Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Allston
A guide to eating, shopping, and hanging out just beyond BU
Everyone in and around Boston University has their own unique connection to Allston: a Saturday morning brunch at Lulu’s, that first apartment on Ashford Street, or that table or chair you rescued from the sidewalk during the September move-in/move-out event known as Allston Christmas, when departing tenants leave household items on the sidewalk for new residents to scavenge. It’s safe to say, however, that few recollections involve high-end clothing, artisanal cocktails, and spa treatments. But the new 02134—sometimes called “Rat City”—now mixes local mainstays with some of Boston’s freshest shopping and dining venues.
“I’ve seen a real diversification of the kind of businesses here,” says Katie Reed (GRS’06), a BU historic planning and preservation program graduate and former executive director of nonprofit neighborhood improvement association Allston Village Main Streets.
Allston takes its name from the 18th-century American painter-poet Washington Allston, who lived in Cambridge and famously painted the area in the landscape Fields West of Boston. The neighborhood developed around a major railroad yard and nearby stockyards. Stretching from its southernmost point of the Allston Street T stop to its northernmost point of Soldiers Field Stadium, the area serves as the western terminus for the city of Boston along with neighboring Brighton.
The neighborhood’s busiest nexus is the triangular intersection known as Packard’s Corner, where Harvard Street, Brighton Avenue, and Commonwealth Avenue meet. The area caters to a large student population that calls Allston home. Many immigrants hailing from places like Eastern Europe, South Asia, and South America also make up Allston’s diverse fabric.
The historic neighborhood is currently undergoing a period of unprecedented revitalization. Numerous building projects promise to expand and develop the area with modern projects that are certain to add to the allure of Allston.
Allston Yards is being developed on 10.9 acres of land on Everett Street as a mixed-use property consisting of residential, commercial, and public green spaces. The neighborhood is also expecting a 3,500-capacity music venue, called Roadrunner, set to be the largest general admission indoor music venue in New England when it opens in spring 2022.
Harvard University owns over 350 acres in North Allston, including Harvard Business School. And several buildings were razed to make room for Harvard’s new 497,000-square-foot science and engineering complex, scheduled to open in 2022.
There are lots of interesting places to check out in this constantly evolving neighborhood.
LimeRed Teahouse & Espresso Bar
1092 Commonwealth Ave.
LimeRed serves up creative craft bubble tea drinks, using freshly brewed tea sweetened with brown sugar and topped with your choice of tapioca pearls, aloe, nata de coco, and more. There are nearly a dozen flavors to choose from, but the classic milk tea is a guaranteed delight. You can also head to their espresso bar for a latte or macchiato if bubble tea isn’t your thing. Whatever drink you choose, accompany it with one of the dessert bar’s tasty treats. A macaron or matcha cookie pairs perfectly with any drink. There’s lots of seating, making it the ideal spot to do some work or hang out with friends.
Rhythm ’N Wraps
1096 Commonwealth Ave.
This comfort-vegan restaurant is sure to become a favorite of even die-hard meat lovers. Rhythm ’N Wraps is one of the few Black-owned businesses operating in Allston and offers a global menu with different cultural influences. Try to conquer their Big Shug Burger & Fries, containing Impossible meat topped with grilled mac ’n’ cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun. Looking for a lighter bite? Their Jamaican patties are just the right amount of flaky and savory. The house made Rhythm Punch or mint lemonade is a sweet way to wash it all down. One visit and you’ll discover how impossibly good the food is from Rhythm ’N Wraps.
Super 88 Hong Kong Supermarket & Food Connection
1095 Commonwealth Ave.
Half food court, half supermarket, this sprawling complex is a mecca for anyone seeking authentic East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The Food Connection food court offers a dazzling array of cheap eats at 10 stalls. Poké Boys recently opened, serving up a variety of fresh and healthy bowls of fish, chicken, veggies, and other sides. Other stalls sell Korean, Indian, Japanese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine. And you can get a quick bubble tea to go at Kung Fu Tea. The Hong Kong Supermarket has an array of inexpensive spices and teas, exotic seafood, fruits, noodles, condiments, frozen buns and dumplings, and instant noodles—great for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking.
