For me, there are many cuisines that define Boston. When I lived in Allston, I was spoiled with Korean, Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese, all within a few blocks from my apartment. When I went to graduate school in Porter Square, I would often stop by the Japanese food court conveniently located in the same building. After coming back from Poland, I sought out one of the city’s best (and only) Polish restaurants, where the cabbage rolls instantly took me back to the milk bars in Krakow.
This past trip to Boston got me thinking what type of food defines a city. Sure Boston is synonymous with Italian cuisine, but what about the other cuisines that reflect the city’s diverse population? For me, kimbap was just as much a culinary staple in Boston as chicken parm or clam chowder may be for another Bostonian. It’s all about personal preference.
Coming back this time, I realized how truly global Boston is when it comes to food. Vietnamese in Dorchester, Polish in Andrew Square, Turkish in Teele Square, and Brazilian in Allston. Of course there is plenty of delicious Italian too, but for me it wasn’t always my go-to food (I suspect that it has something to do with growing up in the Bay Area, and that I’ll always choose pho over pasta).
So for those of you curious about some Boston restaurants beyond the North End, here are a few of my favorite spots in Boston.
There are a handful of excellent Brazilian places in the city, but this has to be my favorite. The colorful interior and friendly service warms you up on the coldest of Boston’s wintery days. There’s cheese bread for days, linguica sandwiches, and fresh acai bowls. It’s a great spot for a brunch that won’t break the bank.
This used to be my go-to spot for brunch when I lived in Allston. As a broke post-grad, I knew I could always get an inexpensive meal, breakfast any time of the day, and gyros alongside my eggs. Owned by a wonderful Greek family, the diner has been a neighborhood staple for decades. Cash only.
In South Boston’s Polish Triangle, lies delicious comfort food that helped my cravings after I came back from my semester abroad in Krakow. The interior is cozy and delightfully Polish with its wooden chairs and tables, and colorful home décor. All the usual suspects, like pierogi, cabbage rolls and kielbasa are on the menu. If you can’t decide, get the Polish plate that has all three. Polish beer is available to wash everything down.
Brookline has its fair share of Jewish cuisine, but this deli is my favorite for consistently delicious bagels and lox, and corned beef sandwiches. This spot has been here forever, and I love grabbing a seat at one of the cramped tables, and watching as deli life unfolds.
Hong Kong Supermarket (Super 88)
This food court was my lifeline when I lived in Allston, where I live off of kimbap (Korean sushi) and Vietnamese take-out. The no-frills food court has a collection of Asian restaurants, and a good place to start is Pho Viet’s for its banh mi and rice noodle dishes.
The Shops at Porter (Porter Exchange)
Many a study session and night class was fuel by takeout from this Japanese food court. My favorite is Café Mami that serves up delicious comfort food like pork cutlet curry or the Tokyo hamburg steak. Tampopo is also a wise choice with its creamy croquettes and katsu curry udon. Most places are cash only.
I’ve been a fan of this bakery since it was located in Porter Exchange (but has since relocated to Brookline). Plenty of unique pastry choices like azuki cream (red bean and cream) and Totoro bread (fluffy bread with a custard crust and a chocolate pudding tummy). This bakery is also one of the only places I can find onigiri (their kombu-seasoned seaweed is my go-to).
Flour + Water
I love this bakery/café not only because of its insanely delicious baked goods (get the sticky bun), but also for its creative salads like the soba noodle + spinach salad (because life is all about balance right?). Great spot for vegan, vegetarians, and those just wanting to be healthy-ish.
Two words: Turkish Breakfast. There are a few Turkish restaurants in Boston, but this one in Teele Square has my heart because I’m a sucker for a morning spread that includes cucumbers, cheese, tomatoes, jam, olives, and spiced sausage. Also they make a mean menemen (an egg dish with tomatoes) if you want something a bit heartier for breakfast.
And a few new spots on my radar…
This Korean spot was high on my list this time around. After I convinced Mustafa to go one night (he understandably doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm for Asian cuisine), we got a feast of bibimbap, and kimbap that hit the spot. There are also some Korean-Mexican fusion items as well, like bulgogi beef tacos, and kimchi quesadillas It’s a tiny spot, so be prepared to take it to go during peek hours.
Started by an Israeli pastry chef, everything about this café is stunning, from the rows of baked goods to the modern interior design. The menu has a global influence with dishes like shakshuka, and fattoush salad. I’ve only been to the spacious Brookline spot, but there are many other branches around the city.