One of Boston’s prettiest neighborhoods is Back Bay. It is a testament to the city of Boston and residents that such an important commercial center so full of businesses and restaurants also remains one of the best preserved examples of 19th century urban design filled with beautiful rows of Victorian brownstones to live in and call home.
You don’t need to be a fan of architecture to appreciate the design and buildings. Modern examples like I.M. Pei’s famous John Hancock Tower literally reflecting the city laid out before it. Below I’ve included photos of a few buildings you might see if you were to stroll through Back Bay or dine out al fresco at one of the hundreds of restaurants located in this downtown neighborhood. Will you be coming to Boston for work or pleasure anytime soon?
It is rare for me to review a hotel in Boston but work required me to be on-site for three days this past week, while we hosted a program at the Westin Copley Place so I thought I’d share my impressions.
This Starwood property has a four diamond award from AAA and is fairly large by Boston standards with more than 800 rooms. However its best feature is the fact that it is in the heart of Back Bay. The property was renovated recently and both the rooms and meeting space are much the better for it. Below are photos of my room.
If you are a Starwood preferred member, internet access is free at this property as is the complimentary bottled water in the bathroom.
No need to pack your work out clothes. This property has a deal with New Balance and for $5 they will give you everything you need (including sneakers) to rent for the day.
The best rooms for a view of Back Bay end in the following numbers: 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14; note that 12 and 13 are much larger.
Westin Copley Place is at 10 Huntington Ave (617) 262-9600
Looking for something fun to do tonight? Are you aware of tonight’s event hosted by Opus Affair? They will be hosting their monthly cocktails reception at Back Bay’s Speakeasy / Nightclub, Storyville, located in the space previously occupied by Saint at 90 Exeter Street.
Who is Opus Affair?
Opus Affair is an informal social group mostly comprised of artists and art enthusiasts / patrons in their 20s and 30s. It is a very social and friendly group who have made me (a 40-something) feel very welcome when I’ve attended in the past.
Monday 6-9PM Storyville at 90 Exeter Street
Tonight’s program at Storyville is one part social and one part fundraiser. Opus Affair asks that you RSVP (no cost) and encourages you to vote ($10 per vote) for one of three charities. One of these three charities names will be drawn during the social and receive the amount raised by votes for tonight’s event. There is more information about these charities and to RSVP here.
Listed below are a few photographs I’ve pulled from the web that were taken last night after two transformers in the Back Bay neighborhood caught fire and knocked power out in one of the most densely populated parts of Boston.
The Back Bay, aside from being a large, affluent downtown neighborhood with tens of thousands of residents is second only to the financial district in terms of numbers of businesses and is the largest retail and restaurant district so the loss of power and damage to property is significant.
View from Cambridge looking across the Charles River
Source: WBUR.org Photo by, Bianca Vazquez Toness
View from South End
Source: Live.Boston.com Photo by: Dmattbrothers
View of Newbury Street and Mass Avenue
The South End recently welcomed a new independent cafe to the neighborhood. The Orange Corner Cafe is located at 374 Mass Ave, providing a cozy atmosphere where you can grab a coffee. The menu also includes baked goods, sandwiches, paninis and soups.
Although there are 8 coffee shops within a 4 block radius of my apartment in the South End, the Orange Corner Cafe, tucked near the Back Bay and South End line is a great location that is under served. Check out this new business and let me know what you think.
Hint: coupons are available for download if you visit their website.
Que Ligao! Fogo de Chao is an authentic Brazilian steakhouse, which first opened in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The successful steakhouse has grown and now has nearly 20 locations in the US alone.
According to Adam over at Adam’s Hospitality and Tourism blog, the restaurant will soon be adding Boston as their newest location. Fogo de Chao will go into the space previously occupied by The Palm in Copley Square, which recently closed.
Look for an August / September opening.
Last September Restoration Hardware said it would open a high end furniture and home decor store in the space previously occupied by LouisBoston on Newbury Street.
In December, blogger George Whalin wrote about these new stores. According to Wahlin, the first of these newly designed stores opened in San Francisco, followed by Los Angeles and Houston, and all the properties appear to have a much broader selection of furniture, high-quality linens, bath fixtures, accessories, chandeliers, and lamps than are found in the company’s traditional stores.
