For many, East Boston is synonymous with Logan International Airport, New England’s largest and the nation’s 19th busiest airport, with approximately 33 million passengers annually. But with its prime waterfront property, this working-class enclave has some of the most breathtaking views of Boston Harbor and the city’s skyline found anywhere.
Established in 1836, the neighborhood was created using landfill to connect five islands in Boston Harbor. The waterfront location made it a center for shipbuilding and other marine industries—a legacy that continues today.
Long a home to various immigrant groups, East Boston offers a wide range of restaurants and cuisines as well as recreational activities. Canadians settled here in the 1840s, followed by the Irish in the 1850s. Russian and Eastern European Jews were the next to arrive, and Italian immigrants came at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, it’s home to a mix of people of Italian and Irish descent and newly arrived Central and South American and Southeast Asian immigrants. The neighborhood’s many ethnic stores and restaurants reflect the tastes and traditions of its diverse residents.
BU Today has compiled a list of some of the best places to visit in East Boston.
Piers Park is ideal for spending the day outdoors. You can walk the 600-foot promenade, exercise using the outdoor fitness machines, or embrace your inner child on the playground. Several decorative gazebos and spray fountains provide relief on hot summer days. The park has direct access to the waterfront and an amazing view of downtown Boston across the harbor. During warm weather months, a series of free concerts is held there.
Piers Park Sailing Center
95 Marginal St.
While you’re at Piers Park, take advantage of the nonprofit sailing center operating there. The center offers lessons for novices, intermediate, and experienced sailors. The Learn to Sail course is 21 hours, taken over a series of weekday evenings or on one intensive three-day weekend. If you did not take lessons at the center and want to sail one of the center’s 23-foot Sonar sailboats, you must pass a “checkout sail.” Early registrants, college students, and East Boston residents can get discounted membership, good for the entire sailing season. You can also purchase five-day passes. The center offers outreach programs for underserved youth, as well as one of the country’s best programs for disabled sailors. With easy access to the Inner Harbor and Harbor Islands, this is one of East Boston’s most popular attractions.
LoPresti Park, along the waterfront in the Maverick Square area, is another great outdoor recreation spot. Grab a ball and head to one of the four-acre park’s two basketball courts (you can play under the lights at night) or put on your helmet and head over to the street hockey rink. The park is also home to a state-of-the-art artificial turf soccer field. You can even go fishing on the waterfront, a popular dusk activity here. For those interested in a more relaxing activity, stroll along the pier and enjoy the beautiful Boston skyline.
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation
A large salt marsh inside the city limits? Who knew? The reservation, open year-round, preserves 152 acres of the 241-acre Belle Isle Marsh, the last remaining salt marsh in Boston. Its protected waters are a breeding ground for numerous fish and shellfish, as well as for native vegetation, and it offers a view of wildlife rarely seen in a metropolitan area. You can take a guided informational walk (well worth it) and scan the marsh, Logan Airport, and the nearby town of Winthrop from an observation tower.
You don’t need to travel to Cape Cod or the North Shore to find a great beach. Just take the MBTA Blue Line to Orient Heights and spend the day at Constitution Beach. Among the park’s amenities are a new bathhouse, tennis and handball courts, a picnic area, and a playground. It’s no wonder it’s one of the city’s most popular beaches. Lifeguards are on duty from June through Labor Day. When you’ve had enough of the beach, cross over the MBTA tracks by the nearby pedestrian overpass and explore the neighborhood’s many dining options.
Condor Street Urban Wild
Once a marine industrial site, this area is now one of Boston’s 39 urban wilds, or natural landscapes, thanks to the efforts of the Urban Wilds Initiative. As well as meadow grasses and salt marshes, it has a boardwalk, walking paths, and a viewing platform overlooking Chelsea Creek. In the winter and spring, harbor porpoises can sometimes be seen swimming along the creek there.
150 Orient Ave.
The most iconic site in East Boston is the 35-foot statue of the Mother of God atop Orient Heights. The Madonna Shrine, built in 1954 from copper and bronze, is the national headquarters of the Don Orione Fathers, an order of Catholic priests. The statue is a replica of one in Rome done by Jewish sculptor Arrigo Minerbi to thank the Don Orione Fathers, who shielded him and his family from the Nazis during World War II. Some of Boston’s best views of the waterfront and downtown skyline can be had from the shrine.
KO at the Shipyard
256 Marginal St., Building 16, Boston Harbor Shipyard
This restaurant features Australian-inspired cuisine, thus explaining the name (KO is an abbreviation of the Australian slang phrase “ken oath” and also of the word knockout), and is best known for its delicious meat- and veggie-filled pies. A KO opened in South Boston in 2010, and a second location in East Boston two years later. Stop by and find out why it was voted Best of East Boston Restaurants 2013 by Boston magazine. Meat lovers should try the beef stew pie: shredded beef simmered for over five hours with garlic, onions, bay leaves, and red wine, under a crisp and buttery puff pastry top. You can also buy a number of Australian grocery items to take home.
