You’re in the mood to go out and grab some grub in Boston. Maybe you like to play Italian restaurant roulette in the North End. Or perhaps you’ve heard good things about Hungry Mother, which won our Munch Madness restaurant bracket for the third consecutive year this spring, and plan to cross the Charles River for a bite. Otherwise, here’s our guide to restaurants around town where we like to hang out, places that will keep you from jamming into overcrowded spots like Joe’s American Bar & Grill on Newbury Street or Cheers on Beacon Street..
Bella Luna Restaurant
You’re in Boston. You like beer. Obviously, you’ll want to stop by the Samuel Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain and sample its special marathon beer, Boston 26.2 Brew. This gourmet pizza joint is located in the same complex and joined with the Milky Way Lounge, providing great live music and a top notch bar. If Bella Luna isn’t your speed, there are plenty of nearby options after drinking a Sam, like tapas at Tres Gatos, upscale pub fare at Canary Square, and burgers at Grass Fed.
284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-6060. www.milkywayjp.com
Carlo’s Cucina Italiana
Avoid the crowded North End for Italian food that’s just as good (if not better) in Allston. Warning: Like many North End spots, it is tiny. But should you not be able to get a table, you’re in luck – one of the area’s best beer bars, Sunset Grill & Tap, is directly across Brighton Avenue, while Deep Ellum and its sister restaurant Lone Star Taco Bar are just a five-minute walk away.
131 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617-254-9759. www.carloscucinaitaliana.com
Since most of the post-marathon action takes place downtown, you would have to cross the river to get to this favorite of Cantabrigians. But Christopher’s is an easily located destination at the epicenter of Porter Square on Massachusetts Avenue and its burger (pictured) is one of the tastiest around. Bobby Flay once declared it Massachusetts’ best (before the celebrity chef opened his own burger joint in Burlington, of course). Afterward, catch some of the best local music at its next door micro-bar Toad.
1920 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. 617-876-9180. www.christopherscambridge.com
Figs – Charlestown
Todd English (pictured) is one of Boston’s most recognized chef exports and as such, you may be tempted to try the Beacon Hill location of this bistro or his recently reopened Olives. Break free from the pack by heading to Charlestown where Figs serves up creative and delicious pizzas and pastas. The pies are the perfect size to share – if you’re willing, that is.
67 Main St., Charlestown. 617-242-2229. www.toddenglish.com
This South End watering hole from owner Rebecca Roth is as comfortable of a bar atmosphere as you’ll find in the South End. It’s a casual environment with no dress code for the waiters and an affordable menu (most entrees are around $20). As for that ominous name, it’s taken from the location’s past life as a spot for public hangings, but don’t fret: you won’t feel any fear here, just at-home comfort.
1395 Washington St., Boston. 617-425-0200. www.thegallowsboston.com
In recent years, Cambridge and Somerville have become overrun with southern-style restaurants (not that we’re complaining). Good ones, too, that all attract a crowd. You could wait and wait for Hungry Mother or cram into M3 (both very tasty options), but your best bet is this reliable Somerville spot where you can get an authentic-tasting blackened catfish po’boy ($9.95, pictured) alongside fancier offerings like wild mushroom ragout ($16.95).
150 Highland Ave., Somerville. 617-625-1131. www.highlandkitchen.com
KO Pies at the Shipyard
Take in all of Boston with an unbelievable view of the city’s skyline from the other side of the Boston Harbor. Aussie Sam Jackson’s meat pie palace is set in the East Boston shipyard near Piers Park. The former brick home of Scups in the Harbour was reclaimed last summer as an extension of Jackson’s South Boston shop that serves a wider menu, like burgers, chicken sandwiches, and pitas. But while the food is top-notch, it’s all about the dining experience here. Oh, and the meat pies are insanely good.
256 Marginal St., Building 16, Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina, East Boston. 617-418-5234. www.kocateringandpies.com
This hip Fort Point spot will transport you to the “Mad Men’’ set, without all the smoking. The food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed – it’s escapism at its finest. Best of all, there are few places in the city where you’ll feel cooler having a nightcap. The mid-century vibe of Lucky’s could make Mark Zuckerberg feel like Don Draper.
355 Congress St., Boston. 617-357-5825. www.luckyslounge.com
Parish Café and Bar
Sure, there’s one of these sandwich shops close to the finish line. But avoid the madness by hitting the other location in the South End. The concept here is simplicity through collaboration: showcase the best, unique sandwiches from some of the region’s iconic chefs like Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro and Tony Maws of Craigie on Main. Without leaving this restaurant, you can take a tour of the area’s best chef talent – served on bread, of course.
493 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. 617-391-0501. www.parishcafe.com
Looking to escape the throngs of runners and revelers in the Back Bay? Kendall Square is one of the fastest points of entry into Cambridge, just a hop over the Longfellow Bridge off Storrow Drive. And Matthew Gaudet’s restaurant, while less than a year old, is already making a big name for itself. This month, Food & Wine magazine named the Aquitaine alumnus one of America’s best new chefs. After munching on its famous egg in a jar ($12) and duck breast ($27), finish the night with a quick walk over to Meadhall for one of the area’s most impressive draft lists or cross the courtyard to Cambridge Brewing Company for inventive homemade beers.
1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge. 617-945-0221. www.westbridgerestaurant.com