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DIG THIS AWARDS 2014: EDITOR’S PICKS

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ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

BEST MULTIMEDIA FESTIVAL
Together Boston
Rehashing the awesome time we’ve had at the city’s premier music, art, and technology festival while composing this entry is just a cruel reminder that we have to wait an entire month before the next week-long installment to go down.
(togetherboston.com)

MICRO VENUE
Wally’s
It takes all but one visit to this legendary sliver of a jazz and funk haunt to completely fall in love. The cramped room, overpriced drinks, and salty but friendly demeanor of the bartenders and regulars munching on Cape Cod chips and sipping scotch while watching music school savants and pros sub in for one another during searing sets is all part of the charm, and legacy here.
(427 Mass Ave., Boston, 617-236-4843, wallyscafe.com)

ART PARTIES
Oberon
On the opposite side of Harvard Square from the A.R.T., you can find the renowned theater’s party and burlesque-prone sibling, Oberon, which serves as a second home to many of Boston’s best circus arts and club performers (see: the long-running “Donkey Show”). It’s the best place in Cambridge to follow up a little wine and Shakespeare with even more wine and Shakespeare … by way of pumping house music and nipple pasties.
(2 Arrow St., Cambridge, 617-496-8004, americanrepertorytheater.org/oberon)

COMEDY NEWCOMER
Laugh Boston
If it seems like we gush over our local comedy scene, it’s because we do, as few other outlets pay it nearly enough mind. Different places have their perks, but Laugh Boston was built for the cause, with aisles big enough for servers to walk down, and an entrance in the back so latecomers don’t interrupt a set. Great bar, too, and as a result, big name comics tend to hang afterward.
(425 Summer St., Boston, 617-725-2844, laughboston.com)

FAVORITE GANG FOR BIG TOP FUN
Boston Circus Guild
Boston may not have one pinball parlor for every three residents like Portland, Oregon, but thanks to the Circus Guild, we can almost compete in the clowning department. Their youth programs are brilliant, their OBERON shows dazzle, and they have contortionists and jugglers for rent. Clown on, BCG, clown on.
(bostoncircusguild.com)

BEST DO-IT-YOURSELF FEST
Boston Hassle Fest
We love a big shiny festival with a ton of people and a huge stage and all, but we’re also big fans of piling the weird artsy kids into a basement and raging hard, with an edgy D.I.Y. style. And no one does that better than the Boston Hassle crew. Get up with them.
(www.bostonhassle.com/‎)

BEST MULTI-TIERED VENUE
Middle East
If a week goes by and you don’t see any of us pony up to the bar in the back of the Middle East complex, it might be worth sending emergency services over to our house to make sure our cat hasn’t eaten our collective corpse. Barring a sudden, lonely death we’ll be scoping out the best hip-hop, EDM, and rock acts this Central Square landmark has to offer.
(472 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-3278, mideastclub.com)

BEST UNLIKELY PLACE FOR EDGY COMEDY
Improv Asylum
You wouldn’t expect extreme alternative and off-color influences to leak into the tourist-friendly North End. The comic wildlings at Improv Asylum, however, do anything but pander to generic expectations. For that (and their refreshingly cheeky Boston Strong satire) we can rest assured that visitors are left with a properly hilarious impression of comedy in Boston.
(21 Hanover St., Boston, 617-263-1300, improvasylum.com)

BEST DARWINIAN STORYTELLING ARBITER
Massmouth
With a new storytelling or over-sharing night seemingly starting at a coffee shop every month, we’re stoked to see Massmouth lending some structure to the scene and weeding out the suckers through its kickass slams. A nonprofit we adore for sure.
(massmouth.org)

BEST TIMELY REFUTATION OF HOMOPHOBIC LEPRECHAUNS
Club Cafe
Product boycotts are typically silly at best, and frustratingly futile at worst. But when Club Cafe bravely stood up to Sam Adams over its role in the hetero-sexist St. Patrick’s Day parade, the local beer company responded responsibly, making for a welcome development in the otherwise unfortunate annual ordeal.
(209 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-0966, clubcafe.com)

