City: Boston, Massachusetts
Foodie: Rick Sawyer, Ryan Weaver, and Michael Femia, Bostonist.com
Venue: TD Banknorth Garden
Address: 100 Legends Way, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114
Teams: Boston Celtics (NBA), Boston Bruins (NHL)
Here's the first thing you should know before going to a Celtics or a Bruins game. Yes, it's called the Garden. No, it's not the same one.
People in Boston hate things to be different than they were in the past, so when Toronto-Dominion Bank wanted us to forget that a bank from Canada, from Canada, had bought the naming rights to the building where the Bruins play, the Fleet Center became the TD Banknorth Garden, in homage to the Boston Garden of old. That is, after the internet had bought 30 days worth of naming rights off of eBay.
Here's the second thing you should know. Only eat in the immediate vicinity of the building if a man is holding you by gunpoint and is having your family waterboarded at a remote location. The food in Boston's West End is nasty, and the restaurants are filled with douchebags.
As much as it pains us to say it, your best bet for eating before a game is a trip to tourist flytrap Quincy Market. Sure, it's full of chain restaurants and you may have to fight off a mime or two, but, with food ranging from chowder to Japanese noodle bowls (not to mention pizza and burgers), it's a good bet for feeding a group of people with fussy eating requirements. Besides, some of the chains (Wagamama) are legitimately good places to eat, and you can rub the head of the statue of Red Auerbach for good luck before heading to your game. (That may not work for Bruins games.) Plus, there's breakdancing buskers. And to get to the Garden you will have to pass Boston's City Hall, the World's Ugliest Building.
Do us and the people sitting near your seats at the Garden a favor and don't eat at Cheers.
If you are a gentleman or a lady, however, or if living statues trigger post traumatic stress symptoms, skip Quincy Market. For proximity to the Garden, your next best bet is Boston's historic North End.
Long a haven of the Mafia and once the victim of the world's worst molasses flood, the North End spent the second half of the twentieth century barricaded away from the rest of the city by a giant, elevated expressway. $16 billion and twenty years of the Big Dig has since joined the neighborhood to Boston. There are more tourists around nowadays, and the only wise guys you'll find have nicknames like "Cheese Man" and weigh several hundred pounds. It's a different neighborhood than it used to be, but you can still find some awesome Italian food.
The North End abounds with cheap Italian places serving tourists syrupy sauces out of cans, and you really have to know what you are doing to get something better than the same bland, substandard excuse for Italian that you can make yourself at home. A good option is Bricco, which is authentic Italian, served in courses, featuring handmade pasta and an excellent timpano, the meal from Big Night. Afterward, head down the street to Gelateria, a dessert joint owned by the same guy. Everything at both places is imported straight from Italy, including the staff.
If you drive a Prius or call yourself a "locavore," (or you are trying to impress somebody who does), check out Taranta, which serves its Peruvian-Italian fusion cuisine in the most environmentally friendly way possible. The chef-owner even buys carbon offsets to make up for the energy he burns cooking your food.
The North End is a good bet even if you are strapped for time. We may have once called their country "the soft underbelly of Europe," but there was always one thing that Americans and Italians could agree upon: eating pizza makes you into an extremely aggressive sports fan. Bostonians go on and on about Pizzeria Regina, but skip it if you need to get somewhere fast. Our pick for North End pizza is Ernesto's. The service is fast, the slices are as big as your head, and the pizza is wicked delicious. It's thin crust, New York style, dripping with grease and aggro molecules just waiting for their release in cheering/jeering form.
Once in the Garden, forget about eating. The food is terrible. But maybe you shouldn't take our word for it; some people can't get enough of it.
Take the people who are "Hungry for Hockey." It's a ticket package program that includes a clutch of Bruins tickets and the right to eat all that you can at every single game you attend. The only catch? You have to maneuver through a holding area that has been cordoned off by rope to contain you and your ravenous fellow fans as you gorge yourself in the Garden cafeteria of plenty. And it doesn't even include beer.
Speaking of beer, there are no beer deals at the Garden. Your best bet is to buy a Sam Adams, which costs $8. (There's also Harpoon, a localish micro-brew that will make you instantly vomit. And Guiness at the one Guiness stand, but it's $10 a beer.) You can get Sam Adams at nearly every food vendor on the ground and loge levels and at any of the various liquor stands (known, tactfully, as SHOTS), but if you're like us and have tickets in the balcony, go see our friend Jerry, near Section 315.
Jerry has poured beer at one Garden (or FleetCenter) or another for 42 years and he has spent every moment of that time perfecting his mustache. His beer tap is digital—don't ask us why—and he offers Sam Adams Boston Lager or Sam Adams Seasonal, both of which are delicious enough, considering the options. The best thing about Jerry? He always asks for I.D. and he always calls you by your first name.
Please tip Jerry.
After the game, there is only one place to take your sex partner. Back to the North End, to Neptune Oyster, where staff will shuck the aphrodisiac bivalves until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays or 11:30 p.m. on weekends. The oysters are written up on the menu as if they were wine, the bar is intimate, and the bartender has a heavy hand. Our favorite oyster joint in the city.
If you don't like it raw (or if you need some chocolate to make the oysters more potent) there's also Bova Bakery, which is open 24 hours a day. Calzones, cannoli, weird pastries shaped like pipes: Bova has it all.
If you are a coke whore, don't miss Alibi, a dance club inside of an old jail at the Liberty Hotel that features Lindsay Lohan and Frank Sinatra, in mug shot form. Like the North End, it's a short walk from the Garden.
Why all this walking? Boston is "America's Walking City," and if you drive around downtown on game day, you are insane. Visitors from out of town should take the T, our subway, as much as possible. You won't be able to navigate our roads, and you will not be able to compete with our moxie behind the wheel. Buy a weeklong T pass if you are going to be in town for more than a day. The 24 hour pass costs $9. The 7 day pass costs $15. You do the math.
Anyway, welcome to Boston! Don't stay on Causeway St. too long after a B's game if you don't want to end up in our crime blotter.