1245 Commonwealth Ave.
Seoul Soulongtang bills its traditional seolleongtang—a Korean broth soup enriched with ox bones, brisket, marrow, thin noodles, and spices—as “beef soup for the soul.” It’s flavorful and hearty, making it a great liquid lunch or dinner on a cold day. The menu has other Korean specialties, like bulgogi—thinly sliced rib eye steak in a soy sauce–based marinade—and japchae, stir-fried glass noodles with beef.
Hopewell Bar & Kitchen
1277 Commonwealth Ave.
Opened in Allston in 2016, this restaurant follows three principles: serve up terrific drinks and food, take pride in your work, and remember your roots. Try dishes like the cast iron skillet–baked cinnamon roll for brunch, one of four grilled pizzas for lunch, or the roasted mushroom gnocchi for dinner. The extensive cocktail menu will be changing dramatically this fall with modern takes on traditional drinks. Hopewell also has a big beer and whiskey selection. Creative seasonal drinks with and without alcohol—like an apple cider mimosa and pumpkin coffee—are available with brunch. The bar offers shuffleboard, pool, pinball, and old-fashioned arcade games, too. Delivery and takeout are available.
Spike’s Junkyard Dogs
108 Brighton Ave.
It doesn’t have to be the Fourth of July to chow down some hot dogs. You’ll find 100 percent real beef hot dogs on fresh-baked French rolls for around $5. Choose from 12 free topping options (e.g., Spike’s house mustard, Russian dressing, teriyaki sauce) or, for an extra 50 cents, one of 18 special toppings (e.g., hot pepper rings, sautéed onions, sauerkraut). Among the most popular menu items are the Texas Bandit, topped with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, and hot pepper rings, and the Lonely Guy Dog, with mustard, scallions, and sautéed onions. Spike’s also offers fat-free veggie dogs, Angus beef and veggie burgers, wings, chicken sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and subs. Spike’s menu is now available for delivery via Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub. They’re open until 1 am, Monday to Wednesday, and 2 am, Thursday to Sunday—perfect for those looking for a place to satisfy their late-night munchies. If you eat six hot dogs in 90 minutes, you’ll get your picture displayed in the restaurant and a free Spike’s T-shirt.
Carlo’s Cucina Italiana
131 Brighton Ave.
You don’t have to travel as far as the North End to find top-quality Italian cuisine. Carlo’s Cucina Italiana has classic dishes at great prices. Their chicken parm is unforgettable, coated with the perfect amount of homemade sauce and warm cheese. The simple decor and cozy atmosphere only add to the ambience. It’s no wonder the Boston Globe named Carlo’s as one of Boston’s 10 most underrated restaurants. The restaurant has been a staple in the neighborhood for over 40 years. They also offer takeout options for most dishes. When you don’t feel like hiking to Hanover Street, Carlo’s Cucina Italiana is the place to go.
161 Brighton Ave.
Tavern in the Square first opened in 2004 in Cambridge’s Central Square as a neighborhood sports bar. The chain now has nine locations, with more on the way. The Allston location underwent a complete overhaul in summer 2017, with a new interior featuring three full-service bars, bigger TV screens, a new club room and lounge, and an enhanced audiovisual system. There’s also a revamped menu with an emphasis on shareable plates and innovative cocktails. The new and improved digs offer brunch with live DJs every Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm. The menu includes small bites like fried pickle chips and guacamole, table shares like the veggie or wing sampler, and burgers, sandwiches, and a range of delicious entrées, including cornflake chicken and waffles. On the drink menu, there are now “fish bowls” designed to be split among two or more people (try the Party Girl Fishbowl, with New Amsterdam Red Berry Vodka, strawberry rum, raspberry liquor, elderflower, lemon, soda water, and fresh berries). Check the restaurant’s dress code (make sure to wear belt loops) and hours online before heading over.
