Food Diary: Boston

August 13, 2023

I spent two weeks in Boston for a program on AI ethics at Northeastern University, so of course there had to be a Food Diary post! This was my third time in Boston over the last 18 months, so I really had a good idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to have.

This Food Diary entry will be a little different, though — we’re also going to list out all of the fun places I went, because they were mostly guided by food. Let’s go on a scrumptious journey to find out where I went and what I ate; buckle up, because I walked 20 miles worth of places even after still taking public transit.

Futago Udon

This was my second time making it in successfully and my third time trying, and I think it’s worth it every time. I found out about it from my friend Chris who goes to school across the river, and I love udon, so naturally I became obsessed. Located in Brookline on the fringes of Boston University’s campus, it’s pretty easy to get to via the T (on the Green Line towards Cleveland Circle). The location is sizeable but not large, so make sure you leave ample time before closing in case you get caught in the line. (That happened to us the first time.)

They make handmade udon in a variety of ways, both cold and hot, as well as full of many variations in what it contains. I’ve had both their kitsune and ebi kakiage. So good!

Ebi Kakiage Udon; $13.50
Ebi Kakiage Udon; $13.50
closeup of the shrimp and shredded vegetable tempura
closeup of the shrimp and shredded vegetable tempura

United Table at International Village

What Food Diary post is complete without a reference to college or a dining hall? For my program, we got a swipe into the dining hall every evening, and International Village was right across the street from where we were (and allegedly the best dining hall on Northeastern’s campus).

They have decent food! But it’s still dining hall food, and they changed it once a week in the summer. Less than ideal but we could be doing a whole lot worse. I would say it’s comparable to USC — better in some ways (Fruit cut for you?? Actually properly seasoned food?? Many options in one place??) and worse in others (extremely repetitive, sometimes the options are ???).

primavera pasta, vegetable stir fry, veggie pizza, string beans and cherry tomatoes
primavera pasta, vegetable stir fry, veggie pizza, string beans and cherry tomatoes
fried rice, tofu, stir-fried vegetables, cantaloupe
fried rice, tofu, stir-fried vegetables, cantaloupe

I had all of Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday free, so naturally, I went on a lot of exploration.

Originally, I had wanted to try out a restaurant at the North End, but after seeing the prices I became immediately deterred from trying. Given I was a lone diner, I figured it probably wasn’t worth the wait or the expense. Maybe in the future when I go back with someone else! I decided that sunset watching after grabbing dinner from the dining hall would suffice; besides, it was easier to get to the North End via the T from Ruggles than from the Green Line given the construction this summer.

North End totally blew me away, though. The scenery was gorgeous and nothing like I had ever seen before. I also didn’t realize before I went how much American Revolution history there was in the area, so seeing all of the stuff related to Paul Revere was very cool.

Paul Revere House, where the man began his legendary ride
Paul Revere House, where the man began his legendary ride
North End is absolutely unreal
North End is absolutely unreal
sunset at Langone Park, facing Bunker Hill
sunset at Langone Park, facing Bunker Hill
Old North Church, a critical location during Paul Revere's ride signaling British movement
Old North Church, a critical location during Paul Revere's ride signaling British movement

After watching the sunset from Langone Park facing Bunker Hill, I wandered the streets a bit more until I ended up back around Government Center, where I went to Long Wharf for the first time this trip to take a look at the harbor at night. I’d been twice before during the day, but I think the lighting was truly a different vibe there.

On Saturday morning, after acquiring my iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks (double stars + a bonus stars deal…), I went to the Trader Joe’s on Newberry Street after seeing it boasted the title of “smallest Trader Joe’s in the universe.” It certainly lived up to its promise — it was literally in a basement.

what the sign says
what the sign says

After my little excursion to Trader Joe’s, I headed over to the Commonwealth Avenue Mall to take a little stroll through all of the famous greenery Boston has to offer. The walking strip was really nice because it was 90º that day, yet the trees kept the path cool. I stumbled upon a couple of cool statues (Alexander Hamilton!?!). It connects directly to the Public Garden, which I also wandered through before I made it to Boston Common. Boston Common was pretty swamped with tourists, though, unsurprisingly.

Alexander Hamilton statue!
Alexander Hamilton statue!
Public Garden
Public Garden

The goal was the Park Street station, so I could make it across the river.

A cursory Google query for “fun things to do in Cambridge” led me to Longfellow House, where I got a nearly private (free!!!!) tour of the space the famous poet had occupied for years — which had also once housed George Washington during the start of the Revolutionary War. Coming here healed my inner history buff, and it was super exciting to stand in the same space as some very legendary people.

