Best Restaurants in Boston

Edited by Scott Kearnan
Additional reporting by Liz Bomze, Jacqueline Cain, Jacqueline Houton, and Jenna Pelletier

Mida pasta

Scratch-made pasta from Mida. / Photo by Christopher Churchill

Where should I eat right now? It’s a question we get asked a lot, and, much like the city itself, our answer is always changing. In fact, nearly half of our top 50 restaurants didn’t exist when the last list ran in 2014. That’s not owing to some nerdy obsession with newness; rather, it’s a reflection of the accelerating rate of culinary innovation in a rapidly evolving city. Whether you agree with our choices or not—we know not all of you will, and that’s part of the fun—we’re confident this is the best year yet for Boston diners. Dig in.

Tony Messina Uni

Innovative Asian cuisine from executive chef Tony Messina lures fans old and new to a much bigger, even better Uni. / Photo by Christopher Churchill

— 1. —


Right now, Boston dining—the entire city, really—is defined by tension between old and new. Let’s look to Uni for guidance. Three years ago, Ken Oringer’s small subterranean sashimi bar at the Eliot Hotel pushed out his 19-year-old flagship, Clio, usurping the space with a frisky izakaya lineup executed by chef-partner Tony Messina: innovative sashimi, sophisticated Asian street food, and freewheeling fancies such as a spoonful of smoked sea urchin, caviar, and quail egg yolk. Old bones plus new ideas built the best version of Uni. It can work for Boston, too. Back Bay,

Tasting Counter

Guests get a front-row glimpse of dramatic dishes at Tasting Counter in Somerville. / Photo by Adam DeTour

— 2. —

Tasting Counter

Everything about Peter Ungár’s 20-seat showplace defies old modes of fine dining, from its advance-ticketing reservation system to its setup inside a Somerville warehouse. Behind the counter, Ungár and his team move like a small orchestra, composing tasting-menu experiences that excite and constantly change: starting points such as sake-lees-marinated squab, and sweet finishes like chamomile sherbet with tomatillo pearls. Somerville,

— 3. —

Craigie on Main

Tony Maws’s slow-food standard-bearer continues to have uncompromising vision. But for November’s 10-year anniversary of Craigie’s move to Main Street, the chef gifted himself with a lovely new look and feel: The refined dining room has moved to a daily-changing prix-fixe-only format, and the casual bar area has received a refresh and a distinct identity: COMB. There you’ll still find the legendary burger—made from three cuts of grass-fed beef—now joined by a second, monthly-rotating patty. Cambridge,

— 4. —

O Ya

A decade after O Ya’s debut, the wooden sushi bar has aged gracefully. Diners can’t help but linger for a sake flight before committing to a junmai; or be captivated by chefs torching hamachi here, dropping glittery teaspoons of squid-ink bubbles there. In a sea of plastic pretenders, Tim and Nancy Cushman’s $200-a-head restaurant with the Comic Sans menu is—indulge us—like the timeless mahogany of Asian small-plates dining. Leather District,


Scallop katayif is among the Turkish-and Middle Eastern-inflected dishes that stun at Sarma in Somerville. / Photo by Toan Trinh

— 5. —


Ordering cornbread at a Turkish-inspired meyhane might sound as misguided as ordering baba ghanoush at a barbecue joint. But chef Cassie Piuma’s take—a deeply golden, thick-crusted round embellished with feta, honey, and black-eyed-peas-and-pepper relish—is utterly magical. Indeed, her whole menu is full of clever riffs on traditional mezze and bar snacks, including unpredictable nightly specials delivered seat-side. That’s the joy of Sarma: You can’t order wrong—it’s just a question of how spectacular the surprise will be. Somerville,

— 6. —


Cutting-edge creativity and locally sourced produce are the key ingredients of chef Alex Crabb’s nightly tasting menus; everything else is in play (see: midsummer squash ribbons wrapped around plump cherries one night and blended into savory ragu the next). While a relaxed evening of five or eight courses is the ultimate Asta experience, we appreciate the recent series of à la carte “distractions,” from sporadic Saturday fried-chicken sandwiches to weeknight “wine school.” Back Bay,

