A Squared: Dining in Boston

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dining in Boston

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that a few months ago (gah! It takes so long to get around to posting these days) my family and I returned to my old stomping grounds in Boston for a friend's wedding. It has been about 8 years since we lived there and almost as long since I was last there to visit.

To say that things (in my life and in the city of Boston) have totally changed since then is an understatement. It was pretty crazy to come back to the city after all this time and stay just blocks from my old apartment with my husband (who was the boyfriend that back then convinced me to leave my beloved Beantown for Chicago) and with our little baby fresh off her very first airplane ride.

The weekend was a whirlwind and Hannah was a champ while we carted her around the city on a fraction of the sleep she is accustomed to getting. And while we weren't closing down the bars like we were when we once lived in Boston, we still managed to enjoy our time in the city-- checking out a few old favorites and some new ones too! We spent most of our time in the South End and the Back Bay, which was where I spent the majority of my time when I lived there too. The neighborhoods have changed a lot, but they still have that same charm that I fell in love with when I lived there too.

Above: Clery's namesake (and scene of our first date) and my old apartment!

South End

We arrived at our hotel on Friday afternoon completely starving with a baby desperate to take a nap. So, while I hung out in a dark hotel room with a sleeping Hannah, Alex ventured out to get us some much needed food. He headed over to Picco to pick up some delicious pizza for us and it was just as good as I remembered. Picco is a staple of Boston's South End, located on Tremont Street since back when the South End was still up and coming. They have stuck around because their pizza is amazing and their gelato may be even better.

Picco serves a simple, but well executed menu that updates seasonally, which (in my opinion) is always the way to go-- ensuring that you're enjoying variety and the best produce. When we dined on Picco pizza this summer, I had a delicious vegetarian option topped with grilled broccoli, peppers, and onions, Green Goddess sauce, and fresh herbs. They were generous with the veggies (which had some nice sweetness and char from the roasting process) and the sauce added a great punch of flavor. Right now their menu features pumpkin ravioli and a Brussels sprout & butternut squash pizza. I'd go back to Boston again just to order that!

Flour Bakery & Cafe
Back Bay

When I was a Bostonian, Flour was one of my favorite spots for a weekend coffee (and probably a pastry too) in the South End. It was buried deep in the South End on Washington Street though, so I only made it there when I was up for a good walk or when it was time for a root touch-up (as it was conveniently located next to my hair salon). Fast forward to our recent visit and I learned that there was a newer Back Bay location now too. I was excited to give it a try and also happy for my 22-year old self's wallet that it didn't exist when I was living 3 blocks away. Hello, morning routine and subsequent debt! Since Hannah is an early riser-- especially when she's sleeping away from home-- we had the perfect opportunity to walk the neighborhood Saturday morning and make a trip over to Flour's Back Bay location for breakfast.

Even early on a Saturday morning, Flour was bustling. This location is long and narrow with a handful of tables in the front of the store and some bar-style seating in the smaller area in the back. We found a corner back there that would more easily accommodate Hannah's stroller and then perused the amazing selection of baked goods at the counter. Ordering here feels chaotic and disorganized, but their staff knows their stuff and clearly has it all under control.

Alex ordered one of Flour's homemade "pop tarts." This was not your standard toaster pastry. Buttery flaky pastry dough was filled with tangy berry preserves and drizzled with icing. Everything about it tasted so fresh and decadent enough to be dessert... which is exactly how Alex likes his breakfast! Oh, and the freshly squeezed orange juice? Also delicious.

Completely forgetting that I had a veggie pizza for dinner the night before, I went with the vegetable breakfast pizza and don't regret the decision at all. It looks like a run of the mill spinach pizza from this vantage point, but once you cut into this personal pizza you'll find a cooked egg in the center under that melty cheese. It had a great chewy housemade crust and was a super satisfying breakfast. Also, kudos on the cold brewed coffee too!

