Top 50 Restaurants in Boston
A FULL YEAR. That’s how long it takes to eat at every important restaurant in the city (in some cases, more than once) to create our annual guide to Boston’s Top 50 restaurants. And after spending so many nights tasting and testing our way through countless courses of sushi, luxury cuts of beef, oodles of noodles, and artistic small plates for this year’s list, we can conﬁdently say the restaurant industry is ﬁring on all cylinders following a few years of pandemic-related challenges. Across the city, reservations are harder than ever to come by, and big-name restaurateurs and smaller indie groups alike have exciting openings on deck that we’ve already put on our must-try list for next year.
Is a ranking like this subjective? You bet it is. After all, judging a white-tablecloth steakhouse against a crowded, dimly lit neighborhood boîte is like comparing apples to orangutans. That’s why, as part of the process, we looked at not just food, service quality, and how the place made us feel but also how a restaurant fulfilled its core mission. (Two more things: Restaurants had to be open before September 1, 2023, and had to offer sit-down dinner service.) It took a lot of debate—and maybe one or two spirited arguments—to get here, but this is our list, and we’re standing by it. So here they are, the top 50 restaurants in Boston.
A decade in, Sarma is still an unforgettable party—and the hottest reservation in town—thanks to the restaurant’s brightly hued décor, warm hospitality, and made-to-be-shared menu of Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern–inspired snacks and small plates. Bring a big group and taste your way through masterpieces like apricot dolma with walnuts; lamb kofte sliders; and a luxurious cornbread with feta, honey, and sesame that has thankfully become a menu mainstay. And try to save room in case chef Cassie Piuma’s famous sesame fried chicken makes its way across the dining room as a special.
2. O Ya
O Ya continues to offer a serene respite from the bustle of downtown in the form of an hours-long omakase marathon—i.e., 20 expertly prepared bites of wonder. Some favorites from the early days nearly two decades ago are still kicking around: A summer 2023 feast saw us start with the Kumamoto oysters with watermelon pearls and finish with the decadent foie gras with chocolate balsamic kabayaki that we fondly recalled from a 2011 outing. But the stalwart isn’t resting on its laurels; it’s adding plenty of surprises to the menu as well. Blueﬁn season is a particular treat—that’s when you might ﬁnd bites like blueﬁn toro with wasabi oil and green onion on the menu.
It’s seafood-focused, it’s elegant, and it’s exciting. In other words, Mooncusser is the perfect place to show your out-of-town friend what Boston dining does best. Chef Carl Dooley’s four-course menu changes with the seasons to highlight the freshest local ﬂavors and ingredients, drawing inspiration from around the globe to let them shine. You might try, for instance, halászlé, a paprika-spiked Hungarian ﬁsherman’s soup used here as a showcase for catﬁsh. Pasta options often show up on the menu, and you’d be wise to order one: We’re still dreaming about a corn-and-clam conchiglie from more than a year ago, but they’re all winners.
4. Bar Vlaha
If you had told us a year ago that we’d be declaring a restaurant serving rustic Greek fare inspired by nomadic shepherds one of the best new additions to Greater Boston’s dining scene, we’d have acted politely surprised. But here we are, head over heels for the latest hit from the team behind Krasi, fighting for hard-to-get reservations to dig into simply grilled lamb chops, deeply satisfying beef cheeks with prunes, and crispy fried oyster mushrooms. It just goes to show that breaking bread—well, pita—with friends can be a celebration without white tablecloths and fancy plating.
Taste is subjective, but there are universal truths that help define “comfort food”—namely, congenial cuisine that fills both belly and soul. And night after night, Comfort Kitchen—a hotly anticipated arrival to Dorchester after years of planning and pop-ups from chef Kwasi Kwaa and his team—churns out exactly that, highlighting fundamental global ingredients like rice, okra, and rum (shout-out to beverage director Kyisha Davenport’s illuminating cocktail program). We’re big fans of the jerk-roasted duck leg with pikliz, a Haitian-style pickled vegetable relish, and the meltingly tender yassa chicken, a Senegalese-style stew, but really, every dish on the menu makes us feel right at home.
