Best Restaurants in Boston

In this new world, we’ve found that great food is hardly the sole criteria for landing on our annual Top 50 Restaurants list. As we researched contenders, returned to dining rooms for testing, and listened closely to what was getting local foodies talking, we realized that many of the best spots were those that fed us something pleasantly unexpected: an exciting new idea, a dose of inspiration, a buzzy backdrop for reviving our social life. That’s why this year, we’ve divided our list into categories of places that satisfy every type of emotional craving, whether you’re looking to understand where the city’s food culture is headed or which established legends are still going strong as the most reliable, well-rounded pillars of Boston’s restaurant scene.

Hall of Famers

Pandemic Pivots

Best of the New

Innovators

Suburban Standouts

sarma

Photo of Sarma by Michael Piazza

Hall of Famers

1. Sarma

For all of the longtime buzz, Sarma remains one of the hardest reservations to get in town. One bite of chef Cassie Piuma’s magnificent meze and you’ll understand why: The chef clearly has a special gift for shepherding Mother Nature’s massive Middle Eastern spice rack into her own singular vision. Lamb sliders tempered with sumac onions and yogurt; nectarine Shirazi salad enlivened with ground black lime; and harissa barbecue duck skewered with sweet dates and orange blossom are just a few new reasons we keep hitting “refresh” on Sarma’s Resy page.

Somerville, sarmarestaurant.com.

2. Asta

Chef Alex Crabb cut his teeth at the late, legendary L’Espalier. Today, mere blocks away, his tasting-menu-only restaurant has similarly become a culinary landmark—albeit a more playful one that reflects the way we dine today. Asta is the kind of place, in other words, where no one would judge you for wearing worn Chuck Taylors while tucking into seared foie gras or soft-shell crab with rich salsa macha and pickled radish. Front-row seats at Crabb’s expo kitchen let diners watch the oft-experimental fun unfold; nearly a decade in, we’re still blown away by the results.

Back Bay, astaboston.com.

3. Toro

After a year of restaurant casualties, we have renewed appreciation for Toro, where the pulse never slows. With every visit, tapas signatures—such as the knobs of grilled corn smeared with alioli and Basque hot pepper—greet us like old friends. Yet the forever-buzzy fixture still surprises with fresh ideas: see Ghost King, Toro’s takeout-only side project focused on Thai-style fried chicken.

South End, toro-restaurant.com.

4. Brassica Kitchen + Café

Fresh-faced exuberance seems to be the secret ingredient at Brassica, where indefatigable chef Jeremy Kean fills the dining room with good vibes only. Ingenue-like energy aside, this is hardly a rookie operation: Kean worked under icons Barbara Lynch and Jody Adams, and launched Brassica’s pop-up predecessor a whole decade ago. It’s no wonder, then, that the restaurant has matured into a gold-standard destination for small plates and fermentation-forward cooking , showcased in stunners like koji risotto with charcoal-roasted mushrooms.

Jamaica Plain, brassicakitchen.com.

myers + chang

Photo of Myers + Chang by Brian Samuels

5. Myers + Chang

Once upon a time, brilliant baker and chef Joanne Chang—and her restaurateur husband, Christopher Myers—opened a restaurant along the South End–Chinatown border; brought together Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines, among others; and shellacked the whole experience with a high-gloss hipness that hasn’t lost its luster nearly 15 years later. In fact, those tea-smoked ribs, pork-and-chive dumplings, and wok-charred udon noodles might taste even better now, after seeing so many follow-up “fusion” restaurants try to match this inimitable progenitor of the genre.

South End, myersandchang.com.

6. Pammy’s

Between the expertly al dente pastas and the general underpinnings of Boot cuisine, it’s tempting to classify Pammy’s as an Italian restaurant. Really, though, these are just jumping-off points for chef Chris Willis’s brilliant, eclectic New American cuisine: The house-made lumache Bolognese, for example, gets a zing from spicy Korean gochujang, and swordfish spiedini is balanced on a mound of confit mushroom with local peaches. Every left turn takes us in an exciting new direction—make sure to end, though, at the house-made limoncello, a parting shot of tradition among the twists.

Cambridge, pammyscambridge.com.

