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Zuma sliced yellowtail sashimi sushi
Photograph: Courtesy Zuma

The most Michelin star-worthy restaurants in Boston

If Michelin Guide stars were given in Boston, these restaurants would shine the brightest

Written by
Cheryl Fenton
Contributor
Eric Grossman
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For reasons unknown, the Michelin Guide’s three-star rating has consistently skipped over our fair city since the esteemed process started in 1931. As we see it, Boston’s vibrant food scene—including our best fine dining spots and most romantic restaurants—has nurtured several chefs who could go toe-to-toe with some of the top talent from flashier cities like New York or London. (We even have casual spots known for superb pizzas and impeccable burgers that can hold their own). We did the leg work, and here’s our take on which local restaurants could contend for those coveted stars. Michelin inspectors, take note.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Star-worthy restaurants in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Seaport District
  • price 4 of 4

Boston supplies waterfront views, while The Farm at Woods Hill in New Hampshire supplies inspiration, responsibly raised meats and poultry, and produce for this pasture-to-plate eatery. Located in the former gone-but-not-forgotten Anthony’s Pier 4, this place impresses, with Chef Charlie Foster creating masterpieces like dry aged duck breast, grass fed hanger steak and line-caught striped bass (when in season). Homemade pasta is comforting, while caviar service makes you feel like royalty. 

One star

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Somerville
  • price 3 of 4

This Somerville eatery is known for small plates modeled after menus from the traditional meyhanes of Turkey. Among the 40 or so choices on the menu, you might find hanger steak gyro, sumac-crusted squash blossoms, loaded lentil nachos, fava bean paté, or fluke sarma stuffed with fennel. The dishes and ingredients change seasonally, but the upbeat vibe never wavers.


One star

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Somerville
  • price 4 of 4

Chef Peter Ungár's culinary talents bring foodies out to a hidden corner of Somerville. Ungár previously worked in the kitchen of the late, lauded Aujourd'hui, as well as in Paris, and is unafraid to push the envelope across all courses of his tasting menus. Creative dishes are prepped in front of the 20-seat, U-shaped counter framing the kitchen, for a “dining as theater” vibe. Their two-hour, nine-course dinner full of seasonal dishes is quite a showstopper.

Two stars

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Back Bay
  • price 4 of 4

Spanish for “oyster,” chef/owner Jamie Mammano's fish-focused Mediterranean restaurant in Park Square is an enthusiastic nod to the bounty of the sea. Top quality branzino, sea bream, Spanish octopus and monkfish—some flown in from the Mediterranean—are smartly prepared, while the paella “Valenciana Style” is a playground for all sorts of underwater creatures. Its extensive raw bar, crudo and caviar service is a highlight. 

One star

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  • Restaurants
  • Back Bay

The crown jewel atop Boston’s newest luxury destination, The Newbury Hotel, Contessa is the latest from Michelin-star, NYC-based restaurant group Major Food Group. While the sweeping Back Bay views and Neoclassical-meets-Art Deco decor are something to behold, the menu is just as captivating. Fanciful dishes such as melt-in-your-mouth squash carpaccio, spicy lobster capellini and a signature 40-oz. dry-aged bistecca alla fiorentina all vie for attention.

Two stars

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Back Bay
  • price 4 of 4

Prix-fixe menus can be gateways to lackluster dining experiences, but in the hands of Chef Alex Crabb (of Noma and L’Espalier fame), they’re quite the opposite. Offering a tasting-menu-only format that changes monthly, Crabb and his team serve high-concept dishes in a congenial, pretension-free space (you actually pick out your own silverware from your table drawer). Past dishes have included poached leek with pastrami vinaigrette, BBQ rutabaga and seared foie gras with smashed cucumber and frozen white currants.

One star

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 3 of 4

When your global brand is synonymous with “extraordinary Japanese food” and you’re located within New England’s tallest luxury residential tower, you have some promises to make good on. Luckily, the Boston location of this international izakaya does exactly that. From its three kitchens—including a sushi counter and robata grill—this spot sends out signature dishes like miso-marinated baby chicken, roasted lobster with hojiso butter and seared tuna with chili daikon, all on par with its glowing reputation around the world.