Let’s get this out of the way first: If you want to take a journey through 14 courses of James Beard Award nominee Rachel Miller’s elaborate Vietnamese- and French-inspired tasting menu, surrounded by moody jungle vibes, you’re going to have to schlep to Lynn. But one taste of the bone-marrow bánh mì bites; hearty egg noodles tossed with a savory-meets-sweet caramelized garlic sauce; and lobster topped with a delicate smoked vanilla foam, and you’ll agree that this is food worth fighting traffic for.
7. Lenox Sophia
Hot take: This deceptively modest-looking, pocket-size charmer in Southie’s Lower End is the stealth mindblower of Boston’s fine-dining scene. The restaurant delivers layered flavors and textures built on meticulous sourcing and exacting technique (think: a light-as-a-cloud cube of milk curd adorning a summer tomato salad, or the addition of long-fermented garlic in honey to subtly flavor a grilled mushroom dish). The resulting deliciousness comes in a very gently priced prix fixe package, with options for both vegetarians and omnivores, a value further enhanced by the opportunity to BYOB.
These days, prized ingredients like deep-water fish and fresh sea urchin flown in from Japan aren’t as exclusive to Uni as they once were—yet there’s still nowhere else in Boston you can find Maine uni nigiri matched with earthy-sweet chestnut miso crafted and aged in-house. Executive chef David Bazirgan, whose star rose at a stylish bar in San Francisco, has also made the Back Bay sushi bar more of an after-work hang recently, thanks to drink-friendly snacks like juicy fried-chicken bao buns slicked with lip-smacking sambal.
Six years in, chef Chris Willis continues to merge Italian craft and technique with flavors from near and far, paired with an attention to seasonality. Take the chewy mafaldine: The noodles tango with tenderly cooked honeycomb tripe, which acts as a sponge to soak up the Asian-inflected garlic-chili oil. The texture of the tripe offers a contrast to the al dente pasta, which is enriched by creamy Middle Eastern–inspired labneh. With well-executed plates like this, not to mention warmly attentive service, it’s no wonder the restaurant keeps winning the hearts and minds of locals and out-of-towners alike.
If you were to list out the ingredients of Umami’s 18-course omakase on paper, the ever-changing dishes might sound minimalist at ﬁrst glance: torched Spanish mackerel with soy garlic, Hawaiian kanpachi (amberjack) with mango salsa. But there’s meticulous technique underlying these delicate bites, yielding countless textures and tastes to explore. Take the madai—Japanese red sea bream—that gets its crispy skin thanks to dunks in hot water and an ice bath, topped with shaved, salted egg yolk for a punch of, well, umami. Once you reach the ﬁnal course—a delightful yuzu panna cotta on one visit—you’ll be already planning to make your next reservation.
There’s little not to love about this elegant yet laidback Davis Square spot, from the thoughtfully curated wine list to the creative, boundary-breaking menu that comes from the tiniest of kitchens. But the most impressive thing of all about Spoke is how the team works seamlessly together: Cochefs Kelcey Rusch and Paul Butler collaborate tirelessly to highlight the most in-season ingredients, while bar manager Katie Weismann puts out new cocktails as the food menu changes, resulting in meals that might pair, say, savory sunchoke doughnuts with a brandy-based drink made with black trumpet mushrooms and cinnamon.
Indie prix-fixe pioneer Asta continues its 10-year run of wowing patrons nightly with a gently paced procession of six to 10 courses. And no wonder: Chef-owner Alex Crabb’s culinary sensibility is characterized by globetrotting influences (tempura maitake here, foie gras on huacatay purée there); delicate but insistent flavors; a penchant for unusual accents
(have you tasted mouse melons yet?); and painterly platings. Meanwhile, his front-of-house partner, Shish Parsigian, serves as a genial docent to often natural-focused wine pairings. The dining room has a minimalist vibe, all the better to focus on Asta’s fantastic ratio of supernal quality to low pretension.
This Brookline Village spot represents Thai hospitality at its finest—homey and pleasant, with a menu of vibrantly flavored regional specialties that pair well with a crisp Thai lager or a cocktail. The slightly sweet pork cheek is seasoned with funky notes of Thai fish sauce, while the chicken skin is satisfyingly crunchy. But the absolute showstopper is the kang pu, in which warm, southern-style curry and tender crab meet chewy, thin rice noodles. Bring friends or family and order a round or two of drinks and a spread for the table: You’ll want to sample a little bit of everything.
