The Salty PigAddress and Info
Because it’s like Lady and the Tramp for two-leggers. There’s pasta and pizza and occasionally even checkered tablecloths, plus a range of salty meats and stinky cheeses for those looking to suss out the palate of a potential paramour. It’s also not as loud as other South End spots, which makes the getting-to-know-you chit-chat a little less painful. And then, of course, there are those bathroom walls papered with Far Side comics -- for when you need to hide out from an evening that’s gone south.
Saltie GirlAddress and Info
The last time we were here, we witnessed a man lovingly spooning uni into his date’s mouth before they both downed a glass of Champagne. Yeah, there was some sex happening that night. Oysters, bubbly, caviar... all the traditional aphrodisiacs are here, plus the entrees that get New Englanders’ motors running: chowder, fried clam bellies, hot lobster rolls. Grab two seats at the bar, watch one of the chefs torch a slab of salmon belly, and feel the heat rise.
KO at the ShipyardAddress and Info
We like to think this is how the Aussies date: meat pies, a couple of brews, maybe some mushy peas to split. After all, some of the best date nights happen when you bond over cheap, low-down, delicious fare. It’s not exactly a den of iniquity, but sometimes the quickest way to a wo/man’s heart is a plate of potato wedges with sweet chili sauce and sour cream.
Yo! SushiAddress and Info
Conveyor belt sushi just might be the perfect first-date experience. If the date’s going well, you’ll bond over the G-rated joys of picking nigiri off of a moving sidewalk. And if the date’s going badly, you can be in and out of there in 30 minutes flat and easily split the check (the wait staff counts the empty plates in order to assess the damage). If nothing else, the quirkiness of Japanese marble soda will give a smile to each of your faces.
Fat HenAddress and Info
Cozy, charming restaurants serving homemade pasta are romantic slam dunks. And if they’re committed to seasonal ingredients, even better. Fat Hen checks off all the boxes: tiny, book-lined interior, pastas outfitted with regional toppings, and decadent entrees like chicken al Mattone. Trust us: By the time your drinks come through the cocktail window leading to sister restaurant La Brasa, your date will already be entranced.
The Smoke ShopAddress and Info
A meat eater should never end up with a vegetarian -- it’s just a bridge too far. But when you’ve found that carnivorous special someone, you owe it to them to buy them a pile of ‘Q. Pitmaster Andy Husbands encourages sharing big piles of ribs, crispy pork skins, brisket, and fried chicken. This might not seem like first-date territory, but then again, a first kiss never suffered from a little extra barbecue sauce.
GiuliaAddress and Info
First date, 10th date, anniversary date, besties date... Giulia is perfect for them all. The cozy, intimate, brick-walled space is so dimly lit you almost can’t not get in the mood. And the service is so far above what you might usually settle for that you’ll quickly relax into the evening -- just in time to twirl delectable plates of house-made pasta and then share bites of the chocolate terrine with salted caramel ice cream. When you return years later for your engagement party, be sure to book the special-occasion pasta table.
TownsmanAddress and Info
The national hype means you’ll be hard-pressed to get in, which also means you’ll score major points before the menus have even arrived. And the menu is a conversation piece all its own: deviled eggs with crispy hen skin, clam chowder with squid, pan-roasted snails, lamb porterhouse. You’ll get to know each other better just by hashing through the charcuterie options. And then there’s that Dry Martini Service to bring a bit of throwback charm to the evening.
It’s dark and there are tons of tacos and oysters. That’s a dream date right there, as far as we’re concerned. The menu might turn off some purists (puffed nachos? Duck taquitos?) but then again, there are coconut margaritas, aka the definitive ice-breakers. The tacos are decidedly new wave; varieties include blackened swordfish, root beer-braised chicken, and of course, fried oysters.
HojokoAddress and Info
OK, so we’re not exactly talking candlelit romance, but we are talking a scorpion bowl kind of good time -- and sometimes a date night needn’t be so serious. Married couple Tim and Nancy Cushman (O Ya) are clearly having fun with this one, so take their cue and bond over maki rolls, ramen, robata, and a trough of some potent tiki brew. Bonus: If your date orders the bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed Dogzilla, you’ll know you’ve found your soulmate.
Branch LineAddress and Info
Chicken drippings are the way to a person’s heart. Salted avocado, too. And a perfect rotisserie chicken. And fried cheese, come to think of it. In other words, Garrett Harker and Andrew Holden have assembled an idyllic menu for the starry-eyed. What brings it home is the stupendous wine list and the wait staff who serve it -- they are masters at pairing the perfect bottle to your evening.
WaypointAddress and Info
Because first off, you’re probably not getting into Alden & Harlow. Also, Waypoint’s cocktail menu is stacked with many an absinthe concoction, which might be the quickest way to rid yourself of early-evening jitters. But mostly, Michael Scelfo’s seafood joint dishes out damn fine small plates, pizzas, and pastas -- universal crowd pleasers all, save for the shellfish-allergic set. Whether your love match is a win or a loss, you know you’ll be eating and drinking well.
75 ChestnutAddress and Info
This one feels straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie: an American comfort fare restaurant tucked away on a charming side block, complete with black awning and two enormous windows facing the street. In other words, save this one for someone special. As you’re splitting the molten chocolate cake and lingering over the last of your Willamette Valley pinot, you’re going to have an epiphany: Romance is far from dead.