One star

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Seaport District
  • price 4 of 4

The fine dining jewel in Barbara Lynch’s collection of restaurants, Menton takes its name from the Côte d’Azur town near the Italian border. The contemporary French-Italian hybrid dishes, offered both a la carte and as part of the "chef's whim" tasting menu, feature luxurious ingredients such as sablefish and wagyu.

Two stars

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  • Restaurants
  • Inman Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Ana Sortun’s delicate small plates (meze)—e.g. whipped feta, Vermont quail kebab and crab kibbeh—are revelatory, while larger plates like lamb gyro and lemon chicken satisfy hearty appetites. The homemade ice creams are a must (keep an eye out for the tangy preserved lemon), as is a seat on the patio during the warmer months, ideally underneath the fig tree.


Two stars

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Back Bay
  • price 4 of 4

What was once a tucked-away sashimi bar has blossomed into a 100-seat izayaka, where you can now pair your nigiri with wok-roasted lobster, tempura squash blossoms and wagyu beef dumplings. The sushi is still a must, including A5 wagyu sirloin nigiri and the famous Uni Spoon—an unami bomb of applewood smoked uni sitting sidecar to ossetra caviar and a quail egg—along with the still-incredible sashimi offerings that began Boston’s love affair with Uni.

Two stars

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Beacon Hill
  • price 4 of 4

With a backdrop of the State House and picturesque Boston Common, James Beard award-winner Barbara Lynch’s flagship restaurant offers a harmonious blend of regionally-inspired Italian and French dishes, served a la carte or as part of a chef's tasting menu. Don't miss one of the city's most famous dishes: pillowy prune-stuffed potato gnocchi with foie gras, which The New York Times once called "a no-holds-barred spectacle."

Two stars

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Toro really hasn’t changed much in the decade-plus since it opened, blowing the roof off of Boston’s South End with its Barcelona-inspired tapas. The rustic cubbyhole of a storefront that it occupies is as jam-packed and convivial as ever with revelers passing porróns of Cava around; day-one staples like their legendary grilled street corn, paella and quince-glazed duck drumsticks are still capturing the hearts of every tapas virgin who wanders in.

Two stars

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 4 of 4

Since 1975, this refined Harvard Square stalwart has been on the forefront of local farm-to-table dining. Its elegant, seasonal menu even earned a place in the heart of former Cambridge resident Julia Child. The kitchen personifies a sophisticated approach to New England cuisine; locally-sourced seafood and meats, plus homemade pastas, are all meticulously and imaginatively prepared. The environs match the seasons, offering both an expansive outdoor patio and a roaring indoor fire.

One star

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Never mind sitting elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor at this shoebox of an enoteca set on a quiet South End street. The unique charcuterie program, robust pastas and small-plate bar snacks make this cozy nook worth the tight squeeze. Their famous wood-fired pizzas go beyond basic, with combos including bone marrow with roasted corn and spicy Calabrian sausage with roasted cauliflower.


One star

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Neptune Oyster is exemplary in its East Coast raw bar perfection, where sophisticated dishes sit alongside succulent bivalves and crustaceans. The simple, subway-tiled interior gleams with retro charm. Guests who opt for substantial fare enjoy one of the city's most renowned lobster rolls, served hot with butter or cold with mayo, or the famous johnnycake with Boston smoked bluefish and sturgeon caviar.


One star

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Leather District
  • price 4 of 4

The fanfare hasn’t slowed down for Tim and Nancy Cushman’s Japanese spot since it was first touted as America’s best by The New York Times in 2007. With table seating for around 20, its intimate size and unassuming decor allow the menu to pull off all the pomp and circumstance. The hours-long omakase experience changes nightly and is a 20-course display of breath-taking flavor and presentation. Every morsel is a delectable work of art—from foie gras nigiri to big fin squid, Suzuki sea bass to day boat scallops.

Two stars

More top dining destinations in Boston

  • Restaurants

When you think of the best things to do in Boston, eating like royalty might not be the first activity that comes to mind. But some of the city’s best restaurants are changing the perception that Boston isn’t a destination for gourmands. From the North End to the Back Bay and beyond, an impressive roster of local culinary talent is fostering a dining scene to rival those of DC or Philly. The city may be small, but its many neighborhoods offer plenty of dining options, and one doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank to eat well.

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