Under chef Ana Sortun’s steadfast guidance, this cozy eatery has earned its spot as a Cambridge mainstay over the past two-plus decades, courtesy of flavorful dishes inspired by Turkey and the broader Middle East. One of our favorites is the Sultan’s Delight, which diverges from its Turkish roots by using beef in lieu of lamb and adding tamarind for a fruity boost. The best way to enjoy it? With a creative Mediterranean-inspired cocktail in hand, sitting on the romantic patio (in warmer months), an ideal spot for date nights and celebrations. But don’t forget to top it all off with the restaurant’s cult-favorite baked Alaska with coconut ice cream and passion-fruit caramel.
“French Shrimp Toast,” as a recent menu read, is a combination of words not typically joined in that order. Featuring triangles of shrimp-paste-and-maple-syrup-slathered bread, the snack reinvents both a dim sum staple and pain perdu on the same plate—and as an idea, it’s classic Brassica. With fun inventions like this brought to life by a team of imaginative pros, the Jamaica Plain stalwart has endeared itself to the neighborhood as well as to food lovers from further afield. As the restaurant plans to expand into a larger space next door, we simply can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
16. Field & Vine
Would you ever expect fireworks from a dish of grilled cabbage? At Field & Vine, ’nduja butter, a mild blue cheese, and gremolata crumbs turn the cruciferous vegetable into gold. In fact, much of the magic behind this six-year-old Union Square gem is in the condiments: Luscious toasted-pecan butter, grilled-strawberry Buffalo sauce, and caraway labneh are among the accoutrements bringing beautiful, veg-forward dishes to the next level. It also doesn’t hurt that Field & Vine is one of the most attractive restaurants in town—a forest fairy tale full of light wood, vines, and plenty of greenery.
Bring a bunch of friends and plan to leisurely work your way through the Greek menu at this Back Bay mezze and wine bar, from fresh-baked breads to the souvla of the day, via the group-friendly “Feast of the Gods.” You’ll accompany it with plenty of vino; Krasi means “wine” in Greek, after all. The Grecian influences continue with modern yet elevated design touches in the dining room: We love the elegant Hellenic tumblers behind the bar in shades of periwinkle and seafoam green, not to mention the playful reimagined portraits of Greek greats like Aphrodite and Poseidon adorning the walls above the cozy booths.
18. Grace By Nia
The allure and conviviality of a chic 1940s supper club has arrived in the oh-so-modern Seaport, courtesy of restaurateur Nia Grace (Darryl’s, the Underground Café) and Big Night (Empire, Scorpion Bar). The supper: updated southern and soul food ranging from a modernist fried-green-tomato salad to a soul-satisfying rendition of oxtail and grits. The club: performances by an ever-changing lineup of talented jazz and soul combos, not to mention luxurious cocktails (hello, 24-karat-gold-dusted espresso martini).
19. La Royal
At La Royal, JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau bring diners on a gustatory trip through the regional cuisines of Peru (including chifa, the Chinese-Peruvian cuisine that is a pillar of contemporary foodways of the country). Among the best dishes on the menu is the patarashca—whole branzino grilled in plantain leaves and dressed with chopped peppers, onions, and other condiments—which sheds light on the Amazon region. Meanwhile, the drink list celebrates Peru’s dynamic cocktail scene: Opt for Peruvian classics such as the pisco sour, or venture out to tonic spiked with the Andean elixir matacuy.
20. Yunnan Kitchen
The Dian cuisine of southwest China is marked by spiciness, ample use of mushrooms, and flavors and ingredients more often seen in Southeast Asian cuisines—and we can’t get enough of it at this 2022 South End debut. Seems like the rest of the country is intrigued, too: The restaurant has already gained attention on a national scale thanks to a 2023 James Beard Award nom for chef and founder Yisha Siu. Elevate dinner to date-night status with one of the restaurant’s cheekily described wine-based cocktails, like the Kiss Kiss—sauvignon blanc, mojito mix, and mint, “topped with intimacy.”
