With its population split between students, millennial post-grads, international transplants, and working-class families, Allston doesn’t exactly scream must-visit destination. But trust us—beneath that veneer of spilled cheap beer and outdated concert posters lies a wealth of hidden gems, including some of the area’s best ethnic eats and up-close-and-personal spots to catch a concert. Once you’ve had your fill of Allston, keep the fun going by checking out our guides to the best restaurants in Boston, best live music in Boston, and best museums in Boston.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston
Things to do in Allston
“The Model” started off as an unpretentious little neighborhood dive and then one day, through no fault of its own, suddenly became an “it” spot, playing host to the cream of the college crowd (who inexplicably started calling it the 'Mow-dell'). So be it—nowadays, the low-key trendy types and the divey neighborhood crowd share the place, the former devoted to dancing and the latter to sucking down the cheap, lethal drinks (don’t call them cocktails). The jukebox remains one of the best around town.
If you’ve lived in Allston or had friends who lived in Allston, then you’ve spent way too much time at “The Silly”—and not regretted it one bit. Its appeal might lie in the dated signage, or the darts and pool, or the profane bathroom graffiti—all dive bar staples, certainly. But mostly it’s the cheap beer, the potent (and still cheap) mixed drinks, the convivial staff and the metal-leaning soundtrack that keep you coming back for more. All that free popcorn doesn’t hurt, either.
For years, this casual Allston stalwart has been go-to spot among area vegans and vegetarians. The substantial, wallet-friendly menu features pan-Asian standards packed with veggies, as well as tofu, seitan, and vegan versions of meat and seafood. Made with “battered gluten,” the No Name dish features a tasty sweet-and-sour sauce and is a crowd favorite. Desserts include vegan shakes and cakes.
MGMT, Hot Chip, and other big names all gigged at Great Scott long before moving on to sold-out tours in bigger venues. The cozy Allston bar is an unofficial feeder for larger clubs like the Middle East and the Paradise. The small space has no backstage, which makes this the perfect locale for cornering your favorite singer and cajoling them into grabbing a beer with you. The line-up is mostly various shades of rock, peppered with the occasional influences of folk, electronica, and indie.
Often playing second banana to the nearby Paradise Rock Club, the BMH actually holds its own when it comes to quality shows from both touring and local acts. Dueling bars with a decent selection flank the space, ensuring a drink is never far away. Walk past the stage into the mysterious back area for an inexplicable but enjoyable smattering of pool tables.
The decor is plainspoken, but Deep Ellum’s beer list is superb. And so are the cocktails, with bartenders willing and able to mix up any old-fashioned or off-the-wall concoction you can throw at them. There’s also an eclectic menu offering everything from chili dogs to veggie lentil stew.
The music at this tiny, 70-person club skews more toward punk and metal outfits with names like Maggot Brain and Rat Corpse. Though it’s a fraction of the size of small-scale venues like Great Scott, O’Brien’s doesn't dial down its sound system, so be sure to pack earplugs. PBR is the drink of choice here—ask for a “cocktail” and you'll likely get a stiff booze-and-soda.
This long-standing shop's 1950s facade is an Allston icon—as are its cheap, tasty donuts. The compact joint opens at 4am, making it a regular haunt of early risers and night owls alike. Perched just a few feet from several notorious dive bars, Twin Donuts is a favorite among casual barflies that populate the area day and night.
It’s like Chipotle for vegans and vegetarians. Whole Heart Provisions doles out build-your-own takeaway bowls that save you from your worst “I don’t feel like cooking” tendencies. Starting with a base of rice, bulgur, arugula, or kale, you then pile on the veggies (shaved brussels sprouts, cauliflower, smashed cucumbers), tofu and nuts before adding dressings like orange miso or spicy peanut sauce. Those needing a slightly guiltier fix can spring for one of the street food snacks, including sesami shishitos, street corn, and a falafel dog—easily offset by the matcha lemonade or kombucha on tap.
For the vegan ice cream lover, FoMu is the spot. All ice creams, novelties, and cakes are made from plant-based ingredients. The signature ice cream, creamy and gelato-like, is made with coconut milk. Flavors are seasonal and made in small batches. You’ll even find novelties like ice cream bars, cookie sandwiches, ChocoTacos, and ice cream cakes.
After making an initial splash as one of the city’s most popular food trucks, Roxy's serves killer grilled cheese sandwiches and flavorful, grass-fed burgers in a tiny Allston space. This isn’t your standard afterschool-snack fare; sandwiches are made with Iggy’s organic bread, and fillings include fontina, spicy honey, braised short rib and more. Reflecting its eclectic neighborhood, the kitchen preps a variety of vegan grilled cheese options as well.
Prepare to wait and be jostled while you do. Lone Star attracts hordes of Allston students happy for $4 tacos and a plethora of under-$10 accompaniments: grilled street corn, refried bean tostadas and huevos rancheros. The hand-made masa harina corn tortillas make a difference, as does the slow-cooked pork carnitas and mesquite-smoked beef barbacoa. Potent tequila cocktails include the oddball-but-delicious Hombre sin Nombre (Blanco tequila, Peychaud’s bitters, mole bitters, agave, Chartreuse).
Housed in—you guessed it—a former Allston garage, this VIP-oriented space is all about beautiful people and beautiful cars (yes, parking is actually available). Garage is all about the theme nights, none more popular than Friday’s Latin Night, when DJs from both Boston and NYC spin a mix of salsa, merengue, bachata and Reggaeton. If you’re dreading the return of Monday, the Detox Sundayz day party is a great way to delay reality a little longer. Winter or summer, the expansive outdoor area, with plenty of seating, is a great place to catch your breath and grab a little fresh (i.e. non-sweaty) air.