The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

Grill 23 boston 50 best restaurants 2012The soaring dining room at the Back Bay steakhouse Grill 23. (Photo by Bob O’Connor)

 

ERBALUCE Bay Village

WHY IT’S GREAT: Thoughtful details set Charles Draghi’s preparations apart in a city overrun with upscale Italian: the crisped skin on the bluefish (“potato chips from the sea,” says the server); the cinnamon dust on an amuse-bouche of white-bean purée; the violet extract in the meringue atop a chocolate-and-cherry mousse. WHAT TO ORDER: Razor clams with fennel and leeks; pappardelle with wild-boar ragu. INSIDER TIP: On the first Sunday of each month, Draghi leads an Italian-themed wine class. Erbaluce, 69 Church St., Boston, 617-426-6969, erbaluce-boston.com.

THE GALLOWS South End

WHY IT’S GREAT: A restaurant with “Le Boones Farm” spelled out on the wine list obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously. Then again, this buzzing gastropub doesn’t have to—its fun, thoughtful dishes (locavore bacon-ranch wedge salad, anyone?) and informed service speak volumes about the quality here. WHAT TO ORDER: Classic poutine; the “Longshoreman” platter. INSIDER TIP: For dessert, try a cone of off-menu soft-serve—all you have to do is ask for it. The Gallows, 1395 Washington St., Boston, 617-425-0200, thegallowsboston.com.

GRILL 23 Back Bay

WHY IT’S GREAT: When the occasion calls for a top-notch steak, there’s no place better to celebrate than at this sophisticated spot, where you’ll find a superior 100-day-aged rib-eye—among other well-marbled cuts—and stiff, icy martinis perfect for toasting the evening. WHAT TO ORDER: Tuna tartare; skirt-steak frites; dry-aged New York strip; mashed potatoes. INSIDER TIP: On Sundays and Mondays, the restaurant offers a list of popular wines for $23 a bottle. Grill 23, 161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.

Hamersleys boston 50 best restaurants 2012Grilled quail with roasted figs at Hamersley’s in South End. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

HAMERSLEY’S BISTRO South End

WHY IT’S GREAT: In this era of small plates, Gordon Hamersley continues to celebrate the singular entrée, such as beautifully balanced grilled quail with roasted figs (pictured above), expertly seared fish, and, of course, his iconic roast chicken. WHAT TO ORDER: Duck confit; spicy halibut with bacon-braised greens; chocolate-hazelnut cheesecake. INSIDER TIP: An impressive selection of wines by the half bottle offers more flexibility for smaller parties. Hamersley’s Bistro, 553 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-2700, hamersleysbistro.com.

HARVEST Harvard Square

WHY IT’S GREAT: It would be easy for this institution to rest on its laurels. After all, it helped launch the careers of culinary bigwigs like Barbara Lynch and Lydia Shire. But nearly 40 years on, tucking into a tenderloin with black truffle–farro risotto on the linden-shaded patio remains a singular thrill. WHAT TO ORDER: Tagliatelle with roasted cauliflower and piquillo-pepper coulis; Taza chocolate crémeux with salted caramel. INSIDER TIP: Executive pastry chef Brian Mercury collects his own sea salt from Ogunquit, Maine—find it sprinkled on the crémeux. Harvest, 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-868-2255, harvestcambridge.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).