7. O Ya

Anniversaries, birthdays, retirements—they all happen at O Ya. Boston’s de facto special-occasion restaurant has attained a mythic status for its elaborate 20-course omakase, now the sole experience on offer. But if we’ve learned one thing over the past year, it’s to not delay gratification. So go ahead: Bring yourself to near-tears over the buttery toro handrolls or the legendary Kumamoto oyster adorned with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette. Why? Because you deserve the very best any day of the week, that’s why.

Leather District, o-ya.restaurant.

8. Field & Vine

Spouses Sara Markey and Andrew Brady have grown Field & Vine from a fledgling sprout to an indispensable Eden for foodies in record time. How so? Each night, Markey tends to guests in the dining room, a scaled-to-life Pinterest board of potted #plantgoals, and cultivates the list of natural wines by next-gen vintners. Brady, meanwhile, mans the wood-fired grill and transforms local farm-grown veggies and fresh-caught seafood into hyper-seasonal feasts (think: chilled beets with grilled fennel aioli in a kombucha-honey vinaigrette). Together, they’ve raised a prodigy.

Somerville, fieldandvinesomerville.com.

9. Deuxave

Resolutely refined in a blue-jeans world, this French-American restaurant reveres technique and recoils from fads: Here, the spiced duck will always be plated just-so on its bed of pearled barley and basil pistou. Philosophically, too, chef Chris Coombs doesn’t kowtow to trends: He refused to contort his kitchen for “takeout” during the worst of the pandemic, and when he pops up on TV, it’s to eloquently advocate for struggling restaurants, not play games with Guy Fieri. Food, after all, isn’t just délicieux; it’s serious business.

Back Bay, deuxave.com.

10. Grill 23 & Bar

No matter how many steakhouse chains you throw at us, Bostonians will keep going back to Grill 23, the kind of storied, handsome restaurant beamed in from a time when boys’-club power brokers broke away from the office for three-martini lunches. Thankfully, today there are more seats at the table for enjoying oyster towers, fat chops, and fatter cigars (hand-rolled tableside, for enjoying outside), not to mention the world-class wine list overseen by nationally renowned sommelier Brahm Callanan. Oh, and the martinis? Perfectly chilled. We checked thrice.

Back Bay, grill23.com.

carl dooley

Photo of Carl Dooley by Ken Richardson

Pandemic Pivots

1. Mooncusser

When Mooncusser reopened in April after a pandemic-time hiatus, its dining room was still draped in the crisp white tablecloths you’d see at most fancy seafood restaurants. A brand-new face in the kitchen, though, has set the fish house apart. Serving exclusively prix-fixe menus, Top Chef vet Carl Dooley imbues every dish with his signature mix of global accents and technique-driven derring-do (think: grilled bluefish a la brasa with Peruvian aji verde, and roasted-veal-sweetbread-and-lobster curry). What’s more, Dooley himself frequently ushers the plates to diners, delivering to us in spades what Mooncusser needed more of before: personality.

Back Bay, mooncusserboston.com.

2. Pagu

Chef-owner Tracy Chang has found seemingly infinite ways to adapt her Japanese-Spanish restaurant over the past year and a half. She launched Pagu Market, selling group feasts such as suckling pig for 10; subscription-based ­cocktail and provisions clubs; and two nonprofits that transport healthy food to communities hit hard by COVID. What can’t be lost in all of these changes, though, is that Pagu’s dining room remains a stage for a true star chef, with a stunning repertoire of dishes including squid-ink-blackened bao with eel and pickled green apple, and Chang’s famed chili-spiked “midnight ramen.”

Cambridge, gopagu.com.

3. Celeste

After partners Maria Rondeau and chef JuanMa Calderon turned their home-based supper club into a Peruvian restaurant in Somerville, they told themselves they’d only run it for a few years. A COVID-induced change in perspective, though, convinced them to keep Celeste going as long as diners keep coming for the punchy-with-citrus ceviche. (How’s forever?) What’s more, they’ve even turned their second home in Vermont into a destination for pachamanca, Peruvian feasts baked with hot stones in an earthen oven, and will open yet another restaurant, La Royal in Cambridge, steps from the site of that original supper club. Make enough left turns, and eventually you come home again.

Somerville, celesteunionsquare.com.

