Much of downtown Boston is geared toward lunch spots and swanky power dining. Not Haley.Henry: This wine bar is refreshingly different. You won’t find people rushing through their breaks or client meetings happening within this tiny, industrial-chic space. Instead, expect to see friends and couples lingering over bottles of natural wine—they’ll open anything if you commit to two glasses—with charcuterie and cheese boards and one of the city’s best selections of tinned fish. If you’re seeking more than snacks, look for rotating seasonal crudo, salads, and wine-friendly plates like Tomato Braised Squid with fingerling potatoes and fried garlic. Go on a Wednesday for wacky wiener specials from the fun-loving crew.
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Despite being known for nine-to-five energy, Downtown Boston and the Financial District have plenty of bars and restaurants to be enjoyed after work hours. Boston’s business district is home to an eclectic set of eateries, from mom-and-pop lunch spots and swanky special-occasion places to a big-name beer garden and a chef-driven food hall.
No. 9 Park borders Boston Common on Beacon Hill. It’s the flagship for acclaimed chef Barbara Lynch, and compared to her other, newer outposts (think Sportello, B&G Oysters, and Drink), it’s cozier and more well-worn. From a la carte offerings to a six-course chef’s tasting menu, there are a variety of ways to enjoy this fine-dining destination. When we’re not feeling a full-on splurge, we love to drop in on the bustling cocktail bar for a Palmyra—a refreshingly easy-to-love cocktail made with vodka, lime juice, and mint—and a few dishes like signature Prune Stuffed Gnocchi with foie gras, or prime Steak Tartare. This is also an ideal spot for that fancy business lunch and romantic dinner.
This lunchtime outpost has earned righteous acclaim for its starchy and stretchy hand-pulled noodles. For first-timers at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe, we recommend the #4 Hand-Pulled Noodles, which are doused in spicy red chili sauce, garlic, and cilantro. Try a five-spice Pork Flatbread Sandwich (#3), a handheld on freshly baked Chinese flatbread, for the namesake snack. Come back for the #9, a cumin-and-lamb rendition which ups the ante with plenty of meat, spice, and shredded vegetables. Gene’s also has suburban locations in Woburn and Westford when you’re craving this excellent Chinese food somewhere other than on the border between Downtown Crossing and Chinatown.
Interior design details like chandeliers, sculpted ceilings, and a cheeky portrait of Christopher Walken in Napoleonic garb make Yvonne’s one of the most over-the-top settings for dinner in the city. The menu matches the extravagance, from small plates like Chicken and Quinoa Meatballs in Chinese garlic sauce and Bavette Steak “Mirabeau” with anchovy butter, to feeds-two-plus “feasts” such as the Grilled “Viper” Chop pork short rib with crispy kimchi fried rice. As good as the food is, this speakeasy is worth visiting for the creative cocktails alone, including one of the best Espresso Martinis around. Bring a few friends to partake in the large-format drinks like Queen’s Park Hotel, full of Jamaican estate rum, sweet vermouth, pomegranate, and lime, which require a party of four or more to share.
Villa Mexico Cafe
Villa Mexico Cafe has been a labor of love from a Mexican immigrant and former lawyer, set on bringing authentic Mexican cuisine to Greater Boston since she founded the place more than 20 years ago. The tacos are great here but we usually go for a burrito, as the flour tortillas are grilled to order and can be filled with the likes of carnitas, chorizo, or chicken in a house-specialty mole sauce. Rise and shine for a Breakfast Burrito full of eggs, beans, cheese, smoky house-made salsa, and your choice of filling. We love the vegetarian-friendly Mexicana due to the sharp kick of a pair of the aromatics (jalapeños and onion) and the welcome acidity of chopped tomatoes. Note that Villa Mexico, just a few steps away from Faneuil Hall, is a true Financial District resource: That means it’s only open during working hours (8 a.m. until 4 p.m.) and never on weekends.
High Street Place
A little dip, a little dive. A little sip, a little stroll. In the heart of the Financial District, High Street Place is Boston’s latest food hall. Filled with concepts from James Beard-nominated chefs and influential Boston bartenders, it’s an exciting newcomer worthy of a visit on lunch breaks and nights out alike. HSP serves up new spots, like a cool cocktail bar called Daiquiris & Daisies, a trio from celeb chef Tiffani Faison—Dive Bar for lobster rolls and oysters, Tenderoni’s Pizza, and Champagne specialist Bubble Bath— fried chicken sandwiches by Haley Jane’s, deli classics from Mamaleh’s, Gracenote Coffee, and more. There is communal seating throughout HSP with a gigantic TV, plus counter-service bars, and an expansive outdoor patio.
James Hook & Co.
A Boston landmark since 1925, James Hook & Co. doubles as a retail store for a family-owned fishing company and counter-service patio restaurant between the Financial District and Seaport. Skip the line for the store and order directly from the patio food truck for fan-favorite lobster rolls in two sizes, either cold with mayo or warm with butter; a bowl of hearty New England Clam Chowda; and a cold beer. Find us a more quintessential Boston order—we’ll wait. The retail shop offers additional takeout options to continue the seafood feast at home. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Faneuil Hall, one can dine in or take out from James Hook during daylight hours, no reservations required.
As the kids say these days, Mariel is a vibe. Set in a building once home to a bank, the grandiose space with vaulted ceilings is just one of the ways Mariel makes quite a statement. This lavish Cuban restaurant and its U-shaped bar is sexy and striking, usually with a DJ spinning pulsing Latin beats. From the team that brought us Yvonne’s, Ruka, Coquette, and Lolita , a reputation for cocktails precedes—go for the DTO (Daiquiri Time Out), or peruse an entire section devoted to the Mojito. Sit at the U-shaped bar overlooking the curated collection of rum or in the dining room amongst Art Deco chandeliers and stay for Bocaditos (snacks), Pequeños (small plates), and personal pan-size Cuban Street Pizzas.
Trillium Garden on the Greenway
Location, location, location! Right across from Boston Harbor and the Rowes Wharf arch, Trillium Garden on the Greenway has popped up on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the warmer months since 2017, becoming one of Boston’s most iconic beer gardens. Beloved brewery Trillium—which was founded just over the bridge from downtown in Fort Point—is known for hazy IPAs and juicy sour beers. The Greenway outpost offers not only some of our favorite beers on tap, like dry-hopped Fort Point Pale Ale and Daily Serving fruited Berliner weisses, but it also pours more limited releases like Escape Plan, a cocktail-inspired beer. Dog lovers, you’re in luck: This is the only Trillium location with a dog-friendly patio. This seasonal beer garden is first come, first served with a daily rotation of food trucks.
Eric Twardzik contributed reporting.