NFT Boston Back Bay (East) / South End (Upper)

Back Bay (East) / South End (Upper)

Essentials
The eastern end of Back Bay features the "top" of Newbury Street, with its mix of locals, tourists, and international students keeping its mainly highbrow merchants busy. The upper regions of the South End -- especially Columbus Avenue -- are now home to excellent restaurant upon excellent restaurant, with a culturally correct number of galleries thrown in as well.

Sundries/Entertainment
Grab a great sandwich at Parish Café, some tapas at Tico, or, if you're operating on an expense account, a steak at Grill 23. If you're just thirsty, you can always hit the roof-deck at Rattlesnake.

Transportation
In Boston, jaywalking is a time-honored pastime, especially around the Pru and along Boylston and Newbury Streets. Back Bay is generally well served by public transportation, even though (somewhat unusually) no buses actually run down Commonwealth Ave. Street parking? Good luck.See more.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Spectacular Views of Boston

By Emily Doutre
"From Bunker Hill to the Blue Hills, from the Charles River to Charlestown, there are a number of spots to catch spectacular views of the city as a whole, both inside and out of Boston proper.  So kick back and enjoy the views."
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Living on the Cheap in Boston

By
Cheap things in Boston--whores, crack and donuts. The old sacred triad is true no longer. Lacey Prpic-Hedtke knows better.

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The People’s Palace

By Manya Chylinski
If they called it the Aristocrat's Lending Library, you wouldn't be allowed inside. But this is the all-inclusive reading room of the Bostonian public. Bask in the history, share in the triumph, take out a book and crane your neck to regard the murals: This is the Boston Public Library!

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Car Vanity on Newbury St

By Macy Raymond
"You are not Bill Clinton. Don’t pretend you are. If it really makes you hot—mounting a machine like a loose mustang in Utah, only to vroom-vroom for ten feet because inevitable jay walkers impede your gallop line, because old ladies buy flowers and need to cross the Street—then you should breathe, take a melatonin, and sleep yourself off. Maybe, by morning, you’ll go away."


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Boston's Squares

By Janet Potter
Ain't just squares in the schools we're talking about. From Copley to Coolidge, Kenmore to Central, Boston is a geographically square-rich complex of squarish personas. Join them, and they will always respect you.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jamie Bushell
Photo:  Jamie Bushell

Copley Square
One of my favorite pastimes of fall is perusing farmers markets. The Copley Square farmers market enables us city dwellers to get a taste of a small community feel every Tuesday and Friday from May to November. All of the local, fresh produce has usually been picked within the past 24 hours with speckles of dirt still sprinkled on the skin. Plus, who can resist digging into a huge barrel of string beans to hand pick the ripest of them all for an afternoon snack? From fennel bulbs and beets the size of my fist in the early spring, to the juiciest assortment of berries during the peak of the summer, I look forward to seeing how the produce changes week to week. What truly distinguishes this farmers market from many of the others throughout the city is the unique and plentiful mix of farm stands, artisan bakeries, florists, cheese makers, meat suppliers, and independent artists as well. It is also a great place for people watching, with its central location on Boylston Street. So why not get outside to buy some veggies? The sweet corn is a callin' your name. And trust me--you won't be able to resist it!



Posted By:  Peter Malfatti
Photo:  Peter Malfatti

Abe & Louie's
December 31, 2009. With no formal plans, we wandered down Boylston Street to stake out our spot at a bar to ring in 2010. But first, dinner. We scanned menus down the street. When we reached Abe & Louie's, we saw the prices but continued on. But, not two blocks later, we turned around. It was New Year's Eve, we were going to treat ourselves. Busy, but our friendly host assured us of a short wait. I ordered the Filet Mignon (medium rare) encrusted with blue cheese. Now, I've eaten at many steakhouses, but this was the best I've eaten in my life, from the first bite. Cooked to perfection, amazing texture and flavor. I removed most of the blue cheese because nothing need be added. Add to it the attentive and friendly service, even in on New Year's eve with the restaurant packed to the rafters (figuratively), it was a great experience. If you ever find yourself in Boston looking for a great fine-dining experience, and have a few duckets to shed - - the price tag was high, but completely worth it - - treat yourself to Abe & Louie's.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

1154 Lill Studio
Handbags: am I right, ladies? I avoided them myself until the age of 18. Of course, I grew up in the '80s, a nadir in the life and times of the purse. But luckily times have changed and now we have places like 1154 Lill, where we can use our handbags as not just vehicles for "stuff," but also as a form of inner expression with customizable sizes, styles, and fabrics. Covering every bag a gal could need, from every day styles to bridal to baby to work, Lill can make everyone happy, be they diva or hipster. Even if you're not looking for what's trendy, you will at least come out with something that's "you." Handbag use is inevitable for the ladies of today, so we might as well embrace it. Even if we avoid them ourselves, it's only a matter of time before the men in our lives shift their focus from mother to girlfriend to wife every time they say, "Here, hold this for me." Maybe Lill should expand their focus to include "European Carry-alls"...