4. Uni

James Beard Award–winning chef Tony Messina exited this iconic izakaya in April, leaving large shoes to fill. Luckily, new kitchen captain David Bazirgan, an alum of No. 9 Park, has stepped right up to the task. The new chef brings a Mediterranean swagger to Uni’s collection of Japanese small plates, kicking off with hits like roasted beets dressed with yuzu kosho labne and ras al hanout–spiced walnuts. Lace up: You’ll be running back for more.

Back Bay, uni-boston.com.

para maria

Photo of Para Maria by Michael Piazza

5. Para Maria

After a trial-run pop-up, the Envoy Hotel permanently replaced its ground-floor eatery, Outlook Kitchen, with Para Maria, a smarter, even tastier investment in the talents of chef Tatiana Rosana. It’s an upgrade that allows the Chopped champion to run free with Latin-inspired cuisine, including the Cuban cookery she learned at the knee of her abuela, the restaurant’s namesake. And with hearty dishes such as yuca gnocchi tossed with shrimp and pickled chilies to put us into a food coma, it’s a good thing the hotel beds aren’t far.

Seaport, paramaria.com.

6. 50Kitchen

Talk about pivots: Before he was cooking with Martha Stewart on Chopped, chef Anthony Caldwell did a 180 with his entire life, using skills he learned in a prison kitchen to open his dream restaurant, a unique fusion of American South and Asian cooking. When the pandemic temporarily closed 50Kitchen’s dining room mere weeks after opening, he stayed afloat by cooking meals for the Salvation Army and frontline workers. One thing, though, never changed: his darn good food, from the jambalaya egg rolls with gumbo dipping sauce to the pulled pork sandwich dry-rubbed with Chinese five-spice powder.

Dorchester, 50kitchen.com.

7. Mida

While most other chefs were working overtime to keep one restaurant afloat, Douglass Williams managed to debut two new projects: First he brought the homemade-pasta-fueled formula of the South End’s Mida to a second, larger location in Newton that also serves up New Haven–style pizza with a robust char. Still hungry? Head to Apizza, Williams’s pie-focused joint inside Hub Hall in the West End, where the New Haven slices are joined by airier Roman-style ones.

South End and Newton, midarestaurant.com.

8. Fox & the Knife

Now that’s how you use your noodle: Last year, on the eve of March’s shutdowns, chef Karen Akunowicz quickly launched a new Instagram account, ­@foxpastaboston, to sell her restaurant’s pasta by the pound. We bit hard (al dente!) at the chance to bring home the same bucatini and spinach mafaldine she might lavish with tomato brodo or goat butter at her Southie enoteca. ­Akunowicz’s pivot paid off: Fox Pasta is now shipped across the country, and her second restaurant, Bar Volpe, will even feature a whole pastificio. Sly thinking, Fox.

South Boston, foxandtheknife.com.

9. Momi Nonmi

Nothing can replace the in-person oma­kase experience—the ceremony, the human connection, the whims presented by the chef—and luckily, Chris Chung’s intimate izakaya still offers all of that. That said, we’re grateful he responded to the takeout trend by lining to-go containers with those same pieces of delicately adorned sushi sourced straight from Tokyo’s famous Toyosu fish market. Don’t get us wrong—we’ll still happily visit. But now we know that omakase in a bathrobe makes for epic self-care.

Cambridge, mominonmi.com.

10. Yume Wo Katare

Every city needs a cult-fave hole in the wall that gets food lovers whispering, “Have you heard about…”? Around here that place is Yume Wo Katare, which offered a pandemic-timed option to preorder the best ramen around. Being able to skip those lines made it easier for us to rediscover—and re-appreciate—that amazing pork-filled broth, as well as Yume Wo Katare’s heartwarming dining tradition: After a guest finishes their bowl, they can choose to write down their life’s dream and read it to the room before it’s framed for a wall of wishes. Was your wish for an amazing experience? Granted.

Cambridge, instagram.com/yume_wo_katare.

Mahaniyom

Photo of Mahaniyom by Brian Samuels

Best of the New

1. Mahaniyom

Brookline Village’s energetic new ran lao, the Thai answer to a tapas bar, debuted at the height of the pandemic. But even that couldn’t slow the foodie word of mouth that spread (and how!) about its transportive shareable plates, such as fresh Manila clams enlivened with anise-like undertones of purple basil and uppercuts of spicy chili jam. Now that we’re finally gathering again, the upbeat joint’s expertly prepared cocktails—including craft gins and rums sharply dressed with berries, pandan leaves, and tiny umbrellas—serve as funky-refined refreshments at the nightly welcome-back party that city diners deserve.

