A rare great eat inside of Faneuil Hall
Downtown Boston has a lot of great options for eating and drinking, but ask a local about the Quincy Market Food Colonnade at Faneuil Hall and there’s a good chance you’ll get an eyeroll, a headshake, or, in some cases, a “fuggedaboutit”—and we’re not talking any of the many different positive definitions of that term. But don’t shrug off the food hall completely, as some decent options can be found there if you look hard enough, and now with the recent opening of Magnolia Bakery (a legendary bakeshop with roots in New York), the colonnade has suddenly become a bit of a destination spot for those who like sweet treats while making their way through the heart of the city.
Magnolia Bakery got its start in the West Village of Manhattan back in the mid-1990s and pretty much launched the cupcake craze, thanks in part to references to the place on both Sex and the City and Saturday Night Live. The business has since expanded a bit and now has six locations in New York and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles, and now Boston, along with a handful scattered through the Middle East, Korea, and Mexico as well. The original is still a special spot, residing on a quiet corner along a tree-shaded section of the far end of Bleecker Street in one of the most charming parts of Manhattan. Neither the space nor the location of the Boston outlet of Magnolia matches the feel of the original, but remember that the colonnade is basically a strip of stalls so not much can be done about the atmosphere, and the friendly service and little seating area—and its location right at the start of the food hall—do give it a better overall vibe than some of the other dining spots found there.
To many, Magnolia Bakery is all about the cupcakes, and the ones tried recently at the Faneuil Hall location seem to have the same great quality as those found in the West Village shop. The key here is the use of buttercream, a rich-tasting icing made with powdered sugar and butter that is often used in cakes and that Magnolia swirls on top of its cupcakes. The flavors offered at the Boston location include (depending on when you go) vanilla, chocolate, lemon, marble cake, black forest, s’mores, coconut, caramel, and more, as well as some additional flavors that can be found as specials. Magnolia also sells such items as brownies, cookies, muffins, and mini cheesecakes, and one of its signature items—banana pudding—has a decidedly local flavor at this shop in the form of a Boston cream pie banana pudding, though this may be one of those “get them while they last” items since it seemed to be an opening special here and may or may not be around in the future.
It may seem easy to brush off the opening of Magnolia Bakery in part because the cupcake craze seems to have died off and also because it may seem like just another chain in a boring food hall in a touristy section of Boston. But based on initial impressions, you might not want to write it off without giving it a try because the place—much like the one in the West Village—does seem to bring the boring old cupcake up to another level.
MAGNOLIA BAKERY. 200-299 FANEUIL HALL MARKETPLACE, BOSTON.