Just because a restaurant's in the South End doesn't mean it's a South Ender's restaurant (ahem, Stephi's on Tremont). This place, however, is the real deal. The soul of Boston's now-crowded foodie enclave since opening 12 years ago, the Franklin fills with almost all regulars craving their specific comfort foodin our case, the garlic-grilled calamari and cornmeal-crusted catfish, with a glass of grüner, please!every night of the week. And it doesn't hurt that the kitchen keeps on serving those calamari, and the rest of the menu, until 1:30 a.m.
RUNNERS-UP: Gaslight, Metropolis Café