In a city known for its top-notch seafood restaurants, how does one stand out from the crowd? The team behind Cambridge Italian favorite Giulia has an answer in Moëca, where a vivid and wildly creative seafood-centric menu draws inspiration from all over the world (see: a smoked scallop taramasalata that nods to Greece, and a raw fluke aguachile that points to Mexico). It doesn’t hurt that the team inherited Giulia’s talent with fresh pasta and nabbed one of Boston’s best pastry chefs (Renae Connolly) to craft the gorgeous desserts, such as a fluffy aerated cheesecake with a bold blackberry sorbet and jasmine lime curd.
When this cozy hangout debuted in February 2020, owners Paola Ibarra and Yhadira Guzmán had little clue a global pandemic was about to unfold. Three years and an expanded dining room later, Barra has forged a unique identity, bringing Mexico City pride to Somerville in the form of cumbia sonidera parties and artisanal mezcal tastings. Food is the centerpiece of the story, made from scratch and served with care. The slow-cooked cochinita pibil—a marinated pork dish—is a perfect example, served with handpressed tortillas made from heirloom masa. Add a tangy prickly pear margarita to be transported straight to CDMX.
From a weekday power lunch to a Saturday date night, this intimate Back Bay hot spot is the place to splurge on an enormous seafood tower dripping with caviar, crudo, and plenty of shellﬁsh, with a baller bottle of bubbly on the side. Or keep it just a little simpler with, say, an herby whole-roasted sea bream or a hearty bowl of bouillabaisse. Both are great examples of how chef and restaurateur Michael Serpa uses Mediterranean-tinged cooking to show off a beautiful bounty of local seafood.
24. Bar Volpe
After launching its daily aperitivo hour this summer (a longtime favorite at sister restaurant Fox & the Knife), Bar Volpe added a bevy of new southern Italian stuzzichini (a.k.a. snacks) to the menu—and lucky for us, they’re here to stay. Grilled lamb skewers with mint and olive tapenade; crostini topped with gooey stracciatella, slow-roasted tomatoes, and basil; and fried olives stuffed with ’nduja and mortadella are just a few of chef Karen Akunowicz’s fresh bite-size offerings. Of course, with small plates like these, you’ll likely have room for a smattering of classic dishes, too, like the pillowy, potato-and-goat-cheese-filled culurgiones and an amaro-topped affogato for dessert.
25. Grill 23 & Bar
Sometimes, the occasion calls for a classic steakhouse full of old-school glamour: white tablecloths, cordial hospitality, and, of course, fancy cuts of beef. Enter Grill 23. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the stately restaurant can certainly show a thing or two to those countless chain steakhouses that have recently invaded Boston. We love the lively vibe downstairs best (with a bit of a kitchen view, depending on where you’re seated)—and might we recommend saving room for the signature coconut cake for dessert?
Toro continues to dazzle diners after nearly two decades in the South End. Maybe it’s the familiarity of tapas like crispy patatas bravas, grilled octopus with pimentón aioli, and garlicky pan con tomate that keeps us coming back. Or perhaps it’s the delicate twinkle of string lights on the COVID-era patio that turns even the most mundane night out into a special affair. We don’t know what to expect from the future of the former JK Food Group now that the J (Jamie Bissonnette) has left to pursue new adventures, but Bissonnette and Ken Oringer certainly hit on something special with their ﬁrst project together so many years ago, and we’re happy to keep returning for birthdays and anniversaries aplenty.
27. Bar Mezzana
This South End powerhouse of coastal Italian cuisine consistently excels in all areas, thanks to chef Colin Lynch’s triple threat of a menu (elegant crudos, ravishing pasta dishes, gorgeous cooked-seafood entrées). Sweetening the deal are a first-rate bar program anchored by beverage director Ryan Lotz; a warmly polished and hospitable front-of-house staff led by GM Heather Lynch; and a sleekly modern, elegant atmosphere that makes this one of the best restaurants in one of Boston’s best dining neighborhoods.