— 7. —

The Table at Season to Taste

When Carl Dooley opened the Table in 2016 fresh off a standout season on Top Chef, he could have hewed to trends like self-paced small plates and family-dinner-ready roasts. Instead, he challenged them. In his 20-seat nook of a catering kitchen, Dooley (and the high-touch pros assisting) masters the prix-fixe format nightly, skillfully sating contemporary-cuisine cravings with a command of bold spices spanning from Ibiza to East India. Cambridge,

Bar Mezzana

Fresh crudo and kicky cocktails hook diners on Bar Mezzana, chef Colin Lynch’s ode to coastal Italian cuisine in the South End. / Photo by Adam DeTour

— 8. —

Bar Mezzana

Colin Lynch, former executive chef for Barbara Lynch’s restaurant group, brought a fresh sea breeze to SoWa three years ago with the opening of this coastal Italian spot, which serves up daily-changing crudo, handmade pastas, and snackable crostini. Ryan Lotz’s refreshing cocktails, such as a peachy house spritz, suit the blue-and-white dining room, airy as the Amalfi coast, as well as the patio across the street from the team’s new tiki bar, Shore Leave. South End,


The South End’s SRV is modeled after Venetian wine bars, pairing vino with small plates. / Photo by Toan Trinh

— 9. —


Let’s start with the strong finishes: Pastry chef Meghan Thompson’s confections, from goat’s-milk panna cotta to rhubarb-and-strawberry zuppa inglese, are perfect capstones to SRV’s small-plates-based meals. This last-course correction (dolci stumbled in early days) finally fulfills the promise of Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell’s buzzy Venetian-style bacaro, where we’ve been in love with the creative cicchetti and pastas (think: embossed corzetti coins with fig and white pesto) since the beginning. South End,


Yvonne’s transformed the venerable Locke-Ober restaurant into a modern supper club with a sexy vibe. / Photo by Jared Kuzia

— 10. —


This swanky spot updates Locke-Ober, the 19th-century fine-dining bastion housed here until 2012, for the Brahmins of today. Lost: mandatory jackets, boys’ club consorting. Found: classy cross-sections of sharp-dressed singles clinking cocktails at the original handcarved mahogany bar, surrounded by irreverent paintings—including Yvonne’s namesake nude, depicted snapping a selfie. For all of these flourishes, though, the space is a restaurant first, with feasts such as bavette steak “Mirabeau” accompanied by white anchovy butter and caramelized green olive packing plenty of culinary cred. Downtown,

— 11. —


Year in and year out, power-chef duo Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer keep the seats at their quaint neighborhood stalwart among Boston’s most covetable. Maybe that’s because Coppa absolutely nails every enoteca-associated craving. Italian wines and draft negronis on a sidewalk patio? Check. Spectacular salumi such as house-made duck prosciutto and beef-heart pastrami? Got ’em. Dreamy pastas, like carbonara with sea urchin, and cheffed-up pizzas topped with smoked bone marrow or fennel pollen? We’ll take them all, every time. South End,

bisq inman square

From gussied-up fresh tomatoes to fried chicken, the dishes at Bisq are designed for pairing with the Inman Square spot’s wonderful wine list. / Adam DeTour

— 12. —


Forever tied to big sister Bergamot (“in Inman Square”) by its acronymic misnomer, this restaurant and wine bar has come into its own—and how!—since chef Alex Saenz took the reins in 2016. The passionate cook pulls from South Carolinian and Peruvian heritages to compose playful, technique-driven plates such as black-eyed pea “hummus” with chicken-skin “chips,” or hand-rolled cavatelli with suckling pig brodo—just the kind of clever ideas we crave while sipping through the hefty list of Old World wines. Cambridge,

— 13. —


Pasta maestro Michael Pagliarini hasn’t missed a beat at Giulia since opening his second restaurant, Benedetto. The Mass. Ave. charmer continues to roll out the most consistently craveable tortelli and bucatini at the same wood table where, come suppertime, seated guests drag them by the spoonful through sage-butter sauce or amatriciana. Raise a full-bodied red to the seamless synergy between Pagliarini and chef di cucina Brian Gianpoalo, his right hand from the start, for never letting his still-phenomenal first-born flag. Cambridge,

