Boston has plenty of places to find down-home platters of southern-style fried chicken, but lately, we can’t get enough of the chef-driven polish acclaimed toque Chris Parsons — previously known for upscale seafood — brings to the poultry at his newish, fit-for-franchising Cambridge outfit. Pressure-cooked to juicy perfection, the tender, buttermilk-brined meat has just the right crunch whether you devour it by the full bird or in a crispy sandwich topped with everything from black-pepper honey to spicy kimchi. 50 Binney St., Cambridge, MA 02142, lilypschicken.com.
If there were a Spotify-style algorithm for restaurant recommendations, Sumiao’s colorful, midcentury-pop dining room might make it an “If you like … ” suggestion for casual fans of Myers + Chang. But where that veteran pan-Asian spot is merely anchored by Chinese cuisine, Sumiao makes smash hits by dialing in speciﬁcally to the underrepresented Hunan region — get the “Beef on Fire,” a red-chili-sauced stir-fry — and spotlighting baijiu, a bracing, scarce-’round-here white liquor. 270 Third St., Cambridge, MA 02142, sumiaohunan.com.
Ángela Atenco López, the Puebla-born chef who brought the region’s cooking to two East Boston restaurants, passed away in 2020. But her namesake eateries are still doing right by her legacy — most notably with the mole poblano de Angela, which smothers pork or chicken with her signature version of the complex sauce. As for us? Whether for homecooked dinners or served-till-3 breakfasts of crispy chilaquiles, we’re visiting more than ever now, motivated by the bittersweet reminder to love our legends while we can. 131 Lexington St., East Boston, MA 02128, angelascafeboston.com.
The hopeful future of Boston dining — a generational shift toward collaboration over competition — can be glimpsed in the effortless teamwork that co-chefs Butler and Rusch bring to the kitchen at Somerville’s stellar Spoke wine bar. Besides pairing perfectly with the boutique vintages behind the bar, their inventive small plates (say, savory sunchoke doughnuts dusted with XO gouda and powdered leek) speak to a unified vision — hyper-seasonal, polished but playful, highly technique-driven — that is, in a word, singular. spokewinebar.com.
Brian Mercury can do it all. He has to, as the pastry powerhouse for Will Gilson’s trio of restaurants under a single roof in Cambridge. There’s the butter-burnished, braided garlic bread at the Italian-inflected Geppetto, the elegant slices of Taza Chocolate cream pie at rooftop lounge the Lexington, and the genius brunch breads (like the crunchy maple kouign-amann) at Café Beatrice — all of which prove Mercury to be highly malleable, and always in his element. thelexingtoncx.com.
WHAT’S THE VIBE? The kind of lively, late-night-serving neighborhood bar everyone wants in the neighborhood. TASTING NOTES: Cheese is spread to the edges of these thick, focaccia-like rectangles, reflecting the steel auto-part pans in which Detroit-born pizza was first fired. And yet the subtle sweetness of tomatoes shine through thanks to the approach of finishing pies backward, adding the red sauce last and on top. 158 Boston Ave., Somerville, MA 02144, avenuesomerville.com.
WHAT’S THE VIBE? The Lower East Side/Little Italy border by way of Davis Square, with a graffitied menu and displays of ’80s-hard-rock cassettes that always put us in an Empire State of mind. TASTING NOTES: Eminently foldable, for easy eating on the street, naturally. Big ups to the melting pot of toppings, ranging from Buffalo and kung pao chicken to mushrooms with corn sauce — all bold enough to stand up to a selection of assertive amaro digestifs. 233 Elm St., Somerville, MA 02144, dragonpizzasomerville.com.
WHAT’S THE VIBE? A bare-bones old-school haunt, with cafeteria-like seating and lines that form before the pizza sells out — and it always does, within just a few midday hours. TASTING NOTES: Spongy, saucy, cheesy, and fresh-baked every morning, these $2 slices are an exemplar of the form. Ask for an especially toothsome corner piece, if you can. 289 Hanover St., Boston, MA 02113, .
