Sometimes dining out is as much about the ambiance as it is about the food. If you’re the type of person who likes to find a pretty place to stuff your face (sorry, we couldn’t resist), these 10 restaurants and bars should top your list.
If you’re going to Top of the Hub, it’s for the view -- and what a view it is. We would be remiss not to mention the highest restaurant in town, whose floor to ceiling windows provide a 360-degree view of downtown, the Charles, and beyond. If you’re feeling romantic, wait until winter when the entire skyline is covered with snow.
Everything about L’Espalier is cool and gorgeous, from the sleek signage to the artfully prepared dishes, which the waiters describe in great detail before presenting. The modern interior and second-floor view of Back Bay make for a chic, urban dining experience that complements the acclaimed menu.
The “red lantern” idea is taken pretty literally in this South End spot. It’s typical Asian fusion but with an elevated atmosphere -- stone walls and exposed I-beams never mixed so well with giant Buddhas and deep red lighting. If you want to feel classy while sipping away at a Scorpion Bowl, this is the place to do it.
Empire looks and feels like a club: gigantic, loud, and trendy, with food that you can really take or leave. If you want authentic Chinese, this is not the place, but if you want to look at gorgeous people and take some posh selfies, its location, size, and décor are perfect.
Each and every space in the city’s most prestigious luxury hotel is magnificent (as it should be for a minimum of $350 a night). Whether you’re headed to the French Room for afternoon tea, the rooftop for Sunday brunch (overlooking the public garden from May through November), The Café, or The Bar (fully equipped with a fireplace and original furnishings from the 1930s), it’s one of the most beautiful dining spots around.
This bar has, hands down, one of the most distinct interiors in the city. You know, because it’s made completely OUT OF ICE. Where else in town can you enjoy a frosty cocktail while sitting at an ice bar, with an ice gallery, and ice sculptures of Boston landmarks? Exactly nowhere.
There’s an undeniable caché to this Back Bay gallery/eatery; even the name has a certain aesthetic appeal. Populated by hipsters and Brahmin alike, the entire venue serves as a canvas for the curator’s latest art exhibition, which in turn serves as inspiration for the craft cocktail list. The combination of huge canvases and eccentric décor (like a chandelier resembling equal parts black orchid and colossal squid) lends a particular sex appeal to the space.
We’re suckers for dark wood, dim lighting, and bars so polished you can see your reflection. While there are a lot of these in Boston (Saloon and Wink & Nod come to mind), Stoddard’s is our favorite. Located in the historic Stoddard’s Fine Cutlery building, the gorgeous gastropub’s exposed brick, 30ft tall mahogany bar, and antique décor make it the quintessential example of a vintage American saloon.
Yvonne’s is divided into three distinct spaces that elegantly merge sophisticated modernism with Locke-Ober tradition. The dining room features a 129-year-old hand-carved Santo Domingo mahogany bar, while the lounge’s ceilings are exact replicas of the building’s original tin coffers (discovered during recent renovations). To top it off, there’s a gilded fireplace.
The craft cocktail program at the Hawthorne is well-known, but we also like the bar itself. And the smaller, second bar. Drinking at the Hawthorne is like drinking in your own living room -- assuming your living room was better decorated and staffed by world-class bartenders. OK, so maybe it’s nothing like drinking in your living room. But it’s definitely fancy.
1. Top of the Hub800 Boylston St, Boston
2. L'Espalier774 Boylston St, Boston
3. Red Lantern39 Stanhope St, Boston
4. EmpireOne Marina Park Dr, Boston
5. Taj Boston15 Arlington St, Boston
6. Frost Ice BarMarketplace Center at Faneuil Hall, Boston
7. Liquid Art House100 Arlington St, Boston
8. Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale48 Temple Pl, Boston
9. Yvonne's Supper Club2 Winter Place, Boston
10. The Hawthorne500A Commonwealth Ave, Boston
This is hands down one of the most beautiful bars in all of Boston. Top of the Hub, a Boston institution in its own right, makes the kind of food that's appropriate for special occasions-- perfectly seared steaks, elegant pasta dishes-- and serves 'em in an equally impressive setting: literally on top of the Prudential Center Downtown, surrounded by 360 degree views of Beantown.
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.
Instead of celebrating the Chinese New Year like you usually do (by forgetting that it's the Chinese New Year), head to Red Lantern, because A) it kicks the crap out of Red Lobster, and B) they've got a special dim sum menu you're going to want to stuff in your face.
After spending the year conquering Back Bay (Red Lantern) and DTX (GEM), the culinary conquistadors at Big Night Entertainment continue to tear through the Hub's 'hoods without even offering to sew them back up, this time expanding their... Empire with a massive Asian-themed 350-seater on Fan Pier. Want to know even more?
Much like its accommodations, the Taj Hotel chain doesn't skimp on luxury when it comes to food. Its Boston location offers quality American fare that can match any of the Hub's fine-dining spots, including a decadent brunch which features charcuterie, fresh pastas, a raw bar, and a roasted ribeye carving station.
Made completely out of ice, Frost Ice Bar makes a unique experience -- grab your ticket for 45min of bar time (they won't kick you out if you want more), throw on a set of gloves and a coat (included in admission) and prepare to sip an ice-cold drink out of an ice glass while sitting on ice furniture and surrounded by ice walls.
This grand experiment is equal parts restaurant, gallery, showroom, lounge, and online platform. The food is just about as artistic as the pieces they're showing off on the walls: handmade dumplings with duck cracklings, Brussels sprouts, aged Gouda, and Asian pear; or Maple Planked Arctic Char with baby potatoes, quail eggs, dill pickles, sour cream, and roe.
Located in the historic 142-year-old Stoddard's Fine Cutlery building, the seemingly-forever delayed gastropub/saloon is finally rolling out its American comfort fare alongside a girthy list of beers/ales and pre-Prohibition era cocktails in a 70-seat e
This restaurant and bar in Downtown Crossing features a grand collection of chandeliers, Victorian patterned wallpaper, plush velvet and polished leather booths that will have you weak in the knees. And that's before the food even arrives at your table, which you'll want to pack with your entire entourage because sharing's the name of the game at Yvonne's. You can split a plate of grilled octopus, beef matambre, or quinoa meatballs, but that doesn't mean you'll have to share your handcrafted cocktail (that is, unless you spring for a spiked punch bowl).
You'll want to dress to impress at this refined lounge tucked underneath the Hotel Commonwealth, where nationally acclaimed co-owner and bar director Jackson Cannon has built an experience that revolves around thoughtfully crafted cocktails, similar to his beloved sister establishment, Eastern Standard. Warm and comfortable with low tables and plenty of armchairs, drinking at The Hawthorne is almost like sitting in someone’s living room, except you're sipping on exceptional drinks like the Air Mail (a champagne cocktail with white rum, honey, lime and bitters) and small bites like deviled eggs with crispy prosciutto, pickled anchovy, and chorizo toast.