Boston Boston absolutely has its proper share of flashy restaurant openings, perennial “Best of” winners, and celebrity chefs. But we also have a posse of spots that, for whatever (maybe unjustified) reason, never get the accolades they deserve. To quote the Black Eyed Peas, "where is the love?" Here are 10 under-sung spots that need to become, well, sung. More Stuff You Will Like
The Most Underrated Restaurants in Boston
South End What you're getting: Blistered shishito peppers, crispy artichoke hearts with aioli, paella Toro gets the press and accolades; Barcelona Bar basks in its new-kid status. But there’s another tapas game in the South End, and it deserves its own set of devotees. Estragon boasts a terrific menu of small plates, from pintxos and croquettes to standards like patatas bravas, along with five different types of paella. The Spanish wine list is surprising, the cocktail list arresting, and the Monday-to-Thursday happy hour bar menu is one of those epic bargains you almost hate trumpeting because it’s just too good to be true: $1, $3, and $5 tapas like crispy artichoke hearts and sauteed garlic shrimp. Continue Reading
Arlington Center What you're getting: Roast chicken sandwich, pig under a brick How is it that Arlington’s hot real estate market hasn’t translated to an equally hot dining scene? It’s not for want of solid restaurants. Chief among the underrated is Tryst, a den of perfectly executed comfort fare like fried green tomatoes, bourbon steak tips, and an egg- and chipotle bacon-topped burger. Chef Paul Turano is also the maestro behind Cook, another undervalued spot in Newtonville; clearly the man lets his food trump his PR. We back that.
Between Harvard and Porter What you're getting: Any and all of the pasta dishes The strangely forgotten stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter is home to some of Cambridge’s buried gems, including Nubar, West Side Lounge, and Cambridge Common (Lizard Lounge forever). But among this crowd, Giulia is unique in its under-prized status. Chef Michael Pagliarini spends hours each day rolling out his doughs at the restaurant’s pasta table, which translates to corn and brown butter agnolotti, whole-wheat penne with pork sausage, and pappardelle with wild boar. If you’re some Paleo nut who insists on denying himself the area’s greatest carbs, you can make carnivorous due with the grilled bone-in beef ribeye with lemon, sea salt, and salsa verde.
Huron Village What you're getting: Tasting menu with wine pairings It’s the restaurant that begat Union Square's crowd-magnet Bronwyn, so why no two-hour waits? It's likely due to T.W.’s Huron Village location; otherwise there’s little excuse not to have indulged in one of the best tasting menus in town. Chef Tim Wiechmann marries modern French techniques with hyper-local, seasonal ingredients for an ever-rotating dinner menu of three or five courses. Should you get the wine pairings? You should absolutely get the wine pairings: Wiechmann and his wife/co-owner Bronwyn love undiscovered vineyards (we see a pattern here) and find the perfect vino complement to each course. Lacto-ovos, take heed: the nightly vegetarian menu is as epic as its fleshy counterpart.
Theater District What you're getting: Roasted Giannone chicken Here’s a bit of life dining advice: go where the French expats go. This Theater District mainstay, now 15 years strong, is known mostly for its insane wine cellar stocked with hard-to-find vintages from Argentina, Hungary, Spain, and France. But the food -- Peking duck, roasted suckling pig, rice-crusted Halibut -- is hugely satisfying as well. You can absolutely spring for the chocolate souffle at dessert, but why would you when the cheese plate awaits?
Back Bay What you're getting: The eight-course tasting menu Is it the fact that the space used to be a takeout joint? Is it the inscrutable website and lack of social media presence? Somehow, despite many a press accolade, Asta just misses making the short list of many Bostonians’ favorite restaurants. But Chef Alex Crabb -- once a Noma intern, last of L’Espalier, so you know he’s good -- is truly killing it with high-concept fare in a congenial, pretension-free space. It’s tasting-menu only, which is perfect: you simply sit back and wait to see what wonder Crabb will come up with next; your only lament will be that each dish has to end.
Coolidge Corner What you're getting: The prime steak burger, the pizza in winter With Jeremy Sewall’s newer spots (Row 34, Island Creek Oyster Bar) getting all of the attention, somehow his first venture misses out on the hullabaloo. But soup to nuts (or soup to butterscotch pudding), Lineage provides an impeccable dining experience, especially owing to its celebration of New England seafood. In winter, we pretty much demand that you nab a seat at the bar and bask in the warmth of the wood-fired oven, which kicks to life in the fall and turns out charred flatbreads and a sublime roasted bone marrow.
