In life, there are no four-game suspensions -- which is to say, the time to eat is now. And while there’s plenty to do in Boston this winter, there are also plenty of things you need to eat. (But not all at once.) From secret burgers to classic roast chicken, here are 50 unforgettable vittles that’ll give you that extra winter padding you’re soon gonna need.
1. Secret Burger
Craigie on MainAddress and Info
This one’s a no brainer. Chef Tony Maws’ masterpiece half-pound patty unites many choice cuts (brisket, short rib), bone marrow, and suet into one unforgettable burger. Remember: it’s in limited supply (only 18 per night) and only available at the bar, so go early to get your fix.
2. Boston cream pie
Omni Parker HouseAddress and Info
One of our gifts to the culinary world, Boston cream pie is a Parker House original, and its chocolate-covered, pastry cream-filled goodness has been a crowd-pleaser since 1856. That’s a pretty good run.
3. Lobster roll
Neptune OysterAddress and Info
According to experts, Neptune’s lobster roll reigns supreme throughout New England, but you need to taste it for yourself. The hot butter option is the way to go, and it has tail, claw, and knuckle meat loaded onto a toasted brioche bun.
Tenoch MexicanAddress and Info
Medford Square/Davis Square/North End
Tortas usually get shafted in favor of burritos and tacos, but brothers Alvaro and Andres Sandoval know better. They’ve brought the crusty telere sandwiches front and center, piled high with your choice of meat (we say, carnitas all the way), beans, chipotle mayo, pickled onions, avocado, and melted Oaxaca cheese. Muy addictive.
5. Italian cheese pizza
Santarpio’s PizzaAddress and Info
Chelsea and Peabody
Beloved Santarpio’s has many fans, and for one great reason… its pies are tasty. Chewy crust: check. Melty Italian cheese: check. Even its straight-up basic flagship pizza (still only $9.50) is out-of-this-world good, and then you can add toppings. (We recommend hot peppers and sausage.)
6. Roast Beef 1000
Cutty’sAddress and Info
There are roast beef sandwiches and there are roast beef sandwiches, and you really can’t go wrong with any roast beef sandwich. However, Cutty’s Roast Beef 1000 defines “special” with its house-roasted meat, crispy shallots, and sharp cheddar drizzled with Thousand Island dressing on a brioche. Yeah, that just happened.
7. Baked Alaska
OleanaAddress and Info
From the first sight of the sculpted and toasted meringue to the last bite of chewy coconut graham cracker macaroon crust, Oleana’s baked Alaska transcends. And then there’s the house-made coconut ice cream with passion fruit caramel sauce tying the whole thing together. Note: could be habit-forming.
8. Fried chicken
The Coast CaféAddress and Info
The Coast Café crew makes some of the best soul food ever, and their fried chicken is off the chi-zain. (Even our Southern comfort food expert thinks so.) The chicken is artfully battered and fried for maximum crunchiness while maintaining maximum chicken juiciness. It’s the real deal.
9. The Double Awesome
Mei MeiAddress and Info
Audubon Circle, roaming food truck
Within seconds of its debut from Mei Mei’s food truck, The Double Awesome became Boston’s sandwich obsession. The quirky combo of cheddar, two soft eggs, and local greens & pesto wrapped in a scallion pancake catches you by surprise, then you catch yourself ordering another one.
Yume Wo KatareAddress and Info
Besides being one of the friendliest places around, Yume Wo Katare keeps everyone smiling with its slurp-alicious ramen… even if you have to wait in that really long line. There are only two options, pork and extra pork (+$2), and both are swimming in Yume’s signature Jiro-style broth that’s been slow-simmered for 24 hours… with more pork.
Sweet CheeksAddress and Info
Available by the bucket, these are the best biscuits you’ll have north of the Mason-Dixon line, and possibly south of it as well. (Again, our Southern food expert agrees.) They’re everything you want in a biscuit: substantially sized; flaky, yet soft; and oh-so buttery. And then you get to spread on more house-made honey butter.
12. Any burger
R.F. O’Sullivan & SonAddress and Info
Somerville and Lynn
The R.F. O’Sullivan team is serious about their burgers, and it takes them 20+ minutes to prep and cook each half-pound patty to order. And your patience will be rewarded. They have many different combos, so pick your preferred toppers and enjoy the ride. Along with being satisfying, these mega-burgers are also wicked-cheap and max out under $11.
13. 100-day aged prime ribeye
Grill 23Address and Info
Weighing in at a whopping 18oz, Grill 23’s 100-day aged prime ribeye hits all the right notes: a deftly charred salty crust, deep/rich flavor, and tender “you can cut it with a fork” meat. For serious carnivores, it really doesn’t get any better than this.
Modern PastryAddress and Info
While there are many fine pastry shops in the North End, everyone knows that Modern’s cannoli are the best. The crispy-yet-chewy shell gently hugs house-made ricotta cream, and Modern has different flavors and toppings (i.e., chocolate). Since they’re only $3, you might as well try a few. You know, for science.
15. Roast chicken
ShepardAddress and Info
Hamersley’s closed and we all wept over the roast chicken loss. Then Shepard opened and we all wept with joy over the best new roast chicken in town. Moist and crispy at the same time, the oven-roasted bird comes plated on a wood slab, the head and feet still attached. Primal and perfect.
16. Lobster sandwich
Alive & Kicking LobstersAddress and Info
Another favorite of our lobster roll experts, the lobster sandwich at Alive & Kicking sets the bar high with its lightly dressed meat-centric salad nestled between two pieces of toasted scali bread. Every bite starts with a pleasing crunch and ends with extra-pleasing fresh-catch lobster. Yep.
17. Grandma’s Beijing meat sauce over spaghetti
Dumpling DaughterAddress and Info
When restaurant royalty opens up a new venture, you check it out. Even if it’s in Weston. Nadia Liu Spellman, the daughter of famed Sally Ling’s owners Sally Ling and Edward Nan Liu, debuted her modest dumpling outpost a few years ago to a near-instant cult following. And yes, the dumplings are divine, but what keeps us returning are the simple noodles topped with a simply divine meat sauce, one of those dishes you used to see on every Chinese menu in town but has since faded away. Spellman gets us.
