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A takeout container of dry-fried noodles with beef at Silk Road Express in Allston, served on a striped wooden table with a pair of chopsticks
Dry-fried noodles with beef from Silk Road Express in the Super 88 food hall in Allston
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

Where to Eat on a Cheap First Date in Boston

Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the country. Here’s where to go on a first date (or any date) without going bankrupt.

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Dry-fried noodles with beef from Silk Road Express in the Super 88 food hall in Allston
| Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

Dating in Boston is expensive. The cost of an average date in the Hub is $131, at least according to one survey, making it the fourth-most expensive city among those included in the survey. (Only San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., are apparently less hospitable to the wallets of love-seeking singles.)

The pursuit of love shouldn’t leave seekers wondering how they’ll make rent at the end of the month or pay the interest on their impregnable student loans. With that in mind, here is a collection of 17 restaurants in Boston proper that make for excellent, relatively inexpensive date spots.

This map contains a mix of full-service restaurants, doughnut shops, cafes, and fast-casual takeout joints. Ordering wisely, eaters embarking on the incredibly awkward and traditionally miserable to-do that is a first date should be able to get in and out of the below establishments for no more than $60 (less than half the reported price of an average date in Boston), generous tip included.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. KO Catering & Pies

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16, 256 Marginal St
East Boston, MA 02128
(617) 418-5234
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This Australian joint in a strangely picturesque shipyard probably won’t be around forever (KO plans to close its doors, or maybe sell, in the not-too-distant future), so first daters should rush to East Boston and snack on a hand pie smothered in mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy. (Messy meals are a good way to break the ice.) After dinner, take a romantic stroll through the nearby Piers Park, which boasts some of the best views of the downtown Boston skyline.

An Australian meat pie sits in a paper container on a red tray on a red and white picnic table
KO Pies is the dope spot for meat pies
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

2. Oisa Ramen

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1 3/4 Broad St
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 670-0126
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Oisa is one of the finest ramen shops in Boston, and nothing on its menu costs more than $15. Grab a couple of bowls — the tonkotsu, which is served with burnt garlic oil, pork belly, sesame seeds, pickled mustard greens, scallions, pickled ginger, and a soy egg, is especially tempting — and a couple of beers, and slurp away. If first-date conversation can’t survive this tiny, bustling spot, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

A bowl of ramen with an egg, noodles, mushrooms, and more
Oisa Ramen in downtown Boston is serving some of the city’s best ramen
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

3. Myung Dong 1st Ave

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90 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 206-3229

Myung Dong 1st Ave is one of the best spots for Korean food in a neighborhood known for its Korean food. This Allston venue is lively and fun — it’s always packed, and there are always K-Pop videos playing on the big screens lining the walls — and it’s an ideal place for a couple looking for a first date that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Try the kimchi fried rice or the soft tofu stew, and wash it all down with one of the city’s few $3 PBR tall boys.

The facade of Myung Dong 1st Ave on Harvard Avenue in Allston
This Korean spot is kitschy and fun — and there’s soju
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

4. Super 88 Market

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1095 Brighton Ave
Boston, MA 02134

This Asian food hall is full of gems, and it’s a no-brainer for any food-obsessed pair looking for a date spot in Allston. It also doesn’t limit those on a first date to one cuisine type. Try the banh mi at Pho Viet’s, or grab some Uyghur cuisine — and specifically the dry-fried noodles with beef — at Silk Road Express. There’s no booze, but that’s fine — Allston is lousy with dive bars, so a night cap in Rat City won’t be hard to find.

A takeout container of dry-fried noodles with beef at Silk Road Express in Allston, served on a striped wooden table with a pair of chopsticks
Get the dry-fried, hand-pulled noodles at Silk Road Express
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

5. Dumpling Cafe

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695 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 338-8859
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Dumpling Cafe is a Chinatown institution. Order the Taiwan-style eggplant. Order the Taiwan-style pan-fried dumplings. Order the pork soup dumplings. Have a couple Tsingtaos. Leave knowing you’ve eaten some of the tastiest things in the city, even if you quickly bored of hearing about your date’s ambiguous, mind-numbing corporate finance job.

A wooden steamer at Dumpling Cafe holds half a dozen plump soup dumplings.
Soup dumplings at Dumpling Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

6. Greco

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225 Newbury St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 572-3300
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Nothing at this Newbury Street fast-casual Greek joint will break the bank — the most expensive item on the menu costs $11.50. And the best part about Greco is that it serves loukoumas, which are Greek doughnuts. If the date doesn’t go well, at least you can shove fried dough into your face. (There’s now a location in the Seaport, too, and it’ll expand to the Financial District later in 2019.)

