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Regional Profiles – Northeast – Boston: Way, Way Beyond HBS

There are three reasons that you should live and work in Boston: 1. This is the home to consulting and biotech, which means there might still be jobs available – thus solving the ‘work’ part of the equation. 2. Now that NY has effectively shut down, most of your classmates will probably stay here, thus preserving the section experience for another year. 3. It’s not that cold. Or at least compared to where some of us are from. I suppose I should add a fourth point. 4. Boston is a great city in which to live.

Despite what you may believe, HBS is not Boston. Though a scarce 3 miles separates us from the city, 02139 is a different world entirely. And sadly, most HBS’ers will graduate thinking they know the city. We don’t. We don’t live in Boston. 9 Tastes is not Boston. Tommy Doyle’s is certainly not Boston.

Okay, so HBS may be technically located in Boston, but we all know that’s a lie. For most of us, Boston will be a complete afterthought in our business school careers. Over two years, you’ll probably visit that cute Italian place in the North End that you’ll never remember the name of, you’ll wait in line at a handful of clubs thinking “it’s probably not worth the wait,” and you may even craigslist your way into the most uncomfortable seats in Major League Baseball. If you’re especially ambitious, you might fit in a trip to the MFA or a stroll down Newbury, but let’s face it, you probably never got around to it. Which is a shame.

Sure, it’s miserable in the winter. Sure the sports fans are crazy. Sure you might lottery into that Wine & Cuisine tasting tonight. But that doesn’t mean Boston’s not a great city. Just because we’re too busy to go there doesn’t mean you should write it off. It is steeped in history, packed with great restaurants and bars, and has enough old school charm to make even the hardest Yankees fan soften. Next time you’re thinking of hopping in a cab for an overpriced HBS event in the city, consider heading in a little earlier and exploring a few treats of the neighborhood:

Firstly, there is nothing, nothing like dim sum to kick-start your weekend. The best food can (surprisingly) be found at Super-88, but if you want the proper experience, Hei La Moon in Chinatown can’t be beat. For the uninitiated, don’t be scared: just point at whatever dumplings you see, and you’ll be happy (so long as you’re not kosher).

Second, if you’re interested in food at all, you can find your heart’s delight in either the North or South End (no, there is no East or West End, and no, there’s no good reason for that). Boston’s best collections of restaurants are clustered along two streets: Salem St. in Little Italy, and Tremont St. in the South End. Any city would be lucky to have them.

Third, if you’re interested in a) history, b) politics, or c) drinking, then you’re in the right place. At the Last Hurrah (located in the Omni Parker House), JFK announced his candidacy for the President at age 6. And at the iconic 21st Amendment, located immediately next to the State House, Massachusetts senators have struck backroom deals since before prohibition (surprisingly it wasn’t called the 21st Amendment in those days). Both are worth a visit – maybe consecutively.

As for living here, three neighborhoods make up the residential heart of Boston-proper: Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End. If you’re looking for a recent HBS grad who lives in Boston, it’s a sure bet this is where they live. Beacon Hill is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, and it is the aspirational goal for every piece of ivy and cobblestone in the country. It is home to the Kerry mansion, and the State House; the old Brahmins and the converted stables. The charming and historic Charles Street lines the base of the hill, and offers an amusing array of possibilities. Dine at some of the city’s most romantic restaurants, or indulge at the city’s most notorious faux-dive bars. Popped collars aren’t mandatory, but certainly encouraged.

If you ironed Beacon Hill flat and made all the streets run straight, you’d have Back Bay. Anchored by the stately tree-lined Commonwealth Ave, Back Bay is home to the pretty and classy, and even some of the “don’t you know who we think we are” crowd. For window shopping and people watching, there is nothing else like it. A spring weekend on Newbury will leave you with a glossy sheen for the rest of the week. All this golden shine comes with a price tag, but if seeing and being seen is your game, then you’ll get exactly what you pay for.

And then, there’s the South End. Ultimate yuppiedom. Brownstones, restaurants, coffee shops, artist lofts. The South End seems to offer the two things most often demanded by MBAs: as much or as little pretension as you want, and more great restaurants than you know what to do with. From the stunning Union Park (nicest street in the city), to the delicious Appleton’s Bakery (best bakery in the city), to the indescribable Petit Robert Bistro (best food-for-price ratio in the city), the South End has everything you need to ease back into the real world.

If you haven’t given Boston a chance (and you probably haven’t), it’s time to. It’s big enough to attract world-class quality, and small enough that you can comfortably walk from one end to the other. Boston is eminently knowable and totally approachable. Don’t let the three miles hold you back.

February 23, 2009
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