Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: The South End
Trends overlay classics along Tremont Street
One of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods, and one of its most culturally diverse, the South End has a rich history. Bordered by the Back Bay, Chinatown, and Roxbury, the primary commercial area runs along Tremont Street, Columbus Avenue, and Harrison Avenue. Most of the residential cross streets are named after the towns (Dedham, Newton, Canton, Dover, etc.) that were served by the former Boston and Providence Railroad, which originally bordered the South End.
Developed in the mid-19th century to relieve overcrowding in downtown Boston and Beacon Hill, the neighborhood, originally a narrow strip of land surrounded by salt marshes connecting Boston to Roxbury, was created with landfill from nearby Needham. Prominent architect Charles Bulfinch (the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Common, and much of the US Capitol), designed the new neighborhood.
Today, Bulfinch’s imprint can still be found. Tree-lined streets are graced by connected brick bow-front townhouses surrounded by iron gates and built around a series of shaded pocket parks, many with elegant fountains. In 1973, the South End was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “the largest urban Victorian neighborhood in the country.”
The area has long had cycles of boom and bust. By the 1880s many of its wealthy founding families had been replaced by waves of immigrants from Ireland, Lebanon, and Greece, and tenements and settlement houses were built to accommodate them. During the 1940s, the South End became home to a vibrant African American middle class. At the same time, it began to attract gay men and women drawn by the many single-sex rooming houses that provided them with social cover.
By the early 1960s the area had become synonymous with crime and poverty. But it underwent another gentrification beginning in the late 1970s, led primarily by gay men.
Today, the South End is one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, both economically and racially. Still home to a sizable gay community, it also has a considerable Hispanic population. Seven-figure townhouses abut several large subsidized housing projects. And it has become a popular place to work for artists. Pricey restaurants like chef Barbara Lynch’s Butcher Shop, B&G Oysters, and Aquitaine Bar à Vin Bistrot draw locals as well as those from surrounding suburbs. But there are still plenty of places to grab good cheap food and lots of trendy boutiques and performing arts venues. Below is a sampling.
Southwest Corridor Park follows the Orange Line nearly five miles, from Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain to Back Bay station. A stroll along the section between the Mass Ave and Back Bay subway stops is a great way to start a visit to the South End. The gently meandering path, popular with dog walkers, joggers, and cyclists, is dotted with community gardens maintained by local residents.
427 Massachusetts Ave.
The sole remainder of a nexus of famous jazz clubs (among them the High Hat, the Savoy Ballroom, and the Wig Wam), Wally’s has been a neighborhood institution since 1947. Its name comes from owner Joseph Walcott (better known as Wally), who died in 1998 at 101. As jazz’s popularity waned, in the early 1960s Walcott began featuring up-and-coming artists from Boston’s nearby conservatories. Today, the club continues to provide a platform for emerging jazz talents, offering live music—funk, blues, and salsa, as well as jazz—365 days a year. And Wally’s continues to be run by Wally’s descendants, making it the oldest jazz club in the country to be maintained by one family.
111 Dartmouth St.
Brownstone is one of the few restaurants in Boston that serves brunch every day of the week. And with tantalizing dishes like pulled pork eggs Benedict with mac ‘n’ cheese sauce and onion rings, the menu offers a fresh take on everyone’s favorite meal. Brownstone is also an excellent venue for a group dinner or a drink at the bar with friends. Some of the dinner menu standouts: inccrab cake tots, a chicken katsu sandwich, and chicken nom noms, which come with Hawaiian BBQ sauce and ranch dressing.
100 Chandler St.
You can hear Delux before you see it. The music in this crowded, windowless hipster dive bar–restaurant tucked away from the more posh eateries varies, but is always loud. Walls are plastered with old LP covers and festooned with Christmas lights (one wall is dedicated to Elvis memorabilia), and a portrait of Dolly Parton at Symphony Hall dating to 1979 stands out among the eclectic décor. The drinks (including bottles of Schlitz and Narragansett tall boys) and the seasonal better-than-dive-bar menu (entrées like sea bass, hanger steak, and pulled pork sandwiches) are priced right. The menu changes often. Be sure to bring cash—Delux does not take credit cards.
