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A zig-zag pattern of cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry, arranged on a white background. Some are garnished with chocolate chips or pistachios.
Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.
Chris Coe/Eater

14 Iconic Dishes in Greater Boston

Get to know the city and surrounding area with these essential eats

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Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.
| Chris Coe/Eater

Attention, tourists: Boston’s dining scene hasn’t been defined by baked beans (or chowder) in decades. In fact, it’s hard to even find the sweet legume dish on a restaurant table in Boston.

Here are 14 iconic dishes that define Boston (and the surrounding area) in one way or another. Some of these dishes have earned a place here primarily by way of their longevity and important place in Boston’s dining history; others are truly the best of the best of their kind, regardless of age.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex

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Nothing screams “summer in New England” like a plate of fried clams (ideally accompanied by fries and onion rings). Woodman’s, a classic North Shore spot founded more than a century ago, serves this iconic dish year-round. The long-lasting restaurant also claims to have invented fried clams: True or not, it’s one of the best places to try them. Note: The restaurant separates its food counter from its drink counter, so be sure to proceed to the beverage line (there’s a full bar available) after placing your food order. There’s plenty of seating inside and out.

On top of a red and white checkered tablecloth, a cardboard tray is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with little paper cups of red ketchup to the side.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef

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Roast beef sandwiches are practically ubiquitous in Massachusetts, particularly in the North Shore region, and there is no roast beef spot more well-known than Kelly’s Roast Beef, which opened in 1951 on Revere Beach. (These days, there are also four other locations — Saugus, Danvers, Medford, and Logan Airport.) It’s possible this stalwart invented the roast beef sandwich in the form that it appears around the state, and mega-chain Arby’s acknowledges drawing inspiration from Kelly’s. True North Shore roast beef fans tend to go for the three-way sandwich, which comes topped with James River barbecue sauce, no-frills Land O’Lakes white American cheese, and mayonnaise.

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood Restaurant

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Non-Somerville residents may raise a confused eyebrow to learn that one of the most iconic dishes in town is a humble bowl of Cream of Wheat, but anyone who has ever braved the line for brunch at Neighborhood — ideally under a pastel umbrella on the patio — knows the truth. Every Neighborhood breakfast comes with a choice of fruit or Cream of Wheat. Don’t make the wrong choice. (Note: Devotees also know that cozy bowls of Cream of Wheat also come a la carte.)

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Baked Alaska at Oleana

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Boston’s been paying particular attention to desserts recently; talented pastry chefs are making names for themselves with beautifully plated, intricate creations that in some cases overshadow the main courses. But go back a few years before the explosive growth of Boston’s dessert scene, and find one classic that has always been there — the ethereal baked Alaska at Oleana, full of coconut ice cream and sitting in a sweet pool of passion fruit caramel.

Pasta at Pammy’s or No. 9

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Boston has one of the most respected Italian food scenes in the country, with spots celebrating the tried-and-true alongside other kitchens making waves. The pasta at globe-trotting Pammy’s may start from an Italian-ish place and strutting through a myriad of global influences. On the menu since the beginning, indulge in the lumache tossed in a hearty Bolognese sauce with a kick of heat from gochujang Korean chile paste. Meanwhile, the more than two decade-old, classic Barbara Lynch restaurant, No. 9, will probably never remove the prune-stuffed gnocchi from the menu. The longtime staple, a rich dish embellished with foie gras, almonds, and vin santo, harkens back to the stately white-tablecloth era of Boston dining.

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

The Giambotta at Regina Pizza

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Sure, nowadays the Polcari family’s Regina Pizza is a chain with a tendency to open up locations in malls, and Boston’s pizza scene has exploded with plenty of new options since the days of Regina’s domination. But there’s no denying the importance of the original North End location of this classic brick oven pizzeria, which opened back in 1926. And yes, it still draws long lines. For a true Regina experience, get the Giambotta pizza, which includes all of the traditional toppings — pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and anchovies (upon request).

