It's 1:45 AM and, thanks to Boston liquor laws, your favorite bar is shutting down for the night. You round up your friends, take your last swig of beer and head out the door to grab a cab... along with the rest of the bar's 150 patrons.
So there you are. In your heels and short dress. Trying to hail a cab, along with the rest of the world. It doesn't matter if you're on Boylston, at the waterfront or, god forbid, down near Government Center or Park Street. You will stand on the street corner and watch cab after cab pass you by before you finally get in one, at that point, freezing cold and beyond annoyed.
I know I can't possibly be the only one who hates this Boston 2 AM routine, especially during the 8 cold, rain-dominated months of the year. So when I discovered Uber, an as-you-need-it car service available at the tap of your smart phone, I was thrilled.
Uber was launched just over two years ago in San Francisco, and is available in almost a dozen major cities across the US, including Seattle, New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C. The company came to Boston in October of 2011, and has been growing since.
The concept is smart, sleek, and simple. Download the app, input your name, email address, cell number and credit card number. There is no membership fee, no deposit and no money down -- they only charge your card once you get into an Uber car and confirm your fare at the end of the ride.
I spoke with Nick Matthews, Community Manager for Uber's Boston division, who told me that while many cities have cab issues, Boston is among the worst.
"Uber is meant to optimize that issue," he explained. He also filled me in on an interesting fact: according to Matthews, there are four times the number of black cars in Boston than there are cabs, but those cars aren't legally permitted to stop unless they have a predetermined reservation. So when you see all those black cars and they refuse to let you in, that's why. Or, if they pick you up, be cautioned it's illegal.
Instead of employing Uber-specific drivers, the company contracts out to drivers in the city who are reliable and who have been referred to the company. They keep strong relationships with those drivers, who then "sign on" to the system at certain hours to become available for pick up.
Ubers do run at a slightly higher price point than cabs -- according to Nick, the standard rate is between 1.4 and 1.6 times what a cab would cost. That cost, however, includes your tips, and drivers are told specifically to refuse cash tips, as their tip is included in your fare.
To me, what's so appealing about Uber is the no hassle. You don't need to fight with the cabbie about your payment, he wont yell at you for using your card, and he won't smell, or blast terrible music. Stereotypes, yes, but have you ever been in a cab without one of those issues?
I also love the Uber app in on my iPhone: you literally zoom in in a google map to set your exact pick up location so you don't even need to input an address if you don't have it. The map shows clip art-like images of black cars and where in the city they're located, giving you an accurate time estimate of how long the next driver will take to reach you. Often, it's no more than 5 or 10 minutes away.
Of course, Uber isn't flawless, and it is slightly more expensive than a cab, but for the safety and reliability, I'm willing to cough up an extra few bucks. I have had instances, like several weekends back, when I was at Fenway and was told that the next Uber was 25 minutes away, and I was able to hail a cab before my driver got to me. In that case, I simply cancelled my request.
Have you used Uber? What did you think? Would you consider signing up? Comment!
Eastern Standard is one of those bars I've walked by a hundred times, heard amazing things about, but somehow, never been to. So when my friend Kate, in town from New York City, invited me to grab dinner there with her parents, I was excited to finally have a chance to venture inside.
I have to say, for all the hype, I was a little disappointed. Kate's drink, the Aviation, was good, but mine, the Jasmine (pictured), was a bit too strong for a pre-dinner cocktail. We each ordered the cod, and though it was moist and flaky, it was average, at best. Our service was great and so was the company, so overall it wasn't a terrible experience. I would probably go back and order different libations since they have so many interesting options on the menu, but I would definitely skip dinner.
From there, we waked down Brookline Ave to Yard House, which I'd been to a few weekends ago and wanted to introduce Kate to. Though they're known for their beer selection, my love for mixed drinks found me ordering the Southern Belle -- a combination of sweet tea vodka and lemonade with a hefty helping of fresh strawberries and pineapple dropped straight into the glass. The awkward part? Eating the fruit once you get to the bottom -- I perfected my straw stabbing skills. Kate ordered a Jack's Melon, made with Jack Daniels, watermelon pucker and cranberry juice, also very good. Last time I went I had the cherry limeade, which was delicious but a little too sweet, even for my tastes.
Kate and I parted ways, and I met Swati down at the Intercontinental Hotel on the waterfront, another set of hotel bars that has been on my Boston bucket list for quite some time now. We peeked into SushiTeq but it was relatively empty, so we opted for mojitos at Miel instead. I loved the lounge set up of Miel, though by the time we got there it was relatively late, so there weren't any tables left. Instead, we sat on the couches just outside the bar, where we could still get full service. Our mojitos were pricey ($13 each), but my cucumber concoction was delicious, and so was Swati's raspberry one. Swati hadn't eaten much for dinner so she wanted a quick bite, and we asked for a flatbread, minus the duck since she doesn't eat meat. Our server came back with a gorgeous, and delicious, pizza topped with roasted veggies, which the chef had made for us when he heard she was vegetarian. Very impressive!
I love hotel bars. From the Liberty to the Charlesmark, Boston is lucky enough to have a plethora of hotels geared toward tourists, yet many are hiding unique lounges that are great spots for locals to grab after work cocktails or see some live music.
I was lucky enough to check out BOKX 109, in the basement of Newton's Indigo Hotel. The Indigo Hotel is conveniently located a short walk from my office building, so two coworkers & I decided to head there after work the other day to check out the scene.
We ordered three fancy cocktails: I opted for The Pick Me Up, Fran had the Easy Like Sunday Morning and Megan (who is an incredible food blogger) ordered the Blueberry Lemon Drop. I picked my drink because of the unique ingredient list: it's made with apricot brandy, orange, lemon, grenadine, and prosecco. Fran's Sunday Morning was a Bombay Sapphire base with lemon and pineapple, garnished with Angostura bitters, which I, admittedly, had to Google -- they're made of water, 45% alcohol, gentian root, and vegetable flavoring extracts. All three drinks were delicious, but Megan's girly Blueberry Lemon Drop, with Stoli blueberry, lemon, and Creme de Cassis, was the overall favorite amongst the three of us, and we ordered a second to share after we finished eating.
I'd let them know that I was a Boston.com blogger when we made reservations, and the chef was sweet enough to come out upon our arrival and present a gorgeous appetizer trio platter (pictured) with tuna tartare, a fresh oyster, and a scallop with corn and brussel sprouts.
I have to admit -- tuna is far from my favorite fish, and I usually avoid raw fish altogether, but the tartare was absolutely incredible, as was the scallop and its accompanying veggies. The oyster was very fresh and garnished very well -- we loved all three!
We ordered the truffle fries and a margarita flatbread which were relatively ordinary. The fries sounded unique since they are fried in duck fat, but I honestly couldn't taste the difference in them. We probably could have done a better job picking more creative items off the menu, but c'est la vie!
Aside from our drinks, my favorite thing about BOKX was the interior -- the after-work crowd presented a perfect atmosphere, and it was a nice change to be surrounded by men in power suits and a smattering of hotel guests. If you work in the Newton area I'd definitely suggest heading here for a post-work drink or two -- a great spot that's a bit off the grid and worth checking out!
About the authorRachel Kossman is a California girl and New England transplant who graduated from Northeastern University in 2011. She has a penchant for discovering new restaurants and bars, devouring Mexican food, More »
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