209 Columbus Ave.
The owners of Club Café say that when it opened in 1983, it was the first gay club in Boston to have windows—patrons didn’t have to hide from passersby. Still a favorite gay restaurant, bar, and club, it serves lunch and dinner and a popular Sunday buffet brunch. It hosts dancing, trivia, bingo, karaoke nights, and special events like drag shows. Entrées such as pizzas, avocado egg rolls, pork ossobuco, steak tips, and fillet of cod are served till 9 pm Sunday to Wednesday and 10 pm Thursday to Saturday. However, late-night diners can order from the bar menu until midnight or 1 am, depending on the day. Additionally, the restaurant is closed to everyone under 21 after 9:30 pm.
433 Columbus Ave.
Anchovies is authentic Italian. Take a seat at one of the high booths or a bar stool, and you’ll be fed and treated well at a reasonable price. Named Boston’s Best Cozy Bar in 2017 by Improper Bostonian, it offers classics like linguine with meatballs, chicken or eggplant parmigiana, and penne with chicken and broccoli. It’s a great place for night owls since the kitchen is open 7 days a week until 1:30 am.
517 Columbus Avenue
Named for the mother of its executive pastry chef, Café Madeleine serves up elegant, authentic French pastries. With an open show kitchen, customers can watch as chefs turn out macarons, tartes aux pommes, éclairs, and delicious almond- and ham and cheese–filled croissants. The café also sells takeout sandwiches and a delicious croque monsieur for lunch, and it celebrated its fifth year in existence this summer.
563 Columbus Ave.
Widely hailed as the best coffee shop for studying in Boston, Render is known both for its delicious food and drinks and its comfortable back room, which is filled with natural light. It serves up rich coffee, several tea options, and a menu that includes bagels and a half dozen lunch sandwiches. Getting a table may be tough at this South End favorite, but it’s worth the wait (or an early arrival).
492 Tremont St.
One visit here, and you may forswear Dunkin’ Donuts forever. The unique flavors—like apple cider or salted toffee—are fantastic. Stop back in a couple weeks later, and the flavors may be completely different. This artisanal doughnut shop—the only one in Boston with doughnuts baked on site—is known for its creative, ever-changing take on the classic breakfast treat, with both airy raised doughnuts made from brioche dough and cake doughnuts, monkey bread, and of course, coffee. They’ll even slice a doughnut in half and make an ice cream sandwich. Natural and local ingredients are used whenever possible. Note: the tiny shop has no seating (a shame, since the open kitchen has plenty of action), but there are a couple of benches out front. And if you want to skip the line that forms outside the door at peak hours, you can preorder in advance. Be sure to check out Blackbird Doughnuts’ other locations: next door to Target in Fenway, Harvard Square, and Brighton. You can take a look at their constantly rotating flavors here.
513 Tremont St.
Known for its thin-crust pizzas and homemade ice cream, Picco is a South End favorite, offering soups, salads, pasta dishes, snacks—like pumpkin ravioli and beef and pork meatballs—and most notably, pizzas. The wine menu features wines from Italy, France, Austria, California, and Argentina, and its 17 daily beer offerings (from pale ales and ciders to lagers and stouts) rotate regularly.
Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar
525 Tremont Street
With a warm walnut décor, friendly staff, an impressive wine cellar, and a menu influenced by the flavors of Spain, South America, and the Mediterranean, this Spanish tapas restaurant, helmed by chef Emilio Garcia, offers charcuterie and cheese plates, an extensive tapas selection (bacon-wrapped dates, chorizo with figs, potato tortilla), salads, and larger dishes for two or more people. It also has a popular weekend brunch and special dining events throughout the year. The kitchen is open until 1 am seven days a week.
