Boston has a plethora of restaurants, bars, lounges, and places to dance and experience the nightlife! As this blog is meant to focus on high-end locales, I will highlight some of my favorite luxury restaurants, bars, and clubs. If you’d like additional information on any of the places discussed, or suggestions for less-high-end locations, please feel free to contact me!
The Eastern Standard provides your typical upscale American fare with a European ambiance. It is also just a couple of blocks from Fenway Park, making it a great place to go before or after a Red Sox game. They have amazing oysters sourced from the Southern Coast of Massachusetts due to their affiliation with their neighboring restaurant Island Creek Oysters (also highly recommended). This is also a hot spot for brunch with a fantastic Eggs Benedict and House Smoked Salmon. The rest of the menu, including the cocktail menu, rotates on a seasonal basis, but I’ve gone here for years and have never been disappointed. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, you can sit on Eastern Standard’s sidewalk patio in the heart of Kenmore Square in the warmer months, allowing you to enjoy the warm weather while engaging in some fantastic people-watching.
Smith & Wollensky at the Castle
At the end of the 19th Century, Massachusetts built a Victorian Armory for its First Corps of Cadets. It was one of many armories in Boston at the time, but is now the last standing Victorian Armory in Boston and home to Smith and Wollensky , one of Boston’s premier steakhouses. When you arrive at The Castle, as the Armory is now called, you are greeted by the friendliest, most helpful staff, who bring you to your table in one of the many available rooms. There is certainly an air of elegance throughout the entire restaurant, though it is coupled with well-placed armory memorabilia. On top of the atmosphere, the food is incredible: the steaks, especially the filet mignon, are carefully selected and cooked perfectly. One of my favorite side dishes is the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese: if you can’t make it to Smith & Wollensky in the near future, their Macaroni & Cheese recipe is available online (I made this for my family one year for Easter and it was a big hit)!
(Update June 23, 2018: Smith and Wollensky recently announced they will be closing their Castle location in Boston: locations are still open downtown on Atlantic Wharf and a new location is coming soon to Wellesley, MA)
Babbo is an up-and-coming Italian restaurant in Boston’s up-and-coming Seaport district. A Mario Batali restaurant, Babbo brings a modern feel to classic Italian dishes. Last time I was there I ordered the Polpette Alla Griglia (Octopus on the Grill) and also tried the traditional Pizza Margherita. The octopus was a little spicier than I had expected, but still enjoyable and well-cooked. The pizza was relatively authentic compared to what I’ve eaten in Northern Italy, with a slightly thicker crust than the original Pizza Napoli. I also ordered the Sardinian Iced Tea, a mixture of prosecco, lime juice, and meletti amaro (an Italian liqueur), and it did not disappoint. For the wine drinkers, Babbo has an extensive list of Italian wines, all of which are fantastic. If you’re looking for something fresh yet classy in Boston’s hottest new district, Babbo is the way to go. One word of caution: as the Seaport is still being developed, parking can be a bit of a challenge, so if you are able to take the T instead, you can get off at Courthouse on the Silver Line, the closest stop, or take the Red Line to South Station and walk just over the water to Babbo.
Runner-Up Restaurants: Pier 6, Ristorante Fiore, Ruth Chris
Top of the Hub
No post about Boston’s food and drink scene would be complete without discussing the Top of the Hub, Boston’s sky-high, 360 degree-view restaurant and bar on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center. Many Bostonians have mixed feelings about the Top of the Hub, and I’ve heard it’s meals are overpriced for mediocre food (I have never come for an entire lunch or dinner). However, its drinks are amazing – both the classics and specialty house cocktails – as well as its desserts. During the day you can enjoy your drink with one of the best views of the city in a very relaxed atmosphere, high above the aforementioned hustle and bustle. In the evening things get a bit more lively: one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday night is to sit in the lounge at the Top of the Hub, enjoying the live jazz music and watching couples try to showcase their skills on the dance floor.
