The Absolute Best Restaurants in Boston to Visit Right Now
Boston’s best restaurants include oyster bars, African comfort food, and a dumpling factory.
You might be hibernating during these winter months, but Boston’s restaurateurs sure aren’t. So time to force yourself out of the house and into a sleek new restaurant seat. Among our newest offerings this time around are a long-awaited African Diaspora comfort food spot, an indoor raw bar with oysters galore, and an expanded dumpling cafe. From buzzy new spots to slightly older faithfuls, here’s our lineup of the absolute best restaurants in Boston to visit right now—and this is on top of our great markets and food halls and iconic older restaurants.
This immigrant-, Black-, and women-owned space features both a cafe and full-service restaurant inside the most unexpected of spots: a former comfort station (aka public restroom). The diminutive interior has been transformed into a serene, airy respite, complete with kitchen-facing bar and pale pink cushioned booths, that feels a million miles away from the busy street just outside the window. The African Diaspora comfort menu seems relatively straightforward on the surface, but the bright, delicate flavors elevate each appetizer and entree into something special. Early winners include the jackfruit sliders and brown butter trout, but staff genuinely struggle to recommend one dish over another simply because they’re all so beloved.
How to book: Via Tock
The seafood revolution in Kenmore Square continues. The newest entry from Blue Ribbon Restaurants celebrates the sea’s bounty in all its glory in a ship-sized 195-seat dining room that includes a 30-seat cocktail bar and separate ceviche bar. The menu takes all your favorite seafood dishes from around the world and features them on one menu. Crudo and seafood cocktails share space with lobster tacos, wood fire-grilled Spanish octopus, and a huge seafood paella; while the flavors are globally inspired, the catches themselves are mostly regional. When it comes to drinks, tequila and mezcal are front and center: More than 70 bottles are on offer, all told, which can be enjoyed by themselves or in margaritas and palomas.
Matsunori Handroll Bar
You might say we don’t need another sushi spot, but you know what’s missing? A place entirely devoted to hand rolls (aka tamaki). Enter Matsunori. The hand rolled pieces at this sushi bar but New England seafood front and center with slices of spicy tuna or miso cod placed atop a piece of nori and sushi rice and then topped with a final drizzle of something special. If you’re feeling indulgent, you can also sample the wagyu beef rolls—co-owner Kevin Liu actually owns a wagyu farm in Miyazaki, Japan, which keeps prices in an affordable range.
Island Creek Oyster Raw Bar
Remember all those amazing summer afternoons slurping oysters outdoors while staring out over Duxbury Bay? Island Creek is now providing that experience year-round. Its new rustic, wood-paneled space, decorated with maritime ephemera, brings the bivalve party indoors, with the views and carefree experience still intact. Raw oysters and clams are available, of course, but you’ll also find tinned fish served with bread and butter, caviar, clam chowder, and smoked bluefish pate. And in keeping with summertime tradition, there are also canned beers and cocktails aplenty, along with wines by the glass.
Mei Mei Dumpling
The best dumplings in town now have a new mother ship to call home. Inside Irene Li’s 4,000-square-foot cafe and factory—the latest addition to Southie’s Iron Works empire—diners can sit at one of the long communal tables and stare right into the glass-walled kitchen to watch the dumpling assembly line in action. You can once more get your fix of lemongrass pork or five spice tofu dumplings, plus the aptly named Double Awesome egg and scallion pancake sandwich. And this time around you can chase your spread with beer, wine, or cocktails. Feeling inspired? You can also now take in-house cooking classes—public or private—to better your own home dumpling skills.
JP already has a great dining scene, so this top-notch Italian restaurant is a cherry on top. Neighborhood residents Claire Makley and Luke Fetbroth, together with partners David Doyle and Mari Pérez-Alers, are filling a void with a restaurant that draws inspiration from the everyday trattorias, enotecas and aperitivos that make Italian dining truly special. The menu isn’t extensive, but these are the small plates and dishes that make you want to hop a plane to Rome subito. Fennel salad, roasted squid, wood-roasted pies, and gorgeous pastas like lumache with wild mushrooms and creme fraiche and chitarra with clams and breadcrumbs. A curated list of cocktails and wines by the glass (including three orange wines) make your drink ordering easier.