WHAT’S THE VIBE? This pizza slinger from the family behind Lombardo’s, a hugely popular function facility in Randolph, brings bar pies to Boston by way of a kitchen inside Southie’s Castle Island Brewing Co., an industrial-cool taproom with a picnic-table-filled patio. TASTING NOTES: The cracker-like crusts are super-thin and super-crisped, with “laced” (translation: oven-blackened) cheese edges. We love the sweet-sour sting of the pickle-topped pizza, a genius notion that probably sounds peculiar to anyone raised north of Route 24. 10 Old Colony Ave., Boston, MA 02127, bardospizza.com.
The “slow food” movement is a mindset that Erin Miller understands better than anyone. Yes, the classically trained Cambridge chef sources the ingredients for her exquisite yet homey New American cuisine from local soil, such as the foraged mushrooms that bring big umami energy to bowls of green curry with broccoli. More than that, though, her intimate restaurant’s kitchen-facing chef’s counter invites us to five-course dinners — served with highly palate-soothing, settle- and-stay-awhile wines — that unfold at a leisurely pace we welcome in these fast times. 2263 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140, urbanhearth.net.
Chef-legend Lydia Shire continues to contemporize Italian-oriented cuisine at Scampo, even while broadening the global horizons of the Liberty Hotel’s lively restaurant, a popular gathering place for Beacon Hill residents and tourists alike. Her Robiola risotto with fried quail and candied walnuts, for example, is exactly not how Nonna would make it (as if Nonna would even dare!). 215 Charles St., Boston, MA 02114, scampoboston.com.
Where do North End locals go when they want to feast like Roman gods and avoid the mobs of tourists? The 20-or-so-seat Daily Catch, where a few crucial contingencies (it accepts cash and walk-in customers only, and alcohol-wise serves just beer and wine in plastic cups) filter out out-of-towners and leave more Italian seafood pastas — including excellent squid-ink-blackened linguini with ground calamari, garlic, and anchovy — for the rest of us. 323 Hanover St., Boston, MA 02113, thedailycatch.com.
Before it was a hub of urban life in Boston, Roxbury was a farming community. Fasika seems to feel that agrarian soil in its bones, seeding it with Ethiopian flavors to create something truly magical. Its bountiful portions of kikk ali-cha, stewed split peas in garlic and turmeric, and spiced red lentil wot (swiped up with spongy injera), have a fresh-tasting satiety that can only come with a deep connection to the land(s). 51 Roxbury St., Boston, MA 02119, fasikarestaurants.com.
That its nook in Dot was recently designated the state’s “Little Saigon” by the Massachusetts Cultural Council is a testament to the rich roots of Pho Hoa. The path to becoming Boston’s best neighborhood for Vietnamese dining was paved by the ’92-opened potager, whose superb noodle soups and other specialties were recently joined by menu items from its former neighbor, Ánh Hóng, to ensure the latter spot’s seven-course beef and fish feast never fades. 1370 Dorchester Ave., Boston, MA 02122, phohoarestaurant.com.
We’re calling it: If it isn’t already, the Quiet Few will soon be everybody’s favorite spot in Eastie. Since opening three short years ago, it’s already become a vital hub of neighborhood life — a walk-in-only joint watered by 100 whiskeys (one of the city’s best selections) and fed by five-star bar food. See: the “Frito pie” dogs covered in adobo-stewed pork, pickled onions and jalapeños, cumin crema, and corn chips. 331 Summer St., East Boston, MA 02128, thequietfew.com.
Southie didn’t need another pub. It needed, and received in Lenox Sophia, a fine foodie destination for popping in on the way home from work — having reserved one of the four chef’s-counter seats, ideally — and decompressing over a set prix fixe: steaky king trumpet mushrooms with honey-fermented garlic, miso, and tart dried plum might be on the menu from ones-to-watch chefs Shi Mei and Yesid Areiza. The wine? That’s whatever you bring: It’s BYOB. 87 A St., Boston, MA 02127, lenoxsophia.com.
