Where to Eat, Right Now: The List
Here, in list form, our compendium of where you should be eating right this very moment: a carefully vetted mix of the forward-leaning restaurants that have emerged on the scene during the past couple of years and the stalwarts reinventing themselves in fresh ways (eligibility deadline: end of September). For more highlights and details about our selection process, check out the complete 2013 dining guide.
$ Entrees/larger plates cost less than $15
$$ Entrees/larger plates cost between $15 and $22
$$$ Entrees/larger plates cost between $22 and $30
$$$$ Entrees/larger plates cost $30+
Great for Vegetarians • Great for Groups • Great for Cocktails • Great for Wine • Great for a Date • Great for Bar Dining
This Kendall Square spot has the bones of a hip pizza bar—behold, Hawaiian pizza and garlic knots—but also the thoughtful salads and roast chicken you’d expect from an elegant bistro.
$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Groups, Cocktails, Wine, Date, Bar Dining | 500 Technology Sq., Cambridge, 617-758-4444, areafour.com.
Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant from Asta. Hover/click for details. (Photographs by Bruce Peterson. Food Styling by Rowena Day/Ennis.)
The casual vibe of this tasting-menu-only restaurant belies the serious, avant-garde interpretations of regional farm-to-table cuisine, including whole braised celery with black garlic, and seaweed pasta with mussel foam.
$$$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Wine, Date | 47 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-585-9575, astaboston.com.
BELLY WINE BAR
From the owners of the Blue Room comes a petite, modern vino haven that describes its expertly curated wines in witty parlance, and offers equally clever charcuterie, snacks, and roast meats to pair with them.
$$–$$$ | Great for: Groups, Cocktails, Wine, Date, Bar Dining | One Kendall Sq., Cambridge, 617-494-0968, bellywinebar.com.
Keith Pooler’s cozy restaurant takes bistro-style fare—including one of the city’s best roast chickens—and elevates it with nuance: crisp kale chips atop roasted carrots, say, or orange-calamintha syrup on a beet salad.
$$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Cocktails, Wine, Date, Bar Dining | 118 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-7700, bergamotrestaurant.com.
BISTRO DU MIDI
This Provençal eatery specializes in dishes that celebrate the fruits of the sea (bouillabaisse, grilled octopus), but Robert Sisca’s meatier plates—like tender braised lamb neck with goat-cheese polenta—are not to be missed.
$$$ | Great for: Wine, Date | 272 Boylston St., Boston, 617-426-7878, bistrodumidi.com.
Jason Bond’s tiny Cambridge spot is small on seating but huge on farm-to-table creativity—particularly when it comes to the vegetables grown on his own Concord farm.
$$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Wine, Date | 279A Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-0009, bondircambridge.com.
The artful crudo, addictive fried oysters, and expertly cooked slabs of meat make this Newburyport haunt more than your average upscale oyster bar—and well worth the trek up 95.
$$$ | Great for: Wine, Date | 25 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8479, brineoyster.com.
At this Union Square tavern, chef Tim Wiechmann creates traditional dishes infused with the flavors of Central Europe and Italy. The result is rustic fare with an upscale, seasonal twist (case in point: crisp pierogies stuffed with autumn squash and apples).
$$–$$$ | Great for: Groups, Date | 255 Washington St., Somerville, 617-776-9900, bronwynrestaurant.com.
THE BUTCHER SHOP
Barbara Lynch’s wine bar/chophouse hybrid is almost always packed with diners. But no matter: We actually prefer grazing on the house-made pastas and charcuterie, wine in hand, while standing around the large butcher block in the back.
$$$ | Great for: Wine, Date | 552 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-4800, thebutchershopboston.com.
The counter at this hidden-in-plain-view Cambridge gem is the place for creative takes on nigiri and sashimi, like torched avocado with truffle salt, and tuna with wasabi oil, smoked salt, and shiso.
$$–$$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Date | 1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-0434, cafesushicambridge.com.