18. Secret Burger
Alden & HarlowAddress and Info
Move over, Craigie on Main -- there’s a new secret burger in town. OK, fine, the city’s big enough for two preeminent and clandestine patties, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. This one is simply dressed with shredded lettuce, a secret sauce, and a crisp frico, with gourmet chips on the side. Just be prepared for an actual Hunger Games battle: People line up ahead of the restaurant’s 5pm opening to get their mitts on this limited-edition order.
19. Rumanian pastrami
Sam LaGrassa’sAddress and Info
Boston institution Sam LaGrassa’s is the king of giant sandwiches, and nothing beats its famous Rumanian pastrami. The house-made, dry-cured beef is definitely where it’s at -- seasoned then smoked before being piled high on light rye bread and crowned with Swiss.
20. New England clam chowder
Legal Sea FoodsAddress and Info
Theatre District (& Other Locations)
There’s a reason why Legal’s chowder has been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981: it’s delicious. And it’s got everything you want: salt pork, littleneck clams, onions, and potatoes hanging out in clam broth, fish stock, and light cream.
21. The Giambotta
Pizzeria ReginaAddress and Info
North End (& Other Locations)
It’s like the original meat lover’s pizza before there were meat lover’s pizzas. Pizzeria Regina weighs down The Giambotta with all your Italian faves (pepperoni, Regina sausage, salami) then adds mushrooms, peppers, onions, and mozzarella for good measure. Pro tip: go really old-school classic with anchovies on this one-of-a-kind pie.
22. Roast rack of Colorado lamb
MistralAddress and Info
One of Mistral’s best-known dishes, the roast rack of Colorado lamb, gets you from the first superbly grilled nibble straight through until you’re caught trying to suck the meat off the bone without being noticed. Suddenly the well-seasoned juices take over your brain and you attack your plate like a honey badger.
23. Fried Kumamoto oyster
O YaAddress and Info
Everyone loves a great fried oyster, and O Ya takes things to the next level with its well-composed Kumamotos. Chef Tim Cushman carefully sets a golden brown oyster on sushi rice wrapped in seaweed, then tops it with yuzu kosho aioli and froth of squid ink bubbles… so you get salt, crunch, tartness, and spice in one bite. Better get a couple of orders.
24. Crispy cod and chips
Matt Murphy’s PubAddress and Info
There are many fine fish & chip plates around Boston, but Matt Murphy’s has been the standard-bearer for a long time. The not-too-heavy batter complements the delicate flakiness of the cod, while pickled onions and malt vinegar put a bit of zip into the mix. Plus, it comes wrapped in newspaper, so you know it’s legit.
25. Chickpea fritter
CloverAddress and Info
It’s the sandwich that launched a vegan empire, and it’s proof that if you make the classics well, you’ll still bring the crowds. Plus, the thing is healthy as hell: a whole wheat pita, oil-free homemade hummus, Israeli salad, pickled veggies, and a few gluten-free fritters topped with tahini. Under 500 calories and yet thoroughly satiating.
26. Crepa de Cuitlacoche
Tu Y YoAddress and Info
Powder House Square
Tu Y Yo cranks out majorly authentic Mexican delicacies, and its Crepa de Cuitlacoche is a signature showstopper. Cuitlacoche, a fungus-turned-delicacy, gets folded into a soft crepe with onions, corn, and cheese for a distinct earthiness balanced by some sweetness. And also some heat, courtesy of the completely addictive poblano pepper sauce.
27. New York strip
Bogie’s PlaceAddress and Info
If Ron Swanson lived in Boston, he would eat at Bogie’s Place because it’s for “Adults Only” and it has a killer New York strip. The 12oz steak is dry-aged for 30 days to deepen the flavor, then seasoned before searing to get that savory salt/pepper crust. “Give me all the New York strips you have.”
Mr. Bartley’sAddress and Info
Voted one of the best burgers in America so many times, Bartley’s ample patties should be on every Bostonian's training table. Each half-pounder is handmade to order and served on a lightly toasted bun. Simple, yet effective.The basic setup totally rules, or you can go for one of its cheeky combos like The Viagra with blue cheese dressing (get it?) and bacon.
29. Maple bacon donut
Union Square DonutsAddress and Info
Another city-wide obsession, the maple bacon craziness at Union Square Donuts is a game-changer. The tire-sized donut is glazed with maple and bedazzled with substantial pieces of bacon. It’s a complete breakfast, in donut form.
30. Mexican chocolate
Taza ChocolateAddress and Info
The Taza team hand-carves their own granite millstones to produce these authentic (and organic) Mexican-style chocolate discs. So there’s that. The chocolates have a rustic texture, derived from said milling, and come in a variety of must-have flavors such as the hearty 85% Super Dark and Guajillo Chili.
31. Fenway frank
Fenway ParkAddress and Info
C’mon, you know they’re delicious.
32. Italian grinder
CoppaAddress and Info
Located on the appetizers menu (umm?), this super-sized sammy comes fully loaded with house-cured salami, prosciutto, and mortadella, then finished off with provolone, pickled cherry peppers, oil, and vinegar. It takes two hands to control it, and you’ll have a hard time controlling yourself once you taste the savory deli meats.
ChacareroAddress and Info
Unless you’re actually in Chile, you won’t find a better version of the country’s signature sandwich. House-made bread is stuffed with tender grilled steak or chicken (or both), Muenster cheese, steamed green beans, tomatoes, avocado spread, and some secret mojo for a crazy combo like no other.
34. Toasted Fluff Cone
Gracie’s Ice CreamAddress and Info
Yes, we’re picking the cone over any one of Gracie’s unique homemade ice cream orders. This is partly because it’s too damn hard to pick a favorite flavor (although salted whiskey is a frontrunner), but it’s also because any order is elevated by Gracie’s signature cone. It’s a classic sugar cone dipped in fluff and then lightly torched. In other words, you’re eating ice cream on top of a s’more. We probably don’t need to say anything else.