How to book: Via Tock
Chef and owner Emily Vena is reimagining the dinner party in a second-floor, convivial setting in the Coolidge Corner Arcade. Four tables, one seating, 12 guests, BYOB: It’s as close to a private party as it gets. The five-course, prix-fixe Italian menu takes its cue from the seasonal vegetable haul. Right now, it’s a menu of harvest Caesar, a butternut mac & cheese, a wagyu polpette, and a pumpkin cake; while in the summer you might get a spinach dip and berry crumble.
Little Whale Oyster Bar
Huzzah! Another place to get your fried clam on. Michael Serpa has revamped his former Grand Tour space into a classic New England seafood spot, complete with a long marbled bar and seafood-centric wine list. The menu is everything you crave, done impeccably but not overthought: lobster rolls (both hot and cold), clam chowder, a sprawling raw bar, and entrees like Maine halibut and Gloucester swordfish. Add in Grand Tour holdovers like the steak frites, and you have your new favorite date-night spot. Or stop in for a late afternoon snack or meal—the restaurant is also open during lunch time.
Do we really need more seafood restaurants? Uh, absolutely, especially when the team from Giulia is involved. Inside the onetime Chez Henri space is a wonder of global, seasonal fare: marinated mussels with green tomato salsa, Maine lobster spaghetti, smoked fish rillette, green crab custard. It’s the kind of restaurant where you should bring many friends so you can share more plates. Save room for a surprisingly robust dessert menu that includes unusual orders like miso peanut gelato and hazelnut financier.
The restaurant’s origin story begins in Brighton. Five years and oodles of loyal customers later, the tiny noodle shop has set up a more ambitious restaurant in the former Equator space. This is not Americanized Chinese comfort fare—and hurray for that. Yunnan, or Dian, cuisine leans heavily on ancient cooking methods and ingredients: fried pea jelly, sizzling braised chicken in a clay pot, boiled fish filet in chili oil, stir-fried udon noodles. If you really must, you can dip a toe in the “classics menu” with dishes like garlic shrimp and beef with broccoli, but why play it safe when you can explore a new Chinese province on your plate?
Blue Ribbon Sushi
We miss Eastern Standard as much as the next person, but we also celebrate the further augmentation of our city’s sushi scene. The maki at Blue Ribbon Sushi is plentiful, but this is one of those times when you’re probably eating around the maki menu. Start with sushi bar specials like the fluke Usuzukuri, then go deep on the sushi and sashimi menu, which is divided between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Now’s your chance to sample amberjack and salt water eel in the same sitting. And yes, the sake menu is terrific, but that means tearing yourself away from the Japanese whiskey list.
A long-cursed space on Upper Newbury has finally found its groove. Eva’s two floors (two bars!) and expansive patio have been attracting packed crowds since the restaurant’s debut. The menu is designed to please every palate: creamy garlic mussels, tomato soup, Cobb salad, brick oven pizzas, and comfort entrees like chicken Milanese and shrimp scampi. The cocktails are inventive and potent, the brunch menu extensive (hello, dulce de leche pancakes), and the mood convivial, to say the least.
The Wig Shop
It’s been an amazing time for new bar openings, but we’re including Wig Shop on this list because of the accompanying food menu. And have we mentioned it’s from the JM Curley team? The space has indeed been a former wig store, but the menu is all class: oysters with caviar, king salmon crudo, pork belly tacos, and lobster pancakes, with beignets for dessert. These are, of course, mere accompaniments to the incredible cocktail program, which runs the gamut from the classics (martini tray service!) to the outré (the Rise & Grind is an elixir of Old Monk 7 year rum, “mustach flex” cold brew, borghetti, cinnamon-demerara, heavy whip, chocolate covered pretzel, and sea salt).
We firmly believe the city can never have too many French brasseries, and Batifol is a further case in point. The classic day-and-night menu is accompanied by craft cocktails and an excellent wine list, all contained inside a banquette-d interior. It’s truly everything you desire in a brasserie menu: oysters, escargots, nicoise salad, moules frites, coq au vin, steak frites—you get the delicious idea.