A sliced pizza covered with peppers and onions
Pizza at Regina.
Regina Pizzeria

Cannolis at Mike’s Pastry

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The subject of one of Boston’s fiercest food debates is cannoli. In the eyes of locals, Mike’s Pastry may or may not win out all the time — you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask — but it’s been a destination for tourists and Bostonians for decades, and there’s something about that tied-up white box that always triggers a cannoli craving. Mike’s expanded to Cambridge’s Harvard Square and Somerville’s Assembly Row in recent years.

A single cannolo, stuffed with an orange-yellow filling and dusted with powdered sugar
Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Lobster roll and chowder at Neptune Oyster

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If someone were to write up an FAQ list for Boston tourist dining inquiries, “Where should I go for a lobster roll?” would certainly be one of the top questions. There are plenty of options at a variety of price points, and whether you want no mayo, a tiny bit of mayo, or all the mayo — or hot butter — there’s something for everyone. But to answer the question simply, you should go to Neptune Oyster for a lobster roll. Yes, you’ll have to wait in line. Yes, it’s pricey. But when it comes to an iconic Boston lobster roll, this is the one. Available hot with butter or cold with mayo, served on a toasted roll. (Also available without the roll.) Neptune also serves a top-rated version of that other iconic Boston food — clam chowder.

A lobster roll with a side of fries and ketchup sits on a white plate on a marble bar
The lobster roll (hot with butter) at Neptune Oyster.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Boston cream pie at Parker’s Restaurant

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One of the most decidedly Boston dishes bears the city’s name and dates all the way back to 1856. Originally called the chocolate cream pie, the Boston cream pie — which is actually a cake — was born at Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House, where it’s still available. Parker’s also created the fluffy, ubiquitous Parker House roll.

A small round piece of Boston cream pie sits on a white plate, garnished with a strawberry, chocolate sauce shaped like a row of hearts, and whipped cream
Boston Cream Pie at Parker’s Restaurant.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Hot dogs at Sullivan’s

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Located on Castle Island, this seasonal Southie mainstay has been serving up inexpensive hot dogs, burgers, fried seafood, ice cream, and more since 1951. There’s no seating inside: Grab a picnic table and enjoy the outdoors. (Sullivan’s season typically runs from the last week of February to the beginning of November.)

Yankee pot roast at Henrietta's Table

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This comforting, fork-tender classic comes with roasted carrots, crispy shallots, and a deep-brown gravy at the two-decade-old Harvard Square Mainstay, Henrietta’s Table. Also, chef Peter Davis wrote one of Boston’s top cookbooks, letting fans try their own hands at his comforting New England classics built on sustainable sourcing.

Ramen at Yume Wo Katare

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Boston has no dearth of ramen these days, but one of the most unique options in town is an eccentric little shop in Cambridge’s Porter Square where diners stand up and share their dreams after finishing massive bowls of jiro-style ramen (a hefty pork-topped style not found elsewhere in the Boston area). Dress for the weather; there’s often a line outside.

Frappes and scoops at Toscanini's Ice Cream

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Boston adores ice cream — and there are plentiful options in most parts of town — but one is a bit more iconic than the others. Open since 1981, Toscanini’s is one of the most celebrated ice cream destinations around, garnering quite a bit of press locally and far beyond thanks to flavors such as B3 (brown sugar, brown butter, brownies), burnt caramel, Earl Grey, and more. Also grab one of the best versions of Boston’s iconic frappe while you are there.

Sticky buns at Flour Bakery + Cafe

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Joanne Chang first opened Flour in the South End in 2000, eventually expanding the bakery and cafe throughout Boston and Cambridge. Today, there are nine locations. They all serve up a wide variety of baked goods, from cakes and pies to scones and muffins, not to mention full meals, including sandwiches, salads, and more. But there’s one item that has always been synonymous with Flour: the sticky bun. Dripping with caramel and sprinkled with toasted pecans, Flour’s sticky bun is one popular pastry.