— 14. —


It’s wonderfully romantic, dining off mismatched china by soft, rose-tinted light in Jason Bond’s intimate diorama of a New England farmhouse. Let the chef drive dinners of Jonah crab and tomato brushed with fennel-flower mayo, and king-salmon collar roasted with fermented cabbage and grapes; let your glass stay filled from the wine cart stationed in the middle of the room. Focus on the face across the table. Bond. That’s what food is for. Cambridge,

— 15. —

Alden & Harlow

Chef Michael Scelfo’s standout “Secret Burger” stole a lot of the buzz early on. But several years after Alden & Harlow’s Harvard Square debut, the restaurant’s veggie-forward plates are its quieter wonders. Shareable, seasonal notions like seared eggplant a la plancha, flecked with mint on puffed farro, succeed on creative combinations of flavors and textures, not to mention pure quality of product. That not-so-secret recipe for success is what keeps us coming back. Cambridge,


Chef Ana Sortun wields a mighty spice rack for Oleana’s superior mezze. / Photo by Christopher Churchill

— 16. —


Long before a wave of high-profile Middle Eastern restaurants rolled across our region, chef Ana Sortun was dazzling the uninitiated with sprinklings of za’atar. Now the savory spice blend is dusted on practically every mezze plate and salad bowl in the city. But Sortun’s Cambridge paradise still excites with palate-enlivening fare, a wine list organized by complementary spices (sip some sumac-friendly Assyrtiko), and pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick’s grand Baked Alaska. Cambridge,

Cafe Sushi Seizi Imura

Chef-owner Seizi Imura fillets fresh catch at Café Sushi, a Cambridge stalwart that just received a modern makeover. / Photo by Toan Trinh

— 17. —

Café Sushi

For years, we’d been assuring fellow gourmands that this inconspicuous spot was the place for exquisite nigiri and maki—despite dated décor that felt like early-’90s leftovers. Last summer, it finally got a modern facelift to match its elevated sushi lineup, ditching the carpet and adding contemporary furniture and window-facing drink rails for sake sippers. Seasonal bites like seared ayu (a Japanese sweetfish) with house-aged soy and grated daikon taste even more transcendental in the serene space. Cambridge,

— 18. —

Select Oyster Bar

It’s worth the wait to grab one of the 30-odd seats at this convivial Back Bay boîte, where Neptune Oyster alum Michael Serpa turns out splurge-worthy raw-bar plateaux, gorgeous crudos, and mains that often marry Atlantic catch and Mediterranean flavors—Gloucester swordfish kissed by rose harissa, and PEI mussels swimming in roasted-carrot-and-almond romesco. Wash it all down with a glass from the fabulous fleet of wines, including a handy selection of half bottles. Back Bay,

An airy environment and live-fire cooking are the elemental draws of Terra, a top-floor restaurant at Eataly Boston. / Photo by Jim Brueckner

— 19. —


It pays to play with fire. Chef Dan Bazzinotti has quite a toy in the hulking wood-fired grill anchoring this top-floor attraction at Boston’s Eataly emporium. He makes the most of it for his rustic-refined spread, skewering beef heart for spiedini, charring Gem lettuce salads, grilling herb-marinated lamb leg. Such spectacular results make us forget the tourist din downstairs, and the greenhouse-inspired, skylight-ceilinged space, filled with sunlight or set under stars, is similarly transporting. Back Bay,

— 20. —


Barbara Lynch’s lauded French-Italian fine-dining room has lightened up of late: Once-dark walls have been whitewashed, starched tablecloths ditched, à la carte menus introduced. That fresh energy imbues elegant ideas in the kitchen: we’re thinking of  seared foie gras with red-wine apple butter; peach-melba mille-feuille with elderflower crème Chantilly. Coming from a place that originally served exclusively high-end prix-fixe and tasting menus, such moments of evolution excite. Fort Point,

— 21. —


It’s hard to follow your own smash hit. But the early-years buzz around Alden & Harlow had barely ebbed before clam-topped pizzas, smoky seafood pastas, and not-too-classic caviar service (e.g., roe served with doughnut holes) started flowing from Waypoint, chef-owner Michael Scelfo’s second, coastal-cuisine-oriented kitchen. Helped along by a rare beverage program highlighting interesting absinthe cocktails, his excellent encore hooked us once again. Even more recently, his Longfellow Bar, a creative-cocktail lounge and finger-foods joint, has completed a Harvard Square hat trick. Cambridge,