With the L.A. and Houston storefronts at 24,000 and 25,000 square feet respectively, it seems unlikely the Boston location would use all of the space available to them. According to the real estate listing the building can accommodate 40,000 square feet. Does this mean the part of the building which was reserved for restaurant space will remain? Let’s hope so.
Check out the beautiful San Francisco “Design Gallery” from Restoration Hardware to get an idea of what you can expect when the store opens.
City Table is a popular eatery in the Lenox Hotel, conveniently located in the heart of the Back Bay. I’d only heard positive things about City Table, but I had not set foot in the place since it was Azure. At first glance City Table lives up to its description as a “casually elegant neighborhood eatery.” Unfortunately, that’s where the description on the web and our experience part ways. Perhaps we tried City Table on an off night, but both the service and food was lacking.
In lieu of a dinner we opted for wine and to share several appetizers. This was an opportunity to get caught up with friends. All told we shared a bottle of Cote du Rhone ($34) and four appetizers.
The first appetizer Burrata on grilled baguette with speck ham, and poblano tomato jam ($13). The cheese was as creamy as you would hope and the ham and tomato added great flavoring but the bread which should have been crispy to offer a nice crunch was soft and slightly stale. I ended up skipping the bread and eating the cheese.
The second appetizer Tuna Tartare ($14) was my favorite and one I’d order it again. The chef added papaya (a flavor none of us could place) but which nicely flavored the tuna and went surprisingly well with the citrus soy dressing and avocado. Adding to the appeal was that it was also beautifully presented.
The third appetizer duck confit spring rolls with mint peanut sauce ($10) was also dissatisfying. The duck was dry and there was far too much egg roll. We actually didn’t finish this appetizer. Oddly the waiter never inquired why several pieces remained, and with the appetizers now 1 for 3 I didn’t want to make a negative comment so we all took a big sip of wine and waited for the fourth plate.
The fourth appetizer was the leek and artichoke arancini ($12). Again all three of us agreed that this was too dry and crumbly lacking flavor considering the ingredients used. Thank goodness the wine was still available as we all needed to take a decent gulp to help swallow the bland appetizer.
Main dishes are mostly in the range of $25 – $30 with a couple of more affordable and more expensive options. The restaurant also has several sandwiches which range from $11-$15. If you think you’d like to try City Table, you can view the full dinner menu here.
City Table is located in the Lenox Hotel at the corner of Boylston and Exeter St.
Reservations are strongly recommended. Tel: (617) 933-4800
The weather in Boston was in the low 40s and windy when the 12th Annual Santa Speedo Run started. This annual tradition, brings hundreds of men and women into Back Bay to run in a variety of speedos and boxers, raising money for a local charity.
This year’s run was a bit more chaotic than in past years with the Boston Police Dept. showing up late to the party. Without a police presence, crowds lining the streets forced the normally busy Boylston Street to one lane and Newbury Street was jammed resulting in less time for runners to pose and play both before and after the run. However, I hope you enjoy this year’s video. I was down one photographer as Sergio decided to participate. Do you see him?
Today’s run will raise approximately $250,000 which will go to benefit the Play Ball Foundation. To learn more about this year’s charity and the Santa Speedo Run, visit their website ssrunners.org.
The much talked about Boston Santa Speedo Run will take place one week from today. This fun(ny) 1-mile run through Boston’s trendy Back Bay neighborhood in December earns a lot of laughs for both spectators and runners. It has also become an unofficial tradition of yours truly to go down and watch these crazy runners warm up and run down Boylston Street so be sure to check back late Saturday afternoon after I post my 2011 video of the Santa Speedo Run. In the interim, check out the video I created from last year’s run.
The 2011 charity benefiting from the funds raised in this years race will be Play Ball foundation. If you’d like to learn more about this annual run which is now replicated in cities across the US and Canada, you can visit here.
Last week I met my close friend and fellow blogger, Tracey, for lunch at one of my favorite seafood restaurants in Boston. For years, this restaurant has consistently provided excellent seafood in a pleasant setting with skilled servers. When I lived in the Back Bay (where this establishment is located) I think I went here weekly.
Atlantic Fish Co. has been serving the public since the late 70s and is part of the Back Bay Restaurant Group, which also owns establishments like Abe & Louie’s which happens to be a few doors down on Boylston Street. Despite the fact that I think this place may serve the best New England Clam Chowder in the city, I had not been here in quite awhile. If you are on a budget and are afraid Atlantic might break your budget, consider joining them for lunch. Day menus always seem to be cheaper than their evening counterparts and it is the same food.