35. Lobster tail
Mike’s PastryAddress and Info
North End and Harvard Square
Also known by its Italian name la sfogliatella, this beauty has a giant flaky pastry shell on the outside, and a cavern of white fresh cream filling on the inside. Both light and rich, Mike’s lobster tail is a not-to-be-missed morsel. Note: this one’s a whopper, so share.
36. Atomic Meatloaf Meltdown
All Star Sandwich BarAddress and Info
If you like major heat, this scorching sammy from All Star is exactly what you need. Inner Beauty Hot Sauce sets fire to the grilled house meatloaf, Jack cheese, and red onion jam while the grilled sourdough keeps the flames from spreading. It hurts so good.
37. Slice of cheese pizza
Galleria UmbertoAddress and Info
For one of the best Sicilian pies on this side of the pond, look no further than the North End’s tiny Galleria Umberto. It bakes its sheet pizzas until the crust AND the cheese both get nice and brown, and a slice will only set you back $1.55. Seriously.
38. Crispy oyster slider
Island Creek Oyster BarAddress and Info
Every trip to ICOB requires a tray full of its mightiest app: crispy oyster sliders. Salty bivalves get dunked in light batter, fried golden brown, perched on a brioche roll, and sauced with lime chile aioli. It’s like your birthday, but in sandwich form. (And they’re priced to sell at $4 each.)
39. Osso bucco
Mamma MariaAddress and Info
Mamma Maria knows how to take care of you… in that “mangia, mangia!” Northern Italian mom kind of way. And the stick-to-your-ribs osso bucco, a hulking veal shank, is evidence of that. The fork-tender meat is prepared in the classic style and served with creamy saffron risotto milanese.
40. Prime bone-in ribeye
Boston ChopsAddress and Info
Boston Chops’ 18oz prime bone-in ribeye is a serious man’s steak, cooked to order in a cast-iron skillet with butter, garlic, and spices (like rosemary). It’s pure meat decadence. ‘Nuff said.
41. Taco al pastor
Angela’s CaféAddress and Info
Anyone who is really into tacos needs to experience the authentic Poblana cuisine made in Angela Lopez’s kitchen, particularly the taco al pastor. The pork is marinated in adobo sauce and slow-roasted for maximum flavor. Then Angela adds diced pineapple, cilantro, and onions for maximum freshness. As our taco expert noted, “It’s just not fair how special the food is there.”
42. Egg sandwich
Sofra Bakery and CaféAddress and Info
You’ll never look at a McGriddle again after you’ve had the egg sandwich at Sofra. This is not your average breakfast sammy, as it’s heavy on the exotic: spiced feta butter, halloumi cheese, and bacon on house-made brioche. It’s why the phrase “good morning” exists.
43. Sticky bun
Flour BakeryAddress and Info
Fort Point Channel (& Other Locations)
Even Bobby Flay couldn’t beat these treats. Joanne Chang starts her ultra-famous sticky buns with traditional yeasted French brioche dough, and finishes the cinnamon sugar/toasted pecan goodness in a pan filled with brown sugar glaze. The extra caramelization shows the extra love.
Helmand RestaurantAddress and Info
You won’t believe your taste buds after trying Helmand’s exotic kaddo for the first time. The crew pan fries and bakes a sugar-coated slice of baby pumpkin, tops it with zesty ground-beef sauce, and serves it on tart garlic yogurt. Those things don’t sound like they go together… AT ALL. But they do. Oh, they do.
45. Lobster pot pie
Stephanie’s on NewburyAddress and Info
Chef/Owner Stephanie Sokolove might be the Empress of Salads, but her lobster pot pie is a total game-changer. Fresh Maine lobster goes swimming in a crock of savory broth with pearl onions, peas, corn, potatoes, and carrots, and a sage crust blanket keeps everything nice and warm. (You’re welcome.)
46. Henry’s Soup
MarliaveAddress and Info
This ain’t your daddy’s French onion soup. No offense to your dad, or his French onion soup. It’s just that Marliave’s high-end version contains short ribs. Short ribs, people.
47. Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija
ToroAddress and Info
In simpler terms, it’s grilled Mexican street corn, and it’s one of those dishes you’ll want to order before you even sit down. The key is the garlic aioli in lieu of a more traditional crema, or butter. That stuff clings to the corn so completely you get fat and salt in every bite. Add Cotija cheese, Espelette, and a squirt of lime juice, and you have a simple yet over-the-top tapas that has kept Toro’s waitlist overflowing for years.
48. Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken Wings
Sichuan Garden IIAddress and Info
Sometimes the celebrated Baldwin Bar overshadows the cuisine of its dining counterpart -- a shame if it prevents umami addicts from tasting one of the most delectable dishes in Greater Boston. The wings are rubbed in chili, garlic, and ginger, double battered, and glazed with a maple Sriracha sauce. It’s heat upon crisp upon heat upon another round of cocktails.
49. Peking ravioli
Mary ChungAddress and Info
A Central Square secret since 1981, Mary Chung’s Peking ravioli (either pan-fried or steamed) are the must-have app at this neighborhood hole in the wall. Tender and chewy, the house dumplings are jammed with pork sausage and come with soy-chili dipping sauce.
50. Full tandoori chicken w/ naan
Punjabi DhabaAddress and Info
Inman’s always-bustling Indian roadside café cranks out authentic fare, and its 24-hour marinated tandoori chicken is the best you’ll find outside the subcontinent. The secret family spice blend sinks deep into the chicken during the roasting process resulting in hearty/earthy flavors and fall-off-the bone meat. (Note: the tandoori action pairs well with Punjabi Dhaba’s other specialty, the thirst-quenching mango lassi.)
