Boston, a Bargain Travel Guide
by Steve Perlow
Made famous by Revolutionary events, infamous by cold winters, and both by the World-Series winning Red Sox, Boston has its fair share of reasons to visit. With such a reputation, however, comes high prices, and it has become increasingly difficult to find bargain deals in the city. That is why we created a list of budget restaurants, bars and activities that both locals and tourists can use when going out in Boston. Spanning the unique Boston neighborhoods, we have suggestions whether you are with family, friends or single. We also provide ideas for dates that won't break the bank - great especially for a first outing, yet perfect also for a change of pace in the old routine.
Grendel's Den (89 Winthrop Street, Harvard Square) - Stop by for the happy hour food specials from 5-7:30pm and after 9:30pm at this popular Harvard Square bar. The entire menu (normally very reasonable) is half priced, giving the diner on a budget some great options. Try the Mediterranean platter for steak tips and hummus for only $5 during happy hour. Also, stop by on Sunday evenings for the special dollar menu, featuring items such burgers and pasta. There is a minimum drink purchase of $3 required for the discount prices.
Brother Jimmy's BBQ (96 Winthrop St., Cambridge) - Enjoy some of the best BBQ you can find north of Memphis and east of St. Louis. While the entrees can get pricey, you can enjoy a great BBQ sandwich and a side for under $10. Try the pulled Chicken with the Eastern Carolina sauce and the mashed potatoes with gravy. If you're looking to splurge, try a Swamp-water; this fish bowl of liquor is $15, but does come with its own alligator. On Wednesdays, be sure to check out the Ladies Night specials and receive $1 domestic beers and $1 margaritas. Also on Wednesdays, receive a 25% discount on your food purchases with a valid Southern ID (States south of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi). On Saturdays, there are $0.35 wings and $8 pitchers from 12-4pm. For those really looking to eat, stop by on Sundays for all-you-can-eat ribs and all-you-can-drink drafts for $22.95 (two hour max) or on Mondays for all-you-can-eat wings and rib tips and all-you-can-drink drafts for $14.95.
Fajitas and Ritas (25 West St., Downtown or 1237 Hancock St., Quincy) - It's easy to stuff yourself with fresh Tex-Mex food here without spending too much cash, because Fajitas and Ritas is one of the few places around that serves dinner-sized fajitas for less than $10. For those who prefer the Tex instead of the Mex, you can get a BBQ pulled pork sandwich accompanied by slaw, beans and corn bread, also for under $10. And even though you might be trying to save money, it's hard not to splurge on a Raspberry Margarita for a bit over $4. No matter your budget, you won't be hungry when you leave!
McCormick and Schmick's (North Market Building, Faneuil Hall) - This upscale seafood restaurant can normally cost a pretty penny but at happy hour anyone can afford to enjoy some of McCormick and Schmick's great food. From 3:30 to 6:30pm Monday through Friday and 10pm-12am on Saturday and Sunday, the bar features a $1.95 menu featuring standby favorites such as burgers, chicken wings, and cheese quesadillas, as well as seafood choices such as oysters and clams. The menu changes daily and there is a minimum drink purchase required. Reservations are suggested. For more info, take a look at their website here.
Sunset Grill and Tap (130 Brighton Ave., Allston) - While this bar doesn't have any drink specials, the sheer vastness of its beer selection makes it worth checking out. Offering 112 beers on tap and 380 types of bottled beer, Sunset is truly a beer drinker's heaven. The prices range based on the brand but try the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. This one is 9% alcohol so at about $4 per pint, it can be a pretty good deal. For the drinker living on the edge, there's the 120 Minute IPA, which is 21% alcohol by volume. The Sunset also offers a menu of tasty, relatively cheap food to accompany your beer selections. You might want to get here early; the lines and wait can get long. For more information take a look here.
Roggie's Brew and Grille (356 Chestnut Hill Ave., Brighton) - While this is definitely a Boston College bar, any one looking for a fun scene and young crowd can enjoy this Brighton hotspot. Roggie's offers 52 beers on tap and martinis for only $5. Also stop by between 4-7pm for $0.15 wings. For those with a larger crowd, or perhaps looking to not remember their night, try the 64 once bowls of mixed drinks for around 17 dollars. As an added bonus, Roggie's also has a pizza shop right next door for anyone looking for some great cheap eats after a night of heavy drinking.
Pour House Bar and Grill (909 Boylston Street, Fenway Kenmore) - Well known as a college student's dream bar, this place offers a fun crowd and cheap prices. The deals on food can be exceptional. On Wednesdays after 6pm, try the $2.50 chicken sandwich and Saturdays after 6pm all burgers are half priced. This bar offers a pretty standard selection of drinks, which are also reasonably priced. The service is seat-yourself, but this bar can fill up pretty quickly.
