Friday, December 13, 2013

The Most Comprehensive Dining Guide of Downtown Crossing Ever - EAT EAT EAT

Downtown Crossing Dining Guide 2014

Downtown Crossing .
The Hub of the Universe

If you have never visited Boston before one of the first things you should know is that Boston is a city of neighborhoods. You have probably heard of the North End, our version of Little Italy or Back Bay where the Prudential tower and the Hancock building are located. Downtown Crossing is the area right between Chinatown, the business district and the Boston Common. It’s been called the Hub of the Universe but what it really is, is the center of Boston. Something like 200,000 people commute and walk through every day. Many many people work, live, go to school, and pass through on a regular basis and inevitably they get hungry (and thirsty).

Downtown Crossing has been experiencing a bit of a restaurant renaissance. After years of empty storefronts and what some would call blight it appears that much of the space is being scarfed up by people in the restaurant and bar business. Although there are many new places that have arrived there’s also plenty of old stalwarts that have remained and prospered over the years.

Being someone who has worked and spent a great deal of time in this great neighborhood I consider myself to be an expert on where to eat and grab a few drinks. No one has really put together a comprehensive guide of almost all the bars and restaurants. Some are universally loved by everyone and others are ok in a pinch. Of course this is just one man’s opinion and I fully expect and hope for comments below expressing what I left out and what I was wrong about. I welcome it.

When taking the public transportation or T , there are a few different stops you can get off to be in Downtown Crossing (DTX). The Red and Orange lines stop in Downtown Crossing. The Green and Red stop at Park Street, Green @ Boylston Street, Blue Line @ State Street or you can even get off at Government  Center or Chinatown and still be a few minutes away. It can’t be any more convenient. Everything on this list is walkable from any of the stops listed above. Downtown Crossing is not a large area.

It is very safe, although use judgement at night meaning don’t go walking down any dark alleys alone. Night time in downtown means less people around and like any city, more unsavory type characters around. Don't get inebriated and go off alone. Stick with a buddy. Being a city guy I say be friendly but trust carefully. The rule of thumb is not to give any criminals the opportunity to steal from you. So again, use judgement. 
It is a very safe neighborhood.

I’m going to start near Chinatown and work my way North classifying my list based on MY opinion on what is not to be missed. Then what is also pretty great and lastly on what is acceptable or what I haven’t really been to enough to form an opinion. If I think a place isn't any good then I’m just not going to mention it. Better to take the high road here I think but if someone wants my opinion I certainly won’t lie. Some places do, in my humble opinion, stink, but not many.

Here we go:

Avery Bar:  located inside the Ritz on Avery Street this bar is incredibly cozy. It has a lit fireplace. The bar itself is a semi circle so you can stare at everyone else at the bar and strike up a conversation if you are so inclined. Service is always excellent and the drinks are impeccable and made with care. There is food as well but I’ve only had drinks there. It’s a great place to start a night or to meet a date,or to hit before or after a show in the theater district. I personally would not go here if I was dressed too casually. It IS the Ritz after all.

Back Deck: located at 2 West Street on the corner of Washington Street is a newcomer to the DTX restaurant scene. It’s owned by Brad Frederick the guy who owns Fajita’s and Rita’s across the street but Back Deck is a completely different vibe. They call themselves a backyard grilling place. It’s like having a barbecue in your back yard if your back yard was an upscale casual restaurant and you were a talented chef instead of….you.  They do Smores for desert which blow away the Smores you had as a kid. Personally, I’d sit at the bar, order the Smores or some grilled hot wings. See what’s on the beer on tap list. Try a local brew and enjoy. If you would rather have a Margarita and some cheap fajitas head across the street. I wouldn’t. But you could.
(Papagayo is next door to Fajita’s and Rita’s)
(But I’d go to the Papagayo on Summer Street. It’s better)

Many awesome beers on tap at Stoddards

Stoddards on Temple Place

Stoddards : is on the next street over at 48 Temple Place. Temple is quickly becoming the restaurant row of DTX with 3 and soon to be 4 new places to eat. I love Stoddards. I would call this place a true craft beer bar. If you like beer GO HERE but let me qualify this. They also have an amazing drink program and delicious food. The bartenders know what they are doing. I would call them mixologists but then I’d sound pretentious. The charcuterie plate is great. They have cask conditioned beer as well as about 30 or more beers on tap. This place is terrific and has a great after work crowd. There’s a semi-secret  separate bar downstairs too. Ask Jamie Walsh about the Friday Club. The building is also very historical. Stoddards was a famous cutlery store for many years and the restaurant itself has a virtual museum of tidbits inside from Filene’s, the MBTA and more. Order the warm pretzels with mustard, poutine, chicken pot pie or steak frites to name a few great dishes.