Fish Market Sushi Bar
170 Brighton Ave.
This sushi spot isn’t the most spacious of restaurants, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in friendly service, reasonable prices, and incredibly fresh, tasty sushi. Try some of the special maki, like the spicy crispy tuna maki with flying fish roe, tempura flakes, cucumber, and spicy mayo, or the spicy crispy salmon with cucumber, cream cheese, spicy mayo, and tempura flakes. The menu includes hand rolls, sashimi, and entrées from both the sushi bar and kitchen, including chicken or beef teriyaki or broiled eel.
128 Brighton Ave.
Chicken lovers rejoice: Crave’s signature chicken uses a special frying technique which gives it an amazing crunch while retaining its natural flavors. Diners can choose from several different sauces. Try the “Furious” sauce (extra spicy garlic). You’ll be amazed at how good it is. You can order wings, drumsticks, boneless, or a combo. Need something a little heartier? The restaurant’s chicken and waffles are delicious and golden. For those looking for something other than poultry, try the kimchi or ramen.
172 Brighton Ave.
A Korean restaurant with Mexican fusion options, Coreanos offers quite a range, from Korean fried chicken and kimchi quesadillas to tacos and tteokbokki (soft rice cakes, vegetables, and fish cakes cooked in a sweet red chili sauce), and a drink menu that includes a sweet, refreshing peach limeade and Vietnamese cold brew iced coffee. We recommend the Coreanos bowl—which includes rice, a protein, and veggies topped with flavorful sauces—or the very tasty chicken poppers dressed with so much sauce that you’ll need a fork to handle them. Note: the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
252 Brighton Ave.
Replay’d, Allston’s only retro video game shop, is a gamer’s paradise. You’ll find used copies of nearly every new game and console for sale, but fans with a taste for nostalgia will love looking through the cases. Rare collectible titles from years past to childhood-favorite consoles like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis are available at reasonable prices. All games come pre-owned, which makes for some great deals. No other shop can offer customers nearly every game from Atari to PS5. Replay’d is a haven for die-hard and casual gamers alike. Schedule plenty of time for browsing—you’ll need it.
421 Cambridge St.
Lulu’s is known for tasty and imaginative comfort food and is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Among the brunch items: chocolate chip pancakes just like grandma made ’em, and the Weekday Hash, with tater tots topped with braised short rib, scallions, hollandaise sauce, and over easy eggs. Brunch is served seven days a week until 3 pm, so you’ll have no excuses to miss it. One of the most popular lunch entrées is a Duck Confit Poutine, with shredded duck, poutine duck gravy, cheese curds, and hand-cut fries. The dinner menu has tasty options like short rib mac ’n’ cheese and Mama’s Fried Chicken, with mashed potatoes and arugula.
Bazaar on Cambridge
424 Cambridge St.
Hankering for a taste of Eastern Europe? Then stop by this well-stocked gourmet supermarket, with its Russian, Georgian, Armenian, and Polish cuisine. Over half of the store is stocked with imported goods, ranging from chocolate, drinks, and candy to liquor and packaged foods. There are myriad options in the bakery section, with lunch sandwiches, bread, and sweets. Try the giant cherry Danish. You’ll also find produce, smoked fish, lamb kebabs, pirogues, and much more. Bazaar is famous for its poppy seed rolls.
Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese
485 Cambridge St.
Roxy’s began as a food truck, selling grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers around the city. The cheese-colored food truck is still a city staple, but Roxy’s now also has brick-and-mortar storefronts in both Allston and Cambridge’s Central Square. Hungry customers can enjoy the same mouthwatering burgers and inventive grilled cheese sandwiches (we recommend the Allston, with herbed goat cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, and arugula), but in the comfort of a sit-down restaurant. Roxy’s carries sides like poutine and tomato soup, a stellar house-made lemonade, and for those 21-plus, a rotating beer menu.