Brookline, mahaniyomboston.com.

contessa

Photo of Contessa by Douglas Friedman

2. Contessa

A glimmering marble bar, plush rose banquettes, and stunning views of the Public Garden: So gorgeous is this gilded rooftop trattoria at the luxe Newbury Boston hotel that you regularly hear gasps when the elevator doors open. Jaws really drop, though, once the solicitous servers in freshly pressed vests steward fine wines and standout northern Italian plates to the table: Crowned with a whole head of roasted garlic, the Florentine steak for two, in particular, announces that this team of New York City–based hospitality powerhouses brought its A-game to its debut Boston restaurant.

Back Bay, contessatrattoria.com.

3. Nautilus Pier 4

Built next to the waterfront site where now-razed Anthony’s Pier 4 served up old Boston totems such as broiled scrod, Nautilus Pier 4 embodies the best of the city right now. It’s stylish and open, both literally—check out the wall of windows and swish patio—and figuratively: Global coastlines inspire some of the best small plates in town, from charcoal-roasted prawns swimming in a fiery chili paste and coconut vinaigrette to bowls of crispy calamari in a Thai lime sauce.

Seaport, thenautilus.com.

4. Woods Hill Pier 4

At first glance, the mod waterfront dining room fits right into the swanky landscape of Boston’s Nouveau Seaport (as do the well-heeled crowds cocktailing inside). With one taste, though, it becomes abundantly clear that Woods Hill Pier 4 is rooted in the farm-to-fork ethos born out of its sibling farm in New Hampshire. That’s where chef Charlie Foster sources the sustainably raised duck he dry-ages to draw out its deepest flavor, before pairing it with decidedly global accompaniments like Japanese turnips and Szechuan strawberry au jus.

Seaport, woodshillpier4.com.

5. Barra

Modeled after Mexico City watering holes and street food, Barra offers a few stools facing a TV that plays Spanish-language flicks, plus some outdoor tables in a small parklet. Those in the know, though, seek out the modestly sized menu, designed by Mexican star chef Sofia García Osorio, for bona fide barra food: Sautéed grasshoppers, for instance, might accompany cactus salad or tamales de esquites served with spicy mayo and queso fresco. Thirsty? Hoist a bottle of milky pulque (fermented agave sap) or choose an insect-based salt (say, ant-and-cardamom) to rim cocktails made with mezcal. ¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’dentro!

Union Square, barraunionsquare.com.

6. Grand Tour

Been a while since you’ve gone abroad? If you squint really, really hard (a glass of rosé helps), Newbury Street could be the Champs-Élysées when you’re at Grand Tour. Together with fellow Neptune Oyster alum David Nevins, chef-owner Michael Serpa perfects Parisian-bistro fixtures, from foie gras to steak frites, and invents smart Mediterranean musings (see: leg of lamb with feta dressing and green-bean-and-pita fattoush.) The toques’ talent? That, thankfully, belongs to Boston.

Back Bay, grandtourboston.com.

7. Punch Bowl

At the crossroads of busy Route 9 traffic and the tranquil Emerald Necklace parkway, Punch Bowl is named after a nearby tavern that welcomed travelers in the 1700s. The New American cuisine is at its best, though, when exec chef Amanda Lowry leans into flavors from spice routes the world over—incorporating coriander into an herby pesto for gnocchi, perhaps, or brightening steak tartare with mint and pickled cherries. Share the dishes around communal cocktails for a little extra punch.

Brookline, punchbowlbrookline.com.

8. Ivory Pearl

Why not take taiyaki, a sweet, fish-shaped cake sold as street food in Japan, and cover it in fancy caviar? Why not slide grilled octopus into a bun with sauerkraut, sliced green apple, mustard, and roe to make a “tentacle hot dog”? Those are the kinds of excellent questions Ivory Pearl seems to ask a lot, thanks largely to the ceaseless curiosity of its award-winning barman and owner, Ran Duan. His unique list of wine-inspired cocktails begs another question: How will the bubbly, vodka-based Champagne Papi pair with a barbecue-eel-filled grilled cheese sandwich?

Brookline, ivorypearlbar.com.

