Explore Boston

A Foodie Tour of Boston

Our Boston editor shares her 24-hour guide to the city's best restaurants for foodies, plus culinary-themed activities for a day visiting Boston.

Love to eat? I do. If you're like-minded, this terrifically calorific, daylong foodie itinerary and guide for exploring Boston's culinary tableau should suit you perfectly. My hometown knows how to cook, serving up amazing restaurants—and dishes therein—around every corner. Here, I've selected my most-loved rendezvous, places I return to again and again, because well, I just can't get enough. Ready, set, go!

7 am: Put Pep in Our Step

Let's start our day early with a coffee, naturally, but we'll save our appetite for our next stop: breakfast. Voltage Coffee in Kendall Square makes a mean pour over, which we enjoy in a quiet, relaxed environment set within a labyrinth of constructed 'rooms.' While we wait (pour overs take about 5 minutes to prepare), we can grab a seat at a communal table or by the window and look around The Analogue Room, which features bookshelves filled with reading material from "Beginning Japanese" to Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." There's also an art component here; Voltage mounts frequent exhibitions by local artists, so if a work on the walls tickles a creative fancy, go on and ask about it.

8 am: Go Big for Breakfast

Searching out our next stop definitely leaves us hungry for breakfast. Deep within the AmGen-Akamai jungle—biotechnology and content services companies, respectively, which, with MIT around the corner, is so Kendall Square—hides The Friendly Toast. From Voltage, the easiest way on foot involves a jaunt down Binney Street and a few parking lot short cuts, but if you're skipping coffee and venturing straight from the T, just head down Broadway, cross over Galileo Galilei Way, and follow the signs from there.

The Friendly Toast is quiet early on a weekday morning, but business usually picks up fast. Lime green walls—and we do mean lime green—give this place a festive feel, with 1950s-style Formica-topped tables, not to mention quirky decor like a massive sombrero-wearing hamburger, George Foreman boxing pennants, and a silk girdle-girded mannequin torso. As Michael Jackson's "Thriller" plays overhead, overheard conversations discuss the ins and outs of millennial dating while quoting Alexander Pope and the latest trends in content delivery. We can't really go wrong with any meal on the menu, but my favorite dish is the herb omelet, a substantial, fragrantly-flavored egg creation stuffed with cashews, roasted peppers, and goat cheese and paired with housemade anadama bread, a molassesy New England specialty.

Dig into the herb omelet at The Friendly Toast
Dig into the herb omelet at The Friendly Toast (©Where)

10 am: Appreciate Culinary Arts

Next up, hop in a cab and head to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—we need an activity before we fill our bellies again. This world-class institution holds more than 450,000 items within its permanent collections, but our mission today is to check out the American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Collection housed in the modern Art of the Americas wing. Items on view change, but we might see selected pieces like a gorgeous silver sugar box (1702) by Edward Winslow, a silver chocolate pot with wooden scroll handle (1701) by John Coney, and a free-blown footed glass mug from 1821 by Thomas Cains.

Noon: Food-themed Shopping

I'm still only halfway to hungry again; what about you? Let's go shop around the South End. Many boutiques here focus on house and home interests, and of course, I've got my favorites. On a quiet end of Shawmut Ave, Farm & Fable has an incredible, always-changing selection of vintage cookware and cookbooks that the owner sources from estate sales, antiques fairs, and the occasional old lady. Also find new cookbooks, food items like local honey, and gifts with New England appeal. Nearby on Washington Street, Lekker Home boasts a sophisticated Scandinavian aesthetic when it comes to tabletop pieces from brands like Menu and Royal Copenhagen, which enhance whatever beautiful and tasty meals you may be serving at your own home. 

1 pm: James Beard Award-winning Lunch

For lunch, one of my absolute favorite places to dine is Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette's casual COPPA. Find the petite neighborhood restaurant off the beaten path of Shawmut Avenue. Bissonnette won the James Beard Award this year for Best Chef–Northeast, a nod that you'll thoroughly enjoy when it comes to eating here. I always order the stretchy stracciatella antipasti with edible accessories that change with the season, as well as the wood-oven charred cauliflower dressed with manchego cheese, capers, yogurt and a tasty bagna càuda sauce—try it even of you don't normally enjoy cauliflower. Since the menu is built of plates meant to be shared, also order a pizza.