This appointment dining for sure, but with a dining room this sumptuous, you’ll quickly relinquish your credit card. Chef Stephen Bukoff takes some inspiration from his Italian grandmother, thus the Nonna’s Kitchen section of the menu (hello, spaghetti pie!). But he’s gone much farther: There’s also a crispy eggplant Milanese and a prosciutto sandwich with truffle. Brunch is a mix of American classics and surprises like carbonara Benedict and lobster cannoli (don’t worry; it’s savory).
Irish pubs are a dime a dozen ‘round these parts, but how often do we talk about the cuisine more than the perfectly poured Guinness? Chef and owner Aidan McGee, an Ireland native, is changing the narrative, with a spot that celebrates authentic Irish cooking. There are dishes you expect—lamb shepherd’s pie, fish & chips, Irish stew—and dishes you don’t: house-smoked salmon, a bone-in curried bacon loin, and a roasted pork for two. That smoked salmon also makes an appearance on the brunch menu, which includes a full Irish breakfast.
Chef and owner Shi Mei has brought an intimate—like, incredibly intimate—dining experience to Southie with accessible fine American cuisine from a chef who’s cooked in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and the French Laundry in California and local spots like Asta and Mida. The five-course, prix-fixe menu lets you settle in for a meal that feels more like a dinner party: incredible dishes like sweet pea custard, Rohan duck leg confit, and agnolotti with ricotta and preserved Meyer lemon. All menus are also available in vegetarian form. And no one can resist a BYOB opportunity, especially when it’s one of the very few in the city.
Step into Union Square’s Celeste and you’ll worry you’ve crashed someone’s private dinner party—the conviviality is that striking. Now you can enjoy a similar level of hospitality in the newest space from chef JuanMa Calderón and partner Maria Rondeau, who have opened a restaurant in their own Cambridge neighborhood. The restaurant’s two small dining rooms dish out gorgeous Peruvian fare: ceviche, seared duck, grilled whole branzino in plantain leaves, and steamed mussels in a wild mushroom broth. Add in pisco sours and a distinct supper club vibe, and you have your new favorite date-night spot.
Faccia a Faccia
It’s not as if Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette were resting on their laurels—they just, you know, have a lot of deliciousness going on. But the twin restaurateurs have opened their first joint endeavor in six years, and we’re rejoicing. This Newbury Street coastal Italian restaurant focuses on seasonal dishes that draw inspiration from Liguria, Sicily, and Sardinia. So the menu features a whole bunch of crudo, burrata, grilled octopus, homemade pastas, and chicken Milanese. But wait, there’s more: Down below is a natural wine bar called Bar Pallino that’s inspired by today’s subterranean Paris wine bars.
The Charles Hotel’s dining has gotten a whole lot more interesting as chef Mark Ladner, of the famed NYC restaurant Del Posto, has returned to his roots after beginning his career cooking at a small Harvard Square restaurant. This Italian destination features impeccably sourced meat and seafood, housemade pastas, and farm-fresh vegetable dishes that use produce from the Harvard Square farmers market located just outside the hotel’s entrance. It’s a smorgasbord of indulgent pleasures: linguine in white clam sauce, pork alla Milanese, chicken breast paillard, and for us the star: shake and bake hake. A terrific lineup of traditional cocktails, including many sparkling options, just seals the deal.
Chef Karen Akunowicz just can’t stop, won’t stop. Her latest South Boston venture is located just a few blocks down from her famed Fox & the Knife and lures in her loyalists with Southern Italian cooking. It’s all about wood-fired seafood, rotisserie chicken, vegetable-centric entrees (peppers, artichokes, and eggplants in particular), and as expected, more housemade pasta, which you’ll also be able to buy in the restaurant’s pastificio (or pasta shop). Start with divine Negronis before moving on to the extensive Italian wine list.
