Just beyond the bustling streets of Allston lies another, decidedly quieter and more residential neighborhood—Brighton. Home to many Boston University and Boston College students, young professionals, and families, Brighton offers numerous pubs, ethnic restaurants, and a long history, with many affordable options for a leisurely afternoon or a night out on the town.
First settled in 1630, the area was originally part of Watertown. In 1634, the Massachusetts Bay Colony transferred the land to Newtowne (today’s Cambridge). The first permanent English settlement in what is now Brighton drew people from Cambridge, and the area became known as “Little Cambridge.” The moniker lasted until residents voted to secede from Cambridge in 1807, when the area was renamed for the English coastal city of Brighton and Hove. In 1874, Brighton officially became a neighborhood of the city of Boston.
Throughout its nearly 400-year history, Brighton has seen many important developments. The Brighton Cattle Market was created in 1776 to feed George Washington’s Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, beginning a long tradition as a meatpacking center that lasted until the mid-20th century.
Today there are many restaurants, bakeries, pubs, and small businesses lining Washington Street, the quaint, tree-lined artery that runs through Brighton Center to Oak Square. BU Today has compiled a list of some of the best places to investigate, nosh, and shop when you visit.
Brick House Pizza & Grille
256 Washington St.
Want to go gourmet? Brick House takes pride in its freshly made dough and tomato sauce, made with fresh-chopped vine-ripened tomatoes. Try one of the many specialty pizzas—perhaps the Hawaiian BBQ (barbecued chicken, bacon, and pineapple) or the Florentine (baby spinach, chopped garlic, and ricotta). Or choose your favorite ingredients to stuff a personalized calzone. If you’re in the mood for something besides pizza, Brick House also serves salads, subs, wraps, dinner specials, and burgers. A classic sirloin cheeseburger served with a salad and choice of fries or onion rings is only $4.99. And if you come on a nice day, you can sit at one of the eatery’s outdoor tables.
The Green Briar
304 Washington St.
The Green Briar is no ordinary Irish pub: it’s as close to the real thing as you’ll find on this side of the Atlantic. If you follow international sports—particularly any of the Irish teams—this is the place for you. The pub broadcasts live Irish sporting events, including rugby, soccer, and hurling (find the current sports schedule here). In addition to sports, the Green Briar features dancing to local bands and DJs. The pub offers theme nights during the week as well: traditional Irish seissun Monday, Prime Time Trivia Tuesday, and College Quiz night Wednesday. Whether you want to drink, dine, or dance, there’s something for you.
Devlin’s Bistro and Bar
332 Washington St.
Enjoy the chic ambiance of Devlin’s Bistro and Bar at one of several seating areas inside or on the outdoor patio. Come for a romantic dinner at an elegantly set table, a casual meal at a booth or high-rise table, a leisurely outdoor brunch, or a quick drink at the bar. The wood-themed décor complements the brightly colored walls, curtains, and artwork, for a positive and lively feel. There is something special every day: jazz brunch on Sunday, pasta night on Monday, trivia on Tuesday, live jazz and small plates on Wednesday, live reggae on Thursday, and DJs on Friday and Saturday. And the extensive menu is sure to please everybody. Devlin’s serves seafood, Italian cuisine, burgers, salads, all kinds of appetizers, and breakfast food at the weekend brunches.
Porter Belly’s Pub
338 Washington St.
Porter Belly’s Pub may be as well known as a venue for Boston’s up-and-coming musicians and musicians touring New England as for its food, drinks, and dartboard competitions. The Drafters, Dennis McCarthy, and the Charlie River Band have performed there. And if you’re looking to showcase your own nascent musical talent, stop by on Wednesday for Porter Belly’s open mic night. More interested in sports? Watch games on one of the plasma TVs or play a friendly game of darts (there’s an open competition every Tuesday). Porter Belly’s also has a softball team and a golf society (for more information about joining the golf society, call 617-254-3300).
380 Washington St.
Cafénation has everything you could want in a café: vast coffee and tea options, savory and sweet dessert crepes, cheap bagel and egg breakfast specialties, and an array of lunch soups, salads, and paninis. Try a MEM loose-leaf tea served in a cast-iron teapot, paired with the “hummer” breakfast sandwich, hummus, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, lettuce, and red onion, and you’ve got yourself a healthy and filling breakfast for well under $10. With its tofu and veggie scramble, vegan French toast, and homemade tofu spread, Cafénation is especially popular with noncarnivores. The walls serve as gallery space for the work of local artists, which is available for purchase. The establishment is great for a bite or cup of coffee, but be warned: it’s small and seating can be hard to come by. The free Wi-Fi attracts coffeehouse denizens who like to linger.
Little Pizza King
389 Washington St.
With its full menu of appetizers, signature Great Big salads, subs, gyros, Italian specialties, and more than 30 pizza combinations, Little Pizza King will definitely be able to satisfy your appetite. And be sure to come hungry—with low prices, large portions, and endless options, you may end up with a feast. Seating is limited; takeout and delivery are available.
395 Washington St.
This family-owned bakery has been a Brighton institution for more than 50 years. Founded by Daniel Handalian in 1959, the bakery remained in the family for more than 40 years, before being sold to Wanderleia Silva, who runs it with her family. The cakes, pies, cookies, breads, pastries, and muffins are baked in-house daily. There is a huge assortment of ethnic treats, ranging from Brazilian and Italian pastries to Jewish sweets. The bakery also offers fresh fruit smoothies from the Amazon Fruit Company. Consider a custom or photograph cake for your next big party or special event. There are three window stools for those who need their sugar rush before hitting the sidewalk.
