Michael Scelfo’s inaugural solo joint took over the iconic Casablanca space on Brattle St and brought Harvard Square a tasty repertoire of shareable plates that included everything from chicken-fried rabbit and fried Brussels sprouts to the Hub’s new favorite secret burger. The seasonal cocktail list is its own distinct pleasure, and one worth revisiting frequently. Order the “That’ll Do” -- it’s made with a smoked pork-infused scotch, absinthe, and Green Mountain Maple Liqueur.
It’s still hard to wrap our heads around there being fine dining near Arsenal Mall. But what Strip-T’s started, Branch Line now continues. The beautiful new space from Eastern Standard folks Garrett Harker and Andrew Holden headlines its menu with rotisserie chicken (or rotisserie cauliflower for the vegetarians). The salted avocado and fried cheese are already celebrated starters, and the prime bavette steak is an entree you’ll be craving when the mercury plummets. Stay tuned for warm-weather bocce.
Chef Tony Maws had us at Craigie Street Bistrot, and then cemented our love with his bigger Central Square space. It’s not just about his magazine-cover model of a burger, which should never overshadow the nightly wonders coming out of the kitchen, be it chicken stuffed with dates and sausage or an entire roasted pig’s head for two. The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Maws’ second restaurant off Inman Square, helps feed the soul in between Craigie visits (see below), but it should never supplant its fountainhead.
The strangely forgotten stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter is home to some of Cambridge’s buried gems (West Side Lounge, Cambridge Common), but Giulia is a true diamond. Chef Michael Pagliarini spends hours each day rolling out his doughs at the restaurant’s pasta table, which produces some great corn and brown butter agnolotti, whole wheat penne with pork sausage, and pappardelle with wild boar. If you’re a Paleo nut who insists on denying yourself the area’s greatest carbs, you can make carnivorous do with the grilled bone-in beef rib-eye with lemon, sea salt, and salsa verde.
Hipster hotel izakaya? It’s just too good. Tim and Nancy Cushman took a hard right turn from O Ya to give us a cheeky, accessible hangout inside The Verb Hotel. Creative maki rolls, ramen, and robata, yes, but also the most wondrous hot dog in all of Boston: the bacon-wrapped, jalapeño-stuffed Doggzilla. The much-discussed drink menu gives you frozen Tiki classics and tweaks on your famous trough cocktails -- yep, we’re talking scorpion bowls.
There are so many reasons to hit up Maws’ more casual gastropub, but we’re just gonna highlight three here: Hot Dog Mondays, which invite area chefs to put their spin on the encased American classic; the hearty brunch, a meat lover’s paradise of beef tongue & brisket hash and grilled kielbasa; and the Sunday afternoon fried chicken specials, which currently dovetail nicely with our plan to watch football all day.
Every Bostonian should feel like a Brahmin for one night. Chef Frank McClelland’s exquisite play on regional ingredients makes the $118 seasonal tasting gustation seem like an absolute bargain (and sure, spring for the wine pairings!). Lunch service, weekend tea, and the salon menu all let the more budgeted among us dip a toe in the highborn world. New to the lineup is the weekend prix fixe brunch -- as in, both Saturday and Sunday -- that lets you have your caviar omelette and eat foie gras, too.
Did we think even twice about Turkish spices before Ana Sortun came along? Oleana set the stage for her second, already revered spot -- our favorite place for group outings when a vegetarian or two is involved. We’re talking almost 40 Mediterranean small plates, from salmon falafel to Brussels sprout brava to pork and eggplant dumplings. And then there’s that cocktail program unlike any other -- when’s the last time you found geranium or saffron in your drink?
Michael Serpa left Neptune Oyster? Nooo! Serpa opened an epic solo spot in the Back Bay? Yes yes yes! The townhouse space pays proper homage to New England seafood with dishes like blue prawns a la plancha and whole roasted seabream. Oysters are aplenty, as are razor clams, Jonah crab claws, dressed lobster, and a seafood-friendly wine program. Reservations can only be made through Reserve, and a flat 20% tip is added to every bill, eliminating the mental gymnastics of tipping protocol.
Two restaurant vets, Rene Becker and Susan Regis, took over the popular Chez Henri space on Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter Squares and turned it into something equally alluring, if not more so: a neighborhood spot that celebrates our seasonal bounties with French flair but zero pretension. The half-chicken is one of those simple marvels that reminds you to ask why every restaurant in town isn’t executing this well.
Once you buy your way into chef Peter Ungár’s space and create an online profile specifying your tastes, you leave your dining fate in the hands of the kitchen, which prepares your meal in front of an intimate 20-seat counter. Oysters with cucumber-seaweed gel? Chocolate-covered venison? Nashi pear and candied Meyer lemon? Not a problem. Every dish is outlandishly inventive and well worth the $165- to $180-per-person cost, especially considering that includes tax, gratuity, and drink pairings.
