As hard as it may be to fathom for a non-New Englander, the fine city of Boston is the surrogate home to more than 250,000—yes, a quarter of a million—college students. What's far less easy to fathom is that given such an ungodly number of bahnies and jumbos, Boston is far-and-away a gilded mecca when it comes to cheap and plentiful eating. Did you think John Winthrop was prophesying the endless number of Papa Gino's and Bertuccis that litter Boston when he first dubbed it "The City on a Hill"? We think not.
But even if you aren't occupying the hallowed halls of academia, navigating the endlessly tangled warren of restaurants and bars that occupy Boston—while still having enough money left over to have a frickin' wicked good time hitching a ride on one of those swan boats—is a tough task, to say the least.
Ever want to down lobster rolls alongside some Irish Catholic twin brothers with a rather vicious penchant for vigilantism? How about taking a break from solving math equations at a certain college in Cambridge to a savor an unparalleled frappe or two? If so, our brand new MUNCHIES Guide to Boston features a super-handy "On a Budget" filter for you to find the bargain spots that make the City of Champions great, whether they be holes-in-the-wall serving up an endless torrent of immaculate falafels or a dimly lit dive bar with some of the most creative pizza in the city.Be sure to check out our city guide page, of course, but here's just a small sampling of some of the coolest shit, on the inexpensive side, that Boston has to offer.
Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe: Flatbread Cafe might sound like an odd name for a Chinese restaurant, but when you try the pork flatbread sandwich, or go through the process of breaking up pieces of bread in your bowl, onto which they pour heaping ladles of spicy lamb or pork intestines, it makes more sense. Unlike most Chinese restaurants, the menu here is small, which means instead of doing everything just OK, they nail the dishes they put out—most of which revolve around traditional, hand-pulled noodles.
This casual meat pie destination has two locations, both boasting Aussie wine and beer, Aussie servers, and some damn good Aussie lamb shank pies. Make it a "floater" and it comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas. G'day, indeed.
Area Four: Coffee. Bar. Pizza. It's like the tagline for this instant Kendall Square favorite has your day and your priorities mapped out for you already. While it's a full-serve restaurant—putting out dishes like Dijon-crusted bluefish with tabbouleh, preserved lemons, and pickled fresnos—the highlight here, and what they're known best for, is the pizza. Obama stopped in for a few pies on his last trip through town, which should tell you how renowned its reputation has gotten. Try the one with sausage and banana peppers, or get funky with caramelized onions, Gorgonzola, candied walnuts, and green onions.
Myers + Chang: One of the first anchors of what's now become a booming part of the South End, Myers + Chang is owned by chef couple Joanne Chang and husband Christopher Myers (behind numerous other beloved fine-dining restaurants in the city); this spot brings Chang's love of Asian cooking to a hip, diner setting. Inspired by "Taiwanese soul food and Southeast Asian street food", the menu features dim sum, buns, bao, and dumplings, as well as big, inventive dishes like Smoked Bluefish Fried Rice, Surf and Turf Black Pepper Noodles, and Kimchee Quinoa Bokkeumbap.
The Barking Crab: For too long, the Crab was a lonely outpost on the Fort Point Channel. But as the area has exploded, the iconic seafood shack has become a stark point of contrast to all the gleaming new high rises. While the seafood options are bountiful—clam bakes and lobster and whole belly clams—and rich, you're definitely here for the boisterous, open-air dockside atmosphere.
Sarma: Inspired by the meyhanes of Turkey, Sarma—an instant Somerville standout when it opened a few years ago—is another expression of chef Ana Sortun's (Oleana) love affair with Mediterranean cooking. Here the small plates (lamb köfta sliders; za'atar fried feta with warm figs, radicchio, orange, and wild thyme honey; and shish kabobs with blackened bass, harissa remoulade, pencil cobb grits, and crispy okra) are so plentiful, you'll have a really hard time choosing just a dozen. (Don't do that). Cocktails are inventive and distinct here as well, like one made with grilled grapefruit vodka, lemon, chamomile, and Kina.