Locals Share What Gives Boston Its Distinct Flavor

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Photo: Thebostoncalendar.com

Photo: Thebostoncalendar.com

Big cities mean tons of options, which unfortunately can be overwhelming when you’re hard pressed to find the best. To share what gives Boston its distinct flavor, we’ve assembled an A-team of insiders: some of our favorite Krrb members and resident influencers with knowledge on where to go and what to pick up. Get ready to meet the team!

Nishat Nguyen

Nishat Nguyen is always on the search for the perfect donut and travel destination. Find Nishat on her Instagram and YouTube where she chronicles her trips and personal vlogs. (NN)

Meaghan Murray

Meaghan Murray is the voice behind The Stopover, a Boston-based blog with with a serious appetite and a major case of wanderlust. Follow Meaghan on Instagram to get a sneak peek of her food and travel adventures. (MM)

Leigha Gardner is a color lover and blogger from the city on the hill. You can find Leigha wearing the latest fashions in bright, vibrant colors on her Instagram, Facebook and her blog, The Lilac Press. (LG)

Elizabeth Stone lives in the historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill and runs the Boston-based lifestyle blog, Stix and Stonez. She loves playing tourist in her own city where you can follow along on the adventure on Instagram and Facebook. (ES)


Highland Kitchen.

Brunch at Highland Kitchen.

In one sentence, explain the vibe of Boston to an outsider.
NN: Fresh!
MM: Oh, no pressure or anything. The vibe in Boston is part traditional and part revolutionary. We take pride in our history but love bold innovation and originality.
LG: It is hard to truly classify the vibe of Boston since there are so many different types of people and cultures here. Boston is rich with the history of our nation’s early days and there is always a strong sense of patriotism and pride in our founding fathers. Beyond that, the current vibe of Boston has roots in many different immigrant cultures, each bringing their own ways of life, recipes and beliefs. I think this melting pot of people has allowed the city to grow over the years into a truly unique cultural hub (culinary and otherwise). You will definitely spot a Boston accent now and again, as well, but most people living in the city nowadays don’t really have one.
ES: Boston is a small, bustling city with deep roots in history, sports and tradition, which gives the city a real soul.

Dig a little deeper into Boston. Shop local on Krrb.

We know certain foods are synonymous with different cities. What foods or recipes would you say best represent Boston?
NN: Cannolis from The North End, or Clover (the food truck from MIT!)
MM: You’d expect me to say seafood, but I love the treats made by local makers, like FoMu ice cream and Apotheker’s bee sweetened chocolate and marshmallows. I wasn’t really a sweets person until I tried their stuff. If you are looking for the best New England seafood though, I recommend Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square or Row 34 in Fort Point neighborhood. Both spots are owned by the Island Creek Oyster crew, based in Duxbury, MA.
LG: Well, that one is easy. Boston baked beans, of course! I grew up on those, in addition to some traditional Bostonian Irish fare like corned beef and cabbage. However out and about in the city, you are not too likely to see these things on many menus. Boston and New England in general, is known for its seafood. I grew up as a vegetarian for most of my life, but these days, even I can’t resist some creamy New England clam chowder or fresh local oysters.
ES: The obvious answer here is seafood, seafood and more seafood. Neptune Oyster is a fan favorite for the best lobster roll in the city (be warned the restaurant is tiny). I also love Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore for a delicious seafood meal. Another thing Bostonians are passionate about is their beer. Harpoon is one of the early craft breweries in the country and is considered a Boston staple. The recently built beer hall in the seaport is a great spot to enjoy their delicious flagship IPA and incredible homemade pretzels. Trillium is another great new spot beloved by beer nerds around the country. They have been turning out delicious IPAs, pale ales and other tasty concoctions since opening in the fort point district in 2013. If bars are more your speed Tip Tap Room is a great spot for a burger with a large selection of beers on tap.