“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex

On top of a red and white checkered tablecloth, a cardboard tray is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with little paper cups of red ketchup to the side.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Nothing screams “summer in New England” like a plate of fried clams (ideally accompanied by fries and onion rings). Woodman’s, a classic North Shore spot founded more than a century ago, serves this iconic dish year-round. The long-lasting restaurant also claims to have invented fried clams: True or not, it’s one of the best places to try them. Note: The restaurant separates its food counter from its drink counter, so be sure to proceed to the beverage line (there’s a full bar available) after placing your food order. There’s plenty of seating inside and out.

On top of a red and white checkered tablecloth, a cardboard tray is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with little paper cups of red ketchup to the side.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Roast beef sandwiches are practically ubiquitous in Massachusetts, particularly in the North Shore region, and there is no roast beef spot more well-known than Kelly’s Roast Beef, which opened in 1951 on Revere Beach. (These days, there are also four other locations — Saugus, Danvers, Medford, and Logan Airport.) It’s possible this stalwart invented the roast beef sandwich in the form that it appears around the state, and mega-chain Arby’s acknowledges drawing inspiration from Kelly’s. True North Shore roast beef fans tend to go for the three-way sandwich, which comes topped with James River barbecue sauce, no-frills Land O’Lakes white American cheese, and mayonnaise.

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood Restaurant

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Non-Somerville residents may raise a confused eyebrow to learn that one of the most iconic dishes in town is a humble bowl of Cream of Wheat, but anyone who has ever braved the line for brunch at Neighborhood — ideally under a pastel umbrella on the patio — knows the truth. Every Neighborhood breakfast comes with a choice of fruit or Cream of Wheat. Don’t make the wrong choice. (Note: Devotees also know that cozy bowls of Cream of Wheat also come a la carte.)

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Baked Alaska at Oleana

Boston’s been paying particular attention to desserts recently; talented pastry chefs are making names for themselves with beautifully plated, intricate creations that in some cases overshadow the main courses. But go back a few years before the explosive growth of Boston’s dessert scene, and find one classic that has always been there — the ethereal baked Alaska at Oleana, full of coconut ice cream and sitting in a sweet pool of passion fruit caramel.

Pasta at Pammy’s or No. 9

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

Boston has one of the most respected Italian food scenes in the country, with spots celebrating the tried-and-true alongside other kitchens making waves. The pasta at globe-trotting Pammy’s may start from an Italian-ish place and strutting through a myriad of global influences. On the menu since the beginning, indulge in the lumache tossed in a hearty Bolognese sauce with a kick of heat from gochujang Korean chile paste. Meanwhile, the more than two decade-old, classic Barbara Lynch restaurant, No. 9, will probably never remove the prune-stuffed gnocchi from the menu. The longtime staple, a rich dish embellished with foie gras, almonds, and vin santo, harkens back to the stately white-tablecloth era of Boston dining.

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

The Giambotta at Regina Pizza

A sliced pizza covered with peppers and onions
Pizza at Regina.
Regina Pizzeria

Sure, nowadays the Polcari family’s Regina Pizza is a chain with a tendency to open up locations in malls, and Boston’s pizza scene has exploded with plenty of new options since the days of Regina’s domination. But there’s no denying the importance of the original North End location of this classic brick oven pizzeria, which opened back in 1926. And yes, it still draws long lines. For a true Regina experience, get the Giambotta pizza, which includes all of the traditional toppings — pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and anchovies (upon request).

A sliced pizza covered with peppers and onions
Pizza at Regina.
Regina Pizzeria

Cannolis at Mike’s Pastry

A single cannolo, stuffed with an orange-yellow filling and dusted with powdered sugar
Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry.
Katie Chudy/Eater

The subject of one of Boston’s fiercest food debates is cannoli. In the eyes of locals, Mike’s Pastry may or may not win out all the time — you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask — but it’s been a destination for tourists and Bostonians for decades, and there’s something about that tied-up white box that always triggers a cannoli craving. Mike’s expanded to Cambridge’s Harvard Square and Somerville’s Assembly Row in recent years.

