The teams are set for this year’s Super Bowl LIII—not without some controversy, but hey, everyone is still READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL! The New England Patriots are back for their third consecutive appearance, facing the Los Angeles Rams. This is actually a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Rams were located in St. Louis (the Pats won back then).
Both Boston and LA are cities defined by regional food and drink, but they couldn’t be more different. You’ve got Mexican, Vietnamese, and iconic sandwiches like the French dip out west, while the east throws down with clam chowdah, lobster rolls, and a slice of Boston cream pie for dessert.
So let’s see how these two cities stack up against each other in a culinary sense before the real gridiron battle begins on Sunday, February 3.
Submarine Sandwich vs. Taco
If you’re looking for an Italian sub in Boston, you might want to try ordering a spukie (which comes from the Italian word “spucadella,” or long roll). Of course, you might just get laughed at, so you’re probably better off just calling it a sub. One of the best places to get one is Roy’s Cold Cuts in East Boston. This place has been open since 1960 serving countless variations of the sub, including one called The Dog Did It, made with chicken cutlet, fried broccoli, American cheese, and oil.
Let’s be clear – LA is way more of a taco town than a burrito town. And there are thousands to try, from upscale restaurants to modest taquerias to food trucks. Many of them are very good, and a few are really excellent. El Gran Burrito in East Hollywood has been around forever and falls firmly into the latter category. Come by when the outdoor grill is sizzling and order as many tacos as you can stomach – carnitas, lengua, pastor, asada, etc. They taste especially good late at night after a few too many beers.
Winner: Taco (LA)
Lobster Roll vs. French Dip
The lobster roll is the quintessential Boston sandwich. There are two styles served in the Northeast – hot and buttered (Connecticut-style), or cold lobster salad with mayo (Maine-style) – served in a toasted, flat-sided hot dog bun. In Boston, the cold roll is arguably the more popular option. Check out Island Creek Oyster Bar to try out Ethel’s Lobster Roll, served on a rosemary roll with coleslaw and kettle chips on the side.
For over a century, Philippe the Original has been satisfying hungry crowds with its French dip sandwich, made from roast beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or ham. It’s served on a French roll that’s been dipped into a rich, flavorful jus to bind the sandwich together in meaty, juicy, savory goodness. Try some coleslaw on the side, or add a dab of Philippe’s famous hot mustard for some extra bite.
Winner: French Dip (LA)
Fish and Chips vs. Chicken and Waffles
Boston is a city of a thousand fish and chips platters, although some options are much better than others. Fish and chips in Boston is usually made from haddock, dipped into a thick batter, fried to a crispy golden brown, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce and a drizzle of malt vinegar. At Atlantic Fish Company in Back Bay, you’ll find a well-executed version of the classic, coated with a crunchy beer batter and served with hand cut fries.
LA is frequently stereotyped as being a city focused on health food, but that ignores the fact that it is also home to one of the best places to find fried chicken and waffles in the entire country. Roscoe's has several locations throughout the greater LA area, each with countless variations of this classic sweet and savory combo, made with dark meat, white meat, or smothered chicken. If you don’t know what to order, you can’t go wrong with the Obama Special (wings and a waffle).
Winner: Fish and Chips (Boston)
Clam Chowder vs. Pho
Neptune Oyster is a great place to get your raw bar on in Boston’s North End neighborhood, although you will usually have to wait on line for a while to get a seat. But if you manage to score a spot, don’t sleep on the chowder here. It’s made with fresh Wellfleet clams from Cape Cod, some of the best in the Northeast, and this thick, creamy soup is served fresh and piping hot.
LA has food from pretty much every corner of the world, including some excellent Vietnamese options. In South El Monte, just east of Downtown LA, you’ll find Pho Filet where you can slurp down some of the best pho in the greater Los Angeles area. The vibe here is classic LA strip mall style restaurant, which is often where you will find the best food. If you want to make sure the sliced filet mignon that comes with many of the soups is cooked to your liking, ask for it rare on the side and dip it into the hot broth yourself.
Winner: Pho (LA)
Sam Adams vs. Craftsman Brewing
Sam Adams, one of the forefathers of the American craft beer scene, is perhaps the best-known beer affiliated with Boston and it continues to put out new releases – check out the new Bavarian Lager, for example. But there are some good craft options as well. Trillium Brewing Company opened in 2013 in Fort Point (there’s now another location in Canton), and has been doing interesting things ever since. Look for releases like the Lineage Wheat saison aged on oak casks or the Coconut Pecan Pie imperial stout.
There are many breweries throughout the greater LA area, but one of the originals to hit the scene was Craftsman Brewing. It’s actually located in Pasadena, where brewer Mark Jilg makes beer like the signature 1903 Lager, among offerings like the Heavenly Hefe and Smoked Black Lager. It’s usually pretty warm in LA, so a cold beer always hits the spot.
Winner: Craftsmen Brewing (LA)
Boston Cream Pie vs. Donut
If you don’t love Boston cream pie, there’s something wrong with you. What’s not to like? It’s not quite cake, not really pie; it’s a cake-pie hybrid comprised of layers of vanilla custard, chocolate icing, and sponge cake. Mike’s Pastry in the North End is known for its sweets, with the cannolis probably being the most popular order. But the Boston cream pie is said to be one of the best in the city.
There are so many donut shops in LA – many of them combined with takeout Chinese food, a phenomenon that has existed for many years. Nowadays you’ll find a lot of fancy donuts throughout the city, but sometimes it’s good to just get back to basics. Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts makes it clear what they are about in the name. Choose from cake or raised styles, with flavors that include buttermilk glazed, lemon top, and chocolate frosted devil’s food.
Winner: Boston Cream Pie (Boston)
Delux Cafe vs. Alhambra Cocktail Lounge
Boston has its fair share of historic bars, pubs, and taverns, some of which date back centuries. There are also some pretty good dive bars scattered around the city that are old, but not quite that old. The space that Delux Café in the South End neighborhood occupies has been a bar for over half a century. In its current incarnation, you can find low-key vibes, cheap drinks, and bar food that is actually pretty decent.
Head south to San Pedro to visit a part of LA that feels like a world removed from the rest of the city. This harbor area is home to several old-school dive bars, the most notable of which is Alhambra Cocktail Lounge. It has been around since 1936, making it the oldest continually operating bar in the region. Pull up a bar stool and keep your order simple – a Budweiser, a shot, and maybe a Bloody Mary is about as complicated as you want to get here.
Winner: Alhambra Cocktail Lounge (LA)
Mamaleh’s vs. Langer's
Boston may not have historic Jewish delis, but a couple of modern restaurants are bringing a new look to the genre. Mamaleh’s in Cambridge has become quite popular for its smoked, pickled and cured fish, knishes and blintzes, and chopped liver and hot pastrami sandwiches. There is even a full cocktail menu here with drinks like the Bourbon and Cherry Phosphate served in a Dr. Brown’s soda can.
When it comes to classic Jewish delicatessens, LA gives NYC a run for its money, with Langer’s leading the way. Since 1947, this restaurant has been serving amazing pastrami, corned beef, and turkey sandwiches, among many other traditional and delicious options. The most famous sandwich is the #19, a gut-busting stack of pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on rye bread.