The Sol Compass

by Caitlin Hummer

Leave a comment

Boston Concert Guide

To say that I love concerts is a bit of an understatement.  Ever since I turned 18, I’ve gone to (on average) one concert a month.  It’s sort of weird now, since I tend to be one of the oldest people at the concert (save for a few parental chaperones), but I truly believe that live music can heal in a way most things can’t.

Something that I get asked a lot by my friends is where they should eat before a concert.  While food is my top priority, proximity is a close second.  I always try to keep the food bill (before beverages, taxes, and tip) under $20, so the recommendations you’ll see here are all in that ballpark (though, rarely, slightly over).  Every single restaurant here is someplace I would willingly go to again, and not just mentioned out of sheer convenience.  Music may rival my love for food, but it certainly won’t encourage me to eat whatever garbage chicken fingers are being served inside.

After visiting every venue on this list, I have pretty strong opinions as to which is the best/worst.

Venue: House of Blues.
Restaurant: Sweet Cheeks BBQ.
The House of Blues is far and away my favorite venue in Boston.  The acoustics are great, the bars and aisles around the sides are distinct enough to allow a constant flow, and they keep prices for their tickets consistently affordable (I generally expect to spend less than $40).  It also has the added bonus of being widely accessible from anywhere, whether you are looking for affordable parking (good luck finding a $10 parking spot near the Garden the night of your concert) or just take the green line into the Kenmore Station.

To sweeten the deal, a quick walk away from the House of Blues is my favorite barbecue spot in New England, Sweet Cheeks!  B and I will usually split a tray (one meat choice, one hot side and one cold side) and then get a big bucket of the biscuits – they are absolutely to die for!

Venue: The Sinclair
Restaurant: Cambridge, 1
The Sinclair sneaks in barely behind House of Blues for my favorite venue.  I’ve seen some amazing shows here, but while the intimacy of The Sinclair is hard to match, I think truly great artists can shine a bit more at the House of Blues.  Harvard Square may be evolving away from its former quirky glory that I remember it most fondly by, but The Sinclair is thriving as always.  An obvious choice is to eat at the kitchen at The Sinclair, but it can get pretty busy during the pre-show rush, so I prefer to walk down Church Street to Cambridge, 1. They have a great wooden interior, clean but sultry vibes when the sun goes down, and really great, innovative pizza pies.

Venue: The Red Room at Cafe 939
Restaurant: Trident Booksellers & Cafe

Cafe 939 is a totally unique venue in that it’s actually run by students at Berklee College of Music.  The business students are tasked with booking artists for the venue, and seniors have their performance recitals here as well.  I saw Rachel Platten and A Great Big World here back in 2011 before either of them had made it big, and it was such a great experience.  It’s a small and cozy venue, with great acoustics and a friendly, engaging atmosphere.  Pop over to Newbury Street before hand to grab a bite to eat at Trident, which is totally different than my old go-to for Cafe 939, the since closed Cactus Club.  Trident is a favorite shop of mine, thanks to their friendly and helpful environment, plus being one of the only independent bookstores left.  If you can find your way out of the shelves, they serve breakfast and sandwiches all day long.

Venue: Agganis Arena
Restaurant: Otto

Agganis is my favorite arena sized concert venue.  It’s more intimate than the Garden, and with better acoustics.  I saw Macklemore and Halsey within two months of each other there, and they were my two favorite concerts of that summer.  Comm Ave is full of places you could eat at, but I’d recommend going to Otto for their thin crust pizza.  Right across the street and on the same block as Agganis, the location can’t be beat.  The interior of this one is my favorite of all their locations – bright white walls, wooden tables and bar, an outdoor patio, and a wall of basil right as you walk in.  They do pizza by the slice or whole pies, and they also have gluten free crust available!  It’s also important to note that they have an extensive craft beer and wine selection available, in case you want to get the party started a little early.

Venue: Great Scott
Restaurant: Roxy’s Grilled Cheese

My sister and I saw Matt Hires (one of my all-time favorite musicians) and Alex Dezen play the coolest joint set here, and they mingled around the audience before and after the show. Since Great Scott has a very low key vibe, I like to kick off the night with some equally low key (but delicious) grilled cheese over at Roxy’s brick and mortar destination (the food truck can frequently be found at the Greenway, Downtown, or Harvard Square!)

