Afghan is a pretty rare cuisine for Boston and Helmand has won numerous awards for its excellent menu. While a bit on the pricier end, both the food and the atmosphere are amazing, with the lamb dishes as the clear stand-out.
Australian: KO Catering and Pies
South End, Seaport
If you’ve never had an Australian meat pie, this is pretty much the only place around where you can change that (while also stocking up on Vegemite). KO always has at least six pies on the menu, along with a rotating pie of the month, various sandwiches and salads, and a number of hard-to-find sweets from Down Under.
With some of the best fries and waffles in the city and an enviable selection of boozy floats, it’s hard to top Saus. The Belgian street food eatery is open late, making it a favorite weekend haunt of hipster 20-somethings with very specific opinions about which ice cream best complements each individual craft beer.
Chinese: Hei La Moon
Two words: dim sum. Rolling carts and all. Beware on the weekends: you’ll have to fight your way to the steamed pork buns and other popular items, which usually disappear fast. Service is slow, but that’s not why you’re going... you’re going because those pork buns will be YOURS.
Ethiopian: Addis Red Sea
Addis introduced this generation of Bostonians to Ethiopian cuisine in 1988 and has been a cultural stronghold ever since. The crowd favorite serves up giant rounds of Ethiopian bread covered in traditional sauces, as well as flavorful lamb and beef dishes.
If you’re sitting here mourning the loss of Sandrine’s (where Bostonians could sit around eating butter-soaked, herb-dusted escargots in special little escargot plates), we can’t help you. But if you’re looking for creative French food that is absolutely top of the line, we can recommend literally anything on L’Espalier’s menu, any day of the week. It’s probably the best waitstaff in Boston, too. Just be prepared to drop top dollar.
German: Jacob Wirth
Bronwyn’s take on German street food is excellent, but we’ve got to give this one to Boston landmark (and that’s not a turn of phrase... it’s actually a national landmark) Jacob Wirth, a downtown beer hall that's been serving Bavarian food for approximately 150 years. If you want to learn the difference between umpteen different types of sausages and impress your date with your schnitzel-versus-spaetzel knowledge, this is the place for you.
Greek: Doretta Taverna
The newly-opened Doretta built its menu on family recipes from Greece and uses local, seasonal ingredients. Most of the dishes consist of fresh seafood or meat paired with traditional Greek salads, but this straightforward simplicity is what we like about it. Try the grilled octopus or the roasted lamb shoulder.
There are a lot of Indian restaurants in Boston, but Tanjore wins our vote for its authentic and regionally diverse menu. We love the array of breads, the South Indian combo plate, and the lamb biryani.
Pretty much everybody extols the virtues of this fresh pasta place, and with good reason. Try the farro cassarecce with rabbit, (which Chef Dave Becker recently called “last meal worthy”) and don’t forget to make a reservation.
It made our Best Sushi in Boston list, and we stand by it; Oishii is a palace of raw fish, tender wagyu beef, and carefully-prepared Japanese vegetables. It’s as much art as it is food. The menu is predominantly traditional sushi fish but also includes three kinds of eel, seven kinds of egg, specialty rolls, desserts, and more.
Korean: Buk Kyung
If you’re looking for no-frills authentic Korean food, here it is. It’s also notable that Buk Kyung serves up great food on the cheap, mostly to local Koreans and their families. We like the japchae plate.
Mexican: Tu Y Yo
Those looking for more Mex than Tex can head to this family-owned restaurant, located just a little outside Davis in Powderhouse Square. Not only do they have the most genuine Mexican in the area, they’re known for dishes that use uncommon ingredients, like deep-fried grasshopper mini-tacos.
Oleana is known for putting a non-traditional spin on staple dishes from the Mediterranean and Middle East. It’s a gorgeous date restaurant that’s vegetarian-friendly, and the award-winning desserts won’t leave you hanging. Plus, all the Turkish coffee comes with Turkish delight -- a delightfully traditional treat that more places should have, because TURKISH DELIGHT.
If you’re searching for momos (and of course you are), Rangzhen has four kinds of steamed dumplings... and for delivery, no less. But if dining in is on your agenda for the night, it’s a cozy spot to chill out and sip some poecha (butter tea).
Taranta serves a fusion menu of Peruvian and Southern Italian, and is home to that kickass guavannolis we’ve told you about. While you can find more traditional Peruvian elsewhere, we're into how this restaurant marries two disparate culinary styles.
Polish: Café Polonia
At this, the best and only Polish place in Boston, you can stuff your face with all the pierogis, goulash, potato pancakes, and kielbasa money can buy. And it’ll buy a LOT here.
Scottish: The Haven
You’ll learn a lot of new words at The Haven, with a menu including items like Cullen skink, housemade lamb haggis, and truffle-honey rutabaga neeps with Drambuie butter. Pair the tipsy laird trifle with one of many obscure Scottish beers and enjoy.
Thai: Brown Sugar Cafe
What’s not to love about great food at completely affordable prices? Nothing. That’s probably why the place is shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone from your grandma to those rowdy BU students who live down the street. Get some Tom Yum Goong and you won’t even care about the crowd -- you'll be in your happy place.
South End (& other locations)
Orinoco is Latin-fusion with a heavy Venezuelan influence. (The experience is more fine dining than bodega, and that’s a good thing). Go for the small plates (empanadas, arepas, and bacon-wrapped dates) and stay for the excellent main courses and patio seating.
