January 2010: Where to Eat Now 2010

We know great food here at Boston magazine, and we’ve showcased countless fine restaurants around town in our pages. Yet certain kinds of recommendation requests still fill our inboxes: Where should I take my parents for dinner? What’s a good place for a picky eater? Where can I go with my buddies for a beer? Circumstances, it seems, often dictate where Bostonians dine. So with that in mind, we’ve rounded up our top picks (including both long-standing favorites and talked-about newcomers) for where to go, when to go there, and who to take with you.

Market by Jean-Georges
Great for: A blowout birthday.
Bigtime parties demand bigtime atmosphere: flashy décor, hard-to-get tables, new-restaurant cachet. Of all the city’s scene-iest spots, culinary superstar Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s chic eatery at the new W hotel stands out, and its unexpectedly manageable prices make going overboard a pleasant, not guilt-inducing, pursuit. So order up the champagne and plenty of apps (look for the sea urchin toast with yuzu and jalapeño, and the scallops with caper-raisin emulsion), and don’t skip dessert. If you opt for the six-course “market menu,” you’ll get the chef’s-tasting treatment for an affordable $58. W hotel, 100 Stuart St., Boston, 617-310-6790, marketbyjgboston.com.

Great for: A hush-hush birthday.
Celebrating with only the select few who know how old you really are (and can keep it to themselves)? While this Bay Village restaurant is hardly glamorous—bare-bones décor, furniture and flatware we think we recognize from Ikea—its understated charm and underrated cuisine make it the ideal place to quietly commemorate a big day. Chef Charles Draghi’s deceptively simple menu changes daily, but always features refined, Italian-accented dishes like feather-light ricotta-filled pansotti and sautéed bitter greens with lemon, walnut, and thyme pesto. What’s more, Draghi’s habit of delivering extras to the table and chatting up patrons reinforces the sense of a special occasion. 69 Church St., Boston, 617-426-6969, erbaluce-boston.com.

Great for: Dinner with New York food snobs.
At this just-opened South End boîte, chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette do what they do best: serve down-to-earth fare with enough edge to pique diners’ interest. Thanks to Bissonnette’s obsession with offal and house-cured meats, the menu includes creative dishes like sweetbread saltimbocca and grass-fed-beef-heart crostini alongside standards like wood-fired pizzas and lasagna. And with fewer than 40 seats in the house, Coppa has a neighborhood ambiance that’s guaranteed to charm even the snootiest visitor. 253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.

North 26
Great for: Dinner with tourists.
Spare us the baked beans and faux-surly service. At North 26, out-of-towners can get their Faneuil Hall fix—Look, a horse and buggy! Hey, let’s grab a beer at Cheers!—while supping on the kind of food that Bostonians would actually eat. Chef Brian Flagg, who trained with seafood guru Jasper White, has been on board since the restaurant opened last spring, and he’s hit his stride with locally inspired dishes like Woodbury clam pozole with bacon and mole, Berkshire pork osso buco, and a superlative chorizo-studded New England shellfish stew. Millennium Bostonian Hotel, 26 North St., Boston, 617-557-3640, north26restaurant.com.