Trend-setting and -following South End restaurants continue to come and go with changing tastes, but this cozy, brick-walled neighborhood institution never veers — thank heavens! — from its winning recipe: big plates of chicken Parm and other Italian-American eats, late-night service in the rosy glow of stained-glass lamps, and the pulsing Good Vibes it emanates as both a beloved local haunt and low-key not-but-sorta gay bar. 433 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02116, anchoviesbar.com.
Chinatown is a cross-roads of cultures, and Q clearly understands the assignment: In one place, it offers people-pleasing Chinese classics like kung pao shrimp and scallops, a great Japanese sushi bar, and Mongolian-style hot-pot cooking. When we’re not around tables bubbling our own veggies, meats, and noodles in the peanut-y Malaysian satay broth, though, you’ll find us grabbing a lychee or ginger “Q-tini” at the bar, the perfect perch for a pre-theater cocktail. 660 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111, thequsa.com.
When Tony Maws’s celebra- ted Craigie on Main closed, taking with it the area’s most- buzzed-about burger, Central Square neighbor Little Donkey — from Beard-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette — quickly refocused our attention as the experienced understudy for that part. Theirs is a more-playful interpretation of the role: a delightfully hot mess of melty-cheese-topped dry-aged beef stacked with spicy Buffalo pickles, “onion soup” mayo, crispy jalapeño chips, and a little luscious foie gras. And you know what? It’s a star, baby. 505 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, littledonkeybos.com.
Chūka ryōri—the Japanese term for Chinese food—puts a distinct spin on familiar flavors like dim sum dumplings and stir-fried rice by switching up the seasonings and ingredients to suit Japanese tastes. Given that it’s a cuisine about collaboration, it makes sense that Boston’s version, Mimi’s Chūka Diner, fits in wherever it goes. The pop-up is in residence at Artifact Cider in Central Square, so we can attest to the bar-snack brilliance of porky wontons and vegan gyoza with a lacy bottom crust, dished up hot to order whenever the taproom is open. 438 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, mimischukadiner.com.
A restaurant half-dedicated to Thai cuisine probably isn’t the likeliest candidate for the best sushi in Boston. Then again, chef Nick Korboon has earned a quietly dedicated following exactly for his convention-flouting finesse, with rolls featuring brown rice and plenty of creativity. With luck, for instance, you’ll find the Bangkok Dynamite—shrimp tempura, soft-shell crab, chili paste, jalapeño, and lemongrass—in the daily changing omakase, which always offers big bang for its buck. 737 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, laughingmonkcafe.com.
The rare spirits and ambitious beverages conjured at this chic cocktail den, named for the Greek goddess of sorcery, are like nowhere else in Boston — then again, neither is the candlelit, cave-like space (max capacity: 24) secreted a stair’s-flight below a dark Back Bay alley. Inside, the leather-bound Book of Hecate spells out intricate, folklore-inspired potions garnished with feathers, smudge sticks, or — as with the savory “Feast of Gévaudan,” saffron-spiked luxury gin with French apple brandy, Hungarian paprika, horseradish, and housemade mustard cordial — bite-sized charcuterie. This is high (witch)craft. Public Alley 443, Boston, MA 02115, hecatebar.com.
Looking for a party? Follow chef Brian Ledet’s food truck — covered in harle- quin diamonds in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green — when it pops up at Boston-area breweries or city parks. One taste of the New Orleans transplant’s spicy jambalaya, red beans and rice with fried chicken, andouille sausage gumbo, or barbecue-shrimp po’ boys, and you’ll swear you can suddenly hear Bourbon Street jazz bands all the way from the Greenway. Boston, MA revelryboston.com.
Location, location, location is key to a hotel restaurant, and Coquette’s captive audience inside the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport and the neighboring convention center means its sexy bar buzzes with out-of-towners on business. The ooh-la-la flavors in its coastal French- and Spanish-inspired cuisine, meanwhile—borek spring rolls stuffed with spiced chicken and Gruyère, for instance—make it a draw for cool-hunt- ing foodies and fans of its similarly scene-y (and singles-friendly) downtown sibling, Yvonne’s. Plus, if sparks fly at the bar, there are a thousand rooms upstairs. 450 Summer St., Boston, MA 02210, frenchcoquette.com.
