Thursday, October 29, 2009

Impressions of Boston

I have been here over a month in Boston on a work assignment. It seems like eons ago since my last blog entry. So without any hesitation, I want to share my thoughts about my stay in Boston, some related to food and some not. Please read and keep in mind that the writer sees most things from a New York perspective!

After having tried several Boston-area restaurants, I've come to the conclusion that places with decent ethnic food tend to reflect heavy immigration, which is truly the case in New York City. There are pockets of immigrant populations around the country where one group is well-represented, but there is nowhere in the United States where immigration is so diverse and from all corners of the globe as it is in New York City. This translates into "authentic" food. In my view, authenticity can mean anything. Food is not static and trends in ethnic food tends to reflect the size and age of a population and tradition, including local tradition. This fact weighs heavily on the Boston food scene.

From my observations, Boston's population is diverse. Picking out restaurants to reflect this tends to be difficult due to the fact that this diversity is spread out and immigrant populations do not dominate whole neighborhoods as they do in New York. Therefore, you really would need to be a real Bostonian to know where to go to find these gems. I can say for sure that you can find almost every type of cuisine in Boston, but you need a good guide or find restaurants online on your own. Here are a few generalizations and observations I can make about Boston:
  1. Boston is a walking city, but you need to walk farther between restaurants.
  2. Some Boston restaurants do not have obvious storefronts, since many are located in older buildings. You may have to step down into a building or go up a flight of stairs to get to a restaurant.
  3. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts do not all have restrooms and when they do, you can count on finding the homeless inside freshening up.
  4. Boston's downtown and the waterfront are very quiet on the weekends: nary a soul to be found, nor an open restaurant.
  5. Boston's cuisine reflects immigration their contribution to the evolution of their cuisine. For example, Boston's Italian neighborhoods, reflect the fact that immigration has really slowed down from Italy and their restaurants follow the traditional Italian-American style of cuisine handed down for four generations. Not much has changed, whereas in Chinatown, the moderate Chinese immigration has yet to change the 1980's to 1990's style of Chinese cuisine in Boston's Chinatown. New York, in comparison, has made great leaps forward in terms of Chinese regional cuisine and the evolution of Cantonese cuisine, helped in large measure by heavy Chinese immigration into New York. In a side note, I've read that the total Chinese-American population in Massachusetts is about 100,000, whereas in New York City alone, the population is about 350,000. This explains the difference in cuisine.
  6. Bostonians resent tourist trap restaurants.
  7. There are many transients in Boston, most notably students. I've never been in a city with so many colleges and universities concentrated in one area.
  8. Having so many students hasn't translated into tons of student-budgeted restaurants. I admit that I haven't visited Cambridge yet, so I may be wrong.
  9. Boston food is not cheap due to lack of competition.
  10. Boston's mass transit is a-ok.
  11. There are tons of aggressive panhandlers in Boston. In New York, the homeless are just mingling amongst themselves or splayed on the sidewalk.
  12. Something about New England make people there very quiet and reserved. The only animation and joie de vivre were in the college kids.
  13. Hostility towards the Yankees is real! I can attest to that!
  14. You must accept that while in Boston, your lunch will cost $9 and above.
  15. You can get twin lobsters for $15.75! Yay!
  16. In New York's Chinatown, the waiters are bi-lingual. In Boston's Chinatown, most aren't.
  17. To live here, you must get used to not being in a crowd.
  18. In Boston, they do the eye-contact avoiding thing, just as well as we do here in New York.
  19. Bostonians who use the T are not as nimble as New Yorkers in making room for others. They also have the same bad habit as New Yorkers in not moving to the center of the car and blocking exits.
  20. Bostonians do not want Johnny Damon back on their team.

So there you have it, my short but sweet stay in Boston. I will be returning to the Big Apple tomorrow. I want to thank Boston for welcoming me with open arms and providing me with many memories. So long for now!

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