Attention, tourists: Boston’s dining scene hasn’t been defined by baked beans in decades. In fact, it’s hard to even find the sweet legume dish on a restaurant table in Boston. Here are 11 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.Read More
11 Iconic Dishes Around Boston
Get to know the city and surrounding area with these essential eats
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef
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 several other locations — including Saugus, Danvers, and Medford.) 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.
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 a hefty pork-topped style of ramen. Dress for the weather; there’s often a line outside.
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood Restaurant
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.)
Baked Alaska at Oleana
Talented pastry chefs all around Boston 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.
A scoop 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.
The Giambotta at 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).
Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry
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.
Lobster roll at Neptune Oyster
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 mayo, hot butter, or brown 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.
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.
Boston cream pie at Parker’s Restaurant
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.
Fenway Frank at Fenway Park
Don’t let the corn dogs, veggie dogs, and chili guacamole dogs distract you: the Fenway Frank is the real MVP of Boston’s historic ballpark. Is there anything more iconic than biting into a snappy, mustard-smeared dog on a summer Saturday afternoon at Fenway? To note, the Fenway Frank has also made its way to grocery store shelves, but nothing beats the original in-park experience.