The Best & Worst of Summer Dining in Boston

By Scott Kearnan
June 3, 2014

Boston blooms in the summer. Patio seats come out, sleeves come off, and food tastes better (because we're in really, really good moods). Still, there are a few annoyances: like bad beer that kills our Fenway game-day buzz, and sudden downpours that rain on our rooftop dining plans. Here, a few of the best and worst parts of summer dining in Boston - with some solutions to keep the second at bay. 

And be sure to check out our new Best Summer Ever page - we'll be bringing you the season's best eating and drinking all the way through Labor Day.

  • Fenway nights

    Best: An excuse to gorge on hot dogs and beer on a breezy summer night at Fenway. Put us in, coach!

    Worst: Hot dogs that taste like a shoe's rubber insole, and beer that tastes like what happens after you drink a lot of beer.

    Solution: Brush up on this guide to Fenway Park dining, which includes a look at where to get the best grub inside the stadium (like the new Tasty Burger outpost) and outside (like Basho, a nearby sushi spot that won't attract throngs as thick and drunk as those that hit up the local sports bars).  

  • Photo by: Gary Gilbert

    College break

    Best: Grabbing the newly empty seats at campus-area restaurants now that the students have gone home for the summer. 

    Worst: Having absolutely no idea where to go, since you've spent the other nine months of the year avoiding anywhere with loud coed crowds. 

    Solution: Check out this breakdown of some of our top picks by college 'hood, like Church near Simmons College and The Elephant Walk by BU. 

  • Ice cream

    Best: Licking a yummy, cold cone on a sweaty, hot day. I scream, you scream, we all scream for - well, you know the drill.

    Worst: Watching empty-handed from the sidelines as other people enjoy a sweet treat. Because the following people don't scream for (traditional) ice cream: dieters, vegans, the lactose-intolerant. 

    Solution: Think outside the typical ice cream stand and check out boutique-y spots with nondairy options. 3 Scoops Cafe specializes in handmade, micro-batch, nondairy alternatives (including low-calorie "Skinny Dip" options). And FoMu makes vegan and lactose-free ice cream using a coconut base sweetened with organic sugar and agave. 

  • SoWa Open Market

    Best: Browsing the awesome artisans, farmer's market and lot full of fantastic food trucks, inevitably eating (and spending) just a little bit more than your weekly budget should allow. Whoops. 

    Worst: During peak crowd hours the truck lines can get a little out of hand - especially when you're just searching for a soda to slake your summertime thirst. 

    Solution: First take a peek at our guide to great SoWa food truck eats. If the waits get unwieldy, take note of a few South End favorites that are within close walking distance, so you'll be able to resume your market stroll shortly: great brasserie Gaslight, storied Irish pub J.J. Foley's and Asian go-to Myers + Chang are all nearby. 

  • Day drinking

    Best: Spending the day kicking back with friends and drinking something boozy, which feels a lot more fun when you're doing it on a sunny summer day than when it's snowing out and dark by 5. Y'know? 

    Worst: Getting stuck in "I'll have the seasonal" mode, or a rosé rut. 

    Solution: Get playful with adult takes on childhood favorites. Papagayo offers tantalizing tequila sno-cones in four different flavors. Kitschy Kendall Square hangout The Friendly Toast and JP burger bar Grass Fed both make boozy milkshakes - like the latter's Banana's Foster Parent with vanilla ice cream, banana, dark rum and whipped cream.

  • Photo by: Chip Nestor

    Rooftop season

    Best: Catching some rays at a rooftop restaurant. 

    Worst: Soaking up the rain when those blue skies darken without warning. We just got our food!

    Solution: Pick a spot with a retractable roof or awning, like Legal Harborside or Ristorante Fiore. For other rooftop ideas, check out this list of top (literally) spots. 

  • Day trips

    Best: Piling into a car and hitting the road for a day trip spent discovering a whole new food scene, and maybe even making a Cape weekend out of it. (You know, at these places.) 

    Worst: Bourne Bridge traffic. No. Just...not today, guys. 

    Solution: South isn't the only direction on the map, you know. Avoid Cape Cod melee by hitting the North Shore (here are 10 reasons why Salem is a magical dining scene) or nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a seaport charmer

  • City barbecues

    Best: Ribs. Brisket. Sauce. Wings. Sauce. Pulled pork. Did we say sauce? 

    Worst: That's, like, a lot of work, and after a couple beers you're really not paying attention to the grill the way you should be. 

    Solution: Obviously you can let the chefs do the work at great 'cue joints like Tiffani Faison's Sweet Cheeks Q, pictured, or Blue Ribbon BBQ, a longtime favorite worth the quick trip to Newton. But one of our favorite finds is Big Pig BBQ, a catering-only company that focuses on backyard barbecues, offering a choose-your-own-adventure type of online ordering system. You pick a package big enough to feed a farm, like the Finger Lickin' BBQ ($20/person) with ribs and chicken wings, plus creative salads and sides. You can even add extras like photography and DJ services. Summa-summa-summatime. 


Places Mentioned

Blue Ribbon BBQ

Barbecue • Newton

Food25 Decor14 Service20 Cost$16
Blue Ribbon Barbeque

Barbecue • Arlington

Food25 Decor14 Service20 Cost$16
Sweet Cheeks Q

Barbecue • Fenway/Kenmore

Food25 Decor22 Service23 Cost$29
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