Posted By:  Stuart Kurtz
Photo:  Stuart Kurtz

Enchanting Matreshka
By far the most visually arresting sight in the Copley Place Mall is this tiny cart selling the world famous Russian matreshka dolls--you know, the ones with the mother and inside is another mother, and so on and so on. The Fletcher family holds court over this stunning collection of dolls and wooden boxes. Enchanting Matreshka is an appropriate name, since the enterprise features lacquer boxes depicting stories from enchanting Russian folk tales, such as The Firebird. I got one for my cousin's wedding, and she said it was the most unusual gift they got. Under the "Classic Collection" department are the matreshke (e makes it plural). You can find Medvedev concealing Putin concealing Yeltsin-Gorby-Breshnev-Krushov. The older ones might start at Gorby and finally revealing Stalin. I don't know what political connotations these dolls have, but you can draw your own.



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Grill 23 & Bar
Let's set a scene. You've got an incredibly important business meeting or perhaps a hot date, and you need to go somewhere that's got that old world charm, fantastic food, and is expensive enough to let you show off a smidge. In all cases, Grill 23 is the steakhouse for just about every big occasion. Alright, it's stodgy in that wood paneling and many leather bound books way, but that's what makes it so damn fantastic. Take the bar downstairs, where Adam, the best bartender in town, makes his own slight variation on a dirty martini so good that you could drink eleven. Slide over to the dining room itself, and prepare to get an amazing chunk of dry aged beef, beautifully marbled with no excess gristle, cooked to perfection and seasoned so well you'll want to roll around on the plate when you're done. I'm not exaggerating when I say that. It's what all steaks should be. Now, the Grill is expensive. For most, it's not a weekly destination, but it's absolutely worth checking out for that special night, or when you finally score a date with a celebrity or sports legend. I'd let them get the check though.



Posted By:  Todd Strauss
Photo:  Todd Strauss

Flash's
It's been years since I worked in the Back Bay. During those days, I usually headed to Chinatown for lunch, but when I didn't, I grabbed a seat at Flash's for their great lunch deals. A few days ago, I went back for the first time in years, and I'm happy to report that the food is still good and now when you're feeling anti-social, you can hop on the free WiFi while enjoying your meal and/or cocktail. Besides the great lunch bargains, you have to order the Garlic Fries. The only thing that could make these fries better is if they would add some cheese curds and gravy to turn it into poutine. If you're on a budget, and want to head to Flash's for dinner, they have tons of options for under $10, but to keep your bill low, make sure not to order more than a few drinks.




Posted By:  Todd Strauss
Photo:  Todd Strauss

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe
I'm not going to talk about the history of Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe since there are hundreds of reviews that will tell you the same great stories. What I will tell you is that they can cook, damn can they cook. Unlike most greasy spoons, they use real eggs, cast iron skillets, and their homefries are actually delicious. You can see the hard work that goes into their food just by looking at the wear on the butcher block next to the range. There are too many highlights on their menu to mention, but you'd be making a mistake if you didn't get the Turkey Hash. I don't even like hash so I have no idea why the huge sign advertising this dish had an influence over me (besides the fact that I might be a sucker). I had my eggs prepared over easy, and, all I can say is that it was fantastic. If Turkey Hash isn't your thing, try one of the filled Griddle Cakes.



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Loews Boston Hotel
There's many a spot in Back Bay that pull in a varied crowd, but Cuffs Irish Bar, located in Jurys Boston Hotel, the old Boston Police Headquarters, pulls in three distinct groups of people, all worth checking out when you need a libation. But about the bar itself... It's pretty impressive, wide open, with a fantastic water-themed entryway that feels sophisticated and comfortable. It also manages to be an attractive hot spot for the post-shift restaurant-industry crew who slowly fill in as they get released from the many local eateries. The first two groups I was referring to are the recently-released cube monkeys and CEOs for that all-important 5:01 pm booze run. The third group might be the most interesting. As Jurys is a hotel, there's always a few tourists sitting at the bar and discussing what to do next in the city. For some reason, they end up sitting at the bar for long hours eager to talk to the locals and find out what their next stop should be. They provide drinks, great conversation, and if you get smashed, a room to sleep. Check in.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Charles River Esplanade
Ah, spring... it seems like so long ago. The faint smell of lilies, the soft sound of birds chirping, the sheer joy that the color green brings to your eyes. Well, not it's Summer, but, I will let you in on a little secret. There is still bearable, non-humid beauty to be found. The Esplanade (a French word that means "promenade along a shore") runs along three miles of the Charles River, from the Science Museum to the BU Bride. It has been in the Boston community for years and is rich with cultural and historical consequence, but was just recently renovated under the control of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Walking and bike paths, riverbanks, memorials, park benches, 1900 or more trees--all of which give us another reason to chuck the Xanax and instead take a walk outside. During the summer, there are free concerts at the Hatch Shell, 4th of July Fireworks, and docks bustling with sailboats and gondolas. What else can a desperate city ask for?



