There’s a lot of action to be found in Boston these days…and certainly of the Lights! Camera!…Hollywood sort. “Amy Schumer shot I Feel Pretty here and was just dragging people into scenes off the street,” a guide for On Location Tours (www.onlocationtours.com/tour/boston-tv-movie) tells me during a Boston movie locations tour. Openly gay director Gus Van Sant also shot Good Will Hunting in the area, while Boston has also been a location for LGBT faves Legally Blonde and Ally McBeal. In fact, early 2018 saw Kevin Bacon, Jill Hennessy, Cathy Moriarty, and Aldis Hodge around for a new Showtime pilot, crime drama City on a Hill.
Location shooting aside, Boston is also seeing vibrant programs, festivals, and initiatives that promote movies, including those about and by LGBTQ folks. Besides the annual LGBT Film Festival, Wicked Queer (www.wicked queer.org), celebrating its 35th anniversary in March 2019, Autograph Collection’s 136-room The Envoy Hotel (70 Sleeper St. Tel: 617-338-3030. www.theenvoyhotel.com) launched a film-centric program in September2017 with a special screening and appearance by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The Autograph Collection initiative includes a library of indie films for hotels’ guests to stream on their TVs or iPads, and partnership/residency program with screenplay resource The Black List (www.blcklst.com), whose annual survey of the best unproduced screenplays has seen writers get launched into the Hollywood stratosphere. First time screenwriter Elizabeth Hannah’s The Post, turned into a Best Picture Oscar nominee by director Stephen Spielberg, was once on the list, while Jared Frieder, with a 2015 Black List script about a gay teenager, Three Months, went on to land a writing gig on MTV’s series Sweet/Vicious.
The modern, three-year-old The Envoy marks an entry point to Boston’s buzzy Seaport/Innovation District. Its cool contemporary design draws inspiration from the waterfront and has a clubby element as well. During dry weather, the Lookout Rooftop Bar is a total scene, while the lobby level’s Lookout Kitchen & Bar serves up super yummy food, booze, and beer from local small-batch distillers and brewers.
Once a grubby stretch of parking lots and rail tracks, the Seaport (branded as the “Innovation District” today) was aggressively redeveloped over the past few years to house startups, sleek retail and living spaces, nightlife, a luxury arthouse movie theater, and new hotels including, just a couple of blocks from The Envoy, YOTEL Boston (65 Seaport Blvd. Tel: 617-377-4747. www.yotel.com/en/hotels/yotel-boston).
Even if you don’t stay in this area, it’s a must-wander. Definitely check out For Now (68 Seaport Blvd. Tel: 857-233-4639. www.itsfornow.com), a “retail incubator” that serves as storefront and de-facto popup space for over a dozen local e-commerce fashion and lifestyle brands. In May of this year, that included female-owned chocolatier Seacoast Sweets and ecofriendly Siizu clothing.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Contemporary Art (25 Harbor Shore Dr. Tel: 617-4783100. www.icaboston.org), was a Seaport early arriver in 2006 (it was originally conceived as a sister venue to NYC’s MoMA). Check out William Forsythe’s interactive exhibition, Choreographic Objects, which stimulates movement in its viewers (from October 31, 2018 to February 24, 2019.
Hotels have also been springing up and debuting major renovations all across Boston over the past year or so. April 2018 saw a thorough updating and redesign of Beacon Hill’s Kimpton Nine Zero (90 Tremont St. Tel: 617-7725800. www.ninezero.com). Part of the notably LGBT-friendly Kimpton brand (they typically promote and support The Trevor Project during Boston Pride), the 19-floor property adopted a more luxury centric identity and design with wood, leather, rust and grey tones, photography, illustrated artwork, and modern tech. Each of its 190 rooms boasts an iconic, ridiculously comfortable Eames chair (they cost $5,000 a pop!), while penthouse suites add full-size pool tables, vinyl record players, and telescopes to the equation.
The in-house amenities are darned awesome, too: complimentary hotel bicycles, personal yoga mats, and a daily wine hour and breakfast buffet at the adjacent Highball Lounge (revamped in August 2018). Also, be sure to check out the lobby’s selection of small batch, Massachusettsmade edibles, displayed behind the concierge desk, that include McCrea’s Caramels and No. Six Depot coffee beans.
Speaking of artisanal food and drink, the three-year-old indoor Boston Public Market (100 Hannover St. Tel: 617-9734909. bostonpublicmarket.org) is a must for foodies and edible souvenir/gift shoppers. Besides prepared foods you’ll find outstanding selections of locally made, suitcase-ready spirits, beer, honey, and syrups. Botanical Springs’ infused maple and birch syrups are lovely, and Short Path Distillery’s Rosid, a rum distilled with lemon peels and hibiscus so it takes on a pink hue, is superb.
Visitors will be happy to discover that the region’s distillery and brewery scene is absolutely exciting and prolific. Boston’s first craft distillery since the pre-prohibition era, Bully Boy (44 Cedric St. Tel: 617-4426000. www.bullyboydistillers.com) opened its own tasting room and cocktail bar in April 2017. Raised on a farm, handsome siblings Dave and Will Willis got their start making apple cider, then moved on to applejack, apple brandy, and today focus on rum, whiskey, and gin, and an incredibly tasty pre-made bottled Old Fashioned and Hub Punch. Open Thursday through Sunday, the Tasting Room bar has an oldschool speakeasy feel albeit with windows overlooking the distillery facility (which one can tour on Friday-Sunday).
