The HipHost Blog

Jun 02

Finding the Perfect Study Haven

Maybe you’re curling up with a good read, sneaking in a few extra hours at the virtual office or just looking for a quiet place to recover from your last dives of Boston tour. Whatever the case, you don’t need a library card to sneak in some learning. As the home of many prestigious colleges and universities, Boston and the surrounding ‘hoods are chock full of study havens. All you have to do is cozy up and crack those spines.

Crema Cafe

This Harvard Square outpost plays fueling station to some of the nations brightest—and most exhausted—minds. Boasting two floors of seating, chances are you’ll find a place to park it on even the busiest afternoons. Don’t miss out on the winning eats, from the turkey and jicama slaw sammies to the decadent desserts, including French macaroons. Non-coffee-drinkers will love the creative alterna-beverages, such as almond Earl Grey tea and ginger lemonade.

Thinking Cup

A relative newbie, the Thinking Cup is a bright star in the sea of Starbucks that engulf the Boston Common. Wood floors and exposed brick establishes a modern aesthetic while the exclusively-poured Stumptown Coffee (named best in the world by the likes of NPR, Food & Wine Magazine, and more) shows they mean business when it comes to beans. Try your next brew with one of their mini cupcakes for a mid-study pick-me-up.

True Grounds

Steps from the Tufts University campus, this coffeeshop offers tables, outlets and limited free WiFi for the laptop bound and worn-in couches for the lay-abouts. Local art adorns the walls while chill music pipes in unobtrusively through the speakers. Plus, this outfit earns bonus points for its environmentally-friendly efforts.

Jun 01

Looney for Tunes

As home to institutions like Berklee that serve as an incubator to some of the country’s finest musical talent, Boston has a love affair with music. Where to catch some of the best local, up-and-coming and established musical acts while you’re in Beantown? Read on for everything from insight into area venues to where you can catch concerts on the ultra-cheap.

Jordan Hall

Down the street from the more well-known venue, Symphony Hall, this concert hall’s outstanding acoustics have helped earn it the honor of National Historic Landmark. The venue attracts highly regarded names in classical music. Most shows sponsored by the New England Conservatory are free to the public, no tickets required.  

DCR Memorial Hatch Shell, Beacon Hill

When the weather heats up, grab the coolers and your pals and park it on this slice of Esplanade greenery to take in your favorite artists. Every summer the Hatch Shell hosts a variety of seasonal spectacles, from free flicks to Earthfest performers to classical concerts. Get a front row seat to the Independence Day Boston Pops concert, followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River.

PA’s Lounge, Union Square

Located in Somerville’s Union Square, this venue hosts a wide repertoire of musical and comedy acts while channeling plenty of local love. Imbibe dirt-cheap beer and dance along as your next favorite rock gods strum and croon to your heart’s content. The atmosphere is more dive-y than lounge-y but hey, that’s just the way “Slumerville” likes it.

May 31

The Breakfast Club

Take a peek at some of the best places in town to nab the most important meal of the day.

Diesel Cafe, Davis Square

This Somerville gem serves coffee to hipsters all day, but is a great stop for breakfast junkies looking to hunker down with their laptops and linger till lunch. Go big with a bagel and lox plate and plunk down in one of the back booths for undisturbed study sessions. The industrial-sleek-yet-somehow-still-cozy environs are the perfect respite from rainy weather.

Mike & Patty’s, Back Bay

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the Back Bay during the early hours of the day, pop into this shoebox-sized joint for breakfast sandwiches that pack major-sized flavor. Everything is made to order, from their breakfast tortas and tacos to the Croque Madame topped with gruyere, dijon creme fraiche and a sunny side-up egg. Just be prepared to wait—perfection takes time, and the demand for these treasures is always high.

Dunkin’ Donuts, Everywhere

Okay, so this place may not fit neatly into the category of greasy spoon or classic diner, but the donut behemoth powers up the mornings of many a Bostonian, preparing them for yet another bleary eyed commute. Dunks was founded in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Bay State residents continue to sport their pride—typically in the form of those large iced coffee cups you see in the hands of every other T traveler. Get your a.m. fix like a local with a glazed treat or two—or dozen, if you feel up to sharing with your crew. Don’t forget the Munchkins!