The rooftop Citgo sign isn’t the only Kenmore Square landmark that deserves recognition as a citywide icon. Since opening in a wilder, weirder neighborhood back in ’83, India Quality has outlasted both the punk clubs down the block and most other Indian spots in the city, thanks to the richest chicken tikka masala, brightest lamb vindaloo, and most sopping-sweet gulab jamon milk balls around. 484 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215, indiaquality.com.
There’s no better place to enjoy Crescent Ridge’s thick, luscious scoops (made from locally sourced milk) than its pastoral “dairy bar” and market in Sharon. Admire the pastures of the working farm behind the scoop shack while you dive into oh-so-luscious scoops of butter crunch, maple walnut, and vanilla-and-fudge-swirled Cow Prints. But not a bit of freshness fades on its way to the family-owned farm’s city location inside Boston Public Market — or in the packaged quarts you can take home for a nightly treat. Multiple Locations, crescentridge,com.
Oasis is a refreshing sight in a land- scape of vegetarian restaurants relying on heavily processed faux meats. Here, the menu actually celebrates plants—three cheers for the super-savory Oshun wrap with melted vegan cheese over kale and curry chickpea stew—and unlocks explosive flavors from well-seasoned grains and healthy juices (see: the fresh-squeezed Oasis Ginger Bomb with cayenne pepper and apple juice). 340 Washington St., Boston, MA 02121, oasisveganveggieparlor.com.
Sorry, shamrock-covered Southie, but Boston’s best spot to enjoy Guinness in a pint — or in a spiked-broth onion soup, or in a beer-braised-beef stew — is actually on Beacon Hill. Emmets proudly unfurls its tricolour in the shadow of our gold-domed State House, so you know the hearty pub fare and whiskey cocktails get the stamp of approval from the area’s high-powered politicos. That said, the pretense-free tavern covers its walls in flags from every FIFA nation precisely because all are welcome here — you know, unless you call it “soccer.” 6 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108, emmetsirishpubandrestaurant.com.
Nobody satisfies our wanderlust quite like Ana Sortun, whose still-vital Cambridge classic spreads itself around the Levant, taking a few key regional flavors with it wherever it goes. Sesame-forward tahini, for instance, is stuffed into Armenian topik, spiced pockets of potato hummus; used to sauce spinach falafel with beet tzatziki; and combined with lemon in a broth for cooking parchment-wrapped halibut. The signature Baked Alaska dessert, meanwhile, always brings us back home. 134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139, oleanarestaurant.com.
After sampling Mahaniyom’s tapas-style takes on Bangkok street eats — housemade crab curry with vermicelli noodles, three-spice salt-and-pepper pork cheeks — you just won’t be able to go back to your basic pad-Thai-on-a-weeknight joint. Not when you have a date-night-feeling destination like this on deck, complete with flirty, Land of Smiles–inspired cocktails — such as the Mahaniyom Sazerac made with Thai-tea-infused rye — to leave you with a rosy glow. 236 Washington St., Brookline, MA 02445, mahaniyomboston.com.
The third time is most definitely another charm for husband-and-wife team chef JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau. This year they followed up their nationally acclaimed restaurants Celeste and Esmeralda with La Royal, a Peruvian dinner party—pink neon bathes the back-bar’s Pisco bottles—in Cambridge’s quaint and quiet Huron Village. Between the stemmed glasses overflowing with sweet, citrusy ceviche and the feasts of whole branzino grilled in plantain leaves, it further elevates Calderón’s already artful cooking. Three words: We’re dazzled again. 221 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138, laroyalcambridge.com.
At the southern Italian follow-up to her acclaimed Fox & the Knife, chef Karen Akunowicz is giving Bostonians exactly what they crave: pasta, pasta, and more pasta, in just about every shape and form. Of particular note is the jet-black casarecce al nero: Topped with lobster, it’s bright, spicy, and destined to be as recognizable as the Top Chef alum with her own pink crown. Akunowicz is also doubling down on fresh pasta and sauces to go, in case you can’t wait until your next reservation to dig in. 170 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127, barvolpe.com.
