The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

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

Scampo boston 50 best restaurants 2012Scampo in Beacon Hill. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

SCAMPO Beacon Hill

WHY IT’S GREAT: Chef Lydia Shire doesn’t shy away from bold combinations. Who else would put out a menu featuring lamb-tartare-topped pita and pork-crackling-laced spaghetti? The dining experience at this globally influenced Italian restaurant, meanwhile, is just as exciting as the food. WHAT TO ORDER: Selections from the mozzarella bar; pork chops with risotto. INSIDER TIP: A variety of pizzas—including Shire’s signature lobster pie—are available until midnight Thursday through Saturday. Scampo, 215 Charles St., Boston, 617-536-2100,


WHY IT’S GREAT: Yes, this swanky Italian eatery attracts its share of trust-funders and executives. But the truth is, every diner here gets the star treatment: Servers are quick with wine suggestions, de-crumb the table after the meal, and deliver truffles even when you beg off dessert. WHAT TO ORDER: Maccheroncelli with Wagyu meatballs; Cornish game hen with whipped potatoes; octopus with squid-ink couscous. INSIDER TIP: Live within two miles of the restaurant? The gratis car service can take you home from dinner between the hours of 6:30 and 11:30 p.m. Sorellina, One Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-412-4600,

STRIP-T’S Watertown

WHY IT’S GREAT: This relative newcomer has already become a fixture on the scene thanks to inspired combinations like the spicy charred romaine salad topped with rich oxtail and chili vinaigrette. The flawless service makes it easy to forget that the whole thing is going down in a tiny Watertown storefront. WHAT TO ORDER: Wings with Moxie sauce; any vegetable side; the doughnut. INSIDER TIP: The restaurant offers a wide variety of flavored sodas from microbreweries both home and abroad. Strip-T’s, 93 School St., Watertown, 617-923-4330,

TEN TABLES J.P. Jamaica Plain

WHY IT’S GREAT: There are now locations in both Cambridge and Provincetown, but we still find ourselves returning to the Centre Street original, a quaint spot where Sean Callahan has mastered seasonal bistro fare. WHAT TO ORDER: Adobo-rubbed hanger steak with farro; house-made charcuterie. INSIDER TIP: The adjoining TTJP Bar has daily specials that you can’t get across the river. Ten Tables J.P., 597 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-8810,

Toro boston 50 best restaurants 2012Pimientos de Padrón at Toro in South End. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

TORO South End

WHY IT’S GREAT: The grilled corn is well known for a reason. But if you skip it, just this once, you’ll make room for all of the other treasures on the menu—fat marrow bones with oxtail marmalade crostini, blistery pimientos de Padrón (pictured above), tender blood-orange-glazed sweetbreads—that have made this raucus, tiny spot a local institution. WHAT TO ORDER: Bone marrow with oxtail marmalade; uni bocadillo; any of the paellas. INSIDER TIP: Make dinner a party by requesting sparkling Cava straight from a porron (we’ll let you be surprised). Toro, 1704 Washington St., Boston, 617-536-4300,


  • 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).