The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

By Leah Mennies | Boston Magazine |

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.

  • RJ Berryman

    You left off one of the best restaurants in Watertown – The Red Lentil. Absolutely some of the best food you’ll ever eat!!

  • Jenny

    So glad to see that Tres Gatos made the list- such a great spot in JP! The one restaurant missing: Tupelo in Inman Square. At this point, we get it…. Hungry Mother is the king of southern food in Boston. However, Tupelo gives them a run for their money!

  • Janice

    Someone really ought to check out Phat Cats Bistro in Amesbury. I’ve eaten at several of the places on this list, since I lived in the South End for several years. Paul Eastman & Christina Johnson, owners of Phat Cats, chef and baker respectively, are really right up there!

  • Jake Johnson

    This looks like some good food. I will have to come try some of this one day. I have been looking for some good restaurants ma. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alvin Payne

    Good to catch a glimpse of the best restaurants newburyport ma. Happy eating!

  • Recipe Girl

    Hi! Whoa these restos are definitely an inspiration. Hope one day mine would land in this list too! Anyway, I’m actually a chef in our local community, and our restaurant just recently branched out. Problem is, I’m having a hard time managing inventories and recipes! Can you guys give me an advice on this? Thank you in advance!

  • Ian

    Having eaten at Journeyman I can recommend it to any adventurous eater. Their food engages, the eye first, then the mind through palate making it an exceptionally engaging experience. The only place I’ll try things I know I don’t like and be surprised that by some miraculous preparation, I do.

  • Michael Richards

    The clam chowder at Neptune Oyster is THE worst I’ve had in the U.S. period, never mind New England. It tasted like it came out of a can. It’s really watery (which chowder by definition should never be), herby (yuck), and barely even white. It doesn’t really even taste like chowder at all to be honest. They really need to learn the basics of New England chowder regardless of the price (which by the way is ridiculously expensive as are most things at this incredibly over-rated restaurant).