The sun gleams off the Gold Dome of the State House, families gather for picnics in The Boston Common, friends stroll down Newbury Street to their favorite cafes and boutiques, college students mix with tourists at bars around Faneuil Hall, young professionals power walk from South Station through the Rose Kennedy Greenway on their way to work…these are the images that come to mind when we think about Boston. These scenes, these landmarks, both iconic and historic, make an impression. People are drawn to Boston–whether it be for studying, visiting or permanently relocating–and it’s easy to see why!
But the true heart and soul of the city, lies in the vibrant residential neighborhoods that extend in all directions from the Hub. The diverse, down-to-earth, sometimes gritty neighborhoods are where the real Bostonians live; not the folks who stop over for a few years before they inevitably surrender to suburban life–the people who have established, or are establishing, roots. (FYI: this is by no means a criticism of people who do move to the suburbs!)
In these residential neighborhoods, like East Boston, you’ll find homes with more space at prices that are more affordable (whether buying or renting); larger parks, green spaces and recreation areas; a vast selection of corner stores and bodegas; decades old mom-and-pop specialty shops; and some of the best restaurants in the city. On occasion, these shops or restaurants are “discovered” as “hidden gems” resulting in a big ol’ eye roll from the neighborhood patrons who have frequented the spots for years. Within the past decade, as East Boston has garnered attention as an up-and-coming neighborhood (due to targeted areas of major development), some local favorites have gotten “The Nod” from people outside of the neighborhood. And, as expected, this recognition is met with mixed feelings from Eastie locals (and, in some cases, eye rolls).
So, with the intention of honoring these local spots, rather than taking credit for discovery, we’ve compiled our list of Top 7 Picks for East Boston Neighborhood Treasures:
“Authentic home cooked Italian food, small and quaint and an excellent vibe. Staff is family and the service was excellent as was the food.” (Google Reviews)
Decades old and family owned/ operated, the discreet storefront is easy to miss, so if you aren’t looking for it, you may never notice it. This cozy Italian restaurant has an intimate atmosphere and amazing food, so do yourself a favor and reserve a table for dinner!
“I have twice gotten balloons and decorations from Balloon City. Their service and products are unmatched. The balloons and arrangements are always beautiful with a lot of attention to detail and always on time.”(Google Reviews)
Decorate your next party or special event, with arrangements from this fun local shop–their balloon expertise goes back over 25 years!
“You will not be disappointed!! Every dish is delicious from their seafood to their cut of meat! The price is worth the experience!” (Google Reviews)
There is no shortage of fantastic Latin American food in Eastie, but Peruvian food, specifically, is much harder to come by. This authentic, slightly upscale restaurant will knock your socks off!
“What a fun place to hang out. Unassuming door leads down to a cavern of tables, games and TVs. Full bar, good prices and friendly ownership. Hard to beat, a real East Boston original.” (Google Reviews)
They utilized the COVID shutdown to do renovations, and will re-open at the end of July, but regardless of any changes, it’s guaranteed to be a fun time at this hole-in-the-wall pool hall (especially Late Night).
“Central Park Lanes is a true gem. Good price, byob, the staff was very friendly and helpful with the scoring. This is a place that you hope time doesn’t change. Good for families, good for groups, good for your next birthday party!” (Google Reviews)
In stark contrast to the new arcade/ bowling/ entertainment complexes popping up around the city, there are absolutely no frills at this old-school Candlepin Bowling Alley, and that’s what makes it quintessentially Eastie.
“Milano’s is a neighborhood jem that I discovered nine years ago when visiting Winthrop. Hands down the best Italian sub I’ve had in Massachusetts! I’m sure they have other good food, but I’ve never ventured beyond the Italian sub because it’s so good.” (Google Reviews)
While the “elders” of Eastie reminisce about lining up to get their Tripe from Milanos every Saturday (unsure if this is still available), the subs–in particular the Italian and the Meatball–are enough to justify a stop at this deli any day of the week (except Sunday when they’re closed).
7.The Madonna Shrine.
This landmark is still a relative unknown in the city, and if you’re looking toward Eastie from downtown, all you’ll see is a yellow brick tower with a gold crown (that’s the back) on top of the hill. But if you head “up the heights” to Orient Ave, you’ll find a large plaza with the 32 foot statue (of Mary) that unfolds over sweeping views of the city. Especially at sunset, it is absolutely breathtaking.
The reality is, the list of awesome neighborhood spots in East Boston could go on forever! Each of the places we mentioned has been around 20 years or more (some MANY more). The residential neighborhoods in Boston are packed with great places like these just waiting to be re-discovered. So before you head to a new trendy restaurant in the Seaport, consider exploring one of the great family-owned places in your neighborhood (they need your support now more than ever!); or, better yet, do some digging and head to a part of town where you haven’t been. It may end up becoming the area where you settle down and establish your roots.