Boston’s best dishes often contain locally sourced seafood delights such as lobster, oysters, and clams. But with its nickname of ‘Beantown’, Boston is about much more than just delicious maritime cuisine. Meat feasts, Italian-inspired desserts and famous American comfort food dishes are all staples in the Massachusetts Capital.

Whether you’re looking for high-piled sandwiches, seafood rolls or a sweet treat, Boston has a dish that’ll leave you hungry for more. While you’re here, make sure you try the city’s most famous local dishes.

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    Boston baked beans

    The dish that inspired Boston’s nickname

    Boston baked beans
    • Food

    Boston derives the nickname ‘Beantown’ from its love of baked beans, which is why Boston baked beans are a staple at most restaurants in the city. Despite the dish’s name, the beans are actually stewed or boiled, mixed with pork or bacon and sweetened with molasses or syrup. Many locals love their Boston baked beans with a serving of brown bread.

    A few of the most popular establishments for this Boston favorite include Beantown Pub, Bukowski Tavern and Rebel’s Guild, which simmers its beans in molasses for 6 hours before resting them overnight.

  • 2

    Cannoli

    Hollow pastry tubed delights

    Cannoli
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    One of the most popular desserts in Boston, cannolis are sweet Italian pastry pipes filled with ricotta cheese, usually topped with nuts, chocolate or fruits. They’re on the menu in most restaurants and cafes, but the locals prefer to buy them fresh from the bakery, particularly in the North End neighbourhood.

    Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are 2 bakeries with a famous rivalry over their cannolis. We recommend trying them both to see what the fuss is all about. If you want to sit down at a restaurant to try this Boston dessert, head to Stella or Eataly.

  • 3

    Boston cream pie

    A signature Boston dessert from the 19th century

    Boston cream pie
    • Food

    The Boston cream pie has been a staple of the Boston diet since 1856. Despite being called a pie, it’s more like a cake, consisting of 2 rounds of custard-bathed spongecake with a rum syrup glossing and a chocolate topping.

    You can still buy Boston cream pie from its original home, the Omni Parker House. However, you’ll find delicious alternatives at restaurants and bakeries throughout the city. Some local hotspots include Flour Bakery & Café, Oak Long Bar + Kitchen and S&S Restaurant, where you can start your feast with a piled-high sandwich and matzo ball soup.

  • 4

    Clam chowder

    A thick soup containing clams, shellfish, and oyster crackers

    Clam chowder
    • Food

    Since the 18th century, Bostonians have enjoyed clam chowder with a New England twist. While Boston boasts a variety of chowder dishes, the traditional clam chowder is made of clams, cream or milk, potatos and onions, with the addition of oyster crackers for extra taste and thickness. 

    You can combine a history lesson with a gastronomic experience by heading to the Union Oyster House, which has been serving a locally adored clam chowder dish since 1826. You can also try clam chowder at top-rated restaurants like Mooncusser, Saltie Girl and Legal Sea Foods.

  • 5

    Frappes

    A hearty milkshake topped with ice cream

    Frappes
    • Food

    A frappe in Boston is a dessert beverage made from cold milk and cold syrup with the addition of ice cream, which brings it in line with what the rest of the world calls a milkshake (though Boston’s is thicker and creamier). It’s probably not the best Boston treat for your waistline, but it’s certainly one of the best for your taste buds.

    The Boston Burger Company has a dedicated frappe menu that the locals love. You can also buy delicious frappes from Friendly’s, which are located throughout the city. You’ll find frappes in a variety of unique flavors at Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream.

  • 6

    Lobster rolls

    A summertime favorite in Boston

    Lobster rolls
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    Whether lobster rolls are better in Maine or Boston is a topic of heavy debate. Regardless, these seafood treats are a Boston summertime favorite. A traditional roll consists of lobster meat with mayo or melted butter served on a griddled or buttered bread roll.

    You’ll find lobster rolls at seafood outlets and restaurants throughout the city, with long lines of hungry locals often forming at places like B&G Oysters, Eventide Fenway and James Hook & Co. For an informal dining experience, consider ordering lobster rolls at Yankee Lobster.

  • 7

    Roast beef sandwich

    A Massachusetts specialty since the 1950s

    Roast beef sandwich
    • Food

    Though not as famous as North Shore’s offering, Boston’s roast beef sandwiches are some of the tastiest in New England. This city’s version consists of an onion roll stuffed with layers and layers of sliced or thinly shaved roast beef. To eat like a local, try a ‘3-way’ sandwich, which is a roast beef sandwich drenched in mayo, barbecue sauce and white American cheese.

    Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood is a local hotspot for its lobster rolls and roast beef sandwiches, both of which are staples of the typical Bostonian diet. For a sandwich filled with slow-roasted beef, Thousand Island dressing, crispy shallots and cheese, head to Cutty’s sandwich shop.

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    Yankee pot roast

    Comfort food for the colder days

    Yankee pot roast
    • Food

    With a history spanning over a century, the Yankee pot roast is a Boston classic that’s especially popular with the locals during winter. It’s a comfort food dish consisting of slow-roasted beef with seasoned root vegetables in a rich and creamy sauce. The Boston pot roast is often served with homemade mashed potatos, butternut squash and gravy.

    For a unique culinary experience, head to Henrietta’s Table, which simmers its Yankee pot roast in veal stock for extra flavor. Pleasant Café is especially popular with locals on a Tuesday, which is the restaurant’s Yankee Pot Roast Day.

  • 9

    Oysters

    Briny oysters sourced from local fishers

    Oysters
    • Food

    Boston’s harborside location makes it a mecca for seafood, with oysters being a true delicacy of the city. Despite being delicious and filling, locally sourced oysters are more than affordable in Boston, often costing as little as a dollar at many establishments during ‘Oyster Hour’.

    You can check your oysters for quality by making sure they’re plump and heavy with liquid surrounding the meat. To dine like a local, try the oysters at a top-rated restaurant such as the Union Oyster House or Row 34. Places including La Brasa, Boston Public Market and Russel House Tavern offer discounts on oysters during ‘Oyster Hour’.

  • 10

    Fenway Frank

    Boston’s take on the classic hot dog

    Fenway Frank
    • Food

    The Fenway Frank is a Boston-style hot dog that was born at Fenway Park, which is the home of the Boston Red Sox. Much more than an ordinary hot dog, the Fenway Frank is boiled and broiled, making sure it retains all its juices. It’s then stuffed into a bun and topped with relish and mustard.

    During your trip to Boston, dive into the local culture by watching the Boston Red Sox and embracing the culinary tradition of feasting on a Fenway Frank with a beer or 2. You can also try a version of the Fenway Frank at restaurants including City Tap House Boston, TAMO Bistro + Bar and the 24-hour South Street Diner.

Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer