Where to Eat in 2012: The Guide to Boston’s Newest Restaurants

Your guide to the city’s most exciting restaurant debuts, the grand openings to come, the hottest culinary neighborhoods, and the chefs who are making waves all over town.

Photograph by James Day

Photograph by James Day

When we set out to create a guide to all that’s buzzy on Boston’s food scene, we faced one monumental challenge. It wasn’t that projects were being delayed by construction, that liquor licenses were falling through, or any of the other obstacles that so frequently hamper our attempts to report on the latest and greatest. It was that we couldn’t keep pace with all the openings. Every time we looked up, we’d see design renderings of another new cocktail bar, spy a menu for some proposed bistro, or hear that one more big-name chef was planning to branch out. In other words, 2012 is bringing us more diverse dining options than ever before.

All of the restaurants featured here either opened in the past six months, or are slated to open soon. Some of the launches are so new, they don’t even have phone numbers yet. There’s Japanese bar food in the South End and Central Square, Caribbean-influenced tapas in Union Square, and novel cocktails and addictive snacks at bars all over the city. And, perhaps most intriguing, there’s a world-class chef shaking things up in Watertown. So come on, try a new spot — and then try 24 more.

1. The List

Where to eat that’s open now or coming soon.

2. The Rumor Mill

Are we in for NYC hotspots, more cupcakes, new gigs from Chris Parsons… or all of the above?

3. Essay: Success Squared

Kendall Square wasn’t supposed to be the next big neighborhood success story. But the sudden restaurant boom in the shadow of MIT is no mere fluke.

4. Essay: Hometown Hero

What happens when a chef leaves his perch atop the New York food scene to run the family café — in Watertown?

5. Gallery: Restaurants 2.0

Thanks to some major changes, these local standbys have us excited all over again.

6. Gallery How to Open a Restaurant That’s Already Over

Want to make sure your hot new spot is a flash in the pan? Here’s a guide.

Knife photo by James Day; Food photo by Anthony Tieuli