If you're planning to explore Boston's South End neighborhood, you'll quickly notice the gourmet South End markets on almost every block - plus many small parks perfect for picnics. Here's a guide to where you'll find the best local and New England food specialities.
Best of all, I even share a couple of Boston "insider secrets" that you won't usually find in Boston travel guides: where to find evening cooking classes from top Boston chefs, and where to find a local outdoor market with the best local produce, artisinal cheeses, and fresh-baked breads.
102 Waltham Street; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-423-STIR; Stir Boston website
Want to learn how to make fresh pasta? Or find new ways to express your enthusiasm for wine and spirits? Stir is where you can learn from the best - Barbara Lynch, Cat Silirie, and other talented chefs and mixologists. Classes range from what to do with your CSA box of fresh produce to candy-making to Oktoberfest with beer and cheese - and just about everything else you can imagine.
Despite an almost-daily schedule and an expansion into the space once occupied by Plum, Barbara Lynch's specialty produce market, the popularity of Stir classes means that they fill up far in advance - pretty much as soon as they're announced. If you want to take a class at Stir during a Boston vacation or visit, you need to sign up as soon as you know your travel dates.
268 Shawmut Avenue; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-350-6996; website
Second location in Cambridge: Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave; Red Line/Harvard; 617-354-4750.
Fabulous artisanal cheeses, freshly baked breads from Boston's specialty bakeries, imported olives, plenty of gourmet mustards and spreads, wine, beer, and too many other scrumptious things to name.
For gifts, especially for yourself, take a mouth-watering look at their huge supply of fancy imported mustards, olives, and other yummy things in jars, hand-made pastas, chocolates to die for, organic preserves, special olive oils and long-aged balsamic vinegars, and all kinds of other goodies from all over the world tucked away in the corners. (Can you tell how much I love to shop here?)
552 Tremont Street; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-423-2008; website
Is this a restaurant, a butcher shop, or a carryout deli?
The right answer is . . . all 3! If you're planning a picnic or want a stay-in gourmet dinner in your hotel room, you'll find all kinds of yummy things here to carry out. South End residents applaud the charcuterie as well as all the other things you'll find behind the counter.
1421 Washington Street; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-266-9911; http://www.foodies-market.com
Small neighborhood grocery with a huge variety of foods - everything from pork rinds to pate. Made-to-order sandwiches and wraps, and a creative deli section. This justly popular South End market carries artisan breads from some of the Boston area's best known high-end bakeries, plus Eastern European loaves and gluten-free breads. Reasonably large selection of organic fruits and veggies, along with fresh-squeezed juices, fruit cups, and lots of other tempting treats.
Pause for a moment to envy the lucky South Enders who call Foodies Urban Market their corner grocery.
532 Tremont Street; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-542-0101
Sliced meats, bread, and wine - or buy yummy already made sandwiches. Brown-bag the wine and a plastic cup, and enjoy with a sandwich at the outside tables during warm weather.
577 Tremont Street; Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-778-0360
Don Otto continues the tradition of this beloved South End grocery by featuring all-natural "authentic" foods from local and New England farmers. You'll find healthy choices and great tastes at reasonable prices - plus things that you won't find elsewhere.
For example, check out "Real Pickles," 100% organic pickled raw vegetables made by a small local Massachusetts company using natural vinegar-free traditional fermentation processes with fabulous results (website). I should warn you that once you taste these yummy pickled veggies, you'll become addicted!
This is also where you can find grass-fed beef, organic produce, a great selection of local cheeses, and other specialty products from small farms.
Don Otto's also offers delicious to-go meals. A bit of outdoors seating in warm weather makes this an even more attractive fast food stop.
2 South End locations:
607 Tremont Street;
474 Columbus Ave
Orange Line/Back Bay; 617-262-0379; website
Both South End locations offer over 2,000 wine labels, and over 300 rotating beer selections including domestics, imports, and microbreweries.
This is also the go-to place in Boston if you want to ponder 50 brands of vodka, or choose from 75 single malts.
Can't decide? Helpful staff experts will guide you to the right choice.
In addition to these markets, the neighborhood's bakeries also offer great breads, sandwiches, and other carryout items - you'll find bakery locations in our Guide to South End Restaurants, Bistros, and Bakeries.
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