Tours are run by the National Park Service and it’s pretty easy to snag a spot. They are closed during part of the year for tours, though, but you’re still able to walk around the site.

Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site
Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site

Menya Jiro Harvard

This was the true goal. Just like Futago Udon, this was one of the places I had come in previous trips to Boston and I wanted to come again so badly that I came all the way to Cambridge for it. I literally scheduled my whole Saturday around this restaurant.

It’s tonkotsu ramen — self-explanatory enough as to why it is good. I have few words to say about it, honestly, because you can just soak it all in. Menya Jiro does a great job with all of their toppings, which pair super well with the rich tonkotsu broth.

Kagoshima Ramen; $15.00
Kagoshima Ramen; $15.00

After I finished my food, it started pouring (and my pain began). I made a run for it, but got splashed as I crossed the street. Have you ever seen Harvard Square inundated? Me neither, before that day.

I hopped back on the T and visited the Boston Public Library, which I’d somehow never been to before. So, so beautiful! And then I went back to the dorm to take a nap.

the famed view of the Boston Public Library's interior
the famed view of the Boston Public Library's interior
view from the second floor of the library of the entrance steps
view from the second floor of the library of the entrance steps

Sweet Kingdom

I went back to the dining hall for dinner (broke college student moment), but I made sure to grab dessert from somewhere worthy of it.

I really wanted to go to Chinatown, because I always end up there when I’m in Boston. I took the T from Ruggles since I was at the dining hall, since the Orange Line takes you directly to Chinatown.

But when I exited the station, it started pouring extremely dramatically. Extremely.

I braved the rain once I saw it die down even a little bit. Since I haven’t been back to Taiwan in literal years, I figured I’d try to find something that I couldn’t have at home. Sweet Kingdom offers taro and sweet potato balls (芋圓 and 地瓜圓), which they call “moochi.” I got it with sago, sweet potato, and boba. It was so good, although it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Sweet Kingdom requires a $10 minimum if you’re paying by card, which sucks because most of their bowls come out to a really awkward ~$9.50. I’d just recommend adding an extra topping if you’re ordering alone and you don’t have cash on you (me), because otherwise you’ll be stuck paying a lot more for something else you don’t want or need.

taro/sweet potato balls, sago, sweet potato, and boba; ~$10.50
taro/sweet potato balls, sago, sweet potato, and boba; ~$10.50

After my excursion here, I speedwalked all the way to Boylston to catch the T, only to end up walking into the wrong side of the station, because I forgot that the station there splits it by train direction…

just an extremely disgruntled gal
just an extremely disgruntled gal

On Sunday, I decided to go all of the places I had never really been before.

I got my coffee from Pressed Cafe (hazelnut latte! No photo alas), and I went on my way to the Esplanade. But silly me forgot that the Esplanade is separated from Back Bay by a highway, so I had to walk along the road for a bit before I got to a bridge.

Every bit of the Esplanade was worth it, though. Great views of the river and Cambridge! I heard from someone while I was there that there is a place where you can rent kayaks, but as a solo traveler without a bathing suit with me, I figured that’d be a pretty bad idea. Next time!

Charles River Esplanade
Charles River Esplanade

At the edge of the Esplanade is the Beacon Hill neighborhood — rated as one of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods. It’s on every tourist blog ever, particularly Louisburg Square and Acorn Street. As I walked by, I heard a nonzero number of whole tour groups speaking in French.

Beacon Hill architecture
Beacon Hill architecture
Acorn Street
Acorn Street

It was quite pretty. But maybe because I had seen the less touristy parts of North End two nights before, so I thought it was a little too crowded for my taste. If you start walking towards the Massachusetts State House, though, it does get quieter and it has a nice kind of vibe to it.

The State House itself was locked (presumably because it was a Sunday), but I got some nice pictures in the surrounding area. It’s located pretty close to the Boston Athenaeum (which was also unfortunately closed on Sunday), which made for a lot of pretty photos.

Bowdoin Street in front of the State House, with the Athenaeum in the background
Bowdoin Street in front of the State House, with the Athenaeum in the background

The Athenaeum spits you out right by the Granary Burying Ground, where some really famous people from the 1700s are buried, including John Hancock.

My goodness, that burying ground was as packed as a night market. Tour groups everywhere. Literal zoo. Cool to see tombstones, but not when you’re surrounded by literally hundreds of tourists from around the world.

I skedaddled real quick and made my way towards the Old State House along the Freedom Trail. Everything was crowded downtown. I didn’t remember it being that bad the last time I was there! Maybe it was because it was March 😅

At this point, I was getting hungry, so I just gave up.

