If you’re a college freshman, Allston is a magical place - a land of cheap beer and off-campus parties in triple-deckers so ratty that you’re convinced the porch will collapse under the weight of the keg. If you’re trying to move on from the solo cup stage of your life, then Allston is a place you probably try to avoid. And if you actually live here long-term, you know that Allston’s a much nicer place than its reputation implies, that it’s a lively neighborhood with quiet, tree-lined streets off Comm Ave and better transit that a lot of other parts of the city.
But if you’re like us, you love Allston because it’s secretly one of the best food neighborhoods in the city, with tons of options that are quick, casual, and affordable. If you don’t already know this, then check out our favorite spots below.
Having to say goodbye to big, brothy noodle soups is one of the few downsides of summer. But you don’t have to do that at this casual spot on Comm Ave. In addition to the signature soulongtang - a milky white ox bone soup that basically doubles as a blanket in a bowl during the winter - this place serves some seriously good cold noodles in broth that are covered with ice in addition to brisket, egg, and vegetables. Just about everything on the menu is huge, cheap, and comes out really quickly, so come here with friends, start by splitting a seafood pancake and make it one of your year-round go-to’s.
Dolphin Bay is a tiny Taiwanese restaurant that doesn’t have a liquor license and closes at 8:30. Those are two things we don’t like. But we do love that, for about $20, we can eat enough vinegary wontons, spicy popcorn chicken, and sesame noodles to fall into a food coma and dream that the dolphins painted on the walls carried us off to a magical seaside wonderland. This place gets busy and you may have to spend some time clustered around a lighthouse-shaped pillar waiting for a table, but it’s worth it for some of our favorite Chinese food in the city.
Big, communal drinking vessels are kind of important at Myung Dong. But whether you split a tower of light beer or a watermelon filled with soju, you shouldn’t let the drinking (or the endless loop of K-pop videos playing on every TV) distract you from the really good Korean menu. This is a place where you should come late at night when you’re sick of the bars but still want to have fun - especially since most bars don’t serve blood sausage with spicy rice cakes or crispy vegetable dumplings so good you’ll end up ordering a second plate to help you get through that watermelon.
If you’re looking for cheap beer that you won’t be too sad about spilling all over the floor, then Deep Ellum is not the Allston bar for you. But if you’re looking for 30 taps of rotating craft beer, a strong cocktail menu, and a cool spot to split a plate of spice-rubbed chicken wings, head here. It’s a small bar that gets crowded, but in a friendly kind of way, not in a someone stepped on someone else’s foot and now there’s a fight in the line to the bathroom kind of way. It also has a great little patio out back, and a kitchen that serves things like burgers, wings, and a fried chicken sandwich until 1:30 every night.
Lone Star is Deep Ellum’s sister spot, though given that they’re right next to each other and you can literally walk from one to the other without going outside, it kind of seems more like it’s one bar with two different menus. As you probably guessed, the menu here is tacos, and they’re not only good, but a little bigger and meatier than you see at a lot of other places - two of them will cover you for dinner. If you need something else, make it the garlicky street corn, which might be the low-key best thing on the menu.
We’re kind of obsessed with the soup dumplings at this cheap, casual sit-down spot on Harvard Ave. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the other 12 different kinds of dumplings and buns. Come with friends after a night out (it’s open till 2) so you can add the nicely charred Taiwan dumplings and a few noodle dishes to go with the juicy, just a little sweet pork soup dumplings that, like us, you’ll probably order every single time you come.
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. No matter what meal you come here for, you’ll find a menu of diner food that was sent to an etiquette coach - so a lot of things that are fried are served alongside a lot of things that came from a farm or a local bakery. If you’re here for dinner, the fried chicken breast with honey butter is a good place to start. And if you’re here for brunch after a night of having a little too much to drink, you’re pretty much legally obligated to get the white trash hash with egg, short rib, and some great tater tots.
When you’re sick of being told to order 2-3 small plates per person, head to Carlo’s, a tiny Italian 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 reminds you how great simple Italian can be.
On a quiet side street with contemporary art hanging on the wall and an impressive wine list, The Glenville Stops is a great place to be reminded that you’re never too old for Allston. The American menu has a small selection of entrees, but you should stick to the small plates and bar bites, particularly the duck gnocchi with figs. It’s a very clean, relatively new spot that still kind of smells like fresh paint, but it’s the type of place that’s going to gracefully age into a neighborhood standby.
If you’ve been to the BonChon in Harvard Square, then you already know that the lightly fried chicken wings are so good that you don’t mind having to eat them in a frenetic, windowless basement that kind of feels like a radiation shelter in the year 2126. If you’ve been to the one in Allston, you know that, oh hey, you can see the outside world here. The food is just as good (get the kimchi pancakes if you’re not in the mood for chicken), and it also helps that they have some big pitchers of beer and carafes of flavored soju.
Totto Ramen is a small chain with locations in Boston, New York, and Taiwan. We should feel privileged to be included in such an exclusive club, because this is some good, chicken-broth ramen with thin but still chewy noodles. You’re obviously coming to this casual, mid-sized spot with anime murals on the wall for the ramen first and foremost, but if you want something other than noodles, the fried octopus cakes are a good bet.
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 is good for someone who wants something a little different, but the standard bacon cheeseburger with their special sauce gets the job done every time, too.
You’ll probably be tempted to go right to the taco section of the menu at this tiny counter-service Korean spot on Brighton Ave. We don’t blame you - Korean-Mexican fusion tends to be awesome, and the bulgogi tacos here are no exception. But don’t overlook the more traditional Korean dishes like the tteokbokki, a big plate of rice and fish cakes served with vegetables in a sweet chili sauce. It’s outstanding and, if you add in the ramen and cheese, you’ll have enough left over for a second meal.
Casa Cana is a hotel restaurant surrounded by parking lots, car washes, and the wannabe-highway that is Soldiers Field Road. In other words, it’s not a place you’re going to casually stroll by on a Saturday afternoon. Instead, you have to deliberately seek out this Latin spot, and you should, because its big courtyard with a bar and couches is one of the best outdoor spaces in the city. The menu is filled with things like fish tacos, empanadas, and ceviche - saucy, flavorful stuff that won’t blow you away but will keep you satisfied as you order another mojito and enjoy the sun.
Our Fathers is sort of like the Jewish deli version of a gastropub. That is to say it’s got a menu filled with pastrami and smoked fish, but you’ll be eating it in a place that feels more like a 1950s airport lounge than a greasy diner with racks of potato chips and framed pictures of old-timey New York on the wall. They do have a small take-out operation on the side for sandwiches, but you should come here for a sit-down meal to enjoy not only their bigger plates like the za’atar salmon, but also their extensive list of gin cocktails.