An October 2005 trip
to Boston by notso62
Quote: This journal entry is meant as a convienient guide to restaurants and attractions that are in close proximity to Boston's South Station-- the terminal where Amtrak and major bus lines have their layovers en route to other places.
This station serves as hub not only for Amtrak and Acela service but Greyhound and other bus lines as well. The bus station is separated from the train station by a walkway, but it’s pretty easy to navigate between the two.
So, what to do if you happen upon South Station and find that your train has been delayed or a layover suddenly seems longer than you want to wait in the station for? Lucky for you, the area around the train station has tons of things to do. Though there is food and beverages available in the station itself, you do not have to limit yourself to these options.
A few blocks over on South Street exist a few very nice restaurants for those that prefer a classier setting than the station can offer. Les Zygomates, Sorrisos, the News, and Radius are all great sit-down restaurants that are within walking distance to South Station. If you care to venture a little further, Boston’s Chinatown is a couple blocks away and has great Asian restaurants to choose from, such as Penang and Mon Tien.
For travelers in need of a discount shopping fix, Downtown Crossing is a mere half-mile walk from South Station. Here is the home of the first Filene’s Basement—the famous host to the annual wedding dress sale where brides come from hundreds of miles away to fight over a designer gown at a discount price. Also on this block is a TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and an H&M, all with great designer deals! No fashionista needs to give up precious shopping time to travel!
Though the area around South Station is still up-and-coming, with a lot of construction projects, there is enough to keep travelers entertained during even the most atrocious of delays.
Inside the station there is a kiosk full of discount coupons and brochures for area attractions. Make sure to check these out, as most services and inquiries here are free.
For a delicious snack that does not cost too much money, check out Rosie’s Bakery, which sits in the main hall of the station. Here they have excellent cookies and cupcakes, which have been rated by several area magazines as the best around.
Most of the restaurants and shops recommended in this journal are within walking distance of South Station (under a half-mile). However, for those who are walking-impaired or during Boston frigid weather, there is a cab stand right outside the station along Atlantic Avenue for your convenience.
For those familiar with the Boston subway system, a stop on the red line is located at South Station. This is a great way to go around Boston for not very much money.
Sorriso is an Italian bistro-style restaurant that caters mostly to the lunch work crowd from the financial district. Most people dine here in their power suits, however you will not be frowned upon if you walk in wearing more casual clothes. Busiest times are during the weekday lunch hours, but the service here is always on top of their game even when they are swamped.
The decor of Sorriso is very warm and inviting. The dark woods and dim lighting add to the intimate decor. The dining room is lit by these huge chandeliers that are made of twigs and branches- trust me, they are very interesting to look at. The cozy boothes and round tables are the perfect place for two people or a group. At busier times, single patrons might find if favorable to sit at the rustic bar. All seats here are good options.
The food at Sorriso's is fabulous. They have a nice selection of sandwiches and lighter meals, as well as some traditional pasta and meat dishes. The pumpkin-pressed panini sandwich is to die for- with gruyere cheese and seasonal spices. It's like a savory version of pumpkin pie!
Sorriso's has very nice pizzas that can serve one-two people. They are prepared in an authentic brick oven and come with a very tasty marinara sauce as well as almost any topping you can think of. For ~$10, you can't beat it.
The prices at Sorriso's are a bit pricey for those out-of-towners that are used to paying less for similar fare, but it's hard to find a better value in this Boston neighborhood. Thanks to Sorriso's, you can enjoy a great meal during your Amtrak or bus layover at South Station.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 1, 2005
107 South Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Wine Spectator awarded Les Zygomates honors for its wine list in 2003, and the restaurant has continued to maintain this high standard. It is apparent when you first enter the restaurant that the main focus is wine, as thousands of bottles sit on the racks behind the bar just waiting to be opened. The dining rooms are also decorated with walls made entirely from wine corks. It’s a nice touch.
Wine tastings at Les Zygomates occur every Tuesday at 6pm and 8pm and cost about $30. This cover includes four to five wines and complimentary appetizers.
Though wine takes center stage at this restaurant, food is not at all forgotten. For starters, travelers can try an excellent Pumpkin Bisque with Crème Fraiche. There’s nothing quite as good as a bowl of excellent soup to warm you up from Boston’s typically chilly weather.
Entrees here are a bit pricey but completely worth the few extra dollars. The Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffles is to die for, and the emphasis on gourmet seafood, like Pan Seared Snapper, will please any fish-craver.
Service at Les Zygomates is excellent and very professional. Servers wear jackets and are always on top of their game, even during busy wine tastings and lunch hours.