A meat gyro stuffed with fries, red onion, and tzatziki is wrapped in green paper and sits on a white tray on a wooden table.
A gyro from Greco
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

7. Brighton Bodega

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328 Washington St
Brighton, MA 02135
(617) 208-8698
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This is where the $60 threshold gets tricky. A pair could easily spend $130 at Brighton Bodega. But if it’s a couple of shared apps and one drink the pair is after — a quick date, one that doesn’t force its participants to bear each other’s idiosyncrasies for more than an hour — then this Brighton eatery is doable. The bacon-wrapped wagyu hot dog is worth an order.

The facade of Brighton Bodega on Washington Street in Brighton
Share some small plates and get a couple drinks at Brighton Bodega
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

8. Mei Mei

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506 Park Dr
Boston, MA 02215
(857) 250-4959
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Mei Mei’s menu includes a variety of small plates that run from $4 to $10. Share four or five, have a couple beers, and still get out of there — after eating an excellent meal — for a song.

A casual restaurant interior with sunlight streaming in. There are light wooden surfaces, an open kitchen, and yellow and white metal chairs.
Mei Mei’s space is small and intimate but also bright and fun
Meg Jones Wall/Eater

9. Blackbird Doughnuts

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492 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 482-9000
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The original Blackbird Doughnuts is situated in a building that hardly matches its surroundings. The angular concrete facade stands in stark contrast to the South End’s ceaseless block of brownstones. Grab some coffee and some doughnuts, and discuss whether brutalism is a stain on the city, or if the hurt feelings of Bostonians with more traditional aesthetic proclivities make brutalism the best form of architecture in existence. (No sweet tooth? There’s a new sandwich shop inside Blackbird, Sally’s, if that’s more your thing.)

Three display cases showcase a variety of doughnuts at the original South End location of Blackbird Doughnuts
Blackbird makes some of the city’s finest doughnuts
Katie Chudy/Eater

10. Tasty Burger

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1301 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 425-4444
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This may be controversial: Tasty Burger is better than In-N-Out Burger. This is especially true of the Tasty Burger locations that have liquor licenses. Head to the OG location on Boylston Street, get some burgers (the Big Tasty is the play), get a pitcher of beer (there’s always a mix of cheap domestic lager and good local craft beer on tap), and play some pool. Burgers, beers, and bar games; or, a perfect recipe for a low-key, no-pressure first date.

People gather on the patio at Tasty Burger Fenway, which boasts a bright red and white exterior
Patio weather is waning, but there’s still time to enjoy a burger outside, adjacent to Fenway Park
Tasty Burger [Official Photo]

11. Eventide Fenway

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1321 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 545-1060
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This seafood-focused spot, the fast-casual sibling of an acclaimed Portland, Maine, restaurant, will stretch the limits of the sub-$60 first date, but it’s possible. Avoid the large combo (it goes for $99) or ordering three dozen oysters — and keep the drinking to a minimum (there are some nice non-alcoholic options) — and two people should be able to pull it off. Try, for example, a couple of sandwiches ($11-12 each) and a couple brown butter soft serves ($6 each) — easy.

A slab of fried chicken sits on a hamburger bun, topped with iceberg and condiments. It’s served on a tray with paper that reads Eventide.
The fried chicken katsu sandwich at Eventide Fenway
Sarah Storrer/Eater

12. Flour Bakery & Cafe

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19 Drydock Ave
Boston, MA 02210
(857) 449-0315
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This particular location of the exceptional Flour Bakery & Cafe — a local chain known for its sticky buns, among other treats — is a bit far-flung, but it’s closest to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Grab some coffee and some breakfast sandwiches, enjoy the sea air en route to the museum, and go stare at all the pretty art.