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1. Craigie on Main853 Main St, Cambridge
2. Omni Parker House60 School St, Boston
3. Neptune Oyster63 Salem St, Boston
4. Durgin-Park340 Faneuil Hall Market Pl, Boston
5. Santarpio's Pizza111 Chelsea St, Boston
6. Cutty's284 Washington St, Brookline
7. Oleana134 Hampshire St, Cambridge
8. Coast Cafe233 River St, Cambridge
9. Mei Mei506 Park Dr, Boston
10. Yume Wo Katare1923 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
11. Sweet Cheeks1381 Boylston St, Boston
12. R. F. O'Sullivan & Son Pub282 Beacon St, Somerville
13. Grill 23161 Berkeley St, Boston
14. Modern Pastry Shop263 Hanover St, Boston
15. Muqueca Restaurant1008 Cambridge St, Cambridge
16. Alive & Kicking Lobsters269 Putnam Ave, Cambridge
17. Strip T's93 School St, Watertown
18. Itadaki269 Newbury St, Boston
19. Sam LaGrassa's44 Province St, Boston
20. Legal Sea Foods26 Park Plz, Boston
21. Regina Pizzeria11 Thacher St, Boston
22. Mistral223 Columbus Ave, Boston
23. O Ya9 East St, Boston
24. Matt Murphy's Pub14 Harvard St, Brookline Village
25. Toscanini's899 Main St, Cambridge
26. Tu y Yo858 Broadway, Somerville
27. Bogie's Place at JM Curley21 Temple Pl, Boston
28. Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
29. Union Square Donuts16 Bow St, Somerville
30. Fenway Park4 Yawkey Way, Boston
31. Coppa253 Shawmut Ave, Boston
32. Chacarero101 Arch St, Boston
33. Taza Chocolate561 Windsor St, Somerville
34. Mike's Pastry300 Hanover St, Boston
35. All Star Sandwich Bar1245 Cambridge St, Cambridge
36. Galleria Umberto289 Hanover St, Boston
37. Island Creek Oyster Bar500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
38. Mamma Maria3 N Square, Boston
39. Boston Chops1375 Washington St, Boston
40. Angela's Café131 Lexington St, East Boston
41. Sofra Bakery & Cafe1 Belmont St, Cambridge
42. Flour Bakery & Cafe12 Farnsworth St Fl 1, Boston
43. Helmand Restaurant143 1st St, Cambridge
44. Stephanie's On Newbury190 Newbury St, Boston
45. Marliave10 Bosworth St , Boston
46. Bronwyn255 Washington St, Somerville
47. Eagles Deli & Restaurant1918 Beacon St, Boston
48. Mary Chung464 Massachusetts Ave, Boston
49. Punjabi Dhaba225 Hampshire St, Cambridge
50. Tenoch Mexican Taqueria24 Riverside Ave, Medford
51. Shepard1 Shepard St, Cambridge
52. Alden & Harlow40 Brattle St, Cambridge
53. Gracie's Ice Cream22 Union Sq, Somerville
54. Sichuan Garden II2 Alfred St, Woburn
55. Toro1704 Washington St, Boston
56. Clover496 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
57. Dumpling Daughter25 Center St, Weston
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.
Billed as Boston's oldest and most storied hotel, this historic, 551-room landmark opened downtown in 1855 and lays claim to having hosted literature's legendary Saturday Club (Longfellow, Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes), inventing the Boston Cream Pie, and serving as ground zero for JFK's no-doubt-epic bachelor party.
Bivalves are king at Neptune Oyster, a popular seafood counter in the North End. The menu is classically New England but a variety of seafood-based recipes come out of the kitchen, from cioppino and fried Ipswich clams to fish & chips and Basque-peppered Spanish octopus. Served two ways, the lobster roll is an award-winning signature, and though it's prepared the typical way with mayonnaise, the hot butter option is the way to go. Neptune draws hoards of seafood-craving hopefuls to its Salem St. storefront on weekend afternoons and evenings, so be prepared to traverse the neighborhood while you wait for your coveted seat at the marble bar.
Aside, maybe, from the Freedom Trail, it doesn't get much more historic than Durgin-Park in Faneuil Hall. Technically, this restaurant dates back to the pre-revolution days, but it's been operating under its current name and location for around 200 years, so these guys know what they're doing. Fresh local and imported fish makes for the best New England staples (clam chowder, lobster bisque) and bread baked in-house makes for unbeatable burgers and sandwiches. Just beware, Durgin-Park flaunts its history loud and proud, so it's a little touristy.
Santarpio's Pizza has been around since 1903, so when we say “old-school,” we mean it. Much to the dismay of certain Bostonians, Santarpio’s is known for its New York-style pies, whose chewy crusts are thick and crispy enough to bear the weight of the generously distributed Italian cheese and sauce. Keep it simple with a cheese pizza, or get the sausage & garlic pie for a kick of meat. Santarpio's is far from a one-hit wonder though: its skewers of lamb and steak tips make up a solid barbecue option, as does the house-made sausage on its own. The East Boston location is cash-only, so spare yourself a scolding from one of the notoriously cranky serves and head to the ATM beforehand.
Cutty’s is the patron saint of sandwiches. If you're stopping into the Brookline Village shop for breakfast, you have inventive options at your fingertips like a Thai sausage sandwich and an eggs-Benedict-wich, but Cutty’s Egg Sandwich is always a solid choice, composed of eggs whipped with butter, sharp cheddar cheese, and either spicy Sriracha aioli, truffle ketchup, or red-eye mayo on Iggy’s black pepper brioche. For lunch, Cutty's Roast Beef 1000 is the must-order, piled high with house-roasted meat, crispy shallots, and sharp cheddar drizzled with Thousand Island dressing on brioche. Even noted car-driver Guy Fieri approves of the sandwiches here. Whether that makes you want to visit more or less is your prerogative.
At Oleana, Chef Ana Sortun celebrates Eastern Mediterranean cuisine through her exploration of the regional spice pantry. The mezze-style menu pulls inspiration from Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Israel, Lebanon, and the restaurant's own New England locale with dishes like butternut squash borek pastries and Vermont quail kebab. Enjoy your meal à la carte, or leave your dinner in the hands of the chef with the vegetable tasting menu.
If you're craving soul food, make a beeline for Central Square's Coast Cafe, where authentic Southern-style fried chicken, slow-smoked BBQ ribs, and hearty sides like baked mac & cheese and fried plantains are yours for the gorging. The friendly team here serves only lunch and dinner, but the kitchen opens at 11am on Saturdays, making Coast and its chicken & waffles a solid brunch contender. Be prepared to take it with you, as there are only a few seats in this modest counter-serve spot.
