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Sure, Boston has world-class museums, universities, and history, a potent local music scene, and a great ballpark. But while the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, MIT and Harvard, tea parties, massacres, revolutions, and Fenway Park have all helped vault the Hub to world-class status, itís the neighborhoods that make the city what it is, giving Boston its vitality. The individual íhoods and squares ó filled with Irish and Italians, students and South Asians, politicians and poets ó create a patchwork of identity that justifies Bostonís cosmopolitan claims. Each area has a different personality, but all of them represent something quintessentially Boston. What follows is a guide to Bostonís neighborhoods, the places that reflect the cityís spunk and spirit.
Largely ignored by tourists, Eastie is generally passed through on the way to and from the airport. But at least one spot ó besides Logan ó elevates East Boston to a destination: Santarpioís. Everyone has his or her favorite pizza place, but this little restaurant probably tops more lists than any other. People donít come for the décor (there isnít any), and they donít come for a fawning waitstaff (itís efficiently gruff). No, folks return for the perfect pizza, cheap beer and wine, and wood-fired sausage and lamb.
Elusive mobster-in-hiding Whitey Bulger haunts the gritty Southie streets. Shamrock tattoos adorn biceps and shoulders. The Boston accent, with its dropped Rís and elongated Ahhs, smacks hardest here. Southie meets the sea at Castle Island (neither island nor castle), where you can wander the path alongside Pleasure Bay with the waves by your side and the roar of planes overhead. Grab an ice-cream cone, a hot dog, or a grilled-cheese sandwich wrapped in wax paper from Sullivanís for the stroll.
Roslindale, in the southwest corner of Boston, has been hailed as the new South End for a while now. Indeed, Tom Hall and John Bellott, who were among the culinary pioneers to put the South End on the map when they opened the upscale Icarus in 1979, are now doing the same with Roslindale. When they opened Gusto, a simple, satisfying Italian joint, Phoenix restaurant critic Robert Nadeau hailed it as possibly "the best restaurant in Greater Boston where you can still park across the street." Roslindale is also home to Café Apollonia, the cityís only Albanian restaurant, even though Boston has one of the largest Albanian communities in the country.
Bordering Rozzie, JP has a jeans-and-T-shirt attitude, a relaxed, vital, and welcoming air. Doyleís Café, a neighborhood Irish pub, is one of the oldest ó and most authentic ó in the city, attracting a mix of glad-handing politicos and JP regulars.
Rolling over 265 acres, and open every day of the year, the Arnold Arboretum is an oasis for all, be you botanist (its purpose is "to contain, as far as practicable, all the trees and shrubs which can be raised in the open air") or frisbee tosser.
Transcendentalists made better thinkers than farmers. Brook Farm, founded in 1841 as an experimental commune based on cooperative living, aimed for a more natural union between brain labor and body labor. The brains won out: Brook Farm had more success with its school than with its crops. Its literati included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller. Today, trails lead through meadows, woodland, wetlands, and fields.
"Roxbury is rich" goes the motto of ACT Roxbury, and lately the sometimes racially charged neighborhood has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Here, hip-hop legend Public Enemy shot a video (and enjoyed lunch) at Mississippiís, a cafeteria-style breakfast-and-lunch spot that serves soul food to locals, Roxbury Community College students, and the occasional celebrity.
Brooklineís Coolidge Corner isnít Harvard Square, mostly because it doesnít have a Harvard. But it does have one of the areaís best bookstores (the Brookline Booksmith), a movie theater that champions local filmmakers and indie fare (the Coolidge Corner Theatre), and a handful of kosher restaurants and delis (Ramiís and Rubinís among them).
Russians, Brazilians, Asians, and, most noticeably, students and rock-star wanna-bes make up the Allston/Brighton scene. The grimy, jukebox-fueled Model Café is a classic dive; the Sunset Grill promotes dizzying indecision (and perhaps intoxication) with its selection of 500 beers; and OíBrienís, a gritty treasure, epitomizes Rock City, staging local bands a few nights a week.
The South End is the largest landmark district in the US, but 20 years ago, the streets were sprinkled with trash piles and crack vials. Thatís all changed, and itís become one of the most desirable, and exclusive, areas in Boston. Its reputation as Bostonís gayborhood has flagged a bit recently, but itís still home to artistsí lofts, galleries, and tony bars and restaurants. Wallyís isnít one of the latter, but it is one of the best spots for live jazz and blues. Every night of the year, and always without a cover charge, it explodes with the energy of local musicians. Itís also among the rare Boston bars that draw a racially diverse crowd, from Roxbury residents to South Enders, and students from Berklee and the New England Conservatory.
Bob the Chefís also has live jazz, but the focus here is more on the Southern-style soul food ó like meat loaf, mustard-fried catfish, and "Bobís original mac and cheese" ó which itís been serving since the í50s.page 1 page 2
Issue Date: July 23 - 29, 2004
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