May 25

The Dives of Boston, Part 2

Like potato chips, knitting needles and socks, when it comes to posts about dive bars, one is never enough.

The Tam, Downtown

Steps from the Boylston and Chinatown T stops and the Theater District, this conveniently located dive bar gives you games aplenty and tallboys to spare. Bag big game, courtesy of Big Buck Hunter, while you sip dirt-cheap kegger favorites. If you’re feeling bold, pop some quarters into the vending machine for a quick who-knows-how-long-it’s-been-there snack. Check it out on HipHost’s Explore Boston’s Dive Bars tour.

Bukowski’s Tavern, Back Bay

As far as dives go, Bukowski’s offers the finer things: a kitchen serving edible food (such as the “white trash cheese dip” with tortilla chips, chili cheese dogs and a peanut butter burger); a variety of Belgian ales; and, artwork adorning the walls. Get a couple of unique perspectives on Bukowski’s on our Pub & Grub tour or our Beer & Chocolate tour.

Sissy K’s, Faneuil Hall

Another dive you could see on our Explore Boston’s Dive Bars tour is Sissy K’s. Go easy on the wallet with their dollar drafts, belt it out on karaoke nights and enjoy live music downstairs. Or, just throw your purse in the center ring and dance around it with your girlfriends. That is, if your girls are hearty enough for a true hole-in-the-wall experience.

May 23

BBQ in Beantown

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can be found tending the outdoor grill in a “Kiss the Chef” apron, a spatula glued to one hand and a bottle of lighter fluid to the other. And when you’re not firing up the grill? All thoughts revolve around delicious, tender, mouthwatering…

Whoa, sorry. Got distracted.

Barbecue addicts, we at HipHost understand your plight. Fortunately, Boston has plenty of great options for stick-to-your-ribs grub, available year-round. Find a bib and start eating!

Redbones, Davis Square

The Boston Phoenix honored Redbones as the 2012 Best Barbecue award winner, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to finger-lickin’ ribs—including Texan beef ribs, Memphis-style ribs and thick-cut Arkansas pork ribs—this Somerville institution’s trippy wall murals, rotating taps and robust late-night bar menu keep loyal patrons sauced and satisfied.

Whiskey’s Smokehouse, Back Bay

This downtown haunt caters to the post-work crowd, with a $3 “bar bites” menu available from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., trivia nights and hot wings running at 20 cents per. Douse your pulled pork sliders in one of their signature sauces or opt for the beef brisket, slow roasted for 16 hours to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Check it out on our Pub & Grub tour

SoulFire, Allston

Music is the inspiration at SoulFire, with more than 3,400 different tunes piping into the eatery. Grab a table and some friends, because you’ll want help devouring monster-sized portions of smoked chicken and pork shoulder. Round out your meal with tasty apps and sides, like fried mac and cheese, collard greens and baked beans. 

May 21

Boston On the Big (and Small) Screen

Move over, Tinseltown—Boston’s caught the eye of a number of filmmakers and TV producers. Pictures like The Departed earned Academy Awards for their Boston-based stories, while long-running TV favorites like Cheers and Ally McBeal find the Hub makes a perfect setting. Read on to scout out some filming sites that feature prominently in Hollywood classics—and discover how you can explore them with HipHost.

The Harvard University campus

The cobblestone walkways, fiery fall foliage, the classic buildings: Harvard is a hotspot for movies about troubled genius. From Good Will Hunting to Legally Blonde, a number of famed movies have made the country’s oldest university their very own setting, sending their smartie pants protagonists into the often-turbulent world of academia. Apart from the movies themselves, a number of nearby eateries and bars make an appearance on the silver screen, including Inman Square’s The Thirsty Scholar (in the opening scenes of The Social Network).


“Movie Mile”

Winding a picturesque path through the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, Boston’s “Movie Mile” begins at the Public Garden, where you can see the bench Robin Williams and Matt Damon shared during their famous chat in Good Will Hunting. Hit up the original Cheers bar at 84 Beacon Street and see the street of the Blown Away car crash. 


