The Back Bay is a centrally-located neighborhood that has grown into one of the busiest commercial areas in Boston. From window shopping along Newbury Street to the hustle and bustle around Boylston, the Back Bay boasts top notch hotels, restaurants and bars. The best restaurants in Back Bay range from buzzy newcomers to high quality fast-casuals and old standbys. Looking for more than just a place to eat? Check out our Back Bay neighborhood guide, plus our list of the best bars in Boston and the best Irish pubs in Boston.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston
Back Bay chefs we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market
Saltie Girl finds has found a way to reinvigorate classic seafood dishes. The rich clam chowder, Ipswich fried clams, and a warm buttered lobster roll are all worth the wait for a booth or bar seat inside the narrow Back Bay townhouse space. Also notable are the trendy tinned seafood offerings, from imported sustainable caviar to Icelandic cod liver. For a taste of Saltie Girl's greatest hits, stop by its location at Time Out Market Boston.
It’s New England meets Mediterranean via Jody Adams, whose seafood-centric, Greek-inspired menu favors simple preparations so as to let the ingredients sing. Hamachi tartare gives way to steamed clams and grilled sardines; entrées include striped bass a la plancha and whole roasted lobster. On nights when a full sit-down meal seems too much, slip into the bar for some fried oysters and a Greek negroni. For more Adams-crafted seafood plates, head to Time Out Market Boston, where Greek Street serves tender swordfish souvlaki.
The best Back Bay restaurants
Uni is known for its standout sashimi program and inventive Japanese creations. Chef-partners Ken Oringer and Tony Messina wow diners with global street food-inspired small plates, as well as innovative makimono, nigiri and sashimi. Grab a seat at the sushi bar to watch the experts at work. On weekends, the late-night menu draws hungry devotees to sample a small menu of creative dishes and one of the most in-demand ramens in the city.
The glamorous, chandelier-lit dining room creates a special occasion-feel, but there isn’t a hint of stuffiness thanks to the friendly vibe. The contemporary French fare is complemented by a 460-plus bottle wine list with more than 20 options by the glass. Chef and co-owner Chris Coombs’s talent for hospitality and sumptuous dishes translates to a sophisticated yet relaxed tryst with champagne and caviar, spiced duck breast, and French onion soup simmered for a full nine hours.
Prix-fixe menus can be the gateway to dining regret, but in the hands of Chef Alex Crabb they become revelatory. Crabb once interned at Noma and did a stint at L’Espalier, so high-concept dishes are de rigeur in his congenial, pretension-free space. It’s tasting-menu only, which is perfect: just relax and wait to see what wonder Crabb and his team will come up with next; your only lament will be that each dish has to end.
Chef-partner Michael Serpa lures seafood lovers to his first solo venture in a townhouse-like enclave. The impressive raw bar menu includes both East and West Coast oysters, plus peekytoe crab salad, dressed Maine lobster, and more. The menu often pairs New England seafood with Mediterranean techniques, best reflected by the signature blue prawns a la plancha and "taverna style," whole roasted sea bream. While some diners enjoy a multi-course feast, others stop in for a quick oysters-and-wine fix.
Perhaps the city’s most famous steakhouse, Grill 23 has hosted countless business dinners and special occasions. High ceilings, marble columns, white tablecloths, and white-jacket clad waiters all contribute to the big-ticket atmosphere, as do the lawyers and brokers whooping it up over pricey wines and steaks that very nearly cost their weight in gold. The wine program has won national awards, as have the perfectly-prepped steaks.
The gorgeously appointed restaurant enjoys one of the city's most enviable addresses, across from the Public Garden. Francophiles enjoy authentic touches, especially when it comes to the well-stocked wine cellar that includes some amazing finds from Burgundy and Bordeaux. The restaurant caters to every need, from a light snack to a seven-course tasting menu. The street-level bistro space offers its own menu of inviting, French-accented fare, while the upstairs dining room pulls out all the stops with a varied assortment of splurge-worthy dishes.
This multi-story, seafood-focused enterprise is focused on the second floor restaurant, where a variety of locally-sourced seafood is served with aplomb. (For the full experience, try the five-course “tasting of local fishes” menu.) Patrons looking for something lighter can visit the Moon Bar, and for those in a hurry, there's Cusser's, a street-level takeaway spot specializing in seafood and roast beef.
Hotel dining is at best a crapshoot, but the Bristol rightly wins local accolades as one of the best restaurants in town. Tucked into the first floor of the Four Seasons, with plate-glass views of the Boston Public Garden, the refined spot serves three ample meals a day, starting with a full power breakfast and concluding with hearty American dinner fare (oysters, rib eye, scallops). On Sundays the brunch buffet draws in well-heeled Back Bay families; the renowned half-pound Bristol Burger, available at the bar, wins accolades.
From its busy intersection where the Back Bay meets the Theatre District, Ostra dishes out an assortment of sophisticated seafood. The exquisite menu is dotted with Mediterranean touches, and there are plenty of big-ticket items on offer (think caviar service and three-pound lobsters), perfect for special occasions and celebratory business dinners.
Spice things up at this moodily lit Mexican spot, which woos couples with bold-colored walls, tiled tables and authentic South of the Border cuisine. The signature puerco adobado en chipotle y naranja—tenderloin of pork marinated in oranges, tamarind and smoked chipotle peppers—and a tangy margarita should do the trick. In the summer, the serene back patio, decked with hanging plants, is an intimate retreat.
Even more striking in its black-and-white stripes than older sibling Mistral, Sorellina looks as much like a modern design showroom as an Italian restaurant. The menu is equally glamorous. Ingredients are posh, sauces sparing; even the signature spaghetti and meatballs (make that maccheroncelli) contains Kobe beef and a splash of Barolo. Of course, you'll find plenty of the latter on the largely high-end Cal-Ital wine list as well.