Named for its extensive selection of rums from around the world, along with the Bostonian pronunciation of “bar” (hence Rum-Ba(r)), the InterContinental’s RumBa is one of my favorite cocktail bars in Boston. While my friends and I are easily the youngest people by decades when we go here, grabbing drinks at RumBa surrounded by accomplished business professionals makes us feel suave and sophisticated. This is a great place to come either after attending an event in downtown Boston or on a weekend afternoon in the summer when you can sit on the deck by the water. Their collection of liquors is extensive. I almost always order one of the rum cocktails with Mount Gay rum, which takes me back to my days on the beach in Barbados enjoying local rum punches.
Boston has a large selection of rooftop bars that open in April and remain open through the Fall. A few even opened for a couple days this past February when we had a week with temperatures in the 60s! Every year one of my friends and I obtain a list of all the rooftop bars in Boston and vow to get to each of them during the summer, and while every year we fail, Legal Harborside is one rooftop bar we have made it to multiple times. Not only does this place have killer sangria, but it also offers small plates including some pretty intense, delicious sushi. Sitting over the water in the Seaport, Legal Harborside has a retractable roof, high top tables with a city view, and large white lounge couches, if you can snag one. This is also one of the hottest after-work and weekend places to gather, and if you don’t arrive early enough you’ll encounter a fairly long line waiting to go upstairs to the third-floor roof deck.
Runners-Up Lounges: City Bar at The Lenox, Lolita, Audobon, The Charlesmark Lounge & Bar
Space Entertainment throws some amazing dance parties at their clubs. The current lineup includes Cure on Thursdays, Venu on Fridays, Icon on Saturdays, and Cure again on Sundays. Cure is located under the Wilbur Theater – no, those people in line are not waiting to see a show, as I thought when I first went here – and has the most lounge-like feel of the three venues. It has many couches set up around and throughout the dance floor, though there is still plenty of space for dancing. However, don’t plan on using the couches unless you buy a table or make friends with someone who bought a table. Venu has a larger dance floor space in the middle of the club but much less personality than Cure: it is clearly meant for dancing. Icon (formerly Rumor) has two rooms with dance floors that include stages and VIP sections. Icon’s back room hosts Latin Nights on Saturday nights, but to control the crowds you need to either buy a table in the Latin Room or obtain a wristband from one of the club’s promoters. Because these are the only ways to access Icon’s Latin Room, the tables sell out quickly and it is very difficult to get a promoter to give up a coveted wrist band, let alone multiple wristbands for your crew. The difficulty with getting into the Latin Room is one of the reasons I prefer Cure Thursdays: Cure also boasts a back Latin Room, but movement between the main room and the Latin Room is fluid as long as there is space, no wristbands or tables needed. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with any of these locations if you are looking to dance and rub shoulders with some of the who’s-who of Boston: visiting sports teams and big name sports stars have been known to make appearances at each of these clubs.
Bell in Hand
Bell in Hand is America’s oldest continuously operating tavern. It was where the Sons of Liberty, including Paul Revere and Sam Adams, gathered to plan the American Revolution in the 1700s, and the notorious Whitey Bulger met with his cronies in the 1970s. Today it is frequented by students and young professionals as a great place to grab a drink and dance to either the live cover bands on the first floor or top-40 music played by a DJ on the second floor. Entrance into the bar itself can include a wait that is well worth it, with another line awaiting you inside to reach the second floor. Both floors offer great nights of dancing depending on what you’re looking for: while the second floor has a more club-like atmosphere, don’t feel that you are missing out if you decide to forego the second line to enjoy the first floor’s band.
You won’t find as many students at Alibi as the other clubs: this locale tends to attract successful young professionals in their late-20s and early-30s. Located in The Liberty hotel, you usually won’t have to wait in line as long to get in here as some other clubs, and cover and tables are a bit cheaper, though there is less of a designated dance space. Instead, people just dance with their friends throughout the bar. If you are going out with people for whom dancing is not their thing, one of the nice things about the Alibi is that while some of you are dancing in the lounge, others can enjoy The Liberty’s calmer drinking areas Clink and The Liberty Bar.
Runner-Up Nightclubs: Umbria Prime, Scholars, The Brahmin
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