Man Food: Eat Your Way Through Fenway, Man Food-Style
Getting decent food in or around Fenway Park used to be a challenge; your options consisted of Fenway Franks that really only taste good after drinking three beers, rock-hard soft pretzels, or piles of stale nachos at any one of the over-crowded sports bars that surround our historic ballpark. Game On, Boston Beer Works and Landsdowne Pub will suffice for those on a liquid diet, but for the rest of us who’d like some adequate grub before, during, or after a Red Sox game, those establishments just won’t do. Of course, there’s the Sausage Guy, who’s always a treat pre- or post-game, but I am convinced that those sausages usually smell better than they taste.
Thanks to lots of culinary development in the area, we can now do better when it comes to dining near the Green Monster. It’s easy to hit one or all of the following places in an afternoon, depending on your hunger level—and if you’re like me, you’ll probably go to all of them.
La Verdad: At the most casual eatery in the Ken Oringer regime, I much prefer the brightly lit taqueria side of the restaurant that sits adjacent to the darker, louder sit-down restaurant side. Although the menu in the taqueria is limited, stand-outs such as the guacamole, tacos, burritos and grilled corn are always available. The star of the show, however, are the tortas ($10), which are salty, smokey griddled sandwiches that are expertly layered with chipotle peppers, refried beans, avocado, pickled onions and Oaxacan cheese. A sesame-studded bun brings it all together, with a crispy yet chewy texture. Order the spicy chile relleno version and it’ll up the ante even higher.
(1 Landsdowne Street, Boston 617-421-9595, laverdadtaqueria.com)
Island Creek Oyster Bar: The food here is not so much upscale as it is simply impeccably fresh and refined, and you can’t go wrong with any of the seafood and shellfish offerings. It’s best to start with the obvious; shucked-to-order Island Creek oysters ($2/ea) are the namesakes, and they won’t get any fresher than they are here. Move on to the crispy oyster sliders ($4/ea), stuffed with an elongated and battered piece oyster that’s topped with lime-chile aioli and sandwiched between a soft and buttery mini-brioche bun. I could probably eat about ten of them, but then there wouldn’t be room for more than serviceable favorites like the clam chowder ($10) and fish and chips ($15). The chowder is undeniably rich, but unlike most cream-heavy chowders, this one is dominated by fresh clams, potato and bacon—you know, the way it should be. The fish and chips are a perfect rendition; a light beer-batter gives way to the tender local cod, the crust is shatteringly crispy, and the malt vinegar aioli ties it all together.
(500 Comm. Ave, Boston 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com)
Citizen Public House: It’s all about the pork, oysters and whiskey at Citizen, and that’s not a bad thing. Trying to decide what to order, though, is no easy feat; you could opt for more oysters, but I’d recommend instead starting with the Adobo pork shoulder tacos, three mini tacos that are packed with plump pork, lime crème, pickled onions, and cilantro. For $8, it’s a great value and a good nibble to hold you over. The Citizen Burger ($14) is more than adequate; it’s a beefier, more robust, and grown-up version of the popular Tasty Burger from their sister restaurant across the street.
(1310 Boylston St., Boston 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com)
Sweet Cheeks: You can smell the smoke right when you walk in to Sweet Cheeks, and I can’t think of a more perfect setting for ballpark fare. The top-notch meats are gently smoked for hours, resulting in succulent, tender protein, and it’s fun to wash it down with cocktails that come in mason jars. There’s also nothing quite like a Sweet Cheeks biscuit. The colossal biscuits ($3 each, $10 for four) need no extra condiments; they are beyond luxurious, containing more butter than I probably need to know about, yet they still manage be light and airy. And while Texas Toast is a noble selection to contain your sandwich of choice ($12 for pulled pork), should a few pieces of supple pulled pork find their way onto the biscuit, along with a few of the house-made pickles, you might just be in heaven.
(1381 Boylston St., Boston 617-266-1300, sweetcheeksq.com)
Had enough to eat but still want to watch the game? If you can’t actually get seats to the game, get in early at Bleacher Bar and enjoy a stellar view right under the bleachers.
(82 Lansdowne St., Boston 617-262-2424, bleacherbarboston.com)