Boston On A Budget... With Lobster?
Our first $200 Challenge took us to northern Vermont, where we enjoyed a beautiful campground, surrounded by the brilliant autumn foliage. Ever since, we've been challenging ourselves to make that $200 go even further. Campgrounds have given way to hostels and even hotels, while groceries and picnics rub shoulders with diners, bakeries, and cafes.
But are we ready for Boston - and can we really eat lobster?
Budget Boston Accommodations
Accommodation Costs: $37 per person, per night: $148 total.
Boston's Best Budget Eats - Lunch
LUNCH # 1
Boston Kitchen Pizza, right next door to the hostel, sells a wide variety of huge thin crust slices starting at $3. They are so big they could easily be two regular slices. If you've made a few friends, it's an even better deal to share a medium pizza, which has 6 of these giant slices. At $12-$13 a pizza, you're only paying about $2 a slice and there are a ton of creative combos to choose from. Vegetarians will love having 10 different meat-free pizzas to enjoy.
Total cost for lunch: $7 for two slices (budget busters could save more by sharing a slice or sharing a pizza with friends).
Ryan doesn't eat lobster so a solo trip to Boston seemed like the perfect opportunity for this ocean-reared gal to get a lobster fix. I was determined to work some shellfish into the $200 Challenge but I also knew that this was no place to cut corners - it needed to be fresh and high quality.
A little internet research brought me to the Thrillist's list of the 8 essential lobster rolls in Boston. They described James Hook & Company as the "steadiest lobster bargain in Boston" with classic, generous rolls. And the accompanying picture showed an overstuffed lobster roll with a serving of potato chips on the side. This was it! I was ready to recommend splitting the large lobster roll and side of chips for an $18 lunch - just $9 per person.
Of course, you could just buy chips elsewhere but I was already thinking far beyond that. I would recommend one of two things for budget travellers to get their lobster fix on in Boston. They could get a regular size lobster roll to go for $15 and augment their lunch with sides from a market -maybe some salad or potato wedges for an extra $5. Each person would still get a generous amount of lobster but to make the food stretch further it wouldn't be the only part of their lunch. Not bad for $20.
Total cost for a lobster lunch: $20 (but budget busters could manage on $10)
Boston's Best Budget Eats - Dinner
Splurging out on lobster (be it a sandwich or a more elaborate meal) takes a big chunk out of a tiny budget, so dinners will have to be kept simple. I went to the Hong Kong Eatery (79 Harrison Street) and picked up a heaping container of ginger-scallion lo mein for only $6. Warm, friendly, patient - the staff were none of those things. But I was starving and they delivered- and I only managed to eat through half of the portion! Two people could easily share and be satisfied but if you're looking for a little more variety, you could also order a slightly more pricey chicken or beef dish to go on the side and enjoy some leftovers as a snack later on.
Total cost for dinner: $15 (but budget busters could manage on $6-$10)
If you do an internet search for cheap eats in Boston, you'll be rewarded with a lengthy list of choices. Some that stood out for me included Vietnamese subs at Banh Mi Ba Le on Dorchester Ave for $3.50, squares of Sicilian pizza and panzarotti for $1.65 each at Galleria Umberto (289 Hanover), and pupusa revuelta, corn tortillas stuffed with pork and cheese for $2.25 at Mi Pueblito (333 Border St). But I think it would be a shame to not take advantage of HI Boston's amazing kitchen.
For $10 or less, you could whip up a delectable dinner for two and it's made all the more easy by large, labelled jars of communal spices in the hostel kitchen. Spaghetti and meatballs, roast chicken and root vegetables, or a big pot of spicy curry and rice are perfect meals for reviving tired travellers and making new friends.
Total cost for dinner: $10 (budget busters could probably save even more by raiding the hostel's 'free' bin and using leftovers from their lobster dinner).
Seeing the Sights For Free
Take advantage of any free tours being offered by the hostel. They're a great way to get to know the city and they're a lot of fun to participate in. Chances are, you'll meet some new friends who'll be up for participating in your lobster-thon!
My favourite stop was the Granary Burying Ground, one of the oldest cemeteries in Boston and the final resting place of a who's who of American history - John Hancock and Paul Revere now call the Granary 'home'. But the graves of ordinary folks - some who lived in Boston in the mid-1600s - were the most interesting to me.
Once you're done, stroll along Hanover Street and ask anyone who passes for a recommendation on the best cannoli shop. This is a matter of hot debate in the area but it's hard to go wrong no matter the answer. The large shells, generous filling, and rich flavor means you can easily get away with sharing one ($3) and still satisfy your sweet tooth.
Total cost: Free! (Or about $10 if you spend time in the North End)
Overall Total: $200!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This has been one exciting challenge! I think it's fair to say I've never eaten so well on a $200 Challenge and I never thought that lobster and value travel could go hand in hand!
Are there any Boston bargains that I've missed? Let me know!
Has the $200 Challenge inspired you? Here's where else it's taken us.
$200 Challenge Las Vegas
$200 Challenge London
$200 Challenge Algonquin Park
$200 Challenge Northern Vermont