Best restaurants in Boston
Bite for bite, this discreet hideaway offers one of the most expensive, and lauded, dining experiences in town. A must for true sushi lovers, the grand omakase menu incorporates a breathtaking assortment of artfully composed plates that are daring yet meticulous, delicate but rarely precious. The James Beard Award-winning chef Tim Cushman transforms the humblest fare—such as miso soup and tonkatsu—into edible luxuries, which his sommelier (and wife) Nancy pairs with selections from a world-class sake list. For a wallet-friendly, gourmet bite, head to Time Out Market Boston, where the Cushmans operate a pair of kitchens: gogo ya and Ms. Clucks Deluxe Chicken & Dumplings.
Local “snout-to-tail” pioneer Tony Maws remains at the top of his game at his flagship operation. The chef-proprietor uses the best local and organic ingredients for his culinary creations. Locals and culinary tourists fill the dining room, where only a four course prix-fixe menu is served. The casual, welcoming bar area, known as COMB (Craigie on Main Bar), offers an a la carte menu and monthly-rotating burger specials, along with the classic, grass-fed Craigie on Main Burger. (All burgers are sold in limited quantities and often sell out.) For a slight modification of the city's most highly-prized burger, head to Time Out Market Boston, where Maws operates Craigie Burger.
Despite some strong competition from its newer siblings, No. 9 Park remains the crown jewel of Barbara Lynch’s culinary empire. Regally perched across from Boston Common in the shadow of the State House, the handsome, sophisticated restaurant offers expert service and an inviting assortment of regionally-inspired Italian and French dishes. The welcoming bar area is a favorite among industry types looking to unwind with a well-made cocktail or selection from one of the city’s most decorated wine lists.
Barbara Lynch’s priciest fine dining establishment takes its name from the Côte d’Azur town near the Italian border. The French- and Italian-inspired cuisine, enjoyed à la carte or via a customized chef’s whim menu, features exotic ingredients like sea urchin and black truffle. Plush details—from French linens to Austrian crystal—and attentive service will make you feel utterly pampered. Also impressive is the chef’s table, a private space with a glass wall providing intimate views into the kitchen.
Chef-partners Ken Oringer and Tony Messina wow Back Bay diners with an assortment of global street food-inspired small plates, as well as innovative makimono, nigiri and sashimi. The best seats in the house are at the sushi bar, where you can watch the magic happen. On weekends, the late-night menu lures foodies looking to check one of the city’s most in-demand ramens off their culinary bucket list.
Chef Peter Ungár’s ticketed reservations-only Somerville dining experience is one of the most progressive dining experiences in the area. A veteran of several French kitchens, Ungár is unafraid to push the envelope across his multi-course tasting menus. Creative dishes are prepped in front of the 20-seat counter, providing a multi-sensory, dining-as-theater experience. For a less formal, fine dining-caliber experience, head to Time Out Market Boston, where Ungár operates a Tasting Counter outlet.
Ken Oringer’s wildly successful take on a tapas bar is one of the South End’s most atmospheric spots. With its exposed brick and wooden beams, central communal table, and chalkboard-listed drink specials, Toro captures the rustic spirit of an upscale, chef-driven taperia. The kitchen churns out an assortment of Barcelona-inspired hot and cold small plates, and the beverage program features well-made classic cocktails and an eclectic, curated wine list.
Hidden away near Inman Square, Oleana provides an edible journey via Chef Ana Sortun’s passion for, and mastery of, the hauntingly aromatic cuisines of Turkey and the Middle East. Diners pack the cozy bar, attractive dining rooms, and enormously popular garden patio to sample from Sortun’s lengthy menu. Most of the small plates are memorable, while many of the desserts are downright extraordinary.
Expect to sit elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor at this brick-and-wood enoteca, nestled away on an idyllic South End street. The famous wood-fired pizzas, robust pastas and addictive bar snacks make this cozy nook worth the tight squeeze. Trend-setting owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette top everything from pastas to pizzas with a farm-fresh egg. A smattering of eclectic wines and inventive cocktails keep the mood social and festive.
Since 1975, this refined Harvard Square stalwart has led the farm-to-table charge, celebrating regional ingredients with an elegant, seasonal menu. The kitchen personifies a sophisticated approach to New England dining; locally-sourced seafood and meats, plus homemade pastas, are all meticulously and imaginatively prepared. The two-or three-course business lunch provides one of the area's best fine dining deals. Come summer, a seat on the garden terrace is one of the most coveted in the Square.
