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30 Things You Must Eat & Drink This Summer in Boston

Our bucket list of the city's tastiest seasonal dishes
May 18, 2015
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by Scott Kearnan

Summer is a fleeting season here in New England, which means we need to make the most of it. So without further ado, here's a check list of the must-eat dishes and must-drink items on your agenda. Get to it, Boston. For more of our warm-weather coverage, check out our Best Summer Ever landing page.

1) Lobster roll at B&G Oysters
2) "Bretzels" and beer at Bronwyn
3) Champagne and hot dogs at Menton
4) Tempura lobster roll at Legal Harborside
5) Mighty Rib Melt at Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
6) Absinthe Frappé at Brass Union
7) Burgers at Tasty Burger
8) Strawberry Fin Roll at Haru
9 ) Ice cream at J.P. Licks
10) Gelato from Amorino
11) Red, white and rosé sangrias at Naco Taco
12) Big Kahuna at Empire
13) Hot dogs at Sullivan's Castle Island
14) Oysters at Island Creek Oyster Farm
15) Ceviche at SELECT Oyster Bar
16) Clambake at Precinct Kitchen + Bar
17) Ice cream sandwich sliders at Frozen Hoagies
18) Ice cream at Commonwealth
19) Barbecue at Sweet Cheeks Q
20) S'mores at Aragosta Bar and Bistro
21) Booze-infused granita at Davio's
22) Adult milkshakes at Grass Fed
23) Tiki cocktails at Wink & Nod
24) Plateux at Townsman
25) Margaritas at Papagayo
26) Lobster dowich at Kane's Handcrafted Donuts
27) 10-lb lobster at The Barking Crab
28) Game dogs at Bukowski Tavern
29) Scallops escabeche at Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar
30) Cold beers at American Fresh Brewhouse

Lobster roll at B&G Oysters

Choosing a single lobster roll is no easy task. But for its sheer consistency, star chef Barbara Lynch's roll is a perennial go-to, loaded with chunks of Maine lobster on a toasted roll and served with fries and butter pickles.

550 Tremont St.; 617-423-0550

"Bretzels" and beer at Bronwyn

Raise your stein to a perfect summer afternoon of salty, giant pretzels — er, bretzels — and frothy, thirst-slaking brews in the sunny biergarten at this German in Union Square.

225 Washington St., Somerville; 617-776-9900 

Champagne and hot dogs at Menton

This might be the greatest idea of the summer. Chef Scott Jones recently added a foie gras frankfurter to the menu at Menton, restaurateur Barbara Lynch's luxe Fort Point destination. But he's taking things to the next whimsical level on June 11, when starting at 9 PM Menton will host its first "Hot Dog & Champagne Pop-Up," pairing creative interpretations of the hot dog — including that foie gras frankfurter — with small-grower champagnes. File under: high-low happiness. 

354 Congress St.; 617-737-0099

Tempura lobster roll at Legal Harborside

Nothing sounds sweeter than a breezy summer night at this Seaport rooftop, where the menu includes a gorgeous-looking roll of lobster, avocado, tobiko, teriyaki and spicy mayo — plus, of course, sweeping harbor views. 

270 Northern Ave.; 617-477-2900

Mighty Rib Melt at Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese

The gooey sammie is a Sunday staple in the food-truck lot of the South End's SoWa Open Market. (You can find a roundup of all our food-truck favorites from the market here.) But getting our fix is easier this summer, since Roxy's now has its own brick-and-mortar location in Allston. 

485 Cambridge St., Allston

Absinthe Frappé at Brass Union

There will be no shortage of area barkeeps vying for your attention this summer with refreshing cocktails — but Brass Union beverage director Paulo Pereira might be the only one integrating absinthe into something that sounds so seasonal. Now flowing: his draft cocktail of Herbsaint and mint syrup, carbonated for some thirst-quenching bubble action. You won't see any green fairies, but after a few of these potent elixirs, you might see double

70 Union Sq., Somerville; 617-623-9211

Burgers from Tasty Burger

Summer demands a sloppy burger, and there are a few reasons that Tasty Burger is tops: one, besides the Fenway neighborhood original they have an outpost inside Fenway Park, a big bonus on game days. Two: the South Boston location has a delivery service that encompasses Carson Beach, dropping orders to diners strewn on sandy blankets. And three: their new Back Bay location is now open, which means day-trippers into the city can score a patty as soon as they step off the commuter rail. 

1301 Boylston St.; 617-425-4444

Strawberry fin roll at Haru

And the award for most summery sushi roll goes to: this Back Bay purveyor of the strawberry fin roll, which features yellowtail with jalapeño peppers and mango, topped with scallops, wasabi tobiko and fresh strawberries. Sushi meets fruit salad — well, sort of. 