Specializing in creative Chinese-American cuisine, Mei Mei is the brick-and-mortar incarnation of the beloved food truck of the same name. The 36-seat space is livened by bright yellow chairs, walls lined with Sriracha, and an open kitchen, where crispy dumplings (and pierogi), dan dan noodles, vegetable-packed curries are made. Stop in during lunch for the Double Awesome, a scallion pancake sandwich made with pesto, cheddar, two eggs, and your choice of protein (cottage bacon, ham or turkey). There’s also a takeout-only menu equipped with late-night items like hot dog & kimchee fried rice, sweet corn fritters, and, naturally, the Double Awesome.
Yume Wo Katare serves ramen, and nothing but ramen. Each bowl is filled with rich and silky broth, a mountain of long noodles, and thick-cut slices of tender pork. The portions are huge, and once you've slurped your last noodle, a waiter will give you a piece of paper to write your life goals, which will then be hung on the wall. The tiny Cambridge spot racks up quite a crowd, so be prepared to wait at peak lunch and dinner hours.
Launched by a former Top Chef contestant, Sweet Cheeks serves heaping trays of exceptional BBQ, including homemade biscuits that are Boston bucket list-worthy. On each tray, you get your choice of succulent meat (pork belly, pulled chicken, chopped brisket), a hot scoop (mac & cheese, collard greens), and a cold scoop (coleslaw, potato salad). It all makes for an extremely filling meal that will comfort your soul, but make sure to save room for a bucket of those flaky biscuits with house-made honey butter. The dining room tends to get noisy thanks to communal tables (they're made of repurposed church doors), so if that's an issue, opt for a spot on the covered beer garden out back.
Sure, this dive has a full menu of pub-style food like fish & chips and rib tips, but what R.F. O'Sullivan truly specializes in is juicy, portion-defying burgers. Each half-pound burger takes upwards of 20 minutes to prep and cook, but your patience will be rewarded. There are a dizzying amount of combos, from the blue cheese Black & Blue (with French fries and onion rings) to the avocado-and-Swiss Cape Codder. Wash it all down with a whipped cream-topped root beer float.
Designed with a multi-floor dining room, enormous traditional columns, and plenty of dark mahogany paneling, Grill 23 provides the ideal setting for sophisticated white-tablecloth dining. The menu offers one of the best steaks in the city: an 18oz, 100-day aged prime ribeye with a charred salty crust. The wine list is equally laudable and includes plenty of options to pair with your savory entrée.
Though there's always hoards of people buzzing outside rival pastry shop Mike's just down the block, real Bostonians know that generations-old Modern is the real winner of the city's best cannoli. At any given time, there's a sizable line for its flaky, deep-fried pastry tubes hugging velvety ricotta, which you can customize with add-ons like chocolate chips, pistachios, and chocolate-dipped shells. Despite the line, this cash-only spot isn't nearly as crazed as Mike's, because guests here form an orderly queue (instead of a swarming crowd) as they ogle at tons of treats like handmade Italian cookies, lobster tails, and cakes in display cases. Pro tip: if you're pressed for time, skip the line and slip inside Modern's next-door cafe that's oft-overlooked -- it serves the same cannoli without the wait.
Check out this Brazilian spot and treat yourself to a steaming pot of their namesake dish -- moqueca. This bubbling seafood stew comes in seven different varieties, everything from a vegetarian Plantain and Tofu number to the Completa -- fish, shrimp, mussels, and optional added calamari.
This no-frills seafood market in Cambridge is known for its lobster sandwich (not roll), as well as its steamers, chowders, and daily fresh-caught fish. Instead of a split-top bun, Alive & Kicking's lobster salad -- a simple mixture dressed in light mayo, salt, and pepper -- is served between two pieces of Italian scali bread.
This Watertown resto offers up seafood and killer pizzas.
Open on Newbury St, this Japanese izakaya has a full liquor license, and Chef Fuji is rolling out unique bites and fusion flavors (including SUSHI PIZZA!), with over 30 types of sake and 15 shochus to wash it all down.
Located in the heart of Downtown Boston, Sam LaGrassa's is only open for lunch on weekdays, but it reigns nonetheless as one of the best sandwich spots in the city. You have your work cut out for you with its stacked menu of specialties like Asiago Turkey and Jalapeño Chicken, but the true must-try is its Rumanian Pastrami: house-made, dry-cured beef that's seasoned then smoked before being piled high on light rye bread and crowned with Swiss.
There are a number of Legal Sea Foods locations for a reason: they're just damn good, serving up fresh seafood and a gigantic wine selection.
Ask anyone where to find the best pizza in Boston and they'll most likely say Regina's in the North End, whose street-stretching lines attest to the thin-crust pizza's popularity. Family-owned and operated since 1926, Regina's specializes in a secret-recipe brick-oven pizza made with a light, spicy-sweet sauce and house-made mozzarella. Call ahead and get your pie to-go, or eat inside the cramped, wood-laden space, where a gruff (but friendly) waitress with a thick Boston accent will take your order among an abundance of celebrity photos.
Everything from the upscale French Mediterranean dishes to the soft, elegant decor is executed with careful attention to detail at Mistral. Expect dishes like escargot with red wine and garlic butter, heirloom squash bisque served in a flaky pastry square, and half-roasted duck with wild mushroom risotto. The best-known dish is the roast rack of Colorado lamb, whose juices will implore you to suck the meat right off the bone. A special late-night menu on weekends offers a variety of thin-crust pizza and small plates, including the aforementioned escargot and squash bisque.
James Beard Award-winner Tim Cushman's O Ya is home to upscale Japanese cuisine, lavish omakase-style dining, and one of Boston's most impressive sake collections. Cushman fuses unexpected ingredients into his 18- or 24-course menus; and the resulting nigiri and sashimi combinations include hamachi topped with a banana pepper, nori-wrapped rice with foie gras, and a Hokkaido scallop with black truffle, sake-sea urchin jus, and chervil. The menu reaches far beyond sushi too, with categories dedicated to beef, truffles and eggs, somen and soba, tempura, and “other stuff.”