It may have moved to a larger location down the street in 2022, but Juliet’s core ethos as a mission-driven, neighborhood-y eatery has remained the same. The thoughtfully decorated new space, however, does lend itself more to special evenings out: Diners can snack on scrumptious honey-drizzled Parmigiano-Reggiano, slurp tagliatelle au pistou with a Provençal pesto-like sauce, or get cozy in the wine room for a frequently changing themed tasting menu. And that old space? The team has turned it into a wine bar and occasional venue for pop-up vendors to serve Filipino breakfast sandwiches, Venezuelan arepas, Guatemalan dobladas, and more.
In a city where you can’t throw a meatball without hitting an Italian restaurant, Giulia has maintained its status as one of the most popular spots for discerning locals, as evidenced by its constantly packed dining room. Born out of chef Michael Pagliarini’s affinity for Umbrian cuisine, Giulia churns out plate after plate of homey yet well-balanced flavors, from the eggplant caponata to the handcrafted pastas. The menu shifts often, depending on the bounty of the season, but some pasta standouts include pappardelle with wild boar cooked in a velvety sauce; casarecce with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms; and saffron cavatelli with calamari.
In a world where brash, loud, and unbuttoned is the new restaurant standard, Old World elegance is hard to come by. That makes Deuxave’s dove-toned dining room, formally attentive service, and elegant take on fine French cuisine a treasured combination. Forget your generic neighborhood bistro’s moules frites or Le Hamburger; here you’ll find caviar service, trophy sirloins seared in cast iron and dressed in fine French accoutrements, and the city’s most resplendently plated roast duck.
Why do we love this South End bacaro? Let us count the reasons. For one, each visit introduces us to novel flavor combinations and fresh takes on the classics—e.g., twisted strozzapreti noodles with sausage brightened up by a gorgeous salsa verde. But it’s also the restaurant’s consistently warm hospitality, led by general manager and partner Ted Hawkins, that makes it an easy choice for any occasion—or even none at all.
32. Rare Steakhouse
There’s no question that Rare, the glitzy steakhouse at Encore Boston Harbor, has the meaty goods. There’s Japanese Wagyu for the true high rollers, but we also enjoy the middle-of-the-road splurge: the domestic Wagyu, a beautifully marbled, melt-in-your-mouth cut in its own right. Add a classic steakhouse side or two—creamed spinach, roasted mushrooms with sherry herb butter, lobster mac ’n’ cheese—and you have yourself quite a night out. You can end with a fiery table-side preparation of citrus-soaked rum cake, much preferable to metaphorically setting your money on fire at the betting table.
You’ve gotta have some nerve to take a hallowed Brahmin dining institution like the old Locke-Ober, favored by the Kennedys, and reinvent it as the wildest, sexiest restaurant downtown. That’s exactly what the Yvonne’s team did eight years ago, and it’s still swinging with uniquely gorgeous and sassy décor; shareable plates large and small, including a massive long-bone rib-eye with steak fries and black-garlic butter; superb cocktails, both classic and creative; and dressed-up crowds out for a rip-roaring evening. Perhaps no other restaurant in the city so adroitly combines the hip and the staid, the sacred and the profane, Old Boston and New, into such a cheeky, fun, hard-partying package.
It’s a Boston tradition to complain about non-local restaurant groups coming to town, but we can let the occasional one slide, especially when it’s as good as Major Food Group’s swanky Contessa. The gorgeous venue atop the Newbury Boston pairs its stunning views and impeccable interior design with a glammed-up Italian menu that makes the in-demand reservation worth the effort. Here’s hoping the prettily plated squash carpaccio—dotted with pumpkin seeds, arugula, and agrodolce—never leaves the menu. Same to you, spicy lobster capellini.
See also: The Most Beautiful Restaurants in Boston
35. Neptune Oyster
The trouble with a restaurant becoming famous for one particular dish—here, the lobster roll—means that many diners never branch out and realize that it’s serving a lot of other excellent things, too. Your assignment for 2024: Go to North End icon Neptune (get there a little before opening to avoid the long line), and don’t get the lobster roll. Get whatever crudo of the day is scrawled on the mirror—we enjoyed a beautifully fresh Casco Bay halibut with Cara Cara orange and pistachio back in May. Try the razor-clam casino. Order a salad topped with whole Azorean sardines. Go old-school with some fried clams. You won’t be sorry.
