In the cover story for Yankee’s March/April issue — “Food Town Showdown” — I took a side-by-side look at the top food spots in Boston and Portland to determine which city is the true dining capital of New England (to find out who won, click here). Now I’d like to invite you to come along as I visit my (current) favorite food destinations in Boston, which also happens to be my hometown. The city is always changing, and so will this list; still, these picks are reliably good.In an effort to offer as many options as possible, I’ve created two separate crawls, organized geographically. This one takes you through Cambridge and Somerville and will require some driving, ride-sharing, or bus travel. The Boston itinerary, on the other hand, is mostly walkable, though you might want to hop the Green Line to get out to Fenway. Of course, there’s no way you could really visit all these spots in a single day, nor should you. But if you stretched them out over, say, a three-day weekend, you’d have one tasty holiday.
And now, on to our journey…
The Ultimate Boston Food Crawl:
Cambridge and Somerville Edition
8:00 a.m.: SofraWhile you can happily begin the day with any of the pastries on offer, get here as early as possible, because this West Cambridge bakery’s popularity has far outstripped its seating capacity. Pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick is a genius of global flavors: morning buns scented with orange blossom water, tahini–brown butter doughnuts. If you’re in the mood for savory, the Turkish breakfast and the shakshuka are both unbeatable.10:00 a.m.: Formaggio KitchenYou may not be hungry yet, but one should always consider the future. Reward future you with a stop at the country’s best cheese shop to load up on wheels of Vermont-made Oma and Harbison. Don’t skip the abundant samples!11:00 a.m.: Central Bottle
With cheese you need wine, right? The owner of this Cambridge shop, Liz Vilardi, is a genius, and her team has a knack for leading you to bottles that will knock your socks off without breaking the bank. Ask them to recommend their favorite “skin contact” wines, and prepare to be amazed.
Noon: Little Donkey
Global tapas are the stars at Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s Central Square hot spot. Go for the General Tso’s chicken wings, the poke bowl, or the pickle brine–fried chicken sandwich.
1:30 p.m.: Forge Baking Co.It’s been nearly 15 minutes since your last meal, and maybe you’re ready for a coffee. Or some ice cream? This chic café, located incongruously in a strip mall on the Cambridge-Somerville line, makes a tasty cardamom latte and a rich strawberry ice cream that’s worth the indulgence.3:00 p.m.:Bow Market—Jaju, Saus, Hot Box, and Buenas
This next recommendation only really works on weekends, because many of the diminutive eateries in Union Square’s Bow Market are closed Monday to Wednesday and serve lunch only on weekends. Still, it’s nice to see that Somerville’s boho-funky sensibility translates into this year-round market, where you can happily nosh your way through Jaju’s sweet potato and caramelized onion pierogis, Saus’s excellent Belgian frites (try the cheddar-ale dipping sauce), Hot Box’s South Shore–style bar pizza, and Buenas’s cheesy spinach empanadas.
5:00 p.m.:Bow Market—Rebel Rebel
Time for a pre-dinner drink. Natural wine is having a moment these days, but the definition of what natural means is still pretty squishy. That’s OK, though, because in owner Lauren Friel’s capable hands, you can sip your way through a range of additive-free, unfiltered wines; snack on some cheese; and feel as if all is right with the world.
7:00 p.m.: Celeste or Juliet
Both Celeste and Juliet are located just a hop from Bow Market, and you can’t go wrong with either. Since opening in late 2018, Celeste has earned national raves for its Peruvian cuisine (did somebody say “ceviche”?). Juliet, meanwhile, is an always-innovating restaurant serving three squares a day, with the menu rotating every six weeks from, say, modern steakhouse to Roman cuisine.
9:00 p.m.: Gracie’s
There’s an embarrassment of ice cream riches in Cambridge and Somerville, and the from-scratch goodness at Gracie’s in Union Square is a fine reason to save room for dessert. Start with the salty whiskey and fluffernutterbutter flavors, then go where your whimsy takes you.
10:00 p.m.: The Wine Bar at Tasting Counter
Time to wine down, as they say. Dinner service at Peter Ungár’s award-winning Somerville eatery is a ticketed tasting menu experience, but anyone can come in and enjoy snacks and natural (see the trend?) wines without a reservation Wednesday to Saturday from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. Given that most of Boston rolls up its welcome mat by midnight, we appreciate the overtime.
What places would you put on your own Boston food crawl? Let us know!