Named for owner Haley Fortier’s grandmother, Nathálie’s focus on small-batch, natural, and woman-produced wines made it a unique proposition when it opened in the beer-soaked Fenway in 2018. Since then, though, it has evolved into simply a true-blue neighborhood wine bar, a place where actual Bostonians (not touristy home-game hordes) enjoy whiling away some patio-time hours over exciting pours — Las Jaras Wines’ spicy “nighttime rosé,” for instance — alongside the perfect cheese plate or chicken-liver mousse. 186 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02215, nathaliebar.com.
Andy Husbands’s five Smoke Shop locations — including the newest addi- tion at the TD Garden–side Hub Hall — remain in top form, churning out gorgeously crusted St. Louis pork ribs, mouthwatering Texas-style brisket slices, and spicy hot links. But the nationally lauded pitmaster reached a new high this year when he partnered with the elevated cultivator Bountiful Farms to roll out bottles of cannabis-infused barbecue sauce. You know what they say: Smoke ’em if you got ’em. Multiple Locations, thesmokeshopbbq.com.
Brothers William and Donnell Singleton’s love of community is the secret ingredient at this completely halal restaurant, which serves up plate after plate of favorites, from smothered chicken to beef ribs to jerk chicken with collards. For one thing, Food for the Soul prepared 80,000 meals for locals in need during the early days of COVID. And now? It still stands above the rest for creating an atmosphere that’s as homey — you’ll be greeted the minute you set foot in the door — and comforting as the food itself. 651 Warren St., Boston, MA 02121, bostonfoodforthesoul.com.
Opened long before Toro became the niño bonito of Boston, this tapas den is a full-on party that’s still raging, and just as sexy and fun as you remember. Here, small plates like spicy chicken skewers with lemon sour cream, and lamb meatballs in tomato-mint sauce are shared over sangria at tile-covered tables or the boho-chic bar festooned with hanging bunches of garlic and greenery. The vibe? In typical Dalí form, it’s surreal. 415 Washington St., Somerville, MA 02143, dalirestaurant.com.
Industry veterans Daren Swisher and Joseph Cammarata ( both previously of Hojoko) have pulled off something we didn’t think possible in a food-hall setting: an intimate, high-service cocktail bar that appeals to both spirits geeks and I’m-just-here-for-the-lobster-roll passersby. That’s largely thanks to wisely crafted signature libations such as the overproof pineapple daiquiri and gin-based “Blueberry Daisy” blooming with three kinds of amaro. 100 High St. T6, Boston, MA 02110, highstreetplace.com/merchant/daiquiris-daisies.
You can’t toss a tortilla without striking a trendy New Boston version of a taco joint these days, but we’re still hung up on the humble, proudly homemade fare churned out by Downtown favorite Villa México Café. The immigrant-family-owned spot offers five options for stuffing those soft corn circles; we’ll direct your attention, though, to the spicy chorizo prepared in-house. It’s all served with a side of the rich and smoky black salsa lovingly made by owner Julie (“Momma”) King, bona-fide food-world royalty around these parts. 121 Water St., Boston, MA 02109, villamexicocafe.us.
If you’re addicted to @DeuxMoi star sightings (and who isn’t?), you probably have this celeb fave from Major Food Group (the New York City company behind glittering Carbone, Parm, and Dirty French) on your radar. Walking in feels like you’ve snuck into the best, most maximalist bash in town — and then there’s that Insta-worthy view, perched high atop the Newbury Boston hotel in a glass jewel box. Lest we overlook the talents of celebrity-chef principals Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, though, it’s the standout northern Italian cuisine — that Florentine steak! — that keeps us buzzing back over again. 3 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116, contessatrattoria.com.
