BU may currently be best known for hockey and that one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez music video, but it should be known as a great food city, too. Allston on one side of you is packed with some of the best and most affordable Asian food in Boston, and Kenmore Square on the other has plenty of fun special occasion spots. Whenever you get annoyed about the fact that you don’t really have a campus, or Northeastern students keep chanting “sucks to BU” as if that’s remotely clever or original, go to one of these restaurants or bars and remember why going to school in the middle of the city is so great.
At some point over the next few years, you will likely go to dinner with your family at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square. It’s a big brasserie that serves three meals a day, has great cocktails and a lot of familiar meat and fish entrees that never miss. Despite the marble bar and high ceilings, it’s also casual enough to come with friends, and not just the people in your life who might raise an eye if you’re a little too familiar with the bartender.
Dolphin Bay closes at 8:30 and doesn’t have a liquor license. We sort of understand if you stop reading right here, but you should know about this place anyway because it’s a really affordable spot for great Taiwanese food. Start with the nicely spiced popcorn chicken, get the dumpling noodles, and definitely try one of their crazy fruit drinks, like the sea salt creme that comes with a foam dolphin on top and kind of taste like melted ice cream in a cup.
The first thing to know about Mei Mei is that the Double Awesome, a cheesy egg sandwich served on scallion pancakes, is way better hangover food than a reheated slice of pizza and a diet coke. The second thing to know, is that this fast-casual Asian spot in Audubon Circle is great all around. It has a vegetable-heavy menu with tasty dumplings and small plates, beer and wine, and a few tables on a quiet sidewalk when the weather’s nice.
For about 60 years, the Model was an actual dive, a place where the bathroom was gross not because people thought gross bathrooms were edgy, but because cleaning up bathrooms sucks. Then people started lining up to ironically drink cheap beer, and they started scheduling everything from metal shows and slam poetry, to Robyn cover bands, even though it’s smaller than a two-bedroom apartment. Now it’s just where everyone in Boston goes to get sloppy, and you should embrace it for exactly that.
There’s no question that one of the coolest things about BU is the annual dining hall lobster night, where every student waits in a big-ass line, puts on a bib, and eats a disgusting looking creature that is somehow delicious. But, thankfully, you’re allowed to eat seafood more than once a year. You now live in one of the best seafood cities in the world, and Island Creek is one of our very best oyster bars. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s a great place to impress a date, and it’s where you should come for interesting seafood dishes, like lobster roe noodles.
Let’s be clear here: you will be coming to this lively spot with K-Pop videos on the TVs first and foremost for either the half-yard beer towers or the soju cocktails served in watermelons. That’s fine - communal drinking is almost always fun. But don’t miss out on the Korean food, even if it’s just for snacking. We like the blood sausage, rice cakes, and crispy dumplings.
If your favorite wine is boxed, then it’s time to make some upgrades. Nathalie, an unpretentious wine bar with skateboarding stickers and contemporary art on the walls is a great place to do that. Come here for some really fun natural wines made by female winemakers and a menu of small plates that’ll make you happy even if your ID got rejected.
When you just need some heaping plates of the kind of Italian food that makes you remember how great simple Italian food can be, head to Carlo’s, a tiny spot that serves giant plates of pasta and Italian classics like veal parm. You’re not going to find ground-breaking food here (as you’ll probably guess upon seeing the very ’80s, very cartoony murals of the Italian countryside on the walls) but you will find food that fills you up and will probably be big enough to bring home for a late-night meal a few hours later.
Time Out Market is a giant food hall with stalls from some of the most outstanding restaurants in Boston. If you really want to try out the restaurants, you’re better off going to their actual locations than the stalls here, where the food tends to be smaller and priced with a tourist tax, but it’s awesome that they’re all together in one big, fun spot that has good cocktails and an outdoor space with corn hole and bocce.
Seoul Soulongtang is a Korean noodle soup place that you should keep in mind all year. In the winter, the milky white ox bone soulongtang is a perfect antidote to the fact that you have to walk to class over a windy eight-lane highway, and when it’s hot, you can get noodles served over ice that are the perfect antidote to the fact that you have to walk over a shadowless eight-lane highway. Other than the soups, it’s got a good menu of affordable Korean stuff, and you should always split the kimchi pancake to start.
If you’re looking for an extracurricular activity, setting out to try all 13 types of dumplings and buns at this casual sit-down spot on Harvard Ave wouldn’t be a bad one. Come with friends after a night out (it’s open till 2), order as much as you can (it’s cheap), and find yourself a dumpling that makes you whisper into its dumpling ear and tell it you’re in love.
Lone Star is Deep Ellum’s sister bar, right next door (or, actually, right through an internal glass door that connects both places). It’s a great spot for some meaty tacos and garlicky corn that you should probably consider ordering every time you come. If you’re staying on campus over the summer, making your way through their margarita menu would be a pretty good way to pass the time.
Lulu’s has one of the best beer selections in Boston, and it’s one of our favorite places to get brunch, especially if you’re sitting outside near the bocce court. The menu is mostly diner stuff, but it gets the job done, particularly in light of the fact that the main reasons you’re here are the drinks and the atmosphere. If you’re getting brunch after a night of drinking too much, then you should probably get the white trash hash with egg, short rib, and tater tots).
Bonchon has some of our favorite fried chicken anywhere. It’s flavorful, perfectly fried, and the spicy blend is legitimately spicy. The rest of the menu is fine and it also serves beer and wine, but you’re coming to this casual spot first and foremost for the chicken.
It should be illegal to call those little plastic bags of dehydrated noodles you heat up in your microwave ramen, especially compared to the delicious, chicken broth bowls with tender pork, spicy sesame oil, and soft eggs you get at Totto. Most of the bowls are around $13 and there’s a good menu of small plates to go along with them at this casual spot with anime murals on the wall, so come with some friends for an affordable night out.
The Korean-Mexican fusion tacos at this tiny counter-service spot are the main draw here, and they’re awesome (start with the bulgogi). But the standard Korean stuff like the tteokbokki is worth exploring, too, especially since, if you add the ramen and cheese, you’ll probably get two meals out of your $14.
The grilled cheese at this small counter-service spot is good enough that Roxy’s doesn’t have to change its name, and the poutine should be on your shortlist of things to eat after a night of drinking. But we come here for the sloppy, cheesy, saucy burgers that are among the best in the city. Justin’s Burger topped with pimento cheese and chipotle works for someone who wants something a little different, but the standard bacon cheeseburger with their special sauce gets the job done every time, too.
At some point, a friend from another school is going to visit you and want to see some “real Boston drinking spots in Southie.” After you break the news that Southie is now filled with dog-groomers and pretty much impossible to get to anyway, you can take them to the Sil. This is an old school dive with cheap beer, Buck Hunter, and an interior that hasn’t been touched since 1972. There’s often a line of students out the door on Friday and Saturday night, so it’s not like it’s completely a townie watering hole, but it’s close enough to get the feeling.
Somehow, the White Horse Tavern has gained a reputation as a BC bar. But that’s some bullsh*t - this place is on your turf, and since it’s a big place with pool tables, a decent pub menu, and a great patio that does pop-up style rotations of its theme and decor, you shouldn’t let it be taken over by a bunch of undergrads who were too afraid to go to school in the actual city.
Sunset is where you should be going to pregame every hockey game. Not just because it’s right across Comm Ave from Agganis, but also because it has a huge menu of tequila and margaritas, making it the perfect place to escape to on a snowy Friday night as you try to figure out how the hell to pronounce “Renssalaer.” If you’e worried about potentially getting kicked out of the game because you drank too much, soak up the alcohol with a giant plate of fiesta nachos.