jm Curley : Also on Temple Place is the secret hip bar that is no longer a secret. I hate the fact that I can’t walk in after work and sit at the bar any more. This is one of my go to bars for when people visit. Its unique, welcoming vibe transcends the rep of the neighborhood as being for locals only. The food is delicious. The hamburger is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. 
Order whatever burger is the special. Go to the board at the end of the bar and see what all the specials are. Order them all. Seriously. They have done crazy unique takes on things you think you’ve had before. But never like this. The drink program is outstanding. Kevin Mabry is the Doctor in charge when it comes to mixology but everyone who pours there does so with excellence. They also always have some interesting beers on tap. I love me a Clown Shoes, Session, Jacks Abby, Slumbrew or more, to name a few local craft brewers. Oh and one more thing. The back room is a separate restaurant. It’s a little intimate steak house called Bogey’s and although pricier is outstanding in its own right.

49 Social: I hear good things about this place although have not eaten there myself. It’s right across from Stoddards also on Temple. Talal Zaiter owns the place as well as a whole bunch of buildings in the area. The chef came from the Four Seasons so it must be good. They have happy hour bar specials such as dollar oysters and $5 bar bites. It’s worth a look too possibly.

Teatro is also a great place to eat. The food is Italian and is reasonably priced. Great drinks as well are to be found there. They have a small bar. It is a good date night place or before theater dinner. It’s upscale and owned by the Columbus Hospitality Group who also own Mistral, Sorrelina, and L’Andana. It’s at 177 Tremont.

A little further down Tremont towards the theater district are two bars I also like. It’s debatable whether or not this is part of DTX but they deserve a mention here I think. ( hey it’s my blog)

Intermission Tavern: 228 Tremont.   I love this place. Cozy. Great food. Strong Drinks.

The TAM:  222 Tremont      This is a shithole and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a true dive bar. I've been here a zillion times. I love it. No food. Strong drinks. Everyone is nice. It’s cheap. It’s a dying breed. Unpretentious Dive Bar.  UDB. Good place to do Wild Turkey or Cuervo Gold shots. Can I use the word shithole in a positive way? I think so.

Anyway, Now we are back heading north.

Silvertone:  69 Bromfield Street.  One of the older and more established places in DTX. Silvertone is the grand dame. They have been dishing out fantastic comfort food and over the top drinks for over 16 years. I love love love this place. They were doing craft cocktails before anyone else. One Maker's Mark Manhattan and I’m ready for the night (and another Makers Mark Manhattan) Their Mac N Cheese is the stuff of dreams. I almost always get the same 3 or 4 things when I go. I live for the Rochester Wings with the spreadable blue cheese. The meatloaf with garlic mashed and brown gravy is friggin delish. Did I just say that? Yeah, I really did. The steak tips are some of the best anywhere but really it’s all good. I love their bar. The bartenders rock. The prices are incredibly reasonable. The ambiance is cavernous comfortable. It’s great. Just go.

Across the street and down a little is

Side Bar: 14 Bromfield Street. This used to be my go to place for many years. I used to have a monthly event here called Cappyoke. It was UNBELIEVABLY fun. Maybe you heard of it. Maybe not. Then they lost their entertainment license and that ended the madness that was once Cappyoke. I have no idea why you need a license to sing at a bar but that is neither here nor there. This place has $7 pitchers of BUD. It has tiny little wings that are addictive that you can get a huge plate of for like nothing and the burgers, nachos and bar food in general are all quite good.
It is certainly cheap. That’s a huge plus. Sebby the owner sold the place though and it’s under new ownership so I really don’t know if it has changed. It looks like it has not but you go and give us an updated review.

Right around the corner are a few mythical places you should not miss and one more I haven’t been to because I simply am not a fancy pants but maybe you are, so I’ll point you in the right direction.

Marliave : 10 Bosworth Street. This is an institution. No not that kind of institution. The kind that has been around for the better part of 129 years. That is true. However in its current incarnation it has been about six years since Chef Scott Herritt took over the space and reinvented it as yes a newer institution. The drinks are also hand crafted mixologist styled libations. (I'm a wordsmith) and they are good. Get a Molasses Flood. (Sailor Jerry’s, Molasses and Lime) Also they do Dollar Oysters every day for happy hour. It’s a multi-floored space and the fancier restaurant is upstairs. It never occurred to me to go up those stairs though. I have only done the bar. That remains a great after work imbibe place. I would order the rarebits, mussels, rabbit or the Wellington. Good drinks. Good food.