Offering the friendly vibe of Cheers without the tourists, Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village is a popular neighborhood pub with craft beer and excellent Irish-whiskey cocktails, plus fish & chips that are the real deal: wrapped in newspaper and anointed with pickled onions and malt vinegar. They're joined on the menu by other Irish pub classics like shepherd's pie and a hearty beef stew, which you'll want to top off with some sticky toffee pudding. Matt Murphy's may have a spiffier look than your standard watering hole (don't expect any TVs either), but it still has the cash-only policy.
Tosci, as it's known to its Cambridge fans, is world-famous for its simple, yet delicious vanilla ice cream, as well as its burnt caramel.
Tu y Yo is a vibrant Mexican restaurant in Powder House Square that is almost as colorful as it is authentic, and that’s saying something because the benches are violet and the walls are red and orange. Trust us and have the crispy Tacos de Chapulines to start, you’ll be surprised how great grasshoppers taste with chiles, but if critters aren’t your cup of tea the jalapeño poppers stuffed with sweet, spicy tinga chicken probably are. Choose your main by protein like the Pollo en Mole Blanco (chicken growing in a creamy sauce made with onions, pine nuts, and beer) or flavorful, slow-cooked Carnitas (pork) served with salsas and tortillas. For veggie lovers, the Indio Vestido (cactus stuffed with cheese and drizzled with tomatillo and mild pasilla sauce) is a must-try. Pro tip: everything tastes great with the house red or white sangria.
A steakhouse speakeasy is about as cool and one-of-a-kind as it gets in Boston, and this little surprise is tucked inside jm Curley, one of the city’s greatest bars. There’s no website and only the tiniest of signs pointing you to a curtained doorway in the back of the bar. Beyond that burgundy curtain is a small, dreamy chophouse doling out classic cocktails (Ward 8, French 75), caviar service, a wedge salad, and surprisingly affordable steak cuts, adorned with the likes of bone marrow and foie gras butter. If you're looking to impress a date/client/IRS auditor, Bogie’s is your meal ticket.
A Harvard Square mainstay since 1960, Mr. Bartley's slings greasy, 7oz patties in this always-busy American diner. There are tons of photos cluttering the walls that boast celebrity visits, the tables are so close you’re practically sharing them, and you can’t go a minute without hearing a thick Boston accent yelling out burger orders. The highest-stacked and most popular burger with locals and Guy Fieri alike is the Harvard Double: two fat beef patties with molten cheese, crispy bacon, and thick barbecue sauce are piled with a mountain of grilled red peppers and onions. Soak up the juice with a mound of Mr. Bartley’s signature extra-crispy, extra-thin deep-fried onion rings.
Union Square Donuts is a charming, unassuming counter-serve in Somerville that is well on its way to knocking Dunkin' off its throne with a variety of specialty doughnuts. Each doughnut is thick and fluffy while remaining airy and light. The fan favorite is Maple Bacon, a maple glazed donut topped with pieces of crispy, salty bacon. Rotating specials include the peanut butter cream-filled donut topped with Fluff glaze and peanuts, in honor of Somerville's annual Fluff Fest.
Located in the heart of Boston's Kenmore Square, Fenway Park has been home to the Boston Red Sox (and the famous Green Monster) since 1912.
Coppa is South End’s cozy, corner enoteca from James Beard Award-winning Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. The neighborhood space is constantly crowded by diners in search of innovative, tapas-style Italian dishes, including house-made pizza and pasta from the wood oven, house-cured charcuterie, and cheese from Formaggio Kitchen. Enjoy a slice of the Sicilian, or indulge in the Bone Marrow pizza with roasted beef heart and horseradish. Opt for the rigatoni bolognese, or try the spaghetti carbonara with sea urchin. Whether you stick with the familiar or step out of the box (with boquerones), a meal at Coppa is an adventure in creative Italian cuisine, assuming you can snag one of the 38 seats.
To clarify, a chacarero is a traditional Chilean sandwich. Chacarero, the one-time food cart turned fast-casual counter Downtown, capitalizes on said sandwich -- especially during lunch. The signature sandwich is served on house-made bread with your choice of grilled steak or chicken (or both), Muenster cheese, tomatoes, steamed green beans (not a typo), hot sauce, and avocado spread. Do as the locals do and get in line for the namesake sandwich, and walk away with your custom chacarero (get the large, you’ve waited this long) and some empanadas... for good measure.
The Taza Chocolate factory tour in Somerville is a chocolate-lover’s dream because you not only get to wear a fashionable hairnet while seeing how Taza makes its organic, farmer-friendly chocolate, but you also get to taste said chocolate. Taza makes it chocolate through a traditional Central and South American stone-grinding process that yields a finer, richer cocoa taste than you'd find in more mainstream candy bars. If you want to skip the whole learning bit and get right to the good stuff, you can also stop by The Taza Chocolate Bar in the Boston Public Market for some downright wicked hot cocoa.
Mike’s Pastry, the Hanover St. mainstay, has been drawing crowds of cannoli-craving hopefuls (read: lines down the block, at all times) to its North End storefront since 1946. Mike’s features nearly 20 different flavors of il cannolo, as they call it, piped into crunchy, fried pastry shells (that somehow don’t crumble at first bite), and dusted with powdered sugar. The options are vast, but when you hit the pastry case, time is of the essence: pick your poison, fill your iconic white and blue pastry box, and move along -- there are dozens of others waiting to do the same.
Operating with the ethos that “a good sandwich is like an old friend,” All Star Sandwich Bar offers the ultimate sandwich experience from its post on Cambridge Street. The mounted chalkboard menu is home to all sandwich options on offer: the burger bar (featuring... burgers), classic sandwiches (like a tuna melt, or a chili cheese dog) funky sandwiches (this is where you’ll find house signatures, namely the lauded Mr. Miyagi, a hoisin-glazed pulled pork sandwich with Thai basil, English cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, a fried egg and Sriracha aioli on brioche), and veggie sandwiches. To further the experience, All Star Sandwich Bar knows that nothing goes better with a sandwich -- of any kind -- than poutine, and nothing goes better with poutine than a pitcher of beer. All Star Sandwich Bar has got you covered.