501 Cambridge St.
Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t the only option for coffee and donuts. This no-frills mom-and-pop donut shop has been an Allston mainstay since the 1950s. If you’re there when doors open at 7 am, you’re likely to see early risers sitting across the table from students who haven’t been to bed yet. The glazed donuts are the big draw. Get there early while they’re still warm. Other donut flavors include honeydew, lemon, black raspberry, Bavarian, apple spice, and honey dip. You’ll also find a full breakfast menu, with breakfast sandwiches, omelets, eggs, and pancakes. On the lunch menu are salads, soups, and sandwiches. And the coffee is a bargain at just $2.05 for a large cup, a lot less than what you’ll pay at chains like Starbucks or Caffe Nero.
One North Beacon St.
Vegetarians and vegans flock to Grasshopper and it’s no wonder. It may be the only vegan Chinese restaurant in the Boston area. The spicy steak fillet, for example, is actually sliced soft tofu, pan-fried with red bell peppers and onions in a black bean sauce and served over a bed of steamed spinach. The No Name—battered gluten in a sweet-and-sour sauce, with steamed vegetables and sesame seeds—is another popular dish. The restaurant offers house specials for around $13, which include a main dish, soup of the day, salad, and your choice of white or brown rice.
Lone Star Taco Bar
479 Cambridge St.
Lone Star is known not only for tacos and other Mexican street food–inspired offerings, but also for brunch, served all day, with dishes like huevos rancheros and jalapeño corn cakes. There are taco choices for both meat eaters and vegetarians, with fillings such as beef, chorizo, fish, and tofu. Small-plate dishes, like the sweet grilled street corn topped with salty cotija cheese, have gained devoted fans. Lone Star also draws a big nighttime crowd with its inventive cocktails, its extensive list of tequilas and mezcals, and its late-night menu (11:30 pm to 1:30 am).
72 Brighton Ave.
This Taiwanese eatery has a following drawn to its popular peppery popcorn chicken, wontons, noodle soups, stir-fries, bubble teas, and huge portions of shaved ice. Their expanded drink menu includes delicious options like milk fruit tea, dolphin bay snow, and taormino tapioca. Enjoy the small restaurant’s kitschy nautical-themed décor with some cheap and tasty eats.
80 Brighton Ave.
Shabu-Zen is a magnet for anyone seeking authentic Asian-style hot pot, where you cook your own meats, seafood, and vegetables to the desired temperature in a simmering hot broth in the center of the table. It’s an ideal dish for hungry students to share in an interactive dining experience. There are a variety of proteins available—boneless short ribs, pork, scallops, shrimp, chicken, and rib eye beef—and eight tasty broths to choose from. Try the Korean kimchi broth, a blend of pickled and salty. You can order your hot pot in one of two sizes: regular and jumbo, depending on how hungry you are and the size of your party. Shabu-Zen serves up plenty of sides, appetizers, and sushi for those wanting something other than a hot pot.
109 Brighton Ave.
The first thing you notice about Punjab Palace, which specializes in Northern Indian cuisine, is the aromatic scent of spices. Inexpensive meets top-quality food in this idyllic dining experience. The dishes are rich, and pack in plenty of flavor. Don’t miss out on their chicken tikka masala paired with their homemade naan bread. For a yummy and sweet dessert, try the creamy rice pudding. This restaurant has been rated as one of the best Indian restaurants in Boston for a good reason.