9. Coquette

We knew the team behind Yvonne’s and other stylish Boston hot spots would bring us another stunning-looking restaurant. We didn’t expect, though, that glamorous Coquette would so expansively interpret its promise of coastal-French-inspired cuisine, flirting with Basque country (Espelette peppers abound), North Africa (borek spring rolls stuffed with ras el hanout–spiced chicken), and French Polynesia (Tahitian-style tuna with coconut and charred jalapeño). Unsurprisingly, we’re smitten.

Seaport, frenchcoquette.com.

10. The Pearl

The spiffy raw bar and contemporary seafood grill, a common genre in Boston, was curiously lacking in Dorchester until the Pearl came along. An indie restaurant worth treasuring in South Bay Center’s sea of chains, the well-rounded spot nails grilled oysters (pooling with garlic butter, spinach, and Parmesan), seafood gumbo packed with mussels and Jonah crab claws, and the requisite lobster rolls—chilled or warm?—the way we wish everyone would.

Dorchester, thepearlsouthbay.com.

Kwasi Kwaa, Biplaw Rai, and Nyacko Pearl Perry of Comfort Kitchen

Photo of Kwasi Kwaa, Biplaw Rai, and Nyacko Pearl Perry of Comfort Kitchen by Ken Richardson

Innovators

1. Comfort Kitchen

One visit, chef Kwasi Kwaa is tempting us with Berber lamb with dried fruit couscous at his long-term pop-up in Jamaica Plain; the next, it’s Caribbean-style jerk duck with pikliz, a spicy Haitian slaw. What’s more, very soon—as part of a $1.4 million urban restoration project—Kwaa and equity-minded entrepreneurs Biplaw Rai and Nyacko Pearl Perry will finish transforming a long-abandoned streetcar comfort station in Dorchester into a permanent all-day showcase for African diaspora cuisines, not to mention an incubator for even more exciting food startups.

comfortkitchenbos.com.

2. Sekali

Derrick Teh may lack a brick-and-mortar spot for his pandemic-launched project, but no matter: The chef has creatively used every other avenue to bring us Sekali’s marvelously modern Malaysian cuisine. At any given moment, we’ve found him making home deliveries of curry laksa with beef short rib rendang; selling out lemongrass-and-ginger-sausage sandwiches at takeout-only pop-ups around the city; and stocking home chefs’ pantries with jars of coconut jam. Who needs four walls with this much ambition?

sekali.boston.

3. Tasting Counter

The multi-course menus are never revealed in advance, yet Tasting Counter’s coveted handful of prepaid seats stay filled with test subjects eager to try chef Peter Ungár’s ingenious, experimental approach to fine dining. Gathered around the expo kitchen at a three-sided counter, they’re guaranteed to be riveted watching the toques toil like mad scientists on avant-garde surprises—say, dry-aged duck plated with pickled celery and green paint strokes of pistachio-and-pea-miso sauce. Suddenly feeling inspired? The TC@Home program will guide you through plating a gourmet meal kit via Zoom. Remember to unmute before you yell “Delicious!”

Somerville, tastingcounter.com.

4. Tambo 22

Like the chicha morada at Tambo 22 in Chelsea? Close your eyes and imagine sipping the sweet, purple-corn-based drink with a sunset view of the Andes Mountains. That’s where Peruvian-born chef Jose Duarte operates a 12-room eco-lodge for culinary-minded travelers. As far as we can tell, his Chelsea restaurant is the only spot around where you can enjoy an alpaca burger or a banana-leaf-wrapped whole Amazonian paiche, then ask about a trip to the very region that inspired the recipes.

Chelsea, tambo22chelsea.com.

nathalie

Photo of Nathálie by Haley Fortier

5. Nathálie

When it comes to bar food, nobody has disrupted the stereotype of Boston as a Guinness-and-wings town like sommelier Haley Fortier and chef Alex Bhojwani. Steps from Fenway Park, land of beer-swigging bros, Fortier built her list around exclusively organic, small-batch wines—nearly all produced by women. Bhojwani, meanwhile, pumps out a menu of “more than snacks”—including bites of bluefin crudo topped with banana pepper, marinated olives, and soy caramel—that push Boston’s bar culture forward. This is how you pre-game, kehd.

Fenway, nathaliebar.com.