Boston Chowda

Fanueil Hall is really touristy, but if you want clam chowder and are a) solo traveling and b) broke, they sell it standalone, so it is not a bad option! It is expensive, but not too much more expensive than a restaurant that sells it.

I took my chowder to Long Wharf to eat because I love how the water looks. Unfortunately, the wind blew the cap of my chowder a little too hard while I was eating and I lost it to the water, along with three pieces of oyster crackers. Oops.

New England Clam Chowda, medium; $8.76
New England Clam Chowda, medium; $8.76

After I finished my food, I headed towards the Aquarium Station along the Blue Line. I wanted to head to Winthrop Beach in East Boston after seeing it from the air when I flew in. Maybe I was a little crazy, but it was absolutely magical when I saw it then.

Fittingly, the train towards that direction out of Boston is headed to Wonderland. I took it four stops to Orient Heights, then I got onto but 712 (or was it 713? I could never figure it out, but they’re actually operated by the same driver, I’m pretty sure) to head towards the ocean.

East Boston feels like a different world compared to downtown and Back Bay. It’s certainly quieter, but it also gives off the New England small town summer vibes that you see in movies. The small town vibe definitely reminded me of home.

I got off at the stop at the intersection of Veterans Road and Locust Street because I saw the water. It was gorgeous and so serene — I don’t think I will ever forget the view I saw. But it smelled bad from all of the seaweed 😭

Winthrop Beach
Winthrop Beach

From here, I trekked on the sidewalk until I found an opening to the beach. I had read online that there were less people at Winthrop Beach compared to Revere Beach up north, which was probably true. There were very few people on the beaches, even though the weather was pretty splendid beach weather.

It might’ve also had to do with the landscape — Winthrop Beach is definitely a little more rocky in a lot of places. It’s a mix of light and dark sand, and there’s less sand compared to a lot of beaches I’ve been to in the past. Still, it was absolutely gorgeous.

Along Winthrop Beach is the Five Sisters, which is a series of offshore wavebreakers intended to protect the property behind the beach. During low tide, you’re able to walk to them, which is pretty cool. I walked to the third of the Five Sisters, where I was able to observe Winthrop from the ocean side.

From there, I kept walking south towards the Water Tower (although I was secretly hoping it would be a lighthouse). I found out it was just … there, to my dismay. I just sort of kept wandering south, observing all of the houses that were in Winthrop that had looked so serene from the air.

Eventually (after walking along Yirrell Beach and Point Shirley Beach), you make it to Deer Island, which is home to Boston’s wasterwater management. (I know. How exciting.) It has a lot of paths to walk and bike along, as well as some pretty spectacular harbor and ocean views. I wish I had enough time to walk around Deer Island, and even more time to travel to the many islands in Boston Harbor.

view of downtown Boston from Deer Island
view of downtown Boston from Deer Island

Honestly, all of it was so beautiful I wish that everyone is able to see it at least once in their lifetime.

But I was exhausted by the end, so I headed back to my dorm to take a nap.

Dumpling House

After my nap, I think I sat there for half an hour contemplating whether I should go to the dining hall or if I should go eat somewhere for the last meal I chose on my own.

Dumpling House was also another place I had been to both times I had previously been to Boston, although I had gone to the Chinatown location (called Gourmet Dumpling House). That closed right after we had gone last year, but a location remains open in Cambridge. It’s awkwardly situated in the middle of Central and Harvard stations, but if you don’t mind walking half a mile, it’s much larger than what the Chinatown location was.

Fried noodles are one of my favorite Chinese dishes, so of course, that’s what I had to get. Dumpling House gets very busy, though, so try to go at a non-awful time of day or make a reservation.

Sauteed Taiwan Noodles; $13.50
Sauteed Taiwan Noodles; $13.50

The Westland

We had our closing dinner for the program at The Westland. It was a super aesthetic restaurant on Westland Ave (wow, what a surprise) just a short walk from Northeastern’s main campus and not far from my dorm.

It was good fancy food, but I also am just not built for this kind of thing. I get full so quickly when appetizers are a thing, but they had absolutely fire parmesan truffle fries. I ordered the Basil Pesto Shrimp for my entree and I’d say it was pretty solid too. It leaned on a little bit more on the sour side for most of the pestos I’ve had, but the shrimp was good! The fries were probably the highlight, though.

Basil Pesto Shrimp
Basil Pesto Shrimp

I had a phenomenal time in Boston, and I wish I was there for longer so I could keep exploring the unknown parts of the city. I would love to live here someday — truly my all-time favorite American city. I could go on and on and on. Till next time, Boston!

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