55 Huntington Ave.; 617-536-0770

Ice cream at J.P. Licks

As a small local chain, J.P. Licks is easy to take for granted. But there's a reason that it has grown over the past 30 years from a single shop in Jamaica Plain (still our favorite spot) to a killer ice cream brand with nearly a dozen locations. Two words: good taste.

659 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-524-6740

Gelato from Amorino

In March this European purveyor of gelato treats opened its first New England location in the Back Bay. Your mission, if you choose to accept it: spend the summer sampling each of 24 flavors (23 menu mainstays and one specialty flavor of the month), from L'Inimitable, a Nutella-inspired combination of hazelnut and chocolate, to Mango Alfonso d'India (made with the top-notch Alphonso mango from India). The gelato is distinctively presented too — scoops are arranged in cups and cones in a unique "floral" style. So summery! 

249 Newbury St.; 617-585-3185

Red, white and rosé sangrias at Naco Taco

Alden & Harlow mastermind Michael Scelfo just opened his highly anticipated Central Square taqueria, and with its huge patio and particularly creative assemblage of Mexican street eats (check out our look at the menu here), it's destined to be a destination this summer. But best of all, you can wash down those noshes with glasses or pitches of not one, not two, but three different sangria styles. The white is infused with Thai basil, agave and orange zest; the rosé includes strawberry, jalapeño, dry vermouth and lemon; and the red is concocted with grapefruit, fennel bulb, mint, white peppercorn and lemon. All are equally thirst-quenching. 

297 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-945-1548

Big Kahuna at Empire

Perfect for summer: a big, juicy watermelon. Somehow better than perfect for summer: a big, juicy watermelon that has been hollowed out and filled with a refreshing mix of vodka punch featuring watermelon juice, mint and ginger, super chilled and emitting fog from dry ice. Four straws, one waterfront party for you and your pals.

1 Marina Park Dr.; 617-295-0001

Hot dogs at Sullivan's Castle Island

The seasonal shanty on Southie's Castle Island is a one-stop shop for various fried seafood, but downing its famous hot dogs is nothing short of a summertime tradition. 

2080 William J Day Blvd., South Boston; 617-268-5685

Oysters at Island Creek Oyster Farm

You've already been slurping them down at Kenmore Square's Island Creek Oyster Bar. But in during the summer the actual Duxbury farm is launching weekly Friday farm tours at 1, 3 and 5 PM. Your $75 reservation gets you a bay boat ride to see where the oysters are grown, harvested and sorted. BYOB, because it concludes with an oyster sampling, of course. 

296 Parks St., Duxbury; 781-934-2028

Ceviche at SELECT Oyster Bar

Chef Michael Serpa, who previously scored our 30 Under 30 honors for his work at top-rated restaurant Neptune Oyster, has moved on to his own Back Bay venture, SELECT. (Find the full scoop here.) Not only does the spot have a cozy and cloistered year-round patio, but there's a fantastic selection of cooked seafood and raw-bar eats that will hit the summer spot: especially the scallop ceviche, treated with a fairly traditional citrus marinade, chile and cilantro. Light, fresh and fantastic. 

50 Gloucester St.; 857-239-8064

Clambake at Precinct Kitchen + Bar

No time to hit the beach? Take advantage of this Back Bay restaurant's convenient clambake, a steaming pot filled high with Wellfleet clams, PEI mussels, shrimp, corn, red potato, kielbasa and (if you add it on) lobster.

350 Stuart St.; 617-532-3827                  

Ice cream sandwich sliders at Frozen Hoagies

This food truck offers an ingenious idea: ice cream sandwiches made from your combined choice of flavored cookies (Nutella, please) and ice cream. (Raspberry sorbet, perhaps?) A brilliant act of brain freeze. 

@FrozenHoagies

Ice cream from Commonwealth

Sorry, Dairy Queen. Around these parts, chef Steve "Nookie" Postal is the king of creative, chef-driven ice cream flavors. At his Cambridge restaurant you can either indulge in a sundae-style dessert, pairing unique scoops with various sauces and toppings, or hit the annexed market for take-home pints: from peanut-butter-jelly to birthday cake and blackberry pie. 

11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge; 617-945-7030

Barbecue at Sweet Cheeks Q

Top Chef runner-up Tiffani Faison turns out trays of amazing barbecue at her Fenway-side spot, from fried chicken with spicy mayo to pulled pork, brisket and all the ribs your stomach can (barely) handle. Bonus: a beer garden for alfresco eats and drinks. 

1381 Boylston St.; 617-266-1300

S'mores at Aragosta Bar and Bistro

Missing your summer-camp days? Relive them, city-slicker style, with "campfire s'mores" on the terrace of this harborside spot. They provide the fire pits, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. 