Venue: Brighton Music Hall
Restaurant: Lone Star Taco Bar

Brighton Music Hall to me is a better version of Paradise Rock Club.  It’s less than a mile down the street, has no poles blocking your view (see below) and has a set up that makes it very easy to get to the bathroom, bar, or merch table.  Lone Star Taco Bar is the perfect place to get your Mexican fix beforehand, with $4 tacos every day of the week, not just on Taco Tuesday!  Their servers are amazing, and all the ingredients are fresh.  For the price you just cannot beat it, but it is very small and pretty popular, so try to get here as early as you can.

Venue: TD Garden
Restaurant: Finch
As far as concerts go, the Garden is a 0 on the -5 to 5 scale.  That energy I felt when Paul Pierce returned for his last game and played under Larry Bird’s number, the eery feeling of history being made in front of your eyes just doesn’t translate to concert performances.  The acoustics aren’t great, and the upper deck can be hard to dance around without feeling like you’re going to fall off.  That being said, bigger acts aren’t going to stop at the smaller venues, and some concerts I’ve seen here have been truly great in spite of the circumstances.
Around the corner from the Garden, inside of the Boxer Hotel, is Finch, where American fares on the lighter side are paired with specialty cocktails.  The interior falls somewhere between vintage and farmhouse, which strikes a much more elegant balance than one might expect.  Finding a meal at a nice restaurant in the West or North End can seem budget breaking, but Finch really slides in at a palatable price point.

Venue: Gillette Stadium
Restaurant: Tavolino
I don’t personally love going to concerts at Gillette, if only because the traffic on Route One after an event is my own personal kind of hell.  I would absolutely make an exception to go back if The Boss decided to do another stadium tour (…please?!)  At any rate, the other 66,000 people attending are also trying to get food in Patriot Place before the concert, which can make it frustrating, if not impossible, to fuel up.  Tavolino has done a great job capitalizing on the lack of restaurant seats available, and set up a “To Go” station on the sidewalk outside for pizza.  You’ll still have a wait, but it will be tremendously shorter than waiting for a table and sit down service, guaranteed.  (Celiac friends: since they didn’t have any gluten free pizzas ready outside, they walked my sister inside and let her order a GF pizza at the bar to go!)

Venue: Paradise Rock Club
Restaurant: Mei Mei
I decidedly do not love going to shows at Paradise, which garners a lot of scorn from my fellow concert lovers (and boyfriend, for that matter).  The low ceilings can induce a bit of claustrophobia, and the unsightly poles block the line of sight for the entire back half of the theater. They also hosted U2 one time back before I was born and they will never let anyone forget it.  B loves the intimacy of the small venue and its location, being right off the T and near plenty of food and bar options.  It’s also a sort of institution in Boston, the kind of place that you grow up going to.  Some artists I love, including but not limited to Wrabel and Cigarettes After Sex, have made stops on tour to Paradise though, so I will continue going back for worthwhile performances.  Luckily, Mei Mei- my food spot of choice- is also a very enticing reason to head to Paradise. Another food truck that amassed a huge following, Mei Mei’s small, but open restaurant serves up the most drool-worthy dumplings, amongst other Asian Fusion choices.

Venue: Fenway Park
Restaurant: Tiger Mama
There, I said it.  Fenway Park is the worst concert venue in Boston.  It’s great for baseball games, but absolutely terrible for concerts (which is good, since it was actually built for baseball games…)  I’d really only go for people I desperately wanted to see (i.e. Lady Gaga, who had been on my list for years).  It’s also a great reason to go to Tiger Mama.  Right down the street from its sister restaurant Sweet Cheeks, Tiffany Faison’s Southeast Asian outpost never disappoints.  They did an amazing job on the interior, and it feels as authentic and transporting as you could ever dream.  I love going family style here, and sharing a bunch of items because they are all way too good to pass up.

Bonus: some concert venues around New England!

Venue: Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
Restaurant: Red Fez
Now named the Strand Ballroom, I guess I’m a little old fashioned because I love all the history that the name Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel holds.  They’ve held court for my beloved Colony House, among many others.  My friend Erick never steers me wrong for recommendations in Providence, so hats off to him for introducing me to the nearby Red Fez.  If you aren’t in the mood for something too heavy, its perfect for bar snacks or tacos before the show.

