Allston-Brighton, Massachusetts is a part of the city of Boston, though it has alternated annexation over the years. First founded in 1646, Allston-Brighton was known as Little Cambridge for the better part of the 18th century. In 1807, Allston-Brighton separated from the City of Cambridge. For nearly a century, Allston-Brighton thrived as a meat-packing and slaughter town; in 1874, the City of Boston annexed Allston-Brighton.
Today, Allston-Brighton is known as the student village, owing to the enormous number of college students and recent graduates that live in the area. Boston University and Boston College bookend Allston-Brighton.
Allston-Brighton is located on the western edge of Boston, bordering Brookline to the south, Boston College and Newton to the west, Boston University and Kenmore Square to the east, and Cambridge, Watertown, and the Charles River to the north.
Like the rest of Boston, driving a car is generally a bad idea and a means of transportation to be avoided if at all possible. If you must use a car, however, exits 19 and 18 off the Mass Pike (Interstate 90) will bring you to Allston-Brighton.
Green Line: the B branch of the Green Line trolley travels the length of Allston-Brighton along its southeastern edge. Major stops from east to west are Packard's Corner, Harvard Ave., Washington St., and Chestnut Hill Ave.
Allston-Brighton is served by buses 57, 64, 65, 66, 70, 70A, 86, 501 and 503. The 57 bus traverses Allston-Brighton through its center; board at any B-line stop from Kenmore Square to Packard's Corner. The 66 and 64 buses respectively connect Cambridge's Harvard and Central Squares to Allston-Brighton. The 86 bus runs from Sullivan Square in Charlestown, through Union Square (Somerville) and Harvard Square (Cambridge), down Market St. in Brighton, and turns around at the Cleveland Circle stop on the C-line. The 70 and 70A buses run along Western Ave. in North Allston-Brighton, both connecting Central Square (Cambridge) to Waltham (with the 70 going to Cedarwood and 70A to North Waltham). The 501 and 503's being express buses running (only on weekday rush hours) down through Washington Street in Brighton Center westward towards the Mass Pike in Newton Corner where they then run eastwards to their respective destinations, Downtown Boston and Copley Square.
- One of the best activities in Allston-Brighton is people-watching, for whatever your motivations. You'll find an exciting mix of ethnicities and age groups, from upper middle class college kids to Vietnamese immigrants to the local Russian community. Take in the sights at the White Horse Tavern or Tavern in the Square on Brighton Avenue during summertime when the floor to ceiling windows are open, or just grab a patch of stoop and watch. Allston also has a large homeless population.
- The main drag of Allston is Harvard Ave., specifically the stretch between Cambridge St. and Comm Ave. A cluster of interesting shops and eateries are to be found here. Walking west 1/4 mi. from the intersection of Harvard and Brighton Ave. towards Cambridge St. is Union Square (not to be confused with Somerville's Union Square), marked by the wonderfully old Twin Donuts sign.
- Grab the 57 bus or walk about a mile down Cambridge St. to the heart of Brighton, Brighton Center, at the corner of Washington and Market Streets. Farther down Washington St. at the westernmost edge of Boston lies Oak Square, a largely residential neighborhood with several great bars and restaurants. Taking Chestnut Hill Avenue a mile south from Brighton Center you'll come across Cleveland Circle right on the edge of Brookline, with lots of bars, restaurants, a movie theater, and the end of the Green Line C trolley.
- One of Frederick Law Olmsted's renowned creations is Ringer Playground, located on Allston St. between Commonwealth Ave. and Brigton Ave.
- Boston College (B.C.), 140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill (Take the T's B Green Line train to the Boston College stop. Last stop on the route). B.C. is a Jesuit, Catholic University known for its Collegiate Gothic architecture in the middle campus.