A single cannolo, stuffed with an orange-yellow filling and dusted with powdered sugar
Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Lobster roll and chowder at Neptune Oyster

A lobster roll with a side of fries and ketchup sits on a white plate on a marble bar
The lobster roll (hot with butter) at Neptune Oyster.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

If someone were to write up an FAQ list for Boston tourist dining inquiries, “Where should I go for a lobster roll?” would certainly be one of the top questions. There are plenty of options at a variety of price points, and whether you want no mayo, a tiny bit of mayo, or all the mayo — or hot butter — there’s something for everyone. But to answer the question simply, you should go to Neptune Oyster for a lobster roll. Yes, you’ll have to wait in line. Yes, it’s pricey. But when it comes to an iconic Boston lobster roll, this is the one. Available hot with butter or cold with mayo, served on a toasted roll. (Also available without the roll.) Neptune also serves a top-rated version of that other iconic Boston food — clam chowder.

A lobster roll with a side of fries and ketchup sits on a white plate on a marble bar
The lobster roll (hot with butter) at Neptune Oyster.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Boston cream pie at Parker’s Restaurant

A small round piece of Boston cream pie sits on a white plate, garnished with a strawberry, chocolate sauce shaped like a row of hearts, and whipped cream
Boston Cream Pie at Parker’s Restaurant.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

One of the most decidedly Boston dishes bears the city’s name and dates all the way back to 1856. Originally called the chocolate cream pie, the Boston cream pie — which is actually a cake — was born at Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House, where it’s still available. Parker’s also created the fluffy, ubiquitous Parker House roll.

A small round piece of Boston cream pie sits on a white plate, garnished with a strawberry, chocolate sauce shaped like a row of hearts, and whipped cream
Boston Cream Pie at Parker’s Restaurant.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Hot dogs at Sullivan’s

Located on Castle Island, this seasonal Southie mainstay has been serving up inexpensive hot dogs, burgers, fried seafood, ice cream, and more since 1951. There’s no seating inside: Grab a picnic table and enjoy the outdoors. (Sullivan’s season typically runs from the last week of February to the beginning of November.)

Yankee pot roast at Henrietta's Table

This comforting, fork-tender classic comes with roasted carrots, crispy shallots, and a deep-brown gravy at the two-decade-old Harvard Square Mainstay, Henrietta’s Table. Also, chef Peter Davis wrote one of Boston’s top cookbooks, letting fans try their own hands at his comforting New England classics built on sustainable sourcing.

Ramen at Yume Wo Katare

Boston has no dearth of ramen these days, but one of the most unique options in town is an eccentric little shop in Cambridge’s Porter Square where diners stand up and share their dreams after finishing massive bowls of jiro-style ramen (a hefty pork-topped style not found elsewhere in the Boston area). Dress for the weather; there’s often a line outside.

Frappes and scoops at Toscanini's Ice Cream

Boston adores ice cream — and there are plentiful options in most parts of town — but one is a bit more iconic than the others. Open since 1981, Toscanini’s is one of the most celebrated ice cream destinations around, garnering quite a bit of press locally and far beyond thanks to flavors such as B3 (brown sugar, brown butter, brownies), burnt caramel, Earl Grey, and more. Also grab one of the best versions of Boston’s iconic frappe while you are there.

Sticky buns at Flour Bakery + Cafe

Joanne Chang first opened Flour in the South End in 2000, eventually expanding the bakery and cafe throughout Boston and Cambridge. Today, there are nine locations. They all serve up a wide variety of baked goods, from cakes and pies to scones and muffins, not to mention full meals, including sandwiches, salads, and more. But there’s one item that has always been synonymous with Flour: the sticky bun. Dripping with caramel and sprinkled with toasted pecans, Flour’s sticky bun is one popular pastry.

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