This national chain has always had a strong presence in Boston. Corporate types fill up tables to dine on dry-aged steaks that are hand-cut on the premises by the restaurant’s own butchers. Beyond steaks, the menu is filled with fresh seafood, creative sides, and celebratory desserts. The expansive wine list features more than 350 labels from around the world.
With plenty of flatbread, sandwich and pizza options and a seasonal patio, the Salty Pig is a welcome post-work spot for the Back Bay suit-and-tie crowd. Make a selection from the ever-changing draft list, and treat yourself to a selection of fine meats and cheeses.
The Back Bay location of this Japanese chain is a prime spot for students and tourists to get a fast, nourishing bowl of ramen. The signature tonkatsu is made by simmering pork bones for 20 hours, resulting in a deeply flavorful broth. Santouka also offers the lesser-known toroniku ramen, made with pork cheek meat. The vegetarian option—featuring menma kikurage mushrooms, soy marinated wheat gluten, and umeboshi—is also a worthy choice.
The French-inspired bistro and wine bar at the Mandarin Oriental features locally-inspired seasonal dishes, traditional French bistro fare and an impressive selection of famed house-made terrines and pâtés by Parisian Charcutier Gilles Verot. Additionally the menu features a handful of signature sausages and burgers, adding an American touch to this French inflected bistro and wine bar. An impressive wine cellar spotlights wines from Burgundy and the Rhóne Valley, including many fine selections by the glass.
As a Northern Italian-inspired steakhouse, Davio’s includes a selection of the finest cuts of meat alongside well-known specialties such as tagliatelle bolognese and penne with applewood-smoked chicken. The flagship Boston location resides on a busy corner in the Back Bay, and the high-ceilinged space is perfect for large groups and celebratory dinners. There is also an on-site bakery where desserts, pastries, ice cream and breads are all prepared fresh daily.
A city staple since 1978, Atlantic Fish Company has thrived on an underserved premise: when it comes to seafood, keep it simple. Daily catches can be broiled, sauteed, fried or blackened; if you’re feeling fancy, the lobster ravioli or swordfish piccata will scratch that itch nicely. This is the place you bring your parents to introduce them to allure of New England seafood—and to nab a solid bottle of wine while you’re at it.
This sprawling, airy brasserie features contemporary French fare in spirited environs. The upstairs restaurant is open for lunch and dinner as well as weekend brunch. Enjoy classics like steak frites and rotisserie chicken. The downstairs cafe is open daily for a quick sandwich or indulgent house-made croissants and other pastries. The seasonal outdoor patio is sure to be popular in warmer weather.
Gre.co is a great spot for fresh Greek fare in Back Bay. For a quick dessert though, you can't beat the homemade Greek honey donuts—basically a far superior take on the Dunkin’ Donuts munchkin. Choose among five varieties, including the Yaya’s (hazelnut praline, Oreo cookies,) and the Golpho (caramel, almonds, sea salt). Or you can go (doh)nuts and fashion your own, choosing from toppings like dark chocolate, pistachios, coconut flakes and walnuts.
Want a little nightlife with your chips and salsa? Lolita Cocina is a Back Bay hotspot swimming in tequila and unbuttoned young professionals. You can opt for a proper entrée (fresno salmon, garlic lime chicken), but why bother when fried chicken tacos are on the menu? Some of the guacamole varieties experiment with bizarre ingredients (lobster, cashews)—but here, have another pitcher of ginger peach sangria. The light-night menu is surprisingly robust, with a special nacho platter that includes smoked bacon.
STRIP by Strega is yet another concept from restaurateur Nick Varano. Located in the Park Plaza Hotel, the restaurant fuses together a modern steakhouse with a high-end lounge. A mix of hotel guests and see-and-be-seen types sit next to one another while dining on big-ticket steaks and pricey selections from a solid wine list. The steak menu features around 10 a la carte options (petit filet, dry-aged rib eye, Wagyu), served either with house truffle butter or a flight of sauces.
With its prime location on Newbury Street and sidewalk patio for outdoor dining, you might think Kashmir would cut a few corners. But the Indian cuisine offered here is high quality, and reasonably priced for the neighborhood. Specialties like achari goat (goat roasted with pickles and spices) and kashew mutter gobi (a curry with cauliflower, peas, cashews, herbs, and spices) are popular. Vindaloo, korma, roti, tandoor, and other classic specialties are equally satisfying. Whether dining inside or people-watching on the patio, Kashmir is a classic spot for Indian food in Boston.
If you don't have time to swing over to Cape Cod for a clam bake on the beach, stroll into the Back Bay or Cambridge locations of the Summer Shack. With its cheery, colorful decor and friendly vibe, the laid-back atmosphere is great for families. Children can nosh on corn dogs, clam chowder or chicken wings, while you savor wood-grilled lobster or oysters from the raw bar.
With French doors opening out on to ever-chic Newbury Street and waiting staff as attractive as the scenery, Sonsie should be a tourist trap. The fact that its eclectic, crowd-pleasing menu attracts just as many locals as it does out-of-towners is a testament to the culinary team. People-watching from the café tables over cappuccinos or cocktails has been a popular Back Bay pasttime since Sonsie opened in 1993.
A national chain, Del Frisco's offers one of its most modern, impressive locations on the Boylston Street side of the Prudential complex. The lengthy, varied menu is packed with USDA Prime beef and fresh seafood. The impressive wine list boasts over 1,500 selections from around the world. Seating options run the gamut from the opulent dining room and large sidewalk patio (great for people-watching) to the handsome bar and stylish private dining rooms.