North End | Seafood | Read more | No reservations
Pizza and pasta are crowd-pleasers in pretty much any form, but it’s not just the gourmet renditions by chef Luke Fetbroth that, in just one year, have rocketed this Jamaica Plain spot to instant-classic status. Along with business partner and beverage connoisseur Claire Makley, Fetbroth has tapped into the kind of cozy neighborhood vibes that make a meal memorable, from the truly unique aperitivo selection (see: the House Spritz, combining bubbly and bitter Cappelletti with juicy yuzu sake) to the ﬂaky-salt-ﬁnished tiramisu.
37. Row 34
The best meals start with the freshest ingredients, and that’s exactly what this quintessential seafood spot serves up day after day. Of course, we’re talking about the briny Duxbury oysters and ruddy lobsters hauled in from Maine, as well as meaty fillets of monkﬁsh and expertly cleaned, sustainably sourced branzino grilled whole. But these pristine specimens achieve their ultimate form when accompanied by just-picked—or pickled-at-peak-season—produce, a food group taken just as seriously by chef Jeremy Sewall and his team of kitchen pros. And as the restaurant marks its 10th anniversary this month, it’s celebrating by doubling down on its devotion to top-notch sourcing at its newest Cambridge location.
38. Urban Hearth
Come for the snacks—cutely dubbed “smackerals”—like the luscious buttermilk biscuit slathered with smoked maple-miso butter; stay for the larger farm-to-table entrées such as koji-marinated duck breast with wild-blackberry-barbecue sauce and duck-fat carrots. Or better yet, spring for the adventurous five-course tasting at the chef’s counter and get a front-row seat as chef-owner Erin Miller works her sorcery with the freshest local ingredients. The ambiance is warm, cozy, and not too fancy, but the plates are the epitome of five-star dining. The perfect pairing, as far as we’re concerned.
Imagine our surprise when we found one of Greater Boston’s best versions of steak tips at a tiny Eastern Mediterranean nook in Inman Square (it’s all about the date molasses!). And that’s just one of nearly two dozen irresistible small plates on the menu at this gorgeously appointed hideaway. Share feta fritters drizzled with sweet orange-blossom honey; crispy coconut shrimp with mango-ginger chutney; and scallops with harissa barbecue duck for a romantic date. The cocktail menu, which also relies on Mediterranean flavors, pairs brilliantly. Olive-brine-infused mule, anyone?
After a century of being conﬁned mostly to modest diners and pizzerias, Greek cuisine in Boston is finally getting the respect it deserves. No restaurant better represents that elevation than this lively South End spot, which channels every fabulously sun-splashed trip you’ve ever taken (or envied on social media) to Santorini or Mykonos. It’s all here: the small plates of piquant nibbles; the brilliant dips; the easy-drinking wines; the ﬁre-grilled kebabs, chops, and whole ﬁsh. And it’s a fitting spiritual recharge, especially in the middle of a cold, dark Boston winter.
In 2023, chef Douglass Williams took his Mida magic to the scenic waterfront of East Boston with a brand-new location. You’ll find all the hits—focaccia piled high with Parmesan, handmade bucatini swathed in Mida’s signature guanciale-filled amatriciana, and a tender eggplant parm sandwich—plus an exciting offering not available at the South End original: ultra-thin-crust pizza made to order. And if clam pie and dreamy sunsets weren’t enough to reel you in, the restaurant’s impressive, design-forward interior is guaranteed to make any dinner feel like an artful evening.
Chef Jody Adams’s lovely downtown space is many things to many people, equally adept at hosting business lunches and happy-hour gatherings as it is nights out with friends and romantic occasions. At the top of our wish list, though, is a solo winter dinner at the bar, tucking into the hearty rosemary-braised lamb phyllo pie with a glass of Greek red. Plates of watermelon fattoush and lamb meatballs are also perfect to snack on while we eagerly await chef Adams’s return to Italian cuisine with the opening of La Padrona at Raffles Boston later this year.
43. The Eaves
Few new arrivals have thrilled us as much as the Eaves, a transportive sequel from the Cicada coffee bar crew that melds Vietnamese dishes with New England ingredients. An ode to the owners’ lives in both regions, the tiny bar and restaurant—a creative use of former storage space at Somerville’s Bow Market—is brimming with life, from the energetic soundtrack (plenty of disco on one recent visit) to an ever-changing array of flavor-packed dishes (plump duck gyoza were an early winner.) Bonus: Mini cocktail sizing lets you sample more.
