Buy me some peanuts and chili aioli
I firmly believe that if you are going to a game at Fenway, you ought to eat a hot dog inside the park. If you’re a vegetarian, you are excused. Otherwise, this is part of the ritual. That said, there is the strong likelihood that you will also be hungry before or after the game, or — let’s be honest — both. And with each passing season, the area around Fenway Park becomes a better neighborhood in which to be hungry.
This summer, several Peterborough Street restaurants destroyed in a 2009 fire are slated to reopen. There are plans for El Pelon Taqueria, Thornton’s Fenway Grille, and Rod Dee to return, along with newcomers including hot pot restaurant Swish Shabu. New since last year are Island Creek Oyster Bar or Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar. Both opened in October. Together, they increase your neighborhood shellfish-eating opportunities exponentially.
Island Creek Oyster Bar specializes in bivalves, of course. For those who love seafood, the restaurant is a game-day game changer. (Longtime favorite Eastern Standard — see page 17 — is located next door, perfect for hopping back and forth.) Raw bar is a must here, with oysters from all over, including varieties hard to come by in these parts. In addition to Island Creeks, there are Peter’s Points and Moon Shoals, Hog Islands and Hama Hamas. Oysters also come in slider form, fried and served on brioche rolls with lime and chili aioli. But it’s not all oysters here. Don’t miss the excellent versions of clam chowder and fried clams.
Citizen Public House is a modern version of a British pub, run by the folks behind the Franklin Cafe. The menu centers on shellfish, pork, roasts, and a little more pork. As an oyster bar, it exists for the workaday practitioner, not the fetishist. There are generally three or four varieties on offer, rather than the dozen or so you might find at Island Creek. Have a quick burger, or bring 10 of your closest friends for a whole roast pig (advance notice required). With 75 kinds of whiskey and boozy punch bowls, you won’t go thirsty.
Also relatively new is Basho Japanese Brasserie, which debuted last April. From the same people who run Douzo in Back Bay, its main attraction is upscale sushi. In addition to elaborate rolls, you’ll find steamed pork bun sandwiches, Kobe beef stew, and robatayaki, or grilled skewers of meat and vegetables.
La Verdad, Ken Oringer’s taqueria has been a boon to Fenway-area eating since it opened in 2007. This year, new executive chef Darren Carbone arrives to shake things up. He previously worked at upscale restaurants such as El Vez and Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, as well as Hamersley’s Bistro locally. His menu offers modern takes on Mexican food, such as lamb enchiladas with mole negro, hazelnuts, and shaved tomatillo, or duck carnitas tacos with fig marmalade. But don’t worry — the fish tacos, nachos, and grilled corn are still here.
For more international fare, tapas bar Taberna de Haro is a convivial place for small plates and great wine. Chef-owner Deborah Hansen lived in Spain for almost a decade and brought her knowledge back to Brookline. (The restaurant is about a half-mile walk from the ballpark.) Choose from the likes of tortilla espanola, grilled Basque sausage, and Spanish cheese, as well as more than 265 wines from all over the country. It’s just like being in Madrid.
And Trattoria Toscana is just like being in Italy. Cozy and charming, it will transport you. An Albanian chef prepares authentic Tuscan food, simple and satisfying. The bread soup ribollita, crostini with various toppings, and pasta dishes such as rigatoni alla norcina (with ground sausage and cream) will win you over. And the reasonable prices will keep your loyalty long after the Sox win this year’s World Series.
Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.