— 22. —


New York. Bangkok. Dubai. The growing list of Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s tapas outposts reads like a couture fashion label—and, frankly, it once had us worried that the original Boston location might, well, go south. (After all, distraction is a common side effect of restaurant expansion.) But happily, Toro’s salt-cod croquetas and buttery gambas still outclass versions anywhere else in the city, and though we hope the famed maíz asado never leaves, the kitchen manages to reinvent just enough of the menu each season to keep us coming back for more. South End,

douglass williams mida

Chef-owner Douglass Williams preps scratch-made pasta in the kitchen of Mida. The results: vibrant, stunning colors. / Christopher Churchill

— 23. —


Radius and Coppa vet Douglass Williams has reversed the curse of a revolving-door restaurant address on the South End/Roxbury border. How could he not? Seasonal pastas, like corn ravioli with crème fraîche and trout roe, positively sing; attention-grabbing flavors, such as saffron-honey vinaigrette daubed on pork Milanese, shout. The slick but still-chummy urban enoteca earns revisits with $40 chef’s-whim tastings and a smart wine list—not to mention the warm presence of Williams himself, who makes guests feel personally attended to every night. South End,

Field and vine union square

Seasonal veggies are the star of the plate at Union Square’s Field & Vine. / Photo by Adam DeTour

— 24. —

Field & Vine

A garden of delights awaits behind a green door tucked down an alleyway. Inside: Andrew Brady and Sara Markey’s home for the seasonal American cuisine first served through their pop-up project, Company Picnic. Bushels of veggies star in plates such as grilled shiitake festooned with pea tendrils; mindfully sourced proteins shine in dishes like roast duck with tahini-herb sauce. They pair with fine craft beers. They serve with neighborly grace. This still-young standout has truly blossomed. Somerville,

— 25. —


Ostra remains the shimmering pearl of chef Jamie Mammano’s Columbus Hospitality Group portfolio, presenting occasion-worthy white-tablecloth dining accompanied by delicate ivory-tickling from a live pianist and jellyfish-shaped pendant lights dancing from the ceiling. The refined preparations of Mediterranean seafood, including salt-crusted whole fish plucked off ice from the glistening altar of a display case, are offerings fit for the god Neptune. Park Square,

Tiger Mama

Top Chef vet Tiffani Faison’s Tiger Mama is a buzzing den of tiki-style cocktails and Southeast Asian cuisine. / Photo by Adam DeTour

— 26. —

Tiger Mama

Fiery pad gra pow, tempered with fresh herbs and a sunny fried egg, is a spot-on taste of Thailand; crispy curried noodles could be straight off a Singaporean street cart. But it’s not just convincing renditions of chef Tiffani Faison’s favorite Southeast Asian dishes that make Tiger Mama roar. The fearless toque shows all her stripes with clever, cross-cultural creations (don’t miss the black-vinaigrette-dressed beef crudo) and tiki-inspired cocktails in a chic, palm-frond-filled urban jungle. Fenway,

— 27. —


Put simply, we need more places like Pammy’s: approachable, earnest, excellent. Chef Chris Willis and his co-owner and wife, Pam, host what feel like nightly neighborhood-wide dinner parties around the fireplace of their homey, trattoria-inspired space, gifting guests with glug-worthy wines and Italian-inflected New American cooking both soulful and sophisticated, from hearty bowls of house-made mafaldine ribbons with braised rabbit to mussels floating in a toasted-coriander-imbued broth with black spheres of squid-ink-spiked arancini. The married couple may live down the street, but this second home is clearly where their heart is. Cambridge,

Photo courtesy of Grill 23

— 28. —

Grill 23 & Bar

The slew of shiny new chain steakhouses opening in rapidly emerging neighborhoods like the Seaport have nothing on this decades-spanning temple de boeuf. The stately Back Bay space sets the scene for noble indulgences that never go out of style—stiff martinis, buttery Brandt beef rib-eyes, towering coconut cakes, top-rated cabs, and, if you must, cigar service—delivered with the kind of warm, deferential formality that elsewhere seems rare; here, it remains exceedingly well done. Back Bay,

