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.
ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR
A must-visit for anyone seeking a proper introduction to local seafood, thanks in no small part to the pristine, briny namesake bivalves served there (especially snackable fried, in slider form).
$$$ | Great for: Cocktails, Wine, Date | 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
This Downtown Crossing hangout is a rarity: serious about its cooking, yet lighthearted about its mission. Case in point are the bar snacks, which cleverly hide stellar local ingredients in made-over Doritos and wings.
$$ | Great for: Cocktails | 21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com.
Now that this Union Square destination has done away with its tasting-menu options, diners pay $75 for a parade of avant-garde, vegetable-driven plates dreamed up expressly for their meal.
THE KIRKLAND TAP & TROTTER
Tony Maws’s Somerville newcomer specializes in smoky grilled meats—the lamb ribs are standouts—and funkier items like roasted salmon head and spaghetti with chicken-liver-brown-butter sauce.
$$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Groups, Cocktails, Wine, Date, Bar Dining | 425 Washington St., Somerville, 857-259-6585, kirklandtapandtrotter.com.
Experience this Back Bay fixture anew (or on the fly) by dining in the less-formal salon, which offers mini tastings (hors d’oeuvres and two small plates for $20), cheese boards, and a tight selection of à la carte entrées from the dining room.
$$$–$$$$ | Great for: Groups, Cocktails, Wine, Date | 774 Boylston St., Boston, 617-262-3023, lespalier.com.
MEI MEI STREET KITCHEN
This family-run food truck could go toe to toe with some of the most interesting dining rooms in the area thanks to its highly creative mix of Asian street eats and elegant vegetable-driven fare.
$ | Great for: Vegetarians | Go to meimeiboston.com for locations.
At just over three years old, Barbara Lynch’s French-fine-dining mecca keeps getting more exciting—most recently with the installation of Top Chef champ Kristen Kish as chef de cuisine.
$$$$ | Great for: Groups, Wine, Date | 354 Congress St., Boston, 617-737-0099, mentonboston.com.
MYERS & CHANG
Chef Karen Akunowicz’s riffs on Asian cuisine (Korean fish tacos, lamb-belly stir-fry, and tea-smoked pork ribs are but a few favorites) are served rapid-fire-style, for easy sharing.
$$ | Great for: Vegetarians, Groups, Date | 1145 Washington St., Boston, 617-542-5200, myersandchang.com.
It’s famously tough to get into, but patience yields sweet rewards: some of the finest raw-bar fare in the city, and terrific cooked dishes, too. Don’t miss the pan-fried johnnycake drenched in honey butter and crowned with smoked trout and caviar.
$$$–$$$$ | Great for: Wine, Date | 63 Salem St., Boston, 617-742-3474, neptuneoyster.com.
NO. 9 PARK
With its grand service and impeccable wine list, Barbara Lynch’s legendary original has stood the test of time. A recently added multicourse pasta tasting and expanded bar and cocktail menu, though, keep it feeling fresh.
$$$–$$$$ | Great for: Cocktails, Wine, Date, Bar Dining | 9 Park St., Boston, 617-742-9991, no9park.com.