40 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116
One of Boston’s many charms is its history, evidenced by Symphony Hall, the Freedom Trail, and its other venerable landmarks. Another charm is the city’s willingness to embrace—and encourage—the new. This is evident in the Revolution, a new hotel in Boston’s South End that marries history with a progressive approach to hospitality. Let’s start with the space: A brooding midcentury building, it was once home to the local YWCA. The interiors have been completely transformed into a bright, artistic space, and the lobby features a colossal spray-painted mural by a local street artist. The hotel exudes a global hipster feel reminiscent of east Berlin. The rooms are small, efficient, and very impressive. Every inch of space is accounted for, from the smart placement of the cushy beds to the exposed closets. While some rooms contain a shower and bath, most require that you use a shared bathroom down the hall. (The bathrooms are sparkling clean and give you privacy.) And that brings us to the hospitality: The Revolution is all about inclusivity. The accommodations offer an affordable stay in a very expensive city. Every inch encourages engagement, including the…
1395 Washington St., South End
The Gallows is a gastropub done right.
102 Waltham St., South End
Stir—a dreamy all-in-one demo kitchen and cookbook store—is the kind of place you pile into with a group on a chilly Wednesday night to learn pasta-rolling and wine-swilling from the masters. A bunch of stools surround the chef’s island, bordered on one side by the open kitchen and on the other by floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with culinary tomes from kitchen gods around the world. Browsing is encouraged. If you’re more the hates-to-cook-loves-to-eat kind, Stir regularly holds tasting menu evenings where you might go with old friends or alone to make new ones. Either way, everyone sits around the intimate table, sharing food and conversation in a setting so cozy, it feels like home.
550 Tremont St., South End
Chef Barbara Lynch has her hometown all figured out. She knows what the Bostonians want: oysters, at least twelve varieties with nearly as many fixings, served in the cozy basement of a classic brownstone, with chatty servers to talk booze and bivalves with. In fact, B & E Oyster moonlights as one of the South End’s most famous wine bars—the seventy-bottle-strong list is that good. Really. We recommend forgoing the Tabasco and dousing your oysters in the restaurant’s prosecco-based mignonette instead. Oh, and book in for a shucking class with the pros—usually held on weekday afternoons, champagne included.
Banyan Bar & Refuge
553 Tremont St., South End
Dim sum, avocado bao, spicy salmon poke, chicken tikka masala, dragon noodles, and kimchi fried rice—the number of dishes we like to order at this Asian-influenced restaurant seems to grow with every visit.
46 Waltham St., South End
An outdoor market in New York City led John Joss and Don Carney into a love affair with buttons and wool. Inspired by vintage flea-market finds and a simple desire for good old craftsmanship, the two began making delicately embroidered-hats embellished with those vintage, flea-market-find buttons. New Yorkers developed quite an appetite for these distinctive hats, and Joss and Carney’s success only grew from there. They went big with scarves, bags, fashion items, and, eventually, home décor, forming what is now a full lifestyle design studio, appropriately named Patch NYC, in homage to their made-from-scratch origins.
Barcelona Wine Bar
525 Tremont St., South End
Barcelona is a convivial, lively wine and tapas bar in trendy South End, an area that's also home to the long-established Toro. But clearly the neighborhood’s appetite for Spanish food has spiked—both spots are perpetually full. There are a few other Barcelonas, and all are good, but here, it’s the atmosphere as much as the food that keeps guests planted in the wooden seats well past bedtime. Given that Spanish food is designed to be shared, going with hungry friends—and therefore an excuse to order half the menu—is entirely sensible. A heavy, steaming pan of saffron-flecked paella is made for many spoons, while garlicky gambas (prawns) al ajillo, boquerones (anchovies) slick with oil, and a platter of jamón sit firmly in the dig-in-with-your fingers category. Linger at the table with a last glass of sweet sherry, and mop up every remaining morsel with hunks of crusty bread.
641A Tremont St., South End
Canadian couple Andrea and Chris Scott set out to create the anti-spa spa—a place with none of the soothing-to-no-one whale music or cloyingly feminine interiors. Instead, Skoah is a fairly no-frills, approachable, gender-neutral facial spa that’s affordable enough to make booking treatments a regular occurrence rather than a rare treat (the wallet-friendly membership options help). Treatment rooms resemble tiny Scandinavian cabins—white wood walls, silky-sheeted beds, and plenty of light. Facials are thought of as workouts for the skin, the goal being a clear, healthy, and hydrated complexion. We like the “xtreme,” which is accompanied by a foot facial and scalp massage (less headaches have to equal less forehead scrunching, right?), all performed using Skoah’s own plant-based line of products, made in Canada.
541 Tremont St., South End
Beehive is the kind of place you’re more likely to find in New Orleans than Boston—a haven for live jazz and good cocktails. Think of it as an ode to bohemia. Full of random curiosities, the bar attracts top-notch bartenders who enjoy the challenge of crafting off-the-menu drinks for patrons. The nibbles are tasty, but you really come here for the music and the scene. The interior is a riot of lights, colored drapes, and old brick walls that make for surprisingly good acoustics. Take a detour on the way home from dinner and meander in for a nightcap and to catch the final set.
Frenchie Wine Bistro
560 Tremont St., South End
Modeled after those wine bars tucked into alleyways or down flights of stairs in Paris, Frenchie’s is where you go to for, well…French food. The white-painted brick walls, soft grey seating, marble floors, and elegant stucco cornicing make for a seriously elegant setting. Platters are heaped high with cheese and charcuterie, but no meal is complete without an escargot toast or the perfectly executed omelette with a soothing glass of Pouilly-Fuissé. As the night grows darker and the winters colder, mop up the last few drops of French onion soup with crusty corners of bread and wash it down with a glass of Bordeaux. Come Saturday, a frothy café au lait and croque madame is an epic way to kick off the weekend.