Hidden Gem Restaurants and Bars in the Heart of Boston

Sure, Downtown's a tourist trap. But it also boasts a number of lesser-known restaurants that are sure to please.

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

Koy Boston

Inside Koy on North Street. / Photo by Marc Hurwitz

Downtown Boston and the areas immediately surrounding it (including the North End and Beacon Hill) wouldn’t seem to be a treasure trove for hidden gems when it comes to dining out, as so many touristy restaurants, popular after-work spots, and famous eateries can be found here. But if you look hard enough, you can find some places that are still known mainly to locals who live in the neighborhoods, along with food critics and those in the know. The next time you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and visit one of these four spots.

Waterfront Cafe Boston

Waterfront Cafe. / Photo by Marc Hurwitz

Waterfront Cafe

Until recently, the North End was seen mainly as a place to go to for old-school Italian food and pastries, and while that hasn’t exactly changed, a handful of other types of restaurants—including Asian and Mexican (try Crudo and Tenoch)—have come to the neighborhood of late. This historic section of the city also has a few local drinking spots that tourists tend not to know about, including a bar called the Watefront Café on Commercial Street, far from the crowds. While the place can be a bit boisterous at times, it is by no means a dive bar, instead being a true neighborhood joint. A few highlights on the menu include good takes on calamari and chicken wings, along with an angus burger big enough to be made into two meals, and a thin-crust pizza that’s one of the better ones in the North End.

Waterfront Cafe, 450 Commercial St., Boston, 617-523-0613, waterfront-cafe.com.

Antonios Boston

Antonio’s Cucina Italiana. / Photo by Marc Hurwitz

Antonio’s Cucina Italiana

It seems fitting that because a spot in the North End that isn’t an Italian restaurant is mentioned here, an Italian eatery in Beacon Hill that would be at home in the North End should be looked at as well. That’s exactly what Antonio’s Cucina Italiana on Cambridge Street is—an old-fashioned Italian restaurant with big portions of pasta, chicken, and veal, a staff that is at times gruff but friendly, Italian music playing in the background, and a loyal following from both the neighborhood and those who work at MGH across the street. A few dishes worth ordering at Antonio’s include the house-made fusilli with a hearty marinara sauce, a garlicky tortellini pesto, and an eggplant braciolitine dish with Antonio’s terrific red sauce.

Antonio’s Cucina Italiana, 288 Cambridge St., Boston, 617-367-3310, antoniosbeaconhill.com.

Stoddards Boston

The Ward 8 at Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale. / Photo by Marc Hurwitz

Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale

Downtown Crossing is shaping up to be one of the hottest parts of Boston, with lots of new construction taking place and a number of new dining spots popping up, including Ogawa Coffee, MAST’, and Legal Crossing. The area, however, remains quieter than many other parts of the city—especially at night and on weekends—and some lesser-known restaurants and bars can be found here, especially where there’s relatively little foot traffic. Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale on Temple Place is one such spot. It’s a favorite among restaurant industry people and workers in the nearby Financial District, yet not all that well-known to the general public. Meanwhile, its cozy downstairs section is a hidden gem onto itself and a nice place to get a drink at the attractive bar or a bite to eat at one of the tables toward the back of the basement room. An endless and rotating supply of local, national, and international beers can be found here, and New American dishes such as wild boar sloppy joe, steak frites, smoked game hen, and boneless rabbit are offered, depending on the season.

Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale, 48 Temple Place, Boston, 617-426-0048, stoddardsfoodandale.com.

Koy Boston Cheesesteak Dumplings

Cheesesteak dumplings at Koy. / Photo by Marc Hurwitz


More than a few locals tend to stay away from Faneuil Hall when it comes to dining, avoiding the tourist-filled marketplace, dive bars, and watering holes in the area. But on the outskirts of Faneuil Hall are a number of excellent options, and some are very much under the radar, including a mellow spot called Koy, located on North Street facing the North Market building. Koy is a rather eclectic restaurant, offering traditional Korean fare with western and international twists, and the space—which includes a bar—has a sleek, modern feel, though with old-world Asian touches mixed in as well. The menu is always changing at Koy, but some offerings worth looking for are the hearty cheesesteak dumplings with pastrami, the savory Korean hotpot, and the tender udon noodles with shrimp or beef.

Koy, 16 North St., Boston, 857-991-1483, koyboston.com.


A few other under-the-radar dining spots you might want to check out in the area:

75 Chestnut (American)
Try: the steak tips.

China King (Chinese)
Try: the pork bun appetizer.

Grotto (Mediterranean)
Try: the garlic soup with black truffles.

Hong Kong Eatery (Chinese)
Try: the rice stick with chicken and preserved cabbage.

La Summa (Italian)
Try: the pappardelle e melanzane.

Massimino’s (Italian)
Try: the veal parmigiana.

Sultan’s Kitchen (Turkish)
Try: the hummus.