Best Restaurants in Boston

best restaurants in boston 2017

Aperitivi and cicchetti from SRV, the South End’s new Venetian-style bacaro. / Photograph by Nina Gallant

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The name’s short for Serene Republic of Venice, but there’s nothing tranquil about the vivid flavors of Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell’s Venetian fare, which hits the palate with all the precision and layering of a Gabrieli sonata. Deep-fried Castelvetrano olives burst with perfumey fennel sausage and molten montasio cheese. Preserved lemon rings out like a trumpet obbligato over the dark, rumbling cello notes of unctuous squid-ink risotto. Even the quieter moments—Wagyu crudo deepened with cocoa nibs and nutty sunchoke purée—have the intensity of a brass choir mustering its most convincing pianissimo.

569 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-9500,

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Sweet Cheeks

Tiffani Faison’s fall-apart ribs, crackly-skinned sausages, and mammoth slabs of brisket are sourced from the highest-quality purveyors. Meat aside, Sweet Cheeks is also the rare barbecue spot that welcomes vegetarian diners, with sublime biscuits and one of the finest salads in town—a crunchy mash-up of farro, candied hazelnuts, Brussels sprouts, grapes, and arugula.

1381 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-1300,

best restaurants in boston 2017

Vegetarian-friendly potato-leek gratin. / Photograph by Angela Coppola for ‘Restaurant Review: Sycamore’

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This neighborhood favorite may be the kind of place where passersby tap the window to greet friends and family inside, but it also draws diners from far beyond Newton Centre thanks to chefs David Punch and Lydia Reichert. Sweet-potato muhammara with pillowy grilled pita, and suckling-pig confit with bright fennel purée and blood-orange marmalade share menu real estate with the Hudson Valley duck board that everyone’s always raving about. It’s also home to satisfying vegetarian entrées, like local root vegetable tagine.

755 Beacon St., Newton Centre, 617-244-4445,

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The Table at Season to Taste

A poorly timed foie gras dish ended Carl Dooley’s 2015 Top Chef run. But at the Table—his 20-seat North Cambridge stunner—the creamy classic has all of the nuance you’d expect from a protégé of Tony Maws. Meticulous technique aside, it’s Dooley’s finesse with potent spice and funk that breaks the sleepy prix-fixe-tasting mold, in dishes like smoky scallop posole and merguez sausage lettuce wraps. Not to mention the affable service, often served up with palpable joie de vivre and swagger from the chef himself.

2447 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-871-9468,

best restaurants in boston 2017

From left, chefs Peter Ungár and Marcos Sanchez cater to guests at Tasting Counter, their 20-seat Somerville restaurant. / Photograph by Jared Kuzia for ‘Best New Restaurants 2015’

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Tasting Counter

To dine at Tasting Counter, ticket-holding guests slip through an unassuming side entrance of the Aeronaut Brewing building, in Union Square. Once there, chef Peter Ungár and chef de cuisine Marcos Sanchez—both adorned in tall toques and crisp chef’s whites—shepherd up to 20 guests through nine exhilarating courses: briny urchin-and-kelp custard served in a chiseled eggshell; dry-aged sirloin cap shingled over red curry sauce and burdock-root purée; maybe the sublime sous vide duck breast marinated in miso and dashi to which we were treated. Considering the slew of spontaneous freebies (duck-liver macarons), generous natural wine and beer pairings, and personal-chef-like service, Tasting Counter’s price tag ($195 per person) seems like a bargain. But the after-hours natural wine bar—open at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, and 10:30 p.m. later in the week—gives an opportunity to sample the skill without sacrificing the month’s dining budget.

14 Tyler St., Somerville, 617-299-6362,

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Tiger Mama

To find dishes like nam prik chili dip, beef rendang, and Isaan-style sour pork sausages once required sleuthing out the secret “authentic” menu at certain restaurants around Allston, Chinatown, and Dorchester. Double props, then, to Tiffani Faison for bringing these legit Southeast Asian dishes to a stretch of Fenway not known for culinary exoticism. We love her gingery, crispy ribs. We love her short-rib crudo and its counterpoint of crunchy/soft, spicy/cool. And we love her commitment to rescuing okra from its slimeball rep, turning the ooze into oohs and aahs.

1363 Boylston St., Boston, 617-425-6262,

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This electric South End tapas spot continues to push the boundaries of the Spanish small plate. Menu mainstays like the now-famous aioli-slathered street corn and gambas al ajillo—griddled shrimp in a buttery, chili-scented garlic sauce—are as good as ever, while dishes that stray from the Spanish theme (Thai curried mussels, broccoli with pistachio muhammara) keep us intrigued.

1704 Washington St., Boston, 617-536-4300,

best restaurants in boston 2017

Scenes from the omakase chef’s-tasting menu at Uni. / Photographs by Nina Gallant

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It’s the oldest story in the book: city falls for chef, chef courts other city, other city gets the magic while we get stuck with phoned-in BS. Hooray, exceptions. That Ken Oringer can open a spiffy Toro in New York—plus another in Bangkok—and still find time to keep Toro 1 and Coppa purring, launch a Central Square gunner in Little Donkey, and transform Uni from a 23-seat sashimi counter into a quadruple-size izakaya flagship is a testament to his energy, chops, and commitment to nurturing deputizable talent (see Uni executive chef Tony Messina). Also, to dreamy dishes like king crab yakitori slathered with black-lime butter, and fatty-tuna nigiri with uni powder and truffles.

370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200,

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The theme-y coastal concept of Michael Scelfo’s latest venture might seem self-satirizing if the food weren’t already so freaking good. There are nautical nods: crusty bread dyed with squid ink, and tallow-fried peanuts strewn with crispy anchovies. And then there are deep plunges: smoked head-on shrimp, candy-sweet king crab perched atop satiny brown-butter aioli, and garlicky clam pizza that pays homage to Frank Pepe’s signature pie. Those who prefer turf over surf might go for large-format delights like roasted Maine lamb shoulder with pickled lemon. But, yeah, there’s fish (anchovy) in that one, too.

1030 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-2300,

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Theatricality is the name of the game at this opulent revamp of the old Locke-Ober, but don’t let the glitter fool you. The tightly executed food by Tom Berry and Juan Pedrosa is what sparkles brightest, as evidenced by the anchovy-butter-slathered bavette steak with bone-marrow toast, best enjoyed from a banquette bathed in the moody light of a massive chandelier. On-trend small plates like roasted-sunchoke hummus mingle with luscious remixes of old classics. To wit: briny baked oysters are given the lobster-Savannah treatment.

2 Winter Place, Boston, 617-267-0047,

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