The Horse Allston
116 Brighton Ave.
Formerly known as White Horse Tavern, and recently renamed The Horse Allston, this eatery has retained its former casual, comfy ambiance, a fine backdrop to a sit-down meal or a casual game of billiards. The tavern hosts live music on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 to 11 pm (no cover charge included). The tavern’s twelve high-def TVs constantly play the biggest basketball games and sporting events from all over, making it a popular destination for sport fanatics and fantasy football champions. A fresh redesign during the pandemic gives the tavern a modern feel while retaining customer favorites, such as the two pool tables, seasonal patio, and dueling pop-a-shot machines. It’s a great place to take the parents when they visit or celebrate a special occasion with friends. Note: the restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Brighton Music Hall
158 Brighton Ave.
Formerly called Harpers Ferry, this music venue has become a favorite of Allston residents and music lovers from all over Boston. It’s known for hosting some of the nation’s best touring indie and alternative acts. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster, at the Paradise Rock Club box office (617-562-8800) at 967 Commonwealth Ave., or at the Music Hall one hour before events begin. Check here for upcoming shows. Tickets are not replaceable, so treat them like cash.
200 Brighton Ave.
This dive bar is an Allston staple. The mostly under-30 crowd gathers here on weekends to take advantage of free all-you-can-eat popcorn and cheap pitchers of beer (local brands include Wormtown, Notch, and Narragansett). Although food is not served, and the bar is cash only, the place is popular with students, who come to enjoy the pool table, jukebox, dartboards, and weird computer games. This is the place to go for a chill night of socializing, as “the Sil” is famous for attracting a wide spectrum of patrons from all of Boston’s scenes.
Café Brazil Bakery
125 Harvard Ave.
The aromatic smells of coffee and fresh pastries hit your nose as soon as you walk into Café Brazil Bakery. A haven for coffee lovers, the bakery offers a section of fresh-brewed options, including espressos, cappuccinos, Americanos, cold brews, and lattes. There are many delectable pastries and snacks behind the glass, but you’ll regret not trying the sweet bread, a traditional staple of Brazilian bakeries. The empanadas and croquettes will appeal to the hungry customers looking for something a bit more substantial. The combined price of a coffee and pastry is under $5, a deal you’ll be hard-pressed to find at any other cafe. Other traditional options include a sweet and smooth flan and milk cake. For Brazilian students missing home, or anyone wanting to sample a traditional Brazilian café,it’s a must.
Garlic ’n Lemons
133 Harvard Ave.
Offering Mediterranean food at reasonable prices, this mom-and-son-operated restaurant is one of Allston’s lesser-known treasures. There is a wide array of menu options to appeal to both carnivores and vegetarians. The shawarma, kebabs, Greek salads, and falafel are fresh and prepared quickly. One taste and you’ll feel as though you’ve gone on a trip to the Mediterranean.
Basics Carpet and Furniture
151 Harvard Ave.
Basics Carpet and Furniture has been helping students settle into apartments for over 35 years. The store sells a wide variety of reasonably priced and appealing furniture, rugs, and decor for the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. Desks with built-in outlets, platform beds, and matching night table and dresser sets are all available. And they offer same-day delivery on all furniture, much of which comes preassembled. So, skip the hour-long trip to Ikea and shop local for all your apartment needs.
Tous les Jours
152 Harvard Ave.
Those with a sweet tooth will want to head over to this French-Asian bakery just a short walk from West Campus. The chain, which began in South Korea, opened its second Boston location in Allston in 2017, serving up mouthwatering pastries, cakes, and breads. Try the honey bun cake bread or some of the house-made macarons with a cup of coffee or some bubble tea. Tous les Jours also has a delicious selection of sandwiches and a welcoming environment.
155 Harvard Ave.
If you’re thinking about a tattoo, this is the place to go. There are currently six artists on staff and consultations can be scheduled over the phone. Prices are lower than, or comparable to, other tattoo parlors in the area. If you’re a tattoo novice, you can flip through the artists’ portfolios on Regeneration’s website to decide who can best draw what you have in mind. Custom tattoos must be made by appointment via email or Instagram, but they do offer walk-ins for flash tattoos. However, make sure you are over 18 years of age and bring your ID with you, or service will be refused. Cash or Venmo is preferred for payment. Check out their Instagram @regenerationtattoos.
