Best new restaurants in Boston
We’re not used to South End openings happening with zero fanfare, but that’s just what happened when Jake Elmets, late of M.F. Dulock, took over the space formerly occupied by Merrill & Co. without so much as a press release or a functioning website. Don’t count on Ipswich Custom staying under the radar for long, however. Elmets did a stint at the legendary Chez Panisse, and his passion for well-sourced ingredients and authentic cooking techniques is on full display. The rotating menu is deliciously eccentric: alphabet soup, lamb collar and lasagna appear one night; tuna belly, roasted olives and flank steak the next. Given Elmets’ butchery background, a charcuterie tasting is a must, as is a dip into the cheeses sourced from Italy and Upstate New York. “Expect a leisurely paced meal,” proclaims the menu each night—we’re happy to sit back and let Elmets dictate our evening.
The tapas craze will never end, and we never want it to. The latest 95 mph strike from North End scion Frank DePasquale (Mare, Bricco, Trattoria il Panino) is a small-plates celebration of every Mediterranean flavor on the docket, from Portuguese to Turkish to French. That means that zucchini blossoms might nestle beside plates of green mussels gratin, bone marrow gratin and spicy glazed chicken skewers—in other words, every palate at the table will be satisfied. Those looking to go big before going home can opt for one of the rotating large-plate entrees each night. Wines stay with the Mediterranean theme, including the red and white Sangria; the large screen TVs, though tucked away, mean you can actually enjoy a grown up meal while watching a nighttime game.
Isn’t it always the fantasy that your favorite highbrow restaurant opens a more casual takeaway place? Behold your dreamweavers, Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann (TW Food and Bronwyn), who have just unveiled a sandwich spot in Inman. In keeping with the couple’s Eastern European influences, Playska serves Balkan-inspired sammies and meat pies, including the eponymous sandwich: a hamburger-sausage amalgam served on pogacha bread. But veggies shouldn’t fret: Meatless offerings like the foraged mushroom sandwich (wild hen of the woods, challah bread, avocado and red cardamom spread, butter lettuce, aged gouda) are both wildly creative and wildly delicious. They’re technically open until 8 p.m., but lest you think your weeknight dinner plans are permanently locked up, take heed: Playska only stays open as long as supplies last.
How in Kennedy’s name to replace Locke-Ober, the revered, wood-paneled downtown institution that hosted a million three-martini lunches? For starters, Yvonne’s has saved what matters: the 19th-century mahogany bar and the same clubby ambiance. But the new supper club—named for what used to be Locke Ober’s members-only club downstairs—otherwise sports a decidedly au courant vibe. Chef Juan Pedrosa looks forward, not backward, with international small plates like crispy tater cubes, chicken quinoa meatballs, baked oysters and popcorn brulee. Large-scale (i.e. scorpion bowl-sized) cocktails like the Moscow Mule are lovingly crafted and best enjoyed in the separate Library Bar, a tome-tiered respite that invites you to imbibe like a Brahmin.
It’s like Chipotle for vegans. Whole Heart Provisions doles out build-your-own takeaway bowls that save you from your worst “I don’t feel like cooking” tendencies. Starting with a base of rice, bulgur, arugula, or kale, you then pile on the veggies (shaved brussels sprouts, cauliflower, smashed cucumbers), tofu and nuts before dressing that baby in orange miso or spicy peanut sauce. Those needing a slightly guiltier fix can spring for one of the street food snacks, including sesami shishitos, street corn, and a falafel dog—easily offset by the matcha lemonade or kombucha on tap.
Back Bay is not typically considered a bastion of authentic Greek cuisine, but Michael Schlow has long been tricky that way. After closing longtime Italian treasure Via Matta last spring, Schlow has now debuted Doretta in the space, a celebration of his wife’s Mediterranean roots. Doretta’s small plates menu is simple and simply delicious: fried calamari with roasted red pepper sauce, crispy Greek cheese, lamb meatballs, spicy homemade sausage. Those wanting to go big before going home should spring for the monstrous spit-roasted lamb shoulder, best preluded with oysters and yellowtail from the raw bar.
Vegan tacos and doughnuts…. that are delicious? The food truck power duo of Taco Party and Sabertooth Vegan Bakery have paired up to put down roots in Ball Square and prove that guilty pleasures needn’t be guilt-laden. Taco Party maestro Keith Schuman stuffs his tortilla offerings with the likes of fried tofu, chorizo seitan, sweet potato and jackfruit; Sabertooth, meantime, whips up egg- and milk-free wonders in flavors like peanut butter cup, maple and lavender glaze. The decor is straight-up ’50s nostalgia, with a blue-checked floor and lime-green tables, making you feel extra-pure about your dietary choices.
Good food, beer and city views come to those who wait. A years-in-the-making project from man-about-town Travis Talbot (Red Door Hospitality), Coppersmith is The Avengers of restaurants: a heroic amalgam of restaurant, cafe, food truck, patio, rooftop bar and private event space. The 15,000-square-foot South Boston spot, housed in a former copper foundry, focuses on comfort eats like fried green tomatoes, soft shell crab BLTs and smoked pork chops; the two indoor food trucks(!) serve a separate rotating menu of takeaway bites like Mexican street corn. The massive bar area beckons to craft beer aficionados and anyone (that’s everyone) who enjoys the reimagining of classiccocktails. Other reasons you’ll become a regular: the soon-to-open morning cafe and the Airstream-bedecked roof deck with a Seaport panorama and raw bar offerings.
Let’s start with with the hot dogs: three varietals, including a Kobe beef beaut served Chicago style, that signal Worden Hall’s commitment to unabashed comfort fare. The elusive deep-dish pizza also gets its fair due here, along with more classic entrees like seared scallops and grilled pork tenderloin. Because Worden Hall comes to us from Dylan Welsh, the man behind Five Horses Tavern, the drinks menu is a bona fide work of art, with 100 whiskeys and beers broken down into the categories of “Hops,” “Water,” “Yeast” and “Malt.” The dark woods, leather banquettes and exposed bricks lend the space a clubby yet unpretentious air befitting a new South Boston lair. Translation: assume massive early crowds.