A sticky bun sits on a white plate atop a wooden board at Flour Bakery in boston
A very decadent sticky bun from Flour Bakery
Dana Hatic/Eater

13. Time Out Market Boston

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401 Park Dr
Boston, MA 02215
(978) 393-8088
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Another spot that might stretch the bounds of “cheap,” but if you order carefully, you can make it work. There’s plenty to choose from at this newly minted food hall, from gelato and doughnuts to the Craigie “OG” burger to crispy nori tacos, so neither party will be forced to eat something they don’t want to eat. And if you’re ordering from separate vendors, that also means separate checks. Which is to say, it eliminates the awkward moment at the end of the date when first daters are trying to decide if and how to split a bill. Time Out Market Boston is also connected to Regal Fenway, which makes it a perfect spot for the classic dinner and a movie date motif. Got a little extra cash to burn? Check out Nathálie or Fool’s Errand for post-dinner-and-movie drinks.

overhead view of a meal on a wooden table: three tacos in crispy nori shells stand up in a taco holder, and a bowl is full of rice, greens, and torched sashimi
Tacos and torched sashimi bento bowl from Gogo Ya at Time Out Market Boston
Sarah Storrer/Eater

14. Anoush'ella

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35 W Newton St
Boston, MA 02118
(857) 265-3195
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There’s also a location of Anoush’ella at Time Out Market Boston (see above), but check out the original in the South End for a shakshuka-filled brunch date. The Eastern Mediterranean street food at Anoush’ella is inspired by the Armenian Lebanese cuisine owners Nina and Raffi Festekjian grew up eating.

A brunch spread — including shakshuka — at Anoush’ella in Boston’s South End
Get the shakshuka
Anoush’ella/Official Site

15. Sullivan's

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2080 William J Day Blvd
South Boston, MA 02127
(617) 268-5685
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Sullivan’s, located on Castle Island (which is not actually an island anymore) in South Boston, is quintessentially Boston, so go do a very Boston thing and get lobster rolls and fried clams at the outermost edge of Southie.

People mill about in front of Sullivan’s Castle Island. The restaurant sits at the tip of South Boston.
Sullivan’s is a Boston rite of passage
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

16. Ali's Roti Restaurant

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1035 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02120
(617) 427-1079

Roti — and especially its street food counterpart, wrap roti — originated in the West Indies, specifically in Trinidad. It is a sort of curried stew served with flatbread, and there are some exceptional versions being cooked in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. Head to the Lower Roxbury outpost of Ali’s Roti on Tremont Street, get the curry chicken roti, and eat it in one of the neighborhood’s many nearby parks.

Exterior of Ali’s Roti in Dorchester, with a bright orange exterior and red awning
Ali’s Roti
Google Maps

17. Banh Mi Ba Le

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1052 Dorchester Ave
Dorchester, MA 02125
(617) 265-7171
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Dorchester Avenue is bursting with good Vietnamese food, and you should eat at all of the restaurants dishing it out. Banh Mi Ba Le is a good place to start. Head there for, you guessed it, banh mi. This market and sandwich shop is short on seating — there’s only one table (at least for now, but expansion is coming) — so get the banh mi to go, and head toward the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for yet another very Boston first date.

Hands hold two banh mi over pavement
Banh mi from Banh Mi Ba Le
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

1. KO Catering & Pies

16, 256 Marginal St, East Boston, MA 02128
An Australian meat pie sits in a paper container on a red tray on a red and white picnic table
KO Pies is the dope spot for meat pies
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

This Australian joint in a strangely picturesque shipyard probably won’t be around forever (KO plans to close its doors, or maybe sell, in the not-too-distant future), so first daters should rush to East Boston and snack on a hand pie smothered in mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy. (Messy meals are a good way to break the ice.) After dinner, take a romantic stroll through the nearby Piers Park, which boasts some of the best views of the downtown Boston skyline.

16, 256 Marginal St
East Boston, MA 02128

2. Oisa Ramen

1 3/4 Broad St, Boston, MA 02109
A bowl of ramen with an egg, noodles, mushrooms, and more
Oisa Ramen in downtown Boston is serving some of the city’s best ramen
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Oisa is one of the finest ramen shops in Boston, and nothing on its menu costs more than $15. Grab a couple of bowls — the tonkotsu, which is served with burnt garlic oil, pork belly, sesame seeds, pickled mustard greens, scallions, pickled ginger, and a soy egg, is especially tempting — and a couple of beers, and slurp away. If first-date conversation can’t survive this tiny, bustling spot, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

1 3/4 Broad St
Boston, MA 02109

3. Myung Dong 1st Ave

90 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134
The facade of Myung Dong 1st Ave on Harvard Avenue in Allston
This Korean spot is kitschy and fun — and there’s soju
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

Myung Dong 1st Ave is one of the best spots for Korean food in a neighborhood known for its Korean food. This Allston venue is lively and fun — it’s always packed, and there are always K-Pop videos playing on the big screens lining the walls — and it’s an ideal place for a couple looking for a first date that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Try the kimchi fried rice or the soft tofu stew, and wash it all down with one of the city’s few $3 PBR tall boys.