At a time when sleek, international coffee chains seem to be touching down on every corner, Cicada is a throwback to indie coffee houses of the pre-Starbucks invasion, complete with dog-eared paperbacks for caffeinated perusing. Come for the cozy ambiance and backyard patio; stay for Vietnamese specialty coffees prepped with sweetened condensed milk (and maybe some foamed Maine sea salt). Stay later for an unexpectedly awesome dinner service — try the sushi-grade baked salmon with black rice, shallots, and cashew pesto — plus around-the-world wines, beer, and sake. 106 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139, cicada-coffee-bar.square.site.
How does Harvard Square newcomer Bosso stand apart in a town saturated with ramen joints? First, with its broth: the house tonkotsu is prepped with both chicken and pork bones, a double dose of collagen that ups the umami factor. Second, with the flavor profiles of its tasty bowls: the “umami” is enhanced by black garlic; sour “sanmi” benefits from tomatoes and green shiso; the salty “enmi” is brightened by yuzu; and the spicy vegan bowl is spiked with red chili oil. We’ll take one of each, please. 24 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138, instagram.com/bossoramentavern/.
La Saison is the product of migration — owner Soheil Fathi launched a luxe pastry brand in Tehran before opening La Saison in the States — and its goods tell an edible story about cultures colliding: There are cloudlike croissants, savory feta-za’atar scones, ultra-caramelized kouign-amann, and two-pound loaves of sourdough studded with figs and walnuts. All in all, it’s an American dream. 407 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138, lasaison-bakery.com.
Park Square, Patriot Place, the Seaport waterfront … wherever you’re looking to talk brass tacks on a deal, there’s a table at Davio’s within handshake’s reach, ready to ply fat-cat appetites with northern Italian–style steaks, seafood, and pasta. Founder and author Steve DiFillippo wrote the book (literally) on Exceeding Expectations in Business and Life, so maybe you’ll soak up the now-multicity restaurateur’s savvy along with the high-noon pours of Davio’s Reserve brand wines. Multiple Locations, davios.com.
Chef-owner Jacky Robert spent nearly two decades as a sort of Jeannot Appleseed, spreading Gallic cooking locally through his Petit Robert restaurants. Beacon Hill’s Ma Maison feels like a fitting capstone to his career: a homey corner bistro with white linen on the tables and escargot, frogs’ legs Provençales, and duck à l’orange on the menu. A wine list hiding treasures like a 1952 Burgundy completes the thoroughly Francophilic experience. 272 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114, mamaisonboston.com.
When it comes to New England lobster rolls, there are two major types: “hot and buttered” and “cold and mayo’d.” And then there’s Eventide’s, a third-party candidate featuring fresh lobster meat sweetened with brown butter and salted with chives in a squishy, bao-like roll. Five years after the Portland, Maine– founded restaurant set up in the Fenway, its justifiably famous signature spin has become part of our city’s fabric. 1321 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215, eventideoysterco.com.
Mornings might run on Dunkin’, but for midday brain fuel, Boston’s busy worker bees buzz over to MIT-trained engineer Ayr Muir’s 14-outpost chainlet, which updates fast food for the Hub’s socially conscious, Silicon Valley East era. Three and a half minutes is the average wait time for falafel-and-hummus sandwiches, barbecue seitan platters, and other plant-based eats made with New England farm-sourced ingredients so reliably fresh, Clover kitchens don’t keep freezers. Even cooler? Clover’s subscription-based weekly meal kits (e.g., “Taco Tuesday”) delivered direct to area doorsteps for our telecommuting age. Multiple locations, cloverfoodlab.com.
No offense to the North Shore’s many landmark sandwich shops, but Boston’s Cusser’s is simply a cut above. Not only does the three-location outfit pile homemade onion rolls high with juicy pink slices of Wagyu beef, but the flagship Back Bay restaurant lets you pair a classic barbecue-sauced “three-way” with fancy-pants cocktails from local legend Todd Maul, who uses high-tech gadgets (a centrifuge, a blast freezer) to craft his top-shelf libations. 304 Stuart St., Boston, MA 02116, cussersboston.com.