532 Tremont St.
This Greek deli/supermarket/restaurant is a favorite of Top Chef winner Kristen Kish, who is known to add Giorgiana’s chicken-lemon rice soup to her innovative fried chicken dish. At Giorgiana’s you’ll find delicious sandwiches like the Obama (Ovengold turkey with pepper jack, mozzarella, bacon, basil mayo, and Dijon on multigrain bread served with lettuce and tomato), the Donald (Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, Granny Smith apples, and deli mustard on a ciabatta with lettuce and tomato), and the Hillary (buffalo chicken breast, bacon, blue cheese, coleslaw, ranch dressing, and cucumber on a ciabatta with lettuce and tomato). But this is also the place to go for traditional Greek sandwiches like falafel wraps and lamb gyros. Hours are 7 am to 10 pm daily.
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St.
Among the city’s most vibrant cultural hubs, the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) supports four resident arts organizations and theater companies (Artmorpheus, Company One, SpeakEasy Stage, and the Theater Offensive) and houses an art gallery and studio space for local artists. One of the buildings, the Cyclorama, a massive brick rotunda built in 1884 and topped by a copper skylight dome, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Formerly home to a bazaar and later a flower market, the 23,000-square-foot space is now a venue for art shows, public events, and private functions. In 2004, through a partnership with the Huntington Theatre Company, the BCA opened the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion, with two performance spaces: the 372-seat Virginia Wimberly Theatre and the 250-seat Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre. The pavilion is a second stage for the Huntington, as well as a venue for a number of smaller companies.
541 Tremont St.
This exuberant bohemian restaurant–music venue has hip vibes, cool tunes, and delicious plates. Try tasty appetizers like “fall-off-the-bone” baby back ribs, and then go for one of the entrées, like the Beehive Royal Cheeseburger or butternut squash lasagna. Live music multiple nights a week makes it a premier nightlife destination and a great place to hear local musicians and up-and-coming jazz bands. There’s a popular brunch on weekends.
Banyan Bar & Refuge
553 Tremont Street
Banyan, a modern Asian gastropub, serves a range of delicacies like oyster bao buns and tuna nachos, as well as noodle- and rice-based dishes. The modern décor includes showstopping chandeliers made from tree branches, and diners can enjoy a meal on the patio during warm weather. There is a selection of sake, white and red wines, beer, and specialty cocktails. It opens at 4 pm every day, the kitchen closes at 10 pm Sunday to Thursday and 11 pm Friday and Saturday, and the bar closes at 11 pm Sunday to Thursday and 1 am Friday and Saturday. Bonus: they serve $1 dumplings daily from 4 to 6 pm.
Frenchie Wine Bistro
560 Tremont St.
This restaurant serves modern cuisine with a French touch, paired with great wines. Headed by chef Alex Falconer, former executive chef at Kenmore Square’s now-closed Josephine, it cooks up lunch and dinner daily, with brunch on weekends, from 10 am to 4 pm. Dinner standouts: a selection of cheese and charcuterie plates, traditional steak frites, duck magret, and salt-encrusted branzino. Those with a sweet tooth can end a meal with crème brûlée and mousse au chocolat.
584 Tremont St.
This “cozy and casual Mediterranean cafe” has popular dinner items like pan-roasted chicken, rigatoni with fennel sausage, and veal scallopini. It’s equally famous for its weekend brunches—however, be prepared to wait. But the huevos rancheros, sweet stack (three buttermilk pancakes with caramelized bananas, Belgian chocolate, whipped maple butter, and powdered sugar), and smoked salmon eggs Benedict are worth it. Dinner reservations are strongly recommended.
