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.

43. Bistro 5

Score: 54.80
High: Yelp **** 1/2 Low: Boston 3.25

Chef Vittorio Ettore has earned a cult following with his lively ingredient combos, such as acorn squash tortelloni with cabrales and pears. The Medford restaurant is expensive for the suburbs; it’s also waaay better than Bertucci’s.

ORDER THIS: The veal Milanese.

44. Grill 23

Score: 54.77
High: Herald *** 1/2 Low: Globe ** 1/2
Our score: 3.75

Grill 23 has been a Best of Boston steakhouse pick seven times in the past 10 years, thanks to both its classic cuts and its more exotic offerings, all of them tender and buttery. The bar pours a tip-top martini.

ORDER THIS: Dry-aged prime New York strip.

45. East Coast Grill

Score: 54.62
High: Globe *** 1/2 Low: Boston 3.5

Owner Chris Schlesinger specializes in big south-of-the-border flavors. You’ll find some of the area’s freshest fish (and the tangiest barbecue, too) at his Cambridge flagship. The kitchen is terrifically steady, though we’d love to see more new tricks.

ORDER THIS: Buffalo-fried Gulf shrimp.

46. Estragon

Score: 54.29
High: Phoenix **** Low: Globe **
Our score: 3.75

Little adventures abound at this tapas spot, where tongue, cod cheeks, and sweetbreads are staples. The squeamish can take refuge in delish potato-filled tortillas and croquettes.

ORDER THIS: The duo de croquetas.

47. Union Bar and Grille

Score: 52.86
High: Phantom 89 Low: Chowhound ***
Our score: 3.25

Once Gaslight opened and Aquitaine installed a hotshot new chef de cuisine, their sibling, Union, fell off our radar. A shame, since comfort food this nicely done is hard to come by.

ORDER THIS: Potato gnocchi with duck confit and grilled radicchio.

48. Beacon Hill Bistro

Score: 52.57
High: Herald A Low: Globe ***
Our score: 3.75

When chef Jason Bond took the helm in 2007 (following a stint as chef de cuisine at No. 9 Park), he turned a charming little inn with an adequate dining room into a destination restaurant. The food is mostly French, fully of-the-season, and not to be missed.

ORDER THIS: The house-made charcuterie, a Bond specialty.

49. Il Capriccio

Score: 51.88
High: Herald *** 1/2 Low: Boston 3

A suburban favorite for northern Italian for more than 25 years, Il Capriccio wins partisans with the solid cooking and seasonal ingredients it showcases in dishes such as Cape scallop and leek risotto.

ORDER THIS: Porcini soufflé.

50. (tie) Bin 26 Enoteca

Score: 50.84
High: Phoenix **** Low: Chowhound & Yelp *** 1/2
Our score: 3.75

This stylish Italian wine bar beckons with dozens of by-the-glass options and a well-matched menu of salumi, cheeses, inventive pastas, chops, and fish. Without a five-star ranking in the mix, this one settled lower than might be suspected.

ORDER THIS: Cocoa tagliatelle with porcini ragout.

50. (tie) Avila

Score: 50.73
High: Herald B+ Low: Chowhound ***
Our score: 3.25

Traditionally earthy Mediterranean fare gets a high gloss from owner Steve DiFillippo, who knows how to please the power crowd.

ORDER THIS: Grilled spiced swordfish.