Boston, also know as Beantown has earned a reputation as a foodie destination, with world-famous seafood, traditional dishes, and a burgeoning international culinary scene. At least one of these signature dishes should be sampled in any trip to Massachusetts for Boston dining.
Boston’s moniker, Beantown, was not chosen by chance; it is derived from the city’s famous baked beans. Baked beans aren’t baked, despite their name; they’re simmered, sweetened with syrup or molasses, and mixed with bacon or salt pork. Beantown Pub, The Fours, and Marliave, a French restaurant that serves a mound of smoky beans in a cast-iron skillet, are among the pubs that serve the old-fashioned, slow-cooked version.
Boston Cream Pie
There’s probably nothing more Boston than the dessert that bears the city’s name. Since 1856, when it was originally prepared at the Parker House Hotel, Boston cream pie has been a local favorite (now the Omni Parker House Hotel).
The pie, which was originally known as a chocolate cream pie and was baked by French chef Augustine Francois Anezin, consisted of two rounds of sponge cake bathed in custard, painted with rum syrup, and capped with dazzling chocolate fondant. The cake is still available at the hotel, but Flour Bakery, Union Square Donuts, and Magnolia Bakery also have excellent variations in both cake and doughnut form.
Clam chowder has been around for generations, thanks to a small group of settlers (said to be British, French, or Nova Scotian) who brought it to New England in the early 1800s. Although there are a few other types, Boston has become known for the New England variety, which is a white chowder made with clams, onions, milk or cream, potatoes, and oyster crackers and thickened with them. Clam chowder is distinguished from other chowders by its characteristic white hue, which is due to the addition of milk. Chowder is served in almost every restaurant in Boston these days, but few do it better than Union Oyster House, which has been serving it since 1826.
If the line at Union Oyster House is too lengthy, a bowl from James Hook & Co. or Legal Sea Foods will suffice.
In Boston, there’s a bit of a cannoli rivalry. A popular debate among Bostonians is where to find flaky Italian pastry – hollow pastry tubes piped with sweet ricotta cheese and sprinkled with chocolate, almonds, or fruit. Definelty visit Mike’s Pastry in the North End, a family-run bakery that has been serving cannolis in white boxes tied with string since 1946. Or go down the street to Modern Pastry, where three generations of bakers hand-fill shells? Really you should do both!
Fish and Chips
Would you believe it if I told that one of the famous dishes in Boston is Fish and Chips? Although the first fish and chips establishment is thought to have opened in London in the mid-nineteenth century, Boston has adopted one of Britain’s favourite dishes as its own in Boston. White fish, usually cod, pollock, or haddock, is battered and deep-fried until golden and crackly, then served with a tray of oil-slicked potatoes. Bostonians go to The Barking Crab, a harborside eatery that serves fish and chips in a red plastic basket with a side of house-made tartar sauce. Others prefer Matt Murphy’s Pub’s variation, which includes crispy cod wrapped in newspaper.
While Boston’s northern neighbor may scoff at the idea of eating a lobster roll outside of Maine, the summertime lunch has become rather popular in the city. The sandwich, which is typically served on a buttered, griddled bun, is packed with pink lobster meat and slathered in warm melted butter or mayonnaise. Lines form quickly at Boston’s Neptune Oyster, which is packed with tourists wanting to try the famed Maine lobster roll. Lobster rolls are served either hot with butter or cold with mayonnaise. The no-frills Yankee Lobster Co. on the port offers all claw and knuckle meat for something a touch less formal.
In Boston, briny oysters plucked from the sea abound – particularly during the city’s self-proclaimed oyster hours.
Few oysters are as deliciously fresh as the ones served at Island Creek Oyster Bar, which are sourced from Duxbury, Plymouth, Barnstable, and Wellfleet in Massachusetts. Squeeze a fistful of lemon juice on top or shoot them straight back. For $1 oysters, go to La Brasa, Russell House Tavern, or Boston Public Market.