90 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134

4. Super 88 Market

1095 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134
A takeout container of dry-fried noodles with beef at Silk Road Express in Allston, served on a striped wooden table with a pair of chopsticks
Get the dry-fried, hand-pulled noodles at Silk Road Express
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

This Asian food hall is full of gems, and it’s a no-brainer for any food-obsessed pair looking for a date spot in Allston. It also doesn’t limit those on a first date to one cuisine type. Try the banh mi at Pho Viet’s, or grab some Uyghur cuisine — and specifically the dry-fried noodles with beef — at Silk Road Express. There’s no booze, but that’s fine — Allston is lousy with dive bars, so a night cap in Rat City won’t be hard to find.

1095 Brighton Ave
Boston, MA 02134

5. Dumpling Cafe

695 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111
A wooden steamer at Dumpling Cafe holds half a dozen plump soup dumplings.
Soup dumplings at Dumpling Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Dumpling Cafe is a Chinatown institution. Order the Taiwan-style eggplant. Order the Taiwan-style pan-fried dumplings. Order the pork soup dumplings. Have a couple Tsingtaos. Leave knowing you’ve eaten some of the tastiest things in the city, even if you quickly bored of hearing about your date’s ambiguous, mind-numbing corporate finance job.

695 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111

6. Greco

225 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116
A meat gyro stuffed with fries, red onion, and tzatziki is wrapped in green paper and sits on a white tray on a wooden table.
A gyro from Greco
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Nothing at this Newbury Street fast-casual Greek joint will break the bank — the most expensive item on the menu costs $11.50. And the best part about Greco is that it serves loukoumas, which are Greek doughnuts. If the date doesn’t go well, at least you can shove fried dough into your face. (There’s now a location in the Seaport, too, and it’ll expand to the Financial District later in 2019.)

225 Newbury St
Boston, MA 02116

7. Brighton Bodega

328 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135
The facade of Brighton Bodega on Washington Street in Brighton
Share some small plates and get a couple drinks at Brighton Bodega
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

This is where the $60 threshold gets tricky. A pair could easily spend $130 at Brighton Bodega. But if it’s a couple of shared apps and one drink the pair is after — a quick date, one that doesn’t force its participants to bear each other’s idiosyncrasies for more than an hour — then this Brighton eatery is doable. The bacon-wrapped wagyu hot dog is worth an order.

328 Washington St
Brighton, MA 02135

8. Mei Mei

506 Park Dr, Boston, MA 02215
A casual restaurant interior with sunlight streaming in. There are light wooden surfaces, an open kitchen, and yellow and white metal chairs.
Mei Mei’s space is small and intimate but also bright and fun
Meg Jones Wall/Eater

Mei Mei’s menu includes a variety of small plates that run from $4 to $10. Share four or five, have a couple beers, and still get out of there — after eating an excellent meal — for a song.

506 Park Dr
Boston, MA 02215

9. Blackbird Doughnuts

492 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116
Three display cases showcase a variety of doughnuts at the original South End location of Blackbird Doughnuts
Blackbird makes some of the city’s finest doughnuts
Katie Chudy/Eater

The original Blackbird Doughnuts is situated in a building that hardly matches its surroundings. The angular concrete facade stands in stark contrast to the South End’s ceaseless block of brownstones. Grab some coffee and some doughnuts, and discuss whether brutalism is a stain on the city, or if the hurt feelings of Bostonians with more traditional aesthetic proclivities make brutalism the best form of architecture in existence. (No sweet tooth? There’s a new sandwich shop inside Blackbird, Sally’s, if that’s more your thing.)

492 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116

10. Tasty Burger

1301 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
People gather on the patio at Tasty Burger Fenway, which boasts a bright red and white exterior
Patio weather is waning, but there’s still time to enjoy a burger outside, adjacent to Fenway Park
Tasty Burger [Official Photo]

This may be controversial: Tasty Burger is better than In-N-Out Burger. This is especially true of the Tasty Burger locations that have liquor licenses. Head to the OG location on Boylston Street, get some burgers (the Big Tasty is the play), get a pitcher of beer (there’s always a mix of cheap domestic lager and good local craft beer on tap), and play some pool. Burgers, beers, and bar games; or, a perfect recipe for a low-key, no-pressure first date.

