You haven’t really experienced Boston until someone from Boston gets annoyed and hollers at you.
It was very clear we were Midwestern, with our big, open smiles and enthusiastic, “Hellos!”
Twice a day, we observed some sort of profanity-filled shouting match. I watched a man try to open the door to a cheery sweet shop. When it wouldn’t open, he cursed it from the heavens to the ground. From our Airbnb we heard couples yelling at each other on the street. One woman yelled at me for giving her too much space as I let her pass by on the sidewalk.
At some restaurants, employees seemed visibly annoyed with our presence. But at most, they served us efficiently and pleasantly, just without all of the small talk and niceties. Our exit was fitting; I crack up thinking about how we sat down at the airport bar for one final drink after getting hollered at by the TSA.
“Hiiii” we chipperly greeted the bartender as he dropped off menus. “WE DON’T HAVE CHICKEN, AVOCADO, BACON, OR CLAM CHOWDER” he replied.
In the Midwest, restaurant managers often crumble in the presence of terrible customers, appeasing them free food and discounts to ward off that negative Yelp review or email to corporate.
I have this giddy feeling that in Boston they’d get their asses handed to them.
Still, random people offered to point us in the right direction when we looked lost. People just seem more direct about things, without all of the small talk.
We loved staying in the North End.
Boston’s oldest neighborhood is also known as “Little Italy.” The streets are narrow and lined with Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. The Freedom Trail runs through the North End, past Paul Revere’s house.
Our Airbnb was located along a quiet side street, around the corner from Theo’s Cozy Corner (a diner also serving Brazilian dishes), and one block from Bova’s Bakery and Monica’s Mercato. Booze, Brazilian fish stew, cannolis, pizza, and a 94-year-old Italian bakery serving rum cake and arancini 24 hours a day, all within stumbling distance. Perfection. As you can imagine, the air smells good; whiffs of garlic, pastries, fried food will hit you from any direction.
Most of the business are cash-only. Grab some money before you visit or stop at one of the many ATM’s around town. Fees ranged from $2.75-$3.
Don’t try to drive around the North End. You don’t want to navigate a car around the narrow streets or try to park. We used ride sharing and train. The closest train station is a 5-10 minute walk. If you are mobile, this is an easy and affordable way to visit different parts of the city. Fares cost less than $3 each way. An all-day pass costs $12.
Also, there is no happy hour in Boston. At least, not happy hour as we know it. You can find discounted food in the afternoons, but not alcohol. The state of Massachusetts bans drink discounts in an effort to prevent drunk driving. Be ready to pay $11+ per cocktail and glass of wine.
There are so many restaurants in the North End it will be hard to choose. You can scour the internet, ask a local, follow your gut instincts, or trust long lines. In the end you just have to pick something. A combination of all five is how we ended up at the following places for breakfast:
I enjoyed this Boston Globe article How To Eat Like A Local In The North End.
Theo’s is a small, cash-only restaurant that serves American diner food, Italian dishes, and a small Brazilian menu.
Get here early on weekends – the space is indeed cozy and people line-up outside for seats. Service is friendly and brisk. We ordered omelets and toast. I’m not sure if omelets are the must-order food here. Jake ordered the Western and I created my own. Mine was stuffed with white American cheese, mushrooms (might be canned) and juicy slices of tomato. Still, breakfast was affordable and generous, sustaining us through a long day of exploring Boston by foot.
Established in 1929, Cafe Vittoria was the first Italian cafe in Boston. The cafe may be well known but it is most certainly not a tourist trap.
There are vintage coffee and espresso-making machines around the register that kind of look like rocket ships and oldies playing in the background. Although there are four levels of seating, including a full bar and cigar bar but we never made it past ground-level. We enjoyed espresso drinks and sweets near the front door where we could eavesdrop and watch the world go by.
Someone online wrote that the cafe’s cappuccino was the best he’s ever found. We liked them so much we returned the next morning. The espresso tastes mellow and round. Although the drink itself is not sweet, the shower of cocoa powder adds a hint of sweet bitterness.
Jake preferred the biscotti as an accompaniment. I chose another cannoli, this one as perfect as the last. And the last.
More Boston posts to come.