The 50 Best Restaurants

SO YOU WANT TO KNOW what the hordes think about dining out in the city? Just pull up one of a million amateur-review websites or flip through a couple of those quote-filled guidebooks. But if it’s serious, considered advice on where to eat that you’re after, you need to put in a whole lot of research. Thankfully, we’ve taken care of that for you. For the past six months, we’ve been tearing through scores of Boston’s top restaurants, checking out the newcomers that are making waves and popping in on old favorites to see who’s still at the top of their game. We ate, analyzed, and argued, all to create our annual guide to the city’s greatest dining experiences. This time around, we also name Boston’s new must-try dishes and explore how we’ve become a hub of gastronomic discovery. Overthinking things? Maybe. But here it is: the intelligent diner’s guide to dining out now.

Blue Ginger’s tuna poke on a perfectly crisped sushi-rice cake. All photographs by Anthony Tieuli 

Alta Strada

Chef Michael Schlow isn’t exactly a quiet-suburbs kind of restaurateur; the guy’s got an eatery at Foxwoods, for Pete’s sake. But the original Alta Strada in Wellesley forgoes flash for a delightfully cozy feel; it’s a family-friendly Italian restaurant with exposed brick and warm lighting that just happens to serve exceptional food. From the tender pistachio-topped sacchetti to the Heritage Farm pork chop bursting with flavor, it’s amore on a plate. >> Order This: Homemade ricotta with crostini; sacchetti pasta. >> Great For: Group gatherings.

92 Central St., Wellesley, 781-237-6100, altastradarestaurant.com.[sidebar]

Bergamot

That Somerville is now a hot dining destination is due, in large part, to Keith Pooler. In his kitchen at Bergamot, the chef takes the ubiquitous farm-to-table theme and runs with it, producing plates like a witty root vegetable “reverse risotto” and a pork chop with sweet-tart fig-and-gooseberry sauce. Swing by the bar for surprisingly creative drinks and snacks like pimiento cheese and crackers. >> Order This: Lobster melt (on the bar menu); crispy duck salad. >> Great For: Vegetarian dining, standout wine list.

118 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-7700, bergamotrestaurant.com.

Bistro du Midi

There are few restaurants in Boston our staffers recommend to friends more frequently than Provence-inspired Bistro du Midi. In its favor: location (across from the Public Garden), vibe (exceedingly polished, yet easygoing), and versatility (sip cocktails downstairs at the bar or have a more-formal meal upstairs). The clincher, of course, is the food — chef Robert Sisca’s Marseilles-style bouillabaisse and other seafood dishes are some of the most reliably impressive plates in town. >> Order This: Pan-roasted cod with golden raisins and chorizo; grilled Mediterranean sea bass. >> Great For: Date night, business engagement, creative cocktails, standout wine list.

272 Boylston St., Boston, 617-426-7878, bistrodumidi.com.

Blue Ginger

It’s been 13 years since this French-Asian spot opened, and more than 10 since People proclaimed chef Ming Tsai one of the country’s most beautiful people. But a meal here still delights. With artful presentations (tuna poke on a perfectly crisped sushi-rice cake) and brilliant flavor combinations (lobster in white wine–butter sauce with garlic and pepper) — not to mention impeccable service — this is a restaurant with beauty and brains. >> Order This: The garlic–black pepper lobster with lemongrass fried rice; the five-spice mini doughnuts. >> Great For: Business engagements, group gatherings, vegetarian dining.

583 Washington St., Wellesley, 781-283-5790, ming.com/blueginger.

Bondir

Jason Bond doesn’t proclaim anything. He buys local, but his menu doesn’t name-check every farm. No bigwig architect conceptualized his space. (In fact, he did most of the work himself.) So when you go to his petite, year-old restaurant, the experience will catch you off-guard. Every dish has a why-didn’t-someone-make-that-before originality, like a beetroot spaghetti the color of roses. Where other chefs’ food shouts, Bond’s whispers. Listen closely: The message is profoundly good. >> Order This: Sage tagliatelle; handmade burrata; any of the sorbets and ice creams. >> Great For: Date night, standout wine list.

279A Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-0009, bondircambridge.com.

All photographs by Anthony Tieuli 

  • Rebecca

    Find it hard to believe you did not include La Campania in your top 50. It consistently is ranked in the top 10 in the Boston area by Zagat and others. The quality of the food and the exceptional wine list are hard to beat.

  • Jennifer

    You forgot to mention STELLA in the south end, this is an amazing restaurant one of the best in the city ( top 5). It is open until 1:30am with an amazing menu and one of the best brunchs on sundays!!

  • Michael

    Where’s Journeyman?

  • Barbara

    Andy Husbands of 647 Tremont and Sister Sorel is an amazing chef. This is a place not to be missed.

  • Jerry

    You missed 75 Chestnut St.
    Not only GREAT food, but very very reasonable. You should not have to be the most expensive to be on the list.

  • Mannie

    I went there for my birthday and I specifically ordered this dish that included jumbo shrimp. They gave these tiny little shrimp in replacement for the jumbo shrimp. The rice was way under cooked. The waitress was rude. I e-mailed the head chef and complained about the food and service. No reply. She sucks too. Snobby people would probably think this place was good. I would rather go to Chinatown and eat, cheap or expansive. You always get great food.

  • Leoni

    Nice list!

    I just heard of this great site that’s launching soon called TableZest. They let you browse and discover the best restaurants in Boston and also offer personalized restaurant recommendations. It’s great because looks like you can make reservations directly from their site, even for the same day at popular spots.

    Curious to see which restaurants from this list make it on their site!

    They’re at http://www.tablezest.com if you want to check it out.

  • Alex

    I’ve been to Sonsie many times and absolutely love it. Think it should be on this list!