Cambridge diners fill an enchanting farmhouse dining room to select from a daily tasting menu packed with seasonal, local ingredients. Chef-owner Jason Bond - a veteran of several New England kitchens - applies his talents to just-picked vegetables and fish caught the same day. Guests sip an aperitif in front of the fire before heading to their table, where old church pews serve as seats.
This big, bustling American brasserie in the heart of Kenmore Square is accessible in every sense of the word. It’s open early and closes late, serving as an anytime destination perfect for all your drinking and dining needs. Friendly, knowledgeable staffers and expert mixologists make sure the huge bar and heated patio stay lively. The lengthy menu features creative, seasonal dishes alongside comfort food faves such as steak frites, baked rigatoni, and roasted chicken.
Ever since it opened in 2004, Neptune Oyster has been one of the city’s most in-demand options for fresh local seafood. (There’s almost always a line out the door.) Lined with pressed tin, subway tiles and etched glass, the tiny space exudes an unmistakably retro charm. Expert shuckers handle a variety of fresh bivalves with aplomb, and rare is the order that doesn't include one of the city's most lauded lobster rolls.
As the casual sibling of Ana Sortun’s much-lauded Oleana, Sarma is one of the area’s best spots for enjoying the flavors of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Chef Cassie Piuma’s menu of colorful meze is a vegetarian’s delight, with an entire section devoted to veggie plates. The bar deserves its own mention, with cocktails that contain spices like cardamom and clove.
One of the city’s best seafood-focused eateries, the original ICOB resides in a high-visibility Kenmore Square space. A mix of Sox fans, local seafood lovers, and guests of the (connected) Hotel Commonwealth pack the large, loud dining area to slurp down the namesake bivalves. Chef Jeremy Sewall puts out an inviting, seafood-heavy menu that runs the gamut from creative plates to warm buttered lobster rolls.
With its slick postmodern environs, Oishii’s South End outpost provides a more sophisticated option compared to the modest, tiny original location in Chestnut Hill. The lengthy menu features everything from pricey cold appetizers (foie gras torchon, smoked oysters) to wagyu served any number of ways (tartare, taquitos, sliders, cooked on a hot stone). But it’s the specialty maki that most impresses; rolls are filled with luxury ingredients like lobster, truffle, caviar and wagyu.
Situated between Central and Harvard Squares, this hip trattoria has a slightly retro feel thanks to the amber glow of its globe lights. Nosh on handmade pastas and Italian inspired dishes. Sit side-by-side at the vintage communal table, or huddle by the white tile, double-sided fireplace. Sexy desserts are not to be missed.
This hip South End gem - named after owners (and culinary bigwigs) Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers - serves Asian fusion cuisine with aplomb. Menu highlights include tea-smoked spare ribs, Thai pork lettuce wraps, Indonesian fried rice, and hot Szechuan dan dan noodles. The vibrant but intimate spot is a smart choice for a romantic rendezvous—especially on Mondays and Tuesdays when “cheap date night” menus are offered.
Courtesy of Jeremy Sewall and the team behind Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34 has become Fort Point’s go-to spot for wickedly fresh seafood. On weekdays, business types stop in to close deals over platters of oysters and orders of lobster rolls (offered hot and cold, based on Sewall’s grandmother’s recipe). Those waiting for a table have more time to explore the extensive, seafood-friendly wine and beer lists.
Chef Michael Serpa - formerly of Neptune Oyster - opened his first solo venture in a townhouse-like enclave in the heart of the Back Bay. Serpa marries New England seafood with Mediterranean techniques, exemplified by the signature blue prawns a la plancha. While some diners enjoy a multi-course feast, others stop in for a quick oysters-and-wine fix.
Cafe Sushi attracts a varied mix of patrons - including lots of chefs and industry veterans - to its nondescript home in a retail complex just outside of Harvard Square. Customers are lured by the opportunity to devour affordable plates of perfectly prepared maki and nigiri. All the standards are here, from salmon skin rolls to hamachi sashimi, at prices rarely seen on the other side of the river.
A staff of industry veterans ensures this neighborhood favorite maintains its high standards, including dutiful service and an inviting atmosphere. The progressive American cuisine pairs fresh local produce with ingredients from around the world. Customers choose between creative cocktails and selections from impressive wine and beer lists. Locals in need of a treat reward themselves with a lobster melt and hand-cut fries at the bar.
Duck into this subterranean Harvard Square hideaway and discover a bustling, multi-room dining and drinking destination that balances a rustic laid-back vibe with an industrial edge. Chef-owner Michael Scelfo’s creative cuisine reflects a similar juxtaposition—chef-driven home-cooking with an edge. Most dishes are under $20, encouraging patrons to sample an assortment of vivid, offbeat flavor combinations.
Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini and his staff pamper their guests with friendly, professional service and killer pastas, which are prepped daily on a custom-made table that accommodates large groups at night. Brick walls and candlelight keep the vibe romantic and rustic. The all-Italian wine list pairs well with the menu, some of which is inspired by the chef’s travels to Italy.
Chef Alex Crabb produces one of the city’s most creative dining experiences via his prix fixe tasting menus. (Crabb spent time in the kitchens L’Espalier and Copenhagen’s Noma.) The cozy space features exposed brick walls and an open kitchen. After picking out their own silverware from the dining tables’ drawers, guests nibble on artfully-composed dishes packed with a cornucopia of seasonal, on-trend ingredients.
This Downtown Crossing restaurant maintans the same 19th-century mahogany bar and clubby ambiance that made the previous inhabitant, Locke-Ober, one of the city’s most revered eating houses. Regarding the cuisine, Chef Juan Pedrosa looks forward, not backward, with an assortment of international small plates and larger “feast” platters such as a whole chicken Cordon Bleu or two-pound Niman Ranch ribeye. Well-made cocktails, including several large-format options, are best enjoyed in the handsome library bar.
Chef Colin Lynch, a Barbara Lynch protege, whips up straightforward coastal Italian fare. The ever-changing crudo menu offers a lighter counterpoint to the house-made pastas on offer. Other crowd favorites include crostinis (grilled Iggy’s bread topped with everything from smoked whitefish to Spanish octopus), homemade mozzarella, and chicken under a brick. You’d expect a strong wine and cocktail list at a spot like this—and Bar Mezzana delivers—but another surprise is the well-curated beer list, perfect for a quick after-work stopover.
Situated a short stroll from Inman Square, Puritan & Company delivers a retro-minded experience, complete with vintage decor and kitchen towels used as napkins. Chef-owner Will Gilson uses locally sourced ingredients to create New England-inspired fare. After trying not to fill up on house-made Parker House rolls, guests enjoy items such as swordfish pastrami, Moxie-glazed lamb belly, or a griddled turnip cake with smoked ham.
Tim and Nancy Cushman, the couple behind the venerated O Ya, brought a cheekier, more accessible concept to the Fenway's modish Verb Hotel. Creative maki rolls share menu space with ramen, robata items (grilled skewers), and impossible-to-categorize dishes like the bacon-wrapped, jalapeno-stuffed “doggzilla” hot dog. The drink menu includes frozen concoctions, large-format drinks, and an impressive sake list.
Recognized in the past by Wine Enthusiast as one of America’s best wine restaurants, BISq boasts a unique, French-focused wine program at its home near Cambridge’s Inman Square. You’ll find small production wines, grower-producers, natural wines, champagnes, and other interesting selections of sherry and madeira by the glass. As the sister restaurant to Bergamot, BISq churns out an inviting assortment of small plates.
By virtue of its size, this JP bistro offers one of the area’s coziest dining environments. Neighborhood couples pack the dining room, looking out in to the bustling open kitchen. The culinary team take a creative approach to its menu, which is jam-packed with locally grown organic produce and artisan products. Wallet-friendly specials include a killer prix fixe on Sundays, and wine dinners on the last Tuesday of every month.
Boston’s first Venetian-style osteria and wine bar, SRV (“Serene Republic of Venice”) balances its focus between modern interpretations of Venetian cicchetti (small plates) and spectacular pastas. Creative small plates elevate fresh ingredients, with flavors that pop thanks to microgreens and garnishes grown nearby. Luxurious pasta dishes keep regulars coming back. An exclusively Italian wine list complements the menu, and those looking for something stronger can opt for Italian-influenced cocktails.
Chef Michael Scelfo of Alden & Harlow opened Waypoint on the other side of Harvard Square. The menu applies Scelfo’s forward-thinking approach to coastal-inspired fare. Starters run the gamut from raw bar and delicate crudo to classic caviar service with modern touches like plankton and white corn blini. Seafood items are woven through an assortment of pizzas, pastas, and composed plates. The cocktail menu focuses on absinthe, and the beer and wine lists feature inviting, hard-to-find options.
MIDA doesn’t so much cook Italian fare as take its cue from it. Chef/owner Douglass Williams has prioritized three things: ingredients, wine and hospitality. Dishes are made to share, from the lardo and crudo, to appetizers like spicy lamb ribs, to the handmade ricotta gnocchi and grilled sirloin cap. The wine list skews towards Northern Italian and French bottles and features lesser known producers. And, of course, classic Italian cocktails like the Negroni are expertly prepared.
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.
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