Do-It-Yourself

From Southie to the North End, many of Boston’s neighborhoods play their own role in creating movie magic. One great way to explore these jewels is with a local HipHost. Check out a design-your-own driving tour of Boston and head to Charlestown, namesake of The Town, or try and spot the downtown buildings that served as backdrop to Boston Legal and other popular shows. Might we suggest capping off your tour with a screening at a local independent theater?

May 20

Fenway: Beyond the Game

Even in a city like Boston, not everyone is a sports nut (but in a city like Boston, you’re less likely to admit that within earshot of another living soul). But whether you’re a baseball nut, a fair-weather fan or don’t know a foul ball from a field goal, there’s plenty to do around the Fens. From discgolf on a HipHost tour to dancing and hotdogs, read on for what to do nearby the country’s oldest stadium.

 

Cheap Eats

If you want to get close to Fenway but don’t have tickets, head to the Bleacher Bar before the game. Just a few feet from Ted Williams Red Seat, this little bar gives you tasty sliders, buckets of beer and a great view of center field. Where to go for Fenway franks without the stadium price? The Lower Depths has $1 hotdogs with a host of specialty toppings, including shredded cheddar jack, chipotle aioli, spicy relish, fries, anchovies, mac & cheese, roasted mushrooms and bourbon chili, to name a few.

Finer Dining

Tickle your palette at Basho Japanese Brasserie, with a popular Japanese/French fusion menu that includes kobe beef skewers, a robata grill, as well as traditional and experimental sushi rolls. For seafood, hit up Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, a cozy gastropub on Boylston featuring little necks, clams casino, blue fish, tuna burgers and more. Wash it down with your choice of more than 150 whiskies, plus craft cocktails, such as the “Ideal Manhattan,” honored by as 2011’s best cocktail by Boston Magazine.

Non-Baseball-Related Entertainment

Few places in Boston are worth a cover, but Machine is the rare, glimmering exception. Hit the dance floor Friday night with your fabulous drag queen host and the go-go dancers provide entertainment when you need a break from cutting a rug. When you’re looking for your fill of greenery, head to The Back Bay Fens. Check out the Ted Williams statue; picnic at The Fenway Victory Gardens; or, rent a plot of land and grow your own summertime herbs.

May 18

Exploring Boston’s Sweet Side

It’s a common complaint that folks who put a premium on friendliness and honey-sweet charm sometimes feel put out when in the Hub. There’s a grouchiness that takes over during the freezing winter months; a gruff indifference toward the squeaky (or borderline screaming) rails on the green line; and, in some places, a whole lot of cursing (and we’re not just talking “wicked pissah”). Think, Good Will Hunting—whenever they’re off the Harvard campus. We play a little rough.

Bostonians may not be known for its hospitality (the South beats us there) and we may not possess the manners of the Midwest, but make no mistake: Beantown has a sweet side. We’re talking sugar, chocolate, desserts of all stripes (and trust us, there’s a tour dedicated to decadence). From the North End’s famous cannolis to the city’s eponymous cream pie, HipHost helps you leave the grumpy pants at home and get to know the treats lurking behind that gruff exterior. (And don’t worry—your host is as sweet as the pie you’ll eat.)

Check out some dessert tour highlights:

Blue Inc., Financial District

Science and food goes hand in hand at Blue Inc. Named one of 2011’s hottest Boston restaurants by Zagat, the eatery owes its popularity in part to chef Jason Santos’s stint on season 7 of “Hell’s Kitchen.” These days Santos rocks it out alongside pastry chef Nicole Harrington, and together they make beautiful, daring, molecular gastronomy-inspired sweets—like milkshakes made with liquid nitrogen, which you can sip on your tour.

 

Modern Pastry, The North End

While Mike’s Pastry is popularly considered king of the North End Italian bakeries, Modern Pastry has emerged as the leading competitor for the title, sparking a heated debate that rages on between diehards. A Hanover Street denizen in its own right, this shop’s cannolis are esteemed for their ethereal lightness and crunchy-crisp shell. You’ll sample some nougat candy, or torrone, courtesy of your lovely host. 

