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Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

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Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
210 posts
65 reviews
Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

At the risk of sounding completely ignorant (since everyone outside of Boston thinks this way, right? :D) - are these things truly native Boston foods? Are they worth trying and where is the best place find them:

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Baked Beans

New England Clam Chowder

Anything I should try while I'm there that I wouldn't get (proper quality) anywhere else? Aside from fresh seafood, of course. I'm looking forward to oysters galore!

89 replies to this topic
Lincoln, NH
Level Contributor
1,780 posts
7 reviews
1. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

I would not add beans to the list -- they're a holdover from Colonial days, and are rarely "special". Boston Cream Pie, well sure, if you like. I'd be more inclined to get something from Mike's Pastry in the North End for a sweet treat. The North End is occasionally (and incorrectly) called Little Italy -- but it is an Italian neighborhood where you'll find some pretty fine food.

I would add a boiled lobster, a lobster roll and whole-belly fried clams to the "musts". The last on the list is hard to find -- no -- hard to find good clams that have that hint of the ocean. Most reputable places make good lobster.

Level Contributor
2,173 posts
10 reviews
2. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

If you want to try Boston Cream pie, I suggest going to the Parker House Hotel on School St as that's where it was invented.

Kent, Connecticut
Destination Expert
for Provincetown, Wellfleet
Level Contributor
3,452 posts
171 reviews
3. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

The Parker House is also noted for the Parker House Roll. I really do not know how they differ (if at all) from regular rolls. Haven't had one for a while.

Level Contributor
5,770 posts
73 reviews
4. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

another favorite and frequently asked question. here's my two cents:

- Baked Beans and Brown Bread, yes absolutely. I'm probably only aware that this is characteristic of New England because to my neice and nephew in Oregon, the Brown Bread in particular is really exotic.

- Boston Cream Pie - no, not whatsoever, but we do order it when we eat the Parker House. I have never known anyone who made Boston Cream Pie or had an old family recipe or whatever, unlike Baked Beans.

- New England Clam Chowder - yes absolutely.

- "Steamers" yes (but fried clams are not something I ever think about - I tend to associate them with Howard Johnson's in the fifties).

- Split-top hot dog rolls - very important to our regional diet.

- Frappes

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
913 posts
7 reviews
5. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

Boston Baked Beans are fine for what they are...but it's nearly impossible to find homemade beans. If you do find baked beans they are almost certainly canned...so why bother.

Gray Corned Beef - corned with table salt so it has a gray rather than red appearance.

I prefer fish chowder to clam chowder if you can find it...to be authentic both should be "liquidy" and peppery hot rather than the thick congealed bland stuff often offered at restaurants.

Iced coffee is big and ice cream is also common. I grew up on hot fudge sundaes with walnuts and coffee ice cream. The coffee ice cream is what makes it special. Frozen Pudding Ice Cream is a local variety of some note. Raspberry sherbet with jimmies (sprinkles) is another Boston treat.

Cranberry Shell Beans in late July and August are a treat, but I can't say I've ever seen them in a restaurant.

Half sour dill pickles are the filet mignon of dill pickles. (I like that imagery)

Swordfish is easily the best fish and should be on the list.

Good Portuguese linguica sausage is great, though it's more common in New Bedford and environs.

Really good blueberry pie made with lots of low bush blueberries is a summer treat, but high bush blueberries are more common and cheaper with less flavor.

BTW when you get fried clams get the whole belly clams...clam strips are an abomination.

Edited: 3:43 pm, June 09, 2014
Baltimore, Maryland
Destination Expert
for North Conway
Level Contributor
11,795 posts
48 reviews
6. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

I don't know about native to Boston specifically but have never found a hot sub as good as a new england grinder anywhere else and the best are at the greek style house of pizza places.

on the blueberry front, if you can find homemade blueberry ice cream.

and Wachusett Blueberry beer.

I am a big fan of the whole belly clams and if you can find fresh onion rings, you will die happy. But you will die!!

Level Contributor
5,835 posts
30 reviews
7. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

Indian Pudding. I think the only place you can get it is at Durgin Park. It's corn meal and molasses cooked for hours served with vanilla ice cream Some people hate it. I love it.

Boston, MA
Destination Expert
for Boston
Level Contributor
18,148 posts
63 reviews
8. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

Lived here all my life and I have no clue what a cranberry shell bean is. Please enlighten me!!

Level Contributor
5,770 posts
73 reviews
9. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

Baked Beans are something my grandmother would make from scratch, in a classic baked bean pot with a huge chunk of lard - it's not something we make now (but could). Durgin Park is where I would go to get authentic baked beans now, although this topic is making me think I should make them. (I just had red kidney beans made from dry beans for lunch, but not classic baked beans with the lard).

It's the brown bread that I think of as coming from a can! I don't remember if my grandmother would make that from scratch although it could easily be done in the same mold used to make figgy pudding at Christmas.

Destination Expert
for Boston
Level Contributor
5,228 posts
30 reviews
10. Re: Foods Native to Boston and Must Eats

This question is asked all the time, and I always have trouble thinking of any food that is singularly "Bostonian". I guess Boston Cream Pie maybe. Lobsters are a New England thing, but you can get them just as easily in NYC or Philly. Same with New England Clam Chowder. There doesn't seem to be any one food that just doesn't exist outside of a 20 mile radius of the city, like Beef on Weck in Buffalo...or crab shacks and Pit Beef in Baltimore, or fried ravioli and Provel cheese in St. Louis. Even Rhode Island has many iconic foods that you don't find much outside of the state. Coffee milk, johnnycakes, Del's Lemonade, chow mein sandwiches, New York System hot dogs, Woonsocket Dynamites.

Suggestions above are great. Portuguese food around here is awesome and it isn't as common elsewhere. Whole belly clams maybe aren't easy to get outside of New England. Otherwise, Boston has excellent Italian food in the North End, excellent Hong Kong, Cantonese and Taiwanese styles of Chinese food in Chinatown, a wonderful "Koreatown" in Allston, some very good Indian food, and of course some wonderful American Bistro/Gourmet food from our celebrity chef population.

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