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EXPLORING
BOSTON
by Joseph Pedro
Gay Boston Things to Do

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Naturally, in this town dominated by college kids, the cuisine tends to match the demographic. Popular hangouts for the twenty-something crowd are gastro pubs. Discover a generous number of these throughout the city, especially near campuses. If you're close to Harvard, pop into Russell House Tavern, a restaurant that has elevated, pub-inspired cuisine and offers an encyclopedia-sized beer menu. Chef Michael Scelfo serves up fresh, local food with a sophisticated yet unpretentious flare that will have your mouth watering. Scelfo demonstrates his technique best with the crispy poached egg. Yes, that's right, a fried poached egg with pancetta on toasted brioche, all served with pecorino aioli. Another favorite here is the braised lamb shoulder with meat that literally slides off the bone and is coated in a gorgeously sweet sauce.

It's not easy grabbing a table outdoors at Woodward, especially when it's an exceptionally nice day, but its location facing the pedestrian traffic outside the Old State House inspires a lively and exciting environment for drinks and food with friends. While there are some hearty individual entrées, the menu is more fun to share. With plenty of enticing options, this should be quite easy. For lunch, my friends and I eagerly devoured the flatbread, especially the one with duck confit, goat cheese, and dried cranberries. As it was oyster season, we sampled the Island Creek oysters with ginger mignonette, which went perfectly with one of their signature cocktails, the Hot Nantucket Night—a spicy concoction made with Don Julio muddled with cranberries, jalapeño, agave nectar, and lime juice. Early in the evening, Woodward is a trendy place to grab a cocktail before heading out to the bars.

James Beard Award-winning chef, Barbara Lynch, is often credited with reinventing and redefining the Boston dining scene with her concept restaurants like No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, and the Butcher Shop, but if you're finding it difficult to get a table at her more established restaurants, grab brunch at Sportello in the Seaport District. This take on lunch counter-style dining (sportello means counter in Italian), has quickly become a local favorite. Italian-inspired dishes dominate the menu, but choices like the whole-wheat pancakes with huckleberries, maple syrup, crème fraîche, and butter, or the smoked duck hash with root vegetables and potatoes are a good way to start the day. For an inspired cocktail, visit Lynch's neighboring establishment, Drink. Here, mixologists are at your very whim. All you have to do is explain to him or her exactly what you're in the mood for and they'll concoct the perfect libation.

If you're planning on experiencing the best of Boston's gay nightlife, it's important to head out earlier rather than later. There are several well-established bars and clubs that keep the booze flowing and the boys dancing throughout the year. Check out Club Café, the city's only gay-owned, full-service restaurant, nightclub, and cabaret. With various theme nights throughout the week, enjoy the most boisterous party on Fridays, where the mixed crowd lets loose to typical top 40 hits. Before you hit up the dance floor, though, book a table at local gay favorite restaurant Geoffrey's Café (the restaurant is named after owner Michael A. Aplin's lifelong partner). Here, line your stomach with elevated comfort food that has had locals coming back over and over again since 1991.

Another weekend nightlife favorite is Paradise. Here, an impish crowd proves that Boston's conservatively preppy scene can get down and dirty. There are porno screens upstairs and the remodeled downstairs is quite large with a quirky mix of patrons. If you're in the mood for a neighborhood-y spot, step into the Alley. This is "Where the Bears Are," but really, it's a more down-to-earth bar that's perfect for a cocktail among friends. One exception may be their Fur and Gold party for "art fags, hipsters, geeks, the music obsessed, and all." Here you'll get to witness the alternative side of queer nightlife.

As more and more of Boston's full-time gay bars are closing their doors, some of Boston's best gay nightlife can be found at the weekly and monthly parties. Bears, cubs, otters, and their admirers don't miss a chance to party at the monthly Group Hug celebration. This Sunday afternoon gathering at the Enormous Room won't disappoint with guest DJs, performances, and a smoking-hot crowd. Get ready to sweat on the first and third Sundays of the month at the Foxy party. This debauched gathering takes place at Zuzu in Central Square and is something most Bostonians look forward to.

You may be surprised that a city that could invent the term "Boston marriage" could have no lesbian bars, but the ladies more than make up for it with various parties scattered throughout the month. Visit LesbianNightlife.com for a comprehensive listing of queer events in the entire Boston area. Shuttavac Productions throws a particularly popular event called Kiss' N Bang, which takes place the first and third Saturdays of the month. The gay nightclub Machine packs the women in for their second Saturday event called Dyke Night, where the ladies let loose with cheap drinks and a large dance floor.

For Boston's LGBT community, there are various noteworthy special events throughout the year to enjoy as well. Early spring sees the annual Boston LGBT Film Festival, which takes place over ten days at various theatres across the city like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Brattle Theatre. Special pre- and post-festival parties are also very much part of this festival. In early June (June 3-12, 2011), the city hosts the largest Pride celebration in New England with Boston Pride. Whatever time of year you visit Boston, however, you will discovering a warm welcome as you explore the city and experience what makes it so unique.

[Published: June/July, 2011]

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