Boston is a culturally rich city, combining old and new influences for a thriving small business scene.
Walk the cobblestone streets of the North End, and you’ll discover the most authentic cannolis outside of Italy. Slurp back a freshly shucked oyster at the oldest restaurant in America, just a few blocks from Faneuil Hall.
Or if you’re looking to escape the frigid temperatures, stay inside and check out Beantown’s up-and-coming online startups.
It’s just a wicked cool place to be.
What it is: A music blog that champions local artists
Why it's cool: Run by fans and musicians, Allston Pudding highlights local music. It supports artists who may not receive their proper radio play or publicity, but who definitely deserve your attention.
These trendy curators of all things awesome got creative in their fundraising efforts after the Boston Marathon tragedy by releasing a 130-track mixtape, which can be downloaded with a donation to The One Fund.
What it is: A food truck that sells all things bacon
Why it's cool: Started by a couple of guys who've been friends since high school, the adorable, cartoon-illustrated Bacon Truck maintains its rights to 'Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Bacon.'
The Bacon Truck's bacon is prepared and smoked right there in Boston, and the menu features a variety of delicious, bacon-laden sandwiches and bacon-starring desserts, including the simple-yet-decadent Nutella-covered bacon.
144B Newbury Street
What it is: A men's hunting-themed clothing store that takes the pain out of shopping
Why it's cool: It's a well-known fact that many men hate shopping, so Ball & Buck treat their customers to a stress-relieving shopping experience with no-frills, hunting-inspired products, and exceptional customer service. Customers can kill two birds with one stone by getting their hair cut at the barbershop at the back of the store.
Ball & Buck also hosts occasional partnership events with other local businesses, so try to plan your visit on a day where they might have meat, oysters, and beer available to customers.
What it is: A trendy coffee house located in an old bank
Why it's cool: Before Bloc 11 set up shop at 11 Bow Street, the building had been a bank for more than 70 years, and Bloc 11 decided to hold on to that history and charm by maintaining all the original vaults. That means you can order your espresso -- which they prepare like a work of art -- and a scone and plop yourself down at a table inside a cozy vault.
What it is: A high-end sneaker store hidden inside a bodega
Why it's cool: Enter this unassuming corner store and slide past the door disguised as a Snapple vending machine, and you've discovered Boston's most chic hideaway, Bodega. Inside, a large white room with hardwood floors and chandeliers houses the most sought-after footwear, designer streetwear, and sportswear around. Co-founder Jay Gordon has worked on special projects with Converse, Puma, Reebok, Adidas, Saucony, and Lacoste.
What it is: A quirky ice cream parlor with unusual flavours
Why it's cool: Frequently called the best in the Boston area, Christina's serves some of the most unusual ice cream flavours found in the States. Flavours like adzuki bean, champagne, and honey lavender are almost always available, and during special seasons and around holidays you can try ones like eggnog, concord grape sorbet, and cinnamon rice pudding.
What it is: A full-service coffee bar on wheels
Why it's cool: After competing in the United States Barista Championship, Alessandro 'San' Bellino was inspired to open a cafe, and jumped on the food truck bandwagon. But he swapped out a truck for a sleek mahogany brown tricycle, equipped with a full espresso bar and a cooler for cold beverages.
The high-quality menu features coffee roasted by the George Howell Coffee Company in Acton and milk from Mapleline Farm in Hadley, Mass.
What it is: A comedy club in the attic of a Chinese restaurant
Why it's cool: This dim attic of the Hong Kong Restaurant in Harvard Square provides the perfect setting for seasoned pros and amateurs to cut their teeth in stand-up. NBC talent scouts have been known to 'linger in the shadows,' according to Boston Magazine.
The Comedy Studio is also known for its scorpion bowls -- an alcoholic concoction of fruit juice, multiple types of rum, vodka, gin, and Grenadine served in a volcano-sized bowl.
What it is: A not-for-profit movie theatre with retro appeal
Why it's cool: Since 1933, this church-turned-art-deco-inspired theatre has given the community a diverse offering of international and independent movies and documentaries. Its midnight cult film screenings, sing-alongs, film festivals, readings, and children's programming keep it a culturally rich center of the Boston arts scene.
What it is: A website that helps you get essentially anything custom-designed for you
Why it's cool: CustomMade connects makers with people who want custom-designed goods -- anything from furniture to jewelry, and even motorcycles. Unlike Etsy, CustomMade hand picks its creators to ensure the quality of the products.
It's also getting ready to launch a mobile app so you can take a photo of a product, send it to CustomMade, and ask for one of its professionals to create something similar.
