Boston is famous for being one of America's founding cities, but its role in culinary history is often forgotten, relegated to bowls of floury clam chowder, lobsters, and vats of baked beans.
A financial hub, a center of American education (Harvard, Boston University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to name a few), and a technology hub, Boston is also home to a thriving food scene.
Part of that can be attributed to physical changes in the makeup of the city in the years since I went to school in its outskirts. The most obvious change is the removal of the elevated highway that used to make the city disjointed and impregnable. Now you can easily access the picturesque streets of the North End and find old Italian bakers down narrow alleyways. Bridges cross to gentrified areas like the South End and newly developed areas along the harbor around the Fan Pier.
Boston itself is quite small, just 600,000 people, but its daily population during the workday grows to as high as 2 million. This creates the shuffle between downtown and the outer boroughs. When people get home to Brookline, Concord, or Newton, they don't "come back into Boston." They expect great restaurants, wine stores, and food markets in the suburbs, too. The good news is, now there are plenty.
Top Restaurants and Bars:
Cafe ArtScience: Located in middle of the MIT campus, experimental techniques applied to food (mostly French) and cocktails suddenly make sense. Eat at the bar.
Townsman: Boston bistro favorites such as clams and bread, country fried chicken, and the best burger in town, alongside the shiny new Rose Kennedy gardens that used to be the highway.
Select Oyster: Michael Serpa left the more traditional Neptune Oyster in the North End to open a modern spot near the John Hancock Tower. Sensational wine selection and local crudos.
Babbo Pizzeria: A larger, more pizza-centric and modern version of Mario Batali's New York original. On the waterfront.
Alden & Harlow: Off the heart of Harvard Square, this is a chef favorite for its full-flavored interpretations of New American fare.
Lone Star Taco: Leave it to college students to make sure there's a place to get authentic tacos and serious tequila.
Ribelle: Tim Maslow is the darling chef of Boston. You'll see why. His Asian-inflected take on American food is worth it.
Hojoko: A Japanese pub from the creators of O-Ya. In the '60s motel-style Verb Hotel just behind Fenway Park, this is the hippest place in town, even when the Red Sox lose.
Menton: Boston's reigning diva Barbara Lynch expands her empire with this ultra-luxe take on New England fare.
Getting around: Yes, the submerging of the arterial highway has improved traffic, but it has not solved the problem of getting from point A to point B, which is still maddening. Walk where you can. If you think taxis are taking you the long way around, they probably have no choice. Uber, Lyft, and other car services have made access around the city much more extensive than taking the T, the city's easy-to-use but sporadic metro service. Boston is a car culture.
Find a club (or a friend who belongs to one): Club culture lives on, particularly at the university clubs. The Harvard Club has two locations, one in Back Bay and one two floors above Boston College's club in the Bank of America tower downtown.
Take in the sights: Faneuil Hall Marketplace remains as touristy and commercial as it was when we were forced to take school trips there; still, you can walk through quickly to get to the new Boston Public Market and the aquarium. Tours of battles, massacres, and events marking the Revolutionary War are worthwhile. Take a walk (or a jog) along the Charles River, weather permitting.
Museums: Being one of the nation's oldest cities, Boston has some of the best art collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Fogg Museum, part of Harvard's collection and recently redone by starchitect Renzo Piano. They are all worth a visit.
Peter Elliot is editor of Bloomberg Brief: Reserve and manages the lifestyle functions on the Bloomberg Professional service. He is Bloomberg's founding food critic and a James Beard Award winner. Opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mrpeterelliot.