3 Battery Wharf; 617-994-9001

Booze-infused granita at Davio's 

An Italian steakhouse might not seem the obvious place for a sweet summer treat — but behold this adorable trio. Davio's has rolled out its seasonal booze-infused granita (basically a Sicilian slushie) in flavors of espresso with chocolate liqueur, passion fruit with Grand Marnier, and prickly pear with tequila and lime. It's a summer-only special, so get to stepping. 

75 Arlington St.; 617-357-4810

Adult milkshakes at Grass Fed

Yes, this burger bar has some of the top patties in town. But our inner child sings for the boozy milkshakes, in flavors like the All Nighter (vanilla ice cream with coffee liqueur, Irish country cream and a shot of coffee) and the Banana's Foster Parent (vanilla ice cream with banana, dark rum and whipped cream).

605 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-553-2278

Tiki cocktails at Wink & Nod

Summer offers a permission slip to drink fruity, mini-umbrella-garnished drinks (mostly) without irony. And though you can find them at many places, a special shout-out is reserved for this South End speakeasy-style restaurant and cocktail lounge, which hosts "Tiki Nights" every Monday starting at 5 PM. Each week is slightly thematic, with a different guest bartender jumping in at 11 PM. Tonight, May 18, it's Bully Boy Tiki Night with island-themed cocktails mixed by Leigha Hayward from the Boston-based distillery. And next Monday, May 25, you'll find Nick Korn from Downtown's beloved bar Silvertone. (Side note: tiki drinks should go especially well with the kitchen's latest pop-up concept, the Southeast Asian-focused Akinto.) 

3 Appleton St.; 617-482-0117

Plateaux at Townsman 

Chef Matt Jennings' Downtown restaurant Townsman was one of the biggest openings of the year so far — and one of the biggest, the most decadent-looking spreads you'll find this summer are the plateux, "petite" and "grande" tiered presentations of fresh shellfish, signature charcuterie and a host of housemade pickles, mustards and condiments. Grab a friend, or three, and dive in. 

120 Kingston St.; 617-993-0750

Margaritas at Papagayo 

A salt-rimmed 'rita is a perfect summer accompaniment, and it's hard to pick any one spot for sipping. But the trio of Boston Papagayo locations are a solid standby, since they have a tequila list that is over 125 deep, and includes unique varieties like the $100-per-oz. Clase Azul Ultra. Also, two words: tequila sno-cones. 

238 Summer St.; 617-423-1000

Lobster dowich at Kane's Handcrafted Donuts

Lobster: the perennial New England summertime treat. A lobster-donut sandwich: Genius. Kane's — a family-owned, 60-year-old donut biz in the suburb of Saugus — just opened a sibling in Downtown Boston. And here you'll find paper-wrapped "dowich" sandwiches, brioche donut bread with inventive stuffings — including a summer-ready lobster salad.

90 Oliver St.; 857-317-2654

10-lb lobster at The Barking Crab

It takes two waiters to lug this feast fit for Poseidon to your table. Still not enough? It comes with a four-lb bowl of mixed crab, a spread of crab legs and clams. 

88 Sleeper St.; 617-426-2722

Game dogs at Bukowski Tavern

Hot dogs are a summertime tradition, of course. But the revamped Bukowski puts a particularly interesting spin on things; before the summer's out, expand your horizons with its game dog trio, which spotlights alligator smoked sausage with cilantro creamed corn sauce, bison with a Sriracha ketchup and jalapeño Dijon, and venison with a relish of chervil, basil, cucumber and tomato. This isn't your standard cookout fare. 

1281 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-497-7077

Scallops escabeche at Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

At this South Boston Mexican newcomer, the menu takes a Baja-influenced direction that emphasizes light and bright flavors that are perfect for summer. Exhibit A: scallops escabeche, Nantucket scallops that swam overnight in a marinade of fresh orange juice, ginger and garlic. They're seared and served with a salad of strawberry, poppy seed, basil and mint tossed in a tequila-lime marinade. 

412 W. Broadway, South Boston; 617-917-5626

Cold beers at American Fresh Brewhouse

It's been a big year for Somerville craft suds maker Slumbrew. First they opened their Brewhouse at Assembly Row, rolling out an open-air brewhouse-slash-beer garden that lets guests sip their way through several varieties while noshing on light snacks. But if you'd rather drink in air-conditioned environs, at the end of April Slumbrew also opened a brewery and taproom in Somerville's industrial Boynton Yards, a 1500-sq.-ft. facility filled with communal tables, a big bar and plenty of overhead TVs.

301 Canal St., Somerville; 800-428-1150

summer bucket list