Niche Urban Garden Supply
619 Tremont St.
Named Improper Bostonian’s Boston’s Best Plant Shop 2017, this cozy store provides a tranquil sanctuary, with a wide array of plants and pots of every size, shape, and shade of green. From tiny potted succulents to three-foot-tall cactuses to ready-to-plant vegetables and herbs for your backyard garden (spring and summer), Niche has it all. Not sure where to start? No problem: its website has all the information you need to know your plant’s niche (hence the shop’s name) in its environment, so you can be fully prepared when you go in and talk to one of the shop’s knowledgeable staff members. Note: Niche is closed on Tuesdays.
Olives & Grace
623 Tremont St.
Here you’ll find a shop stocked with tea, chocolate, candles, ceramics, jewelry, and other small-batch delights for men, women, and children, crafted by artisans from across the country and around the world. It’s the place to find a unique birthday or housewarming gift. Many of its wares are made locally, like the handmade mugs from Jamaica Plain–based Ogusky Ceramics and the homemade peppermint patties from Seacoast Sweets in Newburyport, Mass. The shop also sells housewares from BADALA, a nonprofit fundraising organization that employs women from East Africa and Central America to combat poverty and sex trafficking.
Heartbreak Hill Running Company
652 Tremont St.
Founded by former BC track stars Dan Fitzgerald and Justin Burdon to put a fun and fashionable spin on traditional running gear and fuse fashion with function, Heartbreak Hill also has stores in Newton and Cambridge, and in 2019 opened a location in Chicago. It carries the running industry’s top brands and has an impressive rainbow-colored wall of shoes for both runners and nonrunners. The store also offers several free run clubs for all levels, studio classes, professional personal coaching, and a club/training program, the Heartbreakers.
1395 Washington St.
You may want to make this gastropub your new neighborhood hangout. Sure, Beacon Hill has the original Cheers, but the welcoming staff here will make you feel like everyone knows your name, too. Popular for its cocktails, its seasonal menu changes weekly, depending on what’s fresh. Diners can feast on bites, shares, poutines, burgers, and main dishes. It’s all delicious.
Cathedral of the Holy Cross
1400 Washington St.
The cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, opened in 1875, signaling the city’s demographics shift from Protestant to Irish Catholic. Designed in the Gothic revival style, it is 364 feet long and 120 feet high and contains one of the country’s finest pipe organs. Today, the cathedral serves a diverse faith-based community, including English- and Spanish-speaking congregations, a German apostolate, and Ge’ez Rite Catholics from Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as a large traditional Latin Mass community. It is the largest Catholic church in New England and has played an important role in the life of Boston’s evolving immigrant communities.
Boomerangs Special Edition
1407 Washington St.
Boomerangs Special Edition is the upmarket version of this chain of thrift stores, whose proceeds benefit the nonprofit AIDS Action, which provides services and advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Like the other Boomerangs locations, this one sells gently used clothing, furniture, housewares, and jewelry, but the goods are higher end. If you’re looking for elegance, but don’t want to pay elegant prices, this is the place for designer fashion at a good price. Best of all, you’ll be supporting a worthy cause.
Foodie’s Urban Market
1421 Washington St.
You can pick up a gallon of milk and some eggs here, but this is the South End, so it’s not just the hardwood floors and stamped tin ceiling that make this place different from your average neighborhood market. In the produce bins are hard-to-find items such as sunflower sprouts and organic wheatgrass. The deli has prepared lunch dishes like chicken salad with grapes and walnuts, sweet potato salad, and chicken empanadas. There’s also a salad bar, with classic ham and macaroni, and red bliss potato and quinoa salads for a quick snack, befitting the store’s slogan: “For gourmet and every day.”
1525 Washington St.
Stella offers modern twists on authentic Italian dishes, like pork Milanese and seafood risotto, and has an outside dining patio that makes it a great place to visit in warm weather. Although the entrées can be pricey, $6 appetizers are available at the bar between 4 and 6 pm Monday through Friday. It has gluten-free, vegetarian, and kids’ menus as well as a Sunday brunch.
