Though shopping malls might be a necessary evil during the holiday season, no one should have to subject themselves to Sbarro and Subway after battling crowds at the local department store. To help you refuel in style, we've created a guide to post-mall dining in the Boston area, with well-rated restaurants in or near some of the Hub's most popular shopping plazas. Read on for our picks.
If you're planning to gift your loved ones with designer duds from names like Neiman (Marcus), Louis (Vuitton) and Tiffany (& Co.), you'll probably find yourself at Copley Place. Located in the middle of Back Bay, it's easy to find something worthy nearby. Toast your shopping with a cocktail at Bar 10, a hushed hideaway in the Westin Copley Place. Just around the corner is Turner Fisheries, regularly ranked among the city's top seafood spots; trade surf for turf at Fogo de Chao, the Boston outpost of the upscale Brazilian steakhouse chain (pictured). And the entrance to Neiman Marcus is right next door to The Salty Pig, a hip charcuterie-focused bistro.
South Bay Center
For those willing to brave the infamous, take-no-prisoners parking lot traffic, South Bay is a popular destination for quickly hitting a bunch of big box stores: Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Old Navy are a few of the popular outlets found here. The mall's dining options are generic, but nearby is Victoria's Diner (pictured), a 24-hour (Thursdays through Saturdays) diner that is something of a haunt for local night owls. And across the street is Hen House, which specializes in chicken and waffles among other hearty Southern dishes.
As one of the closest suburban shopping destinations (only 20 minutes north of the city), the Burlington Mall attracts a lot of Bostonians looking to tear through the A-to-Z of tried-and-true mall shops: everything from Abercrombie to Zales. But there's some distinct dining to be enjoyed at L'Andana (pictured), a Tuscan restaurant from chef-owner Jamie Mammano (the man behind Columbus Hospitality Group's Mistral, Mooo... and more). Also nearby is the Burlington location of Clover, the Boston-based concept that marries the quick-service style of fast food with a focus on healthy, veggie cuisine. Also down the street from the mall is a location of the New American mini-chain Burtons Grill, but if you can only briefly pause for a bite, at least skip the McDonald's and opt for Bobby's Burger Palace, the shopping center's outpost from star chef Bobby Flay.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
This cradle of American history is now best known as cobblestone stomping grounds for tourists and bar-cruising college kids. But it's also a bustling scene for holiday shoppers, who can find plenty of Boston pride paraphernalia, sports team souvenirs, and garments and gifts from shops like Urban Outfitters and Godiva Chocolatier. Though there's no shortage of sandwich shops, you'll also find better food nearby at restaurants like Blue Inc., helmed by Hell's Kitchen runner-up Jason Santos, and North 26, an overlooked destination for seasonal New England cuisine in the Millennium Hotel. Get a gourmet take on diner food at Saus, known for its waffles, poutine and wide array of accompanying dipping sauces, or enjoy the better-than-average American fare at Anthem.
Sorry, Cheesecake Factory. After a long day at the Galleria, we'd rather dig in to chef Jay Silva's sophisticated American at neighboring Bambara, with offerings ranging from a delicate pickled beet salad (pictured) to a hearty half-chicken and steak frites. Even more options: the elegant Italian spot Dante next door; Helmand, which brings fabulous Afghani to diners a block away; and riverfront ArtBar, which also boasts an impressive cocktail program.
The Street, Chestnut Hill
The Newton village's newest shopping center has attracted outposts of established favorites. Local mini-chains like The Cottage (pictured), a crisp and cheery American that joins its Wellesley original, and national ones, like Del Frisco's Grille, a more casual concept from the steakhouse chain, have set up here. You'll also find Davio's Cucina, little sister to the Boston-based Italian steakhouse inside the Showcase Super Lux cinema, as well as a branch of the South End's French standby Aquitaine.
With its two wings, one dominated by everyday shopping spots and the other by higher-end splurges, the Natick Mall is likely to have something for everybody on a shopping list. And it doesn't slack when it comes to food. Though it no longer has a Boston location, L'Espalier's sibling spot Sel de la Terre still serves up rustic Provençal cuisine here. And you'll find quite the collection of gourmet burgers at The Met Bar and Grill. There's surprisingly sophisticated American to be found at Pantry inside the upscale Verve Crowne-Plaza nearby; the restaurant also continuously airs episodes of iconic cooking shows, a cute touch. Less than a mile away on Speen Street, which borders the mall, are local Italian gems Ziti's and gastropub Skybokx 109, which also hosts regular live music.
The Shops at Prudential Center
One-stop-shopping awaits at Prudential, filled with department stores and typical mall outlets that run the gamut of goods and price points. So do the better dining options: from elevated fare (literally) at cloud-scraping Top of Hub and Asana, in the adjacent Mandarin Oriental Hotel, to fabulous but affordable Japanese (pictured) at Haru and gourmet burgers at 5 Napkin.