When booking my New York trip (easily the best Christmas present I could give myself), I decided to fly into Boston. I’ve spent less than 1 day there since moving to Portland in fall of 2004, found a $99 one way ticket on Jetblue, and it was official. Speaking of great airfare prices, my one way ticket from MacArthur back to PDX was also $99 on Southwest!
Anyway, although I’m originally from NY, I spent my college years at Emerson College in Boston. I have new and old friends there, and largely enjoyed the snowy winters in Boston – so what better time than to go in early December? I must admit that I was terrified of the cold, since Portland is so much milder than I grew up with, but I survived. During my next posts I’ll talk about my NY adventures, culinary wise and beyond, so I’ll stick to Boston here.
Although I went vegan in my suburban city in NY between college semesters, I truly learned about vegan living, shopping and dining in Boston. I’ve previously mentioned my first vegetarian restaurant experience during VeganMoFo, also in Boston and my first vegan restaurant experience was there as well – at Grasshopper. Buddha’s Delight may actually be all vegan now that I think of it, so Grasshopper may have just been my second in Boston. But I digress, and bring you these ramblings on the Boston area…
Grasshopper - There’s not much I can say here, that I haven’t said before about Grasshopper – or that everyone else won’t say. It’s practically every Boston vegan’s pride and joy, especially those who know the city pre-Scallywagg’s. I have had absolutely delicious experiences there, along with three roach spotting before I moved, and so so, overcooked, skimpy meals as well. I recently went again on my trip, and no roaches!! so I can comfortably talk about the food.
My favorites dishes are the chicken fingers – doughnutty fried batter around firm tofu with duck sauce – I don’t care who you are, you’ll like it. You’ll probably love it. The #46, rice noodles with tofu and lemongrass was my staple – it was delicious freshly made and as leftovers. It was available on the menu and as a lunch special, both which provided the aforementioned leftovers. I’ve never had a rice noodle dish I’ve liked as much. The hot & sour soup was the first one I’d ever truly savored, and though it didn’t live up to my fond, fond memories – and cursing of why the delivery service didn’t extend to my dorm room downtown – it was still good, and much more packed that I’d remembered. On my recent visit, I couldn’t resist ordering the No Name, a dish that used to frighten me, but then I slowly started stealing every crispy piece I could off of my boyfriend’s plate. The No Name was just as big and bad and beautiful as I recalled – but ridiculously sweeter. Maybe it’s my taste buds these days, maybe it was a surplus of sugar that night, but I didn’t make much of a dent. The broccoli was lukewarm, and while I wish the dish was ¼ less sweet and more savory, so I could have eaten it for days, even cold, it wasn’t. I found myself drinking glass after glass of water before bed, trying to get the sweetness out of my system. Yowza. (regardless, I'd absolutely order it again)
The No Name at Grasshopper
But the best part of the dinner was being with so many old and new friends. I came with my sister, her boyfriend, my dear friend Maria from college and I met up with vegan bloggers Shaun of In a Pickle and Jam (who I knew from pdx), Jody from VegChic & Nikki from I Love Heeze among lovely ppkers galore and Allicia who I’ve known from Livejournal and the PPK for years. We also got cake from My Thai (formerly Buddha’s Delight Too), and berry cheezceke = absolutely why I overdosed on sugar. I didn’t even finish it!
Bagel Rising – good bagels. Strawberry tofu cream cheese. Wake and Bake motto. Enough said.
TJ Scallywagg’s – One day Thomas and I noticed a small “vegan menu” sign in the window of the local pizza shop next to Grasshopper. We honestly thought it was a joke. Soon, however, Thomas heard more about it, and started getting delivery at work. I really enjoyed their pizza, and how the soy cheez didn’t quite melt, there was something about it. Or, maybe I was really sad. Either way, the shop is now all-vegan, and that’s cool.
Chicken fingers from Grasshopper
Davis Square in Somerville, MA
Moving on, my favorite area to live and dine in Massachusetts was Davis Square, in Somerville, MA. I spent an fabulously easygoing summer interning in the square and being the vegan working at the ice cream shop (and loving sangria sorbet days). The Little Italy sandwich at Blue Shirt Café, minus the cheese, plus tofu, was the best sandwich I could handle. Diesel café had vegan friendly salads and hummus plates, as well as the only sorta fresh-baked vegan cookies I liked to pair with a soy accelerator. I trusted the food at East Asia (until the rice worm incident – what luck in MA..) and the Chinese restaurant next to Diesel, more sorbet from Toscanini’s (sadly not there anymore); and there were Indian restaurants I never tried but always wanted to. I actually never went to the farmer’s market in Davis, and did my grocery shopping at the Shaw’s in Porter Square, Harvest Coop and Whole Foods.
The last area I lived in was East Cambridge, within very easy walking distance of Kendall Square and Central Square. If you’re familiar with the Garment District, well, I lived literally behind it. It was the sketchiest, but cheapest and friendliest living quarters I’d lived outside of the dorms. And while Kendall is a bit boring for someone not going to MIT, Central Square is quite lively and eclectic.