The national hype came fast: Esquire named Townsman one of the nation’s best new restaurants in October. But we get it. Chef Matt Jennings fastidiously sources his ingredients, then plays with classic New England dishes in unexpected ways: deviled eggs with crispy hen skin, clam chowder with squid, crispy bBrussels sprouts with pork fat croutons, quail a la plancha. The crudos, cheeses, and charcuteries could make a whole meal on another night; either way, you must start with the dry martini service with “All the fixins'.”
The bad news: Clio, Ken Oringer’s long-venerated Back Bay dining room, recently bid adieu forever. The good news: It’s been replaced by a larger version of UNI, Boston's jewel of a sashimi bar. The new restaurant expands UNI's adventurousness and gives equal love to hot dishes like Japanese milk bread, brown butter seared abalone, and wagyu beef dumplings. Save some room for the cold stuff as well, which now includes many nigiri and maki options in addition to inventive sashimis. And not to worry: The late-night ramen menu is not only intact, but expanded, and now available on Thursday nights as well.
This animated, clubby spot snuck up on us this fall. Let’s start with the pizza: Our city lacks the authentic deep-dish varietal, but it’s here, along with classics entrees like grilled flat iron steak and an addictive Kobe hot dog served Chicago-style. The 100-strong whiskey menu is its own joyride.
Yvonne's got it right: You don’t replace Locke-Ober, you pay homage. It saved what was important -- namely, the 19th-century mahogany bar -- but otherwise created an au courant supper club that turns out crispy tater cubes and popcorn brulee to complement both its classic and heretical cocktails. With the Brahmin-meets-Bieber vibe of the space, there's little surprise that it’s become the most Instagrammed restaurant in Boston.
We’ll follow Tiffani Faison anywhere, but thankfully she simply skipped down the street for her follow-up to Sweet Cheeks. That said, it’s a 180-degree turn from her down-home Q sanctum: Tiger Mama is neon lights, punchy Tiki cocktails, and umami heaven. The menu explores all manner of spicy, crunchy Southeast Asian cuisine, from crispy chili potatoes to Singapore street noodles to lamb roti. Come with a crowd to hit up the banquet-style dishes, which include salt and pepper monkfish tail and chili crab (with, dear god, beurre blanc). The only thing you shouldn’t eat? The herbs growing on the vertical indoor garden.
Don’t know what a Bacaro is? Simple, really: It’s a Venetian wine bar, and it’s your new favorite dining conceit. SRV (Serene Republic of Venice) is a small plates/pasta haven, which means you get to sample beef carpaccio and green garlic risotto, smoked sea trout and ricotta gnudi. For the full family meal experience, spring for the shared Arsenale menu, which puts you entirely at the gastronomic mercy of the SRV kitchen. Also? This is the place where you and your vegetarian friends can dine equally well.
If you've been breathlessly wondering what had happened to the Whisk pop-up group, get ready to exhale. Co-chefs and owners Jeremy Kean and Phil Kruta have finally put down roots, though that hardly means they’ve settled down. Expect the same unpredictable French-influenced fare, experienced either as a tasting menu or a la carte. The seasons dictate the menu, but peekytoe crab salad, a wild mushroom omelette, and duck l’orange might all make an appearance. If French simply isn’t where your head’s at, American comfort will save the evening, in the form of either the customized house burger (pork belly as a topping?!) or the country-style fried chicken.
The Table at Season to Taste may be (OK, is) super-awkwardly named, but it's splendidly committed to seasonal cuisine and French techniques. If you're going to eat one prix fixe meal all year, you might as well go for this one: foie gras mousse and duck leg confit, served with purple mustard, almonds, and pickled cherries.
Michael Scelfo's latest Harvard Square venture was guaranteed to be a hit, but he certainly isn't resting on laurels. Think of Waypoint as the Alden & Harlow maestro going by sea instead of land. The snack selection includes raw-bar munchies, from caviar to peel-and-eat shrimp, and small plates that include such choices as tallow-fried peanuts. Pizzas come with atypical toppings like chopped clam and smoked whitefish, and there are bowls of seafood pastas and larger plates like grilled monkfish cheek and king crab in chili garlic oil. To pair with all this ocean fare? A host of cocktails, including four featuring absinthe.
Coming from the team behind The Gallows and Blackbird Doughnuts, this eatery features Asian gastropub fare from chef Phillip Tang (aka the pulled-noodle maestro behind the late, lamented East by Northeast). You can start with delicious oddities like scallop rangoon dip or mapo Frito pie, then lick your fingers and dive into larger-plate delicacies like fried cornish game hen and pastrami fried rice. And then, if you're like us, you'll start ordering cocktails for the names alone: Svelte Sumo (vodka, sake, lemon, cucumber), Sad Panda (gin, watermelon, aloe, lime), and Dharma Chameleon (shiso-infused gin, burnt cinnamon, lemon).
