well, we had the grand idea of being go-getters this morning, hopping out of bed early to get the day started and to begin the exploring. i’d say all that was pretty much shot considering vinh had a little bit of work to do and i didn’t wake up until nearly ten o’clock. oh well! that just means with all this extra sleep we got, we’d be energized for an action-packed sunday. i know sunday is a day of rest, but when you’re in a new city and on vacation, sometimes you just cannot help yourself!
we hopped in the car and headed north into the city. we were going to be spending all day touring boston, so we centrally parked near the td garden. the first order of business was to get our names on the reservation list at neptune oyster. vinh has proclaimed several times at other meals that the best lobster roll he has ever had came from neptune oyster, and he promised me that on this trip i would get to find out for myself. now, before i could experience this phenomenon, there was a bit of a wait. neptune oyster isn’t a huge place, and my first impression was that a restaurant such as this one knows how good it is, just like its loyal customers do. so, the host kindly said the wait would be an hour for the two of us. no problem at all. with the sun out and the rain on hold, we didn’t mind losing ourselves in the north end for a little bit.
vinh first directed us through the winding streets of unofficial little, little italy for about four or five blocks. the stores and shops are squeezed in next to each other, and each of them makes you want to stop by. in the interest of saving a little dough, though, we continued on until we were through the north end and at the harbor. the wind was biting, but the day was clear, so we decided we’d brave the outdoors as long as we could. vinh was my personal tour guide as we passed by the aquarium, performance halls, and other recognizable buildings of the boston cityscape.
it was after i almost blew right into the water from some strong atlantic winds when vinh got call that our table was ready, so we hurried back on over to salem street. the restaurant was still packed, and a table of four ladies were still there from when we had first arrived to place our names on the list. our table was cleared and reset, and we were lead to the back of the establishment (thankfully far away from the cold, cold air blowing in through the front door).
neptune oyster very much looks like the kind of place where if you know someone, you’re in for life. our theory was proven true by the family of nearly twelve that was seated next to us along the back wall. they were ordering oysters and shrimp and wine as though there were no tomorrow or a care in the world. the question now? how do we get in on that deal…?
i barely took a look at the menu, as i already knew i’d be getting the maine lobster roll, warm with butter, per vinh’s instruction. we both also ordered a bowl of the wellfeet clam chowder, for that frigid winter air had us chilled almost to the bone. and, seeing as how i was on vacation and indulging for the weekend, i also went with a glass of the 2013 malvasia ‘adriatico’ bastianich from croatia. yes, croatian wine. i couldn’t help myself!
first came out the chowder. these bowls looked just divine on a chilly december day in boston, and i was warmed up even with just the first bite. the celery was cooked perfectly, the potatoes were still a little crunchy, and the clams were nice and chewy. what i think i liked most, though, was dipping that freshly baked bread into the broth. the broth wasn’t thick like i expected; it was thinner without compromising the creamy flavor and texture you expect with this kind of soup. vinh and i licked up nearly every last drop, and i can easily say i’d order it again.
soon after our bowls were empty, the waiter exchanged them for plates full of fries and lobster. it was immediately clear to me why this dish was 27 dollars; the insanely generous amounts of lobster blew my mind. and those hunks were huge! the lobster sat atop a homemade baguette which soaked up all the buttery goodness that had been poured to douse the entire thing. i took my first bite with lobster and bread and closed my eyes in sweet surrender. although lobster isn’t my first choice in seafood, this sandwich may have singlehandedly changed my mind. the lobster was fresh and perfectly complemented with the buttered bread. i now knew why vinh insisted we come here, and i’m so glad he put it on the itinerary.
i honestly could have done without the fries, especially considering the soup we had already eaten, so if you’ve got a smaller stomach like me, i’d suggest either splitting the sandwich with a friend or skipping the appetizer and going just for the entrée. you really cannot go wrong either way.
i met my match that afternoon at neptune oyster; i could not have eaten another fry or nibble of bread or hunk of lobster if i tried. i bumbled out into the street and warned vinh that i’d need a slow pace after a meal like that one. we had plans to walk all around the city, so since we had time, a stroll along the river sounded like the perfect idea. we got to see some of the greenway space before crossing a few streets to storrow drive. the sun’s reflection on the water helped warm us up in the sunday afternoon. we weren’t saying much as we moseyed along, for our full brains affected our ability to keep up the small talk. it was pleasant to stretch our legs for a few miles as we dodged runners and enjoyed the views.
we grabbed some pictures off the massachusetts avenue bridge and then turned back to the city for some more sightseeing. we took a left onto newbury street and were suddenly upon the shoppers and socialites of boston. folks had their club monaco and patagonia bags in hand as they swept through the streets, on towards their fabulous sunday night lives. stores line the street for nearly as far as you can see, and the wealthy dash in and out of their houses as they get caught up in the holiday bustle. people watching was half the fun, and vinh and i enjoyed that as our entertainment.
