Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The PAX visitor's guide to Boston: Food and drink

If there's one thing I know about gamers, it's that they like to eat. If there are two things I know about gamers, it's that they like to eat, and they don't like to spend a lot of money. Fortunately, there are plenty of good deals in and around the city, many within range of the Penny Arcade Expo.


My pick for Boston's best slice is a local chain called the Upper Crust. Their pies have a thin, crispy crust, upscale toppings, and a fantastic sauce. It's so good that I used to eat it out of the trash can after the store closed and they threw away their leftovers from the night. No, I am not joking. The nearest location to the Hynes Convention Center is right around the corner on Newbury Street.

You may be tempted to try the world-famous Pizzeria Regina in the North End. The pizza is phenomenal, it's true, but in my opinion it's not worth having to wait in a line outside for an hour so that some middle-aged waitress can sass me for trying to finish my drink after I'm done eating. (My wife would like me to tell you that she thinks Pizzeria Regina is worth waiting in line and being sassed.)

If you find yourself in Harvard Square, Oggi Gourmet makes a great slice, which is different every time. The chefs constantly experiment with the crust, sauce, and toppings. You never know what you'll get, but you know it'll be good.

Tasty beverages

Lately it seems like the number of bars and restaurants serving quality beers in Boston has skyrocketed. Just around the corner from Hynes is Bukowski's, a dive bar that serves cheap food and hundreds of different beers. The volume is ear-splitting and it's cash-only, so it's probably not a huge change from the PAX show floor.

A little further away in Kenmore Square is the Lower Depths, a cool little café with a solid selection of micro-brews, and affordable, delicious pub food. Like Bukowski's, Lower Depths is cash-only, but they got these big chewy pretzels that ashbzzzzzz FIVE DOLLARS? get outta here

If you feel like heading further afield, take the C train out to Washington Square in Brookline and check out the Publick House, whose meticulous approach to the beer menu is downright curatorial. The food is fantastic, too, mostly pub food and hearty, beer-infused entrees. Try the mac and cheese.

Meal deals

Almost directly across the street from Hynes Convention Center is a place called the Pour House, which will give you more bang for your buck than almost anywhere else in the neighborhood. They run specials daily, and even if you and some friends just go in on some appetizers like nachos and wings, you'll be leaving food behind. And despite what some people may say, I personally have never seen any live animals running around in there.

One of the best-kept secrets in the area is Audubon Circle, located on Beacon Street near Park Drive. Unlike the Pour House, they don't run specials or serve massive platters of greasy food. Instead, it's just a low-key place that serves quality food at a surprisingly affordable price ($9-$11 for some damn good sandwiches).

Across Mass Ave on Newbury Street is the Other Side Café, which serves mostly sandwiches in the $9-$10 range, with options you might not expect at that price, like brie cheese or prosciutto with pesto. There's also a good beer selection, including lower-end brews for three bucks.

Fast Food

Forget McDonald's and Burger King -- there are some great fast food choices right nearby PAX. Spike's Junkyard Dogs is located just a little ways down Boylston Street, and is home to tasty hot dogs served on chewy, French-style rolls. The meat is higher quality than you're probably used to for a hot dog, and the vegetarian version gets rave reviews, too.

B. Good is a local burger-and-fries place that's slightly healthier than the norm, and just as tasty. There are two locations right near Hynes -- one on Dartmouth Street, and one on Newbury Street.

Uburger in Kenmore Square is another burger joint that's better than average, serving sandwiches that are made-to-order, and hot fries right out of the oil.

Since El Pelón burned down, it's been hard to find a decent, authentic burrito in the city. (They've since opened a new location at Boston College, but, uh, don't go to Boston College.) If you want a decent, inauthentic burrito, try Boloco, around the corner from Hynes on Mass Ave. I'm a buffalo chicken man, myself.

Late night

Boston is a sleepy city with precious few choices for late-night dining. You still have a couple of 24-hour options, though they're a bit of a hike late at night. Bova's in the North End sells pizza, calzones, and other baked goods all night.

The famed South Street Diner is more than a greasy spoon -- it's a Boston institution. It's the only remaining sit-down restaurant that's open all night, and a rite of passage for all local college students.

This is but a sampling of the dining options available to you during your short stay. Nothing inflames passions like the discussion of restaurants, so I'd love to hear more recommendations in comments.


Darius Kazemi said...

I would add two things to this.

1) Bukowski has great, cheap burgers.

2) Other Side is THE place of choice for the vegan/vegetarian at PAX, though it serves meat too.

Mike said...

I'll second almost everything you've said, especially Spike's, Publick House, and b.good (I put away 3 El Guapos in one sitting once, though I had to do it before my stomach was aware of what I was trying to do).

As far as Pizzeria Regina, can't you just get it at the Burlington Mall food court? Much easier than getting sassed by a waitress.

I like Bukowski's though I can't go in there without feeling like the hipsters are out to get me.

Two to add if you venture anywhere near Downtown Crossing.

Chacarero: Chilean flatbread sandwiches, a city institution. Unique enough that it's worth a trip out of the way if you've never had it.

Falafel King: quite excellent kebab and falafel, just be sure you can order quickly. He moves at 9/10 the speed of light.

And who can leave off Anna's Taqueria? The best burritos anywhere, and several locations throughout the Boston area (though it looks like the closest to PAX is by Mass General Hospital).

Ben said...

No love for Pinnochio's Pizza in Harvard Square!? For shame!

Tyler said...

Thank you for sending people to either side of Coolidge Corner but leaving us out altogether. WE DON'T WANT YOUR KIND

Anonymous said...

Mike - I would have to say that the Pizzeria Regina food court pizza is just not the same as the the ACTUAL Pizzeria Regina. (they also have it at South Station, btw) I'm sorry, but you need the sass, it's part of the experience. Also, Mick Jagger's pizza was resting on top of my to-go pizza once. Sigh, I miss living in the North End.

- Mrs. Krpata :)