As longtime readers have already learned, we take dining options into account when choosing where to work out and which museum to frequent. Is it any surprise that food factors into our decisions about where to shop? While we enjoy nothing more than spending a day moseying down Newbury Street or around Downtown Crossing, it’s hard to beat malls for convenience and temperature control. The food offerings at Boston-area malls vary widely, so for your information and convenience, here is a guide to the malls of Boston.
•Arsenal Mall: We’re going to level with you. We’ve always found the Arsenal Mall to be soul-crushingly depressing. There’s just something about the lighting and the decor and how it’s always weirdly dark that just makes us want to cry a little bit. But! There’s a Target nearby and the Gap outlet and sometimes you need to renew your license, so it’s likely that your travels will take you to the Arsenal on occasion. When they do, your best bet is probably the Bugaboo Creek Steak House, which, despite being a chain, does have really very good chicken fingers. We love chicken fingers.
•CambridgeSide Galleria: CambridgeSide is probably one of the most normal malls in the Boston area. It’s airy and suburban and it has a good selection of stores. What it doesn’t have is an excellent food selection. There’s a California Pizza Kitchen and a Cheesecake Factory as well as a fairly meh food court. We’d go with CPK because we not-so-secretly crave the tomato basil spaghettini with goat cheese, but really, it’s six in one, half a dozen in the other, so take your pick.
•The Mall at Chestnut Hill/The Atrium: We’ll admit it. We’re nuts for the Mall at Chestnut Hill (the Chestnut Hill Mall if you’re nasty). Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous and every time we go there, we see seventh graders carrying bags that cost more than our rent, but there’s something quite pleasant about the whole thing. Maybe it has to do with the piano on the lower level. The Atrium, while being possessed of the world’s worst parking lot, is similarly pleasant. Both malls have inordinately good food options and, in fact, the Chestnut Hill Mall is, perhaps, the only mall in the area we go to just to eat. Guys, we love Bernard’s. The Peking ravioli is to die for and their dim sum is pretty great as well. At the Atrium, you could do far worse than dining at Bertucci’s. Even if you’re dining alone, we recommend getting a large margherita pizza. It’s great hot, but it’s absolutely tremendous cold.
•Copley Place/The Prudential Center: We grew up going to the movies at the late, lamented Copley Place movie theatre and it wasn’t until college that we realized that Copley is not really a normal mall. Like, at all. It’s only gotten more ridiculously extravagant as we’ve gotten older (remember when everything on the second floor used to be affordable?), but there’s still something (read: sitting in the center atrium and people-watching) that’s pretty charming. The Pru is slightly more down-to-earth (slightly) and during junior high and high school, we estimate that we spent at least a full month of our life sitting in the food court. Your best bet in either center is Legal Sea Foods. Conveniently (and bizarrely), there’s one in each, despite the fact that they are, for all intents and purposes, in the same building. Word to the wise: the one on the second floor of Copley Place is usually less crowded.
•Dedham Mall: The Dedham Mall doesn’t really have a website. Nor is it especially functional as a mall in the traditional sense. Considering that the best thing about the Dedham Mall is its mention in The Departed, we are not especially certain we’d eat there, but if we did (and, indeed, we have), it would be at the Pizzeria Uno.
•The Natick Collection: Although the Natick Collection will always be the Natick Mall to us, there’s no denying that it’s getting much fancier. The mall’s recent expansion is set to host a variety of exciting sounding restaurants, including a branch of Sel De La Terre, a burger joint from the folks behind The Metropolitan Club called The Metropolitan Bar & Grill, a Finale outpost, and “a new concept by Legal Sea Food.” We very much hope that this development heralds a new trend in mall dining: local restaurants serving up food good enough to make the mall a dining destination even for those who aren’t going shopping.