Tinned fish are having a moment, and we're not talking two-buck anchovies from Trader Joe's, either -- we mean Siberian caviar, octopus, eel, and cod liver, to name but four of the imported delicacies at Saltie Girl. For every clam chowder or lobster roll at the lilliputian seafood bar, there's another unexpected treat: uni Benedict, torched salmon belly, fried lobster and waffles, etc. Sit at the bar to watch the dish assembly happen in real time, and be sure to explore the wine menu that includes seven rosés.
Housed inside the former La Brasa marketplace space, Fat Hen dishes up pasta with seasonal stuffings and toppings, and those wanting to go heartier can opt for secondi plates like lamb saddle or chicken al mattone. The charms of the super-cozy space are only enhanced by the little cocktail window, where drinks are passed through from the La Brasa bar.
If you unabashedly love meat, you'll unabashedly love the Smoke Shop, the latest venture from noted pitmaster Andy Husbands of Tremont 647. Ribs, crispy pork skins, brisket, burnt ends, fried chicken: Basically all the good barbecue food groups are represented, but because you can't order everything at once, you'll want to make sure to come with a large group so you can eat off each other's plates.
Head to this new Downtown Crossing hotel spot for a date night of creative sushi, piping-hot robatayaki, and unique decor. The glam, modern izakaya from chef Michael Mina (who just happens to own a global dining empire, including the original PABU in San Francisco) brings next-level event dining to the suddenly happening DTX. Seasonal small plates like lobster and pork belly okonomiyaki and seared foie gras lead up to a massive sashimi and makimono menu. If you're feeling flush, go for a once-a-year splurge like the $115 Australian tomahawk steak for two.
Tracy Chang, the still-under-30 sensation behind Guchi's Midnight Ramen, planted roots in a polished, open-kitchen space that introduces Central Square diners to the full array of her talents. Small-plate offerings like ikura avocado toast, sea scallop sashimi, and pork belly bao complement larger dishes like uni miso mazemen and Chang's take on the fried rice she ate as a child. Her global travels also result in menu surprises like the jamon and curry crab croquetas, while the a la carte and three-course lunch menus give you one more reason to ditch your sad desk salad. It's hard to resist any establishment that offers you a departing satsuma orange as a symbol of good luck, or one that's named after a dog ("pagu" is Japanese for "pug").
What sort of four-star affair attracts regular lines out the door? Why, that would be a throwback arcade fronted by a famed grilled cheese joint. The Area Four team knows how to play to its base, which in this case means pairing Galaga with cocktails like There's No Crying in Skeeball (Chamucos, Lejay, lime). As for that food menu, there are 14 gooey options from the Roxy's Grilled Cheese maestros, plus burgers, dogs, and vanilla soft serve.
Did the city need another Southern restaurant and another Jason Santos venture? Yup and yup. This subterranean Comm Ave space finally got the design love it deserved, with Santos embracing its moody, labyrinthine appeal and working with designers Michael and Erica Diskin to soften its edges with whitewashed brick and distressed wood seating. As for the New Orleans-inspired menu, it's indulgence upon indulgence: deviled egg toast, pork belly cracklings, shrimp & grits, and buttermilk fried chicken served three ways (Nashville hot, white barbecue, sweet and spicy). By all means, start with a frozen Voodoo Grenade (yes, there's an actual NOLA-style frozen drink machine behind the bar), but don't just drink your dessert -- beignets, after all, are also on the menu, served with vanilla bean whipped cream for dunking.
It closed, and we wept. Then it reopened, and we wept again, just this time with joy. Former ECG cooks and current Highland Kitchen owners Mark Romano and Marci Joy purchased the space from Jason Heard and Chris Schlesinger with the goal of preserving the menu's timeless appeal while adding a bit of new to the old. It's a wondrous marriage: The beloved Jerk Wings From Hell and grilled mahi-mahi now share menu space with Highland Kitchen's beloved buttermilk fried chicken. Ample barbecue plates are still front and center, now chased with Tiki-influenced cocktails from bartending virtuoso Joe McGuirk. And yup, Sunday brunch is also back, oysters, Bloody Marys, and all.
With its unpretentious yet sophisticated interior, Mida is all about humble, beautiful cooking. Chef/owner Douglass Williams draws from Italian influences and places a premium on seasonal ingredients to turn out homey fare like caponata toast, crispy duck wings, handmade ricotta gnocchi, and grilled beef collette. The menu rotates regularly, but the wine list remains committed to both Northern Italian and French bottles (although a Negroni starter doesn't hurt).