If you plan on coming here with a large party, try to make reservations, as the dining rooms are small and do not have much space for multiple large groups.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 3, 2005
129 South St
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
+1 617 542 5108
Penang is about a half-mile walk from Boston's South Station; if you're craving Asian food, it's a far better bet than any of the places within the station's walls. Though there are many restaurants on Washington Street, Penang offers a standout experience. The dining room is decorated to look like a Malaysian hut with a thatched roof and bamboo platforms. The red-and-black walls make this a very chic yet non-pretentious environment to enjoy lunch or dinner.
Penang serves a wide variety of dishes, from the ordinary to the very strange. You can get anything that you typically see on an Asian restaurant menu and then some. Their best dishes are the mango chicken, which comes served in a mango shell, and the beef rendang, which has great spices. For those of you who favor more "exotic" foods, Penang offers items like the chicken feet (which come out looking like Big Bird's fried feet) and eel. I personally stick to the vegetarian rice that comes served in a clay pot--it's excellent.
As with most Asian restaurants in this area, service is often abrupt but efficient. They don't mess around much when taking an order and always serve the food promptly. It's great for travellers who would like to be in and out in a hurry but not miss out on a fabulous meal.
If you don't feel like you have time to hike over to Penang for a sit-down meal, you can always phone in your order to-go. They have dinners prepared within 15 minutes for takeout, which makes this a great option for everyone on-the-go.
685 Washington St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02211
Finagle a Bagel's storefronts are like fast-food chain restaurants. Set up with under-inspired plastic booths and chairs, it is easy to dismiss this establishment before trying the food. Also not helping the matter is the gold and burgundy paint scheme and the lack of organization at the condiments/serving station. But the negatives about Finagle a Bagel end at the ambiance.
Behind a glass case serving counter customers can gaze upon a selection of bagels—up to 20 flavors on occasion. In front of the bagels a conveyor belt outfitted with a saw blade for cutting the bagels in half flings your order down to the preparation station of the store. It's very fun to watch and the saw makes an interesting wood-shop-esque sound.
Finagle's has the widest selection of flavor choices in the area for bagels. Seasonally they have flavors like Pumpkin Raisin (Fall), green bagels (St. Patrick's Day), Red bagels (For Big Red Sox games), and Apple Strudel (Fall again). Everyday flavors include everything from the ordinary (plain, cinnamon raisin, sesame, vegetable, etc) to the extraordinary. The cocoa bagel is a creation where cocoa is mixed into the batter and the bagel is coated in rice krispies. The Super cinnamon raisin bagel is a fabulously decadent bagel coated in a cinnamon and sugar glaze. Both of these bagels simply must be tried, they are so wonderfully delicious that words could not describe.
Finagle a Bagel also serves a nice selection of organic soups and sandwiches. Highly recommended is the pizza bagel for lunch with the eggplant topping. It is great for days when simply a bagel will not fill your craving.
Service at Finagle is fast and efficient- once you place your order your number is called very quickly to pick up. Sometimes the counter help can seem a bit curt if they have many customers, but overall my experiences at Finagle have all been pretty good.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 15, 2006
Finagle A Bagel
70 Franklin St.
Restaurant | "Peking Toms"
Peking Toms’ menu has many of the traditional items one would expect to find on an Asian-inspired menu, as well as many more-modern creations. For lunch they have excellent meals called "bento boxes" which come with your choice of prepared meat or tofu, tempura vegetables, salad, and rice. All come served on a chicly partitioned square plate. Other meals include traditional Chinese preparations like beef and broccoli, Buddha’s delight, and seared tuna. All are elegantly presented with garnishes in artful dishes. The ambiance at Peking Toms is very chic and nice. The walls and seating are covered with dark colors and pictures of geisha-art dot the interior. The décor is nice, understated, and very Zen-like.After about 9pm, Peking Toms turns into a sort of nightclub where local area young-people gather for drinks and scattered dancing. The scene could be a bit snobbish later in the evening, but the service here is always friendly regardless of when you choose to visit this establishment.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 16, 2006
25 Kingston St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Restaurant | "Hei-La Moon"
The specialty at Hei-La Moon is dim sum (small plates prepared with one or two different items that are pushed around on carts and delivered to the tables as the servers pass by). There is plenty of variety of dim sum here; up to 20 different choices on any given day ranging from beef to vegetarian to Chinese dessert dishes. There is a list of the items on the back of the menu describing what is in each dish, but it is very helpful to go to Hei-La Moon with someone with a great knowledge of Chinese food otherwise you might end up asking for something without knowing its true contents. Do not expect the server’s to give you an explanation to what they are serving either—most do not speak any English and tend to be curt with the people that try to ask them questions.