- McMullen Museum of Art, 140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill, MA (Take the T to the BC stop, cross the street to Lower Campus, and ask the attendant at the gate or a student how to get to Devlin Hall. There are also maps located near the stairs (which are approximately 7 stories vertical.) There is also an elevator in the Commonwealth Avenue Garage, which you can take to the top floor to avoid the stairs. BC is very hilly, but it is possible to get around without stairs if mobility impaired. During the winter months be careful of ice: it's usually very well salted but there can still be slick patches. The Museum is located on the first floor of Devlin Hall, around the corner from the Office of Admissions.), ☎ +1 617 552-8100, e-mail: email@example.com. Monday-Friday 11:00-4:00, Saturday and Sunday 12:00-5:00. Hours can vary due to breaks and special events. Call or check the website for details. Located in Devlin Hall on Boston College's "middle campus", the McMullen Museum has both a permanent collection and a featured exhibit, usually changed on a semester basis. Free.
- Harvard Business School (HBS) (between Western Avenue and North Harvard Street). Offering more than 60 programs preparing talented professionals from all over the world for new levels of leadership in their careers and within their organizations.
- Harvard Science Complex (on Western Avenue opposite Harvard Business School). The Harvard Science Complex is under construction, but is sure to be a center of activity when it is completed.
Things to do in Allston largely include just walking about and enjoying the area. There's a lot of little boutiques, excellent friendly coffee/tea shops, some interesting crowds, and a relatively easy-going atmosphere. It's also an excellent area for photography.
- Urban Renewals, 122 Brighton Ave.. One of the largest thrift stores in town, a bit of a warehouse full of college kid clothing castoffs, odd toys, blankets, and a room full of spinny chairs and broken exercise equipment. Listen for the guy on the loudspeaker announcing the daily sales. There is a Goodwill Store further down Comm Ave. toward the city, but UR has better selection and prices.
- Ritual Arts, 153 Harvard Avenue. Offers exotic gifts for women, magic supplies, and other new age stuff.
- Re:Generation Tattoo, 155 Harvard Ave.. Safe, clean, professional tattoo parlor. Used to host punk shows three or four times a month.
- Jack Young Co., 354 Cambridge Street, ☎ +1 617 782-1250. Any truck/semi/car supplies you could ever need (as long as you know what to ask for). Great for truckers and travelers, right off the interstate. For less complicated auto-related purchases, visit AutoZone up the street.
Allston-Brighton has some of the best ethnic restaurants in the metro Boston area, bar none. Brazilian and Vietnamese dominate, and the bars aren't half bad either, but more on that later. The best indicator of the local restaurants' quality are the patrons - for instance, if you want good Vietnamese, follow the Vietnamese crowd.
- Angora Cafe, 1024 Commonwealth Ave, ☎ +1 617-232-1757. Mon-Fri: 8:30AM-11:30PM; Sat-Sun: 9:30AM-11:30PM. With menu options such as pizza, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, Angora Cafe at Commonwealth and Babcock is a great place to stop by for lunch or a light dinner. Their most popular choice, however, is their frozen yogurt which comes in sizable portions with a variety of mix-in options. $5-15.
- Bagel Rising, 1243 Commonwealth Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), ☎ +1 617 789-4000. M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-5:30PM. Fresh-baked bagels that rank among even the best of New York City. Tons of bagel sandwich and wrap combinations. Lots of vegan and veggie options. Soups, teas and coffees. Delicious and very crowded. $2-5.
- Breakfast Club, 270 Western Ave., ☎ +1 617 783-1212. 6AM-2PM. 80's themed diner serving breakfast. Be prepared to wait in line during the weekend brunch rush.
- Buk Kyung, 151 Brighton Ave, ☎ +1 617 254-2775. $20 will put a LOT of food on your table. Definitely worth a trip. Get the scallion pancake.
- Eagles Deli, 1918 Beacon St, ☎ +1 617 731-3232. Voted by the Travel Channel as #2 on their "Top 10 Places To Pig Out". This deli, located near Cleveland Circle, boasts the "Eagles Challenge Burger", which for a mere $50, you can get a cheeseburger featuring 5 pounds of beef, 20 slices of cheese, 20 pieces of bacon, 5 pounds of french fries, a pickle and a fountain soda, and it must be served to one person! Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Le's Vietnamese, 137 Brighton Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), ☎ +1 617 783-2340. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-10PM. Formerly Pho Pasteur. Home of some of the best Vietnamese around. Cheap and gigantic portions of their namesake pho (noodle soup with meat). Their spring rolls are to die for. $5-12.