Galleria Umberto is worth the trek to the North End. The pizza cash-only spot has been a neighborhood staple for awhile, serving Sicilian-style pizza and other Italian eats. The Sicilian pizza, in particular, is great for three reasons: it's cheesy, the crust is thick, and it has the perfect amount of chew for those of you who are tired of thin crust. However, we suggest going earlier rather than later because the shop shuts down once all the pies are sold.
Everything about Island Creek’s modern, simple decor and comfortable atmosphere makes you think of an upscale coastal shanty, not to mention the shellfish is impeccable. The raw bar is the main draw here as some of the oysters are sourced directly from its farm of the same name in Duxbury Bay, but you can also get other local New England staples like, Chatham, Wellfleet, and Pearly White. You’ll find daily changing fresh fish options like, Maine Grilled Salmon with mustard spaetzle and apple purée, Falmouth Bluefish with delicata squash and chorizo, and Fried Ipswich Clams, plus brunch fare like, Salt Cod Cakes with house-made baked beans, a fried egg, and bacon.
In the North End you can throw a stone and hit at least one Italian restaurant, but tucked away in a historic townhouse by the old Paul Revere House is Mamma Maria’s, one the most reliable and authentic Italian mainstays in the city. The menu is just as timeless as the serene dining room with upscale offerings like, Lamb Gnocchi with cucumber yogurt, braised Suckling Pig layered with roasted eggplant and baked apple, and creamy braised rabbit in a Tuscan-style pappardelle pasta with crispy pancetta and fresh rosemary. Mamma’s asks that you put your phone away, which is for the best as you’ll need to turn your full attention to the truly extensive wine list.
Brian Piccini and Chris Coombs -- the guys behind Deuxave and Dbar -- took over a rumored cursed South End space to make this high-caliber urban steakhouse. Offering a modern takes on overdone streakhouse staples, the steak frites menu is everything you could want from life. It's a simple choice of cut (hanger, strip, skirt) and sauce (bearnaise, bordelaise, chimichurri butter) that comes with a bottomless bowl of fluffy fries. Leather banquettes and dark wood furnishings might indicate a traditional steakhouse, but decadent cocktails point to a much fuller dining experience.
Angela’s Café offers a niche interpretation of Mexican food: cuisine from the city of Puebla. The East Boston restaurant’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus satisfy cravings for guacamole (it’s an award-winning recipe at Angela’s), soups, salads, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and hearty meat platters. For days after eating at this colorful, family-owned joint decorated with red, purple, blue, and green paper doilies, guests dream of the stellar mole sauce, made with a blend of chocolate, almonds, cachuate, raisins, sesame seeds, crackers, banana, house-made tortillas, rice, and beans, and served with chicken breast or pork loin. Top your meal off with a creamy flan, which consists of decadent sweet vanilla custard and cinnamon-covered Mexican rice pudding. Look out for Angela’s ever-changing seasonal dish -- blink, and you’ll miss it.
From the people behind vaunted resto Oleana, Sofra is an infinitely more chilled out Middle Eastern sandwich shop & bakery, sporting an open kitchen and Boston's only Sagge -- essentially a griddle that is shaped like an upside down wok.
True to its motto, Flour Bakery’s many Boston locations make Bostonian’s lives sweeter with its varying baked treats and savory lunch options. The light-filled Fort Point storefront is charming with its trademark chalkboard menu, cutesy decorations, and irresistible smell of cakes rising and butter melting. If you have a sweet tooth you can’t go wrong with the soft sticky bun with its hot cinnamon and pecan topping or a decadent, pleasantly crunchy double chocolate chip cookie. If you need something more substantial than a warm muffin or a buttery scone, the crowd-pleasing Breakfast Egg Sandwich with a truly fluffy egg, bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, and creamy dijonaise on a ciabatta might be right up your ally. At meal-times expect to wait in a line … beware of the tantalizing packaged goodies that wait with you.
Helmand Restaurant is named after Afghanistan’s longest and most culturally significant river, which is apt because it is an epicenter of Afghani nourishment for East Cambridge’s locals. Amidst a row of old brick warehouses, Helmand stands out as a warm haven for those seeking hearty, Middle Eastern meals, with its giant, crackling fireplace and a glowing, wood-burning flatbread oven. Intricate Afghan rugs line the floors, and traditional Afghan musical instruments fill the walls, steeping you in Afghan traditions as you dig in. The menu is similarly comforting, with rib-sticking picks like the Chowpan, a grilled half-rack of lamb that’s marinated, grilled, and served on pillowy bread with sautéed eggplant and pallow rice, and the Kaddo, made with pan-fried-then-baked pumpkin and eggplant, and served with decadent garlic yogurt sauce and challow rice. Bring a group to Helmand so that you can nibble on as many dishes as you’d like, but save room for dessert; the Our Cake is homemade with a fluffy cardamom and pineapple base, and then served with ice cream, fresh pineapple, dates, figs, and ladled with pomegranate sauce for a finishing touch.
Stephanie’s on Newbury delights Bostonians with its sophisticated American comfort food that peppers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menus. The seafood-heavy options include highlights like New England clam chowder, lobster guacamole, with grilled corn, chopped tomato, and scallion, and Asian yellowfin tuna salad, with fresh field greens, wok-charred peppers, sesame green beans, shredded cucumber and pickled onions, tossed in lemon vinaigrette with wasabi aioli, sweet soy and crispy wontons. At brunch, both your sweet and savory cravings will both be filled many times over, with flaky cinnamon monkey bread drizzled with sticky icing, fluffy buttermilk griddled pancakes (available in blueberry, chocolate chip, banana, or red velvet), and zesty North African shakshuka flavored with garlic and served with crispy grilled bread for dipping. Stephanie’s interior is as indulgent as its fare; tufted orange leather banquettes dot the dining room, reflected in the mirrors that cover the walls and illuminated by the glass chandeliers above that resemble tens of white, blossoming flowers.