This wine shop in Harvard Square sells more than world-class bottles. It sells art: from handcrafted contemporary glassware to silver corkscrew cufflinks and other “sommelier jewelry.” It sells education: Grape expert Bertil Jean-Chronberg regularly leads ticketed tastings and private experiences around Bonde’s gathering table. It proffers a sense of community, too: The shelves include eco-conscious bottles from Jean-Chronberg’s Black Donkey Project — dry whites and fruity reds produced in collaboration with top wine- makers to support nonprofits like No Kid Hungry. We’ll drink to that. 54 Church St., Cambridge, MA 02138, bondewines.com.
From the Euro-style lagers crowned in creamy foam to the pints of English bitter and New England IPAs, everything in Notch Brewing’s beer lineup lands under 4.5 percent ABV — making them perfect for enjoying with friends all day (while maintaining your wits, of course). Where you clink those drinks is up to you: Notch’s waterfront taproom in Salem is a quick ferry ride away, and now it’s brought the low-octane party to Boston, with a beer-garden-equipped outpost at the Charles River Speedway. Multiple Locations, notchbrewing.com.
Nothing against classic Italian comfort food, but we could use a break from the mounds of red-sauce-bathed macaroni we stress-gorged in the early days of the pandemic. Now? We’re more in the mood to share Venetian-style small plates in the dining room and on the patio at SRV, Michael Lombardi’s bright spotlight on decidedly contemporary cicchetti, such as duck-liver mousse with passion fruit, and house-extruded pastas, including al dente hats of tortelli in rabbit sauce. We missed feasting like this: in coursed waves, in rapt fascination of great chef skill, and, most important, together. 569 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02118, srvboston.com.
Its name nods to twilight, but may the sun never set on Esperia Grill. The Greek-family-run spot is pure old-school Boston, an inconspicuous place where the cash register constantly ka-chings! with sales of sweet, honeyed baklava, and where anyone seeking real-deal Hellenic home-cookery can hunch over tender lamb kebabs and baked shanks — or generous bowls of bright and creamy avgolemono — while the city outside fades into soft focus. Let it wait. 344 Washington St., Brighton, MA 02135, esperiagrill.net.
Now that it ships nationwide “nosh” packages such as the Dorm Fridge Deli — a packed-on-ice splay of superlative pastrami, corned beef, potato salad, and more — Mamaleh’s moves that much closer to being Boston’s more-youthful answer to Katz’s Delicatessen in New York. Meaning: the place you remember whether you live here forever or a semester, and turn to whenever you need a taste of fresh-challah-, pickled-kraut-, and spicy-mustard-scented home. Multiple Locations, mamalehs.com.
How to lure people back downtown? Pristine nigiri — say, wild squid brushed with smoky bonito soy and flecked with salted cherry blossom — certainly seems to do the trick at O Ya, where seats for the omakase, now the sole offering, are booking a solid two months in advance. Fifteen years after opening and $400 (if you opt for wine pairings) later, it’s still the city’s favorite destination for any night you need to turn into a special occasion. 9 E St., Boston, MA 02111, o-ya.restaurant.
It’s notoriously difficult to unseat an incumbent. Such is the case with the city’s standard-bearer steakhouse, a Best of Boston winner year after year (after year, after … ). Look, we’d love an excuse to vary our endorsement, but — straight talk, people — nobody throws red meat to the voters (i.e., our stomachs) like this chief-executive-courting chop shop with a world-class wine program and hand-rolled cigars. And besides, as those famous 100-day-aged rib-eyes make clear, some things only get better with time. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116, grill23.com.
There’s a time and place for lumberjack-size spreads of bacon and pancakes: It’s called “weekend brunch.” When we’re on the daily grind, it’s Mike & Patty’s breakfast sandwiches, fitting small feasts between bread, that power us through the grunt work ahead—especially now that the tiny Bay Village-born outfit has brought its ooey-gooey two-handers, like the Baller with fancy Iberico bacon, fried egg, and 24-month-aged Vermont cheddar, to a total of five outposts in the city and suburbs. Multiple Locations, mikeandpattys.com.
