Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Boston Right Now

Published On 10/09/2017 Published On 10/09/2017
JAMES ROSE
Alden & Harlow

Alden & Harlow

West Cambridge

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.

Fawn Deviney

Branch Line

Watertown

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.

Michael Piazza Photography

Craigie on Main

Central Square

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.

Flickr/Matthew Mendoza

Giulia

Harvard Square

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.

Hojoko

Hojoko

Fenway-Kenmore

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.

Michael Piazza Photography

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Somerville

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.

Flickr/justinliew

L'Espalier

Back Bay

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.

Sarma

Sarma

Somerville

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?

James Rose

Select Oyster Bar

Back Bay

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.

Shepard

Shepard

Harvard Square

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.

The Tasting Counter

Tasting Counter

Somerville

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.

Townsman

Townsman

Downtown Crossing

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'.”

Uni Sashimi Bar

UNI

Back Bay

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.

Worden Hall

Worden Hall

South Boston

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.

Nina Gallant

Yvonne's

Downtown Crossing

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.

Mike Diskin

Tiger Mama

Fenway-Kenmore

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.

Morgan Ione Yeager

SRV

South End

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.

Brassica Kitchen

Brassica Kitchen + Cafe

Jamaica Plain

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.

Ren Fuller

The Table at Season to Taste

North Cambridge

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.

Huge Galdones Photography

Waypoint

Harvard Square

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.

Courtesy of Banyan Bar and Refuge

Banyan Bar + Refuge

South End

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).

Courtesy of Saltie Girl

Saltie Girl

Back Bay

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.

Courtesy of Fat Hen

Fat Hen

Somerville

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.

Good Life Production

The Smoke Shop BBQ

East Cambridge

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.

Pabu Izakaya

PABU Boston

Downtown Crossing

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.

PAGU

PAGU

Central Square

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").

Zac Wolf

A4cade

Cambridge

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.

Maria DeNapoli

Buttermilk & Bourbon

Back Bay

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.

The New East Coast Grill

East Coast Grill

Cambridge

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.

Jose Luis Martinez

Mida

South End

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).

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1. Alden & Harlow 40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Alden & Harlow, located in Harvard Square, is serving inventive American cuisine from a constantly changing menu. Aside from unique small plates like chicken-fried rabbit and pickled corn pancakes, the kitchen makes an understated but decadent burger, simply dressed with shredded lettuce, a secret sauce, and a crisp frico. The semi-secret burger is available in limited quantities, so don't be surprised to see people lining up at 5pm for it.

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2. Branch Line 321 Arsenal St, Watertown, MA 02472

Located within the historic Watertown Arsenal, chic bistro-like restaurant serves up a truly fantastic roast chicken that, once you try it, you'll be jonesing for it on the regular. The "Green Circle" rotisserie is served in its baking pan with green garlic sprinkled over top and warm pan jus-- get half or the whole bird depending on how much you're willing to share. Vegetable crudite (salted avocado; warm cucumber) are stand outs on the Mediterranean influenced menu. Warm up on the heated patio till Branch Line's on-site bocce court opens in Spring.

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3. Craigie on Main 853 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Chef and owner Tony Maws' Craigie on Main serves French-accented bistro food in Central Square. The à la carte and tasting menus are constantly changing with exciting new dishes, but one signature remains: The Burger. The half-pound patty blends brisket, short rib, bone marrow, and suet into one unforgettable burger that reached peak food fame when it graced the cover of Bon Appétit.

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4. Giulia 1682 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

This 70-seat trattoria in Cambridge is a diamond in the rough, forgotten stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter. Former Via Matta chef Michael Pagliarini spends hours each day rolling out his handmade doughs at the restaurant's centerpiece pasta table, and the resulting ravioli, fusilli, and pappardelle truly taste like they were made hours earlier. At night, the table transforms from a workspace to a communal dining table that serves family-style tasting meals.

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5. Hojoko 1271 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215

Located in Fenway's swanky Verb Hotel, comic-inspired Hojoko serves up Japanese fare with pub style -- over a game of pacman or galaga on an old-school arcade machine (which you'll probably use as your table) you can feast on big servings of King crab over spicy mayo, roll after roll of spicy sushi, eastern-style burgers like the Dogzilla, and pitchers galore of Sapporo or, even better, sake shots.