Locals Share What Gives Boston Its Distinct Flavor

The day’s catch at Atlantic Fish Company. Photo: Atlanticfishco.com

And what about local restaurants?
NN: I love Oleana with a passion. It’s a fine dining experience you can’t miss!
MM: There sure are! My first pick isSaltie Girl in Back Bay. You can probably tell by the nod to a mermaid in their name but the Saltie Girl menu is mostly seafood. All sustainably-sourced, I might add. I love their crab toast with burrata and avocado. Then, while it’s not exactly in Boston proper, Little Donkey is the new Cambridge spot by the guys behind Toro and Coppa. The weekly menu is focused on global small plates. It just opened a couple weeks ago and everything awesome. And finally I’m a big fan of Clover Food Lab. They started as a local food truck and now they have 10 vegetarian restaurants throughout the city. They make the most amazing falafel and rosemary fries!
LG: If you like oysters, then the best around are surely from Island Creek Oyster Bar or Eastern Standard (same owners) in Kenmore Square. They have their own oyster farm in Duxbury, Masschusetts and are some of the few oysters I truly enjoy (instead of just gulping down loaded with cocktail sauce and horseradish). For seafood in general, Atlantic Fish Company is a must. You’ll get that New England seafood cooked (or fried) just right. If you like Italian, you almost can never go wrong in the North End. My favorite is Giacamo’s for the homemade pasta. If you are looking for some quintessential Boston charm, be sure to check out Figs on Charles Street in Beacon Hill. For the best coffee, cafe pastries and my favorite avocado toast ever, be sure to pop into Tatte which is just down the street from Figs. For some more traditional American fare, plus the best bloody marys around, stop into Stephanie’s on Newbury Street. You’ll be offered a clipboard to check off all the options for mixing up your dream bloody mary. And, yes, that can include pickles, bacon and a whole hamburger for garnish if you so choose.
ES: There are so many great restaurants and I’m happy to report that new, fun and innovative eateries are opening up at an alarming rate—it’s hard to keep up! I really could list more than you’d probably like to hear so I’ll start with some of my absolute favorites. I love Myers & Chang for Asian food. The vibe is casual yet hip and it’s always packed with people during lunch and after work. The brussel sprouts and pork dumplings are must-gets here. I work in Somerville and one of my favorite neighborhood spots there is Highland Kitchen. It’s fairly unassuming from the outside, but inside it’s always bustling with locals and you can usually just walk in and sit down. My personal favorite is the black bean burger with pico de gallo and guacamole and their fries are perfection. I’ve also heard their brunch is one of the best in Boston, although the line has deterred me thus far, it’s at the top of my list. Tupelo is another favorite. It’s in Inman Square and serves up some of the best Southern comfort food a girl can ask for. Go for hefty portions of fried chicken and gumbo, you may roll out of there but you’ll be so happy! Finally, I have to include Coppa. A quintessential neighborhood spot, Coppa is a small Italian tapas-style spot located in the South End. They have delicious pizzas, pastas and other small Italian plates that are the perfect way to end a long workday.

Locals Share What Gives Boston Its Distinct Flavor

The Boston Pops at the 2016 Fourth of July celebration. Photo: A1lightingmagazine.com

Just like how jazz is such a central part of life in New Orleans, which music style would you say best represents your city?
NN: Keytar bear plays some electro-pop at tons of MBTA stations. He’s a huge symbol for the city, so whatever he’s playing!
MM: Rock music and Boston go hand-in-hand. Some pretty legendary rock bands, like Aerosmith and the Pixies, started in Boston. I don’t know about you but, I could listen to the Pixie’s “Where Is My Mind?” on repeat.
LG: Berklee College of Music is right here in Boston, which adds a lot of fresh local talent to the music scene. There are so many budding artists in the area that it is hard not to come across plenty of talented musicians. Having gone to college in Boston at Northeastern University which is just down the street from Berklee, one of my favorite things to do with friends both then and now is to head out for some live music. There are lots of places in both the Fenway area and Faneuil Hall that offer live music any day of the week. Plus, you’ll find Boston Symphony Hall right by Berklee, home of the Boston Pops, who are best known for their performance every 4th of July at the Hatch Shell. One of the most quintessential Boston experiences is listening to the Boston Pops while watching the fireworks explode over the Charles River. It’s quite magical!
ES: Boston is a real melting pot for music. Berklee College of Music, one of the most world-renowned music colleges, is located right in Boston, so there are always a lot of exciting musical happenings around the city. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is a great spot for year round concerts and events. The BSO also hosts the Boston Pops every year, which is a fun way to get your fill of festive music around the holidays. They also have a special concert on the beach in Nantucket every summer that is really fun. When I’m looking to see some live music, I usually go to the Beehive, Wally’s Cafe, or Cantab Lounge. Boston also has a lot of small music venues that are fun for concerts: The SinclairParadise Rock Club and House of Blues to name a few.

Boston General Store.

Boston General Store.

Are you fans of any local bands or musicians?
NN: I love Matt Nathanson!
MM: This may be super cliché, but The Boston Symphony Orchestra are a pretty talented bunch.
ES: I’ve been following Pigpen Theatre Co. since the very beginning. One of the members is a family friend and they bridge the gap between theatre and music in an innovative and creative way. I love everything that they are doing. Darlingside is another great band that started in Boston that I recently saw at the Sinclair.