Venue: Maine State Pier
Restaurant: Flatbread Company
B and I really love Portland, so I frequently check in on their concert lineups just in case there’s a great show that we could take a night away to go see.  The Maine State Pier is home to many waterfront shows during the summer months, and is about everything you might expect from an outdoor venue.  Just steps away is a location of Flatbread, which I will gladly go to any time, any place, for their (wait for it…) flatbread pizzas.

Venue: Port City Music Hall
Restaurant: Duck Fat
A small venue with great sound quality is pretty much a one way ticket to my heart, as far as concert halls go.  Port City strikes an amazing balance between retro vibes, and actually looking clean, somehow.  It has the nice added bonus of being within walking distance from Duck Fat, which is possibly my greatest weakness as far as greasy food goes.

Venue: Mohegan Sun
Restaurant: Frank Pepe’s

I’ve never had a bad show experience at the Mohegan Arena (if you don’t count the brutal hour that I had to listen to Colbie Caillatt open for Christina Perri three years ago…)  It’s nice to have free parking at a venue, and the casino offers endless amounts of entertainment before or after your show.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but I personally am a sucker for grabbing a slice of Pepe’s red tomato pie (clearly, pizza is a very prominent part of this guide).  That, and a couple Krispy Kreme donuts after the show…

xo, C

Leave a comment

Tuesday Ten: Holiday Date Ideas


Hello everyone, welcome back!  I mentioned in my Gift Guide that I would love to spend time doing something with all of the people I love this December, so today I wanted to share a list of my favorite activities – perfect for a date, girls’ night, or family outing!  A few of them are New England specific if you’re in the area!

  1. Pop-up Winter Market.  There are tons of Christmas markets popping up this month.  In Boston, it’s SoWa and City Hall Plaza, but a quick Google search with your city should turn up some near you!
  2. Build a Gingerbread house.  An annual tradition at my family’s Thanksgiving is to kick off Christmas by building Gingerbread houses, and now I can hardly imagine a holiday season without them!
  3. Go Ice Skating.  As cliched as it may be, I love ice skating.  B and I went well after Christmas last year, though there is something magical about going during December.
  4. Visit Winter Reimagined at Tower Hill Botanical Garden (or your local light display!).  Tower Hill is one of my favorite places in the world, and every year they put on the most spectacular winter lights display.  Every area usually has a well known lights display, so bundle up and reserve your tickets!
  5. Build a fort for movie night.  Everyone’s calendars are so full during December, I love the idea of finding a night you both have free and staying in for a cozy Elf screening (or your favorite movie, but it’s probably Elf).  This date is best enjoyed with homemade cookies!
  6. See the Newport Mansions decked out in their Holiday Best.  Two years ago I went with my sister and best friend and they were absolutely stunning.  Newport native Jess wrote a full blog post about other holiday activities to do in Newport here – it’s an amazing resource and I can’t wait to go try all of the things she recommended!
  7. Get tickets for a holiday classic.  Whether it’s Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker or the Boston Pops, I love seeing the Christmas magic come to life.  If you’re looking for an option that’s more budget friendly, you’d be surprised how fantastic a lot of local high school’s Christmas concerts are!
  8. See a holiday comedy show.  If Christmas music isn’t your jam, most comedy clubs have holiday specials during the month of December.  I’m a fan of ImprovAsylum in Boston!
  9. ZooLights.  Most zoos have great light displays for the holidays.  In Boston, it’s Stone Zoo.
  10. Take a cheese board making class to prepare for all of your party contributions!  I mentioned this in my gift guide, but for my birthday B got us tickets to a cheese board making class with Formaggio.  It was so much fun and we left armed with the knowledge to create some killer cheese boards for our holiday parties (PLUS we found some of our new favorite cheeses!)

Leave a comment

Concord, MA


Hey everyone, happy Thursday!  Last weekend B and I took a mini half day trip out to Concord, MA.  As a couple of nature lovers and history geeks it was the perfect setting!  Our first stop was the famous Walden Pond, we took the trail all the way around the lake and saw the spot where Thoreau’s cabin stood!


