Best Restaurants in Boston 2014
— 41 —
2 Alfred St., Woburn, 781-935-8488, sichuangardenrestaurant.com.
Many a great Sichuan eatery in this area lacks proper stiff drinks to chase all of that fiery ma po tofu and pork-filled wontons in chili oil. Not so at this yellow manor off Route 128, where wunderkind bartender Ran Duan has opened up a hip tiki lounge, the Baldwin, within his parents’ traditional Sichuan restaurant. The menu is the same no matter where you sit, so order the above—plus a hulking platter of Chongqing chicken wings with maple-sriracha sauce—before perusing the beverage selection, which includes an entire mai tai menu and some of the most creative cocktails around.
Can’t-miss dish: Chongqing chicken wings with maple-sriracha sauce.
— 42 —
500 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-758-4444, areafour.com.
Chef Michael Leviton identified a need and filled it: a cafeteria for the Cambridge tech crowd proffering consistently excellent wood-fired pizzas, salads, and croissant-crumb-topped mac ’n’ cheese, plus an adjacent high-styled coffee shop. It’s an upgraded ’60s pizza parlor with sweeping windows and long tables perfect for meetings and casual, back-of-iPad collaboration. For a three-course meal Area Four–style, start with the “Kitchen Sink” salad tossed with fontina and roasted onions, order the sausage-and-banana-pepper pizza as the main event, and cap off the night with the soft-serve of the day, topped with irresistible homemade sauces and twice-baked-for-crunch cookie crumbs.
Can’t-miss dish: Garlic knots with red sauce, pecorino, and gremolata.
— 43 —
48 Boylston St., Brookline, 617-739-0007, lamorra.com.
Over the years, this cozy, brick-walled Brookline Village spot has valiantly eschewed trends, turning out simply prepared pastas and other northern Italian specialties. That said, chef and co-owner Josh Ziskin has still kept his finger on the culinary pulse: His decade-old eatery was wood-grilling meats and seafood long before marquee ovens popped up all over town. Start your meal with the best bar snacks around, the bite-size cicchetti—crisp, braised-beef-stuffed arancini, fried sage leaves with anchovy, and lemony salt cod with crostini.
Can’t-miss dish: Wood-grilled hanger steak.
— 44 —
9A Tyler St., Boston, 617-423-7888, shojoboston.com.
If anyone could launch a thoroughly modern incarnation of a Chinatown restaurant, it’s cousins Brendan and Brian Moy, who grew up in the family that owns upstairs dim sum mainstay China Pearl. The recent installation of former O Ya and JM Curley chef Mark O’Leary has brought inspired plates like five-spice-butter-fried chicken with puffy Hong Kong–style waffles, and the late-night-only, Sapporo-braised ma po hot dog. Handpainted murals and cocktails showcasing unusual infusions (Thai-chili- and oolong-tea-infused vodkas, anyone?) make the atmosphere feel as vibrant as the food.
Can’t-miss dish: “Wu Tang Tiger Style” pork ribs with Thai basil, shallots, and peanuts.
— 45 —
Ten Tables J.P.
597 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-8810, tentables.net.
The friendly, stylish-neighbor vibe; the accommodating service; the warm glow of the intimate dining room that’s right up against the action in the kitchen—everything about this J.P. original is winning. Recent years have seen the place transition away from destination status and more toward an exemplary neighborhood gathering spot—whether it’s for supping on fresh salads and roast chicken in the dining room, or cheddar-onion dip, sherry-steamed mussels, and inventive cordial-based cocktails in the expanded bar area.
Can’t-miss dish: Hanger steak with rye berries and za’atar oil.
— 46 —
942 Great Plain Ave., Needham, 781-444-9600, sweetbasilneedham.com.
This oddball Metrowest gem is the sum of several sweet gestures: ceramic tableware hand-thrown by chef-owner Dave Becker; an interior that verges on kitsch, with its toadstools and cheery aqua walls; and air that’s always thick with the smell of frying garlic. It’s a world unto itself, one in which quasi-Italian comfort dishes (gooey baked Gouda atop greens; pumpkin-ricotta gnocchi with pork belly; and slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta) are served in heaping portions.
Can’t-miss dish: Braised chicken with vinegar peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and strozzapreti.
For more on Sweet Basil, see Inside the 50.
— 47 —
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter
425 Washington St., Somerville, 857-259-6585, kirklandtapandtrotter.com.
After putting off opening a second spot for years, Craigie on Main’s Tony Maws finally took the plunge with this relaxed gastropub. Fans of Kirkland’s (slightly) pricier sibling will find lots to love here—plancha-torched vegetables, rustic pastas married with crumbled ham and wax beans, exciting treatments of unusual cuts of fish. Those who crave Craigie’s fried pigs’ tails would do well to order Kirkland’s deep-fried pork ribs, with hoisin sauce and pickled cherries.
Can’t-miss dish: Chili-rubbed grilled salmon head.
— 48 —
1395 Washington St., Boston, 617-425-0200, thegallowsboston.com.
The Gallows may have launched amid Boston’s “upscale tavern” craze, but it’s managed to stand out from the rest. How? With a wicked sense of humor (find Natty Light and Boone’s Farm wine on the drink list, and a Ouija-board installation on the wall). While this makes it a fun place to kick back, it’s the friendly service, creative yet homey dishes (squash-blossom rangoons, ginger-soy-glazed pork ribs), and killer cocktails that have turned what could have been a flash in the pan into a South End stalwart.
Can’t-miss dish: Ginger-soy-glazed Berkshire pork ribs.
— 49 —
The Salty Pig
130 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-536-6200, thesaltypig.com.
When it opened three years ago, the Salty Pig quickly became known for its graze-worthy charcuterie boards and creative pizzas. Then came executive chef Kevin O’Donnell, with an Italian-cooking pedigree that included stints in the motherland and at New York’s Del Posto. By boosting the in-house production of pâtés, rilletes, and sausages, and crafting exquisite pastas, O’Donnell turned the Salty Pig 2.0 into a destination. Equally notable: the pizza-friendly cocktails bolstered by everything from bubbly Lambrusco to house-made vermouth.
Can’t-miss dish: Fusilli with charred broccoli, spicy sausage, and ricotta salata.
For more on The Salty Pig, see Inside the 50.
— 50 —
506 Park Dr., Boston, 857-250-4959, meimeiboston.com.
With their audubon circle spot, the three siblings behind Mei Mei Street Kitchen have proven it’s possible to make the precarious leap from food truck to full-service restaurant. Brick-and-mortar Mei Mei expands on its original tongue-in-cheek approach to classic Chinese-American cuisine, bringing nuance to takeout staples like sweet-and-sour pork and fried rice while introducing wholly unique concoctions (corn fritters with sriracha aioli; scallion pancake–pesto sandwiches) to the local vernacular.
Can’t-miss dish: Seared beef shank with halloumi cheese.
For more on Mei Mei, see Inside the 50.
From unusual ingredients to peerless playlists, take a behind-the-scenes peek at what makes the city’s finest restaurants tick.
The most excruciating part of ranking the city’s 50 best restaurants? Realizing how many great spots can’t make the cut. Take a closer look at more than a dozen establishments that could have been number 51.