The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

Journeyman boston 50 best restaurants 2012Journeyman’s Tasting of Carrots (Photo by Bruce Peterson)


HELMAND East Cambridge

WHY IT’S GREAT: This Cambridge mainstay has barely changed in nearly two decades—and that’s exactly why we go. It’s comforting to know that, on every visit, the bubbly flatbreads will be pulled out of the clay oven and slid into a basket alongside cool cilantro and yogurt sauces; the plates of spiced rice will be fluffy and fragrant; and the service will be as polished as ever. WHAT TO ORDER: Lamb lawand; baked pumpkin; aushak ravioli; cardamom-and-pineapple cake. INSIDER TIP: The vegetarian “special” entrée is a great way to try four different vegetable preparations. Helmand, 143 1st St., Cambridge, 617-492-4646,

HUNGRY MOTHER Kendall Square

WHY IT’S GREAT: This city has been adding southern-inspired restaurants so quickly that a visitor could be forgiven for thinking that we’re famous for hush puppies rather than lobster rolls. But Virginia native Barry Maiden’s eatery—which began serving boiled peanuts and pecan-crusted wild catfish long before it was cool—is still the best southern-fried game in town. WHAT TO ORDER: Skillet cornbread with sorghum butter; smoked-beef-tongue toast; wild catfish with pecans; any seasonal dessert. INSIDER TIP: Dine before 6 p.m., and you’re eligible for discounted Kendall Square theater tickets, which your server will deliver with the bill. Hungry Mother, 233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge, 617-499-0090,


WHY IT’S GREAT: Dante de Magistris’s restaurant, housed in a converted firehouse, offers rustic Italian that ranges from exactly what you had in mind (mounds of house-made pasta and lemony fried calamari made using the chef’s nonna’s recipes) to what you’d never before imagined (fresh tomatoes presented in a savory bread pudding, or fried chickpeas atop oil-cured tuna). WHAT TO ORDER: Homemade gnocchi; scamorza-stuffed arancini. INSIDER TIP: If you’re dining with a large party, order a four- or five-course family-style tasting menu. Il Casale, 50 Leonard St., Belmont, 617-209-4942,


WHY IT’S GREAT: ICOB is, quite frankly, the seafood destination we’ve always needed—a place to which we can confidently send, well, just about everyone, whether they’re in the mood for a basket of fried clams or crisp-skinned halibut. Catch and raw-bar selections change daily based on what’s fresh, so your seafood won’t have traveled farther than your guests. WHAT TO ORDER: Fried oyster sliders; lobster roe noodles with short ribs; raw bar. INSIDER TIP: Enhanced with rosemary and honey, ICOB’s biscuits are some of the best in the area. Island Creek Oyster Bar, 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300,


WHY IT’S GREAT: Some of the most inventive, elegant cuisine in Boston is coming from… a back alley in Somerville. Descriptions on the prix-fixe menus (choose five or seven courses, omnivore or vegetarian, with or without wine pairings) are intentionally vague, so co-owners and chefs Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudajarova can surprise and delight food geeks with tomato water ribbons, local pork belly paired with sunflower pesto and Parmesan foam, and deconstructed peach cobbler with shiso ice cream. WHAT TO ORDER: The frequently-changing prix-fixe menus. Off-peak diners can score four courses for $40 after 8:30 p.m., Sundays through Wednesdays. INSIDER TIP: The restaurant now offers a rotating selection of European cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen before dessert—a pungent Belgian Charmoix was a recent standout. Take a closer look at Journeyman’s tasting of carrots. Journeyman, 9 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, 617-718-2333,


  • 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).