The 24 Most Iconic Boston Food Experiences

From lobster rolls to international dishes from every corner of the world, here’s the ultimate bucket list for eating and drinking in Boston.

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.

Our coastal city is home to top-notch seafood restaurants, of course, but there’s also a swath of international cuisine, linger-worthy brunches, and neighborhoods with eateries galore that are ready to be explored. So 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.

Woods Hill Pier 4
Woods Hill Pier 4

Seaport
Lobster, oysters, and clams cooked up into creamy bowls of chowder may be the first flavors of New England to come to mind. But Woods Hill Pier 4 is known for its iron-clad commitment to locally sourced ingredients, offering a taste of local ingredients sourced from New England courtesy of the Farm at Woods Hill. Acquired in 2013 by owner Kristin Canty, this Granite State property is home to cattle, hens, blueberries, apples, and more varieties of mushroom than you could shake a stick at. Squid Ink Casarecce, Citrus-Cured Faroe Island Salmon, and Woods Hill Farm Pork Shoulder are just a few of the tantalizing proteins crafted by Toro alum Charlie Foster, while cocktails like the Flor de Caña-loaded Pier Pressure and sherry-laden Balance & Composure are sure to please even the most finicky of palates.
How to book: Via Resy

El Peñol
Bandeja Paisa | Luis Echeverri Urrea/Shutterstock

Explore Eastie’s vibrant Colombian dining scene

East Boston
Next time you hop off the plane at BOS, forgo the traffic-loaded cruise through the Sumner Tunnel and spend some time exploring some of the exemplary Colombian eateries that East Boston has to offer. Just a couple of steps away from the Orient Heights T stop, Melodías Restaurant is a top-tier breakfast spot offering ample amounts of Arroz con Huevo paired with foamy hot chocolate, while the Airport-adjacent El Peñol has been serving up masterfully crafted Bandeja Paisa since 1998. For those wishing to sample one of Colombia’s most beloved dishes—the arepa—head to Tertulias Cafe, a cozy spot that’s equipped with more than twenty Colombian and Venezuelan variations on this iconic dish ranging from classic (sweet arepa with cheese) to fully-loaded (arepa with chicken, avocado, sweet plantain, and pork rind).
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating.

Himalayan Kitchen
Himalayan Kitchen

Somerville
Though momos have been enjoyed in Tibet for centuries, these decadent dumplings have experienced a sudden surge of popularity all across the United States—and to get your Boston fix, the Somerville-based Himalayan Kitchen is an absolute must-visit. Diners are free to choose between chicken, pork, and vegetable variations, but beyond the momo, there’s a veritable cornucopia of other dishes to sample from all across the Indian subcontinent. Curries also abound around here ranging from Shrimp Masala to Chicken Madras, while savory Indian-fusion dishes like Chicken Tikka Pizza and Chicken Kebab Subs are available for newcomers just beginning to dip their toes into the wide world of South Asian cuisine.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating

Shōjō
Shōjō

Set out 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 enjoying dozens 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 Shōjō, Chinatown’s king of cocktails and savory Asian cuisine.
How to book: Stop by Gourmet Dumpling House and Dumpling Cafe for first come, first serve seating, and book at Shōjō 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 recent addition 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 Stapodi with a Cretan Vidiano or Salatouri 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: Via OpenTable

The Mission Bar & Grill
The Mission Bar & Grill

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 cocktails, 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

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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 | Cacio Murilo/Shutterstock

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

Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant
Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant

South Boston
Weekend mid-morning dining is one of Boston’s national pastimes, and there’s no better place to 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 hash browns, 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: Via OpenTable

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. Upon ordering you’ll see a raw egg atop your vegetables and spicy beef, and 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 Influencer 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

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

Pho Bo
Pho Bo | DOANPHUONG NGUYEN/Shutterstock

Mix Vietnamese eats with Irish brews in Fields Corner

Dorchester
Dorchester’s dining scene doesn’t earn nearly as much love as some of Boston’s northern neighborhoods, but one trip to Fields 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 Pho Le Restaurant for some much-needed Steak and Tripe Pho, then finish up down the road at The Blarney Stone, a historic tavern peddling its fair share of local craft beer.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating

Veggie Galaxy
Veggie Galaxy

Cambridge
Vegan cuisine can be hit-or-miss, but Veggie Galaxy proves that Boston’s plant-based fare is top notch. 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 savory seitan-based gyros 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 Gatsby-esque night on the town, few venues can compare to Yvonne’s. Clad in crystal chandeliers and marble floors, this restaurant and supper club is 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 and Stone-Fired Pitas dressed with Tunisian Chicken, this spot doesn’t play when it comes to expert-crafted haute cuisine—and their top shelf cocktail program is no slouch either.
How to book: 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

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, Fried Ipswich Clams, regional fish entrees, and the daily rotating oyster selections all make this a spot worth the hour-plus nightly wait.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating

Saltie Girl
Saltie Girl

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

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: Via OpenTable

The Paramount Beacon Hill
The Paramount Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill & South Boston
Back in 1937, the lines at The Paramount 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), with most dishes prepared on the griddle and all servings arriving crazily ample. The signature Paramount Burger, Caramel and Banana French Toast, and Lobster Ravioli are just a few of the tantalizing selections up for grabs at the original location, while Southie-based diners can head to the heart of East Broadway for Pad Thai and Chicken Sambal at their second spot that opened about a decade back.
How to book: Stop by for first-come, first-serve seating

Cafe Sushi
Cafe Sushi

Harvard/Central Square
This is 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 featuring branzino and New Zealand king salmon. The restaurant is still serving takeout only, but 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 and enjoy the multi-course meal savored over at least two hours.
How to order: Via website

Grill 23 & Bar
Grill 23 & Bar

Back Bay
When you want white tablecloths, perfect martinis, and an old-school setting that is Boston through and through, look no further than Grill 23. This steakhouse has been giving us our daily protein for roughly four decades now, and it isn’t even close to slowing down. The a la carte cuts are the stars here, with the 100-day-aged Ribeye and the Prime Porterhouse being the stars of the stars—and you have to love that $72, two-pound steamed lobster add-on. If you want to complete the quintessential steakhouse experience, tack on the Crab Cakes and Classic Wedge Salad.
How to book: Via OpenTable

Oleana Restaurant
Oleana Restaurant

Inman Square
Ana Sortun’s latest small plates destination may be one of the buzziest spots in town right now—and rightly so—but it was Oleana that first opened our eyes to a different kind of Mediterranean fare with fragrant, spicy, and delicate Turkish spices. Anyone who has spent more than a year or two living in this town has almost assuredly enjoyed some Sfela Cheese Saganaki or Seven-Vegetable Brik on the restaurant’s patio.
How to book: Via Resy

Toro
Toro

South End
This is where Boston 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, Chorizo Empanadas, and of course, it’s all perfectly complemented by a sprawling Spanish wine list. There’s no going wrong with a crisp Albariño, but if you’re in the mood to switch it up with a boozy cocktail, the rum-loaded Caribbean Controversy makes a worthy substitute.
How to book: Via Resy

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Jared Ranahan is a contributor for Thrillist.