6. Juliet

Over the past five years, chef Josh Lewin and so-called “wine commander” Katrina Jazayeri have turned their winsome European café into something much bigger than a place for a lovely dinner of mussels tartine and chocolate mousse. The restaurant cooks up a kitchen sink of daring ideas: interactive themed suppers billed as “productions”; a wine club with virtual tasting parties; and artsy coffee-table ’zines filled with recipes, poetry, and illustrations. Yes, you eat at Juliet. More than that, you experience it.

Somerville, julietsomerville.com.

7. Cobble

A rare BYOB restaurant nestled in what looks like a fashionable small apartment, Coolidge Corner’s brilliant new Cobble is exactly where you’d want to finally uncork that special bottle you’ve been saving. Here, at 7 p.m. sharp, host Rachel Trudel and chef Emily Vena throw a dinner party for only four tables, sending out five-course set menus of veggie-centric Italian—perhaps butternut cavatelli with smoked pear, toasted pecans, and aged balsamic. It’s an experience unlike anything around—how else to explain the months-long wait list for reservations?

Brookline, dinneratcobble.com.

8. Table

Mom always said, “Don’t talk to strangers.” At her novel Italian restaurant, Jen Royle sends the message, Don’t listen to Mom. After all, the sportscaster turned chef gathers all of her customers around two long tables at an appointed time; sends a procession of family-style platters flying out of the kitchen; and cooks up one loud, lovely din of hi-how-are-ya-pass-the-pasta. Even Mom herself might make a few new Facebook friends—once she gets over the fact that Royle’s giant meatballs are better than hers.

North End, tableboston.com.

9. Tanám

Right now, it’s the only place in town to find a kamayan feast—a communal splay of fresh shellfish, spiced meat skewers, and more, spread across a banana leaf and enjoyed with the hands—or to kick back with Filipinx-American bar snacks such as pork lumpia (egg rolls). Soon, though, chef Ellie Tiglao will revive her famous nights of “narrative cuisine,” meals with tableside storytelling about food and culture. And this time, the restaurant will incorporate seasonal residencies by other POC chefs, keeping us even more engaged and well fed.

Somerville, tanam.co.

10. Littleburg

Big flavors come in the small, meatless packages that Littleburg drops on our doorstep. What started off as an Eastern Mediterranean pop-up is now a delivery service for prepared vegan meals—one that has converted even carnivores with its seitan gyros and saffron fried rice with falafel and lemon tahini. Can’t wait for the next shipment? Motor over to the new takeout-only location in Somerville, a walk-up counter at a former auto shop. Beep-beep, out of the way.

Somerville, littleburgveg.com.

nightshade noodle bar

Photo of Nightshade Noodle Bar by Michael Piazza / Food Styling by Marc Sievers/Anchor Artists

Suburban Standouts

1. Nightshade Noodle Bar

“Noodle bar” doesn’t tell half the story of Nightshade. Yes, you’ll find silky ribbons bearing the bright flavors of, say, confit garlic butter, candied lemon, and fennel pollen—and boy, are they delicious. But chef Rachel Miller, who earned her stripes under Boston legend Ken Oringer before heading north, electrifies plenty of other Vietnamese- and French-inspired dishes, from signature seafood boils—a trawl-sized haul of langoustines and clams, all shook up with finger-lickin’-great lemongrass butter—to tropical-cocktail-accompanied specials like cold-smoked sea urchin with a sunny splotch of charred tomato hollandaise.

Lynn, nightshadenoodlebar.com.

2. Northern Spy

In an era when many restaurants stress concepts over cooking, this Canton spot inside Paul Revere’s former copper mill has proved that putting craftsmanship first is a revolutionary act. Here, chef Marc Sheehan, of the nouveau New England spot Loyal Nine, opts to elevate and enhance red-blooded Yankee fare, rather than reinterpret it (case in point: outstanding sirloin tips shellacked with Worcestershire jus). Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t sometimes throw in a good twist—see: the foraged mushrooms in brown butter he folds into lasagna.

