The 50 Best Restaurants 2012
Our annual list of Boston’s top restaurants. Check out all of our 50 Best Restaurants 2012 coverage.
Journeyman’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, helmandrestaurant.com.
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, hungrymothercambridge.com.
IL CASALE Belmont
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, ilcasalebelmont.com.
ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR Kenmore Square
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, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
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, journeymanrestaurant.com.