Flour Bakery and Café
1595 Washington St.
Blue hospital scrubs and stethoscopes are a common sight among the lunch crowd at this renowned bakery and sandwich shop a couple of blocks from the BU Medical Campus. Indoors, patrons stake out a square foot or two while waiting for their food, coming from a seasonal menu and cooked by a 2018 James Beard Award–winning baker, Joanne Chang. The pastries—among them the sticky buns that usurped Bobby Flay on his Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay and the lemon-raspberry cake—are legendary. Be forewarned: the sticky buns sell out quickly during the lunch hour, so plan on arriving early if you want one. A saying chalked on the menu board urges Flour patrons to “make life sweeter…eat dessert first.”
1638 Washington St.
Taking its name from police speak for lunch break, this family-owned corner café serves a full menu all day long: breakfast sandwiches, paninis, hot dogs, salads, and soups. Lunches tend toward stalwart sandwich classics like smoked ham and cheese, BLT, and Genoa salami. And while it can’t compete with Flour for sweets, it offers its own temptations: Richardson’s ice cream (with favorites such as maple walnut, cookie dough, totally turtle, and purple cow), and brownies, cookies, and homemade baklava.
1704 Washington Street
This Barcelona-style tapas bar serves traditional and modern small plates made with local and sustainable ingredients, as well as an eclectic wine list and cocktail menu. Open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner seven nights a week, it serves a Sunday brunch that attracts patrons from all over the city. Dinner reservations are not accepted, so plan to arrive early. Some favorites from the kitchen of James Beard Award–winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette: croquettes de bacalao (salt cod croquettes), gambas al ajillo (grilled garlic shrimp with chilies, parsley, and lemon), and maíz asado (grilled corn with aioli, lime, Espelette pepper, and aged cheese).
59 East Springfield St.
This tiny, unpretentious sandwich shop’s name says it all. Breakfast and lunch are the only options here, but when homemade soups, pressed sandwiches, and bagelwiches taste this good, who needs dinner? Just across the street from Boston Medical Center, it’s popular with med students, faculty, and staff (you can call in your order ahead). Try the Upstream panini: smoked salmon, green apple–cucumber slaw, lemon aioli, and baby lettuces, and top it off with one of the eatery’s oh-so-gooey triple chocolate chip cookies.
SoWa Open Market
530 Harrison Ave.
From May through October, a parking lot in the SoWa district is transformed into an artisan market every Sunday (except holiday weekends). Artists and craftspeople set up shop under white tents, with more than 175 rotating vendors. Check out the adjacent vintage market, the farmers market at 500 Harrison Avenue, offering fresh produce, baked goods, meats, jams, and flowers, and the beer and wine garden open Sundays at 540 Harrison Avenue. Hungry? Head over to the food truck bazaar parked at 540 Harrison Avenue. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm.
Cinquecento Roman Trattoria
500 Harrison Avenue
Cinquecento (five hundred in Italian) has a contemporary, casual, energetic Roman trattoria–like atmosphere, a dinner menu, and a weekend-only prix-fixe brunch menu. Among the dinner standouts: pan-seared branzino with braised escarole, creme fraiche, and foraged mushrooms, butternut squash and ricotta ravioli, and grilled veal tagliata with lemon caper sauce, broccolini, and white beans. Diners walk up an illuminated cast-iron-and-glass staircase to the main dining room and bar. The downstairs private dining room is for parties and functions. The patio, open during warmer months, is a big draw with locals for its outdoor bar and comfortable chairs. There is adjacent complimentary parking.
Gaslight, Brasserie du Coin
560 Harrison Ave.
With its handcrafted Parisian zinc bar, beamed wooden ceilings, mosaic tiles, and vintage mirrors, Gaslight puts a modern twist on classic French style. Lively and often loud, it has a variety of seating options—from café and communal tables to booths and banquettes—as well as an interesting wine selection (all French) and some of the best pommes frites you’ll find anywhere. A bit on the expensive side, it’s still a solid choice for dinner or a weekend brunch. An outdoor patio provides a romantic setting for a candlelight dinner during warm weather and there is free parking in the adjacent lot for three and a half hours.