BEST PLACE TO HOOK UP WITH A RANDOM PERSON
Good Life
Situated at the intersection of the ivory-towered world of finance and downtown hip-hop culture in Boston, the Good Life is probably your best bet for flirting across the socio-cultural spectrum. This might be due to endless urban and ethnic cross-rhythms, or because the hip-hop trivia night is prime grounds for lusting. Probably the former, though.
(28 Kingston St., Boston, 617-451-2622, goodlifebar.com)

GOODS + SERVICES

CUTEST COMPANY SLOGAN
Olives & Grace
“A Curtsy To The Makers.” Isn’t that just adorable? Also it’s a philosophy we endorse. Forget mass-produced soaps and trinkets and chocolates. Head to this well-outfitted, carefully designed South End hole-in-the-wall for products with batch numbers and hand-sewn labels. And psst – they serve Union Square Donuts on Sunday mornings. This is us curtsying.
(669 Tremont St., Boston, 617-236-4536, olivesandgrace.com [moving locations in May])

BEST SPOT FOR WOMEN WHOSE BEST FRIENDS AREN’T DIAMONDS
Fire Opal
Despite the life lessons we’ve all learned from watching Mob Wives marathons before spooning our eyes out from the sheer horror of it all, not all women adore traditional obnoxious precious stone-and-gold flair. For them, and for anybody who appreciates a bit of art in every ring, pin, and pendant, Fire Opal is a diamond in the rough. You knew that joke was coming.
(683 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-0262, fire-opal.com)

BEST KNIFE WALL
Kitchenwares
When Japan had little need for the warriors of old, the Samurai sword-making craftsmen turned to artisan knife-making and revolutionized cuisine, and the world followed. Kitchenwares on Newbury Street honors that tradition with a multi-tiered internationally stocked knife wall, from $5 paring knifes, to $400 cleavers that look more like a prop out of your favorite horror flick than a kitchen tool. A hotspot for Boston chefs.
(215 Newbury St., Boston, 857-366-4237, kitchenwaresboston.com)

LEAST LIKELY BOOKSTORE TO HAVE A PRIME-TIME SITCOM BASED ON IT
Lorem Ipsum Books
You can get a lot of things from a lot of awesome bookstores around here, but only Lorem Ipsum has affordable first editions, anarchist meetups, and a steady rotation of area creatives stopping by to add to the experience. Call it the anti-Stacked.
(1299 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-497-7669, loremipsumbooks.com)

JEANS
In-jean-ius
Joe’s Jeans. Citizens of Humanity. J Brand. Paige Premium. Red Engine. If these names mean anything to you, chances are you’ve grabbed your coat (and definitely your wallet) at Alison Barnard’s charming, quaint independent denim utopia.
(441 Hanover St., Boston, 617-523-5326, injeanius.com)

COOLEST RESIDENT STEWARD OF COMMUNITY
Kulturez
Businesses that don’t live up to their community responsibilities can learn a lot from Kulturez. In addition to their kaleidoscopic gear and streetwear smorgasbord, owner Mayan Tamang faithfully pays it forward by hosting everything from art shows for local creatives, to the occasional group of wandering skaters.
(36 John F. Kennedy St. #2, Cambridge, 617-661-3865, kulturez.com)

FINEST ARTISINAL GLASS EMPORIUM
Green Side Up
We like it because of the fact it has one of the best glass selections in Boston. We also like it because it tends to be a great showcase of local art on walls. What we’re saying is we like it. Great, helpful people too.
(202 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-487-4882, greensideupgallery.myshopify.com)

EATS + DRINKS

BEST SOULFUL JOINT WHERE YOU CAN BE IN AND OUT IN A MATTER OF MINUTES
Hen House
Though parts of Roxbury are caught in an awkward purgatory between former glory and the coming gentrification, the Hen House–located in the Warehouse District–helps bridge the gap with proper wings and fattening waffles in a hurry.
(1033 Mass Ave., Boston, 617-442-9464, henhouseboston.com)

BEST THING THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NEEDED
Allston Diner
Any Bostonian who have ever lived anywhere in New York–or in the Tri-state area, for that matter–surely miss being able to find a late-night pizza-burger, omelet, or milkshake. Or preferably all of those in the same spot. The Allston Diner doesn’t quite make up for all our collective regional shortcomings, but it’s a damn fine start.
(431 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-208-8741, allstondiner.com)

