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Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero Grasshopper is a longstanding neighborhood icon

Allston neighborhood guide

Discover the best places to eat, drink, and hang in buzzy, youthful Allston with our neighborhood guide

By Eric Grossman and Time Out Boston Staff

With its population split between students, millennial post-grads and international transplants, 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 But trust us—beneath that veneer of spilled cheap beer and outdated concert posters lies a wealth of hidden gems, including some of Boston’s best cheap eats and wallet-friendly vintage stores. One thing’s for sure—this well-worn, enduring neighborhood will always be home to an eclectic assortment of only-in-Allston characters. Once you’ve had your fill of funky, youthful Allston, keep the fun going by checking out our guides to the best restaurants in Boston and best museums in Boston. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Things to do in Allston

Totto Ramen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Idy T.

1. Totto Ramen

Restaurants Japanese Allston/Brighton

With locations in NYC and Taipei, Totto Ramen sports some serious cred. The paitan-style ramen is thick and hearty, with house-made noodles. The broth is chicken-based, rather than pork, with miso and spicy options available. Get your bowl with char siu pork or chicken. (There’s also a vegetarian version with a seaweed and shitake base.) Customize your bowl with toppings like spicy bamboo shoots, kikurage mushroom, or a seasoned boiled egg. If you’re really hungry, go for the oversized mega ramen that includes all the pork variations.

Twin Donuts, Restaurants and cafés, Boston
Photograph: Sara Skolnick

2. Twin Donuts

Restaurants Bakeries Allston/Brighton

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.

Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero

3. Grasshopper

Restaurants Vegan Allston/Brighton

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.

Lone Star
Photograph: Courtesy Lone Star/Jennifer Trebino

4. Lone Star Taco Bar

Restaurants Mexican Allston/Brighton

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).

Garlic ‘n Lemons
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Garlic ‘n Lemons

5. Garlic ’n Lemons

Restaurants Mediterranean Allston/Brighton

Bare-bones and under-the-radar, this family-run spot in Allston is a student favorite for Mediterranean takeout or a quick dine-in. Choose pita or saj for your beef or chicken shawarma; vegetarians will enjoy the falafel or halloumi pita sandwiches. Kefta burgers are an unconventional offering—made by an in-house butcher and topped with homemade halloumi cheese. Plates and salads are a more filling option, and don’t miss sides like the artichoke salad, spicy potatoes, and tabouleh.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Coreanos

6. Coreanos

Restaurants Korean Allston/Brighton

Simple and unpretentious, Coreanos offers Korean standards and Korean fusion in Allston. Crunchy Korean fried chicken, bibimbap, fried kimchi rice, and grilled meats are all fresh and flavorful. Try tteokbokki for something different — rice cakes, vegetables, and fish cake cooked in a sweet chili sauce and served with a fried kimmari seaweed roll and hard boiled egg. Fusion options include a Korean taco, kimchi quesadilla, and kimchi fritas (fries topped with pan-fried kimchi, cheese, and sauces).

Brown Sugar Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Prawitchaya S.

7. Brown Sugar Cafe

Restaurants Thai Allston/Brighton

A longtime favorite for both takeout and dine-in, Brown Sugar serves dishes from all regions of Thailand. Don’t miss the clay pot selections or lesser-known dishes like kai jeow moo sub (minced pork omelet). Standard, recognizable options like chive dumplings, pad thai, and fried rice are delicious, but don’t be shy—friendly waitstaff are happy to talk you through the more authentic dishes. For an Instagram-worthy treat, go for the Siamese Twins,” sweet and sour chicken and shrimp served in a pineapple shell.

S & I To Go
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Giselle H.

8. S & I To Go

Restaurants Thai Allston/Brighton

Tiny and no-frills, this Allston eatery—primarily a takeout joint—satisfies those looking for a quick, authentic Thai option. Standard offerings like pad see ew and red curry won’t disappoint, but try something different such as pad prik khing moo krob (crispy pork with string beans in a spicy curry sauce), pad gra prow (thai basil beef), or kai look kaey (fried boiled eggs with tamarind sauce). Pay heed to the heat levels on the menu; try a five-chili item if you dare.

The Breakfast Club
Photograph: Courtesy The Breakfast Club

9. The Breakfast Club

Restaurants Diners Allston/Brighton

Throwback TV and movie ephemera provide decorations at this tiny Allston diner, a breakfast- and lunch-only affair. There is an emphasis on healthy and sustainable ingredients: cage-free eggs, gluten-free pancakes, fruit smoothies and specialty teas. Harkening to the diner’s name, dishes include The Basketcase (two eggs, home fries, toast, pancakes or French toast, and choice of meat) and The Dean’s Office (toasted bagel, smoked salmon, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, capers).

Photograph: Courtesty OliToki

10. OliToki

Restaurants Korean Allston/Brighton

Korean fusion has become a thing around the Hub, which means we’re treated to unexpected delights like Korean-Mexican fast-casual cuisine and OliToki’s bulgogi beef taco. Thin-cut, marinated sirloin is piled atop a double tortilla and topped with onion, cilantro, purple cabbage, kimchi, cheese, sour cream, aioli and spicy toki sauce. No wonder it is called a loaded taco. Be prepared to loll on your couch for the rest of the evening.

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Barbara A.

11. Roxy’s Grilled Cheese

Restaurants Sandwich shops Allston/Brighton

After making an initial splash as one of the citys most popular food trucks, Roxy's serves killer grilled cheese sandwiches and flavorful, grass-fed burgers in a tiny Allston space. This isnt your standard afterschool-snack fare; sandwiches are made with Iggys 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Molly Des Jardin

12. FoMu

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Allston/Brighton

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.

Whole Heart Provisions
Photograph: Zac Wolf

13. Whole Heart Provisions

Restaurants Vegetarian Allston/Brighton

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. 

Our Fathers
Photograph: Courtesy Our Fathers

14. Our Fathers

Restaurants Delis Allston/Brighton

From the same restaurant group that brings you Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, Franklin Cafe, and the ubiquitous Tasty Burger, Our Fathers looks to fill the void created by Bostons surprising lack of proper full-service delicatessens. The mid-century modern space, a short stroll from Harvard Stadium, presents a stylish locale in which to enjoy updated Jewish classics and overstuffed deli sandwiches. Perhaps most impressive is the handsome, sophisticated bar area, where knowledgeable bartenders offer suggestions from one of the citys largest gin lists. (Expect dozens of labels you’ve never seen before.) In addition to a gin-focused cocktail program, there are well-chosen beer and wine lists. A connected takeaway space proves popular with commuters needing a bagel-and-coffee fix.

Model Café
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jessica H.

15. Model Café

Bars Dive bars Allston/Brighton

“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.

Silhouette Lounge
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/David Tan

16. Silhouette Lounge

Bars Dive bars Allston/Brighton

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. 


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