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Where to Eat in Boston in a Day

You can eat well in Boston even if you just have a day and want to eat like a Boston foodie. Check out our picks for where to eat in Boston during a quick trip to Beantown.

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. Since Boston is one of the best food cities in America, this trip was no exception.

→ Read about the 20 best American food cities.

Despite being busy with a conference and having just 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 like a Boston foodie 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 an American 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 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 day of Boston food tripping.

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.

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.

Parish’s menu separates sandwiches into the different categories of poultry, beef, comfort classics and seafood. Starters looked good as they passed by, especially the homemade beer-battered onion rings. But hey, I could only eat so much since the sandwiches are enormous.

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.

→ Discover more of the best soups in the world.

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.

→ Discover 29 more iconic American food favorites you need to eat at least once in your life.

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. My friend Francesca couldn’t wait to enter and order some beer.

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 in Boston.

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 8pm dinner reservation.

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

Planning Checklist

Hungry for More American Food?

Check out our food guides for Buffalo, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

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.

Important Update
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.

jcmatt

Tuesday 27th of February 2018

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

Corinne

Wednesday 19th of August 2015

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

Nan

Sunday 24th of May 2015

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!

Amanda Tempel

Thursday 21st of May 2015

Food looks amazing! I would love to visit Boston.

Patricia

Thursday 21st of May 2015

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.