Break Out Of Eagle Bucks
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
I’ll apologize in advance for taunting the freshmen and sophomores with this column. Honestly, I envy almost everything about you all: you are less than halfway done with Boston College, there is no looming semester abroad (a worthwhile experience, but daunting nonetheless), no friends graduating for the misnamed “real world.”
You are saddled with an ungodly expensive meal plan, however, and a selection of food that, especially on the weekends, becomes dangerously scant and unappealing. For me, the balance on that plan hung over my head anytime (read: several times per weekend) I wanted to go off campus and eat at some of Boston’s amazing selections. It is hard to justify shelling out real dollars when the mandatory meal plan feels like Monopoly money and has already been committed to be spent.
But now the stresses of junior year are made a little more manageable by the fact that I can calm myself from homework stress with home-baked cookies, or have friends over for a communal dinner at the end of the week. With a kitchen, I have been freed from the shackles of the meal plan, and Boston is (excuse the metaphor) my oyster, from which I don’t want a pearl, but rather actual oyster meat: fried, steamed, or prepared any which way. Boston is famous, after all, for its seafood.
Yet we have also become famous for the quality of our cuisine in general, a shift that is exciting to someone who has grown up regarding food as a meal, an experience, and an art form all in one. What I love about the burgeoning foodie realm of Boston, is that it isn’t reliant on a few hot names of chefs, or a handful of high profile restaurants that outshine the rest. (Not to say that we are without those, Jean Georges, Tiffani Faison, Mary Dupont, No. 9 Park, Myers+Chang, and Island Creek Oyster Bar are only a few of the most notables of the city.) It’s actually the individual startups that garner the most respect, in my opinion. Dozens of restaurant owners are able to rise from obscurity to create unique, unmatched restaurant experiences.
First, there is the likes of Trident Cafe. At the end of Newbury Street, this place does not rely on the foot traffic that the Boston Common end of the street attracts. Instead, they lure you in by being an all-inclusive experience. There is outdoor or indoor seating, half of the space is a fully-functioning bookstore, and they even have Friday night trivia for those who are seeking an intelligentsia type of night. This place is a complicated economic venture, combining two very different products—books and food—and making them compatible not only in practical terms, but also aesthetics.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from this casual hangout is the (accurately named) Beehive. The jazz club atmosphere of this wonder of a restaurant is so distracting that the food becomes almost a second thought. There are too many sounds and sights to absorb efficiently by the time waiters come around to take orders. Of course, the smell and taste of what is set before you steal control of sensation away from the surroundings. This tug of war is ideal in a restaurant—again, it isn’t about taking in nourishment to get by, it’s about the process of enjoying the food, the company, and the night. That aspect of dining is something that Boston truly understands.
There really isn’t room in this column to digress into all of places I would like to go visit, or all the tastes I’d like to savor. But the planning out of future visits to these places brings up a question I have always pondered: When can you ever call yourself a native? As usual, I think it’s a question that could be answered by a plate.
Are you a native when you’re in a rut and have your favorite places, where the waiters know your name and the bartenders know your drink order? Or is it when you have had enough experiences that you never have to go somewhere that a tourist would wander into, you have found the “hidden gems,” and try a new place every weekend because your city sense will always steer you straight?