Minutes away from Back Bay, Seaport, and the Financial District, the South End features brick sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and brownstones and has quickly become one of the top neighborhoods in Boston. Known for being a thriving arts community with lots of park spaces (nearly 30 parks in the area), the South End is also home to some of the best restaurants in the area. As 345 Harrison looks to join this great social and cultural neighborhood, I spent a few nights in the South End of Boston to see what all the talk was about. What I found was incredible.
Flavorful and Philanthropic Italian
Night one lands me at Coppa, an intimate Italian restaurant. The fully-packed patio surrounding the entrance screamed that this was a local favorite. Dogs, and their human friends alike, enjoy the laid-back ambiance on the patio while small tables inside invite you to a cozy spot to enjoy fresh-made dishes. Featuring unique ingredients from squid ink pasta to pig tails, the menu is sure to send your taste buds on an adventure! I decide on the Spaghetti Carbonara con Riccio di Mare (pancetta and sea urchin in a creamy pasta) and am quite fond of the rich flavor this dish delivers. This small spot is making big moves in the community through an initiative to raise money for the Boston public school system. Coppa is bringing “wholesome” food into schools around the city using satellite kitchens. Now that’s a delicious idea!
Thank You Very Brunch
Rising early the next morning, I’m ready for some coffee and take a short walk down Shawmut Avenue to find that The Buttery has just what I’m looking for. “Top 100 Best Brunch Restaurants in the United States,” this casual neighborhood spot serves a plethora of breakfast and brunch options from pastries to breakfast toasts topped with all of your faves. Not to mention what I came for: freshly roasted and ethically sourced Equator Coffee. Awake and energized, I’m ready to start the work day!
A Semester (actually 2hrs) Abroad
Before I know it, the sun’s setting and I’m ready to relax and unwind. I stumble on an upbeat and contemporary wine bar. A Tuesday night even brought in a lively crowd and I soon discover why. The casual elegance, energetic ambiance, and welcoming staff instantly makes me feel at home at Barcelona Wine Bar. I sit at the large marble bar that wraps through the center of the restaurant and notice my server slicing rustic bread freshly pulled from the oven, which he promptly serves with a side of olive oil. The menu features a large variety of tapas, as well as shared plates, and the truly authentic Mediterranean and Spanish verbiage proves to be a bit of a challenge as I navigate the menu. My server is extremely helpful and helps me decide on some small plates. The grilled hanger steak with truffle vinaigrette is so tender, it easily cuts with a butter knife and melts in my mouth as the bold flavor of the sauce intensifies the flavor. I also sample the Jamon and Manchego Croquettes with garlic aioli. A light spice, crispy breading, and creamy cheesy filling are a perfect combination. The entire staff is attentive, working together to ensure all of their customers are properly tended to. The manager takes the time to stop by, completing the experience of delicious cuisine and outstanding service.
Running with Charles
After all the food I’ve been eating, I need to burn some calories! The next morning, I wake up to explore some nearby trails for walking, jogging, or biking and stop into the Heartbreak Hill Running Company to get some ideas. With custom Heartbreak apparel, running shoes and equipment, running clubs, and coaching, this tiny running store has everything you need! The associate is very friendly and helps me find some jogging routes nearby, pulling out his iPad to ensure this directionally-challenged girl doesn’t get lost! Before sending me off, he’s sure to invite me to the Thursday evening running club to meet fellow runners, proof that this local retailer is the perfect fit for the warm neighborhood vibe of the South End. A short jog into Back Bay and I discover the Charles River Trail. Stretching as far as 23 miles, I opt for the Charles River Short Loop Trail, a 4 mile loop that runs waterside along the Boston and Cambridge sides and showcases incredible views.
Dat Doughnut Dough
After a workout, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into something sweet! With so many great options on Tremont, I notice a line coming out the door from Blackbird Doughnuts and figure it must be worth the wait, so I join the crowd. Inside, two large glass platters host a variety of doughnuts to present the daily options, all of which look like they will certainly fulfill my sweet tooth; I’m finding that I want to order them all! The line moves quickly and it’s my turn at the register to which I receive a quick ‘consultation’ on the type of doughnuts that I prefer: flaky and crumbly or cakey? I decide to go with an alternative to the regular ‘cakey’ doughnut that I’m accustomed to. A Peach Jam Bismarck is recommended, a buttery brioche filled with sweet homemade jam. Chewier than a cake doughnut, the texture is similar to a soft homemade bread smothered in fresh sweet peach jam and dusted lightly in cinnamon sugar. There’s nowhere to eat inside so I took it on the go, fortunate for me as if I had stayed, I likely would have eaten a few more of these scrumptious doughnuts!
All the Cheese
An afternoon stroll down Shawmut Avenue expresses the character of the South End as friends meet for coffee and neighbors enjoy comfortable conversation all along the Avenue. A small neatly written chalkboard with the header “Formaggio” catches my attention. Now I don’t speak Italian, but as a cheese addict, I do know the word “cheese” in almost every language so I make my way inside. I’m quickly greeted with the South End hospitality and I find myself enamored with options in this kitchen boutique. With selections expanding from wines, rare spices and pantry staples to a deli case featuring seasonal sides, sandwiches, salads, and yes, of course, my cheese. I leave with a bag of goodies as heavy as I can carry and a smile on my face.
All the Dente, All the Fresco
My evening ends at Stella, a chic Italian restaurant with a trendy, vibrant atmosphere. For mid-week, the place is hopping. With an extra-large “terrazzino” (which I later learned is one of Boston’s largest outdoor seating areas) adorned with fire lamps warming the guests enjoying a cool evening of cocktails and dinner, Stella gives off a great vibe inside and out. I find a seat at the bar and order a Coco Haven which arrives in a whimsical coconut goblet with fresh coconut sprinkles and I’m instantly transported to the tropics. A cornbread-type of bread is served with a white bean dip, similar to hummus, before my arugula salad comes. The salad is big and I’m grateful because the flavor of the lemon vinaigrette is delicious. Next comes my seafood risotto served by the chef with a comment that it is his personal favorite. I soon learn why, as the risotto is creamy and flavorful in a saffron tomato broth and the variety of seafood is amazing. Full of calamari, mussels, shrimp, and swordfish, this dish will satisfy anyone who enjoys a taste from the sea. As my last night in the South End comes to a close, I certainly ended my journey with flavors that will have me coming back for more.
From the warm inviting atmosphere to the upbeat yet relaxed vibe, this charming neighborhood made me feel right at home everywhere I stepped foot. With a variety of local restaurants, yoga studios, and unique shops nestled into tree-lined streets with abundant parks and gardens, it didn’t take long to realize what all the buzz was about. The South End is quaint and eclectic enough to bring out the foodie in us all.