Allston: A Mystery

As a Boston University student in the College of Communication, I hardly make the trek – if you can call it that – to the foreign land that is west campus, and by extension, Allston.

BU is separated into three sections: east, central, and west; all are located on Commonwealth Avenue. Each section conveniently has its own MBTA subway stop. Once housing is factored in, two other sections, south and Allston, become relevant. South campus entails the Fenway/Brookline area while Allston is anything past Raising Cane’s (yes, the fried chicken place) extending to Brighton.

I live in south campus and attend classes in east campus, so the only reason I really have to make the trip to west campus is to make the dreaded visit to BU’s Fitness and Recreation Center, a visit I usually end up not making.

However, this day was different. I started out a dreary Sunday in July with a trip to Pavement Coffeehouse to meet a new friend.

For every section of BU, there is a Pavement. Getting from south campus, the furthest point recognized on BU campus, to the heart of Allston where the shop is, takes a solid 40 minutes. As Ben B. from Yelp puts in a review, this coffee chain is known as a “quintessential clean-cut hipster coffee shop” that serves all sorts of people in the Boston area. I ordered an iced chai tea latte, which I highly recommend, while the friend ordered a drink with matcha. Though the shop is one of the smallest in Boston with a max person capacity of less than 20 people, the ambiance felt modern with big windows, bright lighting, and small, designer plants decorating the interior.

After a casual chat with our over-priced drinks, my friend and I began to wander down the street. We happened to find a curious little bookstore called Bookistan.

It’s the sort of place where if you blink, you’ll miss it.

The window to the door at the entrance is shattered, revealing a spider web-like pattern. This represents the store well. It may look like a mess upon first glance, but with a second look and some patience, beauty reveals itself. The store, like Pavement, is no bigger than a cheap apartment in downtown Boston. Every space available is covered with books, trinkets, vinyl, playing cards, horse race ribbons – you name it.

I pick up a pin point impression toy and jokingly make a few impressions. As my friend points out how nostalgic the toy makes him, the owner of the shop comments that the toy also has another use. He points to his fingers and says the pricks from the pins act as a massage for fingers, useful after a long day spent typing.

We didn’t end up buying anything, but from the conversations we heard and the Yelp reviews we read, Bookistan serves as a conversation starter. It’s a place where you continuously discover.

And if that isn’t the best metaphor for Allston, then I don’t know what is.

Top Five Restaurants to Visit After a Red Sox Game

Fenway Park serves as a rite of passage for any Bostonian. From the mouth-watering, sizzling Fenway Franks to the ice cold drafts, a day at Fenway will cost a pretty penny. As the Boston Globe reports, Fenway Park takes the gold for one of the most expensive places to catch a baseball game. A family of four can expect to pay up to $300, if not more, with the cost of tickets, food, drinks, and the inevitable souvenir or two.

To (hopefully) celebrate a win and save some dough, here are a few restaurants within walking distance that are sure to satisfy any and all hungry Sox fans:

 

Tasty Burger
1301 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

As the “official burger of the Boston Red Sox”, Tasty Burger is the ideal place to take any group of people, whether that be the kids or a group of college buddies. The prices are as good as it gets in Boston with burgers and sandwiches ranging from $4 to $7 – though beware: fries and onion rings are extra (the investment is worth it).

One of the more distinctive qualities of the restaurant is the seating arrangement: you can choose to sit restaurant style on the inside or sit on one of the benches outside and pick up your food via pickup window. If that isn’t enough, Tasty Burger boasts a free* parking lot – a downright commodity in the Boston area.

*for paying customers only

 

sweetgreen
132 Brookline Ave, Boston MA 02215
Mon-Sun 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Call it the new craze sweeping the nation – sweetgreen has been making headlines around the country for its satisfying and healthy salads.