1301 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215

11. Eventide Fenway

1321 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
A slab of fried chicken sits on a hamburger bun, topped with iceberg and condiments. It’s served on a tray with paper that reads Eventide.
The fried chicken katsu sandwich at Eventide Fenway
Sarah Storrer/Eater

This seafood-focused spot, the fast-casual sibling of an acclaimed Portland, Maine, restaurant, will stretch the limits of the sub-$60 first date, but it’s possible. Avoid the large combo (it goes for $99) or ordering three dozen oysters — and keep the drinking to a minimum (there are some nice non-alcoholic options) — and two people should be able to pull it off. Try, for example, a couple of sandwiches ($11-12 each) and a couple brown butter soft serves ($6 each) — easy.

1321 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215

12. Flour Bakery & Cafe

19 Drydock Ave, Boston, MA 02210
A sticky bun sits on a white plate atop a wooden board at Flour Bakery in boston
A very decadent sticky bun from Flour Bakery
Dana Hatic/Eater

This particular location of the exceptional Flour Bakery & Cafe — a local chain known for its sticky buns, among other treats — is a bit far-flung, but it’s closest to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Grab some coffee and some breakfast sandwiches, enjoy the sea air en route to the museum, and go stare at all the pretty art.

19 Drydock Ave
Boston, MA 02210

13. Time Out Market Boston

401 Park Dr, Boston, MA 02215
overhead view of a meal on a wooden table: three tacos in crispy nori shells stand up in a taco holder, and a bowl is full of rice, greens, and torched sashimi
Tacos and torched sashimi bento bowl from Gogo Ya at Time Out Market Boston
Sarah Storrer/Eater

Another spot that might stretch the bounds of “cheap,” but if you order carefully, you can make it work. There’s plenty to choose from at this newly minted food hall, from gelato and doughnuts to the Craigie “OG” burger to crispy nori tacos, so neither party will be forced to eat something they don’t want to eat. And if you’re ordering from separate vendors, that also means separate checks. Which is to say, it eliminates the awkward moment at the end of the date when first daters are trying to decide if and how to split a bill. Time Out Market Boston is also connected to Regal Fenway, which makes it a perfect spot for the classic dinner and a movie date motif. Got a little extra cash to burn? Check out Nathálie or Fool’s Errand for post-dinner-and-movie drinks.

401 Park Dr
Boston, MA 02215

14. Anoush'ella

35 W Newton St, Boston, MA 02118
A brunch spread — including shakshuka — at Anoush’ella in Boston’s South End
Get the shakshuka
Anoush’ella/Official Site

There’s also a location of Anoush’ella at Time Out Market Boston (see above), but check out the original in the South End for a shakshuka-filled brunch date. The Eastern Mediterranean street food at Anoush’ella is inspired by the Armenian Lebanese cuisine owners Nina and Raffi Festekjian grew up eating.

35 W Newton St
Boston, MA 02118

15. Sullivan's

2080 William J Day Blvd, South Boston, MA 02127
People mill about in front of Sullivan’s Castle Island. The restaurant sits at the tip of South Boston.
Sullivan’s is a Boston rite of passage
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Sullivan’s, located on Castle Island (which is not actually an island anymore) in South Boston, is quintessentially Boston, so go do a very Boston thing and get lobster rolls and fried clams at the outermost edge of Southie.

2080 William J Day Blvd
South Boston, MA 02127

Related Maps

16. Ali's Roti Restaurant

1035 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02120
Exterior of Ali’s Roti in Dorchester, with a bright orange exterior and red awning
Ali’s Roti
Google Maps

Roti — and especially its street food counterpart, wrap roti — originated in the West Indies, specifically in Trinidad. It is a sort of curried stew served with flatbread, and there are some exceptional versions being cooked in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. Head to the Lower Roxbury outpost of Ali’s Roti on Tremont Street, get the curry chicken roti, and eat it in one of the neighborhood’s many nearby parks.

1035 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02120

17. Banh Mi Ba Le

1052 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02125
Hands hold two banh mi over pavement
Banh mi from Banh Mi Ba Le
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Dorchester Avenue is bursting with good Vietnamese food, and you should eat at all of the restaurants dishing it out. Banh Mi Ba Le is a good place to start. Head there for, you guessed it, banh mi. This market and sandwich shop is short on seating — there’s only one table (at least for now, but expansion is coming) — so get the banh mi to go, and head toward the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for yet another very Boston first date.

1052 Dorchester Ave
Dorchester, MA 02125

Related Maps