The 24 Most Essential Food Experiences in Boston

So much more than clam chowdah.

When it comes to cuisine, all of New England’s many states have something special to offer. Vermont has maple syrup, Connecticut and Maine are locked in an endless feud over lobster roll superiority, and Rhode Island has their peculiar hot pepper-tinged calamari—not to mention those cheeseless, tomato-laden pizza strips. But in the end, it’s Massachusetts that reigns supreme, bursting at the seams with a kaleidoscope of flavors all packaged neatly into the Greater Boston area. Whether you’re a newcomer to the city or a lifelong Bay State native, don’t miss out on these bucket list-level culinary experiences.

Shōjō
Shōjō

Embark on a dumpling crawl through Chinatown

Chinatown
When it comes to human innovation, the dumpling ranks somewhere between the printing press and the automobile, and Chinatown is rife with opportunities for sucking down hundreds of little pillowy morsels. Start your night off right at Gourmet Dumpling House, one of Boston’s most celebrated venues for Shandong jiaozi, then head to Dumpling Cafe to sample Taiwanese-style creations. After dining to your heart’s content, it’s time to celebrate with a baijiu-laden mule at Shojo, Chinatown’s king of cocktails and savory Chinese-American fusion.
How to book: Stop by Gourmet Dumpling House and Dumpling Cafe for first-come, first-serve seating and reserve a table at Shojo via Resy.

Krasi
Krasi

Back Bay
Greek cuisine is best enjoyed while lounging on a yacht overlooking the Cyclades, but for those of us stuck stateside, Krasi is a close second. A newcomer to Back Bay’s dining scene, this sophisticated venue eats, sleeps, and breathes vino, offering one of the largest selections of Greek wine found in the United States. You can pair xtapodi with a Cretan vidiano or skioufikta with a full-bodied vertzami from Greece’s west coast, but don’t take it from us—Krasi’s staff are equipped with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the world of Mediterranean wine, and will happily talk your ear off about the perfect complement to your chosen entree.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Explore Brigham Circle’s thriving bar scene

Mission Hill
If you went to Northeastern, Wentworth, or MassArt at some point in the 21st century, there’s a greater-than-zero chance that you’re already well acquainted with Brigham Circle. For those less fortunate souls out there, this tiny slice of Mission Hill is a pretty killer destination for a Friday night bar crawl, equipped with a wealth of raucous dive bars and polished cocktail dens alike. For a more refined night out, the Mission Bar & Grill is the perfect spot for charcuterie and refreshing rum tipples, while nearby Penguin Pizza is the hottest spot around for craft beer and barbecue chicken pie.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

MI Pueblito Restaurant
MI Pueblito Restaurant

East Boston
If stuffing your face with huevos con chorizo and frozen margs at 8 am is wrong, then we don’t want to be right—and fortunately, Mi Pueblito offers the ability to do both in a judgement-free setting. Stocked with an extensive selection of Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine, this colorful and casual joint is one of East Boston’s top destinations when you’re in desperate need of steak pupusa, shrimp torta, or a plate of lengua tacos. Or maybe all three at once, if you’re bold enough.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Muqueca Restaurant
Muqueca Restaurant

Inman Square
It’s tough to justify a spontaneous trip to South America during the middle of the workweek, but thankfully, spectacular Brazilian cuisine is at the ready right in the heart of Inman Square. While the menu is overflowing with tantalizing national favorites like feijoada and mariscada, the real star of the show here is the restaurant’s namesake—the savory seafood stew, muqueca. Masterfully crafted by Brazilian-born chef Fátima Langa, this hearty dish is available in two distinct styles—one from the southeastern state of Espírito Santo and another from the coastal state of Bahia—while both arrive in traditional handcrafted clay pots sourced straight from Brazil.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 617-354-3296 for take-out.

Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant
Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant

South Boston
Weekend mid-morning dining has returned to Boston with a roaring vengeance, and there’s no better place to gather the girls and get your brunch on than Southie’s Lincoln Tavern. Decadence is the norm here, with menu options ranging from sugary Fruity Pebble pancakes to breakfast pizza loaded with hashbrowns, bacon, and poached eggs. While the food here is pretty stellar, this spot really shines in the cocktail department. Whether you’re craving a healthy dose of sangria, a peppery bloody mary with jalapeño-infused vodka, or a build-your-own mimosa bucket, this spot has something special in store for you.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable, order take-out via Toast, or get delivery via Uber Eats.

dolsot bibimbap
dolsot bibimbap | thaweerat/Shutterstock

Allston
There are few things in life worth taking the Green Line for, but when it comes to hearty Korean cuisine, we make an exception. As you might assume from the name, savory ox bone soup is the signature dish around here, but this cozy Allston venue has far more to offer than stew. For any newcomers to the realm of Korean cuisine, be sure to start your journey off right with one of the peninsula’s greatest inventions, the dolsot bibimbap. While it may be a little unnerving to see a raw egg atop your vegetables and spicy beef, there’s no need to worry—this signature comfort food cooks right in front of you, courtesy of a stone bowl warmed to scorching-hot temperatures directly before serving.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating.

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage
Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

Harvard
Far from a hidden gem, this Harvard-adjacent greasy spoon has welcomed a laundry list of pop stars, actors, and politicians since its grand debut in 1960, and there’s no better time than the present to add your name to that star-studded roster. The burger selection here ranges from conventional to somewhat adventurous—the maple syrup-slathered Supreme Court stands as one particularly odd iteration—and there’s no shortage of local university-themed sandwiches up for grabs if you’re not in the mood for beef.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating, call 617-354-6559 for take-out, or get delivery via Uber Eats.

Blue Nile Inc.
Blue Nile Inc.

Jamaica Plain
Perfectly seasoned dishes, endless vegetarian options, and the opportunity to eat with your hands—what more could you need? While this no-frills Ethiopian eatery is the perfect destination for getting your doro wat on, no visit is complete without a glass (or three) of their signature housemade tej, an iconic East African honey wine that serves as the national drink of Ethiopia. Sweet and syrupy on the palate, this ambrosial beverage pairs beautifully with a hearty helping of misir wat, a savory lentil stew.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating or order take-out via Clover.

DOANPHUONG NGUYEN/Shutterstock

Mix Vietnamese eats with Irish brews in Field’s Corner

Dorchester
Dorchester’s dining scene doesn’t earn nearly as much love as some of Boston’s northern neighborhoods, but one trip to Field’s Corner will have you singing its praises for all to hear. The pint-sized district is a veritable melting pot equipped with cozy Irish pubs interwoven with the best Vietnamese restaurants the city has to offer. For the ideal cross-cultural exchange, head to local favorite Ánh Hồng Restaurant for some much-needed steak and tripe pho, then finish up across the road at The Blarney Stone, a historic tavern peddling its fair share of local craft beer.
How to book: For Ánh Hồng, reserve and order take-out online. For the Blarney Stone, stop by for first-come, first-serve seating.

Veggie Galaxy
Veggie Galaxy

Cambridge
Vegan cuisine can be hit-or-miss, but it’s safe to say that Veggie Galaxy is consistently batting 1000. Well-versed in the realm of comfort food, this vintage diner is living proof that you can, in fact, compose a fully indulgent, extravagant, and obscenely flavorful meal without using a single molecule of animal protein. From fiery seitan-based chick’n sandwiches to crispy plant-based mozzarella sticks to creamy peanut butter chocolate frappes, Veggie Galaxy will make meat feel like nothing more than a distant memory.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating or order take-out and delivery online.