La Sanghita Café
389 Maverick St.
La Sanghita Café, based on the premise that “food is and should be our medicine to sustain a healthy way of living,” serves nutrition-rich vegetarian and vegan fare. Dishes like pear-coconut-ginger fritters are prepared using local and organic ingredients. La Sanghita ties together Sanskrit meditation and Latin American culture and has a bilingual menu. Try a taco or quesadilla plate and one of the fruit smoothies or herbal teas. The café sponsors a donation-based community dinner on Sunday nights and offers cooking classes, healthy nights, meditation, and yoga as well as mindful movement classes for families.
305 Meridian St.
Saigon Hut is a testament to the large number of Southeast Asian immigrants who have made East Boston home over the past 30 years. The colorful paper lanterns give this small (eight tables) Vietnamese restaurant a whimsical feel and make it a pleasant place for an intimate meal. The menu has a long list of soups, vermicelli bowls, rice plates, and fried noodles and also has a vegetarian section.
131 Lexington St.
This family-owned restaurant offers traditional regional dishes from Puebla, Mexico. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s known for its superb moles, the richly flavored sauces that are a staple of authentic Poblana cuisine. Unique breakfast items include dulce de leche pancakes, a shrimp fajita omelette, and chilaquiles (corn tortillas sautéed with salsa, shredded chicken, sour cream, queso, onion, avocado, eggs, and refried beans). For lunch or dinner, try some flautas (crispy fried corn tortillas filled with either chicken or potatoes, with lettuce, avocado, and cheese) or albondigas (beef and pork meatballs in a mildly spicy serrano sauce), and end your meal with a chocolate bread pudding or flan.
258 Saratoga St.
If you are in the mood for Italian food, look no further. This eatery has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, as well as the Fox 25 Morning Show and Phantom Gourmet. With an extensive lunch and dinner menu, Rino’s will satisfy your craving for tomato sauce, thick-cut veal, and ravioli. The shrimp scampi and homemade gnocchi are great dinner choices. Chef Anthony DiCenso, whose parents, Rino and Anna, opened the restaurant 25 years ago, is famous for his maxim: “It won’t be sent out until it’s done right.”
111 Chelsea St.
Arguably East Boston’s most famous restaurant, Santarpio’s, established in 1903, has won Boston magazine’s Best of Boston® Award for traditional pizza for three consecutive years. Prized for its pies, the family-owned eatery also serves lamb, steak, and sausage skewers, cooked fresh over an indoor grill. Its welcoming atmosphere is in large part because of the friendly staff. Check out the pictures of heavyweight champions on the wall and pick a song to play on the electronic jukebox in the back.
Oliveira’s Steak House
297 Chelsea St.
Oliveira’s is a must for meat lovers. Although best known for its Brazilian churrasco (barbecue), it has a variety of skewered meats, among them pork sirloin, sausage, sirloin steak, chicken, seasoned with traditional Brazilian spices and sea salt and slow roasted or grilled over an open flame. Diners can either pay a fixed price for an all-you-can-eat buffet or weigh their plates and pay by the ounce. The meats and sides are fresh and selections change every day. Oliveira’s also makes fresh mango, pineapple, and acai juices and many tasty authentic Brazilian desserts.
387 Chelsea St., Day Square
A mainstay since 1924, Jeveli’s bills itself as the oldest Italian restaurant in Boston. Four generations of the Jeveli family have nurtured this destination restaurant, attracting a loyal clientele returning for the dependable service, delicious food, and comfortable atmosphere. Whether you want a fast lunch, a big dinner, or just drinks in the restaurant’s Terminal J Lounge, it’s all here. Try one of the fresh Italian desserts or pick up some spumoni or fresh cannolis on your way out. Bill Clinton stopped at Jeveli’s while he was president, and the room where he ate has been called the White House ever since. Check out the collection of presidential memorabilia, some belonging to Clinton.
Rincon Limeño Restaurant
409 Chelsea St.
This authentic Peruvian restaurant serves breakfast, tapas, soups, seafood, and many traditional plates. Try the seco de cabrito (Peruvian-style lamb stew), arroz con pollo ( rice with chicken), or plato montanero (grilled steak with rice, beans, fried pork, egg, plantains, and salad). It offers a warm and cozy atmosphere and has an authentic Peruvian décor, including a large painting of Machu Picchu.
Royal’s Roast Beef
752 Bennington St.
Directly across the street from Constitution Beach, Royal’s Roast Beef has been serving the East Boston community since 1979 with a variety of sandwiches and wraps, salads, and seafood dishes. The unpretentious restaurant has a recently renovated dining area and takeout and delivery are available. Although famous for its seafood combination dinners, with clams, scallops, shrimp, haddock, and onion rings, and steak and cheese subs, the roast beef sandwiches are what put Royal’s on the map.
1012 Bennington St.
This cozy Colombian restaurant recently reopened, with a renovated interior and some new dishes. Start off your meal with aborrajado (fried sweet plantains with cheese), fried yucca, or a bowl of Columbian mondongo soup, made with tripe. For dinner, order the popular bandeja paisa, consisting of grilled steak, fried pork rinds, a fried egg, sausage, avocado, morcilla (blood sausage), fried plantain, beans, rice, and corn bread. One of the only Columbian restaurants in Boston, El Paisa has earned an “Outstanding” Zagat rating with its unique recipes.
Getting there: Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center, transfer to a Blue Line outbound train, and get off at Maverick, Airport, or Wood Island.
Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to East Boston.
This story originally ran July 19, 2012; it has been updated to include new locations and current information.4 Comments