The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

Lespalier boston 50 best restaurants 2012Five Great New England Cheeses at L’Espalier (Photo by Bruce Peterson / Styling by Kara Butterfield)


L’ANDANA Burlington

WHY IT’S GREAT: With plush chairs, dramatic wine-barrel chandeliers, and service to rival any downtown restaurant’s, this luxe spot offers chef Jamie Mammano’s characteristically bold Italian fare—umami-rich veal meatballs with pappardelle; house-made sausage with wood-roasted peppers—sans I-95 traffic. WHAT TO ORDER: Wood-grilled rib-eye; chicken Milanese. INSIDER TIP: The restaurant’s private dining room—complete with a floor-to-ceiling fireplace and bar—can host up to 70 for dinner. L’Andana, 86 Cambridge St., Burlington, 781-270-0100,


WHY IT’S GREAT: What you see on the menu—succulent poached oysters, foie gras and truffle-sauced chicken—is but a fraction of the luxury that you’re in for at this Back Bay stalwart. Each meal here begins with a parade of petite amuse bouches—a postage stamp-sized ceviche taco, perhaps, or cloud-like warm cheese gougeres—that surprise, delight, and merely tease at what’s to come. WHAT TO ORDER: Warm Wellfleet oyster with faux gnocchi; beef ribeye with bone marrow custard; mint chocolate souffle. INSIDER TIP: In addition to cheeses, L’Espalier also holds court when it comes to tea—and on Sundays, in-house tea sommelier Cynthia Gold leads “fantasty tea” tastings for $50 per person. Check out five great New England cheeses at L’Espalier. L’Espalier, 774 Boylston St., Boston, 617-262-3023,


WHY IT’S GREAT: The rustic pots and pans, candles, and abundance of fresh-cut flowers will entice those seeking romance. Southern Italian–style pizzas, plates of hand-cut pasta, and wood-grilled meats, meanwhile, ensure that the cuisine is as sumptuous as the surroundings. WHAT TO ORDER: The fig, duck confit, Gorgonzola, and fontina pizza. INSIDER TIP: You can reserve a seat on the charming patio if you call the day of your visit. La Campania, 504 Main St., Waltham, 781-894-4280,

LA MORRA Brookline Village

WHY IT’S GREAT: The flight of stairs at Jen and Josh Ziskin’s neighborhood treasure may be steep, but you’ll be rewarded with the ideal backdrop—exposed brick walls, rustic wooden seats—for an Italian feast of earthy Tuscan meatballs and smoky wood-fired bruschetta. WHAT TO ORDER: Fried sage leaves; porcini-and-prosciutto meatballs; panna cotta. INSIDER TIP: Gluten-free pastas are available upon request. La Morra, 48 Boylston St., Brookline, 617-739-0007,


WHY IT’S GREAT: The menu at chef Michael Leviton’s cozy restaurant features diligently sourced ingredients that shine in a sophisticated lineup of elegantly presented bistro-style dishes: silky vegetable soups, crisp roast chicken, and some wonderfully creative desserts. WHAT TO ORDER: Crystal Valley Farm chicken; the chocolate soufflé cake. INSIDER TIP: After a brief hiatus, Lumière’s popular prix-fixe menu has returned, with three courses for $45 Sunday through Thursday. Lumière, 1293 Washington St., Newton, 617-244-9199,


  • 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).