Now, here me out. I would be the first to snort at the idea of eating a salad, especially after a baseball game. With combinations like “guacamole greens” and “spicy sabzi”, at least one of these creations are sure to catch your eye. The portion sizes are larger than you would think, though the calorie count stays well below 600 cal. The different proteins will help keep you satisfied for a while.

After a cool draft or two at Fenway, sweetgreen is the right move for those working to stay healthy while having a good time.

 

El Pelón Taquería
92 Peterborough St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Authentic Mexican food on this side of the country? Rare. As a native Angeleno, I can tell the difference. The closest I’ve gotten to the taste is at El Pelón Taqueria.

They carry a variety of dishes including quesadillas, enchiladas, tortas, tacos and burritos – none of which cost over $8. Whatever you do, be sure to get an antojitos (snack) of plantains. The plantains, after being fried to a nice golden brown, are served with their signature fire roasted salsa. Seems like an odd combination, but the mix of sweet and spicy is downright delightful.

If you’re looking for food that packs a punch of flavor, this is your place.

 

Gyro City
88 Peterborough St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Conveniently located next to El Pelón Taquería, Gyro City takes you on a trip to Greece with its Greek fare. Not only will the employees teach you to pronounce the names of delicious Greek foods, but they will also send you off with a plate of fresh, handmade food.

The gyros – filled with your choice of meats, veggies and tzatziki – serve as perfect post-game food. You don’t even have to order fries on the side! The fries are stuffed into the gyros for a very Greek experience.

If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to order some of their homemade baklava or sample some of their Greek yogurt.

 

Wahlburgers
132 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Thur, Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Yes, Wahlburgers as in the reality show featuring chef Paul Wahlberg and his brother and actor Mark Wahlberg.

This restaurant is a must for any Marky Mark fan. The actor graced the restaurant with his presence at its opening, so really, you’ll be taking the same steps Mark Wahlberg took. Oh, and the burgers are definitely worth a visit.

Here’s an insider tip: skip the fries. Instead, go for the house specialty, crispy and golden tater tots with a side of their house “wahl” sauce. For those less keen on meat, Wahlburgers makes an excellent haddock sandwich or portobello sandwich.

Given the name, this restaurant is on the pricier side but worth it if you’re craving the “burger experience”.

Marseilles: Leave the Tourist in You Behind

Marseilles, despite its attractive location in southern France, is not the type of place you choose for idyllic vacation spot – especially if you can’t speak a lick of French.

The city’s buildings are obscured with graffiti while the streets are littered with trash. The people are loud, rowdy even. Shrewd as they are, they know the stench of tourist and seem to gravitate away from it.

Not all is as it seems.

Make the effort of a simple greeting – “bonjour” – and you’ll quite literally see a frown turn upside down. There’s nothing like a tourist willing to make an effort and blend in to the locals. This effort is not unrewarded. The graffiti, previously seen as filth, holds more meaning than you thought possible.

If you’re willing to truly live like the locals and “brave” the public transportation, even more surprises await.

An hour out of the heart of Marseilles resides the Calanques – their equivalent of a national park. It’s really a game of “pick your own adventure”. You’ll choose Sugiton, no doubt. It’s the path of least resistance with the greatest reward.

Prepare yourself: you’re going to be walking into a literal postcard.

Any dread at the thought of having an uphill hike on the way back dissipates as you take in the sheer beauty of the Calanque de Sugiton. The rock formations create a small inlet leading to a small natural beach, perfect for a picnic lunch. A packed meal of chicken salad becomes five star cuisine because with this scenery, how could it not be?

Later, back in the heart of the city, you reflect on Marseilles. It still is not the ideal vacation spot. When night falls, the city feels unsafe. The people blend into the poorly-lit streets and your heart pounds because you are a tourist in a relatively unknown city – a woman at that. Still, even as you buzz into the hostel that you call home for the weekend, you feel a sense of respect for the resilience the city has.

Marseilles commands you to shed your comfort – Yelp only gave this restaurant three stars…let’s keep walking? – in exchange for experiencing the city like a local, even if it’s only for a day or two.