174 Harvard Ave.
Looking for a casual breakfast, brunch, or a quick coffee fix? You’ll find it @UNION. There are plenty of delicious breakfast and lunch items to choose from, along with an extensive coffee menu served up in a cozy, inviting space. Caffeine lovers take note: @Union offers bottomless cups of coffee if you order a meal, and you’ll want to—the food is too good to pass up. Try the brioche French toast—add strawberries, bananas, blueberries, or chocolate chips to make it even sweeter. Not in the mood for something sweet? Try the Cajun hash with onion, two eggs any style, and buttered toast. @UNION sells its coffee, made with 100 percent fair-trade Arabica beans, by the pound, so you can take some home for brewing later.
190 Harvard Ave.
Short for “Addictive Way Of Life,” AWOL is Allston’s best bet for sneakerheads looking for that next pair to add to their collections. The small store is lined not just with sneakers, but also cutting-edge apparel (brands include Bleached Goods, Stussy, Ksubi, and more). You’ll also find more familiar brands like Jordan and New Balance. The shop provides screen-printing services so you can customize your clothes, as well. Their prices beat what you’ll find at many other sneaker boutiques, and the carefully curated selection of footwear, apparel, and accessories make AWOL an essential stop for fashion fiends.
The Glenville Stops
87 Glenville Ave.
Specializing in Latin-inspired cuisine, this gastropub’s small-plate-centric menu is full of appetizing bar bites, salads, soups, sandwiches, and entrées to entice your inner foodie. The real stars, however, are the expansive drink menu—with ciders and 31 craft beers on tap, including lagers, saisons, weissbier, meads, stouts, and ales—and a selection of dozens of wines from a 1,000-square-foot wine cellar. For a cheap date night, swing by from 5 to 6 pm for $1 Rising Tides Cape-Select Oysters.
318 Lincoln St.
Vivant Vintage has been serving up fashion seven days a week for the last seven years. This eccentric vintage store has racks and shelves filled with a wide selection of denim, leather, crystals, and jewelry. Their ’90s style shirts and accessories serve up plenty of nostalgia. Every item is artfully curated from private collectors rather than the public, meaning every item you buy has a unique backstory. The store hopes to resume hosting live events, including poetry readings, music, and tarot and tea readings, in the near future. The vibes are great and the selection is even better. Be sure to stop by on Wednesday when the store offers a 15 percent discount to students and teachers.
267 Western Ave.
This hip spot on Western Avenue, formerly a dry cleaner and auto body garage, has been transformed into a space for creative programs and events. Made possible by a Harvard University initiative designed to energize Western Avenue with retail and creative programming, Zone 3 has hosted outdoor movie nights, holiday markets, and art installations in partnership with various community organizations. It’s also home to the PRX Podcast Garage, a public podcast studio that offers studio space and radio equipment to local audio producers and those interested in audio storytelling. During the warmer months, Zone 3 hosts Aeronaut Allston, a musical beer garden run by Aeronaut Brewing Company for those 21-plus. For a list of upcoming events, check out Zone 3’s calendar.
The Breakfast Club
270 Western Ave.
Named for the classic 1985 coming-of-age movie, this retro diner is decked out in 1980s memorabilia. The popular brunch menu features dishes inspired by your favorite breakfast club misfits, like the Criminal (two eggs any style with home fries and toast, along with choice of bacon, sausage, or ham) or the Princess (a Belgian waffle topped with seasonal fresh fruit and whipped cream). The diner’s meatloaf, milkshakes, and Nutella waffles help explain the lines that form on weekends.
Getting there: By foot, walk down Comm Ave away from Kenmore Square. You’ll know you’ve reached Allston when the avenue veers left. By MBTA, take the Green Line B trolley to either Harvard Avenue or Packard’s Corner. The 66 bus also shuttles back and forth through different sections of the neighborhood.
Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the Allston area.