Best Restaurants in Boston
Our annual list of the top 50 restaurants in town that make Boston a true dining destination.
— 11. —
With all the hype surrounding Café ArtScience, Cambridge thought it was getting an up-to-the-minute, if icy, food lab with some boozy, tech-bent interludes in between. And sure, it got that. But it also got the most expert French food Boston has seen in years, thanks to Eastern Standard alum Patrick Campbell, whose immaculate menu features a beautifully flavored foie-gras terrine and the best roast chicken since Hamersley’s closed its doors. A stripped-down lunch service harbors one of the city’s great under-the-radar burgers—tallow-basted ground chuck and Old Bay aioli are involved—and a minor gastronomic revelation (drumroll: a Greek salad…with pommes frites). And oh, those elaborate beverages. Like he did at Clio, cocktail savant Todd Maul proves that centrifuge-driven concoctions aren’t just parlor tricks.
650 E. Kendall St., Cambridge, 857-999-2193, cafeartscience.com.
— 12. —
At first glance, this sushi restaurant within a Cambridge strip mall looks like your standard-issue maki quick stop. But grab a counter seat in front of sushi chef Seizi Imura and order his omakase (or the more-affordable $15 “chef’s sampler”), and indulge in creatively prepared seasonal seafood both from Japan and local shores (sake-steamed porgy, uni three ways). The secret may be out at this point, but you’ll still get the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a hidden treasure.
1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-0434, cafesushicambridge.com.
— 13. —
Centre Street Café
A Jamaica Plain fixture renowned for its Sunday brunch, Centre Street Café has been transformed by the Tres Gatos team into the type of neighborhood spot that draws regulars every day of the week. The petite space is as comforting as cashmere, with service that is vigilant, never cloying. Not sure about that Greek xinomavro on the wine menu? You can sample a splash before committing to a half carafe. Pair it with excellent starters or a range of hand-rolled and extruded pastas from chef Brian Rae (who trained under Rialto’s Jody Adams), all of which easily compete with the Coppas and Giulias of the proverbial block. And about those Benedicts and Belgian waffles: With upgrades like house-made doughnuts, buttery drop biscuits, and a pancetta-and-peperonata breakfast sandwich, there are now even more reasons to join the weekend faithful winding down Centre Street.
669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9217, centrestreetcafejp.com.
— 14. —
Every time the kitchen changes hands at Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s tiny South End enoteca, we hold our breath. And yet somehow, the place never misses a beat. Now helmed by Craigie on Main and and Gramercy Tavern (NYC) alum Trevor Smith, the classic pizzas are still smoky and rich (our new favorite is dotted with spicy globs of ’nduja sausage); the house pastas are still remarkably creative (see: spelt tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and acorn squash); and the vegetable dishes remain some of the town’s finest (Brussels sprouts smothered in pecorino and horseradish).
253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.
— 15. —
Craigie on Main
Before every restaurant in the city offered a variation on crispy Brussels sprouts, Tony Maws was roasting his in duck fat until nutty, browned, and as addictive as potato chips. Before octopus began popping up on menus everywhere, the chef was charring it on a plancha and marrying the curled tentacles with an earthy black-garlic vinaigrette. And before nose-to-tail cookery spread to gastropubs on every corner, Maws made then-out-there dishes, like his fish-sauce coated pigs’ tails and confited-and-roasted pig’s head with Peking pancakes—some of the most game-changing eats around. New innovations continue to emerge from the kitchen, but the menu staples remain as good as ever—a testament to this boisterous, influential bistro’s staying power.
853 Main St., Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com.
— 16. —
With its dim lighting, convenient Bay Village locale, and peerless carbonara pasta, Erbaluce has been a destination for occasion Italian dining since it opened in 2008. Perhaps less appreciated, however, is chef Charles Draghi’s separate, weeknight-friendly bar menu, where saucy boar meatballs topped with plumes of herbs, and thick prosciutto-and-fontina paninis pair well with an endless flow of lambrusco by the glass.
69 Church St., Boston, 617-426-6969, erbaluce-boston.com.
— 17. —
This Porter Square gem won us over with its chewy, emmer-flour-based farro casarecce alone, tossed with red-wine-braised rabbit, snap peas, and mousseron mushrooms on the night we tried it. But in truth, any of chef Michael Pagliarini’s pastas—painstakingly crafted on a reclaimed-white-oak table at the back of the restaurant—are worth the trip. Cap off your pasta odyssey with a creamy scoop of pistachio gelato or Giulia’s unrivaled affogato. Can’t get a seat at this small spot? Pagliarini and team just opened Benedetto, a 220-seat “sister restaurant in every way” in the hallowed hall of the former Rialto.
1682 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-441-2800, giuliarestaurant.com.
— 18. —
Grill 23 & Bar
This is the rare steakhouse that’s as enjoyable for the non-steak crowd—with Jonah crab cakes, lobster chowder, and pot roast with sweet pea ebelskivers—as it is for those who seek perfectly seared slabs of beef. The installation of a grand bar area, complete with a dressed-down menu, supports modest snacking and grand feasts in equal measure.
161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.
— 19. —
At Tim and Nancy Cushman’s rollicking izakaya in the Fenway, there’s only one rule: If it’s too loud, you’re too old. That mentality extends beyond the garage-rock soundtrack—which they’ll never, ever turn down—to an interior that feels as much Big Trouble in Little China as Pee-wee’s Playhouse, with plastic pink flamingos, street art, and vintage Asian movie memorabilia. What about the food, you say? Executive chef Hart Lowry goes punk, using his flawless Japanese techniques to create the most irreverent drunk food around. Sushi rolls are stuffed with foie gras “Spam”; a “weed” salad combines briny nori and cucumber; and a robata (grilled) program incorporates everything from whole prawns to traditional yakitori. If O Ya’s formal omakase service was the Cushmans’ Dylan-esque acoustic phase, Hojoko is where they go electric.
1271 Boylston St., Boston, 617-670-0507, hojokoboston.com.
— 20. —
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Four years ago, Duxbury’s Island Creek Oysters, restaurateur Garrett Harker, and Lineage chef Jeremy Sewall collaborated to create this stunning reflection of coastal New England—one that swiftly became an anchor of the dining scene. Tuck into elegant dishes like lobster-roe noodles with shreds of braised short rib in the dining room, or soak up the energy of the lounge, where you’ll have a front-row seat to both the shucking action and the production of the cocktails, perfectly designed to quench all fried-oyster-slider-induced thirst.
500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.