Aside from the dim sum, Hei-La Moon has a full menu of traditional Chinese dishes. My favorite so far has been the Vegetarian Buddhist which comes served with loads of steamed vegetables and pan-fried tofu. Other dishes of note are the Orange Chicken and the Beef Curry. All come served by themselves, but for a small price extra can be gotten with a heaping mound of white rice.
The service at Hei-La Moon tends to be very abrupt so do not expect much more. The ambiance is that of Chinese cafeteria- the rude servers and lackluster décor are not very inspired. However, they do always refill your tea when asked and the servers are generally not outright rude so there isn’t too much to complain about in this department. The prices at Hei-La Moon are a bargain, so it is hard not to justify stopping here if you’re craving Chinese food.
Hei La Moon
88 Beach St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Restaurant | "The News"
The News opens everyday at about 5pm for dinner and drinks. The food on their menu is mostly upscale American comfort food. They have excellent huge salads which come served in slanted bowls—be careful how you eat it otherwise you might end up with your food in your lap! They also have a nice selection of entrees like burgers, pasta, sandwiches, and snack-type foods.
The interior of the News is quite nicely decorated. Tables are arranged to encourage socialization between the customers. White table cloths and dim lighting add to the upscale yet cozy ambiance. They have several large plasma screen TVs which are great for catching the Red Sox game if one happens to be on.
Every Thursday the News runs a "ladies night" which is popular with some area females. For a low price, women gain admission to the bar and are treated to complimentary appetizers and drink specials. The News has a full liquor license so it is a popular night spot with young professionals who work in the financial district.
The News is located within a few blocks of South Station so might be a good place to check out if you have a while to wait between trains. However, they do not look favorably on people that are dressed too casually (i.e. sneakers and dowdy jeans), so heed the dress code. Staff is generally nice, but will not hesitate to turn you away if they think you are dressed to frumpily for their establishment.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 3, 2006
150 Kneeland St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Knowfat at first glance looks like a typical fast food restaurant, but it is really so much more. When you walk in, customers are blinded by the bright and busy color scheme and nutritional supplements that dot the walls for purchase. Boothes and tables are small and set up to resemble typical fast food places- not very comfortable. But upon further investigation you will see that the patrons that are dining "for here" are actually eating off real plates and using real silverware. This is the first difference between Knowfat and Mickey D's, but it is far from the last.
The menu at Knowfat is very focused on health conscious consumers. Every menu item's nutritional information is easily accessible. Vegetarian options are clearly marked on the board. Also, every single item is prepared with the lowest fat content possible (ie- no frying here!), but without skimping on the taste.
Favorite menu items of mine (and I'm a regular in this location) include the portobello wrap and the airfries. The fries are too good to be true- baked and delicious french fries with no-trans-fat content. The portobello wrap is addictive- they marinate the mushrooms and wrap it with fresh lettuce, tomato and blanched broccoli in a delicious spinach shell. $6 may be high for just a wrap, but I would never stop buying them because of the price.
Knowfat's cheerful staff recognizes their regulars and always greet them with a smile. They also encourage product sampling from their frequent displays and are more than willing to help answer any questions you may have about their menu or nutritional products. If you only have time for a quick bite to eat in downtown Boston, I highly recommend Knowfat to leave you happy, satisfied, and healthy.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 8, 2006
Know Fat Lifestyle Grill
530 Washington Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Buddha's Delight is a hole-in-a-wall of a restaurant on the third floor of a rundown building. You may be frightened that you've gone into the wrong door once you see the dirty staircase that does not look like it could possibly lead to a business. But follow the stairs upwards and you will find the restaurant.
The interior of Buddha's Delight is a pleasant surprise considering the dismal exterior. The lighting is bright and cheerful and the no-fuss seating is clean and ready to be sat in. They have cute touches like Christmas lights and plants that add to the decor- but it is quite understated.
As you enter the Buddha's Delight dining room, you just tell your server "buffet" and they bring you utensils and water for your meal. They do have several lunch specials usually- but they are typically not vegetarian for some reason and I have not ever been with anyone that has ordered one.
The all-vegetarian buffet at Buddha's Delight is phenomenal. They start with the basics- both white and brown rice and steamed vegetables. As you move down the line though, the dishes become more complex with spices, ingredients like tofu, and authentic Malaysian and Thai touches.
