Boston is a seafood lover’s dream. With its coastal location and historical ambience, it’s a hub for dishes featuring oysters, clams, and fish. The city is also renowned for traditional dishes that have been part of the city’s culture since colonial times. Whether you’re a visitor or local, here are the can’t-miss foods to eat in Boston.
What Food Is Famous in Boston?
Boston is famous for its food scene, with baked beans, clam chowder, and fresh seafood among some of the culinary delights you can’t miss here. Locals know you have to try the cannolis, as there’s something of a rivalry in town, with Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry going neck in neck for who has the best Italian pastry. Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park and have the Fenway Frank, a broiled hot dog like you’ve never tried anywhere else.
What Is Considered 'Boston Food'?
As a historic coastal city, Boston offers iconic dishes that are steeped in history and heavy on seafood. Its famous Boston baked beans — a warm dish of typically navy beans cooked with molasses, brown sugar, and spices — is unique to New England. The recipe dates back to the 17th century. Clam chowder is also a local specialty, and was first introduced by settlers from France and Nova Scotia. And you can’t miss a lobster roll, the quintessential New England sandwich.
What Is Boston Best Known for?
Boston is known for its historical significance but also some delicious dishes that just don’t taste the same anywhere else.
The city is famous for clam chowder — and rightfully so, given the abundance of fresh clams in the waters right off the city. And though there’s plenty of clam chowder to be found in Boston, you have to try it at Union Oyster House. The restaurant has been making the dish for centuries, so you know you’re getting a classic. It doesn't get much better than a combination of fresh lumps of clam and a creamy, decadent broth.
Boston Cream Pie
This iconic pie was first introduced in Boston in 1856. The creamy treat was served at the grand opening of a hotel then known as Parker House. Today it’s called the Omni Parker House, and the cake-like dessert is still a hotel classic.
There’s a cannoli war in Boston’s North End neighborhood, but really, who doesn’t want to try multiple cannolis? Considered one of the most popular desserts in Boston, this Italian pastry is filled with ricotta cheese, plus other toppings like chocolate chips or pistachios. While you can get it throughout the state, there are two places that each claim to have the best in the city. Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry have both been recognized for their creamy and sweet cannolis for years, with locals greatly debating which is better. We say try them both and decide for yourself.
What Is Massachusetts' Most Known Food?
Lobster rolls supposedly originated in Rhode Island, but there's a longstanding argument about whether the lobster rolls are better in Maine or Boston. Either way, there are many places where you can get this traditional summertime meal of lobster meat with mayo or butter on a bread roll throughout the city and state.
This massive dish for seafood lovers traditionally combines lobster, clams, and corn, but there are many ways throughout the state and New England in general to enjoy it. Some restaurants include scallops, mussels, or even chorizo. The dish is credited for being introduced by Native Americans, who covered the clams with seaweed and cooked them over an open fire along the shoreline.
Roast Beef Sandwich
It’s said that the roast beef sandwiches you get in Boston are some of the tastiest in the country. The state’s version is anything but ordinary: The sandwich is comprised of an onion or hamburger roll with piles of thin layers of roast beef, topped with mayo, barbecue sauce, and white American cheese.
The Fenway Frank
Fenway Park has been selling hot dogs since baseball games began there back in 1912, but the most famous incarnation of the park's hot dog only came into existence in 2009. This mouthwatering hot dog isn't just your average hot dog. Most hot dogs at baseball games are steamed or grilled. The Fenway Frank is both boiled and grilled so that it's juicy while still having that bit of snap.
The Top 10 Must Visit Food Places in Boston
1. Baked Beans at Beantown Pub
- Address: 100 Tremont St.
- Hours: Sunday — Wednesday: 8:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Thursday — Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- Phone: 617-426-0111
- Website: beantownpub.com
If you've never had Boston baked beans, then you have to try them here in "Beantown." Dating back to colonial times, this dish is a comforting blend of beans that are slow-cooked in a sweet molasses sauce. Beantown Pub is known for its hearty portion served with rustic brown bread.
2. Clam Chowder at Union Oyster House
- Address: 41 Union Street
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Phone: 617-227-2750
- Website: unionoysterhouse.com
No visit to Boston is complete without tasting its famous clam chowder. Union Oyster House is known as America’s oldest restaurant, with a rich history dating back to 1826. It’s located on the famous Freedom Trail near Faneuil Hall. The creamy chowder here is made the classic way with juicy clams, potatoes, and a thick broth, just as it's been served for centuries.
3. Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry
- Address: 300 Hanover St.
- Hours: Daily: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Phone: 617-742-3050
- Website: mikespastry.com
A sweet treat that has locals divided, the best cannoli in town is a title contended by many, but Mike’s Pastry stands out. With over 20 flavors ranging from traditional chocolate chip to inventive Oreo or pistachio, it's a dessert lover's paradise. Just be prepared that the taste dreams are made of doesn't come easily, as both tourists and locals know you've got to wait in long lines to be rewarded.
4. Lobster Roll at James Hook & Co.
- Address:440 Atlantic Ave.
- Hours: Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m; Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Phone: 617- 423-5501
- Website: jameshooklobster.com
Boston's coastal location means fresh seafood, and the lobster roll is a testament to this. James Hook & Co., a Boston staple since 1925, is still a family business managed by four siblings of the third generation of the Hook Family, and they offer this dish either hot with butter or cold with mayo, both brimming with succulent lobster meat.
5. Boston Cream Pie at Omni Parker House
- Address: 60 School St.
- Hours:Daily: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Phone: 617-227-8600
- Website: omnihotels.com/hotels/boston-parker-house/dining/parkers-restaurant
A dessert so iconic it became Massachusetts' official state dessert, the Boston Cream Pie is a delectable combination of sponge cake, chocolate icing, and creamy custard. Omni Parker House the birthplace of the dessert, making it a must-visit. It’s also the the same restaurant that introduced the world to Parker House Rolls and Boston scrod.
6. Fenway Frank at Fenway Park
- Address: 4 Jersey St.
- Hours: Varies based on event
- Phone: 877- 733-7699
- Website: mlb.com/redsox/ballpark
A culinary experience intertwined with Boston's baseball culture, the Fenway Frank is more than just a hot dog. Boiled, grilled, and served with mustard on a split-top bun, it's cooked like no other hot dog around, making it a game-day essential. Fenway Franks are sold in and around Fenway Park, but you can also get them in some grocery stores throughout New England.
7. Lobster Mac at Yankee Lobster
- Address: 300 Northern Ave.
- Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Phone:617- 345-9799
- Website: yankeelobster.co
Combining the richness of lobster with the comfort of mac and cheese, Yankee Lobster's Lobster Mac is a creamy delight, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs for a perfect finish. Of course, lobster is on the menu in multiple ways at this iconic waterfront locale. Enjoy a lobster roll fried, buttered, or traditional — or indulge in a three-pound lobster dish.
8. Roast Beef Sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef
- Address: 410 Revere Beach Boulevard, Revere
- Hours: Daily: 10 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
- Website: kellysroastbeef.com
A sandwich that's become synonymous with Boston's North Shore, the roast beef sandwich was supposedly developed in the 1950s by Kelly’s Roast Beef, which offers one of the best versions around. You have to ask for a "three way," which has barbecue sauce, white cheese, and plenty of mayo. Luckily, Kelly's has multiple locations throughout the state, plus Florida and New Hampshire for those who can't leave their roast beef back in Boston.
9. Fried Clam Platter at Woodman’s of Essex
- Address: 119 Main St., Essex
- Hours:Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Website: woodmans.com
Though it’s approximately 45 minutes from Boston, Woodman’s of Essex gets an honorable mention. The fried clams here are a Boston staple. It has a long-standing history dating back to 1914, and the crispy fried clam platters, perfectly complemented with golden French fries and onion rings, are some of the best around.
10. Frappes at Toscanini’s
- Address:159 First St., Cambridge
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday closed
- Phone: 617-491-5877
- Website: Tosci.com
To sweetly end our list, the frappe is Boston's version of a milkshake. It's basically any flavor ice cream blended with milk to be ultra thick and creamy. Nobody makes a frappe like Toscanini's, which locals consider some of the best ice cream in Boston. With gourmet flavors like burnt caramel, maple butter, and cocoa Nilla wafer, it's easy to see why.
The Bottom Line
Visiting Boston isn't just about historical sites; it's also about having some truly memorable meals. The city is filled with foods that are basically a living history that you can taste. Whether you're a visitor or a local, explore all of Boston's best-known dishes. From the foods settlers enjoyed to fresh seafood to New England traditions, Boston is a foodie's dream.