 

Omni Parker House, Downtown

Birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, the Omni Parker House owns the must-see, -taste and -experience categories. During your stop, indulge in a slice the kitchen’s most famous dish. You’ll also glean insight into the historical significance of the hotel: former employees include Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X. Plus, word on the street is that this is where John F. Kennedy, Jr., popped the question to Jackie O. 

May 15

The Dives of Boston

Mixologists have been all the rage on the bar scene of late, crafting complicated concoctions using everything from floral liqueurs and small-batch bourbons to homemade berry infusions and to fresh sprigs of herbs.

Well, you can forget all that. Today we’re talking about dive bars.

While there’s some variety among dives—some offer darts, others are known for a solid jukebox—you know the basics. Spot a dive bar by its dark, maybe a little dingy, interior and the bartender, busy slinging brews on the cheap to the diehard locals with as little fanfare as possible. And don’t expect any cutesy drink garnishes, either.

Boston is home to some of the oldest taverns in the country and a host of amazing dive bars. Leave the cocktail attire at home and join HipHost for a tour of some of the best.

 

TC’s Lounge, Back Bay

This dive caters to entertainment connoisseurs, with games like Big Buck Hunter and Golden Tee to the more risqué Nude Photo Hunt and a claw machine (prizes include adult toys and movies). (Seriously.) Signature shots with names like “Oxy Contin” and “Liquid Cocaine” will probably make you want to call in sick tomorrow.

Fajitas and ‘Ritas, Downtown

Straddling the line between restaurant and dive, copious amounts of tequila awaits you at Fajitas and ‘Ritas… in the form of margaritas, that is. Sip specialty margs—er, ‘ritas by the pitcher while noshing cheap Tex-Mex eats.

Hong Kong, Faneuil Hall

Hong Kong is an area institution, offering giant alcoholic Scorpion bowls, chicken teriyaki served by the stick, and a jam-packed dance floor. Dedicated patrons come for dinner and stay for dancing through the wee hours. 

May 11

Neighborhood Spotlight: Davis Square

Just two stops from the bustle of Harvard, Davis Square is an eclectic neighborhood home to artists, musicians, families and Tufts University students with a charm all its own. Davis Square offers a very livable slice of Somerville and is a great place to explore if you’re in the area.

 

Shopping

Vintage is the name of the game in Davis, with shops ranging from Goodwill-thrift to gently used, higher-end threads. Buffalo Exchange carries two floors of low-to-moderately priced secondhand clothes for ladies and gents, plus a great accessories rack. Also on Elm Street, newcomer Found aims for a trendier audience, boasting plenty of designer handbags and purses, while the selection at Artifaktori showcases style across the decades, emphasizing dresses. If you’re in the market for a new bureau, check out to Toni & Ana’s Furniture. Toni can refurbish and paint any piece in the store (or any piece you’ve got) and deliver it to your abode.

 

Dining

Part of what makes Davis Square such a desirable place to live is the area’s incredible restaurants. Dave’s Fresh Pasta prepares some of the best sandwiches in town, with an attached market that regularly makes foodies drool. Stop by Redbones for BBQ, bourbon and beer surrounded by their one-of-a-kind psychedelic murals. Or grab a slice of wood-fired Neapolitan pizza at Posto. Saloon is ideal for an upscale after-hours affair, with sleek décor, an artisan cocktail menu and a lack of signage for this hip lower level space lending to the speakeasy vibe.

 

Going Out

There’s more to do in Davis that hit the pub—although there’s plenty of that, so don’t worry. For a true New England experience, try your hand at candlepin bowling at Sacco’s Bowl Haven, a bowling alley, pizzeria and bar all in one. Catch a movie (or live music, depending on the night) at the Somerville Theatre, and head downstairs before curtain time for a peek at the Museum of Bad Art. End the night in true Davis Square fashion with a drink at Sligo, a time-honored dive bar and neighborhood institution.