vinh spotted a dunkin’ donuts and insisted we drop in for a quick reprieve from the cold. the wind had picked up even more, and now that we were in between buildings and the sun was down, i had started to shiver a bit. so, we swept inside, plopped ourselves down with a couple of dunkaccinos and a croissant doughnut, and rested our tired feet.
vinh had mentioned to me when i first arrived that i would see a dunkin’ donuts nearly every block or so in the city. after our adventures yesterday and all our walking today, i can concur that he is correct; they are everywhere! it got me thinking enough that i looked up the history of dunkin’ donuts online, and sure enough, the first one was built in quincy, massachusetts back in 1950. well, how about that! we did a little more digging out of curiosity to learn that there are 61 dunkin’ donuts in boston proper, with a 10:1 ratio to starbucks. that’s A LOT of dunkin’ donuts, man.
we finished our treats and pushed through the double doors into the great outdoors. it was time for some Christmas lights! we walked the few blocks down to and through the public garden and then back to boston common. all of the lights!
we shuffled through the windy streets of the city and came upon a statue all by its lonesome. we walked up to get a better look, and after reading the plaque, we realized we were standing face-to-face with a life-size replica of boston celtic legend bill russell. the statue had everything just about perfect, from the laced-up chuck taylors to the goatee on his chin. russell spent his entire 13-year nba career with the celtics, in that time being crowned as a five-time mvp and earning 11 championships. for kicks and giggles, vinh and i took turns reenacting his pose and standing level with him for scaling. at six feet ten inches tall, the tops of our hats barely reached his chest!
our feet soon led us back to downtown boston for more local sights, and we eventually ended up at faneuil hall, an urban marketplace right in the city. there are shops and restaurants and cute little boutiques, something for everyone in the family. our destination was the ghiradelli store, for vinh had heard about it recently and just had to go! the store is a little slice of heaven with all of that chocolate candy surrounding you. they also have an ice cream and coffee bar that was tempting me, even after my dunkaccino! i certainly would have had the brownie sundae if i wasn’t already on a sugar high, and considering the day wasn’t quite done yet, i decided to hold off. you can bet this place will be busy as heck once the warm weather rolls in next spring. i mean, who doesn’t love a banana split during the warm months?
we took a left out of the ghiradelli shop and soon found the largest Christmas tree i have ever seen in my life. this beast stood what seemed to be several stories tall, and not one branch was without lights. there were bulbs and bows adorning the branches, making the scene even more majestic. it’s for sights like this one that i love this season!
before heading back to our car, we had just a couple more stops. first, vinh wanted to show me his version of the northern lights over on the north end. the blue lights covered the tresses of the walkway, and standing under them was pretty magical. had it not been in the 30s, you can bet i could have sat there almost all night just gazing into the sky.
next, vinh wanted to take me back to little italy so that i could experience mike’s pastry. he personally believes they are some of the best baked goods in the city, and seeing all the people inside when we arrived made me believe it, too. there have a huge assortment of treats; it’s hard to decide and even harder to convince yourself to not get nearly one of everything. i browsed the bakery cases for a solid five minutes before approaching the counter to order my treat.
untying the string on that adorable box was like opening a present, except i totally knew what its contents were. oh well, we’ll enjoy the surprise nonetheless! the twine slipped off neatly, and ah, there it was, the golden cupcake. i felt like i had found the golden ticket like sweet little charlie bucket for willy wonka’s factory, except that my experience wouldn’t be televised and i wouldn’t get to meet gene wilder. drats!
before taking my first bite, i snapped a couple photos for you lovely people. as i was clicking the shutter button ,the icing was literally sliding off the top of the cake. where do you think you’re going!? nowhere but my belly is the correct answer! the cupcake was simple and scrumptious and the perfect treat for the end of our boston walking tour.
notice how i said the end of our walking tour? we weren’t done with the day just yet. even though our lunch had filled us greatly, an actual dinner was still something we needed, and a cupcake does not quite suffice. vinh knows i love thai food, so we zipped over to boston university and joined the college kids at nud pob. this place is clearly a favorite hangout of the locals, and although i didn’t feel like i fit in necessarily, i did feel welcome. per vinh’s recommendation, i ordered the crispy chicken pad thai, as i am never too full to turn down pad thai. that crispy chicken was divine, and the noodles were nice and mild and accompanied perfectly by the nuts and fried egg. although i couldn’t finish it all there, i somehow made enough room in my stomach to finish it when we got home, a mere twenty minutes later. yes, sometimes i don’t make sense, and sometimes i’m silly; i’m just trying to keep you guys on your toes!
we visited with vinh’s sister and girlfriend for a little while upon our return home, but we didn’t last too late into the night. vinh and i were exhausted from all the walking; we said our goodnights and hit the hay. do not fret, though, for one more day in beantown lies ahead, and the adventures shall only continue!