Food, Lifestyle

Your topical guide to East Boston’s food scene

East Boston is a haven for constantly evolving history. Affectionately called Eastie, the neighborhood’s first language is slowly becoming Spanish, as the area is transformed into a cultural hub for Hispanic and Latinx immigrants in Boston. To be quite honest, the city is starting to look more like Medellín, Colombia.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

East Boston is a place where you can see massive Boeing jets fly over three-story apartment buildings just before they touch down at Logan Airport. Since the 1840s, East Boston has long been home to blue-collar working immigrants who built this city. 

Remnants of Irish and Italian identities still coat the vast neighborhood, and now the city is adding another layer of diversity as it welcomes its next generation of immigrants — Central and South American families — who are beginning to find their roots. 

However, the dynamic of East Boston has changed within the past ten years. What was once a hub for the working class is now under siege by large gentrification projects that are threatening the lives of the community and its local businesses, which I have come to know and love. While residents cope with the change, they are now finding comfort in the businesses that provide small glimpses of a place they once called home. One of the ways they do that is through their cuisine.

Pueblo Viejo is one of these places. They have three other locations in East Boston. But, Pueblo Viejo No. 2 is the best location in my opinion. You can get there by taking a Blue Line train towards Wonderland Station and exiting at Wood Island Station. 

You’ll see a glass storefront and a red sign above before you enter. As you pass through the entrance, don’t be alarmed by the taxidermy bear that greets customers immediately to the right of the front door or the loud reggaeton coming from inside. Just shut up, sit down and pick something up from the menu.

I personally recommend the Tipico montañero. You can never go wrong with this classic Colombian meal. The dish is a glorious mountain of food composed of grilled beef, pork stripe, fried egg and fried plantains for good measure. You might need to consider wearing some sweatpants — it can get a little messy. 

On your way out, pick up a quesadilla Salvadoreña for dessert. Be careful, though, you might need to fight an old lady or two to grab it while it’s fresh out the oven.

After a long day at work or school, you may want to throw away all the worries in your life. You wish you could return to that childlike innocence and wonder, but it’s impossible to turn back time. Luckily, La Sultana Bakery is located in the heart of Maverick Square, and serves pastries that can, for a moment, bring you back to those days when everything was good and nothing hurt.

You’re not going to get any pretentious, $10 cupcakes here. In fact, you can expect to load up on a combination of sweets for less than that. It’s a small and humble family-owned spot spanning over 30 years. La Sultana Bakery is a staple of the community. You’ll regularly see families fawn over racks of pastries that are lit up by fluorescent lights behind curved glass displays. 

Their selection reflects the different and changing cultures of the city. For a Colombian spot that serves flan, cono relleno and palmeritas, they serve some of the best tiramisu in the city. Dare I say, they rival some of the tough competition found in Boston’s North End.

If you’ve never eaten Peruvian food before, you need to try Rincon Limeño to experience it. A staple hole-in-the-wall, Rincon Limeño has been serving Peruvian dishes in East Boston for more than 25 years. Peru, with its kaleidoscope of different cultures, has quickly become an epicenter for the culinary world. In any given dish, you’ll find traditional Inca recipes mixed with Spanish, Asian and African flavors. 

A friend and I ordered the Clásico Rincon Limeno, a tremendous appetizer dish served in a plate of deep-fried fish, calamari, scallops and a wine glass filled with ceviche. To put it in simpler terms, it was marinated, lemony goodness.

I would also recommend the arroz con mariscos, which I thought to resemble seafood paella, but with Peruvian flavors. The octopus is fresh and the mussels that decorate the dish had a subtle, briny taste that balanced the sweetness of the rest of the dish. I don’t doubt that you’ll find similar paella downtown, but the price is marginally less than other spots. 

Immigrant families like mine see the world through our own cultural lenses. We see our values through the faces in our community, and we leave traces of ourselves wherever we go. 

During times when there is no language to be understood, we communicate through our dishes. Now, you may find similar food outside of the East Boston area, but you’d be missing out on the intimate aspect of our culture. 

After all, nothing beats walking into a restaurant and leaving knowing that your experience is valued, even if it’s for just a fraction of a second. 

There are so many more eateries to discover in East Boston, so break out of your bubble and get lost in the neighborhoods that this city has to offer. You may just l find yourself falling in love with this city. 

It’s the best thing any place can offer: a home away from home.

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