BEST PLACE TO IMPRESS YOUR FOODIE GEEK FRIENDS FROM SOMERVILLE AND CAMBRIDGE
Sophia’s Grotto
The favorite restaurant of former Hyde Park City Councilor Rob Consalvo (he said so during the campaign), Sophia’s is a remarkably delicious getaway from the constant noise and construction of downtown. A date night on their hidden patio will get any city slicker to decompress from the day vis-a-vis the relaxed setting, and their arancini is the best rice dish south of Chinatown.
(22 Birch St., Rosalindale, 617-323-4595, sophiasgrotto.com)

BEST ICE (YES, BEST ICE)
Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale
There’s any number of extraordinary qualities for which we’d love to pin a medal on Stoddard’s–the oak-laced yesteryear ambiance, famously professional bar staff, killer charcuterie, and so on. That said, we just can’t get enough of their awesome ice cubes, born into the world as a solid frozen sphere the size of an orange. A miracle of science if you ask us. Or savvy equipment buying.
(48 Temple Pl., Boston, 617-426-0048, stoddardsfoodandale.com)

LOCAL BREWERY
Trillium
It’s almost becoming trendy to walk along Congress Street with a growler of rustic ale in tow from these guys. Having recently celebrating their first year anniversary, Trillium is already getting props for their locally-inspired farmhouse ales, bright pales, and hoppy IPAs, all crafted and poured at their Fort Point brewery and tasting room. Jesus we love beer.
(369 Congress St., Boston, 617-453-8745, trilliumbrewing.com)

BEST ICE CREAM ALTERNATIVE
FoMu
We’re idiots, you see, and we forgot to make a voting category for frozen yogurt, Italian ices, and the like–in spite of their market share climbing faster than during the late-’80s TCBY craze. We heart the flax out of FoMu—especially their coconut number—but you can decide for yourself which cup is king.
(481 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-903-3276, fomuicecream.com)

MOST DISARMINGLY FRIENDLY STAFF
Mei Mei
Being crotchety New England folk, we were initially skeptical at the smiles from folks at Mei Mei Street Kitchen offer when entering the new brick and mortar location. But then we tried their scallion pancake sandwich featuring two slow-poached (then fried) eggs and cheddar. We realized they were just better-than-average people serving up spectacular food. And we hadn’t even tried their Sriracha ketchup yet. Tip: go for two of everything here.
(506 Park Dr., Boston, 857-250-4959, meimeiboston.com)

MOST POPULAR LIQUIDS-ONLY FOOD TRUCK
Mother Juice
The fruit goddesses at Mother Juice serve up organic, fresh, cold-pressed juices and made-to-order smoothies on the regular. Sure, the kale concoctions look a little bit like baby vomit, but so do you sometimes. When that happens their elixirs will have your hair shining, your skin glowing, and your jeans fitting better. Also, they’re crazy tasty, and the second best SoWa accessory after a Boston terrier.
(motherjuiceboston.blogspot.com)

BEST AUTHENTIC RAMEN SPOT FOR LOTS OF PORK FAT
Yume Wo Katare
Ramen has been having moment in Boston for much longer than a moment. And that’s just fine. This spot is dedicated to the almighty Japanese noodle, and it stands apart because of its authenticity (and long lines). We like a place where the menu is small, and add-ons include extra garlic or pork fat. No frills. Just slurping.
(1923 Mass Ave., Somerville, 617-714-4008, yumewokatare.com)

CLOSEST SECOND-PLACE FINISH
Back Bar
Just four votes shy of your favorite romantic spot in the city, this Union Square locale serves up bartender’s cocktails, tasty bar bites, and a strong dose of intimacy. So if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s a great romantic destination all it’s own. It’s also ideal as an appetizer before either neighbors Journeyman or Bronwyn. Or wherever you’re passing out these days on a date.
(9 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, 617-718-0249, backbarunion.com)

MEN’S HAIR SALON
Salon Marc Harris
Weary waterfront and Financial District workhorses are hip to the even hipper downtown digs of Salon Marc Harris. Men of all stripe have been slipping past the granite entryway and getting a relaxing head massage in the exposed-beam and old-world Boston digs for some time now, due to the skilled and affable staff, solid espresso, and reliable looks. Ask for Anthony if you love talking superhero movies and rock and roll while getting snipped.
(125 Broad St., Boston, 617-443-8633, salonmarcharris.com)