44. Bab Al-Yemen
Hearty, homey Yemeni cuisine is new to Boston, but Kenmore Square’s sleek Bab Al-Yemen, which opened last year, is keen to show you the ropes. There, you’ll find everything from winter-friendly stews to slow-roasted lamb, all delicately spiced. The fresh-baked bread—a huge, ﬂat round—is a must, as is ending the meal with a pot of Adani tea, aromatic with cloves and cardamom, and date or banana fattah, a sweet dessert featuring shredded bread and honey.
The Bay State’s official bird, for which this Seaport spot is named, is known to be friendly and curious. In a neighborhood restaurant, these qualities take the form of polished yet casual service and inspired interpretations of Mediterranean-meets-New England cuisine (see: lobster fra diavolo enhanced with smoky Calabrian chiles and ruffled twists of campanelle pasta; crispy fried chicken with labneh ranch and snap-pea salad; and an apricot-spiked bourbon Old Fashioned). In other words, this spot, helmed by homegrown hospitality experts Ted Kilpatrick and John daSilva, is perfectly in tune with how Bostonians want to dine and drink today.
It may be hard to fathom now, but there was once a time when pork-belly bao buns and sriracha-spiked aioli were unfamiliar to many bar-hopping Bostonians. Then Shōjō came along and remixed the dining scene with the city’s first modern Asian cocktail bar. Still dishing out those staples and more nightly to throngs at its boisterous Chinatown bistro, Shōjō also recently added a larger Cambridge outpost with more Southeast Asian–inspired fare, including a Vietnamese beef carpaccio sprinkled in super-savory ﬁsh-sauce vinaigrette, earthy herbs, and rice-cracker crispies.
A colorful wall of arthouse ﬁlm posters, a soundtrack of Cuban music, and a mojito—perhaps pineapple or mango—set the scene for a festive dive into Cuban cuisine at this four-year-old Cambridge sequel to the Waltham original. Entrées like ropa vieja and puerco asado offer faithful takes on Cuban classics, while small plates like guava-glazed baby-back ribs and corn fritters with goat-cheese mousse deviate from tradition a bit—in-the-know diners try a little of each. And churros, of course: Don’t forget the churros.
We’re not sure who Aunt Wang is—all we know is that her steamed snapper dumplings with chili-and-black-vinegar sauce, on the menu since Chalawan opened in 2019, are among the best balls of dough in town. They’re just one of many delightful bites you’ll enjoy on this whirlwind tour of Southeast Asian fare, from a peanut-y Balinese gado-gado salad to a hearty pork-belly curry from northern Thailand. Lesser restaurants would struggle to do justice to so many cuisines on one menu, but Chalawan pulls it off marvelously.
49. Ivory Pearl
After growing up in his parents’ Sichuan Garden restaurants, Ran Duan (Baldwin Bar, Blossom Bar) decided to join the family business as an adult, adding imaginative beverages to the menu that quickly earned national attention. Duan’s ﬁrst endeavor outside of his parents’ restaurants, a self-described “seafood emporium,” matches fruits de mer with effervescent drinks in ways that will be refreshing to even those who are weary of the champagne and caviar-on-everything trend (something Ivory Pearl proudly ascribes to). Specializing in stunning seafood towers, lavish plates like local-tuna steak frites, and wine-inspired cocktails such as a crystalline piña colada riff called Coco Chanel, the restaurant is as elaborately, endearingly extra as anything we’ve seen from this Brookline son.
Restaurateur Will Gilson has gone on to open several more restaurants since Puritan & Co.’s 2012 debut—all wonderful!—but something keeps bringing us back to the original. It’s a celebration of local farms by way of modern American cuisine: think dishes like phyllo-wrapped cod with lobster stew; pan-roasted pork porterhouse with peaches and roasted peppers; and seared scallops with succotash. Whatever you order, definitely start your meal with the pillowy Parker House rolls with cultured butter, a New England classic.
First published in the November 2023 print issue.