Restaurant News

Where to Eat in the Downtown Boston Theater District Right Now

Oysters, organic wines, and Italian classics: Here are the 12 best pre-show restaurants.


Boston Theater District at Night

Don Riddle Images for the Ritz-Carlton Company

It’s a big year for the Theater District. The renovated Emerson Colonial Theatre reopened just in time to premiere the stage adaptation of Moulin Rouge!. Hamilton opens this month at the Boston Opera House, and there’s a chance to score $10 tickets every night. And while the dining scene is not immune from the growing pains of our “furiously alive” city, Boston Theater District restaurants (including those around Downtown Crossing, Park Square, and Chinatown) are generally changing for the better.

Defining the area by its proximity to Broadway in Boston stages like the Opera House, and Shubert and Wang Boch Center theaters; concert halls like the Orpehum and Royale, comedy venue the Wilbur, and more, here are the 12 best dining options around the Theater District right now.

The "snug" and bar at Democracy Brewing

The “snug” and the bar at Democracy Brewing. / Photos by Toan Trinh

Democracy Brewing

Here’s where to raise a glass to freedom: The business plan at this new brewpub calls for livable wages and ownership stakes for employees. It’s a beer hall that takes the best parts of European pubs (namely classic ales and a cozy snug for private dining), and combines them with seasonal New American grub. Chef Ben Waxler’s menu of salads, burgers and sandwiches, entrées, and proper drinking food like hand pies and house-made bagel pizzas pairs with brewmaster Jason Taggart’s clean styles, such as the Consummate Rioter IPA and 1919 Strike Stout.

35 Temple Place, Downtown Crossing, Boston, 857-217-BREW, democracybrewing.com.

Erbaluce

Ticket holders have long appreciated this award-winning Italian stalwart, where time constraints are easily accommodated and the fresh, Piedmontese cuisine (corn polenta with bronze fennel and taleggio fonduta; pappardelle with cubed beets and speck) doesn’t sit too heavily. The large and lively bar has a daily menu with chef Charles Draghi’s crowd-pleasing meatballs, seasonal pizzettes, and house-made pastas perfect for sharing.

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

Grilled scallops with le puy lentils are one dish on Explorateur's pre-theater prix-fixe menu.

Grilled scallops with Le Puy lentils are one dish on Explorateur’s pre-theater prix-fixe menu. / Photo provided

Explorateur

This year-old, California-French café in the heart of the Theater District offers a $45 prix-fixe deal for bon vivants, complete with a choice among appetizers such as onion soup gratinée; entrées like grilled scallops with Le Puy lentils and bacon vinaigrette; and snacks to take with you into the theater. The historic, gigantic, former Masonic Temple has a myriad of comfortable seating options with a reservation, and also features a La Colombe coffee counter and a lively bar with Broadway-themed cocktails like Hamilton’s Hand Gun (a daiquiri made with Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold Rum), mocktails, and more. Bonus for serious theater nerds: The A-list attracting Big Night Entertainment Group is behind this spot, and it’s where the cast of Moulin Rouge! watched the Tony Awards.

186 Tremont St., Boston, 617-405-5053, explorateur.com.

The Ghost Walks

Lean into the drama of the evening by starting at this restobar from the owner of Bijou Nightclub and Committee. Everything from the Champagne vending machine, to the global flavors on chef Aaron Lhamon’s menu, to beverage director Moe Isaza’s eye-candy cocktails takes a cue from the surrounding scene of glitz and unexpected twists.

57 Stuart St., Boston, 857-263-8932, tgwboston.com.

Haley.Henry Wine Bar.

Haley.Henry Wine Bar. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Haley.Henry Wine Bar

Catching a show with a few friends? Groups of four or more can reserve seats at this fun and quirky wine bar to try new juice, pop tins of seafood, and nod to the soundtrack of deep-cut hip hop. The Best of Boston winner opens at 3 p.m. on weekdays and for lunch on Saturdays, though, so smaller groups can also snag a couple stools to pre-game with pét-nat.

45 Province St., Boston, 617-208-6000, haleyhenry.com.

JM Curley

The neighborhood bar of Downtown Crossing is where to go for a burger, creative cocktails, and a boisterous atmosphere before the lights go down in the theater. Curley’s doesn’t take reservations but its classy, hidden steakhouse Bogie’s Place does. For after-show snacks, order food from the bar until 1 a.m. every night but Sunday.

21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com.

East Coast oysters on the half shell, seasonal crudo, more affordable rose options, and more are new to the menu at Moon Bar.

East Coast oysters on the half shell, seasonal crudo, and affordable rose at Moon Bar. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Mooncusser Fish House and Moon Bar

Whether you’re seeking an elegant, coursed meal or just some pre-show oysters, it’s possible at this Stuart Street multi-concept. The Boston property from the team behind Concord’s 80 Thoreau is a third-floor, white-tablecloth restaurant, and a casual wine bar below (plus a lunchtime takeout window; make note if you’re seeing a weekday matinee). Mooncusser also offers a three-course prix-fixe to most efficiently feast before the lights are dimmed.

304 Stuart St., Boston, 617-917-5193, mooncusserfishhouse.com, moonbarboston.com.

New Shanghai

Just beyond the Chinatown Gate is this comfortable spot. Attentive service will help your party get to the show on time, and the Sichuan dishes in particular, like dan dan noodles and cheng-du chicken, are solid choices.

21 Hudson St., Boston, 617-338-6688, newshanghaiboston.com.

Pabu sushi. / Photos by Jenna Skutnik

Pabu

Here’s a surefire way to make sure you don’t forget the tickets: Flash any Boston-area theater passes here to get a complimentary appetizer of spicy edamame or Tokyo karaage (fried chicken). World-renowned chefs Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga’s upscale izakaya is a strong choice for fresh sushi and Japanese whiskey cocktails, but it has many options for hot dishes and aperitif-style drinks, too.

3 Franklin St., Boston, 857-327-7228, pabuboston.com.

Shōjō

Head to Boston’s pioneering Asian gastropub (and Chinatown’s first hipster haunt) for smoked pork bao, salt and pepper calamari, kimchi fried rice, and fun energy. Reservations are strongly encouraged to ensure the timing works out, but note that owner Brian Moy—a second-generation neighborhood restaurateur—has expanded with family-style Chinese restaurant and a hyper-modern noodle shop, two other great options depending on your party’s preferences.

9A Tyler St., Boston, 617-423-7888, shojoboston.com.

Teatro

Pre-show dining is this trattoria’s calling card: The Italian name literally translates to “theater.” Share a grilled, thin-crust pizza, or dig into house-made pastas, fresh seafood, and charcuterie. The casually glamorous space sets the scene for illustrious chef Jamie Mammano and his team to work their behind-the-scenes magic.

177 Tremont St., Boston, 617-778-6841, teatroboston.com.

Bavette steak “Mirabeau” with anchovy butter and caramelized olives at Yvonne's in Boston

Bavette steak “Mirabeau” with anchovy butter and caramelized olives. / Photograph by Anthony Tieuli for “Restaurant Review: Yvonne’s

Yvonne’s

The glittering crystal chandeliers, gold fixtures, and luxurious velvet decor are fit for any A-lister, the globe-spanning menu proves this place isn’t just for show. From “crispy tater cubes” with Dutch-style Joppiesaus, to wasabi lobster toast, to a fork-tender bavette steak “Mirabeau” that wouldn’t be out of place at predecessor Locke-Ober (a bastion of Boston fine dining for 150 years), refined revelry is the main event here.

2 Winter Place, Boston, 617-267-0047, yvonnesboston.com.