10 of Boston’s Coolest Spots That Locals Love
By: Bianca Gabrielle Tracanna
As historically important as it is, being where the Boston Tea Party took place and the home of the first institution of higher learning in the United States, modern-day Boston has become a playground for the diverse collection of students, business class, creatives, families, and tourists it holds.
Discover Boston with this collection of some of the best businesses that the locals love, including cafes, restaurants, shops, and more.
If you’re a longtime local to the Boston area, you’ve likely heard of Blackbird Doughnuts. When they opened in 2015 in the South End, they were an immediate hit, and have since gained an almost cult-like following. This following is all for good reason, though. They make some of the best doughnuts in the city and are even a favorite of singer-songwriter John Mayer. Blackbird has since expanded to the Fenway area and Harvard Square. Many of their flavors change seasonally, so if you’re around the area for an extended period, be sure to try the new flavors. Popular flavors include marshmallow coconut and Boston Cream Bismarck My personal favorite is the Mint Chocolate, a chocolate cake doughnut topped with mint-chocolate candy.
Niche Plant Shop
Niche is a slice of heaven for plant-lovers, and easily the best place in the city to buy plants. Both their locations (one in Cambridge and the other in the South End) are packed to the brim with high-quality houseplants and succulents. Along with their huge selection of plants, they also offer arrangements and pots. New to plants? Maybe want a plant but have a black thumb? The staff at Niche is super helpful and friendly, they’ll help you find what you’re looking for and give you tips on how to care for it.
Caffé Vittoria has been in business since 1929, and they’re still going strong. Located next door to North End tourist trap Mike’s Pastry, Vittoria is a cozy (albeit often very crowded) cafe offering standard coffee, pastries, and gelato. The inside is adorable, with dark marble tables and antique-inspired decor that are perfect Instagram material. Be sure to try the cappuccino, as it’s won awards from Phantom Gourmet and The Improper Bostonian. Be warned, though, as many of the other smaller businesses in the North End, this cafe is cash-only.
Double Chin, named after the Chin family that owns the Chinatown restaurant, serves fun Asian Fusion dishes. From ramen fried chicken and kimchi fried rice to a BLT with spam and tofu nachos, their menu is full of creative fare, along with labels of what dishes are the most Insta-worthy. What they’re most famous for is their cube toast—think french toast slice cut open and filled with fruit, candy, cereal, ice cream, and other sweet ingredients. Owner Gloria Chin describes it as “a Scorpion Bowl, but rated G.” (Be sure to bring either friends or a big, big appetite. The cube toast is huge!) Speaking of Scorpion Bowls, be sure to check out their Boozy Brunch, offering dishes like char siu pork hash and drinks like yuzu bellinis and the Watermelon Bomber.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is less than a 10-minute walk from the Museum of Fine Arts, and the beautiful museum boasts a great historical collection and a juicy controversy. Isabella Gardner’s museum was constructed in 1899 and opened in 1901. She filled the museum with paintings, furniture, manuscripts, rare books, and sculptures, as well as a beautiful open courtyard garden. On March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers entered the museum after hours and stole 13 works, including Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” and Degas’s “Procession on a Road Near Florence.” They’ve never been caught, and to this day there’s a $10 million reward for any information leading to the recovery of the works. If the history alone isn’t enough to sell the Gardner Museum to you, then at least go to take some photos in the lush courtyard.
Neighborhoods Coffee & Crepes
Still in the Fenway area after the Gardner Museum? Check out Neighborhoods, located on a side street full of small independent restaurants, which is especially popular with students in the area. On any given day, you can find the place packed with students from colleges all over the surrounding areas. The interior is adorable, with white subway tile on one wall and vintage-looking floral wallpaper on the other, not to mention great lighting for photos of your order. The crepes (both sweet and savory), pastries, and drinks are consistently delicious. My go-to is the Tudor Crepe and the Rooibos Fog Latte with almond milk. Neighborhoods is exactly as the name implies—your no-nonsense neighborhood cafe.
Tatte Bakery & Cafe
Like other local chain cafes (I’m looking at you, Caffe Nero), Tatte Bakery has become something of a household name to Bostonians with a whopping 11 (and counting!) locations throughout Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. Tatte was founded by Israeli pastry chef Tzurit Or in 2007 as a farmers’ market vendor, and not long after, transformed into a brick-and-mortar cafe in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. Each location has plentiful menu choices, including soups, salads, coffee & tea, brunch options, shakshuka, bread, and of course, pastry and desserts. Now that you’ve come for the food, stay for the decor—both the food and the locations themselves are perfect for photos, and the Dream Everyday art on their tile floor has become something of a local must-take picture.
Nathálie Wine Bar
Looking for a night out on a budget? Head over to The Fenway’s Nathálie Wine Bar. Nathálie opened in 2018 and their wine-only bar focuses on “small production, natural & female produced wines.” The interior is absolutely beautiful and was designed by the local design group Wolf in Sheep Design. Along with their fantastic wine selection, they also have a menu of small bites like polenta, chowder croqueta, olives, and cheese plates. Despite being in business for less than a year, they’ve received the award of Eater Boston’s Bar of the Year for 2018.
The Garment District
The Garment District, located in Cambridge’s Central Square, could be described as a thrift store, meets costume store, meets department store. The building is huge—over 12,000 square feet spread out between multiple floors—and contains men’s, women’s, and kids’ clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, and costumes. New items are added daily, so thrifting here is an adventure. Their “By The Pound Pile,” features hundreds of pounds of clothing are spread out in an area on the first floor that you can sift through and take items home at $2 per pound. While you’re there, you have lots of great photo ops, from their bright pink walls to their fake subway corner. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Boston Compass while you’re there, too, to see what’s good in the area for art shows, concerts, and movie screenings.
Trident Booksellers & Cafe
“More food? But we’re full! Stop!” I know, I know. That’s probably what you’re saying right now. But Trident, located towards the Massachusetts Avenue end of Newbury Street, isn’t your average cafe or your average bookstore—it’s both. Wander through two floors of books, magazines, zines, and gifts before visiting their full-service cafe either upstairs or downstairs. For a bookstore-cafe hybrid, they have a great menu, full of breakfast foods, sandwiches (Impossible Burger, anyone!?), salads, coffee, desserts, and fresh juices (The Body Cleanser juice is the best). They also offer fun events like different-themed trivia nights, silent book clubs, movie screenings, book swaps, and more.