Signature Boston Dishes You Need to Try

Visit Boston Public Market to try a variety of sweet and savory treats
Visit Boston Public Market to try a variety of sweet and savory treats | © Allen Brown / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Schulman

Food Editor

Beantown has built up a reputation as a food city rife with world-renowned seafood, classic New England fare and a growing international culinary scene. From New England clam chowder and lobster rolls to iconic baked beans and Fenway Franks, you’ll need a bib for the famous food scene in Boston. Any trip to the Massachusetts capital should include at least one of these signature dishes.

Clam chowder

You can’t visit Boston without trying New England clam chowder

Clam chowder (or “chowdah,” as the locals say) has been around for centuries, thanks to a handful of settlers – presumed to be either British, French or Nova Scotian – who ushered the thick soup into New England in the early 18th century. Although there are a couple of different styles, Boston has become a haven for the New England variety – a white chowder crafted out of clams, onions, milk or cream and potatoes and thickened with oyster crackers. The clam chowder’s distinct white color – credited to the addition of milk – separates it from any other chowder. These days, chowder is ubiquitous in just about every restaurant in Boston, but few make it as good as Union Oyster House, which has been serving bowls of it since 1826. If the wait is too long here, a bowl from James Hook & Co or Legal Sea Foods is just as satisfying.

Lobster rolls

The lobster roll comes warm with butter or cold with mayo

While the northern neighbor of Boston may scoff at the idea of eating a lobster roll outside Maine, the Massachusetts capital has become a destination for the summertime meal. The sandwich – often served on a griddled, buttered roll – arrives flush with pink lobster meat and showered with warm melted butter or mayo. In Boston, lines quickly and perpetually form at Neptune Oyster, brimming with visitors itching to try the famed Maine lobster roll. Here, lobster rolls emerge hot with butter or cold with mayo. You can also try the no-frills Yankee Lobster Co on the harbor, touting all claw and knuckle meat.


Cannolis typically feature a slightly sweet ricotta filling

There’s a bit of a cannoli rivalry in Boston. Where to get the flaky Italian pastry – hollow pastry tubes piped with sweet ricotta cheese and peppered with chocolate, nuts or fruit – is a frequent argument among Bostonians. Do you head to the North End to Mike’s Pastry, a family-run bakery that’s been making cannolis presented in white boxes tied with string since 1946? Or do you hit Modern Pastry down the street, where three generations of bakers are hand-filling shells? You may simply have to try both.

Baked beans

Boston baked beans is a hearty and filling dish

What food is Boston known for? Well, it wasn’t nicknamed Beantown by chance; the name stems from the beloved baked beans first created in the city. Contrary to its name, baked beans aren’t baked; they’re stewed, sweetened with syrup or molasses and swirled with bacon or salt pork. The old-fashioned, slow-cooked recipe is often carved into the menus at many pubs, such as Beantown Pub. If you’re already rolling into the Union Oyster House for steamers and seafood pie, you can order a side of baked beans to round out the meal.

Wish you could swim in a pool of baked beans? Perhaps the best hotels in Boston with swimming pools could make such arrangements.

Fish and chips

Boston has adopted this British staple as one of its own

Although the first fish-and-chips shop was opened in the mid-19th century in London, the British favorite is always a good option on the seafood scene in Boston. Battered whitefish – usually cod, pollock or haddock – is deep-fried until golden and crackly, and paired with a platter of oil-slicked fries. Bostonians flock to the Barking Crab, a harborside shack that plops fish and chips, plus a side of house-made tartar sauce, in a red plastic basket. The bustling Salty Dog Seafood Grille & Bar inside the ever-popular Faneuil Hall won’t steer you wrong either.

Boston cream pie

French chef Augustine Francois Anezin created the Boston cream pie in the mid-19th century

There’s perhaps nothing more Boston than the very dessert named after the city. Boston cream pie has long been a staple in Boston, ever since 1856 when French chef Augustine Francois Anezin created it at the Parker House (now the Omni Parker House). The pie was originally known as a chocolate cream pie, with two rounds of sponge cake bathed in custard, painted with rum syrup and finished with shiny chocolate ganache. The cake is still available at the hotel, but there are plenty of great versions in both cake and doughnut form at Flour Bakery + Cafe, Union Square Donuts and Bova’s Bakery.

Looking for more suite deals in Boston? Check out the best luxury hotels Boston has to offer.


Several places in Boston offer $1 oyster hours

Briny oysters pulled from the sea are aplenty in Boston – especially during oyster hours. Few are as wonderfully fresh as those sourced from both coasts and served at B&G Oysters. Shoot them back straight, or squeeze a fistful of lemon juice on top. Stop by La Brasa, Russell House Tavern or Boston Public Market for their $1 oyster hours.

Fenway Frank

Hotdogs and baseball make a winning combination

Let’s be frank: Red Sox fans are just as eager to watch America’s favorite pastime in action as they are to double down on franks and a beer at the game. The hotdogs have been a mainstay at the park since it opened more than a hundred years ago. These are both boiled and grilled, slipped into a split-top bun and crowned with a mountain of relish or a squeeze of mustard. Sure, you can get a hotdog in any city, but this long-standing tradition feels purely Boston.

Whether you want to munch on a Fenway Frank and watch the Red Sox play or explore the revolutionary routes in the city, we know exactly where you should stay in Boston.

This is an updated version of an article created by Ashley Kane. Additional reporting by Nick Dauk.

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