Estragon Tapas Bar
700 Harrison Ave.
Estragon offers excellent tapas at reasonable prices. Classic dishes such as albóndigas de buey (meatballs with brandy cream), roasted Brussels sprouts with chorizo and golden raisins (one of the most popular items), and several superb paellas explain why the place has so many repeat customers. Enjoy a quiet weeknight meal, but on weekends it’s bustling and reservations are recommended. An outdoor patio offers great people-watching during warm weather.
535 Albany St.
This mom-and-pop diner is the place to go for cheap comfort food served up in a cozy environment. Everything on the menu is $10 or less, and the Koufos family, who own the place, seem to know everyone’s name. Go often enough, and they’ll know yours, too. Try the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich at breakfast and the Greek kebab wrap at lunch. The restaurant is open from 6 am to 2:30 pm Monday to Friday, closed weekends.
253 Shawmut Ave.
A neighborhood favorite, Coppa offers innovative Italian dishes by chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, both James Beard Award winners. You’ll find a seasonally updated menu that sources local ingredients to create both classic and new dishes, including pastas and pizzas cooked in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. Visit on weekends from 11 am to 3 pm for the special brunch, with a menu that changes weekly. An outdoor patio is open during the summer.
Polka Dog Bakery
256 Shawmut Ave.
This palace of pooch pampering was inspired by a one-eyed dog named Pearl, who would perform a little polka in an effort to see people with her good eye. The glass jars are crammed with doggie treats such as peanut butter Wonder Nuggets and Chicken Littles, a chicken-based treat. There’s also a huge selection of meat jerky (including haddock, cod, and chicken), and seasonal offerings like “holiday feast” jerky. The small downstairs boutique carries more practical supplies, like toys and stain-removing spray. It’s worth stopping by, even if you don’t carry your dog around in your handbag.
268 Shawmut Ave.
If you want cheese, the South End’s Formaggio Kitchen will provide for you. It keeps well over three digits’ worth of cheese varieties in the store, and the website has nine filter categories so shoppers can find the precise type for any occasion. Prices range from $400 gift baskets to $7 eight-ounce containers of fresh mozzarella, so there will be something to use to cook with friends, as well as special items to treat yourself with.
274 Shawmut Ave.
This women’s clothing store sells bold fashion items alongside closet staples, from graphic T-shirts to long animal print sweaters. The shop also carries beauty and bath products, including body mist and exfoliating bath salts. In addition to clothes, you’ll find home décor, kitchenware, and accessories. Whether you need a cute shirt, another layer, or a statement piece to add to your closet, fly on over to Flock.
The Franklin Café
278 Shawmut Avenue
This charming café has an innovative approach to traditional American cuisine, with dishes like turkey meatloaf with fig gravy and chive mashed potatoes, prosciutto-wrapped cod, and dry-rubbed smoked salmon with white lemon butter and fried green tomatoes. It serves a full menu daily until 1:30 am. The bar offers local microbrews on tap, a diverse wine list, and an innovative cocktail menu. Try the Ideal Manhattan, made with Evan Williams bourbon, Cinzano Rosso, St. Germain, Angostura, and grapefruit bitters. The café is walk-in only.
