Boston’s South End: Back Bay’s Risqué Little Sister

Food, Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By Andrea Mooney on April 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

On any given day, Boston is a sport’s fan’s paradise, a college student’s lair, and – depending on your preference – a tribute to either Irish or Italian history. The South End is worlds away from all of those things: it embraces history only when it’s elegantly paired with modernity; takes plenty of social risks; and juxtaposes them all with funky grace. Grab your most artful attire, a pair of designer sunglasses, a dog on a leash, and your gay best friend, and you’re on your way.

Brownstones in the South End, Boston
Brownstones in the South End, Boston

Half the reason the South End is such a wonderful secret is because it is largely skipped over by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. A few buses pass through, but the tourist-heavy subways barely approach it, making it a little hard to get to, but worth the trek for culture vultures. Slowly and steadily, tourists are finding this place, either by word of mouth or by simply picking up a periodical. In the past two years, if a new restaurant opens, it’s usually in the south end, and folks are catching on.

Nestled just south of Back Bay, the South End takes all of its neighbor’s upscale demeanor, leaves the tourist gleam behind, and gives it edge with award-winning restaurants, independent art galleries, adorable cafes, and all things boutique.

The dining scene is the South End’s key player. A fusion of international cuisines can be found on every street, from formal places like Hamersly’s and Stella to gritty hipster havens like the Franklin Café and Delux. Creative plates abound, offering vegetarian options, innovative local ingredients, and almost every edible part of an animal at places like Coppa and Toro. Oh, and all of these boast killer cocktail menus too. While reservations may be hard to come by here, excellent dining is not.

The only thing that rivals the amount of bold restaurants is the number of centuries-old quaint brownstones where yuppies, 30-something couples, and young families reside. Street cleaning and outdoor maintenance are held to high standards, and walking down any of these is reminiscent of strolling along London’s cobblestone pathways.

Joe V's Restaurant, Boston

Joe V's Restaurant, Boston

A proud and thriving gay culture lives here too, making the neighborhood a more well-rounded environment for open-minded travelers. The Pride festival begins in the South End on June 12 this year, an appropriate launching point for a progressive celebration.

While Bostonians prefer to keep it a secret, the South End is accessible if you’re willing to walk 15 minutes or so from Copley Square or Back Bay stations. Take either Berkeley, Clarendon, or Dartmouth Streets to Tremont, and you’ll hit Restaurant Row. Other  foodie-laden streets include Shawmut and Washington, but don’t dig much farther than that – Harrison and Albany Streets aren’t known for their splendor or safety.

Tags: Coppa, Delux, food in the South End, Franklin Cafe, Hamersly's Bistro, Ken Oringer, The South End, Toro, up-and-coming places in Boston

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  1. » Boston’s South End: Back Bay’s Risqué Little Sister Andrea Christine Mooney - June 21, 2011