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Jul 27, 2017

An Essential Guide to the Best Food in Boston

If you’re looking for authentic things to eat in Boston, there’s no shortage of iconic dishes to try. From almost anywhere in the country, a mere mention of the city’s name conjures up several signature foods. It brings out the inner New Englander in all of us.

Whether you’re in the mood for classic or modern, sweet or salty, land or sea, be sure to try these dishes from our list of must-try foods in Boston.

1. Baked Beans

Boston Baked Beans in Concord, Mass 2012-0193.jpg
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They call Boston “Beantown” for a reason. Baked beans are perhaps Boston’s most well-known dish, with Americans far and wide immediately associating them with the city. This must-eat Boston treat is traditionally sweetened with molasses, flavored with salt pork and slow-cooked for up to eight hours. Hearty, savory and sweet, Boston baked beans may be served as a main dish, side dish or even over a hot dog for a “frank and beans.”

Two historic, long-standing Boston restaurants are known for their baked beans: Marliave, the oldest chef-owned restaurant in Boston, and the centuries-old Durgin-Park.

2. Clam Chowder

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Did you know there are at least 10 varieties of clam chowder in the United States alone? Or that chowder was former President John F. Kennedy’s favorite food? Next to baked beans, clam chowder—or shall we say chowdah—is Boston’s most iconic and readily recognized food.

Locals will fervently disagree on where to get the best Boston clam chowder, but Legal Sea Foods and Union Oyster House top many of their lists.

3. Lobster Rolls

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Lobster rolls may be hard to come by in other parts of the country, but fortunately in Boston, this must-try food is a common menu item even in casual joints. It’s a simple concept—steamed lobster meat on a buttered roll, with variations—but one that New Englanders take very seriously.

Like clam chowder, lobster rolls come in a few different styles, each restaurant having its own take on the classic. The lobster roll at Neptune Oyster, served warm and sans mayo on a brioche roll, is often named the city’s best. This creative lobster roll regularly draws lines out the door, so plan ahead if you want a taste. Fans say it lives up to the hype!

4. Boston Cream Pie

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It’s right in the name, so you know this sweet treat is a must-eat food in Boston. Although it’s called a pie, Boston cream pie is actually a cake—yellow cake filled with custard and topped with chocolate glaze, to be exact. In the 19th century when the dessert acquired its name, cakes and pies were baked in the same pans, so the two terms were used interchangeably.

The Omni Parker House restaurant invented the Boston cream pie in 1856, and proudly serves it to this day. It still “takes the cake” on many lists of top things to eat in Boston.

5. Fish and Chips

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Unsurprisingly, another seafood item makes its way onto our list of things to eat in Boston: fish and chips. It may be an import from our friends across the pond, but Boston does fish and chips right—and always with the best cod.

Bring your appetite to Boston Sail Loft, Atlantic Fish Company or Yankee Lobster Company for this fried comfort. Don’t be afraid to add salt and vinegar!

6. Fenway Frank

Fenway Frank
It doesn’t get more Boston than Fenway Park. Almost as beloved as the stadium’s Red Sox is Fenway’s signature hot dog, the Fenway Frank. Since 2009, Fenway Franks have been made with Kayem franks, and are traditionally topped with relish, mustard and onion. No ketchup allowed!

Obviously, there’s only one place to get a genuine Fenway Frank. If it’s baseball season, check the Red Sox schedule and see if you can score some tickets.

7. Roast Beef Sandwich

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This warm, savory, moist sandwich has been a state icon since the early 1950s, making it a must-eat food while in Boston. In Boston’s North Shore region, you’ll find a roast beef sandwich joint on almost every corner. Traditional toppings include mayonnaise, horseradish, cheese and barbecue sauce, but several variations exist.

Kelly’s Roast Beef, located in Revere just 15 minutes outside of Boston, claims to have invented the American-style roast beef sandwich. Cutty’s in the Boston suburb of Brookline is home to the famous Roast Beef 1000: slow-roasted beef, crispy shallots, Thousand Island dressing and sharp cheddar on a brioche bun.

8. Donuts

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Massachusetts takes tremendous pride in being the birthplace of Dunkin’ Donuts. To Bostonians, it’s practically an institution. Although they’ve recently expanded westward, DD is an east coast staple, so if you’re visiting Boston, make it a point to go.

Another popular Boston donut spot is Union Square Donuts, known for its maple bacon donut. It may sound like a strange combination, but who doesn’t love salty and sweet?

9. Fried Clams

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Bostonians don’t just like clams in their chowder—they also like them dipped in evaporated milk, dredged with flour and fried in oil. Fried clams are a must-try food that is “to New England what barbecue is to the South,” the New York Times once wrote.

Boston Magazine named B&G Oysters the best spot for fried clams in 2017. For a more casual atmosphere, stop by one of Boston’s many seafood shacks for this crispy, salty delight.

10. Cannoli

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In addition to the many savory things to eat in Boston, would you believe the city also has fantastic cannoli? You may associate Boston primarily with the Irish, but its North End neighborhood is also home to a large Italian-American population. It’s Boston’s very own Little Italy, and their pastry shops produce some delectable cannoli. Move over New York City!

A long-standing rivalry exists between Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry over who makes the tubular treat best. Mike’s has been a Boston go-to spot for cannoli since 1946, where they come in 18 flavors ranging from pistachio to pecan caramel. Modern Pastry, despite its name, is anything but modern: they draw from over 150 years of Italian recipes, methods and experience.

Want to enjoy more of Boston?

Check out our furnished apartments in Boston so you can stay comfortably while eating your way through the city! To get more inspiration, read our blogs on the best “happy hour” food specials in Boston and 5 tips for getting around Boston and Cambridge.

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