Canton, northernspycanton.com.

bird & wolf

Photo of Bird & Wolf by Brian Samuels

3. Bird & Wolf

Everything feels in perfect harmony at Bird & Wolf, an ambitious biophilic (read: nature-inspired) restaurant that devotes a quarter of its North Andover space to a casual café filled with stunning pastries and local roasted coffee, and the other to a fine-dining room (with a four-seasons patio) where plants sprout microgreens for cocktail garnishes. In this environment, lauded chefs Chris White and Giselle Miller have created a symbiotic relationship—his refined New American cuisine (say, charred octopus with harissa potato and almond romesco) a perfect complement to her straightforward but delicious sweets (macarons, anyone?) and modernist-leaning desserts.

North Andover, birdnwolf.com.

4. The Bancroft

Credit the extra sizzle at this suburban steakhouse to chef Mario Capone, an alum of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as well as glittery Boston restaurants. Here in Burlington, that pedigree translates to towering seafood plateaus, prime chops (like steak au poivre in a sauce of red wine and bone marrow), and livin’-the-good-life desserts, such as fat slices of peach-cobbler cheesecake. The house bottled rum, meanwhile, lubricates a perfect night out close to home—or one worth leaving the city for.

Burlington, the-bancroft.com.

5. Ledger

In a town with a top-notch dining scene, Ledger, which opened four years ago on the site of a historical Salem bank, leads the pack by showing exponential growth. Dream-team chefs Matt O’Neil and Daniel Gursha seem to get better with every visit—just when we think they can’t top the dinner menu’s spicy pork belly, amped up with hot honey and fermented peppers, they hit us with an epic brunch doughnut like the King, topped with bacon, chocolate ganache, roasted peanuts, and banana buttercream. What’s next? We can’t wait to find out.

Salem, ledgersalem.com.

6. Thistle & Leek

For a while, everyone in the ’burbs was opening a so-called gastropub, watering the word down to mean “nothing” and “anything” at once. Finally, here’s a new entry worthy of the term: Thistle & Leek, married co-chefs Kate and Trevor Smith’s love letter to London haunts serving rich ales and cosmopolitan comfort food. At their Newton Centre hideaway, that means a cornucopia of Continental-inspired small plates—lamb meatballs in a tomato-and-ginger curry, pork schnitzel with cherry mustard—alongside Old World wines and brews. In a word, it’s “everything.”

Newton, thistleandleek.com.

7. Simcha

The wood-fired oven here gets quite a workout, but what really fuels Simcha is chef Avi Shemtov’s melting-pot vision of modern Israeli soul food: Carrots plucked from a neighboring farm are charred with Moroccan spices and drizzled with honey, while seared beets get sprinkled with Egyptian-rooted dukkah, a mix of nuts and herbs. And what happened when Shemtov got his hands on a smoker? He launched A La Esh, a neighboring joint marrying Middle Eastern cuisine with southern barbecue—think: Yemenite fried chicken and sides of couscous mac ’n’ cheese.

Sharon, simcharestaurant.com.

8. Café Mangal

“Family dining” isn’t supposed to mean “fast food you’d eat wearing mouse ears.” It’s supposed to suggest comfort, consistency, and heart—exactly what we’ve found at Café Mangal ever since the Ozargun clan brought Turkish cuisine to Wellesley 21 years ago. Today, it remains a go-to for refined, soulful home cooking, from shrimp casserole baked with garlic and peppers to beef skewers cooked in the titular mangal, a type of braising pot. Lose the mouse ears. Wear the good jewelry.

Wellesley, cafemangal.com.

9. Idle Hour

It’s obvious that chef Ashley Gaboriault has very little downtime at Idle Hour. After all, it takes hard work to turn deviled eggs, meatballs, and grilled pork chops into gourmet bar food, but the Beat Bobby Flay victor and Barbara Lynch–world alum manages by filling the first with a curry farce, spiking the second with Korean gochujang and black sesame, and marinating the last in harissa and honey. Thirsty? Fret not—the kicky cocktails keep up.

Quincy, idlehourquincy.com.

10. Scarlet Oak Tavern

There’s a suburban legend that Scarlet Oak Tavern is popular with swingers. We mention such unsubstantiated Internet whispers only to point out that it’s the only upscale South Shore restaurant cool enough to elicit them. In truth, the Colonial home turned steakhouse is beloved by all for its bone-in rib-eye topped with lobster tail; seared medallions of “$10K tuna”; and bottle-focused wine list that stresses sharing. As for the vibe? After many years, it still swings. That’s why we’ve stayed so faithful.

Hingham, scarletoaktavern.com.

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