The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

Bondir boston 50 best restaurants 2012A Few of Jason Bond of Bondir’s Favorite Things (Photo by Bruce Peterson)

BONDIR Kendall Square

WHY IT’S GREAT: Chef Jason Bond specializes in high-style fare with a dose of quirk—much of it owing to the unusual ingredients he sources. Surrounded in the tiny, warmly-lit dining room, though, you’ll feel right at home no matter what you order. (Oven-roasted crickets? Absolutely.) WHAT TO ORDER: Any of the soups, spice-poached beet salad, chocolate-lemongrass pana cotta. INSIDER TIP: Most dishes on the menu are available as half portions, which makes it easy to try much of the menu in a single evening. Take a closer look at Jason Bond’s favorite things. Bondir, 279A Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-0009, bondircambridge.com.

THE BUTCHER SHOP South End

WHY IT’S GREAT: This wine bar pairs the heart of a steakhouse (choice rib-eyes, racks of lamb) with the soul of a Barbara Lynch restaurant. That means silky pâtés, hearty pastas, and desserts begging for a glass of carefully chosen moscato. WHAT TO ORDER: The charcuterie platter; steak tartare. INSIDER TIP: The deli case in back features all manner of cured and fresh meats to go. The Butcher Shop, 552 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-4800, thebutchershopboston.com.

Catalyst boston 50 best restaurants 2012Catalyst in Kendall Square. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

CATALYST Kendall Square

WHY IT’S GREAT: Will Kovel’s industrial-chic Kendall Square bistro is a study in informal elegance. Whether you’re in the mood for delicate upscale fare like seared scallops and Taleggio-ravioli-topped tournedos of beef—or just a really great bacon cheeseburger—you’ll feel perfectly at home here. WHAT TO ORDER: Yellowfin tartare with wonton chips; scallops with lobster-bisque emulsion; cavatelli with chicken oysters, bacon, and black truffle. INSIDER TIP: Ask about the prix-fixe menu option when booking in advance. Catalyst, 300 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-576-3000, catalystrestaurant.com.

CEIA Newburyport

WHY IT’S GREAT: At Ceia, chef Patrick Soucy draws on the cuisines of Portugal, Italy, France, and Spain to create an eclectic genre that’s all his own. Spicy morcilla with San Marzano tomatoes over crostini, and porcini-studded lamb polpetti with a splash of madeira wine are just a couple of examples of his inspired fusion. WHAT TO ORDER: The Manchego-and-prosciutto-topped Kobe burger; rib-eye with truffle fries and barbera-mushroom sauce. INSIDER TIP: On Tuesdays, Ceia offers a three-course meal paired with wines for just $38. Ceia, 25 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8112, ceia-newburyport.com.

Clio boston 50 best restaurants 2012A Peek Into Clio’s Toolkit (Photo by Bruce Peterson / Styling by Kara Butterfield)

CLIO Back Bay

WHY IT’S GREAT: It’s not enough here to serve the butteriest seared foie gras, earthiest escargot, and most tender buttermilk-braised chicken. A variety of molecular powders and extracts keep the dishes as texturally and visually intriguing as they are delicious. WHAT TO ORDER: Foie gras laquee; fresh dug beet salad; chocolate coulant. INSIDER TIP: Take the fine-dining experience a step more casual by ordering from an abridged menu at the bar—all while enjoying bar manager Todd Maul’s avant-garde cocktails. Peek into Clio’s toolkit. Clio, 370A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200, cliorestaurant.com.

  • 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).