- Mixx Frozen Yogurt, 66 Brighton Ave. (Between Chester Street & Fordham Rd; T: Packards Corner). M-TH 2PM-11PM, F 12PM-11PM, Saturday-Sunday 11AM-11PM. Ice Cream Shop. Boston's locally owned self serve frozen yogurt shop always offering 10 weekly flavors and over 50 toppings served fresh daily. $4-7.
- Spike's Junkyard Dogs, 108 Brighton Ave, ☎ +1 617 254-7700. Offers meat and vegetarian hot dogs and tasty poodle fries on the cheap. From $3 and up. Open very late, every night.
- Steve’s Kitchen, 120 Harvard Ave, ☎ +1 617 254-9457. 5AM-5PM.
- YoMa, 5 N Beacon Street (T: Harvard Ave), ☎ +1 617 562-8888. Every day 12 noon - 10PM. Offers inexpensive, delicious Burmese food. Full vegetarian menu. Appetizers $5, salads/entrees $7-10, and family combo meals start at $25 for two. Free refills on jasmine rice. Try the hot tea and the complimentary palm sugars for dessert.
- Carlo's Cucina Italiana, 131 Brighton Av. (T: Harvard Ave), ☎ +1 617 254-9759. M-Sat 11AM-11PM, Sun 2PM-11PM. Possibly the best Italian outside of the North End. Unbelievably perfect homemade pasta in a cramped yet cozy setting. Lines out the door most nights. Full bar. $8-20.
- Genki Ya, 398 Harvard St., ☎ +1 617 277-3100. Organic brown rice sushi, fresh fish daily, fresh green salads and fruit rolls. Great beer and wine selection. Best sushi in the area, worth the extra cost.
- Grasshopper, 1 N Beacon St., ☎ +1 617 254-8883. Another strictly vegan Asian restaurant with a definite Vietnamese influence. Very delicious. Awesome chicken fingers and vegan cheesecake. Lunch specials under $6, dinner between $7-14 for entrees. Sunday buffet.
- Jasmine Bistro, 412 Market St at Washington St., Brighton, ☎ +1 617 789-4676. Middle Eastern, Hungarian and French may seem like an odd fusion, but the Jasmine Bistro brings them together in an assortment of dishes for every taste. The Chicken Paprikash is highly recommended, as are the seasonal specials, particularly the mushroom appetizer and the cold cherry soup. The restaurant is family owned and operated, complete with an in house pastry chef making some of the best desserts in Boston. $15 to $25.
- Mt. Everest Kitchen, 182 Brighton Ave., ☎ +1 617 254-4912. Every day 11AM-11PM. Nepali cuisine, incredibly fresh and delicious alternative to Indian cafes in the areas.
- Tasca, 1612 Commonwealth Ave. (T: Washington St), ☎ +1 617 730-8002. Sun-Thurs 5PM-11PM, Fri-Sat 5PM-12AM. Offers tapas, small, appetizer-sized dishes that you order in groups as a meal. A tasty, fun way to enjoy multiple dishes from Spanish cuisine. Tapas $3-7, entrees $14-20.
- T.J. Scallywaggle's, 487 Cambridge St., ☎ +1 617 787-9884. 12 noon to 12 midnight. Vegan house of subs and pizza, delicious food, excellent dessert (try the chocolate chip cookies!). Very friendly folks too!
Allston-Brighton is a bit of a student village, and naturally you would expect bars. Lots of bars. There are, in fact, many. As of 2003, there is no smoking in any restaurant or bar in the metro Boston area.
- Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Avenue. Allston. Live indie, rock, hiphop, and dance. Voted "Best Rock Club", "Best Bar", and hosts the "Best Dance Night" (The Pill, Friday Mod/Brit) - Source: Boston Phoenix 2006 Readers' Poll. Daily 12PM-2AM. Showtime is 9PM and generally costs $8-10.
- Common Ground Excellent '80s music night, good DJs and bar food.
- The Silhouette Lounge. If you are looking for the kind of bar that Archie Bunker would visit, this is it. The ceiling tiles are gray with age and dirt, the jukebox is broken, and the patrons are way past college age. Punkers and hipsters stop in too. Free popcorn, dirt cheap PBR cans
- The Sunset Bar and Grill. With the exception of some bar in DC, the Sunset has the largest selection of beer in the country. 130 beers on tap, more than 300 bottled varieties. Get your free beer card at the door - then sample 20 different beers, and you get a t-shirt. There are bar stools with nametags on them. The honored ones sampled every beer the Sunset has.
