A Perfect Day of Eating: 24 Hours in Boston

The best of the old and new, all in one super-stuffed day
October 27, 2017
by Scott Kearnan

It would be impossible to capture everything awesome about Boston's dining scene in one day: You'd neither have the time nor stomach capacity to try all our city's best dishes. (And what about all the exciting things going on in neighboring Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline?) Still, there's plenty you can pack into a whirlwind marathon. Whether you're stopping in town for just a short time or a local who wants to cover as much ground as possible in one dedicated day, here's an itinerary that covers some of the coolest newcomers, most venerable old favorites and top-notch plates — from trendy street foods to fine-dining dishes — all in one reasonably walkable journey through the Hub. Get hungry, and have at it. 


Breakfast: Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe
Boston loves its history, and we don't just mean the colonial-era kind. This no-frills diner on the Back Bay/South End border first opened in 1927, and it has become a local legend ever since, famous for its hash and other simple but delicious breakfast fare. (You may have caught it in the Mark Wahlberg flick Ted.) The populace absolutely panicked when Charlie's closed in 2014, breathed a sigh of relief after a 2016 reopening and freaked again when it closed about a year later. But over the summer doors reopened, this time under the same ownership as Victoria's Diner, another long-standing Boston favorite (that happens to be one of our only 24-hour restaurants too). We're now confident Charlie's will be around for many more years to come, waking locals and visitors with java and generous portions of awesome AM diner eats.

429 Columbus Ave.; 617-536-7669

Courtesy of Kristin Teig/Flour

Mid-morning snack: Flour 
James Beard award–winner Joanne Chang has built an empire on cookbooks and restaurants (including Myers + Chang, her energetic Asian-inspired diner), and it all started here — at the first location of Flour, her local Boston chain of bakery/cafes. You'll find a few scattered throughout the city, but your walking tour of the Hub might as well pass the original, where glass cases are stocked with sweet treats — including Chang's legendary cinnamon-pecan sticky buns, delights that have endured long enough to become one of the dishes you must eat to call yourself a Bostonian (or at least a well-versed visitor). 

1595 Washington St.; 617-267-4300, additional locations

Courtesy of Noah Fecks/Toro

Lunch: Toro
Ken Oringer is one of Boston's biggest star chefs, opening restaurants on his own (like Back Bay's stellar Asian-inspired Uni) and together with fellow Beard winner and co-chef Jamie Bissonnette (with whom he has the Italian-inflected Coppa and globally minded Little Donkey). Toro is the dynamic duo's biggest success story, a Spanish tapas smash that helped the South End neighborhood become a dining destination before spawning locations in NYC, Dubai and Bangkok. The Boston original is still busy with long wait times every night of the week, so lunch is a great chance to check out the hit before the herds descend. Make sure to check out the charred corn (tossed in cotija cheese and lime aïoli), a messy standout that has become legendary. 

1704 Washington St.; 617-536-4300

Courtesy of Ruckus

Afternoon snack: Ruckus 
Boston is a city steeped in tradition, and not one to blindly follow trends. But the increased popularization of ramen-based restaurants in recent years was more than a passing fad, and Boston embraced it via locally pioneering pop-ups and brick-and-mortar joints like Yume Wo Katare. Clearly we're still hungry for steaming bowls of the stuff: July saw the opening of Ruckus, a funky new Chinatown eatery from the team behind Shojo, one of the city's hottest spots for playful, contemporary takes on Asian cuisines. Its approach is reflected in Ruckus' inspired riffs on noodle soups and a (very) concise menu of other small bites (referred to as "swag"), all in a Pop Art–adorned space that usually features a lively hip-hop soundtrack (the restaurant's name was inspired by a Wu-Tang Clan song). This place captures Boston with its finger on the pulse.

5 Tyler St.; 857-305-3129

Courtesy of Nina Gallant/Yvonne's

Happy hour: Yvonne’s
Tourists, we have some bad news for you: Due to legal restrictions on alcohol discounts, Boston isn't a city where you'll find traditional "happy hour" specials. But we certainly hit the bars after office hours, and right now Downtown's Yvonne's is one of the most popular picks for great cocktails and exciting cuisine (courtesy of chef Juan Pedrosa, one of our past 30 Under 30 honorees). Yvonne's inhabits the space formerly occupied by Locke-Ober, a fine-dining institution that was one of Boston's longest-operating restaurants from 1862–2012. Locke-Ober's original bar of hand-carved mahogany is still used at this "modern supper club," a nightly buzzing social scene serving shareable plates in the cheeky-chic dining room and communal cocktails in the bookshelf-lined "Library Bar." Come here to see a Boston icon, reimagined.

2 Winter Pl.; 617-267-0047

Pre-dinner snack: Saus 
Boston has a strong street food scene, so definitely check out some of the city-licensed food trucks that rove all over town. But we also have a reliable poutine palace in Saus, where the housemade fries can be doused in more than a dozen different flavorful sauces, or slathered with curds, gravy and various toppings like pork belly and kimchi. You'll also find sweet waffles, a fantastic fried chicken sandwich and other noms that are perfect for late-night. Saus, you see, is right by Faneuil Hall: a tourist destination popular for its ties to colonial history, now also known for its modern landscape of partying weekend bar crawlers. Head here first to pad your belly before a big night out.

33 Union St.; 617-248-8835

Dinner: Neptune Oyster
From Faneuil Hall, cross over to Boston's North End, the city's oldest residential neighborhood (Paul Revere's house is still an attraction) and also our "Little Italy." The streets are filled with vibrant aromas emanating from the red sauce–soaked restaurants, Italian bakeries and espresso bars, but in this sea of options a few stand out. One of them is Neptune Oyster, an intimate, elevated seafood destination that doesn't accept reservations and typically has long lines out the door. But it's worth the wait to try some of Boston's absolute best seafood — including the iconic lobster roll, served either warm with melted butter, or chilled and tossed with mayo. Eating one is practically a Bostonian rite of passage.

63 Salem St.; 617-742-3474


Dessert: Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry
Red Sox versus Yankees? Around here, the winner is clear. Much more contentious, though, is Boston's cannoli debate: Are you on team Mike's, or team Modern? Both bakeries, just one block apart, are North End institutions; in recent years Mike's also opened a second location in Cambridge, while Modern added a sub-street level space, Modern Underground, for savory pub-style fare. They're both especially well known for their cannoli (Mike's signature, string-tied white and blue boxes are ubiquitous, easily spotted handheld accessories for tourists). Crowds are split on which take is tops, so go ahead: Try them both and decide for yourself. 

300 Hanover St.; 617-742-3050 and 257 Hanover St.; 617-523-3783

Courtesy of Brian Samuels Photography/Drink

After-dinner drinks: Drink
James Beard award–winning restaurateur Barbara Lynch is Boston's doyenne of fine dining thanks to spots like No.9 Park, her flagship on Beacon Hill, B&G Oysters, a shucking awesome entry in the South End and Menton, her luxury prix fixe–focused outfit in Fort Point. But her team is just as adept with tipples, as seen at fellow Fort Point joint Drink, deemed the World's Best Cocktail Bar at the 2013 Tales of the Cocktail. This world-class watering hole doesn't have a menu — the ingenious bartenders craft every beverage for individual guest preferences. If you want to prove your foodie bona fides, ask for the "secret burger," a by-request-only offering made in limited quantities each night. Two Wagyu patties topped with black pepper mayo, it's one of Boston's best burgers

348 Congress St.; 617-695-1806

perfect day of eating