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6. The Kirkland Tap & Trotter 425 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

Tony Maws' Somerville gastropub is more laid-back than its upscale sibling, Craigie on Main, but the food is just as good. Inspired by English neighborhood pubs, KT&T wants to be the kind of place you can go every night of the week, so it serves an American comfort menu that will have you begging for more. Both brunch and dinner are a meat-lover's paradise, and the kind of amazing grass-fed cheeseburger is available on both menus.

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7. L'Espalier 774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

Adjacent to the Back Bay Mandarin Oriental, L'Espalier goes above and beyond standard hotel restaurant fare with some of the most inventive French food in Boston. This is dining at its most hospitable, with an impressive waitstaff catering to four separate dining rooms daily. Dinner service is prix-fixe only, and you can choose between a three-course menu, a six-course degustation menu, or a chef's tasting. A more casual Ă  la carte menu is offered at lunch, but the cuisine -- French crafted with New England ingredients -- is the same.

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8. Sarma 249 Pearl St, Somerville, MA 02145

Sarma is a local Mediterranean restaurant and bar that is modeled after the traditional meyhanes of Turkey. It's menu is designed to be shared, featuring small seasonal plates that are full of spices and herbs, as well as a variety of cocktails, wines, and craft beers to choose from. The atmosphere is cozy and inviting, making Sarma a great place to catch up with friends or entertain a date over some meze.

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9. SELECT Oyster Bar 50 Gloucester St, Boston, MA 02115

Michael Serpa, formerly of Neptune Oyster, is behind this Back Bay seafood restaurant in a brick townhouse. Select is a seafood lover's paradise that produces daily ceviche, crudo, and grilled fish mains. If you're dining with a group, indulge in one of the platters that features lobster, Island Creek oysters, Littleneck Clams, and prawns. The space is snug with around 30-seats, and the best seats are definitely at the bar.

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10. Shepard 1 Shepard St, Cambridge, 02138

This neighborhood restaurant on Harvard Square is a farm-fresh destination that changes its menu depending on the availability of local and seasonal goods. The food is vaguely French, though it wouldn't be a New England restaurant without a fine selection of seafood either. That said, Shepard's oven-roasted chicken is primal and perfect, served on a wood slab with the head and feet still attached.

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11. Tasting Counter 14 Tyler St, Somerville, MA 02143

Once you buy your way into Chef Peter Ungár’s Sommerville 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. 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 advanced payment removes the financial component from the actual experience, allowing diners to focus on the unique and modern American cuisine they came for.

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12. Townsman 120 Kingston St, Boston, MA 02111

This stylish New England brasserie dazzles with dishes like crunchy chicken-fried sweetbreads and Bang’s Island mussels: a smoldering cauldron of garlicky chorizo verde broth and a colossal hunk of bread for dipping/mopping. Bring a friend and take on the 32oz rib steak for two, cranked up with chimichurri and served alongside hambone collards and spiced frites.

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13. UNI Sashimi Bar 370 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

Ken Oringer's crown jewel of a sashimi bar made a name for itself when it was tucked into Clio, the Back Bay French restaurant that used to occupy the Eliot Hotel. Once Clio closed, Uni expanded into the entire space. Aside from stunning raw fish dishes, the restaurant serves adventurous hot plates and a late-night ramen menu. All the fish is sourced from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market or New England fishermen.

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14. Worden Hall 22 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127

Located in South Boston, this energetic eatery supplies an ever-changing menu of both modern American cuisine and craft beers, along with an impressive selection of whiskey and cocktails. Alongside dinner standards -- like the flat iron steak, Faroe Island salmon, and roast chicken -- Worden Hall shakes things up with a Midwest-inspired soppressata and garlic sausage deep-dish pizza, roasted vegetable strudel, and strawberry/rhubarb ice cream sandwich.

