Best Restaurants in Boston 2014
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370A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200, cliorestaurant.com.
How to stay relevant for seven years, let alone 17? The trick is to reinvent—something that chef Ken Oringer does exceptionally well at Clio. In 2011, Oringer overhauled the entire restaurant, expanding the bar and banishing the white tablecloths. Lately, he’s logged many kitchen hours tweaking the tasting menus, focusing on complex, intricate vegetable dishes and a varied menu structure. At a recent meal, chewy, dense sourdough bread, rich goat-butter-braised carrots, and elaborate desserts from pastry chef Monica Glass suggested we have much to look forward to.
Can’t-miss dish: Butter-basted lobster with chanterelle mushrooms.
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One Charles St. S., Boston, 617-421-1200, ostraboston.com.
Chef and restaurateur Jamie Mammano has the Midas touch when it comes to designing swanky restaurants with luxe-on-luxe menus to match. Ostra’s slick black-and-white interior, dramatic display of the day’s fresh catch on ice, and live piano music in the lounge have made his latest effort his best yet, one that marries local seafood with celebratory opulence. Try the smoked-to-order salmon crudo from a perch at the white-marble bar, or go all in (it’s simply the right thing to do) with a multicourse blowout complete with dramatic paella, whole salt-crusted fish, and the meringue-and-lemon-curd “Snow Egg” for dessert.
Can’t-miss dish: Seafood paella.
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No. 9 Park
9 Park St., Boston, 617-742-9991, no9park.com.
Barbara Lynch’s empire has spread far and wide since she opened this, her first restaurant, overlooking Boston Common. Nostalgia keeps us returning to the original, with its rarified aura; its signature cocktails, like the crisp, mint-laced “Palmyra”; and that legendary prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, which deserves every single speck of fawning praise it’s earned over the years. These days, we prefer a perch at the bar, which offers that same unparalleled view of the park in a more-relaxed environment.
Can’t-miss dish: Prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras (or any of the seasonal pastas).
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89 Holland St., Somerville, 617-718-9463, spokewinebar.com.
While wine bars typically emphasize the drinks first, food second, this David Square outfit has both on equal (and top-notch) footing. Owner Felisha Foster’s eclectic by-the-glass vino list and food-friendly apéritifs set the stage for No. 9 Park alum John DaSilva’s creative small plates, which marry elegance with appealing rusticity. This means powerhouse dishes like pan-crisped green-garlic spaetzle tossed with smoked chicken, broccoli rabe, and fontina fonduta; and farro risotto topped with cured egg yolk.
Can’t-miss dish: Fried Vermont quail with a cheddar waffle, smoked butter, and maple syrup.
For more on Spoke, see Inside the 50.
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755 Beacon St., Newton, 617-244-4445, sycamorenewton.com.
All of the hallmarks of a solid neighborhood restaurant—a warm, inviting dining room, farm-fresh salads, and hearty main courses—are here, but with every element ratcheted up several notches. That dining room? A handsome marriage of exposed brick and industrial beams. Those salads and entrées? More like roasted heirloom carrots with walnut-miso purée, stunning from-scratch sausages, and hand-rolled pastas from chefs David Punch and Lydia Reichert. And the bar program goes well beyond reliable Manhattans and Negronis: Libations like the “Thirsty Traveler,” which features bourbon, white vermouth, and Cynar, could hold their own against expert drinks from the city’s highest-brow cocktail dens.
Can’t-miss dish: Baba ganoush with grilled flatbread.
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One Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, rialto-restaurant.com.
Twenty years ago, Jody Adams redefined luxury dining with the opening of her flagship restaurant in the Charles Hotel. These days, Adams still favors assertive, homey flavors over fussy platings or flashy ingredients: A touch of truffle oil, Parmesan, a squeeze of lemon, and peppery arugula complement a dry-aged sirloin; chilies, saffron, and lobster accent the tomato sauce coating homemade bucatini. An extensive bar menu and Italian-inspired cocktails keep things interesting on weeknights.
Can’t-miss dish: Bucatini with lobster, tomatoes, saffron, and chilies.
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118 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-7700, bergamotrestaurant.com.
At this Somerville mainstay, it’s $42 for three courses from the full menu all night, every night. But even though the restaurant’s nouveau classics are priced for a weeknight, they’re special enough for an occasion, especially when coupled with the attentive servers (folding a napkin here, suggesting a lovely Barbera there). For the Tuesday night when you just need a drink, one of the city’s most undersung bars can cure what ails you with a gimlet or a “Montenegroni” (Citadelle Reserve gin, Campari, Amaro Montenegro).
Can’t-miss dish: The house-made charcuterie board.
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Steel & Rye
95 Eliot St., Milton, 617-690-2787, steelandrye.com.
Chef Chris Parsons’s 7,000-square-foot follow-up to the revered, now closed Parsons Table proves that it’s possible to be both populist and polished. Beyond boasting one of the most attractive interiors in town (see page 116 for more), this Milton eatery goes above and beyond when it comes to libations, with a beer and cocktail list overseen by Craigie on Main vet Ted Gallagher. The menu, meanwhile, focuses on rustic crowd-pleasers—crisp-skinned roast chicken; hearty pastas and flatbreads; and snacks like fried olives arranged neatly over black-pepper cream cheese.
Can’t-miss dish: Bucatini with lobster and smoked pork broth.
For more on Steel & Rye, see Inside the 50.
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550 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-0550, bandgoysters.com.
When Barbara Lynch opened B&G in 2003, she pioneered the idea of presenting local, fresh bivalves and seafood in a hip, bar-centered environment. While many have since followed her lead, B & G remains an essential part of the dining conversation, particularly when considered from beneath a string of lights on the subterranean patio, with plates of seafood-laced pastas, thoughtful salads, and overflowing lobster rolls spread across the table.
Can’t-miss dish: Fried oysters with house-made tartar sauce.
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161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.
With chef Jay Murray at the helm, this is the rare steakhouse that’s as enjoyable for the non-steak crowd—with Jonah crab cakes, lobster chowder, and pot roast with egg noodles—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.
Can’t-miss dish: Kobe cap steak.