The food I have tried at Buddha's has always been delicious- piping hot and fresh (not typical Chinese buffet fodder). They also have a nice range of desserts from fortune cookies to fabulous coconut rice jello/pudding (really the best way to describe it).
Buddha's Delight is a fantastic value as well- a whole sit-down meal for $7.50 and all you can eat. It usually is not crowded and the service is pretty friendly- though they speak little to no English. Well worth the trip and the search for this restaurant.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 16, 2006
5 Beach St.
Restaurant | "Mon Tien"
Mon Tien's menu focus is on Thai cuisine. They have many dishes that are familiar to other Asian restaurants (fried rice, chicken and broccoli, etc. ) as well as dishes prepared with Thai curries and ingredients traditional to Thailand like lemongrass. Mon Tien also has an extensive sushi menu- highly recommended is the "Caterpillar roll" which does not actually contain caterpillars but is laid out to look like a cute Caterpillar with carrot antennae and vegetable eyes. It's all very creative.
Prices at Mon Tien are typical for Asian food in this area with entrées ringing in at about $10-$15 a piece. Sushi orders can get expensive (as with all sushi places around here) so be aware of how much you're ordering.
The ambience of Mon Tien is very nice and it is tastefully decorated. Booths and accoutrements are clean and have a modern Asian feel to them. It is a great restaurant for group reservations or for nicer dinners out. This restaurant is also conveniently located in the heart of the theatre district so it is a great pick for before or after you see a show.
Service is friendly and efficient. Mon Tien has a full liquor license also making it a good pick for entertainment purposes (not all Chinese restaurants in the area have this luxury). This is also an excellent restaurant for those that are less adventurous when it comes to ethnic dining- the servers have no problems answering questions about the content of the menus.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2007
Montien Thai Restaurant & Lounge
63 Stuart St
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
+1 617 338 5600
When I first saw Chacacero, the line that stretched around the block to order or pick-up was too daunting. I couldn't believe that people would wait in any line that length, even on the days of inclement or cold Boston weather. But every day without fail, some regulars of this stand wait for their favorite lunchtime sandwich.
The Chacacero sandwich is not just any ordinary sandwich, but one that shares its name with this Chilean stand. The bread on which it comes served is addictive-a sweet and soft round roll that is baked fresh every day. It is available to be purchased independent of the sandwich at this stand as well.
Munster, grilled vegetables, meat, and green beans round out the ingredients of the sandwich. You can get a vegetarian version or one with chicken or beef if you prefer. The ingredient that suprisingly makes it so good is the green beans-they add a fresh snap to the texture that is both unexpected and delicious.
The Chacacero is also a rare bargain for this area of downtown Boston. For under $10, you can get an awesome sandwich that could possibly be enough to feed two people (depending on how big of an eater you are). Extra sides like bread or beans are only a few dollars. The value is outstanding for this quality of food.
Chacacero does not have much of a place where you can enjoy your meal; the picnic tables outside are often occupied by pigeons and seedy characters. Even on nice days, customers tend to bring their sandwiches back to their offices or elsewhere to enjoy. This is the only shortcoming of this location that I could see.
My advice for tourists that happen upon the Downtown Crossing area around lunchtime is not to be put off by the long lines at Chacacero. The employees here do an excellent job turning around orders and run a very efficient business. If you want to have a great meal that is not very expensive, this is the place to go. On a nice day, I would get one to go and enjoy it in nearby Boston Common for a truly un-touristy but nonetheless essential Boston experience.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2007
Attraction | "Filene's Basement Discount Shopping"
Deep in the Basement alongside the subway tracks lies the best treasure trove of discount finds in all Boston. The bins on the upper level are filled with newly arrived merchandise that hasn’t even been sorted or put on a hanger. Here is where you find the best things before other fashion divas have had a chance to get their paws on them.
Filene’s Basement is famous for the principle of the "automatic markdown." Merchandise is dated, and as you get progressively past the date of its arrival, it is marked down by the week in increments of 25% until it is donated to charity. Recently I bought a pair of Costume Nationale shoes for 75% off!
The lengths to which some people will go for bargains is best exhibited by the famous "wedding dress" sale held here annually each year. Women come from hundreds of miles away to fight over couture gowns that have been marked down to about $500 from $5000. For many, this is an example of the people that have turned shopping into an athletic sport. Eek!
You can access Filene’s Basement by walking from South Station, or you can take the subway one stop inbound to Downtown Crossing. What better way to kill time caused by a train delay or stopover than scoring a fabulous find at a fraction of the price!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 3, 2005
426 Washington St
Boston, Massachusetts 02101
+1 617 542 2011