BEST COMIC BOOK STORE
Comicazi

For 14 years, Davis Square’s Comicazi has been redefining what a comic shop should be. In fact, to call Comicazi merely a comic shop would be a disservice. Sure, they have an extensive selection of new comics, back issues, toys, games, and gear. But beyond what you can buy is what they provide: community. Comicazi runs comedy nights, gaming nights, Drink and Draw events (which are awesome), a YouTube channel, and features a gallery of local comic artists’ work, and a ton more.
(407 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-666-2664, comicazi.com)

GREATEST PLACE FOR A SPARKLING MUSICAL SUSHI BUZZ
Thelonious Monkfish
Between the geeks and dive bars, music venues and second-hand shops, there’s a lot of action competing for attention in Central. Which is why we often hit the sushi bar at Thelonious, as it’s the best spot of all to enjoy an ethnic and musically diverse experience while watching the perpetual hipster Halloween parade walk by outside.
(524 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-441-2166, theloniousmonkfish.com)

BREWHOUSE WORTH HEADING NORTH FOR
The Tap Brewing Company
At the age of eleven, Haverhill’s house of ales and lagers have been satisfying the palates of beer drinkers and skee-ball fans alike since their opening in 2003. They also have a huge deck. Huge decks are great.
(100 Washington St., Haverhill, 978-374-1117, tapbrewingcompany.com)

TAPAS
Taberna de Haro
Deborah Haro has been warming her hearth and the hearts of those living on the Boston/Brookline border for some time now, and just recently she consumed a neighboring empty space to expand her simply wonderful oasis of authentic Spanish tapas, incredible garlic shrimp and house sangria, and flowing overhead pours of cava sparkling wine. This is a good thing. It’s even better when you’re there experiencing it yourself.
(999 Beacon St., Boston/Brooline border, 617-277-8272, tabernaboston.com)

BEST MARTINI/MANHATTAN
Lucky’s
There is nothing finer to ending a long day mid-week, loosening the tie or brushing off the day’s madness and going chest to chest at a Luckyi’s dimly-lit subterranean bar with a martini that could reign in the vodka jonesing of the Brothers Karamazov. Or just Roger Sterling.
(355 Congress St., Boston, 617-357-5825, luckyslounge.com)

SISTER RAW BAR
Row 34
Sure, the people behind the people’s choice of best raw bar, the Island Creek Oyster mollosk-squad, are the same behind the new kid on the Congress Street block in Fort Point, but who cares. This place is a shell-shucking paradise contained in a historic structure of exposed beams and an all craft-beer and wine menu. If you notice Rocky Nooks on the menu, be sure to order as many as you can.
(383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900, row34.com)

BEST IRISH LEAN RAIL/BEST TWO-SEATER AT A WEIRD ANGLE OF THE BAR
Citizen Public House
After quickly becoming a new ritual for all manner of local and suburbanite Sox fans coming in to see a game, Citizen has won us over several times for its full-pig roasts, Japanese whiskey, and Irish lean bar setup with the bizarre but completely awesome two-seater at the end of the bar with prime people watching views inside and outside the window. If you can land it. Good luck.
(1310 Boylston St., Boston, 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com)

BEST DELI
J. Pace & Sons
Normally, we look askance upon long lines of tourist and local friendly spots lining the North End, but if there is one place that makes it all worth it at lunchtime, it’s the J. Pace people. Doesn’t get much better in the classic Italian provisions deli and market space than these Boston originals. Nor does their prosciutto sub with hot peppers. Epic.
(42 Cross St., Boston, 617-227-9673, jpaceandson.com)

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2 Responses to DIG THIS AWARDS 2014: EDITOR’S PICKS

  1. Pingback: DIG THIS AWARDS 2014 | DigBoston

  2. b b says:

    i think the writers meant ‘BEST UNEXPECTED PLACE FOR EDGY COMEDY’. ‘unlikely’ means you’re not likely to see edgy comedy at IA, which we all know ain’t true.