- Big City. Combination bar and pool hall, served by the Sunset.
- White Horse Tavern. Enormous bar/club with a million TVs. If there's a line, keep walking.
- Hogan's Run. A bit out of the way near the WGBH building, but possibly the only locals bar left in Brighton. There is never a line and always some colorful patrons.
- Wonderbar Loud. Can be skanky or awesome for jazz. Very weird mix, but never on the same night. Don't wait in line for any reason.
- the model cafe.
- Devlin's Bistro & Bar, 332 Washington St, ☎ +1 617 779-8822. 11AM-1AM. Calls itself, a little bit of downtown, uptown. Its cuisine mixes traditional and innovative American fare with a touch of international flavor and an expansive wine list. They offer both a seasonal menu and year-round upscale comfort food (including their exceptional thin-crust pizza). After the meal, the tables are cleared away and the dance floor opens for dancing to music provided by live DJs. Also outdoor seating and catering services.
- Porter Belly's, 338 Washinton St. 11AM-1AM. Combination College Bar/Local Irish Pub. It's small, but there's rarely a line and there's always some music. Great burgers and some pub favorites.
Oddly enough, for a college-burg, Allston-Brighton has few hotels. You'll probably need to venture into Boston or Cambridge for accommodation. For less expensive hotels, try Natick or Framingham, west of the city. Be aware that as a college town, any Boston-area hotels fill up quickly in early September and around graduation. Book well in advance.
- The Last Drop, 596 Washington Street. Open until 2a in Oak Square. Best spot for last call in the neighborhood.
Bed and Breakfasts
- Yun's Place, 66 Hopedale Street, ☎ +1 617 987-2085. Close to Harvard Business School. 20 min. walk to Harvard Yard. Bus 64 goes to MIT. Internet, WiFi, use of a computer, breakfast, parking (all free). Innkeepers are friendly and glad to help. $99 per night (as of June 2009).
- Best Western University Hotel Boston/Brighton, 1650 Comm Ave (Green Line B train to Washington Street; 1/10 mi up the hill on the left), ☎ +1 617-566-626, toll-free: +1-800-242-8377. Brighton, MA 02135-5604. Formerly the Best Western Terrace Inn. Free continental breakfast and wireless internet.
- Days Hotel Boston, 1234 Soldiers Field Rd, ☎ +1 617 254-1234, toll-free: +1-800-359-4827, fax: +1 617 254-4300. Note the name is Days Hotel, not Inn-- this can certainly cause confusion when getting directions. This hotel has gone through several incarnations and seen lots of wear. While not convenient for walking to popular destinations, there is plenty of parking and a large supermarket across Western Ave.
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, ☎ +1 617 783-0090, fax: +1 617 783-0897. Free shuttle to downtown Boston and Harvard Square. Complimentary basic wireless Internet throughout the hotel.
Allston-Brighton is generally a safe place if you don't mind seeing the occasional drunken hooligan on weekends. It has a large college student population, so criminals of opportunity - burglars, pickpockets, petty thieves - exist. Peak seasons for them are any time students are moving in and out - May and September. Allston-Brighton also has its fair share of panhandlers and drunks - and not just the students.
Late at night, it's a good idea to travel in groups until you know the area. Calling for help is relatively straightforward. However, due to recent budget cuts by the Boston Police Department, response times to 911 calls are significantly longer than they used to be, in some cases 15–30 minutes for police or ambulance response.
Allston-Brighton also has one of the best martial arts schools in America, though you'd never be able to tell based on the building's appearance. The Boston Martial Arts Center , located at 161 Harvard Avenue, offers self-defense classes six days a week.
In addition, Emerald Necklace Budo Martial Arts , a traditional karate dojo, is also in Allston, featuring karate and self-defense classes for adult men and women. Jason Gould, the Chief Instructor at the Emerald Necklace dojo, is a certified R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor, and one of the founding members of Allston's Ringer Park Crime Watch.
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