As one of the most culturally diverse and densely packed areas of the city, East Boston can be as challenging to navigate as the history of the American Revolution. But between the harbor to the now-defunct racetrack, there’s a lot of good food - tamales more comforting than a cup of untaxed tea, Australian meat pies across from a modern art museum, and the best pizza in the city. Here is our declaration of the 10 best restaurants in East Boston.
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 curries, 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.
Santarpio’s makes the best pizza in the city (link to pizza guide). However, there is one very important caveat - by some Pasteurian law of chemistry, the pizza doesn’t do well under any take-out situation, so dining in is essential. We know it’s a lot of work to get off your well-worn couch and venture into this VFW-style hall, but trust us - it’s worth it. Don’t forget to also get a couple of barbecue lamb skewers before you leave.
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 $8 can feel like a fantasy. But at that exact 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 American restaurants in East Boston with a full liquor license, and there are some great pisco sours here. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t also order some ceviche, aji de gallina, and lomo saltado. While it doesn’t feel as cool as Celeste, our other reliable spot for Peruvian food, we think the entrees at Rincon Limeño are actually better. On the weekends, it can get very busy, so making a reservation ahead of time is a good idea.
Some of our favorite Australian things include Tim Tams, AC/DC, and koalas. Sadly, you won’t find any of these at KO Pies, the laid-back East Boston shipyard restaurant next to the Watershed branch of The Institute of Contemporary Art. But they do have flaky meat pies, crispy potato wedges, and a decent beer selection. It’s a combination that makes us feel much better than listening to Highway to Hell on repeat.
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. It can get loud and busy here on the weekends, or if there’s an important sporting event on one of the many TVs. But it’s worth coming during those times anyway, because there’s nothing else like it in East Boston.
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. Additionally, 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. Bring some arancini for the flight attendants too.
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.