South End Buttery
314 Shawmut Ave.
Co-owner Richard Gordon (LAW’89) has created a welcoming café, restaurant, and takeout market that will satisfy you and your canine companion (dogs are welcome on the patio). The restaurant is committed to using organic, all-natural, locally raised and grown ingredients whenever possible. The lunch menu has crowd-pleasers like a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich (bacon, gruyere, aged cheddar, and tomato on sourdough) and a curried chicken salad (roasted chicken breast, green apples, grapes, celery, cashews, romaine, chutney, mayo, and lemon vinaigrette). The dinner menu has comfort food like porcini mushroom ravioli (beet Bolognese, parmesan, and brown butter fried sage) and a bacon cheeseburger (natural Angus ground chuck, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, crispy bacon, garlic aioli, on a brioche bun). The café serves Equator Coffee and Teas ethically sourced drip coffee, as well as tea from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Kilogram brand. Additionally, each of Gordon’s three dogs has a cupcake named after them, and a portion of proceeds from cupcake sales are donated to animal rights causes. The Buttery also operates a second location in the South End, called Clarendon Cafe and Market, at 37 Clarendon Street, which sells baked goods, sandwiches, and select grocery items.
472 Shawmut Ave.
El Centro is a standout among the city’s recent surge in south-of-the-border dining. Its vibrant Mexican street art, like a hand-painted mural along the back wall and original photos and artwork, is complemented by equally vibrant food, with entrées like ceviche de camaron (shrimp cured in lime juice and tossed with onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro, cucumbers, tomato juice, and clamato juice). Sonoran native, chef, and owner Allan Rodriguez whips up family recipes every night. It has a small but high-quality selection of wines, beers, and sangrias.
477 Shawmut Ave.
This casual South American restaurant, inspired by taguaritas, Venezuela’s small, rustic roadside eateries, gives the feel of dining in someone’s home. On the menu are old family recipes that blend dishes indigenous to the Andes and the Caribbean, and servings are generous and reasonably priced. Among the offerings are shredded beef empanadas and many varieties of black bean and cheese arepa, the traditional Venezuelan corn pocket sandwiches. Try the torta fluida, a molten chocolate cake made with 100 percent Venezuelan dark chocolate. Named Boston’s Best Neighborhood restaurant of 2017 by Boston magazine, Orinoco also has locations in Brookline Village and Harvard Square. It’s a great place for Sunday brunch, too.
The Courtyard at 46 Waltham St.
This South End boutique, created and run by designer duo John Ross and Don Carney, offers choice accessories and home décor. They have collaborated with big-name stores like Anthropologie, West Elm, and Target and have attracted fashion icons like Sarah Jessica Parker and Julianne Moore (CFA’83). The elegant shop offers a variety of unusual items, including their brand’s golden skull with diamond eyes charm and jewelry by Rachel Eardley. You’ll find scarves, urns, candles, match strikes (centerpieces that hold and light matches popular in 19th- and 20th-century Europe) and much more. Many items are made by hand in limited quantities, so prices are on the high side, but it’s one of the best places in Boston to find an out-of-the-ordinary gift for someone special or an extravagant treat for yourself.
Maná Escondido Café
68 Aguadilla St.
Low prices, authentic Puerto Rican food, and friendly staff: what’s not to love about Maná Escondido? There are only a few tables in the tiny restaurant, but don’t let that stop you. It’s known for its mofongo (fried mashed plantains), available with a variety of toppings, from chicharron (fried pork rinds) to camarones (shrimp). And it may offer the only jibarito—a Puerto-Rico-by-way-of-Chicago sandwich made with smashed plantains instead of bread—in New England. Word of warning: the mofongo can take up to 30 minutes, so if you’re looking for a quick snack, try one of the ready-made frituras (fritters). We recommend the bacalaitos (a thin, crispy salted cod fritter) or pastelito (turnover stuffed with beef or chicken). The café was named Boston’s Best Hidden Gem of 2017 by the Improper Bostonian.
Getting there: The BU Shuttle (BUS) runs from the Charles River Campus to the Medical Campus, which borders the South End. Nearby MBTA stops include Massachusetts Avenue and Back Bay on the Orange Line and Symphony, Prudential, and Copley on the Green Line. The Silver Line bus also runs up and down Washington Street.
Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the South End area.