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15. Yvonne's Supper Club 2 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108

This restaurant and bar in Downtown Crossing features a grand collection of chandeliers, Victorian patterned wallpaper, plush velvet and polished leather booths that will have you weak in the knees. And that's before the food even arrives at your table, which you'll want to pack with your entire entourage because sharing's the name of the game at Yvonne's. You can split a plate of grilled octopus, beef matambre, or quinoa meatballs, but that doesn't mean you'll have to share your handcrafted cocktail (that is, unless you spring for a spiked punch bowl).

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16. Tiger Mama 1363 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215

We’ll follow Tiffani Faison anywhere, but thankfully she skipped right down the street with Tiger Mama, her follow-up to Sweet Cheeks. A haven for neon lights, punchy tiki cocktails, and umami flavor, it's a 180-degree turn from her down-home 'Q sanctum. The menu explores all manners of spicy Southeast Asian food, from crispy chili potatoes to Singapore street noodles and lamb roti. The family-style dishes implore you to come with a crowd that's willing to share and order most items on the menu. The only thing you shouldn’t eat? The herbs growing on the vertical indoor garden.

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17. SRV 569 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118

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-slash-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.

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18. Brassica Kitchen + Cafe 3710 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

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.

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19. The Table at Season To Taste 2447 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

Cambridge native Carl Dooley spent his formative years training under multiple James Beard Award-winning chefs, and now the Top Chef alum is manning the kitchen at this intimate, 20-seat restaurant inside Season To Taste catering. The prix-fixe menu features four courses, and though they're always changing, you're likely to find a mix of seafood, vegetables, and meat dishes vaguely inspired by French cooking.

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20. Waypoint 1030 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Cambridge’s Waypoint could have exceeded our expectations with its beverage program alone, but even 20 types of absinthe along with rum, mezcal, agave, sherry, and gin stand second to the coastal-inspired seafood menu. The raw bar is complete with such maritime gems as smoked and salted peel-n-eat shrimp, while hot dishes include pizza, pasta, roasts, and small plates. Seafood is incorporated in unconventional ways wherever possible, from the squid ink bread and smoked whitefish pizza to the fish-shaped neon signs that decorate Waypoint’s walls.

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21. Banyan Bar + Refuge 553 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

From the team behind The Gallows and Blackbird Donuts (so you know it's good), the South End's Banyan Bar + Refuge is an eclectic Asian gastropub with enormous tree-branch light fixtures on its ceiling and tasty oddities like scallop rangoon dip, mapo frito pie, pastrami fried rice, and fried cornish game hen on its menu. Banyan's craft cocktails and their clever names are equally intriguing, such as the Svelte Sumo (vodka, sake, lemon, cucumber), Sad Panda (gin, watermelon, aloe, lime), and Dharma Chameleon (shiso-infused gin, burnt cinnamon, lemon).

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22. Saltie Girl 281 Dartmouth St., Boston, MA 02116

A tiny, nautical raw bar in Back Bay, Saltie Girl strikes a lovely balance of seafood standbys like clam chowder and lobster rolls with unexpected treats including uni benedict, torched salmon belly, and fried lobster & waffles. Tinned fish like Siberian caviar, octopus, eel, and cod liver are among the sustainably sourced delicacies here, too. Though there are a handful of wooden booths along the sea-foam wall, you'll want to nab a seat at the colorful bar to watch your dish be assembled in real time -- and so you can explore a wine menu that includes seven rosés by the glass.

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23. Fat Hen , Somerville, MA 02145

Located in the old market space next to La Brasa, Fat Hen is an upscale Italian with an attention to detail that's obvious in everything from the carrot-salted butter that accompanies the bread basket to the beautifully blended aperitivo cocktails. Expect creative dishes like tortellini with lemon ricotta and rigatoni with rabbit sausage, and don't forget to order dessert -- caramel gelato affogato, anyone?

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24. Smoke Shop BBQ 1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge, MA 02139

Toto, I don't think we're in Massachusetts anymore. World Barbeque Champion Chef Andy Husbands brought his love for the art of Texas-style bbq to East Cambridge in the form of this modern smoke shop, where chicken, sausage-links, ribs, burnt ends, and pulled pork are rubbed down in seasoning, slow-cooked, and slathered in sauce. Traditional deep-South sides like collard greens, cornbread, and coleslaw joint the mix alongside a whopping 100-plus collection of whiskeys.