Dorchester What you're getting: Spaghetti alla Gricia, ester style Dorchester is full of hidden finds (Ashmont Grill, Tavolo, D Bar), but ester in Lower Mills somehow flies even lower under the radar. Criminal, really, as the restaurant ticks off all the boxes of the perfect neighborhood hangout. There’s a large bar area, a terrific burger and roast chicken, a non-condescending kid’s menu, and a rooftop garden that feeds many of the salads and sides. The back patio is its own discovery: an expansive, light-strung space with plush seating and a tiny bar area (good luck getting a seat there).South End What you're getting: Spicy lobster BLT maki with butter-poached Maine lobster, organic bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, soy wrap, lobster cream reduction It’s one of the South End’s few sushi spots, yet it rarely makes best-sushi mention in any context. More for us then. The restaurant’s original maki list alone should be bringing you back once a week: duck maki, Kobe short rib maki, and a lobster BLT wonder that’s well worth the $16 price tag. But all your favorite rolls are here, along with an epic nigiri menu and a cost-effective bento box selection. As the name suggests, there’s also an attached wine shop, a jewel in its own right (we’re suckers for a killer bottle display).
Newton What you're getting: Watermelon steak Chef Jeff Fournier was locavoring long before you signed up for your first CSA. 51 Lincoln, a Newton Highlands spot easily accessed by the D line, quietly celebrates seasonal fare with a fervent commitment not seen in many other restaurants. Food is local and seasonal, yes, but Fournier also promises no hormones or antibiotics, no GMO products, no artificial sweeteners, and no processed ingredients. Anyone who has followed Fournier’s career since his time at the Metropolitan Club, however, will be pleased to know that his famous watermelon steak is still front and center when the season permits. Sign up here for our daily Boston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Hub has to offer. Meaghan Agnew is a Boston-based writer who pets strange dogs with impunity. Follow her on Twitter: @meaghandeth.
1. Estragon Tapas700 Harrison Ave , Boston
2. Tryst689 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington
3. Giulia1682 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
4. T.W. Food377 Walden St, Cambridge
5. Troquet140 Boylston St., Boston
6. Asta47 Massachusetts Ave, Boston
7. Lineage242 Harvard St, Brookline
8. Ester2261 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester
9. Seiyo1721C Washington S, Boston
10. 51 Lincoln51 Lincoln Street, Boston
Head to the South End's Spanish supper club for $1 tapas like tocino w/ honey & Marcona almonds, warm Spanish goat's cheese/tomato on toast, and Canary Island salsa over beef tongue, which has its very own slogan: Wherth The Be
This 100-seat, modern bistro dishes out a variety of American fare from seafood to boar and offers extensive wine and cocktails lists.
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.
Chef-owner Tim Wiechmann brings local, seasonal deliciousness to Cambridge, with a series of tasting menus that allow you to savor a range of his inventive cuisine. Stop by on Wednesdays to experience Kitchen Improv -- a five-course, impromptu menu created on the spot.
Everything dish on their menu has been paired with a delicious wine, so you always know what to order.
For those times when you'd rather let someone other than Papa Gino order dinner for you, L'Espalier alum Alex Crabb's taken the Back Bay's former 47 Pizza+Pasta and morphed it into a rustic 41-seater that serves a "be cool because this is what you're going to get" three-, five-, and eight-course tasting menu accompanied by an optional wine pairing.
This Brookline establishment serves up a frequently rotating menu of fresh seafood treats -- do yourself a favor and try the lobster tacos.
Featuring fresh produce from their rooftop garden, Ester also offers some pretty sweet seating on their 60-seat outdoor dining area. Everything from a meatloaf burger, to sauteed baby bok choy, to beef tongue tacos will entertain your palate.
All your favorite rolls are at this underrated sushi spot, along with an epic Nigiri menu and a cost-effective bento box selection. As the name suggests, there’s also an attached wine shop, a jewel in its own right (we’re suckers for an epic bottle display).
51 Lincoln celebrates seasonal fare with a fervent commitment not seen in many other restaurants. Food is local and seasonal, yes, but Fournier also promises no hormones or antibiotics, no GMO products, no artificial sweeteners, and no processed ingredients. When the season permits, his famous watermelon steak should be a go-to.