Townsman Lands on Esquire’s List of Best New Restaurants in America

A Southern-born, New York-based writer says Matt Jennings' take on New England fare "erupts like the blueberries of the summer."

townsman interior

Photo by Adam Detour for “Dining Out: Townsman”

Esquire released its annual Best New Restaurants list Tuesday, and downtown brasserie Townsman appears as the lone New England representative.

The list of 14 restaurants around the country was compiled by food writer and Grub Street founder Josh Ozersky, who died unexpectedly in May. The writeup for Townsman is written by John DeVore. DeVore—a writer who earned a James Beard Foundation award this year for a personal essay on his nostalgic love for Taco Bell—begins his praise for Townsman with reverence for the lobster. Never mind that he admits that, before embarking on a food writing career, he thought of Red Lobster as representative New England cuisine.

“But here I was at chef Matt Jennings’s Townsman, in Boston, experiencing the torrid, too-short love affair of a New England summer.”

He has learned.

Curiously enough, DeVore’s review of Townsman alludes to something our own dining reviewer Corby Kummer took issue with: the lack of focus on Jennings’s menu. But DeVore doesn’t characterize it negatively: “[Next] came the show: oysters swimming in brine, ribbons of cured ham, headcheese, and a marvelous blood-sausage mortadella, a nod to Boston’s Irish and Italian heritage … Beef tartare, crispy pork loin, crab claws, a summer-vegetable salad. Collard kimchi, a reminder that Boston is as diverse as its higher-maintenance sibling, New York.”

His review is capped off by a foie gras dish served with blueberries, “blue like the ocean in a good mood.” DeVore is enthralled by this accompaniment, and uses it to characterize his meal: “At Townsman, New England cuisine erupts like the blueberries of the summer.”

In contrast, from Kummer’s review: “Boston? New England? Not really. The menu is idiosyncratic, with some of the Asian influence you might expect from the bamboo installation—part of Chinatown Park—outside of the Radian.”

Either way, we’re happy to see at least one Boston restaurant featured on a list dominated by New York dining, once again.