So the main reason why last week’s article was such a cop-out was because I had been in Boston that weekend- along with some friends who foolishly put me in charge of finding where to eat. I figured this wouldn’t be too difficult, since Boston must have a hell of a food scene if they have their own Eater sister-site, right? And, one of the common topics on said site was the abundance of food halls springing up across the city. At first, I got excited. A classier version of a food court with stands from a variety of big name local chefs would alleviate the hassle of considering everyone’s palates when deciding where to go to eat. But as I continued to read, I became disheartened by the fact that most of the ones they were writing about are still in development. But, some of them did exist, and so we pressed onward.
On Saturday morning we found ourselves wandering around the Harbor area, and seeing as we were within walking distance, we headed to Quincy Market. Quincy Market is by no means a newcomer to the food hall trend, having been established in 1826. And as such, it’s also one of Boston’s many tourist destinations. And as such, it was so crowded that I’m pretty sure I spent more time trying to get out of people’s way (or get them out of my way) that I ended up not putting much thought into the food itself. I eventually settled on beef and cheese empanadas from El Paso Enchiladas. The beef was well seasoned, obviously done in house as opposed to a premade blend, but the dough around the outside could have been a little doughier, as they were almost phyllo-y in nature. My one friend (uhhh… Friend A?) had their heart set on a lobster roll, and found one at Boston Chowda CO. (one of many spots selling them). They said that while there was a good amount of lobster (so much that they used a fork to eat more than half of it in order to get it down to a more manageable portion for the size of the bun), the lobster roll, mac & cheese and soda they got weren’t quite worth the $30 they spent for it. Friend B got arancini from North End Bakery, which between the not particularly crispy crust and minimal meat inside were just ok. We considered also stopping at Joey’s Gelateria, but by then we had enough of the crowd and got ice cream from a nearby Ghirardelli’s instead. The food was better than most tourist traps I’ve been to, but with all the other hallmarks of a tourist trap the overall experience was not especially enjoyable.
My friends were so turned off by the experience that they vetoed me when I tried to get them to go to Time Out Market in Fenway for dinner that night. And, it wasn’t until we dropped Friend A off at the airport the next day that I was able to convince Friend B to try another food hall that was a little more off the beaten path- Bow Market in Somerville.
Bow Market was a little more like what I had hoped for- an open-air courtyard surrounded by take-out restaurants (and a second level with a variety of little knick-knack shops)- and sparsely populated. Without the pressure of mobs of tourists, I was really able to take in all they had to offer… which turned out to be not as enticing as I had imagined. Empanadas? No, I had that yesterday. Wine bar? Not feeling it, we’ve got a long drive ahead of us. Fries? As much as it kills me to say it, fries is not a meal. A Korean place caught my eye, but was closed (a quick look at their website points out that it’s a pop-up that doesn’t open until October… and that also there was a Filipino place somewhere that I missed??) While I had initially been hoping for a more substantial meal, I eventually settled on pierogies from Jaju- one potato and cheese, one kielbasa and red pepper, and one pumpkin spice- all served with sauerkraut and sour cream. They were simple, but properly expressed the flavors they were meant to represent. They were satisfying on their own, and at $6 they were easily one of the best deals I had seen all weekend. Friend B’s $9 macaron ice cream sandwich from Maca, however, not so much… but that’s just how macarons are.
For one reason or another, both food halls failed to live up to the hype. Quincy Market was a madhouse, and Bow Market seemed more like a snacking destination than anything else (although with everything from Peruvian to Himalayan restaurants all on the same street, maybe that was their intention). Was Time Out Market the missing link to understanding the food hall craze? Probably not, since, according to the reviews, most Bostonians seem to think it’s pretentious and overpriced (something that no one at the New York location seems to take issue with). Regardless, I wish High Street Place, Hub Hall, The Beat, et al the best of luck in their upcoming endeavors. Maybe one of them will find a way to make the food hall trend work for Boston.
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