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Clam Chowder at Union Oyster House in Boston Massachusetts

Where to Eat in Boston in a Day

In Food Travel, USA by Mindi Hirsch21 Comments

A day isn’t really enough time to experience Boston’s many historical and modern restaurants. However, with some planning, it’s possible to eat well in Boston even with just a day in the city. Read on if you’re wondering where to eat in Boston during your visit.

Clam Chowder at Union Oyster House in Boston Massachusetts - Eating in Boston.

The clam chowder at historic Square Oyster House is a Boston classic. Why get a cup when a bowl is just $1.45 more?

My plane landed in Boston while a steady rain was melting away the final remnants from the city’s long, snowy winter. As I looked out the tiny airplane window, it hit me that it had been over twenty years since my last visit to the vibrant city known for a famous tea party. Thoughts swirled through my head, but one question stood out in my mind.

Where should I eat in Boston?

One Day Boston Restaurant Itinerary

Food is always an important part of my travels, whether I’m traveling solo or with Daryl. This trip to Boston was no exception.

Despite being busy with a conference and without 48 hours in Boston to fully explore the city and its exciting food scene, I strategically ate at a variety of Boston restaurants and can confidently recommend a plan for a day of eating local food in Boston starting with breakfast and coffee.

Boston Breakfast – Render Coffee

Bagel and Coffee at Render Coffee in Boston Massachusetts

Located in Boston’s South End, Render Coffee serves Counter Culture coffee and tasty sandwiches like this one made with a bagel from Iggy’s Bread of the World. Sit in the atrium if a table is available.

Although Beantown isn’t a coffee mecca like Seattle, it’s easy to find a good cup of joe in Boston. Render Coffee in Boston’s South End is a great spot for hand-crafted Counter Culture coffee drinks and food like frittata breakfast sandwiches, croissants and bagels.

The sun-drenched cafe is crowded yet comfortable, with a mix of people enjoying pour-over coffees and free wi-fi. Render Coffee is the perfect place to start a busy Boston day.

Render Coffee is located at 563 Columbus Ave, Boston, Ma 02119, United States.

Boston Lunch Option 1 – Parish Cafe and Bar

Mexican Meatball Sandwich at Parish Cafe and Bar in Boston Massachusetts

The Mexican Meatball sandwich at Parish Cafe and Bar was created by Chef Brian Poe and features cilantro infused Mexican meatballs. The generously sized sandwich is served au jus with a fresh salad.

The Parish Cafe and Bar is a fun spot for a casual lunch in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The stars of the menu are 17 sandwiches, each created by a notable local Boston chef like James Beard award winner Jamie Bissonnette.

The menu separates sandwiches into the different categories of poultry, beef, comfort classics and seafood. The starters looked good as they passed by, especially the homemade beer-battered onion rings, but hey, we could only eat so much since the sandwiches are enormous.

Beer Taps at Parish Cafe and Bar in Boston Massachusetts

The beer taps at Parish Cafe and Bar pour a great selection of local and national craft beers. If you prefer a cocktail, be sure to try the handcrafted Smash 361.

Pro Tip: Parish Cafe and Bar does not take reservations, and the wait can be quite long at lunchtime. Avoid the line and grab a comfortable spot at the bar with a great view of the beer taps. That’s what we did.

Parish Cafe and Bar is located at 361 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116, United States.

Boston Lunch Option 2 – Union Oyster House

Salad with Pan-Seared Crab Cakes at Union Oyster House in Boston Massachusetts

The salad with pan-seared crab cakes at Union Oyster House in Boston is big enough to share and is perfect after a creamy bowl of clam chowder.

It would be foolish to visit Boston without eating a bowl of clam chowder, and Union Oyster House is a perfect spot for satisfying the “chowda” itch. As a bonus, the bowl comes with a generous chunk of house-baked cornbread, which is perfect for sopping up the creamy soup.

A bowl of chowder isn’t quite enough for lunch. Luckily, there are lots of plenty of other tempting dishes on the menu. This time, I shared a fresh salad topped with pan-seared crab cakes. Next time, I’m getting the lobster roll, another popular Boston food option.

Union Oyster House has been serving oysters, chowder and other seafood dishes for almost 200 years to patrons including the Kennedy’s and Daniel Webster. In fact, the restaurant claims to be the oldest in America. Just one block from Faneuil Hall and on the Freedom Trail, the restaurant is easy to find.

Pro Tip: If you love the clam chowder, pay a quick visit to the gift shop and buy the restaurant’s cookbook. You can then make the soup, or a close replica, at home.

Union Oyster House is located at 41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, United States.

Boston Bar – The Bell in Hand Tavern

Bell in Hand Tavern in Boston Massachusetts

The Bell in Hand Tavern is the nation’s oldest tavern.

After lunch at Union Oyster House, The Bell in Hand Tavern is right next door. Oozing with historical touches, the nation’s oldest continuously operating tavern is a great stop for a local beer or cider as you plot out the rest of your day.

