Last week I spent some time eating my way through Massachusetts and hitting up some of the major tourist attractions. I grew up in a small Massachusetts town called Sharon, located about 25 miles south of Boston and home to one of the ten best ice cream places in the world, Crescent Ridge. Due to the short and relatively easy commute to Boston, I used to go into town often, but this was the first time I really got a chance to walk around on my own. I walked pretty much the entirety of Boston, took a painful amount of photos, and of course, ate some tasty food.
One of the most touristy places in Boston (but still worth a visit even if you're trying to avoid the typical tourist attractions) is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. (The most common pronunciation of "Faneuil" rhymes with "manual.") The marketplace consists of Faneuil Hall itself, which is a historic building known for a whole bunch of things you can read about on Wikipedia; Quincy Market, which is the main food section; North and South Markets, which both house a lot of fun stores; and the outdoor areas between all the buildings, where you can find tons of carts selling a variety of crafts, t-shirts, and other items.
Quincy Market (that's pronounced quin-zee, not quin-see) is where you'll find most of the restaurants. The indoor area consists of a long hallway of to-go food counters featuring every type of food imaginable (see a full list here.)
In the middle of the hall of food, there's a large rotunda where you can battle other eaters for a seat at the long wooden tables on two floors.
There are also some large sit-down restaurants scattered around the marketplace, but the cheaper (and more fun!) option is to pick up food at one of these counters and go find a seat in the rotunda or outside. The empty space on either end of Quincy Market is usually taken up by performance artists, so there's always plenty of entertainment.
You can usually find people in interesting costumes.
No matter what you eat, make sure you leave some room for cookies. The Boston Chipyard, located along one of the outer hallways of Quincy Market, has the best cookies in the world. They typically have about ten flavors available on any given day, and you can order them in half-dozen increments. Last time I was there, I bought a half dozen chocolate chip cookies and a half dozen oatmeal raisin cookies.
Excuse me a moment while I wipe the drool off of my keyboard.
Of course, Quincy Market isn't the only place to eat in Boston. For authentic, delicious Italian food, be sure to stop by the North End. (Surprise! The North End isn't the northernmost area of Boston. East Boston and Charlestown are actually further north. Yes, East Boston is north of the North End. The West End is also in the northern part of town. Confused yet? One more interesting point: South Boston and the South End are two entirely different areas. Southie refers to South Boston, and the South End isn't the southernmost part of the city.) Anyway, back to the food. While you're in the North End, be sure to try a cannoli at Mike's Pastry, which has existed forever. The history part of the website is under construction so I'm not sure exactly how long it's really been there, but Mike's is definitely a North End landmark, so no matter how much you eat for dinner, save room for dessert and head to Mike's. Many North End restaurants are pricey, so be on the look-out for early bird specials. Recently, I ate at G'Vanni's Ristorante, which has an excellent early bird deal where you can get two large dinners AND a bottle of wine for $30, with various upgrades available for a little bit more money.
New England is known for seafood, so if you're anywhere in the region, be sure to eat some fish. Sadly, one of Boston's seafood landmarks, a store called James Hook and Co. that has been open since 1925, burned down several weeks ago (full story here, so cross that one off your list for now, although the owners do plan to rebuild.) Legal Seafoods, although a fairly large chain now, is still a great place to have a wonderful seafood dinner. You should venture outside of Boston as well, if you get a chance. Last week I spent a day on the North Shore of Massachusetts, which includes towns and cities such as Ipswich, Salem, Essex, Gloucester, and Rockport. I started out the day in Gloucester (pronounced Gloss-tah, not Glow-chester). First, I went to the Hammond Castle, a medieval-style castle built by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. in the 1920s that now serves as a museum.
Next, I stopped for lunch at The Gloucester House, a fifty year old restaurant responsible for popularizing fried calamari (thank you Gloucester House!!!) and specializing in North Atlantic seafood.
My mom ordered a lobster roll (pronounce it "lobstah" if you want to sound like a local), and it was enormous and delicious.
My dad got some tasty fried clams.
I had the baked haddock, lightly breaded to perfection.
After Gloucester, we headed to nearby Rockport, a coastal town full of little shops and art galleries. Once we were tired of shopping, we stopped by The Ice Cream Store for a little afternoon treat.
I got peppermint ice cream with jimmies. See the glossary if you're confused.
Eating in Massachusetts requires some specific food vocabulary, so here's a little glossary to help you out.
- Frappes vs. Milkshakes: Frappes are what the rest of the country thinks of as milkshakes--milk, flavored syrup, and ice cream--while milkshakes in New England are made with just milk and syrup but no ice cream. So if you're from out of state and looking for a milkshake, you probably want to order a frappe. By the way, that rhymes with "rap." Don't pronounce it "frapp-ay."
- Jimmies vs. Sprinkles: You've probably had sprinkles before--the little candy pieces that you can get on your ice cream--in either the rainbow or chocolate variety. In most parts of New England, rainbow sprinkles are known simply as sprinkles, while the chocolate ones are called jimmies.
- Scrod: You will see "scrod" or "schrod" on the menu at almost any seafood restaurant. It's not a real fish. Scrod does not actually exist. The word "scrod" is a generic term used to refer to whatever whitefish is the catch of the day, most frequently cod or haddock. For more information about scrod, including a grammatical joke that will make you laugh if you're a grammar dork like me, check out the Wikipedia page.
- Tonic vs. Soda vs. Pop: Soft drinks are referred to as "soda" in Massachusetts. Never, ever "pop." If you call it "pop," you will probably be laughed at. Some Bostonians call soft drinks "tonic," but this isn't as common. "Tonic" isn't the same as what you might call "tonic water" (a carbonated beverage with quinine.)
I took way too many photos on this trip, and all the time spent sorting through and editing and uploading them is what held this blog post up for so long, so do me a favor and go take a look at them :)