Abby Lane
Theatre District

Abby Lane is a new-to-me restaurant located in Boston's Theatre District. My parents and sister came into town on Saturday morning to babysit for Hannah while we attended a wedding that evening, so I was on the hunt for a good lunch spot for all of us. After doing a quick search online, Abby Lane kept popping up and seemed to tick all of my boxes: it was nearby, casual and family friendly, with a solid menu of recognizable and more creative twists on American dishes. Decision (and reservation) made!

One of the best things about dining with my dad is that no matter how hungry (or not) you are, he's very serious about ordering appetizers for everyone to share. Even if nobody is interested, a bowl of spinach dip will inevitably end up on the table. This lunch was no exception and we started our meal with an order of the Showtime Nachos. Nachos might be one of my favorite bar snacks, so I was pretty excited about these and they lived up to the hype. The chips themselves were seasoned with a savory and slightly spicy dry seasoning and then topped with tons of melty cheese. The nachos were topped with black beans, pico de gallo, tangy pickled onions (one of my favorite additions to the plate), and sprinkled with a little queso fresco. They were then topped with a generous amount of guacamole, crema, and a smooth salsa for dipping. I loved that these nachos were full of different flavors and that they tasted fresh, not greasy or heavy. We opted to get ours without meat, but you can add chicken, bacon, or steak to these too.

Alex and I both decided that since we were back in New England, we needed to get a lobster roll fix before we headed home. Abby Lane's lobster roll begins with a really thick brioche roll that's buttered and toasted, which is the ideal foundation for a classic lobster roll. Their lobster filling was more along the lobster salad than straight buttered lobster line, but it was very good-- served very cold with just enough mayo, celery, fresh herbs, and generous chunks of lobster meat. Alex ordered a side of fries with his sandwich, but I went with Abby Lane's eggplant fries and they were totally addictive! The eggplant was sliced like a fry and deep fried in an airy crispy breading. They were served with ketchup and a tangy aioli for dipping.

Stephanie's on Newbury
Boston Logan International Airport

I wasn't planning on having any other restaurant reviews to share with you, but after a 4+ hour delay we became very familiar with the vendors in Logan's Terminal B. Since we knew we'd be around for a while, Alex and I decided to find a place for a real meal and thankfully Stephanie's-- a familiar name-- was just a few gates away. The original Stephanie's is located on Boston's famed Newbury Street and is an institution there (now with locations in Southie and the South End too)-- with tables filled with tourists and locals alike all day long. They're known for upscale comfort food with an emphasis on New England classics. And that sounded like exactly what we needed (along with a big glass of rose!) while we settled in for a long night of waiting.

Alex is a huge fan of New England clam chowder so it was no surprise that this caught his eye on the menu. Stephanies' chowder is thick and rich and made with hearty chunks of potatoes and local clams. The chowder also had great smokiness from the addition of bacon, which (IMHO) should be included in all clam chowders. Garnished with a little fresh chive, it was definitely a comforting bowl of chowder!

I'm a sucker for a crab cake, so I went for the Stephanie's crab cake sandwich. Good crab cakes are delicious, but bad ones are just terrible so I am always a little skeptical about ordering them. Thankfully, this one lived up to the hype! The crab cake was nice and crispy on the outside and filled with sweet meaty crab (and not filler). It was served simply with a remoulade sauce on a toasty brioche roll. I ordered mine with a side of crispy sweet potato fries and it was also served with a tiny cup of coleslaw to round out a perfectly New England plate.

Berkshire Farms Market
Boston Logan International Airport

So I have to admit that although being stranded at Logan for 4+ hours sucked, we were at least presented with some really solid dining options while there. Terminal B is also home to Berkshire Farms Market, a little grab-and-go market that sells small batch and locally sourced items from producers in the Berkshires to Boston. So instead of getting a bag of pretzels from the airport newsstand, you can head here for everything from granola to chocolate to smoked Gouda.

Before we boarded our late night flight, I picked up a few muffins from the Berkshire Farms Market bakery case. They were selling blueberry and morning glory muffins freshly baked at the South End Buttery, one of the best bakeries in my old neighborhood. We didn't get a chance to get there during our visit, so it was great that we could have a taste of the Buttery on our first morning back home.


  1. omg so much good food! that's always my favorite part of traveling :) xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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