Boston vs. Raleigh: We’ll see your chowder and Dunkin’ and raise you barbecue and Krispy Kreme

Boston vs. Raleigh: Two hockey cities compared

A cultural comparison of Boston versus Raleigh, whose hockey teams are facing each other in the 2019 NHL's Eastern Conference finals.
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A cultural comparison of Boston versus Raleigh, whose hockey teams are facing each other in the 2019 NHL's Eastern Conference finals.

With the Carolina Hurricanes starting their Eastern Conference Finals battle tonight against the Boston Bruins in Boston, we thought it was a good time to do a cultural comparison of the two regions.

Raleigh is obviously much smaller than Boston, which is one of America’s greatest cities.

But we have plenty to be proud of here.

We’ve been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice before, and we won the Cup in 2006, so we’re not brand new to this.

And as of this week, we have the best chef in the nation (Ashley Christensen, now a two-time James Beard winner).

Even better, we recently ran the Boston-based hamburger chain Wahlburgers straight out of town.

Here are a few categories where we test our measure against Beantown.

Sports: We have to recognize that Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is probably the greatest quarterback to have graced God’s green earth. He is a six-time Super Bowl champion and a four-time Super Bowl MVP winner. He’s been the NFL MVP three times, he’s married to a supermodel, and unicorns tuck him into bed at night. Fair enough.

We see your Tom Brady — as we toss Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski with his five national championships and three Olympic gold medals into the chip pile — and raise you a Roy Williams (three national titles at UNC and counting). Boston is a pro sports town, but in North Carolina, it’s all about ACC basketball. We believe our sports fervor matches Boston’s pretty fairly.

Southern Smoke employee Rodolfo Sandoval prepares the smoked pulled pork in the kitchen on Friday, June 30, 2017 in Garland, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Food: Boston has clam chowder and Dunkin’ Donuts, but we have barbecue and Krispy Kreme.

First, let’s tackle clam chowder vs. barbecue. AKA fish-milk soup vs. spicy, wood-smoked pork. I think you get where we’re headed here, and it’s the same path of champions that leads to Krispy Kreme, the home of those delicious, light rings of fried dough. Dunkin’, which recently rebranded to remove the emphasis from their “donut” operation (for a good reason), is preferred by some (even some traitors in our own Raleigh office). But did you ever see a “Hot Now” sign at a Dunkin’ store? If this Reddit AMA is to be believed, that’s because the pastries arrive at some stores frozen to be baked later. Explains a lot. But yeah, go for the coffee.

Accents: We had a whole Kennedy “pahk the cah” vs. a friendly “hey y’all” thing planned, but a certain Boston sports radio host escalated this issue on Wednesday, when he hung up on The News & Observer hockey beat writer during an on-air interview because he didn’t want to hear about hockey from someone with a Southern accent. This left us doing our best Seth Meyers/Amy Poehler rendition of “Really.”

If there is any accent more mocked in popular culture than the Southern accent, it’s the Boston accent. Both sound funny, both come with baggage. Let’s move on.

Colleges: The Triangle is home to some truly great universities. We have Duke, UNC and N.C. State all within a short drive of each other. But the Boston area has Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Tufts, Northeastern — we could go on, but we won’t. We know when we’re beat with sheer quantity, so advantage Boston.

Music: There are so many musicians we could use for this comparison, but the first acts that came to mind were Nina Simone and New Kids on the Block. Nina Simone, the singer-songwriter-activist, was born in North Carolina, and for a while, a lovely yarn mural of Simone hung on the side of the Raleigh Convention Center downtown. Simone is a timeless musical legend.

Nina Simone is shown performing at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on June 27, 1985. RENE PEREZ ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Kids on the Block is a boy band (featuring Donnie Wahlberg) popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with recent comeback tours across the country. Every NKOTB song we tried to think of here without Googling was actually an NSYNC song, so from Wikipedia we learned this: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared April 24, 1989, “New Kids on the Block Day.”

And in a decision we believe any judge in America would uphold, we’re claiming joint custody of James Taylor, who grew up in Chapel Hill but now lives in the Boston area.

TV: When it comes to television shows, we have two icons battling it out: “The Andy Griffith Show” vs. “Cheers.” We understand that “The Andy Griffith Show” wasn’t set in Raleigh, but Deputy Barney Fife took many vacations to The Concrete Jungle, where he stayed in the corner room at the Y and sometimes his head didn’t hit the pillow until nearly 10 o’clock. The show starred North Carolina native Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Griffith made sure the Southern humor was authentic and charming and never belittling. And thanks to Don Knotts, who played Barney, it’s one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

“Cheers” is also a great sitcom (the spinoff “Fraser” was better, I’m sorry) and it’s full of memorable characters, from Sam Malone and know-it-all postal worker Cliff Clavein, to sassy waitress Carla and of course, NORM! We give the edge to “The Andy Griffith Show,” because Barney beats everything, you know that.

True crime: Both areas have infamous true crime legends, and we won’t make anything a contest when we’re talking about people losing their lives. But the stories from each area are fascinating nonetheless. Boston, of course, has The Boston Strangler, and there’s an excellent podcast called “The Stranglers” that we recommend, if you’re a true crime fan. It gives an excellent history of the “strangler” case, and puts forth a theory that there was more than one strangler involved in the gruesome string of murders.

The most infamous crime from the Triangle would be the Peterson case, in which novelist Michael Peterson went on trial for the murder of his wife Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of a back staircase in the the couple’s Durham mansion in 2001. The incredible story of Kathleen’s death and Michael’s trial was detailed in the blockbuster Netflix documentary series “The Staircase.”

Weather: Boston has snow — sometimes historic, soul-crushing amounts of snow. Like, trapped in your house for days snow. Down here we have heat. And humidity. It’s oppressive and miserable and it can also trap you in your house for days, which is OK unless your A/C goes out. There are no winners here.




Clam chowder

Krispy Kreme

Dunkin Donuts

Coach K, Roy Williams

Tom Brady

”The Andy Griffith Show”


UNC, Duke, NC State

Harvard, MIT, etc.

Very hot summersTIE

Very cold winters

Nina Simone

New Kids on the Block



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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.