Opened in 2015, distillery Boston Harbor Distillery (BHD) (12 R Ericsson St. Tel: 617-533-7001. www.bostonharbordistillery.com) is open for tours and grain-toglass tastings on Saturdays. Founded by Rhonda Kallman, a former Samuel Adams beer exec, BHD occupies a cavernous warehouse space that previously served as a factory for making nails, ice cream, and mine sweepers; the names of these companies are paid homage through several lines of BHD spirits. Particularly unique is the Spirit of Boston spirits, fashioned from Samuel Adams beers these include the New World Tripel, which is like a downright hoppy American whiskey.
As for a night out drinking at the gay bars, there haven’t been any brand new openings since 2014 when sports bar/restaurant Cathedral Station (1222 Washington St. Tel: 617-338-6060. www.cathedralstation.com) took over the former Red Fez space (bonus: it has an outdoor patio, full food menu, and free parking lot!). Meanwhile, bear bar The Alley (14 Pl Alley. Tel: 617-263-1449. www.thealleybar.com) underwent a complete gut renovation between 2016 and 2017. Once regarded as a dive bar, the two-level establishment is now modern and slick and still very much neighborhood-y and unpretentious. Their upgrades include two new bars with USB ports, 20 draught beer lines, an LED wall display, 11 TVs, new sound, lighting, and, slated for late 2018, a kitchen. The crowd, while still a bear and bear lover’s favorite, has also diversified and broadened, and every second Friday’s Fuzz (www.facebook.com/fuzzbos) party with DJs Taffy and Brent Convington is a popular, huge hit and won a 2016 Boston’s Best Award from The Improper Bostonian (www.improper.com).
RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Jujubee (aka Airline Inthyrath) and Katya (aka Brian Joseph McCook) both lived in Boston, and there’s still plenty of drag to be had. Club Café (209 Columbus Ave. Tel: 617-536-0966. www.clubcafe.com) has seen a number of talented and well-established drag personalities appear recently, including Jackie Beat and Joan Rivers impersonator Joe Pose, and it also hosts drag bingo, karaoke, and dancing on weekends.
Cambridge’s multi-level dance club and bar, Paradise (180 Massachusetts Ave. Tel: (617) 868-33000. www.paradisecambridge.com), adds go-go boys to the mix, while Fenway’s Machine (1256 Boylston St. Tel: 617-536-1950. www.machineboston.club), which overtook its neighboring leather bar, Ramrod, is super busy on Friday nights (and on every fourth Saturday) when they allow 18+ downstairs.
Visitors to Machine will notice that the Fenway district has been newly developed along the lines of the Seaport, with architecturally slick, angled new living and retail spaces, offering quite the choice of dining/drinking to Fenway Park game-goers.
Opened in March 2018, Eventide Fenway (1321 Boylston St. Tel: 617-545-1060. www.eventideoysterco.com/eventidefenway) is a counter service, fast casual spinoff of Portland, Maine’s beloved Eventide Oyster Co., with long communal table. Their unique warm brown butter lobster roll, served on a bun made from sweet, steamed bao dough is a crowd pleaser, as is an utterly delectable tuna tartare and crudo, impeccable UK-style battered fish and chips (their secret is using pickled hake, so the flaky white flesh is flavorful), raw bar selections, and well-curated beverages (including honey-sweetened sodas and Japanese beer).
While Asian culinary elements inform Eventide’s toothsome fare, Ruka (505 Washington St. Tel: 617-266-0102. www.rukarestobar.com) takes its cues from Peru’s Nikkei, a fusion of Japanese-Peruvian cuisines, and Chifa, Chinese-Peruvian.
Located in the two-year-old, 242-room The Godfrey Hotel (505 Washington St. Tel: 617804-2000. www.godfreyhotelboston.com) at Downtown Crossing, Ruka is just a block from the gorgeous Boston Common park and the Boston Opera House (539 Washington St Tel: 617-259-3400. www.bostonoperahouse.com), which will host the touring productions of Hamilton (September 18November 18, 2018), Dear Evan Hansen (July 10-August 4, 2019), and Hello, Dolly! (August 6-August 18, 2019).
Chef Jason Cheek. a Raleigh, NC native, endeavored to bring some of his home state’s and Lowcountry staples (grits, hush puppies, fried oysters, and barbecue) to Boston when opening Southern Proper (600 Harrison Ave. Tel: 857-2332421. www.southernproperboston.com) in March 2018. Way-high ceilings, pine beams, upside-down antique lamps, and Carolina-blue napkins evoke NC farmhouse chic, and the flavorful, well-brined fried chicken (regular or hot) is a must. A nose-to-tail approach means you’ll also see crispy pig ears, tail, and other parts on the always-changing seasonal menus.
Southern fare meets live music from Berklee College Of Music students and alumni at B3 (160 Massachusetts Ave. Tel: 617-997-0211. www.b3restaurant.com), that opened in 2017. Catch tunes over dinner and Sunday brunch while savoring crab cake po’ boys, pulled pork, and vegetarian dishes.
If you’re into intensely seasonal, farmtotable ethos, and a more rounded set of American and European culinary influences (fresh pastas, duck with spaetzle, seafood crudo) Oak + Rowan (321 A Street Fort Point. Tel: 857-284-7742. www.oakandrowan.com) will do the trick in industrial-chic surroundings.