Best Restaurants in Boston 2012

Our annual list of Boston's top restaurants. Check out all of our 50 Best Restaurants 2012 coverage.

Where can you find world-class cuisine in Boston today? Just about anywhere you look, from boisterous downtown establishments to quirky neighborhood bistros. Quite simply, we have more quality options than ever before. That’s great news, of course, but it’s also complicated the age-old question: Where should we go for dinner tonight? Which is why we’ve spent the past six months in search of this city’s most spectacular dining experiences. Here, we present our findings, Boston’s very best restaurants.

(Only restaurants opened by the end of 2011 were included in this list. For some restaurants, we have included expanded content online that did not appear in print.)

Bergamot boston 50 best restaurants 2012House-made charcuterie at Bergamot in Somerville. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

 

80 THOREAU Concord

WHY IT’S GREAT: Chef Carolyn Johnson’s unexpected pairings—butter-crisped gnocchi accented with smoky eggplant purée; juicy grilled sirloin flanked by sweet honeyed beets—make dining at this sophisticated Concord spot a refined adventure. WHAT TO ORDER: Fluke crudo with pickled rhubarb; chocolate panna cotta with pretzels, peanut butter, and beer ice cream. INSIDER TIP: The four-person, bar-style chef’s counter puts you close to the action in the kitchen. 80 Thoreau, 80 Thoreau St., Concord, 978-318-0008, 80thoreau.com.

AREA FOUR Kendall Square

WHY IT’S GREAT: Co-owners Michael Krupp and Michael Leviton (the chef) have perfected the art of the casual, local-leaning eatery. Gourmet pizzas with toppings like Gorgonzola and peppered walnuts anchor the menu, but there are also upscale dishes you won’t find at the corner joint, including creamy smoked fish and a cooling Thai squid salad. WHAT TO ORDER: Smoked local fish (changes daily); garlic knots with pecorino and gremolata; the kitchen-sink salad. INSIDER TIP: The restaurant will now deliver pizza (via website DiningIn) to your home. Area Four, 500 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-758-4444, areafour.com.

BERGAMOT Somerville

WHY IT’S GREAT: Bergamot may look like the quintessential neighborhood restaurant, but appearances can be deceiving. Sophistication abounds here: a dash of rooibos syrup rounding out a cocktail, a hint of smoke in a creamy cauliflower soup, and a bar-only grilled cheese constructed of buttery brioche that’s been stuffed with lobster, gooey cheddar, and scallions. WHAT TO ORDER: Local lamb, three ways; house-made charcuterie (pictured above). INSIDER TIP: The all-hours prix fixe is one of the area’s best deals: For $39, you get any appetizer, entrée, and dessert from the regular menu. Bergamot, 118 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-7700, bergamotrestaurant.com.

BISTRO DU MIDI Back Bay

WHY IT’S GREAT: Chef Robert Sisca’s elegant, seafood-heavy Provençal fare—scallops slivered into fresh crudo; saffron-scented bouillabaisse—and peerless service make this restaurant stand out from the crowd of French bistros that rely on butter-laden sauces and side orders of frites. WHAT TO ORDER: Seasonal crudo; seared duck with gnocchi. INSIDER TIP: The all-day café menu offers refined yet casual French-inspired sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Bistro du Midi, 272 Boylston St., Boston, 617-426-7878, bistrodumidi.com.

BLUE GINGER Wellesley

WHY IT’S GREAT: Ming Tsai could have his name splashed all over New York and Vegas by now (like, ahem, a certain Olives chef), but instead he’s continued to focus on ensuring that his Wellesley restaurant remains one of the area’s finest, with signature dishes like foie-gras shumai and sake-miso-marinated sablefish that remain classic, rather than clichéd. WHAT TO ORDER: Tuna poke; garlic–black pepper lobster with lemongrass fried rice. INSIDER TIP: Tsai catalogs each dish’s ingredients on his menu, helping guests avoid plates that may trigger food allergies. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington St., Wellesley, 781-283-5790, ming.com/blue-ginger.