1. The Salty Pig130 Dartmouth St, Boston
2. Saltie Girl281 Dartmouth St., Boston
3. KO at the Shipyard256 Marginal St, East Boston
4. Yo! Sushi79 Seaport Blvd, Boston
5. Fat Hen, Somerville
6. Smoke Shop BBQ1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge
7. Giulia1682 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
8. Townsman120 Kingston St, Boston
9. Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar412 West Broadway, Boston
10. Hojoko1271 Boylston St, Boston
11. Branch Line321 Arsenal St, Watertown
12. Waypoint1030 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
13. 75 Chestnut75 Chestnut St, Boston
As the name implies, this South End spot is big into pork-centric cured meats. With local charcuterie, artisanal cheese selections, and stone-grilled pizza pies, the Salty Pig is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. An Old World wine list and quirkily named cocktail menu put the finishing touches on the bold flavors that abound here, and the doodle-decorated chalkboard walls make for a decidedly fun ambience.
A tiny, nautical raw bar in Back Bay, Saltie Girl strikes a lovely balance of seafood standbys like clam chowder and lobster rolls with unexpected treats including uni benedict, torched salmon belly, and fried lobster & waffles. Tinned fish like Siberian caviar, octopus, eel, and cod liver are among the sustainably sourced delicacies here, too. Though there are a handful of wooden booths along the sea-foam wall, you'll want to nab a seat at the colorful bar to watch your dish be assembled in real time -- and so you can explore a wine menu that includes seven rosés by the glass.
If you’re looking for some grub from the Down Under, head to KO at the Shipyard. This cozy counter service spot offers authentic Australian comfort food such as savory meat and curried vegetable pies, as well as hard to find pantry goods like Vegemite, Milo, and Tim Tams. Outdoor seating overlooking the harbor is available when the weather’s nice, but don’t fret—there’s an inviting nook of communal high-top tables indoors when winter’s in full swing.
A British-based chain, this sleek and vibrant Seaport spot looks like it was imported directly from Tokyo in both its decor and cuisine: a signature conveyor belt runs down the center of the funky space, delivering sushi rolls and small plates on colorful dishes to customers in booths and at the counter. You can order from the menu or simply pick what catches your eye right off the belt -- either way, you're in for fresh, authentic options from hand-rolls, maki, nigiri, and sashimi to buns, soups, gyoza, chicken wings, and chazuke.
Located in the old market space next to La Brasa, Fat Hen is an upscale Italian with an attention to detail that's obvious in everything from the carrot-salted butter that accompanies the bread basket to the beautifully blended aperitivo cocktails. Expect creative dishes like tortellini with lemon ricotta and rigatoni with rabbit sausage, and don't forget to order dessert -- caramel gelato affogato, anyone?
Competitive BBQ pitmaster and Hell’s Kitchen alum Andy Husbands combines standard platters of pulled pork, ribs, and burnt ends with modern interpretations like Korean brisket with kimchee and Thai fried chicken at his Kendall Square barbecue joint. The Smoke Shop's Southern inspirations are obvious in its beverage program, which emphasizes brown liquor and cocktails like the Skinny Dennis, a frozen concoction of coffee, espresso, brandy, milk, and bourbon.
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.
This stylish New England brasserie dazzles with dishes like crunchy chicken-fried sweetbreads and Bang’s Island mussels: a smoldering cauldron of garlicky chorizo verde broth and a colossal hunk of bread for dipping/mopping. Bring a friend and take on the 32oz rib steak for two, cranked up with chimichurri and served alongside hambone collards and spiced frites.
The Baja menu at this Southie spot emphasizes bright and summery tacos and inventive oyster dishes. Loco's fried fish taco has a tropical edge thanks to a topping of pineapple aioli, while oysters -- when not served cold over flavored ice -- are grilled over charcoal with red pepper butter and ash salsa. More than 40 tequilas and mezcals are available, either straight or in zesty cocktails like the wicked hot Little Devil.
Located in Fenway's swanky Verb Hotel, comic-inspired Hojoko serves up Japanese fare with pub style -- over a game of pacman or galaga on an old-school arcade machine (which you'll probably use as your table) you can feast on big servings of King crab over spicy mayo, roll after roll of spicy sushi, eastern-style burgers like the Dogzilla, and pitchers galore of Sapporo or, even better, sake shots.
Located within the historic Watertown Arsenal, chic bistro-like restaurant serves up a truly fantastic roast chicken that, once you try it, you'll be jonesing for it on the regular. The "Green Circle" rotisserie is served in its baking pan with green garlic sprinkled over top and warm pan jus-- get half or the whole bird depending on how much you're willing to share. Vegetable crudite (salted avocado; warm cucumber) are stand outs on the Mediterranean influenced menu. Warm up on the heated patio till Branch Line's on-site bocce court opens in Spring.
Cambridge’s Waypoint could have exceeded our expectations with its beverage program alone, but even 20 types of absinthe along with rum, mezcal, agave, sherry, and gin stand second to the coastal-inspired seafood menu. The raw bar is complete with such maritime gems as smoked and salted peel-n-eat shrimp, while hot dishes include pizza, pasta, roasts, and small plates. Seafood is incorporated in unconventional ways wherever possible, from the squid ink bread and smoked whitefish pizza to the fish-shaped neon signs that decorate Waypoint’s walls.
75 Chestnut, nestled in historic Beacon Hill, boasts a menu of New England comfort food that focuses on fresh seafood, chicken, beef, and salads. Thankfully, portions are large, meaning you’ll have plenty of your favorite dishes, like seafood stew, made with gulf shrimp, scallops, hand-cut salmon, swordfish, halibut, and sea bass with garden vegetables and bliss potatoes, Bibb salad, made with creamy local goat cheese, pungent dried cranberries, gala apples, roasted pecans, and tart lemon vinaigrette, and clam chowder to go around. Prices are reasonable and décor is elegant yet understated, making 75 Chestnut a restaurant suitable for family dinner.