60 Minutes to Burn – South End

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For someone who isn’t a South End resident, I offer a fairly unbiased opinion of how to best burn an hour in the area. To be able to offer sound advice, I conducted a 60 minute experiment, hitting up a list of suggested places from my cooler-than-me South End resident friend Emmy and hopping into other places along the way that caught my eye.

Disclaimer – with the exception of Southie residents, and those crazy ‘cross the river Cambridge/Somerville folks, South End residents LOVE living in their neighborhood more than any other Boston resident loves his borough. Those of you readers who live and die by your South End identity may have strong opinions of the best places in your hood, so please, offer up your suggestions and let me know what I missed!

Olives & Grace is a change agent store that promotes emerging artists, gift producers, and small batch food makers who make a living doing what they love. The physically petite shop is anything but small – each item tells a story of a skilled craftsman and the product’s voyage from creation to shop shelf. For example, Olives & Grace sells Ajiri (meaning “to employ” in Swahili) Tea, a tea which employs women in Kenya and educates local orphans. Next time you are looking for a unique housewarming gift, thoughtful birthday present, or a special treat for yourself, head to Olives & Grace. I dare you to sample the Little Bits Toffee (made by sisters in Marshfield) and try to leave without buying a box (intended to be for a friend, but actually finished on the walk home). Go ahead, no one’s watching.

Stop in Sault New England for some eye candy in the form of men’s vintage clothing. Sault sells clothing made locally in New England and overseas and an assortment of other accessories and trinkets, including clever greeting cards for all occasions. This store brought me back to my tomboy days and I want to own and wear every men’s sweater in the store. If you have a boyfriend, improve his wardrobe with this stylish attire. Advantage- getting to wear it yourself. Disadvantage – fighting off your boyfriend’s new admirers.

To get the full South End experience, wander over to the neighborhood’s most popular weekend morning spot, the Buttery, to caffeinate, overhear last night’s gossip and be taken for a local. Order your drink to go and spend the next few minutes relaxing on the wall outside of the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) Garden. Don’t underestimate the enjoyment of people watching on bustling Tremont.

If you appreciate art, whether or not you understand it, step into Mills Gallery at the BCA and take a peek at what’s going on in the arts world of Boston. Stare at a portrait of a bleeding naked man asleep in a bath tub or contemplate whether the thick strands of hair on an exhibit are real human hair (they are!). Don’t quite get the message that the author is trying to send? Try squinting or turning your head upside-down. Or see the next item, Re. Booze. If you’re of the drinking type, step into Toro for an afternoon ‘verdad y amor’ cocktail.

A little feel-good shopping, caffeinating, people watching, and drinking – I’d call that a successful way to burn an hour in the South End.