Yvonne's
Yvonne's

Downtown Crossing
For a decidedly Gatsbyesque night on the town, few venues can compare to Yvonne’s. Clad in crystal chandeliers and marble floors, it’s easily one of the city’s most visually appealing restaurants, but this Boston Common-adjacent palace is far more than just a pretty face. From wild Gulf shrimp to seared king trumpet mushrooms to stone-fired pitas dressed with Tunisian chicken, this spot doesn’t play when it comes to superbly crafted haute cuisine—and their top shelf cocktail program is no slouch either.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

Time Out Market Boston
Time Out Market Boston

Fenway
The perfect solution for the indecisive soul, this tried-and-true concept has made its way to the Bay State with 15 distinct dining options all perched under one roof. Though savory selections abound around here—the birria tacos from Taqueria el Barrio are a particular highlight—there’s no shortage of sugar-loaded options as well, including Boston’s beloved Union Square Donuts. If you’re in need of a drink to wash everything down, make a beeline to the fully-stocked bar serving cocktails, wine, and local craft beer.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating or order take-out and delivery online.

Highland Fried
Highland Fried

Cambridge
Boston’s barbecue scene may not be quite as pronounced as some other US cities (we’re looking at you, Austin), but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to smoke a mean slab of meat. Case in point: Highland Fried, Cambridge’s one stop shop for pepper-crusted brisket and fiery Caribbean pork. Though barbecue reigns supreme around here, it’s far from the only available dish—chef-owner Mark Romano also has a serious passion for fried chicken and all things thiki, making this one of the few places on earth where you can enjoy pulled pork, Nashville hot chicken, and a Painkiller in the same sitting.
How to book: Call 617-714-4662 to reserve, stop by for first come, first served seating, or order take-out via Toast.

Neptune Oyster
Neptune Oyster

North End
Did we even talk about fine-dining lobster rolls before Neptune’s warm butter wonder came along? The unlikely North End gem became an instant crowd-pleaser when the kitchen reminded us that mayo isn’t the only way to slay a lobster roll. It’s not just the roll, though (and those fries, oh, those fries). The made-to-order clam chowder, the fried Ipswich clams, the regional fish entrees, and the daily rotating oyster selections all make this a spot worth the hour-plus nightly wait.
How to order: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating or order take-out online.

lobster roll
Lobster roll | Aon Prestige Media/Shutterstock

… then explore the rest of the city’s best lobster rolls

Various locations
Our lobster rolls might not necessarily have the same reputation as Maine’s, but Boston is hardly a benchwarmer when it comes to this New England seafood staple. In fact, our city’s chefs revere the lobster roll about as much as anyone, and have some pretty strong opinions on the matter. Hop over to Yankee Lobster Company for a classic cold one, Saltie Girl for another excellent hot edition, Cusser’s Roast Beef and Seafood for a choice of either hot or cold, and Belle Isle Seafood for a simply massive, and massively delicious, finale. 
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Menton
Menton

Fort Point
They’re all important in different ways, really: B&G Oysters. The Butcher Shop. Stir. Drink. Sportello. No. 9 Park, which is the foundational pillar in the Barbara Lynch empire. But Menton did something no other Boston restaurant has done in earning esteemed Relais & Châteaux status in 2012 —one of just 60 or so such properties in the entire country. And the restaurant has accomplished so much more, since. It has introduced us to the inimitable pleasures of butter soup, for one (a dish sadly departed, at least for now). And it sold us on the absolute value of a chef’s whim tasting meal, for another. No aspiring gourmand should leave the city without at least once experiencing Menton. 
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Craigie On Main
Craigie On Main

Cambridge
Craigie Street Bistrot was one of those harrowed spots you wanted to stay shrouded in secrecy, the  not-easily-found basement space where chef-owner Tony Maws worked his revelatory French magic. But the secret got out for good when Maws moved into a bigger Central Square location, and his legacy cemented when the Craigie burger graced the cover of Bon Appétit. Wondrous as it is, that burger should never overshadow the nightly wonders coming out of the Craigie kitchen, whether it’s a chicken stuffed with dates and chicken sausage or an entire roasted pig’s head for two. The restaurant is currently closed for indoor dining, but Maws has pivoted once more by creating an outdoor dining area in the parking lot next door and serving family-style meals.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Union Oyster House
Union Oyster House | jenlo8/Shutterstock