Jerusalem Falafel cart – You never forget your first, delicious falafel, and this was mine. A whole new cuisine had opened up to me with this cart on the MIT campus. I would order the falafel wrap for $2.75 at least 3 times a week, if not more. I was working a crappy job, had a crappy apartment and was saving up for the big move west – sure I’ll eat lunch for that price! I’ve also been to the Jerusalem café on Mass Ave., but it wasn’t the same. Now, the cart and café are known as the Olive Branch. I didn’t have the opportunity to try it out.
The Middle East – While I’ve somehow never gone to a show there, the fries and atmosphere always brought me back. I ate one more grilled tofu sandwich during my recent trip, and while plain, I liked it. It was a slab of tofu on a bun with fries, simply begging for hot sauce. They have a full bar, and two dining rooms, though the booths were my preferred spot.
Harvest Coop – Although the Atkins section grew pretty large when I shopped there, I could still easily avoid it and buy tofu ravioli, great soups and hot items by the pound, and my first bulk tofu. I adored how the café upfront had soy butter for bagels, and a couple vegan wraps. It is now under a new name and I didn’t notice anything particular enticing, but I also wasn’t really looking.
Veggie Planet – Forgetting brunch was Sundays only, we went on a Saturday. The Vegan Oddlot pizza was surprisingly better and bigger than I’d remembered. I remember ordering quite a few vegan caeser salads with tofu croutons – those things are great, and taking advantage of the half and half possibilities with pizzas. And then oven wasn’t broken! Which happened a handful of times when I lived there. I wanted to try the tofu scramble which I hear had majorly improved and become a scramble, but alas it wasn't meant to be. I also ran into a sweet vegan I knew who was working there, neat-o. The cinnamon soy waffles are also quite good.
Since I went to school in downtown Boston, and worked a few jobs there, I was familiar with the area. The first place I’ll single it, where I probably ate the most besides the very veg-friendly college dining hall (really, I think guest meals probably furthered my budding relationship with Thomas, ha!) was Buddha’s Delight. I ate there when it was upstairs, downstairs and then upstairs again. I’m a girl who likes fried yellow noodles, and although not on the same level as Grasshopper, the chicken fingers were tasty. Their battered mushrooms were also good, but the mushroom soup I recall looking and tasting like snot. I also remember liking their fried wontons, but who doesn’t like those?
Pho Pasteur – I’m still not a big fan of lemongrass, but I dug the lemongrass tofu at this restaurant around the corner from Buddha’s. I dined at the Harvard Square garage location once, but remember liking this one better. It was also the closest restaurant to a stage door theater gig I had.
Finale a Bagel – soft and chewy, these were unlike the NY bagels I grew up with – and still 100x times better than any I’ve had in Portland. Fortunately bagels are a food I can live without (especially calorie wise, whoa). The only vegan spreads are probably hummus and peanut butter, and I remember ordering a bagel with spinach and tomato alone once. My sister insisted we stop here on our recent trip, and we took a dozen back to NY. The bagel star here is the Super Cinnamon Raisin.
California Pizza Kitchen – What trip of mine to the East Coast, that involves my sister, is complete without a trip to CPK? Jokes aside, Jenny really used to have a thing for their chopped salads, and we’d go to CPK when she visited me at college. I’ve read that the pizza crusts contain honey, so take note if you avoid that. I tend to opt for a pasta dish, such as the sundried tomato fussilli, begging them to hold the butter and cheese. It’s a chain, so I always inquire about the eggs/pasta situation beforehand.
Trident – I never ate here, but I did love their juices and they had fun, effective names like the ‘fresh complexion’. Plus, it’s in a bookstore. On Newbury St.
Sonsie – Randomly one of the first places my mom and I tried when visiting colleges. We sat in the café and drank fancy coffees. After turning 21, it became sort of the ‘fancy’ place to go for birthday dinners with my dear friends. Also the start of evening that gave me the worst hangover of my life, that I had to live out on a Fung Wah bus back to NY. Food wise, there’s even a note on the menu about how they use little to no dairy, and are open to dietary needs. I remember a miso tofu steak being on the menu, grilled portabellas (assuredly not grilled with meat), fantastic herbed foccacia and roasted garlic.
Otherside Café – I knew it was hipper than me, but went anyway. Nowadays there are more vegan options and raw ones, but I was happy enough with my soy cappuccino and hummus, guac and chips plate - and probably ordered them together. Really fresh salads, too. My sister, her boyfriend and I had our final meal here. A skimpy tofu migas with the smallest amount of shredded vegan soy cheez I’ve ever seen, refried beans and some tortilla chips for me – disappointing for an $8+ meal.
Island Hopper – get the mango tofu! Served in a mango shell! That is all. Definitely in my top 3 favorite meals in Boston.
Whole Foods – I shopped at two near Central Square, but the store at Symphony got the most patronage from me, by far, especially when I lived in Mission Hill. I won’t go on about the obvious things, but simply remember the yummy chocolate chip scones.
I honestly can’t go on. Let me know if you have any questions, and again, please keep in mind I haven’t lived there in years.
I loved living in Boston and going to college there, but I never saw myself living there afterwards. It’s a fantastic, historical city where I learned to live on my own, got a degree, made lasting friendships and fell in love, but it’s also a ridiculously expensive city, with 8403945034953045930593045 million college kids.
This is simply some fond, delicious reminiscing of my college years in Boston, with talk of my recent trip and photos thrown in.
FYI, for more Boston vegan information, check out Boston Vegan.