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

BarLola
Tapas! Food of the really indecisive and only sorta hungry gods who want to pick at stuff! BarLola serves up food for them, as long as those gods love them some garlic and Sangria. I'm serious about the garlic. Dracula frigging HATES this place, as they seem to put a half pound of cloves in everything, including the butter. Personally, I love the garlic, and can't get enough, so that's a big thumbs up for me. Bringing a date, bring some altoids. As for the Tapas themselves, the pork skewers are to die for, and they come in handy to stake the aforementioned Dracula issue. The empanadas were so delicious, you'd slap your momma, and the calamari rellenos with crab meat and shrimp? Oh. Hell. Yes. I will say that the service was pretty fantastic. Dealing with a big table of sangria swilling happy hour folks isn’t exactly easy, but our waitress managed to fake good cheer pretty well with us slinging drunk orders at her. Also, some nights they apparently cram in live flamenco, and with the place being the size of a postage stamp, you can practically get a lapdance out of the deal. Don't offer one, FYI.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

The Closet
I always tell people who resist going into second-hand stores that the experience is like searching for buried treasure--you might have to do some digging, but you will find some gold. Fortunately, The Closet on Newbury Street makes it easy to cash in, since it holds itself to the highest standards of what to hang on its racks. Certainly better than your grandmother's closet, you will be surprised as to what you can find--Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Gucci, Armani. Fashion legends are literally dripping from the hangers, in good condition and low prices. Patience is required, but with the right attitude perhaps even you can afford a pair of Manolo Blahniks after all.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Lush
As the green movement has taken the world by storm, so has the natural skincare industry. At Lush Cosmetics, ingredients such as honeysuckle, lavender, and coconut promise to make our bath time ritual one of natural healing and rejuvenation, leaving our skin and hair healthier than it's ever been. Unfortunately, the scent of their products goes a little too far, being so strong you almost feel as though you are breathing in toxic air (as opposed to hanging in the Swiss Alps receiving a holistic skin care detoxification). But aside from the rose scent seeping from your pores, the products are buttery, rich, and sure to make anyone a happy camper.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Envi
While the celebration of our lovely planet is in the air, so is the trend for eco-conscious clothing. Opened by two Tufts graduates last year, Envi competes with fashion powerhouses on the glitzy street to bring a level of responsibility to the clothing world, without the loss of fashion. To "dress...with a conscience" has never been so easy, as the store sells adorable apparel and accessories that have all been made from sustainable materials and responsible production processes (although lets hope your checking account is well endowed). No sweatshops, no carcinogenic dyes, no toxic materials. Why sacrifice fashion for eco-conscious lifestyle choices? Now you don't have to. Just please continue wearing the deodorant.



Posted By:  Stuart Kurtz
Photo:  Stuart Kurtz

Church of the Covenant
The sanctuary lantern (some could call it a chandelier) was a hit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago--the World's Fair. It was wired by Thomas Edison and was the first electrified lantern in a public facility. I'm pretty sure there were earlier ones, but maybe the designation "lantern" makes it into the record. The studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and executed it, and it is one of the two lamps that were the forerunners of other Tiffany stained glass lamps. Seven angels, representing the seven churches John referred to in his Revelation, hold up torches of Heavenly light (light bulbs). There is a glass-studded crucifix, glass globe pendants, and bronze filigree, It looks like some fantasy out of the "Arabian Nights" by way of Chicago. See it.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Calypso
I don’t know about you, but just about this time of year I find it absolutely essential to my sanity to go on a little vacation. If you happen to be one of the lucky few who have the opportunity to go on a warm getaway, Calypso on Newbury Street has the BEST gear to get you prepared. In fact, walking in the store for the first time actually inspired me to book a plane ticket to Palm Beach. While the intensity of the bright colors (and price tags) will officially blind you, the endless supply of sundresses, wraps, bananas, bikinis, bags, and flips flops in every color imaginable provides something for everyone. It’s like a resort warehouse in the cutest form. Chose wisely— as some pieces fit horribly—but go forth, be bold, and you will find a gem.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Boston Public Library - Central
People need at least one place where they can be their most effective, motivated and focused. Sometimes it's their home, a coffee shop, the back corner of a bookstore, a random park bench...who knows. For me, it's the "green lamp room" (as I like to call it)--officially "Bates Hall" in the McKim Building of the Central Boston Public Library. The architect who built and designed the building itself wanted to create a "palace for people," which it certainly has become with its grand central staircase, intricate marble detail, murals throughout and 40-foot high barrel ceilings. It's like a dream. Bates Hall has endless rows of old mahogany tables, green reading lamps shedding soft light and an appreciated quiet and calm that makes me able to accomplish anything. Who knew I could find such a spot in this chaotic city and life that would make me actually enjoy doing work? I am convinced that this is my Americanized form of meditation--finding my serenity, but still getting shit done.