If you had to describe one design style or local designer as best representing Boston, what or who would it be?
NN: Monique Aimee does lettering and illustration for her own products and sometimes works with local businesses. Her style is so fresh, but also still feels homemade—so much love and time is put into her designs. It’s the perfect balance of quirky and elegant, if that even makes sense.
MM: This is another tough one. Boston is fairly eclectic but if I had to choose one design style, it has to be stripes. Boston is iconically preppy and stripes epitomizes prep. From a local designer perspective, hands down, Brass Clothing. They nail women’s style in Boston. They make easy, transitional pieces for busy women who love fashion.
LG: As the hub of New England, you’ll see a lot of very refined, classic and preppy fashions. When venturing outside of the city to any of the coastal suburbs or to the Cape and Islands, you’ll definitely see this amplified even more. I love this kind of classic style, but I also appreciate that with Boston being the melting pot that it is, we see all kinds of style. I think the best part about this diversity is that it gives people the creative freedom to be who they are and dress however they want, whether that is a more traditional New England-style or something a little more edgy and fashion forward.
ES: I may be biased because I work there, but the work of Kate Maloney Interior Design perfectly encapsulates style in Boston and New England. KMID does a great job of mixing old and new, creating an eclectic aesthetic that is very characteristic of Boston. I also love the work of Lisa Tharp Design and Liz Caan Interiors.

Locals Share What Gives Boston Its Distinct Flavor

For vintage hunting, head to the Garment District in Boston. Photo: Thriftyprep.com

Which stores or shopping destinations would you say summarize the fashion and style of Boston locals?
NN: I would stop by the South End for a lot of local boutiques. Locals kind of avoid Newbury street for the most part! Young people also wear a lot of thrift store finds and vintage clothes—the Garment District is great for that!
MM: I love shopping in Beacon Hill or the South End for truly unique finds. Follain in Beacon Hill is my personal favorite. I love all of their natural goodies. In the South End, I love checking out the latest treasures from Olives and Grace and the Boston General Store.
LG: For everything from high end fashions such as Chanel and Cartier, to more affordable retailers like H&M, Zara and Forever 21, you’ll find it all and everything in between on Newbury Street in Back Bay. At one end of the street you have the Boston Common and Public Gardens, and at the other end you have Copley Square and the Prudential Center. On the weekends, this area street is filled with people from all over the world, but on a bright sunny day or warm evening, there is nothing better than strolling down this aesthetically pleasing street and grabbing a bite to eat on an outdoor patio. If you’re looking for something a with a little more charm, or just a little quieter, take a stroll down Charles Street in Beacon Hill to check out the little boutiques. I always the best gifts in these shops!
ES: Bostonians love local artisans, classic New England style and items that are made with quality and care. Some shops that really embody this are Olives & Grace, Good, Follain, Sault New England, Ball and Buck.

And lastly, where do locals gather to hangout and enjoy the best of Boston?
NN: In the summer, The Lawn on D is so fun! It feels like a playground for adults with alcohol, food trucks, performers and sweet art installations. The fitness scene is really big here too and it’s mainly social fitness. You don’t just go to a gym with your headphones on. I love seeing Boston through November Project. My friend is also starting something called URBN MVMT as a way to explore the city and meet new people with some exercise thrown in the mix. Boston is all about innovation these days!
MM: Coffee shops like Forge in Somerville or Tatte Bakery and Café in Beacon Hill, restaurants like Brewer’s Fork in Charlestown or Hojoko at the Verb Hotel in Fenway, or museums like the MFA or the ICA.
LG: On a free weekend or a night out, we all love to head to Newbury Street or the North End for dinner and then the Fenway area or Faneuil Hall for drinks. The Esplanade along the Charles River is the best for taking in scenic views during a morning run or leisurely afternoon walk. These are all kind of touristy places, but the locals enjoy them frequently too. Having grown up just 30 minutes outside of Boston and having gone to college in the city, I can certainly attest to that!
ES: When it comes down to it people love to be outside in Boston. In the summer, people flock in droves to the Esplanade. Whether running or picnicking along the Charles, or cruising along in a sailboat or paddleboat, it is always buzzing. You can also always find people enjoying the Public Garden, Boston Common and Lawn on D (in South Boston). On Sundays during the warmer months, people flock to SoWa and the South End Open Market to explore booths by local artisans. You can also find vintage treasures and every type of food truck you can imagine. It’s pretty great!

There is plenty more that make Boston so fantastic! Don’t stop now. See the best local makers in Boston, as well as great AirBnb options in the city and where to go locally to get your DIY on. And you don’t want to miss an opportunity to shop from local sellers in Boston.