Barracuda Tavern - 15 Bosworth Street. A relative newcomer to the DTX scene Barracuda is a small place you’d probably miss if I wasn't here telling you to go there. Luka the owner is always saying to “Get Hooked” all over his FB page so I went and I did. He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he has an extensive restaurant background so he knows what’s up. 

The bar is small so you may have to steal someone’s seat when they go to the bathroom but it’s worth it. It’s sort of like a bar in the Florida Keys except it’s here. There is a boat hanging from the ceiling.I always get the fish tacos and conch fritters and a few beers. They have a lot of other good things on the menu as well. It’s really just a nice little unassuming place. Low prices. Filling food.

The Hub Pub: 18 Province Street.  Right next to Marliave (down the steps and across the street) is a great bar. This place is often overlooked because of all the drinking establishments in the DTX but don’t. The Hub Pub has been here for what seems like forever and that isn’t for no reason. Most people don’t know they have one of the best and least expensive lobster rolls in Boston. The food there is great and cheap! The bar is always full and the upstairs is a good place to eat and watch the game. Good burgers and cold Guinness. I have always liked this place.

Gem: is next door at 42 Province Street and it’s more of a nightclub that serves food. At least I think so. I haven’t actually been inside. I was stopped at the door for being under dressed. I don’t blame them. I was under dressed. The Kane brothers own the place and I have had a great time at every one of their other places like the Red Lantern and the clubs at Foxwoods. Have you been to Gem? Report back!

Sam Lagrassa’s: 44 province Street. Right next to the Hub Pub. It isn’t a bar at all. It’s a lunch place. It has what is simply the best sandwiches around. Anywhere. They are huge. Two people can split one but don’t do that . If you do that you are dead to me. You aren’t one of those people. Eat the whole thing. It’s really that good. Hot pastrami, turkey, steak and cheese. Check out the specials. They also serve an amazing homemade clam chowder. One of the best places for lunch anywhere in Boston. Like they say on Yelp, "It's to die for!" Seriously.
Pastrami on Pumpernickel

Lagrassa’s is far from the only awesome lunch options in Downtown Crossing . Here are a few more establishments that you need to check out. All of these are TOP notch.

Falafel King:  260 washington Street and 48 winter street.
Falafel sandwich with hummus. perfect. They always give you a falafel while you’re waiting. I love that.

Al Capones: 82 Summer Street. Sandwiches and more. Excellent value. Huge delicious sandwiches. Get the sesame braided roll for your sandwich.    

If you never had one - You have to try one.
Banh Mi

Banh Mi House:    48 Winter Street Food Court. It’s a food hallway really but the Vietnamese sandwich that is its namesake is awesome. They do a few kinds. Try them all.

One of the greatest sandwiches ever brought to Boston. The Chacarero.

Chacarero:  101 Arch Street.  This is one of my favorite sandwiches in the whole world. Juan Hurtado started out on a pushcart and graduated to a restaurant. People line up around the block for these Chilean sandwiches. Whether you prefer Chicken, Beef or Veggie, it doesn’t matter. They are all good. If you like hot sauce get yours with some, but it is habanero based so be careful. What’s a Chacarero? It’s freshly baked bread, Muenster cheese, String beans, Tomato, Avocado Spread and one of the meats from above.  SO good!

Hand Pulled Chinese Noodles.

Gene’s Flatbread Co.: 86 bedford Street.  This is a newer place. It is hand pulled Chinese noodles that are out of this world amazing. Get the Cumin Lamb hand pulled noodles and all will be well in the world.

The Corner Mall:  Corner of Washington and Winter Streets. It isn’t a mall it’s a food court. If you go in here there a few things you need to eat.  I’ll make it quick:
Sushi Time is good. Wongs is excellent. Get the special with the Teriyaki chicken, rice and veggies.Casserole Cafe is also excellent. I love their Ramen and pork chop sandwich.Sweet Tooth Bakery just opened and looks off the hook. I had a cookie. It rocked and was huge.

Get your coffee here.

Boston Brewin:  45 Bromfield Street.  My go to coffee place.  You can even order a small or large , not a venti or a grande. Also great sandwiches and a pecan pie bar that makes you wanna slap yo mama. (but don't. that's not nice)

Beantown Pub: 100 tremont Street. Their website says “Winner of Improper Bostonian Boston’s Best Downtown Crossing Bar 2006” which is pretty silly. I would update that site guys. Also, proofing every single person that goes in there is overkill and unnecessary. Trust me. The grey haired gent waiting in line to get in for half an hour is over 21. I never do lines and this place often has one but they do have pool tables which is cool. The food is also not bad. I would order the Barrister Burger or the Mother Goose if I were you. It’s right on the Freedom Trail across from one of Boston’s famous burial grounds so it’s sort of a tourist trap but I’d go if there was no line. The service is good. The beers are cold and like I said there’s pool.