After Walden Pond we went to Minute Man National Park, where the opening battle of the Revolutionary War occurred!  You can see the Old North Bridge (of “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” fame) and talk to some incredibly knowledgeable rangers who can give you a crash course in remembering the finer details that you may or may not have forgotten of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, or the war entirely.


In the area there’s also the Concord Museum (which has lots of pieces from the Thoreau family) and the Ralph Waldo Emerson House, which would be amazing to check out if you have the time or interest in either of these fascinating figures!


Outfit Details – Sweater: J.Crew Factory | Top: LOFT | Jeans: Lucky Brand | Shoes: TOMS

Thanks for reading!  Hope you have a great day!

xo, C

Leave a comment

Stowe & Waterbury, Vermont


Welcome back everyone!  Today is my last post from Vermont.  I had to break my pictures down into separate posts because of sheer volume, but the pictures from Stowe proved the most difficult to narrow down.  I had picked over 50 to share with you all in my first round of cuts!  There is just so much natural beauty and quintessential New England charm everywhere you look that I was snap happy the entire day!


The downtown area is full of shops, restaurants, and bars that you could easily spend all day in.  There’s also a great coffee shop, Black Cap Coffee, and Vermont’s Ski and Snowboard Museum!


We stopped by the famous Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury for some apple cider donuts, and wandered around the charming souvenir displays.  We also stopped by the extremely crowded Ben & Jerry’s, but decided not to do a factory tour since there were about 150 people in line (!!) and they don’t actually make ice cream on the weekends, so we wouldn’t have seen too much.


Before heading back to our hotel, we found the closest covered bridge to take a few quick snaps!


Outfit Details – Sweater: Who What Wear (old, similar here and here) | Pants: Old Navy | Vest: Banana Republic (old, similar here, here, and here) | Booties: J.Crew Factory | Rain Boots: Hunter | Purse: Target | Hat: Banana Republic (old, similar here, here, and here)

Thanks for reading!  I hope you all have a great day!

xo, C

1 Comment



Hi everyone, happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend!  In today’s installment of our Vermont escapades we visited the capital Montpelier.  I spent a good amount of time here as a child visiting family friends, but it was fun to spend the better part of the day visiting some old places and discovering some new ones!


Right off of 89 is State Street, and it starts with the beautiful State House (how apropos!)  There is an amazing tour you can take and gorgeous grounds to admire all around the building.  Next door is the Vermont History Museum, which is filled with information about Vermont that you can learn about for only $7!


Further down on State Street is Capitol Grounds, a coffee shop with a great vibe and delicious cold brew!  We then wandered across the streets (past olive oil stores and —-) into Positive Pie, a delicious pizza shop, where we sat outside and watched our fellow leaf peepers stroll up and down the street marveling at the architecture.  We then drove up to Hubbard Park, which has a ton of trails to walk around and a tower with spectacular views.


Outfit Details – Sweater: Who What Wear (old, similar here and here) | Skirt: J.Crew Factory | Tights: J.Crew Factory | Shoes: Lucky Brand (old, similar here) | Purse: Target | Sunglasses: Perverse


On our way out of town we stopped at Bragg Farm Sugarhouse to pick up some maple syrup to take home a sweet taste of our trip (there’s also Morse Farm, but we chose Bragg since it’s where my family used to go!)

Thanks for stopping by, make sure to check in again tomorrow for a new Vermont post!

xo, C

1 Comment

Quechee and Woodstock, Vermont


Hello everyone, welcome back to another installment of our road trip through Vermont!  We got off of 89 in search of Woodstock, but ended up finding gem after gem in Quechee, Vermont en route!  After a short walk through the woods (less than a mile) we made it to the Quechee Gorge, the deepest gorge in Vermont!


There are some awesome restaurants in the area that we could have spent the whole weekend trying out restaurants in these two towns alone!

The Mill at Simon Pearce.  What could be better than “America’s Most Romantic Restaurant”?  One that uses fresh, local ingredients in a gorgeous setting!

Dana’s by the Gorge.  A gorgeous brunch place located across the street from the gorge, Dana’s menu has a seemingly endless variety of pancakes, muffins, and even fried dough that I cannot wait to go back and try!

