All clam chowders are the same.
Hold the phone right there. Sure, the basic ingredients of clams, butter, cream and potatoes are standard, but this does not mean all chowders are created equal. Bostonians swear by certain spots that make the greatest soups around with real seafood locally caught, fresh dairy thickeners, and maybe bacon if you’re feeling fancy. A few herbs, scallions and cracked pepper doesn’t hurt either.
You can get a decent bowl in Quincy Market at Ned Devine’s, but it’s better to stick close to the water for chowder perfection. Legal Seafood makes a mean, chowder you can stand your spoon up in, and you can find fancy house made oyster crackers atop your soup in B & G Oysters. Or, forget the crackers all together and carbo-load with a chowder served in a bread bowl – there’s several places to get it along Boylston Street. If you order chowder and it comes to you with a red broth, send it back. That’s a Manhattan chowder and it’s blasphemous.
Everyone loves ‘Boston Baked Beans’.
Many restaurants will feature baked bean sides on the menu, but that’s mostly just to appease tourists. If a local is out looking for grub, they will rarely order a crock of beans as a side, and might just pick at it if it comes with their meal. There are a few places that will do bakes beans correctly, with molasses and salt pork, which can be much better than the canned version if you want to try the dish.
Candy-coated peanuts are also a classic candy called ‘Boston Baked Beans’ that is found in sweet shops locally. But beans on toast is for the Brits and is not found in Boston. And while we’re at it, nobody calls Boston “Beantown,” so get that out of your system before you arrive.
Mike’s Pastry has the best cannoli.
If you Google Little Italy in Boston for authentic pastries, Mike’s is always the first to pop up. Due to its popularity, there’s almost always a line around the corner and the cannoli prices are much higher than at other bakeries. Not to mention, here’s a secret – while the cannoli are good, Mike’s makes them offsite and freezes them to keep up with demand. If you want the real thing, go across the street to Modern Pastry, they often fill their cannoli right in front of you while you wait.
After drinking all night in Boston, you can also get a decent cannoli or Italian cookie at Bova’s, which is open super late, especially for Boston standards. Or before you get rowdy for the evening, you can sip genuine Italian espresso along with your cannoli, ricotta pie or biscotti at Café Vittoria. They also have booze to spike your coffee with and gelato to finish.
All pasta in the North End is fresh.
There are roughly 427 Italian restaurants in the North End. Roughly. But not all of these cozy eateries offer Italian cuisine on par with our European neighbors. Peruse the menu for terms like ‘homemade pasta’ or simply ask the server outright, as there are many posers lurking about. It often costs a couple extra dollars to get the real stuff, but it is well worth it. You can also try the local delis for freshly made pastas to take home. These shops are also perfect spots to snag a real Italian sub. Also, it’s a sub, not a hoagie or grinder. Order one of those and they will have no idea what you’re talking about.
You have to eat oysters raw.
Don’t avoid oyster slurping in Boston just because you’re not a fan of the slimy stuff. Plenty of spots offer just-caught shellfish prepared in a variety of ways. Arguably Neptune Oyster has the best in the North End that come fried marinated or smoked. Or head to South Boston’s new Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar for perfectly grilled, local oysters. Those will be a great introduction to start working on oyster shooters like a pro.
There’s only Chinese food in Chinatown.
As the third largest Chinatown in the country, Boston’s best Asian food from Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea and beyond reside there. Skip the greasy takeout variety and go for the authentic dishes you have to order while rubbing elbows with the residents on Beach Street. Bostonians will order cold beers and cheap ‘pho’, or Vietnamese noodle soup to cure any hangover. The Peking duck that has to be called to prepare ahead of time is well worth the wait and an easy way to impress a date with your exotic taste. Dim sum carts pushed though giant restaurants filled with steaming dumplings is the norm, as well as bubble tea, mooncakes and pad thai that make for a quick, wallet-friendly snack. Locals know nothing goes better with a large iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts than a pile of fresh ramen on your lunch break.