Best Restaurants in Boston

best restaurants in boston 2017

The foie-gras-and-rabbit terrine comes with caramelized pistachios and cocoa nibs. / Photograph by Jared Kuzia for ‘Restaurant Review: Café Artscience’

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Café Artscience

There’s simply nothing else like Cambridge’s Café ArtScience, Harvard instructor David Edwards’ science-y food lab-meets-restaurant. Innovation and attention to detail abound on executive chef Carolina Curtin’s menu, in dishes such as ribeye with parmesan “churros” and leek powder and hamachi ceviche with pear soda and vanilla. A stripped-down lunch service harbors one of the city’s great under-the-radar burgers, plus more refined bites such as Maine mussels with miso. And oh, those elaborate beverages. Affable cocktail wiz Tenzin Samdo, formerly of Tavern Road and Trade, proves that centrifuge-driven concoctions aren’t just parlor tricks.

650 E. Kendall St., Cambridge, 857-999-2193, cafeartscience.com.

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Café du Pays

Open since July, the latest from the State Park–Mamaleh’s crew offers a snacking-friendly roster of French-Canadian fare that’s already as dreamy as Justin Trudeau. Lightly fried artichokes get tossed with herbs, then gussied up with luscious foie butter. Flawless poutine features authentic curds and fries so preternaturally crisp they defy gravy-wilting physics. The Québecois affinity for game and fish shines bright, with updated riffs on traditional fare like hearty tourtière (meat pie), fluke with juniper salt, and tender swaths of rosy, huckleberry-dotted venison. Oh, yeah…and it’s in the space once occupied by the group’s beloved Hungry Mother, so frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised it’s a winner.

233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge, 617-314-7297, cafedupays.com.

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Café Sushi

At first glance, this sushi restaurant within a Cambridge strip mall looks like your ­standard-issue maki quick stop. But grab a counter seat in front of sushi chef Seizi Imura and order his omakase (or the more-­affordable $17 “chef’s sampler”), and indulge in creatively prepared seasonal seafood both from Japan and local shores (sake-steamed porgy, uni three ways). The secret may be out at this point, but you’ll still get the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a hidden treasure.

1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-0434, cafesushicambridge.com.

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Coppa

Every time the kitchen changes hands at Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s tiny South End enoteca, we hold our breath. And yet somehow, the place never misses a beat. Now helmed by Brian Rae—most recently of Les Sablons, and also an alum of Jody Adams’s bygone Rialto, Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood in Las Vegas, and Centre Street Cafe—the classic pizzas are still smoky and rich (our favorite is dotted with spicy globs of ’nduja sausage); the house pastas are still remarkably creative (see: spelt tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and acorn squash); and the vegetable dishes remain some of the town’s finest (Brussels sprouts smothered in pecorino and horseradish).

253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.

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Craigie on Main

Before every restaurant in the city offered a variation on crispy Brussels sprouts, Tony Maws was roasting his in duck fat until nutty, browned, and as addictive as potato chips. Before octopus began popping up on menus everywhere, the chef was charring it on a plancha and marrying the curled tentacles with an earthy black-garlic vinaigrette. And before nose-to-tail cookery spread to gastropubs on every corner, Maws made then-out-there dishes, like his fish-sauce coated pigs’ tails and confited-and-roasted pig’s head with Peking pancakes—some of the most game-changing eats around. New innovations continue to emerge from the kitchen, but the menu staples remain as good as ever—a testament to this boisterous, influential bistro’s staying power.

853 Main St., Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com.

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Erbaluce

With its dim lighting, convenient Bay Village locale, and peerless carbonara pasta, Erbaluce has been a destination for occasion Italian dining since it opened in 2008. Perhaps less appreciated, however, is chef Charles Draghi’s separate, weeknight-friendly bar menu, where saucy boar meatballs topped with plumes of herbs, and thick prosciutto-and-fontina panini pair well with an endless flow of lambrusco by the glass.

69 Church St., Boston, 617-426-6969, erbaluce-boston.com.

best restaurants in boston 2017

Salmon with spring vegetables. / Photograph by Anthony Tieuli for ‘Restaurant Review: Giulia’

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Giulia

This Porter Square gem won us over with its chewy, emmer-flour-based farro casarecce alone, tossed with red-wine-braised rabbit, snap peas, and mousseron mushrooms on the night we tried it. But in truth, any of chef Michael Pagliarini’s pastas—painstakingly crafted on a reclaimed-white-oak table at the back of the restaurant—are worth the trip. Cap off your pasta odyssey with a creamy scoop of pistachio gelato or Giulia’s unrivaled affogato. Can’t get a seat at this small spot? Pagliarini and team are also behind Harvard Square’s Benedetto, a 220-seat “sister restaurant in every way” in the hallowed hall of the former Rialto.

1682 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-441-2800, giuliarestaurant.com.

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Grill 23 & Bar

This is the rare steakhouse that’s as enjoyable for the non-steak crowd—with Jonah crab cakes, lobster chowder, and pot roast with sweet pea ebelskivers—as it is for those who seek perfectly seared slabs of beef. The installation of a grand bar area, complete with a dressed-down menu, supports modest snacking and grand feasts in equal measure.

161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.

best restaurants in boston 2017

Hojoko. / Photograph by Jared Kuzia for ‘Big in Japan’

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Hojoko

At Tim and Nancy Cushman’s rollicking izakaya in the Fenway, there’s only one rule: If it’s too loud, you’re too old. That mentality extends beyond the garage-rock soundtrack—which they’ll never, ever turn down—to an interior that feels as much Big Trouble in Little China as Pee-wee’s Playhouse, with plastic pink flamingos, street art, and vintage Asian movie memorabilia. What about the food, you say? Executive chef Hart Lowry goes punk, using his flawless Japanese techniques to create the most irreverent drunk food around. Sushi rolls are stuffed with spicy tuna, tempura crunchies, and pickled Thai chilis—or a piece of “super wasabi,” and a baby bottle of horchata on the side; black truffle salt dusts grilled chicken tails. If O Ya’s formal omakase service was the Cushmans’ Dylan-esque acoustic phase, Hojoko is where they go electric.

1271 Boylston St., Boston, 617-670-0507, hojokoboston.com.

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Island Creek Oyster Bar

In 2010, Duxbury’s Island Creek Oysters, restaurateur Garrett Harker, chef Jeremy Sewall, and oyster farmer Skip Bennett collaborated to create this stunning reflection of coastal New England—one that swiftly became an anchor of the dining scene. Tuck into elegant dishes like lobster-roe noodles with shreds of braised short rib in the dining room, or soak up the energy of the lounge, where you’ll have a front-row seat to both the shucking action and the production of the cocktails, perfectly designed to quench all fried-oyster-slider-induced thirst.

500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.

This list is updated periodically to reflect closures and other prominent developments. Please send updates to food editor Jenna Pelletier at jpelletier@bostonmagazine.com.