Try the Five Best Bean Dishes in Boston (Just Don't Say Beantown)

Love or leave the nickname, Boston is still a city of beans if you know where to look.

While Bostonians proudly think of their home through founder John Winthrop’s glowing words, “the city on a hill”, that adulating nickname often stays within the city limits or comes rattling from the podiums of political speeches. If you ask somebody from anywhere outside the city and its surrounding suburbs what Boston’s nickname is, they’ll likely say “Beantown” without missing a beat. 

Call the city Beantown to a local and you’ll likely be met with a scoff and an upturned nose. The nickname grew from the massively popular colonial dish of baked beans, and as much as locals may not like to admit it, to most of America Boston is Beantown. While baked beans are no longer a staple of the Bostonian diet, beans are still abound in the city on a hill: here are five of the best bean dishes across Boston. 

Pasta Fagioli, La Famiglia Giorgio

Just beyond the brick of City Hall Plaza is Boston’s Italian stronghold known as the North End, where every other storefront is a restaurant, pastry shop, or a barber. One of these restaurants is La Famiglia Giorgio, an eatery that strives to fill in for your grandmother while you’re in town, and all Italian grandmothers like nothing more than feeding their family a hearty bowl of Pasta Fagioli. Meaning literally “pasta and beans”, La Famiglia Giorgio fills their Pasta Fagioli with a hearty helping of prosciutto and succulent cannellini beans.

Pork Charro Beans, The Painted Burro 

The typical menu at a Mexican restaurant consists of the same four or five ingredients arranged in different configurations and cooked in different styles. At The Painted Burro in Davis Square, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. From Roasted Squash to Duck Carnitas, this restaurant turns the typical Mexican fare on its head. Order anything off the taco menu and you’ll get one of their best deviations from the standard, the pork charro beans. No need to answer “black or refried?” here, because Painted Burro slow cooks black beans, pinto beans, and pork in one simmering pot for a side that’ll spoil all other Mexican restaurants for you.

Heirloom bean salad at The Salty Pig
Heirloom bean salad at The Salty Pig (courtesy The Salty Pig)

Heirloom Bean Salad, The Salty Pig

Back Bay’s The Salty Pig ought to be the first stop in Boston for cured meats and cheeses. While salted slices of pig and stinking cheeses are their specialties, they offer an impressive selection of entrees, pizza and pasta dishes. An unassuming but excellent dish is their Heirloom bean salad, which pairs perfectly with the salty palate on Salty Pig’s menu.

Black Bean Burger Menu, Veggie Galaxy

Picture the classic American diner: red upholstered seats and booths, neon lights and sleek silver molding on every edge; the sizzling kitchen churns out pancakes, pink milkshakes, burgers and fries. Now take that diner, drop it in one of the hippest corners of Boston in 2017, and you won’t be surprised to find that it’s an all vegetarian, vegan if you want it, restaurant and bakery. Among Veggie Galaxy's selection of vegetarian takes on classic diner dishes is a full burger menu, where you’ll find some of the most delicious black bean burgers the city has to offer.  

The Sevens Ale House
The Sevens Ale House (©Alex Oliveira)

Baked Beans, The Sevens Ale House

To experience Beantown in its purest culinary form, stop into The Sevens Ale House on Charles Street. This Beacon Hill institution has long been a place where Boston's saints and scoundrels alike have indulged in a few too many repasts together; smile and you’ll be treated like a regular, cause a scene and they'll show you the door. Order any sandwich, opt for a side of baked beans over potato salad, and you’ll be treated to a slop of steaming Heinz or Bucsh’s baked beans in a brown ceramic bean pot. Pair with a Sevens dark ale, and you’ll have discovered Beantown.