The Best Restaurants in East Boston
photo credit: Joel Ang
As one of the most diverse and densely packed areas of the city, East Boston can be as challenging to navigate as, well, the rest of the city. But between the harbor and the now-defunct racetrack, there’s a lot of good food - tamales, meat pies, pizza, and so much more. Here’s where to find them all, at the best restaurants in Eastie.
Tawakal Cafe is our favorite place to eat in East Boston, and it’s located so close to Logan that it may also qualify as our favorite airport restaurant. The biryanis and soups are flavored with East African spices, and they’re all very good. But any meal here should include beef sambusas, the beef hilib chapati wrap, and large spoonfuls of the spectacular homemade hot sauce. Do yourself a favor before your next flight - skip the terminal’s $8 chocolate-covered pretzels, and go to Tawakal instead.
There are so many Dominican empanadas to choose from at Pikalo that placing an order here can be quite challenging. And to make matters even more difficult, they come in two different sizes, and the flavors don’t overlap. How exactly are you supposed to pick between a smaller ropa vieja empanada and a larger barbecue ribs empanada? That’s why we never leave with anything less than a bag of five.
New Saigon is one of only two Vietnamese restaurants in Eastie, and thankfully, it’s very good. While there are certainly better bowls of phở in the city, we really enjoy the vermicelli bowls and stir-fried flat rice noodles here.
Santarpio’s makes some of the best pizza in the city. However, there is one very important caveat - by some Pasteurian law of chemistry, the pizza doesn’t do so well for take-out. It’s still good, but nowhere near as good as when you eat it at the VFW-style dining hall. The barbecue lamb skewers are also a necessary side for any meal here.
La Fonda Colombiana makes some of the best tostones and pinto beans we’ve ever had, and some days, we just order a lot of both and binge-watch Floor Is Lava. If you’re looking for other food too, we’re also fans of the chicharrón, camarones al ajillo, and bandeja paisa, though the massive platters may be hard to balance if you somehow find yourself jumping from the couch to the dining room table.
We wish there was a weekly subscription service for Jalisco’s tamales. They have the ideal masa-to-meat ratio and should be in everyone’s emergency freezer stash for the next sick day or unforeseen breakup. This is our go-to for a casual weeknight dinner in the neighborhood. If you want something other than tamales, the various taco and soup options here are equally stellar.
Eating out in Boston for under $9 can feel like a fantasy. But at that price point, Sammy Carlo’s, a neighborhood staple since 1927, serves a whole host of large sandwiches - from the juicy chicken parm to the homemade meatball sub. The sandwiches are so substantial that you can easily split them or keep the other half for dinner - that’s what dreams are made of.
Rincon Limeño is one of the few Latin restaurants in East Boston with a full liquor license, and they make some great pisco sours. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t also order some ceviche, aji de gallina, and lomo saltado. We think the entrees at Rincon Limeño are actually better than Celeste, our other reliable spot for Peruvian food. On the weekends, it can get very busy, so making a reservation ahead of time is a good idea.
The Quiet Few is a restaurant that intentionally masks itself as a dive bar. It has all the usual bar food suspects, but you have the option to add on some unusual things too. If you want Cheez Whiz on your waffle fries, or caviar on top of your burger patty, for example, you can do that here. There’s also a whiskey list with almost 100 different pours.
La Hacienda, located right in the center of always busy Meridian Street, serves a variety of Mexican and Salvadoran dishes. Some standouts include the pupusas, weekend soups like sopa de mondongo, and the fajitas - a surprise to us since we normally find the sizzling platters to be rather bland at other spots. And if you’re concerned about takeout, don’t be - everything, including the fajitas, holds up well in to-go boxes.
Yes, we know Belle Isle Seafood isn’t technically in East Boston. But if a short bridge is enough to keep you away from some of the best fried clams, lobster pie, and chowder this city has to offer, we feel sorry for you. This bare-bones restaurant and fish market is basically a New England candy store, and in the summer, when you can sit outside and smell the jet fuel-laced air, it’s the place you’ll want to be.
There are two Italian delis on this East Boston guide because we love chicken parm sandwiches, and also because the ones at Milano’s are really good. In particular, the chicken napolitano - a chicken cutlet sandwich topped with prosciutto, red peppers, and mozzarella - is so much greater than the sum of its parts. You can also pre-order your meal for takeout, so you’ll never have to settle for a sh*tty in-flight sub again.
ReelHouse is essentially a cruise ship in restaurant form - there’s generic mid-century modern furniture, dads with Disneyland shirts chasing their Frozen toddlers, and food that sounds better than it tastes. But don’t be too disappointed, because you’re here for the heavy-handed drinks and the view, which is the best of any restaurant in the city. In the summer, when the outdoor patio is open, expect to see couples striking Titanic poses.