno if it is still great, but when I lived in J.P. years ago, I liked James's Gate a lot. It's got fancy dining on one side and then a pretty great standard Irish pub with bar food on the other. Decent range of beer if I recall. The pub side had this nice big common table and a fireplace. You'll have to hike out to J.P. but that's not that far from the center of Boston.

Good luck. I think your true challenge will be to select among the many options!
posted by dubitable at 12:25 PM on March 28, 2008


There's a weird state law that prohibits happy hour type alcohol specials, so a lot of places to half-priced apps or have a special cheap meal deal to bring in the after work crowd.

OMG that's so Massachusetts. I mean, that's so wicked fuckin' Massachusetts.
posted by dubitable at 12:30 PM on March 28, 2008

Yep, been that way since the Dukakas era. Around the same time the drinking age was raised to 21. So no traditional happy hours. Drink specials must last at least 30 days on the menu. So you'll see a few places offering free or reduced appetizers during what would normally be happy hour.
posted by Gungho at 6:30 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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