Faneuil Hall
1826 was a pretty interesting year for Massachusetts—it saw the birth of the American Temperance Society right here in Boston, but it also gave us Union Oyster House, the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in US history. You win some, you lose some. Seafood has been the main attraction here for the past two centuries, and Union Oyster House still draws a considerable crowd for its clam chowder, butterfly shrimp, and—you guessed it—freshly shucked oysters. You could fill a book with all the amazing seafood restaurants in Boston, but this is the only spot that doubles as a National Historic Landmark.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

The Paramount
The Paramount

Beacon Hill
Back in 1937, the lines likely weren’t as long, but the throwback experience at this Beacon Hill luncheonette makes it an enduring classic. It’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or breakfast for dinner, or lunch for breakfast), with most dishes prepared on the griddle and all servings arriving crazily ample. 
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served daytime seating, call 617-720-1152 for dinner reservations, or order take-out online.

Cafe Sushi
Cafe Sushi

Harvard/Central Square 
The place to go for a four-star nigiri education. It’s not as clandestine as it used to be—as of a few years ago, there’s an actual entrance right off Mass Avenue—but Cafe Sushi still feels like one of the city’s best kept secrets. Savor some of the freshest nigiri around, including seasonal choices like Japanese barracuda and New Zealand king salmon. And when they finally reopen for indoor eats, you’ll need to make a reservation and return with your most discerning dining partner for the market-price omakase, a multi-course, small-plates meal savored over a two hour-plus span. 
How to book: Order take-out via Toast and get delivery via DoorDash, Caviar, and Uber Eats.

Grill 23 & Bar
Grill 23 & Bar

Back Bay
The city’s paleo patriarch has been giving us our daily protein for roughly four decades now, and it isn’t even close to slowing down. This place is expense-account central with a three-figure Wagyu striploin kicking off the menu. The à la carte cuts are the stars here, with the 100-day-aged ribeye and the Kobe cap steak being the star of the stars—and you have to love that $72, two-pound steamed lobster add-on. If you’re not willing to pay more for dinner than you pay for your monthly heating bill, there’s always the crab cakes and classic wedge salad. Your choice.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out and delivery online.

The Daily Catch
The Daily Catch

North End
Come to the North End on a Friday or Saturday night and, rain or shine, predictable queues snake along the narrow sidewalks outside of the original The Daily Catch (you can find the same experience at its Atlantic Avenue location, too). The menu is a study in Sicilian seafood delights, from lobster fra diavolo to squid ink linguine served smothered in alfredo or puttanesca sauce. Toss in some wine and the patio’s waterfront views, and you might just find yourself shedding some of that residual pandemic stress.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out online.

Oleana Restaurant
Oleana Restaurant

Inman Square 
Did you think even twice about Turkish spices before Oleana made its aromatic mark on the city’s dining scene? Ana Sortun’s second spot, Sarma, might get more buzz—and rightly so—but it was Oleana that first opened our eyes to a different kind of Mediterranean fare: fragrant, spicy, and delicate. Oleana has also proven to be the world’s greatest date spot for vegetarian couples, given that the majority of meze plates are meat-free. And anyone who has spent more than a year or two living in this town has almost assuredly enjoyed at least one celebratory meal on the twee patio. 
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out via Toast.

Toro
Toro

South End
This is where we learned just how fun tapas can be. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette put a modern twist on Barcelona’s finest, using seasonal and regional ingredients to deliver enticements like salt cod fritters, garlic shrimp, braised beef tongue, and of course, grilled corn with aioli, all perfectly complemented by the Spanish wine list.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out via Toast.

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Meaghan Agnew has eaten it all -- does that mean she’s about to die? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram to find out (@meaghandeth).
Jared Ranahan is a contributor for Thrillist.