As much as we’ve enjoyed the silver lining that was takeout four-packs with our wood-fired pizza, nothing compares to a beer — fresh from the draft! — at the Brewer’s Fork bar. That’s because co-owner Michael Cooney brings craft-beer-world bona fides to this suds-and-pies joint, making it a place to find rarities — like an IPA from Bissell Brothers or sour beer from Jester King — from the buzziest breweries. 7 Moulton St., Charlestown, MA 02129, brewersfork.com.
You’ll soon need to adjust your GPS to get the city’s best soor iyo maraq, grits cooked with coconut milk and served with spicy fish, spinach, or chickpea stew: This family-owned Somali restaurant is leaving its small digs just outside Logan airport for a TBD new home later this year. One thing we definitely know: Somalia native Yahya Noor’s fabulously fragrant cooking — try the spaghetti with cumin- and cinnamon-seasoned beef, his nod to Italian East Africa — will take off wherever he lands. 389 Maverick St., Boston, MA 02128, tawakalfoods.co.
It says a lot about Obosá that it got foodies raving despite opening just one month before the 2020 COVID shutdown. As it turns out, the only timing that really matters is in the kitchen, where chef-owner Gloria Omoregbee patiently coaxes deep ﬂavor from Nigerian recipes — slow-simmered soups of goat with grilled plantain, and signature nkwobi, bone-in cow foot in a peppery sauce — that always meet guests piping hot and right on time. 146 Belgrade Ave., Roslindale, MA 02131, obosafoods.com.
It’s kind of a tease that the Sail Loft’s clam chowder comes in a handled mug, because — unless you want your beard or blouse to smell of seafood — it’s probably not advisable to just go ahead and drink it down. If etiquette didn’t exist, though, we’d absolutely toss out the spoon to chug this Über-creamy broth studded with potatoes, sweet dill, and, of course, plenty of briny clams. 80 Atlantic Ave., Boston, MA 02110, thebostonsailloft.com.
Jamaica Plain might be Boston’s single best neighborhood for Caribbean cuisine, filled with homey Dominican, Jamaican, and Cuban restaurants all frying or mashing plantains their own way. The subtly sweet mofongo at El Oriental de Cuba, though, with its pork rinds and garlic oil … that’s the one that leads the inter-island flotilla. The specialty Cubano sandwicah, meanwhile, is the standard by which all others should be judged. 416 Centre St., Boston, MA 02130, elorientaldecuba.net.
Attention, proud commitment-phobes and control freaks: If you’ve previously held back from buying CSA shares because you didn’t want to get stuck in a fixed subscription term — or with mystery boxes of useless items — know you can skip weekly home deliveries from Family Dinner any time. Or just treat it like a grocery-ordering service, with single, customizable shipments of everything from butter to blueberries to ground bison from small New England farms that share your fiercely independent streak. 155 New Boston St. Ste. F, Woburn, MA 1801, sharefamilydinner.com.
With eats, beats, and spiked sweet tea like this, you’ll never hit the snooze button on a Sunday morning again. Darryl’s all-you-can-eat brunch buffet is a rollicking good time every weekend, a place to feast on mouthwatering southern favorites — say, fried chicken and catfish cheddar grits — to the backdrop of live music from jazz and blues performers. Come hungry, and leave happy (with a very, very, full belly). 604 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02118, dcbkboston.com.
Long before many other Italian restaurants saw the dollar signs in offering gluten-free options, sisters Carla and Christine Pallotta adapted nearly the entire standard menu at their Atlantic Wharf restaurant, motivated by caring for a single family friend with celiac. Today we all feel the love in every bite of the Pallottas’ Throwdown with Bobby Flay–winning zucchini lasagna and more, prepped with the utmost care to prevent cross-contamination, but served with the same calls-for-a-martini air of casual elegance. 520 Atlantic Ave., Boston, MA 02210, neborestaurant.com.
Doughnut shops are a dime a dozen, but the fluffy rings behind the counter at this J.P. neighborhood restaurant — available during café-style daytime service as well as weekend brunch — are more than worth their weight in slow-fermented brioche dough. They’re wonderfully rich, in other words, painted with inch-thick frosting in classic flavors like vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. Just get there before they undoubtedly sell out. 3710 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, brassicakitchen.com.