Home to a large chunk of the Harvard University campus and capped at each end by Boston College and Boston University, Allston and Brighton are student villages. Influenced by its youthful and diverse inhabitants, the edgy neighborhood is studded with offbeat shops from vinyl record stores to vintage boutiques. Some of the city’s best global-specialty restaurants can be found here, and, of course, this collegiate enclave wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of bars and pubs, which are stumbled upon at every turn.
Here we focus on Allston—a grungey wonderland of cutting-edge music, not to mention world-class street art, and an annual rite of passage known as Allston Christmas, which takes place in the days around September 1, as one wave of students moves out, another moves in and the neighborhood is transformed into massive, impromptu flea market. Love a bit of vintage IKEA? Then Allston is right up your alley.
Given Allston's fine reputation for unvarnished rock 'n' roll, you may expect the neighborhood's signature plate to be the hot dog or the pizza slice. However, that honor has more exotic claimants—at Ittoku and Oppa Sushi, you'll find some of the best Japanese food anywhere in the city. Deep Ellum is a refined gastro-bar where imaginatively wholesome food dances a sweet tango with expertly chosen booze.
If you want to buy a tambourine, follow Bob Dylan's advice and go see Mr. Tamborine Man, but if you want to buy a vintage guitar, and perhaps make it big on Allston's legendary club circuit, take a trip to Mr. Music on Harvard Ave. For vintage fashion, check out the Allston outpost of nationwide fashion hotspot, Buffalo Exchange.
The Avenue is a superior hole-in-the-wall with outstanding nachos and chili; Common Ground is a standout neighborhood pub with a locally sourced menu, including an excellent veggie burger with guacamole and pickled red cabbage; and the Hopewell generates a loyal local following with "good eats, good whiskey and good games."
Unless you wander over to neighboring twin-town Brighton and visit the Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum, cultural excursions are pretty much limited to local rock 'n' roll. Allston rocks, yes sir-ee, from storied indie-underground hangout Great Scott, to Brighton Music Hall (formerly hardcore scene venue Harpers Ferry) and the Paradise Rock Club.