Complementary bread / cup of New England clam chowder $5.00
Immediately after ordering lunch, a basket of warm breads arrived and shortly thereafter the chowder which I referenced previously. The bread was soft and warm and the chowder was creamy with large chunks of potatoes and clams. The combination of the two together was so satisfying I wished I had ordered a bowl rather than the cup. However, considering I ordered my standby “Fish and Chips” it was probably best since I can only ingest so many calories without feeling some pinch of guilt. Like Atlantic’s chowder, I think their Fish and Chips is among the best in the city, but I’ll let the picture tell the full story.
Fish and Chips $13.00
We opted to lunch at Atlantic’s beautiful bar rather than requesting a table. Often one sacrifices a bit of attention and service when dining at the bar since bartenders can be harried making drinks for the floor while serving patrons who “belly up to the bar”, but this is one of the few places I’ve dined regularly and feel no slight. The bartenders were friendly, attentive and extremely helpful going the extra distance by calling the kitchen when I had a question about an item not on their lunch menu. If you are looking for some delicious New England seafood on your next visit to Boston – check out Atlantic Fish Co.
Located at 761 Boylston Street in the Back Bay, (617) 267-4000
Reservations are strongly recommended
Last January I shared a glowing review of Lucca Back Bay. I returned again for a visit in the spring of 2011 and had a similar experience so I was happy to go again this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
Perhaps we had a new waiter, but at nearly every turn she detracted from the dining experience. She did not offer the night’s two specials and actually forgot the second entirely. Throughout the meal errors like not filling empty wine glasses or inquiring if we’d like to order another bottle when we ran empty all happened one after another, making me wonder if I was eating at a quiet discount Italian chain.
Problems with service were exacerbated because one of the friends did not care for the gnocchi they ordered. To make sure he was not being overly critical I sampled his plate, and agree it was (at best) mediocre. Lest you think I’m overly negative, I would like to assure you that we did have a good time (after all its the company that makes the evening) and the four other main dishes were delicious.
For those contemplating a visit, pasta plates range from $23-$36 and main courses or “secondi” range from $28-$36. Dinner for two (appetizers, main dishes and a shared dessert – not including drinks or tip) is ~ $90.00.
Lucca in the Back Bay is at 116 Huntington Ave Boston, MA
Reservations strongly recommended, Tel: (617) 247 2400
Inspired by the gay blog, Dwight Supremacy that regularly includes “SIRveillance” posts, I thought I’d share one such guy who caught my eye when I was waiting patiently outside the Newbury Street Diesel store last week.If you like this sort of thing definitely check out the Dwight Supremacy blog, which is conveniently located in my blogroll.
The Burrage House (named after the attorney, businessman, and philanthropist Albert C. Burrage and his family) is one of many distinctive properties that dot Back Bay’s Commonwealth Avenue. The home which was initially constructed in 1899 is now divided into six condominiums each worth several millions of dollars and rent for $15,000+ a month. Local football fans know that a few years ago Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady, called this home.
I’m so thankful that even if these are no longer single family homes, the city never allowed them to be torn down. The Burrage House adds an element of elegance and ignites my imagination of what Boston must have been like 100+ years ago. Below is a video of one of the condos which went up for sale earlier this spring and sold for more than asking ($4.35M).
Back Bay is famous for its rows of Victorian homes, which according to wikipedia are considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the United States. The neighborhood’s name refers to when this now trendy part of the city was marsh. Now a shopping, business and residential district, fans of architecture will recognize most of the residential buildings date from the late 19th and early 20th century.
When I first moved into Boston, I lived in the Back Bay and I’ll always consider the neighborhood home. Below are a series of photographs from Back Bay.
The neighborhood blends the old with the new beautifully. The photos above are from opposing buildings at the intersection of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The modern building on the left was designed by Frank Gehry in 1989. By contrast the re-purposed building across the street provides a glimpse of Boston’s past.
When I first moved to Boston the building above which dates back to 1899 was home to Waterstone’s Bookstore and was one of my favorite places to spend time when the weather wasn’t agreeable. The building is now home to a Montessori school and a restaurant.
Above is a trompe l’oeil to add some interest to what otherwise would be the back of a concrete building that is home to the Boston Architectural College and behind it is the Prudential building which dominates the Back Bay skyline.