Beacon Hill Pub (149 Charles Street, Beacon Hill) - If you are looking to relive your college years, then Beacon Hill Pub is the place to go. Start with the $1.55 Bud draft pints in plastic cups. Then challenge your buddies to a game of foosball or pinball. Within minutes you'll feel as if you're 21 again (or even 18?). Wednesday nights are best if you're looking for a fun but chill scene - make sure to introduce yourself to Garrett the bartender (and, of course, tip him), and he'll be sure to remember your poison and prepare it for you as soon as you approach the bar. Thursdays through Saturdays tend to be more crowded, but fun all the same, especially if that is more your scene. Don't worry about driving and trying to find a parking spot in the impossible Beacon Hill neighborhood - a T stop and a cabstand are only a few steps from the door.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace (Downtown) - More commonly referred to as Quincy Market, this marketplace offers all kinds of food, shopping and live entertainment. Hungry? Try one of the 17 restaurants or 40 eateries serving up everything from famous New England clam chowda to ethnic Indian and, of course, delectable deserts. Looking for something new? There are multiple retailers, from recognized apparel stores to local gift shops, for you to browse. Just want to be entertained? The musical and variety acts put on by the street performers provide free amusement for passerbys of all ages. Or check out The Comedy Connection (see write-up below) for a more organized comedic routine. Located on the waterfront and easily identified by the cobblestone walkways and 19th century buildings, Quincy Market can't be missed.
Kayak the Charles (Charles River Canoe and Kayak, in Artesani Park in Allston/Brighton) - You're sure to cross the Charles River at some point during your stay in Boston - but have you ever considered paddling through it? Stroll with a friend to the Charles River Canoe and Kayak kiosk and rent a two-person canoe or kayak for around $15 per hour. Whether you're looking for a strenuous workout or a leisurely paddle (the waters are typically calm), kayaking the Charles River can provide either one, or anything in-between. Just make sure the skies are sunny, because rentals are not available on rainy days. Easily spotted in Artesani Park by the green-roof, this rental site is open on fair days from May through early October. Check out other options at their website here.
The Comedy Connection (Faneuil Hall Marketplace) Relax for a night and let the upcoming professionals work to make your date laugh! Comedians perform live every day of the week, but you will want to call (617.248.9700) for reservations if you plan to attend a show between Thursday and Saturday. Ticket prices usually range between $12 and $25, depending on who is on stage, but cheaper doesn't mean less funny - just less well known acts, which often leads to more original comedy. To see who will be performing next, check here.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 The Fenway, Fenway Kenmore) - If the long Bostonian winter gets you and your significant other down, and you both need to see something blooming (but know that won't happen outside in winter), you can visit the atrium in the center of the Gardner Museum, where the garden courtyard is flowering in every season. There are also three floors of art that, upon Ms. Gardner's direction, have not been modified since their placement during the 19th century. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am to 5 pm. If you can convince them your name is Isabella, you can get in for free. Otherwise, show a student ID for a $5 admission fee. You can get to the museum by taking the Huntington Avenue No. 39 bus or the Green Line train to the Museum stop.
South Street Diner (corner of Kneeland and South Sts, Beacon Hill) - Nothing beats sharing a booth and a milkshake at a diner with your date. Open 24 hours a day, there is no bad time to take your significant other out for a bite - be it breakfast, dinner or dessert. Actually, no matter when you go, you should still order a slice of their famous chocolate mousse cake! From the jukebox playing the hits of the decade to the life-sized James Dean near the bathroom, South Street provides that happy, romantic feel we all associate with a typical 1950s diner.
Mike's Pastry (300 Hanover St., in the North End) - Want to show your date how sweet you can be? Then take him or her to Mike's Pastry and choose from a selection of cannoli, biscotti, cheesecake and every other Italian dessert you could imagine. You can order enough tasty treats to satisfy yourself and your date without being alarmed by the price, but it may be tough to find a spot to sit. The line may be long, but isn't your date well worth the wait? Well, if not, the goodies will be!
Boston Bike, Beach and Brewery Tour (Boston Common) - If you enjoy bicycling, beaches and beer, then this is the tour for you! On the third Saturday of each month from late Spring to early Fall, the Boston Bike Tours guides its patrons through the Financial District to Castle Island and Carson beach and then to Boston's Harpoon Brewery for a beer and a tour. The entire trip takes about 4 ½ hours, but only covers between 16-20 miles of mostly flat terrain, so a lot of that time will be spent relaxing at the beach and brewery, and you do not need to be an 'experienced' cyclist to enjoy the tour. The guided tour, with bike, helmet, water and beer, is $25 total, or $20 if you bring your own bike. Reservations are suggested and can be made by calling (617) 308-5902 or visiting their website here.
Walk the Freedom Trail (from Boston Common to Bunker Hill) - Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes, bring a good friend and spend half a day strolling along this historical trail through Boston. The trail begins in Boston Common (where I suggest you grab a map at the Information Kiosk), continues towards Faneuil Hall, winds through the North End, and then ends with a loop around Charlestown and the Harbor. If you're not up for walking the entire 2.5 mile trail, you can sign up for a short, 90-minute guided tour from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall ($12 for adults, $6 for kids) or opt for the loop at the end of the trail, which takes you past the Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution. Either way, the trail provides a leisurely and economical means to enjoy the sights and history of Boston. Check out a map of the Freedom Trail here.
About the Author
Steve Perlow is a travel editor at http://aworldofhelp.com, where you can find aworldofhelp travel guides and advice. Visit aworldofhelp.com to get answers from real people to your questions about travel, technology and more.