Worthy Kitchen.  This burger joint has an assuming front a few minutes drive from the Woodstock center, but the inside is no joke.  The gorgeous modern farmhouse interior is home to mouth watering burgers and a carefully curated list of local Vermont craft beers.

Mon Vert Cafe.  This cafe was absolutely packed with tourists while we were there, but it is a great option for food in Woodstock.  They have tons of sandwich and salad options, featuring tons of fresh ingredients from local Vermont and New Hampshire farmers!  An older couple on a foliage expedition was kind enough to share their table with us and gave us some great lunch company in true Vermont fashion!


Outfit Details – Poncho: TOMS (old, similar here and here) | Shirt: Banana Republic | Hat: Banana Republic (old, similar here, here, and here)| Jeans: Lucky Brand | Boots:  (old, similar here and here) |

Bryan’s Outfit – Pants: Old Navy | Sweater: Old Navy | Shoes: TOMS

Down the road is the Quechee Gorge Village, filled with local Vermont treasures such as a Cabot Cheese sampling area, maple syrup, antique shop, and more!

Down in Woodstock the main appeal is just strolling the village area.  The famous covered bridge, gorgeous houses, and stunning foliage provided endless eye candy everywhere we looked.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Make sure to tune in next week for more of our adventures up north!

xo, C


1 Comment

Tuesday Ten: Fall Activities That Don’t Involve Apples Or Pumpkins

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Today’s Tuesday Ten is pretty straightforward.  If you’re looking to get in the fall spirit but don’t want to hit up a crowded apple orchard (I don’t blame you – Sunday was insane), then look no further.  I have ten fantastic ideas for you to embrace and celebrate autumn’s arrival!

  1. Get outside.  Whether you’re going on a hike or just taking a stroll, fall is such a beautiful time of year to enjoy nature.  On my list for Massachusetts is Walden Pond for a flat stroll and Mount Greylock for a hike (which I somehow have never been to!)
  2. Bake.  Whether your baking involves apples or not, fall is the perfect time to fire up the oven again (does anyone else hate how hot the kitchen gets when you use the oven in the summer?!)  Personally I’m a fan of some warm cookies outside in the cool fall air, but whatever floats your boat.
  3. Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Rocky Horror is the only cult film I really follow along with, and I was absolutely devastated when Midnight Madness in Harvard Square came to an end (it’s just not the same Downtown!)  Last year Jenn and I saw it in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse (100% recommend checking this theatre out, read my post here for more info!) and the year before it we went to The Strand, a historic theatre out in Clinton, MA.  Short story long, I definitely recommend trying to find a theatre with a shadow cast near you!
  4. Go antiquing.  Last weekend was the first weekend in a while that B and I didn’t have a single plan.  We took this opportunity to drive with the windows down and stop at each antique store along the way.  We met so many kind people and found items with incredible history and character.  You really just never know what you might find at an antique shop!
  5. Light a candle and read a book.  After an active and busy summer, some down time is exactly what I need during September and October.  My reading list has gotten out of hand, so I’m looking to put a dent in it finally.  Whether your candle is fall scented or otherwise, it really puts me in the right mood to immerse myself in my book.
  6. Have a bonfire and outdoor movie night.  Bonfires are one of my favorite things, and I don’t have them nearly as much as I wish I did.  I want to get some friends together for one last round of s’mores and fire up the projector with a classic film!
  7. Food Festivals.  There are so many awesome food festivals this fall that don’t even involve apples or pumpkins!  This weekend there’s Fluff Fest in Somerville and Dumpling Fest in Cambridge!  A quick Google search will give you a better idea of what’s going on in your area, but fall seems to always have a good number of food truck festivals at the very least!
  8. Get Lost In A Corn Maze.  Something about corn mazes has always excited me.  Maybe it’s because I love puzzles, but if you can find a corn maze near you I promise they aren’t just for kids!
  9. Make chili.  While the days are still warm and sunny, New England nights have slowly but surely started to embrace sweater weather.  I’ve been craving some homemade chili for most of September, and can’t wait to enjoy some curled up under a blanket!
  10. Stargaze.  Whether you go to an observatory or your backyard, the fall sky is absolutely breathtaking.

What’s on your bucket list for fall?  Let me know in the comments!  Have a great day!

xo, C