The 50 Best Restaurants 2009

It's a simple question: "Where should we go for dinner?" Yet ask it and brace for a cacophony of opinions, as every magazine, newspaper, and user-generated-review website vies to serve as your gastronomic guru. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to pull it all together, to herd that surfeit of recommendations into one single, convenient, yet statistically meaningful index? To have a Metacritic, of sorts, for local grub? We thought so, too. Presenting the ultimate ranking of Hub dining, as determined by every major dining expert and amateur critic out there.

29. Excelsior

Score: 61.60
High: Phantom 91 Low: Chowhound ***
Our score: 3.5

At this polished eatery overlooking the Public Garden, chef Eric Brennan’s well-sourced menu (Point Judith calamari, Wolfe Neck filet mignon) can rival the dramatic view, but consistency is an occasional bugaboo. Even non–sweet tooths should give the stellar desserts by pastry whiz Molly Hanson a whirl.

ORDER THIS: Lobster schnitzel with sunchoke-roasted garlic custard.

30. Benatti

Score: 61.51
High: Phoenix **** Low: Boston 2.75

Soon after arriving in town last winter, Italian native Andrea Benatti set up shop in an off-the-beaten-path location in East Cambridge and nailed glowing reviews in the papers and on Chowhound. Pastas and risotto shine, though the kitchen is sometimes heavy-handed with sauces. Also costing points on our scorecard: out-of-season standards like prosciutto with cantaloupe.

ORDER THIS: Porcini risotto.

31. Sage

Score: 60.98
High: Globe *** 1/2 Low: Yelp *** 1/2
Our score: 4

Once a North End upstart, now a South End hot spot, Sage remains a showcase for Tony Susi’s inventive Italian fare, like pillowy lobster gnocchi and Kobe beef carpaccio. Some under-whelmed Yelpers pulled the average down, citing consistency problems and steep prices—neither of which has marred our own experiences here.

ORDER THIS: Rice-smoked duck breast.

32. T. W. Food

Score: 60.62
High: Yelp **** 1/2 Low: Phoenix **
Our score: 4

The beauty is in the details at this Huron Village bistro, yielding complex delicacies such as foie gras “crème brulée” with broiled sugar topping. Some flavor experiments go off the rails, but the kitchen’s skill can be breathtaking.

ORDER THIS: Berkshire pork loin and pan-fried trotter galette.

33. Locke-Ober

Score: 60.28
High: Herald A- Low: Boston 3

This old-guard institution remains fixed in time, despite Lydia Shire’s much-touted “updating” of the menu and ancient interior. The food is tasty, however, and there’s something appealing about dining on liver and bacon amid such elegance.

ORDER THIS: Lobster stew.

34. Taranta

Score: 59.59
High: Yelp **** 1/2 Low: Globe ** 1/2
Our score: 3.5

Peruvian cuisine is a dizzying fusion of Spanish, African, Asian, Italian, and French influences. At this North End spot, Peruvian meets southern Italian for an even headier mix.

ORDER THIS: Pork chop with sugar cane–rocoto pepper glaze.