Pizza at COPPA in Boston
Pizza at COPPA (©COPPA)

2:30 pm: Dreams of Ice Cream

Good thing we saved room for dessert. From Washington Street, make a left onto Union Park, where we enjoy views of the South End historic district while we stroll. At Tremont, cross the street, turn right and look for PICCO on our left. PICCO (which, incidentally, is officially short for 'Pizza and Ice Cream Company') makes small batches of its own cold, sweet ice cream from scratch, right down to the chocolate 'chips.' Flavors change all the time, but you'll likely find a dense, intense Scharffen Berger dark chocolate (as ice cream or sorbet), fragrant and spiced cinnamon, and a coffee that tastes like it was churned straight from brewing. I like the sampler myself, which allows for three separate scoops.

3:30 pm: Nourish our Minds

For our post-lunch venture, we are headed to the Museum of Science. Pick up the Green Line at Arlington station and ride it straight through to Science Park (or take another cab if you've got money to burn). This time we are visiting Boston's compelling center of science and technology, not for its Van de Graaff generator, stellar planetarium or Hall of Human Life, but for temporary exhibition "The Photography of Modernist Cuisine," a fascinating look at science applied to food through inventor and retired Microsoft CTO (and James Beard Award Winner, go figure) Nathan Myhrvold's camera lens. Fifty recent, large-scale images demonstrate photography techniques (through a microscope, at high speed) and give a closer look at the food itself. Other elements of the exhibition feature disassembled kitchen appliances to show how they operate. 

The Museum of Science
The Museum of Science's temporary exhibit looks at science as it applies to food. (Courtesy The Photography of Modernist Cuisine)

6:30 pm: Authentic Italian-American in the North End, of Course!

Leave the glitz of Hanover Street behind—where modern amenities like burly valet attendants and glossy interior decors cloud the authenticity of the neighborhood’s origins—for quiet Fleet Street on which sits the unassuming La Summa, owned and operated by North End resident Barbara Summa since 1983. Seriously, she lives right across the street. Statues of Jesus and Caesar Augustus keep watch from the small dining room's fireplace mantel, but otherwise the decor is simple white linen tablecloths. Parties are seated, but the atmosphere is quieter and lovelier than some of the more centrally located restaurants. Peppery arugula salad comes lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice to contrast rich shavings of Parmesan cheese. I usually stick with Italian American classics, like the chicken Parmesan with freshly made cavatelli. Prices are right here; there isn't an entree that costs more than $21.95 and that's for a 14-oz sirloin.

8 pm: Old-world Sweets With a Modern Spin

Italian bakery and sweet shop Modern Pastry has been a North End go-to for decades, but it was just this year that it opened up an interior cafe where patrons can linger over famous sticky-nutty torrone and hand-filled cannoli while watching the world go by on Hanover Street. My personal choice for post-dinner dolce vita comes in the form of the marzipan-frosted cassatine, which I pair with a Guglielmo Americano.

Boston viewed from the Harbor at night
Boston viewed from the Harbor at night (©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

9:30 pm: Skyline Sightseeing

After dinner and dessert, we hail a taxi in order to head across town for a nightcap. But note, this is not a regular checkered cab. Since we're already on the waterfront, we are going to make the most of it by walking to Sargents Wharf where a Boston Harbor Cruises water taxi is anchored and waiting (provided we've called ahead) to ferry us across Boston Harbor and into the Seaport District. Don't fear the cold weather—these vessels are nicely heated. Plus, there's the incredible nighttime view of the Financial District skyline to be seen on our 10-minute ride. 

10 pm: Finally, a Nightcap

Here in Boston, Barbara Lynch is synonymous with food, but it's her tiny, Seaport District cocktail bar Drink where we are headed for our final toast to this food-themed day. I don't want to give away too much, but for mixology enthusiasts this place is the promised land, complete with its own signature ice. 


Where To Find It


Voltage Coffee, 295 Third St., Cambridge, 617.714.3974

The Friendly Toast, 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617.621.1200

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617.267.9300

Farm & Fable, 251 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617.451.1110

Lekker Home, 1313 Washington St., Boston, 617.542.6464

COPPA, 253 Shawmut Ave., 617.391.0902

PICCO, 513 Tremont St., Boston, 617.927.0066

Museum of Science, 1 Science Park, Boston, 617.723.2500

La Summa, 30 Fleet St., 617.523.9503

Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St., Boston, 617.523.3783

Boston Harbor Cruises Water Taxi, 617.227.4320

Drink, 348 Congress St., 617.695.1806