What it is: A deli that delivers the most extreme food challenges in the Northeast
Why it's cool: This family-owned establishment has seven different burger challenges. 'Man vs. Food' host Adam Richman once attempted to finish off the dreaded 12-pound Eagle Burger, consisting of six pounds of burger, 24 pieces of bacon and cheese each, five pounds of fries, and one deli pickle -- a total cost of $US65.99.
What it is: A Southern-inspired BBQ and seafood restaurant that hosts Hell Nights
Why it's cool: In the late '80s, East Coast Grill started earning a reputation for serving spicy dishes, but some patrons bragged 'it wasn't that hot.' Sick of the taunting, the owner and chefs launched Hell Night: an evening when only wicked hot food is served. Crazed spice-seekers come out in droves to test the chilli, fuelled by the Inner Beauty Hot Sauce, four nights a year.
What it is: An alternative department store that sells clothing by the pound
Why it's cool: This hip vintage shop processes several million pounds of clothing a year. To lighten the load, every morning when it opens (except on Fridays), it unleashes a 850-pound bale of men's, women's, and children's clothing onto the floor. Customers wade through and pay $US1.50 per pound. It's a unique pricing model that results in better business for The Garment District, and can't-be-beat steals for deal-finders.
What it is: A make-your-own-beer brewery and restaurant
Why it's cool: This recently opened 'community brewery' allows you to brew up to 10 kettles of beer in one sitting while sampling tasty cured meats and other food. Pick your barley, hops, and malt, and create a custom beer from scratch. No idea what you're doing? Consult with one of their beer experts for a tutorial on beer making.
What it is: A burger joint that offers themed additions to the menu
Why it's cool: Home of Boston Magazine's 2013 Best Burger, jm Curley adds seven specialty items to the board each week. Last October it debuted the Goodbye Breaking Bad menu, featuring the Heisenburger, Los Pollos Hermanos fried chicken quesadilla, and a blueberry almond cake doughnut with '96 per cent blue icing.'
It does more than just burgers, too. In the past, it's also featured an outrageous ramen lasagna and Spaghetti-O's tom kah gai.
What it is: A board game library and cafe
Why it's cool: Knight Moves, in addition to its incredibly clever name, has nearly 30 games to choose from, with weekly events and tournaments. Monthly 'membership' plans are also available for hardcore gamers, who then get perks of snacks and drinks during game sessions. Knight Moves is new to the area, having just hosted their grand opening a few months ago, but it's already a safe haven for lovers of Settlers of Catan and D&D alike.
What it is: An Italian pastry shop with 17 flavours of cannoli
Why it's cool: The streets of Boston's North End have been defined by the ongoing legacy of owners Annette and Mike. Throngs of patrons wait in line around the block to try one of 17 flavours of il cannolo, from the traditional plain ricotta to more unique fillings such as limoncello, peanut butter, Amaretto, and Oreo.
They also sell cannoli-decorating kits, so customers can take all the different components home with them and enjoy them fresh any time.
What it is: Makers of high-tech dress shirts for men
Why it's cool: Taking fashion to the next level, Ministry of Supply makes dress shirts that regulate your temperature using some of the same technology NASA uses in its space suits to cool the body and release heat. After its humble beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign, Ministry of Supply has produced more than 12,000 shirts for customers in 48 countries, and now also makes undershirts, pants, and socks.
What it is: An app that provides in-depth, sophisticated sports video analysis
Why it's cool: Ubersense helps athletes improve their game, and helps coaches better train their athletes. It offers slow-motion analysis and enables you to compare videos side-by-side, as well as overlay videos on top of other videos. So if you wanted to compare your golf swing to Tiger Woods' to see how you stack up, Ubersense could help you do that. It works for multiple sports, and is even used by Olympic athletes.
What it is: An oyster house that is the oldest restaurant in America
Why it's cool: Located along the Freedom Trail just one block from Faneuil Hall, this designated national historic landmark has been serving freshly shucked oysters since 1826. Take a seat at the fabled, semi-circular bar where Daniel Webster was known to throw back tall tumblers of brandy and six plates of oysters, or reserve the booth where John F. Kennedy loved to feast.
What it is: A boutique hotel and spa for dogs
Why it's cool: This 8,500 square-foot pet care center has pristine private suites, large indoor and outdoor play areas, and a five-star spa menu that would make any human jealous. Pamper your pooch with a blueberry-vanilla facial scrub or an anxiety-reducing massage, inspired by Zen practices.
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