Scholars:  25 School Street. Scholars was another of the new bar influx that occurred a few years ago in DTX. It has gone through a few incarnations over the years. Now it’s a club at night with live music and DJ’s. It also has pool tables and a few bars to imbibe at. It’s a large place with lots of places to sit and people watch. The food is also good although a little but pricey. The menu has changed since I was there last. They also have a good drink program and a great beer selection. It isn’t my first choice but if you are in your 20’s or 30’s I would definitely go check it out.

Omni Parker House - Home of the Boston Cream Pie

The Last Harrah: 60 School Street. At the Omni Parker House Hotel. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention the Last Hurrah because of two reasons. This place invented Boston Cream Pie so get some into your belly! This place is OLD SCHOOL. I like me some old school sometimes. The bar is long and wooden. The bartenders are long and wooden…..kidding. They are men. Real bartender types like you see in movies like the Sting or Boardwalk Empire. I bet they would make you a Harvey Wallbanger or a Singapore Sling if you asked. I just like it here. So much history under that roof. I believe Charles Dickens, Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh all drank there. (not at the same time) and JFK’s bachelor party was held there. So there’s that.

A few other places to check out that are liked by some people but I haven’t spent much time at:

Kingston Station - 25 Kingston Street
Good Life - 28 Kingston Street
Elephant and Castle - 161 Devonshire
JJ Foley's - 21 Kingston Street (great bar - a landmark)
Highball Lounge - 90 Tremont Street at the Nine Zero Hotel (hearing good things)
Pita Kabob - 46 Chauncey Street (another good lunch spot for Middle Eastern food)

Since we are exploring eating options you should be aware that DTX also has some darn good street food as well. Yes there are food trucks located in Dewey Square over by South Station and on the Common, and at City Hall. These are not located in DTX and I’m glad. This giant love affair with food that is served out of a truck is great but let us not forget the street food that is actually served IN the street and is plentiful in Downtown Crossing.

Boston Red Dog: The hot dog stand is currently located in front of the Payless shoe store on the corner of Bromfield and Washington. He has delicious dogs and Bianco and Sons sausages which are from Revere and are so good with peppers, onions and mustard on a fresh roll. He’s really my go to hot dog guy though because he has sauerkraut and Guldens spicy Brown mustard. I like my dogs with relish, kraut, and dark mustard and he does it perfectly. But he also sells another delicious snack. AREPAS! yes. the hot corn bread with that white melted cheese in the middle is addictive yumminess. (and cheap)

Herrerra’s Burrito’s : Henry Herrera used to have a cart on every corner but now he has a restaurant on Temple Place and a cart on Washington next to Macy’s. I prefer the cart. His burrito’s are fresh and delicious and it’s pretty impressive that he continues to prosper with Boloco and Chipotle on every corner. They must be good. They are!

Karo’s Barbecue: located on Washington Street next to Macy’s. Do yourself a favor. Wait on that line. I know I said I don’t do lines. ( I know Harry and his wife very well so I never wait on that line) but I would in a heartbeat because these guys know how to do what they do better than anyone. I put this lunch up against any lunch in the city. I have no idea what they do to marinate this chicken but it’s extraordinary. Get the full chicken kabob dinner. You get the kabobs, the rice, the salad with the homemade dressing and the pita bread oh and the cherry peppers. It’s a huge meal. It is a great value and you’ll cram every bite down your throat. It IS that good.

One of the best lunches anywhere.
There’s also Azedine’s nuts down by state street outside the Blue line entrance. He runs a great business and the nuts are also a great snack. He does almonds, cashews, peanuts and a mix of all three. He also sells hot dogs.

There used to be a lot more pushcarts in Downtown Crossing. That was and still is one of the main things it is known for. These outdoor businesses should be preserved at all costs. It adds such ambiance to the area. It gives people a sense of community. I love to see all the people outside shopping, talking to each other and being neighborly.

But that’s a Blog for another day.

Downtown Crossing is one of Boston’s best neighborhoods. The food and drink alone are reason enough to come here. I hope this guide helped. Questions and comments should be submitted below. Add to the discussion! Any questions I don’t know the answers to I will find out the answers for you.

Sincerely Yours,


Pushcart Power!