Posted By:  Stuart Kurtz
Photo:  Stuart Kurtz

Gibson House Museum
This was one of the first houses to be built in the Back Bay, a fetid swamp before 1859, the year this dwelling went up. Catherine Hammond Gibson and her son, Charles Hammond Gibson, moved in in 1860 to the new digs from Beacon Hill. Catherine was widowed when her sugar importer husband died in a sea wreck back from the Caribbean. Almost every item you see is a family original, with alterations to allow for changing taste. There are Oriental carpets, black walnut woodwork, furniture that simulates Japanese style and other assorted Victorian heirlooms. When the heating system is finished, you can see the scullery kitchen with antique cast iron stoves. It’s authentic enough to have attracted Merchant and Ivory in 1983, then scouring locales for The Bostonians.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

O & Co.
Did you know that most of the olive oils found in today’s American supermarkets are rarely pure? In fact, they are often cut with cheaper olive oils or other vegetable oils. So for those of us whose tongues cannot be fooled, we must look elsewhere for the real thing, but the extra footwork and higher prices are worth it. My labors led me to Oliviers & Co., better known as O & Co., on Newbury Street. As one of the many subterranean brownstone spaces in the area, this adored shop can often go unnoticed to the uninformed shopper. (In fact I usually have to walk up and down the block one or two times to find it.) But after one sample of their high grade evoo, O & Co. will have you jonesin’ for an oily fix every time you just happen to conveniently find yourself in the Back Bay. The main attraction is the “wall of oil,” featuring an extensive variety of international oils and balsamic vinegars ripe for the sampling. But the rest of the shop is certainly worth a perusal, especially their various tapenades, truffle oils, spices, and, uh, toiletries. Adopt O & Co. as your evoo dealer, and your dinners at home will never taste the same again. Soon you’ll be associated with the other evoo snobs, flawlessly adept at sniffing out the fake stuff at restaurants, exclaiming, “Bleh! Is this the North End or an Exxon station?!”



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Starbucks
I don’t get the whole, local coffee shop vs. ubiquitous Starbucks war, because they both provide Caffeine. I’m a true addict, drinking four cups every morning, and then chugging a few more espressos for good measure. Why does this exempt me from the coffee spot war? Due to the fact that before I get that first paper cup of java I can barely see, much less have any idea where I’m drinking it. Why mention this? If you ever enter the Starbucks at 443 Boylston, and you’re as groggy as I usually am, you’re taking your life into your hands. As you can see in the attached photos, right where you turn to look at the counter, there is a stairway that leads to some unknown basement. If, like me, you blankly stare at the menu board, trying to decipher what drink to get, only to order the same damn drink you always do, you might just tumble right down this deathtrap. I know this from personal experience. I watched a loved one almost die, or at least get bruised on these killers. Consider this your warning.



Posted By:  Claudia Ricker
Photo:  Claudia Ricker

Marshalls
“Gee, that Valentino dress is kinda neat,” she mused, peering through the Newbury Street display window. “Too bad it’s $5M. Guess I’ll have to go to the ball naked.” No Cinderellie, you mustn’t despair! Hope lies just steps away, like a true oasis in this desert of wallet whacking frocks, I present you…MARSHALL’S! Absurd amounts of egregiously expensive clothing abound in the Back Bay, so for those not living off their Stepmother’s trust fund, this option fits much better. Not only that, but they always seem to be open, get new shipments in every week, and welcome you with smiling faces. Okay, maybe not the last part, but the prices here are leaps and bounds better than anything nearby. Finally, they have all the basics like socks, shoes, towels, and underwear, not to mention sweet extras like Kwanzaa dolls and the occasional feline-themed pie plate.




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