The Bell in Hand Tavern is located at 45 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, United States.

Boston Dinner – Alden & Harlow

Small Plates at Alden and Harlow in Boston Massachusetts

Alden and Harlow’s small plates are exciting and delicious. Standouts include the Warm Parsnip and Pistachio Dip, the Charred Swordfish Belly, the Hiramasa Crudo and the Pickled Verrill Farm Corn Pancakes.

Just six miles from downtown Boston on Cambridge’s Harvard Square, Alden & Harlow is a perfect spot for dinner after a busy day of touring the city. This restaurant is designed for communal dining with a menu featuring a wide variety of small plates. Luckily, I was able to share the dinner with a good friend who was coincidentally in Boston at the same time as me.

We started our dinner with a warm parsnip and pistachio dip served with taleggio, spicy honey and rye crackers. The dip was decadently rich, with a deep flavor enhanced by a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. We followed the starter with a mix of small plates, with our favorites featuring swordfish belly and hiramasa crudo, not to mention the sweet yet savory corn pancakes.

And cocktails. We really liked the cocktails.

Pro Tip: Go early if you want to try Alden & Harlow’s popular secret burger. With limited availability, there were no secret burgers available by the time we sat down for our 8:00 dinner reservation.

Alden & Harlow is located at 40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138, United States.

Boston Meal Map

We’ve included this handy map so you can track your Boston meals with a smartphone.

Buy a Boston Travel Guide

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About the Author

Mindi Hirsch is half of the team behind the award-winning Food and Travel website 2foodtrippers. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Mindi lives in Lisbon, Portugal with husband Daryl.

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We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.


  1. Hi mindi. Excellent review. My brother lives in Boston. I’ll forward on to him. Fun read too.

  2. When I get back to Boston, I will certainly have to try out some of these places you recommended! This post is so delicious 😀

  3. Boston is a place that we plan on going sooner than other places on our bucket list. I can imagine the history there! It would be a wonderful place to visit. I will have to remember this place so that I can visit when we go to Boston. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow – Mindi! I want to go to Boston just for your recommendations – the different food images and explanations are making me so hungry! That’s how great your review was! I’ll keep your list in my travel folder for just in case – really want to see ‘The Bell in Hand Tavern’ and eat there for the extra reason that it is the nation’s oldest tavern. Thank you 🙂

  5. Yum. Bagels with lox. That is one dish I love in Chicago but can’t get out here in Iowa. YUM. When I went to Boston, i just played tourist and drank at the Cheers bar at 10 am. LOL

  6. Now I want to travel to Boston just to eat! All of this food looks amazing; the food is always my husband’s favorite part when we travel. I hope we are able to travel there one day soon.

  7. Looks like a great time and great places to eat. Sometimes during the Summer we pass through Boston so maybe next time my family could try some of these places. I would really like to go to the Parish Cafe. =)

    1. You probably don’t want to sit at the bar with your family, so you may want to have a late lunch at Parish. The wait was long at noon, but there was no line at 2:00.

  8. Is Yelp.com all over the USA? I’m not entirely sure, because I’m Canadian and just moved to California, but whenver I need a little hint of where the best places to eat/see are, I hit up Yelp. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet, luckily. My husband will be in Boston this weekend for the marathon – I won’t be going unfortunately (because hello airplane tickets!).

    By the way, that freakin tomato bagel sandwich looks to die for, holy yum.

    1. Yes, Yelp is prevalent throughout the United States. It’s one of many resources that we use when we travel.

  9. I love Boston! I’ve been there a few times and would love to go back again. It’s such a fun and interesting city. I don’t really remember what or where I ate, except that I’m sure coffee was involved somewhere along the way.Next time I visit, I’ll check out some of the places you mentioned. Especially the coffee. I do love my coffee!

  10. It looks like there are so many great places to eat in Boston. I am really liking the look of those foods and would love to try them for myself. I think it’d be great to visit Boston one day, I know there are a lot of my fellow Irish people there 🙂

  11. You had me at crab cakes, to be honest. I’ve never been to Boston; I’ve driven past it, around it, but never stopped to check it out. I’d love to, though, especially after reading about all the amazing food to be found there! The question is – where do I find the best Cream Cake?! 🙂

    1. That’s an excellent question, but not one that got answered during this trip. I guess I need to go back to Boston to do more “research”.

  12. I have never been to Boston but would love to one day, the food looks absolutely delicious and so yummy I am really hungry already.

  13. Now I want to travel to Boston just to eat! … thanks for sharing .

  14. Everything looks so delicious. If I had to pick a favorite it might be those pan seared crab cakes. But then again, that bagel looked super delicious.

  15. Yes, you have to try the lobster roll at Union Oyster House. Sooo good. I’m overseas at the moment, so I really appreciate how your blog and pics transport me home. Thanks!

  16. I love, love, love going to Boston just to eat! I do this at least once every couple of years. Can’t get enough.

  17. So much good food to go back to Boston to eat. Last time there I had some Nepalese dumplings that were pretty good.

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