1. Helmand Restaurant143 1st St, Cambridge
2. KO Pies at the Shipyard256 Marginal St, East Boston
3. Saus33 Union St, Boston
4. Hei La Moon88 Beach St, Boston
5. Addis Red Sea544 Tremont St, Boston
6. L'Espalier774 Boylston St, Boston
7. Jacob Wirth31 Stuart St, Boston
8. Doretta Taverna79 Park Plz, Boston
9. Tanjore Indian Restaurant18 Eliot St, Cambridge
10. Giulia1682 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
11. Oishii Boston1166 Washington St, Boston
12. Buk Kyung9 Union Sq Ste A, Somerville
13. Tu y Yo858 Broadway, Somerville
14. Oleana134 Hampshire St, Cambridge
15. Rangzen Tibetan Place24 Pearl St, Cambridge
16. Taranta210 Hanover St, Boston
17. Café Polonia611 Dorchester Ave, Boston
18. The Haven2 Perkins St, Boston
19. Brown Sugar Café1033 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
20. Orinoco56 JFK St, Cambridge
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.
East Boston might have substantially fewer kangaroos than Australia, but at least KO Pies at the Shipyard has you covered if you're looking for some grub from down under. Also, they also stock grocery items like Tim Tams, Milo, and yes, Vegemite.
Come to Saus to get the best of all things Belgian -- that means you're chomping down on pommes frites (with over 13 different sauce/saus options) and Liége waffle sundaes.
The best Dim Sum in Boston. But be sure to get there early as it is always crowded and noisy at lunchtime.
Serving up quality Ethiopian cuisine since 1988, Addis Red Sea is now a Boston fixture with multiple locations around the city. Be sure to try their pillowy Ethiopian bread with different sauces along side your lamb or beef plates.
Adjacent to the Back Bay Mandarin Oriental, L'Espalier goes above and beyond standard hotel restaurant fare with some of the most inventive French food in Boston. This is dining at its most hospitable, with an impressive waitstaff catering to four separate dining rooms daily. Dinner service is prix-fixe only, and you can choose between a three-course menu, a six-course degustation menu, or a chef's tasting. A more casual à la carte menu is offered at lunch, but the cuisine -- French crafted with New England ingredients -- is the same.
Jacob Wirth is a German-American restaurant where you can enjoy a mixed grill of schnitzels and wursts alongside burgers and a great selection of beers to wash it all down.
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schlow is behind this high-end Greek restaurant in Back Bay. An homage to his wife's heritage, Doretta Taverna features Mediterranean specialities like spicy Aegean seafood stew, 15-hour lamb shoulder, and grilled octopus. The space is polished with plenty of tables and cozy banquettes.
Out of the many Indian restaurants in the Boston area, Tanjore has to be one of our favorites. It has a regionally diverse menu and variety of breads. We recommend checking out one of the South Indian combo plates or the lamb biryani.
Exceptional Italian cuisine is served up at this cozy Cambridge spot.
Another long-time local sushi stronghold, Chef Ting Yen’s Oishii balances old school, father-to-son training, with new school flavors. The broad a la carte slate boasts 12 tunas and 10 shellfish (for starters), and its sea urchin is pure art. For specialty rolls, The Maki incorporates asparagus, bonito flakes, and toro that get torched for some smoky mojo. A trip to Oishii is incomplete without The Coconut Sphere dessert, a literal sphere of coconut ice cream topped with coffee mousse, yuzu sherbet, and chocolate.
Koreans say Buk Kyung is as close to authentic Korean food as you get in Boston. The restaurant specializes in Chinese-influenced Korean dishes, evident in its community-sized plates and signature jajangmyun, or soybean-paste noodle. The restaurant’s no-fuss yellow décor and tag-team husband-and-wife duo further confirm that it serves the real-deal Korean.
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.
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.
You can dine in at this cozy Tibetan restaurant or get delivery, either way you're getting the momo's, Tibet's version of steamed dumplings. Rangzen offers four different varieties so you can try them all with a hot cup of poecha (Tibetan butter tea).
This restaurant blends together Italian and Peruvian flavors and meals to bring something different to the North End. The meal will be incredible, but make sure you save room for one of their decadent desserts.
At the one and only Polish resto in Boston, the dishes are cheap and so you can stuff your face with all pierogis, goulash, potato pancakes, and kielbasa as your stomach can take.
The Haven brings a slice of Scotland to Jamaica Plain in the form of a dual-room, 45 seater, serving craft beers and traditional fare from across the pond like vegetable bridie, haggis with neeps, and white pudding sassitch and mash.
Brown Sugar is always crowded but trust us, which means you have to deal with other human beings, but trust us, it's worth it. Check out the Tom Yum Goong or classic Pad Thai for a good time.
Hidden down an alley in Harvard's former Small Plates/ Iruña, the third outpost from the popular South End/ Brookline Latin Kitchen's now serving up even mas Venezuelan vittles including stewed shredded beef empanadas, smoked adobo churrasco w/ a marinated tomato/ red wine-panela glaze, and grilled corn arepas like the slow-cooked pork leg Pernil with mojo, also the answer to the question, "Which Red Sox first baseman replaced Carlos Quintana, yo?".