if you know me IRL, you probably know that i love this damn bar and i've probably made you meet me there at some point. i discovered it completely by accident when my friend and i wandered in on a frigid november night six years ago and the beautiful bartender lit our drinks on fire with a match in his mouth, a moment i still think about sometimes (even though everyone lights drinks on fire these days) because it was truly one of the hottest things i've ever seen. anyway, they've got it all: exposed brick, an ever-amusing soundtrack of either nu-metal, '80s hair metal, or '90s alt rock, weird shit on the tv, drinks with names like "send nudes," and bacon-infused popcorn. and i have to stop myself from going every day because my office is a three-minute walk from it and their cocktails ain't cheap.
it's dark, it's dingy, it's delightful, it's cash-only, and it's the perfect escape from surrounding bougie back bay. i had my 21st birthday drinks here, which says...something....about me, not sure what, but it was most excellent. they have another location in cambridge which i finally went to last year and there's LIGHTING and sleek decor and it's NOT the bukowski i know and love so i will not be returning. scarring.
and for something completely different, yvonne's is a swanky supper club in the former locke-ober steakhouse with really good small plates and vibes for days and days and days. like, i'd take a friend who was visiting or a date i really wanted to impress because it's sexy and sultry and like a very atmospheric library. they also have fun cocktails; during my first visit, my friend and i got root beer juleps which came to us aflame (are you sensing a theme here?) with LITTLE MARSHMALLOWS ON STICKS TO ROAST OVER THE DRINK. i couldn't handle it.
so this is more of a restaurant because they have massive portions of food, but the ambiance is weird-ass casual bar all the way. despite the name, their specialties are italian food and...steak, and i'm not kidding when i tell you that you can get a 10 oz. prime rib, soup or salad, and TWO SIDES for $11. all while looking at weird kitschy decor and making friends with the JP regulars at the bar. i've met some gems! especially during the blizzards last year, because they were the only place that stayed open.
island creek oyster bar
i'm not joking when i say i had the best fish of my entire life here (pan-seared monkfish), and everything else i've eaten has been absolutely amazing as well—this was the place that turned me into an oyster convert last year. i recently had dinner with my parents for my 33rd birthday here and my sneaky mom apparently put in a word with the staff prior to my arrival that it was a special occasion and that i'd want the banoffee pie (she knows me way too well). the waiter faked me out by giving me the dessert menu but then immediately returned with a candlelit piece of the pie...and nobody even sang! it was perfect. ilu, island creek!
one of the handful of things i miss about living in JP aside from galway house was my close proximity to this longtime favorite beer bar and comfort food restaurant. it's dark, cozy, and especially perfect to visit in the fall. the crab cake sandwich is to die for, and they also have killer mac and cheese that you can order with all manner of toppings (my faves are scallops and shrimp because i'm a seafood fiend).
two words: bison bolognese. it's so heavy and rich that i can only order it in the fall and winter, but seriously, just give me my bison bolognese and a glass of wine and i'm a happy, happy woman.
barcelona wine bar
if you want amazing spanish tapas or cheese and charcuterie (or both), this is your spot. but make a reservation, because it gets packed. i've been there three or four times now and have yet to eat something i didn't think was absolutely delicious. try the octopus, patatas bravas, and the mussels.
CAFES/BAKERIES (i'm not including the places i wrote about last year):
i've been going here pretty much every saturday for the past six years (except for the dark year i lived across the river) and now my apartment is walking distance, which was a huge selling point. it's your quintessential quaint coffeehouse with a big wooden community table, twinkly lights, and hipster baristas that are actually friendly. also, the oatmeal is the beeeest. it's right on the minuteman bike path, hence the name, so there are always lots of cyclists milling about.
tiny but dreamy! they have the best fruit squares (danishes, basically) and a cool little patio out back. you gotta get here EARLY if you want a seat, though.
the *AESTHETIC*, though. tatte is like...one of those bakeries that you see on instagram that looks somehow both sleek and rustic and you're like "it can't look like that in real life!" but i am here to assure you that it does indeed look like that IRL. i haven't had their actual brunch/savory food, but my coworker and i have developed a bad habit of stopping here for "treats" after lunch because, like jm curley, one of their locations is way too close to our office. highly recommend the halva brownie, the cheesecake cup, and any of the tarts. oh, and it's apparently pronounced like "latte," which i just learned like a month ago.
a classic little italian cafe that's been around since 1929. don't listen to the dummies that try to convince you to stand in line for an overrated cannoli at mike's or modern pastry; THIS is the spot to go after dinner in the north end for a cappuccino and piece of cake. it makes you feel fancy...and like you've stepped back in time.
one of the last remaining indie bookstores in the area, trident is simply the best! not only do they have an awesome book selection, but they have two bars and serve up killer brunch. one of my absolute favorite boston activities is to sidle up to the bar on a lazy weekend morning with one of their books or a trashy magazine, because they let you bring them to the bar!
i mean, not even taking into account that its name is the title of the best prince song, this vintage shop has consistently great, curated, and reasonably-priced clothing, jewelry, accessories and shoes. i've had especially good luck with shoes there lately for some reason!
blue bag records
blue bag is actually, like, right across the street from raspberry beret, so their proximity makes for a fabulous secondhand shopping day. a small, no-frills record store with lots of great used vinyl. there are a few other cambridge record stores i also dig (cheapo in central square and in your ear in harvard), but a lot of others are way too expensive/don't have a ton of inventory. give me a big, smelly basement to dig through over a sleek, modern shop any day! this one fits the bill for me.