403 Washington St.
3 Scoops has over 50 different flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and nondairy frozen items. All products are handmade and organic, with ingredients from local farmers. There is minimal seating available.
407 Washington St.
Athan’s Bakery, according to its website, “brought a little bit of Europe to Boston.” The Mediterranean-inspired menu offers great breakfast, lunch, and dinner options: pastries, eggs, salads, cold sandwiches, hot paninis, and several meat entrées. And if you just want something sweet, stop by for specialty cakes, tarts, mousse tortes, gelato, hand-crafted chocolate, cookies, or baklava, a favorite Mediterranean pastry with layers of filo pastry, nuts, and honey. Rather than taking your treat to go, have a seat inside and enjoy the counter seating and warm interior décor.
A Piece of Heaven
571A Washington St.
Looking for an accessory to match that new dress? A Piece of Heaven boasts a large selection of unique jewelry and vintage items at reasonable prices. This eclectic shop is brimming with pictures, posters, books, kitchenware, small dolls, and sculptures, perfect if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift. The store is a bit cluttered, so you may have to do some searching, but the staff is friendly and eager to help.
The Castle Bar
575 Washington St.
Come to the Castle Bar, just outside Oak Square, to grab a drink and relax with friends. The bar’s bright red door makes it impossible to miss. In addition to a wide selection of libations, the bar offers darts, an Internet Jukebox, and several electronic games. And of course, what would a good pub be without TVs to watch your favorite sports teams? If you want to test out your smarts, be sure to check out the Trivia Thursdays. The Castle Bar does not serve food, but encourages patrons to bring their own or have it delivered from one of the many local restaurants.
90 Rogers Park Ave.
Conveniently located just steps from Washington Street, Rogers Park is a great place to gather with friends to play sports or just catch some sun in a lawn chair. There are baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a playground. The area is dog-friendly as well.
418 Market St.
As well as a long and reasonably priced sushi list, Asahi Sushi offers an extensive menu of appetizers, sashimi, and maki. Most makis cost between $3 and $7. The restaurant’s website has printable coupons for special deals, like a free spicy salmon maki with an order of $25 or more. Asahi Sushi is a dinner-only establishment, opening at 4:30 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday). The place is tiny, so if you have a big party, you may want to look elsewhere.
Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum
20 Chestnut Hill Ave.
Established in 2005, the Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum provides a glimpse of the neighborhood’s history, heritage, and culture. The main room features old photographs and articles chronicling Brighton’s development, some dating as far back as the 1600s. A separate room occasionally features the work of local Brighton artists. Admission is free.
Community Rowing, Inc.
20 Nonantum Rd.
If visiting Brighton’s restaurants and pubs leaves you anxious to burn off some calories, stop by Community Rowing, Inc., and take a spin on the water. No matter how much of a novice or how experienced at rowing you are, there is a class and instructor to fit your needs. You can sign up online or on location. Community Rowing offers one-person shells or sweep rowing for groups of eight. Although your chances of falling into the Charles River are minimal, the organization requires all rowers to have a swim test on file before using the club’s boats. You can complete this test with any certified lifeguard or at the local YMCA. Class prices vary, so check here for more information.
Boston Public Library Brighton Branch
40 Academy Hill Rd.
After an extensive renovation, the Brighton branch of the BPL reopened in December 2010 and today is one of the nicest places in Boston to relax and catch up on reading. Curl up on the lounge area’s beautiful red couch, overlooking the library’s serenity garden, or enjoy one of the bean-shaped chairs in the story nook or a high-rise table in the teen café area. The branch offers a wide selection of readings, lectures, and concerts and has a good collection of books on local Brighton-Allston history, as well as photographs from the Brighton Allston Historical Society archives. Find a calendar of events here. The library is one of the first renovated buildings in Boston to incorporate U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards.
Although most of Boston College’s campus is in Chestnut Hill, in 2004 the school extended its reach into Brighton with the purchase of 43 acres of land from the Archdiocese of Boston, including the former Cardinal’s residence.
Founded in 1863, this Jesuit institution began life in Boston’s South End and moved to Chestnut Hill in 1909. With its superb Gothic architecture, the parklike campus is a wonderful place to stroll, and the college has a small museum as well. The McMullen Museum of Art, in Devlin Hall on the main campus, includes works by American artists John La Farge, William Trost Richards, Frank Stella, and Jackson Pollock, in addition to classical and Christian Flemish tapestries, ca. 1500–1600, Italian paintings depicting sacred scenes, and American landscapes and portraits dating from 1840 to 1940. The museum has presented special exhibitions of work by numerous artists, including Edvard Munch and the surrealist Roberto Matta. Museum admission is free and open to public, but the museum closes between exhibitions and is typically closed summers, reopening in September. Hours during exhibitions are Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Check here for more details about dates and hours of operation.
Getting there: By bus: get on the MBTA 57 bus from one of its stops along Commonwealth Avenue. Get off at Washington Street in Brighton. Or take a MBTA Green Line trolley to the Boston College stop.
Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to Brighton.
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