date published: September 27, 2004

Explore the Boston area’s diverse neighborhoods with our guide to the Hub’s less-traveled
destinations by Christine Celli

You probably already knew Boston has a large Irish-American population, but do you know where Southie is? And did you know that we have lively Latin-American, African-American, Portuguese and Brazilian communities as well? And that the North End isn’t the only area Italian-Americans call home? In fact, some of the city’s most diverse and culture-rich sites are to be found off the beaten path in our various neighborhoods. But navigating the world outside of downtown Boston isn’t always easy and often guide books are little help. So in the following pages, we take you on a tour of the people and places that make up our city’s diverse enclaves.

In its early days as a meat packing mecca, Allston and Brighton were neighborhoods most feared by cattle. These days, Allston is still slightly scary for those who wish to avoid the throngs of college students who graze the area and are drawn by cheaper rents, live music venues and its proximity to BU and BC. But even if you’re not in college, the cheap eats, pool halls and dive bars clustered on and around Harvard Avenue make it a good place to look for nightlife. Brighton, on the other hand, is more residential, but Brighton Center does get hopping on weekends. Getting There: Allston: Green B Line to Harvard Ave. Brighton: the 57 bus from Kenmore. Things To Do: Sunset Bar and Grill features more than 100 beers on tap. The Model Cafe (7 North Beacon St., Allston, 617-254-9365) is where rockers, not models, drink cheap beer and play pool. The Green Briar (304 Washington St., Brighton, 617-789-4100) has live folk music and Irish eats. Head to Grasshopper (1 North Beacon St, Allston, 617-254-8883) for good vegetarian food.


Neighboring communities Roxbury and Mission Hill have gone through a lot of change over the years. Roxbury is one of the city’s earliest settlements, founded by English colonists in 1630, while Mission Hill played host to the city’s beer brewing tradition, attracting German and Irish immigrants looking for work. Today, Roxbury is the heart of Boston’s African-American community and Mission Hill, near Northeastern and Wentworth Universities, attracts numerous students as well as families of all ethnicities. Getting There: Orange Line to Roxbury Crossing and the Silver Line to Dudley Square. Things To Do: Mission Church (1525 Tremont St., 617-445-2600): a massive Romanesque-style basilica built in 1876. Franklin Park (refer to listing, page 60) is a 427-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that includes a zoo and golf course. The Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists (pictured right) displays a wide range of works by black artists and the building has been named a historic landmark, to boot.


“Eastie” began as a collection of islands and was once even considered a vacation destination. Now home to Logan Airport, it’s today what most people think of as a vacation beginning. But the largely working-class neighborhood has grown increasingly diverse since the 19th century when it was home to primarily Italian immigrants. Newer residents hail from everywhere from Southeast Asia to South America. Over Columbus Day weekend, the Italian community will make its presence known with a parade (October 10 from 1–5 p.m.), sailing races and various cultural activities. Getting There: Blue Line stops Maverick through Suffolk Downs. Things To Do: Take a low cost sailing lesson or just enjoy the view of Boston Harbor at Piers Park Sailing Center (95 Marginal St., 617-561-6677). Santarpio’s (113 Chelsea St., 617-567-9871) boasts phenomenally good pizza. Uncle Pete’s Hickory Ribs (309 Bennington St. 617-569-RIBS) has award-winning Southern-style barbecue. Check out the horse racing at Suffolk Downs (617-567-3900).


Jamaica Plain, or “J.P.,” borders Roxbury and Brookline and is often thought of as a town all its own. Residents appreciate the area for its diversity, which includes the Latino community in Hyde Square as well as its wealth of artists, musicians and young professionals. Visitors especially enjoy basking in its green spaces including three parks on the Emerald Necklace—Franklin Park, the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond. Getting There: Orange Line stops include Jackson Square, Stony Brook, Green Street and Forest Hills. Things To Do: Learn about the area’s beer brewing tradition and sample Sam Adams at the Boston Beer Museum (refer to listing, page 60). Tacos El Charo (349 Centre St., 617-522-2578) boasts homemade sangria, Mexican food and a live mariachi band. Good times at Milky Way Lounge and Lanes (403-405 Centre St., 617-524-3740) include candlepin bowling, karaoke and live music. Legendary Irish pub Doyle’s Cafe (3484 Washington St., 617-524-2345) offers equal parts history lesson and watering hole.


“Southie,” as South Boston is commonly called, is not the same thing as the South End. This infamously insular Irish community borders Boston Harbor and attracts a gaggle of folks to its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Things are diversifying more and more these days, thanks to new residents flocking to the area for its waterfront properties, the artists lofts of the Fort Point Channel area and an easy commute to downtown Boston. Not surprisingly, it’s also still popular for its Irish bars. Getting There: Red Line stops include South Station, Broadway, Andrew and JFK/UMass. Or take the 9, 7 or 11 buses. Things To Do: Castle Island (the end of William J. Day Blvd., 617-268-5744) is home to Fort Independence and a great place to relax outdoors. A white marble monument to the British evacuation of Boston in 1776 stands at Dorchester Heights (on Telegraph Road). Amrheins (80 West Broadway St., 617-268-6189) is one of the oldest Irish pubs in town, while Lucky’s Lounge (355 Congress St., 617-357-LUCK) offers nightlife for Southie’s new generation.


Somerville is actually its own city with its own neighborhoods, but as it borders Boston and Cambridge and is easily accessible via subway, it doubles as a enclave of both. Popular areas include Davis and Union squares, which attract college students from Tufts, Harvard and MIT, and are full of bookshops, funky cafes, bars and restaurants. Getting There: On the Red Line, stops include Porter and Davis. Or go to Sullivan Square on the Orange Line. Things To Do: The Burren (247 Elm St., 617-776-6896) is a cozy Irish pub known for its mix of rock and traditional Irish music. A retro-cool 1940s eatery, Rosebud Diner (381 Summer St., 617-666-6015) offers a varied menu and full bar. Prospect Hill Park (on Munroe Street between Prospect Hill Avenue and Walnut Street) is where the first flag of the American colonies was raised and has a great view of Boston. Somerville Theatre (55 Davis Square, 617-625-4088) doubles as mid-sized live music venue and art house movie theatre that also screens cheap, second-run films.

back to homepage