Bluebird Bar & Wood-Fired Grill
David Sardella and Patrick Sullivan—veterans of beloved spots like Brick and Mortar, East Coast Grill, and B-Side Lounge—have brought us a hangout spot that’s quickly becoming a new classic. Skewers are the first star at this neighborhood bar with wood-fired dishes, and options include steak, shrimp, swordfish, and more complemented with accompaniments like mushrooms and roasted potatoes. From there you could go for a larger meal like the half chicken or the bone-in ribeye or simply check out the expansive cocktail menu of both classics and creative elixirs, plus aperitifs and wines by the glass.
A Parisian bistro brought to us by a husband-and-wife team born and raised in France? Cue the stampede of local Francophiles. Antoine and Anaïs Lambert cut their teeth at local spots like Petit Robert, Frenchie, and Colette Wine Bistro before opening their first restaurant in the former Hsin Hsin Cafe space. Quiches and steak frites are absolutely represented, but don’t expect a strictly old-school menu. Instead, get excited about dishes that feature Vietnamese and North African influences: banh mi, roast chicken with fried plantains, and a crepe with ras al hanout and piri piri sauce. The space is open for breakfast, brunch, and dinner and has finally obtained its liquor license, which means cocktails, beer, and beautiful wines by the glass.
This rooftop oasis perched atop The Newbury Boston is the cherry on top of the city’s most exciting vertical suite of luxurious offerings. From hospitality company Major Food Group, Contessa is a 4,000-square-foot grand trattoria space, luxuriously appointed in Art Deco details that almost—almost—pull you away from the sweeping skyline views. The Italian menu invites you to dine on prosciutto from five different regions, tortellini en brodo, pizzas, and dry-aged bistecca fiorentina. Start with a spritz, move onto a Negroni or martini, and revel in an evening spent with your head literally in the clouds. Just plan ahead, because this is the most coveted reservation in the city; the lunch menu may be your best bet.
Will Gilson’s Gepetto actually made its initial appearance during the pandemic way back in January 2021, teasing us with the kind of takeout we craved: half pans of Sicilian pizza, fried artichokes, kitchen sink lasagna, and braised pork sugo. But the “Italian-ish” spot has now formally opened to bring us creative, seasonally driven pastas, proteins, and salads in a moody yet inviting 65-seat space. On the menu, expect scallop crudo, fried mozzarella, and homemade pasta dishes like spinach tagliatelle and hand-cut porcini pappardelle. And for those with bigger appetites, you can split hearty plates like pork chop milanese and the grilled grass-fed ribeye.
“New England izakaya” is not a restaurant genre we see every day—which makes us all the more into this spot from wife-and-husband duo Kim Vo and Lukas Dow. The menu provides a Japanese twist on local catches like lobster, clams, and quahogs as Dow is an accomplished fisherman, and all the bites are designed to be shared. Meantime, the bar menu spotlights sake and soju along with cocktails, beer, and wine.
“Vegan pub fare” sounds like a clear contradiction in terms, but celebrated chef Mary Dumont has pulled off the seemingly impossible: comfort fare that’s entirely plant-based. The spot has reimagined all your game-day faves: buffalo wings, loaded nachos, pepperoni pizza, burgers. Yep, they’re all completely vegan (tofu and cauliflower are doing a lot of the work here), complemented by a vegan wine list and craft beers, including some nonalcoholic options. Little wonder that a second outlet has already opened in Fenway.
The Winsor House
We may have all wept when the Kenmore Square Island Creek Oyster Bar closed, but the ICO team had another trick up their sleeve reimagining an early-1800s space to celebrate all things aquaculture. Besides the expected raw bar offerings and caviar, you’ll spend multiple visits noshing your way through tuna and beef tartare, fried oyster sliders, halibut poached in brown butter, whole grilled striped bass, and the Winsor House Float Dinner: shrimp, clams, smoked sausage, corn, potato, onion, and all the sauces. The bar program focuses on rums and barrel-aged cocktails, and all the wines—many natural—pair well with oysters.
Owner Jason Doo wants you to have fun in a two-floor Harvard Square space slinging potent cocktails and American-Chinese small plates. Bring a posse because you’ll want to order everything. Peking ravioli, house fried rice, veggie lo mein, dan-dan ragu, and spam musubi—order it all, you really can’t go wrong. Drinks-wise, definitely go for the classics like a Mai Tai or a Zombie.