Marliave first made its debut in 1885, opened by a French immigrant who brought over a closely guarded cachet of Francophile recipes. It’s had its ups and downs in the 13 decades since, but Marliave really is an undersung institution. Where else can you enjoy French onion soup and rarebit at the bar while savoring a drink called the Chauncey Warbucks (Baker’s bourbon, absinthe, grenadine, bitters)? The first floor reeks of backroom politics gone by, while the upstairs dining space provides a charmingly anachronistic view of Downtown Crossing (you forget how little the architecture has changed here). Oh, and on those deep February nights when you cannot bear to drag your ass out the door? Marliave delivers. Rarebit in bed, baby.
This cozy Union Square restaurant serves up modern twists on traditional and authentic German fare (borscht, massive bretzels, every wurst imaginable). And, in true German fashion, Bronwyn offers dozens of beers (by the liter, boot or bucket) from all over central Europe and New England. Owner Tim Wiechmann was aiming to imitate the atmosphere of a European dive or hostel with this location, and he totally nailed it with its nearly medeival look (dark, heavy wooden tables, worn-leather bar stools, rustic red and blue walls).
This classic deli is also home to the not-so-classic Burger Challenge: Sixty bucks gets you five pounds of burger, 20 pieces of bacon, 20 pieces of American cheese, five pounds of fries, a fountain soda, and, of course, a single deli pickle.
Mary Chung’s is a Cambridge Chinese institution whose flavors region-hop from Sichuan to Shandong on a colossal menu filled with Szechuan, Mandarin, and Americanized dishes. Nestle into a well-worn, if somewhat kitschy, red vinyl booth and caution your taste buds in advance of the sheer fire you’re about to unleash on them. If you’re like many of the cult of customers Mary Chung’s has amassed since its establishment in the ‘80s, you’ll likely order the Dun Dun noodles, chewy, almost ramen-like slippery squiggles coated in a spicy peanut sauce whose intense heat levels numb your mouth just enough to convince you that sure, you’ll be able to handle your next dish. That will be Suan La Chow Show, which you can order by simply requesting a “bowl of swans,” and it’s a bowl of dumplings filled with tender pork, gently placed over a bed of bean sprouts, which is buoyed in a spicy, soy-based broth. Bulk up your meal with egg rolls and crab Rangoon, and come around on weekends for dim sum (it’s served Saturdays and Sundays). Mary Chung’s is cash-only, but you’ll probably want to visit the register before you eat, so that you can sniff out the daily specials posted on the adjacent board.
Inman Square’s Punjabi Dhaba shepherds Bostonians into its tiny, austere counter-serve storefront and transports them to Northern India, where dhabas, or traditional Indian roadside diners, accompany petrol stations along Indian and Pakistani highways. There is little in the way of decoration, but you’ll hardly notice when your senses are being absolutely overpowered by the savory scents of paneer, tikka masala, and curry, and the visions of Bollywood movies playing on constant rotation in the background. The menu has almost too many options to choose from, but it’s a labor of love; among Punjabi soups, light omelet plates, fish and shrimp masala and vindaloo, lamb saagwala and other meat delicacies, and, of course, sweets like Kheer, with basmati rice pudding, nuts, raisins, and pungent cardamom, you’ll surely find your new favorite Indian dish, or a new, way-better-than-you’ve-ever-had take on your old favorite.
While there are plenty of outstanding burrito and taco options at this colorful counter-service spot in Medford Square, the true standout is the torta. These warm telera pockets are packed with your choice of meat (go for the carnitas), beans, chipotle mayo, pickled onions, avocado, and melted Oaxaca cheese. You can either take it to go or nab a seat in the dining room, accented by Aztec masks and figurines.
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.
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.
The sweets that draw people to Union Square are typically the donuts, but Gracie's makes a strong case for this pocket of Somerville to become an ice cream destination thanks to its unique house-made flavors and toasted fluff cones. The parlor features 12 flavors at a time, and past hits have included cinnamon whiskey, peach basil, coffee mint chip, and Day After Easter On Sale Candy. The toasted fluff cones, on the other hand, are always available. Good thing, because once you have one of the lightly torched, marshmallow fluff-dipped sugar cones, you'll never go back to regular wafer cones.
The Chinese food at Sichuan Garden II is sometimes overshadowed by the in-house cocktail lounge -- the critically acclaimed Baldwin Bar -- but make no mistake: the authentic Sichuan dishes here reign supreme among Greater Boston's Chinese establishments. Set in the historic Baldwin Mansion, the upscale spot features a handful of separate, white-clothed dining rooms where dishes like roasted lacquer duck, braised pan-seared tofu with chili-minced pork, and the fan-favorite Chengdu chicken wings are served family-style.
Get yourself to the South End and try some of Toro's Barcelona-style tapas for lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette put a modern twist on Spanish small plates by using regional ingredients to craft favorites like salt cod fritters, garlic shrimp, braised beef tongue, and grilled corn with aioli. Be sure to save room for the paella, made the traditional Valencia way with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, and chicken. A Spanish wine list complements it all.
With more than a dozen outposts and counting, Clover Food Lab has gone from the food truck brainchild of an MIT grad to a mini-chain that's redefining how Boston thinks of (and of course, eats) fast food. The company doesn't even have a damn freezer -- at any of its locations. That's how seriously they take their organic, creative, and fresh vegan dishes. Expect dishes like barbecue seitan and chickpea fritters, which, like just about every item on the menu, pair wonderfully with Clover's heavenly lavender lemonade.
Nadia Liu Spellman, whose mother is the namesake of famed restaurant Sally Ling's, opened this modest counter-serve after a childhood spent shadowing her parents in the restaurant industry. Spellman's pillowy dumplings -- made with fillings like pan-seared pork & cabbage and Sichuan chicken -- have amassed a cult following, and though they're reason enough to come to Dumpling Kitchen, they mostly leave you wanting to explore the rest of the menu. Grandma's Beijing Meat Sauce Over Spaghetti (pictured above) is a perfect follow-up, made with a lean pork sauce, firm bean curd, bean paste, chopped cucumber, and straightforward noodles.