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6 Impressions of Boston – Plus 3 Great Restaurants

Boston has a great skyline, tasty food and very cool people. It'll shortchange you in the espresso department, though.

Boston has a great skyline, tasty food and very cool people. It'll shortchange you in the espresso department, though.

Generally, I avoid the eastern United States. It’s just not my sort of place. Up north, it’s cold. Down south, it’s humid and flat.

But since my sister-in-law is studying law at Boston University, the wife decided it was time to visit her and maybe see some Boston landmarks. Boston intrigued me. I’d never been there, and it has a lot of history. I also have some Internet buddies living there. So I could think of worse places to go. We wound up staying at a HoJo near Fenway Park. It was grossly overpriced, as were all of the hotels I found. But it was a nice location near Berklee College of Music, BU, Harvard and even MIT. And near this great running path near the Chahls* River.

Here are six things that really stick out about Boston, plus three awesome restaurants and the best-ever pop culture reference to Beantown. As you’ll see, I really liked Boston overall with one big quibble.

1. Boston is a friendly city. Several times, Bostonians overheard the wife and I trying to figure out its labyrinthian streets and rat’s nest of subway routes.  They’d offer advice to help us out. My original Boston Internet dude, Kwigz, says that Bostonians are either like that, or hurl profanity at will. The closest I came to the second type was a guy on the bus who obviously had Tourette’s – he’d calmly chant s@@tf***kd^^n as if the words were some sort of mantra.

2. Boston has awesome restaurants. I sampled some super-tasty food. My only disappointment was in the places I didn’t get to try. So much great food, and way too little time (and restraint, I’ll admit. I could’ve made the time to eat more). There’s a wide variety of ethnicities represented, along with seafood and desserts. I’ll talk more about this later.

3. Boston has a thriving music scene. I guess if your city is home to Berklee, it’s going to be awash with killer musicians. We saw musicians everywhere we went. Local blues singer Kit Holliday also joined the wife, the sister-in-law, Kwigz and me at Boston Beer Works. She confirmed that it is, in fact, a busy music scene. Lots of venues, lots of bands, good shows galore. Speaking of which, you should visit Kit’s Web site to see if you can hear her sing. Awesome voice!

It's a nice day on the bay in Boston.

It's a nice day on the bay in Boston.

4. Boston had a tea party for a reason. It’s because they couldn’t find good coffee. It’s a very condensed, walkable city. So it should’ve been easy to find an awesome coffee shop or barista. But I found nary an acceptable cappuccino. All were served nuclear-hot with overly bubbled foam and a bitter edge. Contrast this with Seattle, another super-walkable city. There, you can’t move a city block without finding a coffeehouse featuring baristas so committed that they’d take a bullet to save their espresso machine. Boston needs an influx of loony super-baristas. If any readers out there can suggest a coffeehouse to satisfy coffee snobs, please comment!

5. Boston has a lot of bars (pronounced “baaahs”). And access to many local brews. In addition to Sam Adams (one of the better big breweries trying to convince you that it’s small), it has Boston Beer Works tucked right near Fenway Park. BBW always has cask beer (a very odd but interesting jalapeno-infused IPA!).  It’s Bunker Hill blueberry ale comes with real blueberries in it, if you fancy fighting free radicals whilst getting flewtered.  They had a nice dark beer that wasn’t a stout or porter, too, but it doesn’t appear in the online menu (and I can’t remember the name). The Back Bay IPA was also satisfying. If I explored more, I’m certain I could’ve unearthed more breweries. The Other Side had a respectable selection, and a local cask-conditioned microbrew. I regret not stopping in there for a pint.

6. Boston is easy on the eye. The city has wonderful architecture. Some is historic, and some is modern. But it all combines to form a pleasing and photogenic cityscape. The constantly changing weather and lighting conditions can also lend themselves well to photography. It’s also pretty clean.

Three Boston Restaurants Worth Writing About

1. Island Hopper – Malaysian cuisine, and even better than my last encounter with Malaysian food (in Wellington, New Zealand). I had a spectacular mee goreng (a noodle dish with peanut sauce and a variety of protein). But the real winner may have been my wife’s dish, Taro Pot. She’s not a big fan of squid, but the sauce and vegetables and other seafood chunks really made this a treat. It was all served in an edible taro bowl (as opposed to poi, the inedible form of taro) that had a very mashed potato-like flavor.

A bird hangs out in the water in Jamaica Plain.

A bird hangs out in the water in Jamaica Plain.

2. Finale – Simply the best dessert I’ve ever had. Its sampler plate came with tastes of some of its better items. Some selections were tame, like creme brulee and strawberry shortcake. Others were more unusual, like Manjari mousse. Finale was also offering a special, which was adding a free chocolate lava cake with all samplers. That was probably the highlight. If left to my own devices, I would’ve gone with the Retro Chocolate Plate.

3. Legal Sea Foods – Legal is a local chain, but an upper-end sort of chain. I had an amazing piece of baked scrod, far better than a mild white fish should be, really. I picked a side of jalapeno-cheddar polenta to accompany it. But the real winner came again from my wife – she’d never had a crab cake before, so she went for the Signature Crabcake. Rather than the typical ground-up, fried-into-oblivion crab cake, this one had huge chunks of crab and seemed baked rather than fried. It came with a nice side of spinach. This crab cake will ruin all other crab cakes for you, so try it at your own risk.

My Favorite Boston Pop Culture Reference

“But I do remember Boston, and that victory was as sweet as the cream pie for which the town is named.” Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory

*Yes, that’s supposed to be Charles. What, you think I’m not gonna say anything about those accents?

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