Hidden Gems: Little-Known Restaurants in Historic Buildings

Sure, you know Durgin-Park. But there’s many other historic restaurants all around the Boston area as well.

By | Chowder |

Welcome to Hidden Gems, where local food blogger Marc Hurwitz (of Hidden Boston and Boston Restaurant Talk) spotlights off-the-beaten-path, under-the-radar restaurants.

 

The Boston area has no shortage of popular dining spots with some  history behind them (The Chart House, Durgin-Park, The Union Oyster House, Doyle’s Cafe, etc.), but what about lesser-known restaurants that are located in interesting old structures? Well, there is no shortage of those, either— and the following four eateries would certainly fit into this category.

THE MARLIAVE
10 Bosworth St., Boston, 617-422-0004, marliave.com

Photo courtesy of Flickr/cherrylet

 

Right in the heart of downtown Boston is a multi-story eating and drinking establishment that resides in a beautiful old building. And while Marliave has been located in its Bosworth Street home since the late 1800s, it remains a bit under the radar, perhaps because it sits on a lightly-traveled lane between Tremont and Washington streets.  The restaurant has a cafe-style space on the lower floor and a slightly more formal area on the upper floor, but the middle floor is really the one where you feel the character of the place, with a pressed tin ceiling, tin walls, and an attractive old bar. A few items offered at this New American/Mediterranean spot include rarebits (sheer cheesy goodness, by the way), Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat, and wild mushroom risotto.

WINTHROP ARMS
130 Grovers Ave, Winthrop, 617-846-4000, winthroparms.com

Photo (and below photos) by Marc Hurwitz

One of the area’s most “hidden” of gems is a restaurant located within a nearly 100-year-old hotel on a side street above the ocean. Indeed, the Winthrop Arms in Winthrop does not seem to be well known at all, which is a shame because both the hotel and the restaurant ooze history from every pore, with the lobby/waiting area in particular being a dark, cozy, and completely old-school room that is just meant for reading a book or having quiet conversation. The restaurant itself is a family-friendly space that focuses mainly on classic American and Italian items, including one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes in the Boston area, and a chicken pot pie that also reigns near the top of the heap. The Winthrop Arms isn’t exactly chic or trendy, but it is a fascinating place that you’ll probably never find on your own due to its out-of-the-way location.

BELLA LUNA
284 Amory St.,  Boston, 617- 524-6060, milkywayjp.com

When word first got out a few years ago that Bella Luna (and its sister spot the Milky Way Lounge) were moving to another part of Jamaica Plain, it was met by mixed feelings, as it would leave a vacant space in Hyde Square (which has seen a lot of turnover). One the other hand, though, it moved into the old Haffenreffer complex,  a fascinating old brewery building that houses the Boston Beer Company. The move seems to have worked out well, in part because of the funky charm of the mammoth structure which dates back to the late 1800s—and free parking doesn’t hurt, either. Bella Luna shares a spacious and eclectic-feeling area with the Milky Way, and it also has a large outdoor patio that is a perfect place for a bite to eat and a drink on a warm summer night. Italian food is the name of the game here, with good takes on fried calamari, pizza, pasta and meatballs, and chicken marsala.

AMRHEINS
80 West Broadway, Boston, 617-268-6189, amrheins.com

Before South Boston became “hot,” there was Amrheins, some pizza places and sub shops, a few diners, and a lot of bars. Now the neighborhood is seeing some big changes, with all kinds of upscale eateries opening along the main drag and on the water, but the nearly 125-year-old Amrheins still remains. And yes, the West Broadway eatery has changed with the times as well, no longer being a true family restaurant where you could see local politicians shooting the breeze with fellow diners, but the old-fashioned atmosphere remains—all the way down to what is considered the oldest hand-carved bar in the entire country.  The small dining room to the left still has the feel of the old Amrheins, while the main space to the right has a bit more of a trendy feel to it, and the menu reflects both, with classic comfort food dishes such as steak tips, roast turkey, and meatloaf going hand-in-hand with slightly more modern fare such as veggie risotto, maple-glazed pork chops, and pan-seared scallops.

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