— 29. —

Neptune Oyster

The mighty effort required to score a seat in this narrow North End oyster bar—it doesn’t take reservations, and two-hour waits aren’t uncommon—makes the day’s catch taste that much better once we’ve finally made it to the marble counter. We quickly remember why we return: for stellar seafood-focused plates, rooted in New England with Mediterranean flair—behold Spanish octopus with almond romesco and Basque pepper; sweet-savory johnnycakes with honey butter; and legendary lobster rolls that bait us in both hot-buttered and cold, mayo-tossed iterations. North End,

— 30. —

No. 9 Park

It’s been over 20 years since Barbara Lynch first wrapped wine-soaked prunes in pillowy potato-gnocchi dough and gilded them with butter and foie gras, but this dish—and her entire Franco-Italian repertoire, for that matter—still feels elegant and timeless, not tired. So how does a fine-dining stalwart like No. 9 Park stay relevant—and fetch breathtaking prices—amid trends that increasingly reward more casual fare? Short answer: Food this good simply can’t go out of style. Beacon Hill,

— 31. —

Myers + Chang

Myers + Chang devotees gasped when the restaurant announced last year that magenta-coiffed toque Karen Akunowicz, fresh off a James Beard Award win for Best Chef: Northeast, was leaving her post at the wok station to pursue a solo venture. But we’re happy to report that the kitchen hasn’t missed a beat under newly knighted executive chef Ashley Lujares. Those spicy lamb biang biang noodles still deliver strappy chew, and the nasi goreng is infused with as much wok hei as ever. South End,

The Shojonator / Photo by Danh Nguyen and Andrew Kubica

— 32. —


Founded in 2012, Chinatown’s hipster haunt has managed to stay fresh even as the team behind it expanded its footprint with a next-level noodle bar (Ruckus) and an underground den for family-style Chinese cuisine (BLR by Shōjō). Toro and Tiger Mama alum Mike Stark joined the crew as executive chef in 2017, delivering on umami-packed classics such as the Shōjōnator burger (oozing with “kimcheese” on a house-made steamed bun), while innovating with seasonal additions like the recent ramen noodles with Thai basil and miso pesto. Chinatown,

— 33. —


Selectively. Socially. With a smirk. This is how we eat and drink now. Haley Fortier understands. Her namesake restaurant assembles us mainly at its counter to savor a tidy list of pretty, peppy plates—such as tahini-covered carrots and prime-rib sliders—prepared with just an oven and induction burners; share-friendly seafood tins, like Spanish cockles in brine; and funky small-batch wines (they’ll open any bottle if you’ll drink two glasses). Overhead: ’90s hip-hop. On the menu: “biggie small plates.” It’s impish, intellectual. It’s us. Downtown,

Crispy chicken at Deuxave. / Photo by Andy Ryan

— 34. —


Chef Chris Coombs isn’t uncomfortable with a little ostentation (see: the $10,000, pro-lighting-equipped “Instagram table” at his downtown Boston Chops steakhouse). But at his mod-French restaurant, Deuxave, it’s his refined side that fires on all cylinders. Coombs lets pristine ingredients and unimpeachable technique shine in dishes such as duck confit garnished with charred peach purée and watercress, and steak au poivre with peppercorn aioli. They’re timeless, not trend-seeking, and pair perfectly with bottles of bubbly from a massive, wonderful wine list. Back Bay,

— 35. —

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Its eponymous bivalves may now be ubiquitous in Boston restaurants, but this seafood showplace, spun off from a Duxbury oyster farm, could never wear out its welcome. The bustling crowd-pleaser is the rare place you can grab dinner with a client, a date, or an out-of-town aunt and rest assured that each will leave happy as a hand-dug clam. Knowledgeable staffers serve as guides to the varied merroir represented on the sizable menu, ranging from aioli-topped fried-oyster sliders to more composed fish dishes. Kenmore Square,

— 36. —

La Morra

It’s easy to take longtime loves for granted: see La Morra, which deserves even more praise than faithful fans provide. For 15 years, amid our revolving flings with sexy hot spots, it’s steadfastly served seasonal, lovingly prepared northern Italian cuisine—corn agnolotti with foraged mushrooms, hen under a brick with zucchini ragu and lemon-caper sauce—within the brick-lined hug of a romantic, two-story space. Married couple Josh and Jen Ziskin (he’s the chef, she’s the sommelier) still feel devoutly committed to their craft. So are we. Brookline,

— 37. —

Little Donkey

Arrive with a sense of adventure, a big appetite, and a bit of wanderlust (also, a reservation). Awaiting on the eclectic menu is a playful pastiche of global small plates, a road map full of delicious detours: lamb bacon–pimiento cheese lettuce wraps? Korean-gochujang-bound tuna poke? Turkish meat ravioli? What is this place? It’s Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s wide-open world, full of freewheeling flavors, vivid cocktails, a boisterous atmosphere—and no rules. Cambridge,

row 34

Image of Row 34 provided

— 38. —

Row 34

Sour ales, milk stouts, and hoppy IPAs (smart selections that push basic beer bros outside their comfort zone) are represented on the superlative, gamut-covering draft list at this industrial-chic Fort Point seafood specialist. They wash down two of Boston’s finest lobster rolls (hot or cold, both packed generously with plump pink meat straight from Maine); namesake bivalves from Duxbury’s Island Creek Oyster Farm; and a less-expected lineup of house-smoked and -cured seafood (a fun take on “charcuterie” boards). In other words, Row reels us in again and again. Fort Point,

Tasting menus tantalize at Talulla. / Photo by Wayne Chinnock

— 39. —


There’s something truly special about Talulla, an earnest, sparkling surprise that chef Conor Dennehy and wine director Danielle Ayer set aglow last year in a quiet, residential corner of Cambridge. The married couple, young but seasoned industry vets, named their 12-table restaurant after their two-year-old daughter. They pour the palpable passion of loving parents into exquisite but unpretentious plates—best relished in multicourse tasting menus—and a fascinating list of bottles to nurse. This warm, heartfelt little fine dining room proudly aims to please and pamper. 377 Walden St., Cambridge, 617-714–5584,

Celeste in Somerville

A Peruvian pop-up found a permanent home at Celeste. / Photo by Lizzy Barrett

— 40. —


With Celeste, owners JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau have tossed open the door to the pop-up dinner party series, previously held at their home, that eventually inspired this welcome addition to Somerville’s Union Square. Art gallery-white walls envelop 24 seats and an open kitchen offering soulful Peruvian cuisine, including rich, hearty helpings of aji de gallina and bountiful portions of spectacular ceviche that radiate light, bright flavor. The genial hosts, meanwhile, exude creative spirit and inviting hospitality. We accept, with pleasure. 21 Bow St., Somerville, 617-616-5319,

— 41. —


There’s a touch of drama at this all-day European-style café, where chef Josh Lewin plans prix-fixe menus for months-long “seasons” featuring pre-ticketed productions that sometimes incorporate collaborations with local artists. (Now playing: Beach Rose: An Ode to the New England Shoreline.) The aproned bard also excels in simple breakfast shows, staging scrambled eggs with smoked salmon crème fraîche at his open-kitchen counter. And behind the scenes, nationally recognized cofounder Katrina Jazayeri stewards social-justice-oriented management programs—including profit-sharing—that embody the progressive narrative their generation of restaurateurs is writing. Somerville,

The upper-level dining room at Mooncusser Fish House. / Photo by John Skibbee

— 42. —

Mooncusser Fish House

Chef Carolyn Johnson takes a multi-pronged approach to serving seafood at this Back Bay stunner. The upper level’s fine dining room offers elegant preparations, including gorgeous grilled whole fish; downstairs, Moon Bar offers a more relaxed environment to enjoy the same full splay, or simply kick back with lovely wines and smart little snacks like smoked mussel toast. Then there’s Cusser’s, a casual lunchtime concept, sending lobster rolls and fish tacos out a takeout window. Craving stellar seafood? However you want it, it’s here. Back Bay,

Sip on sake at Momi Nonmi. / Photo by Hien Nguyen

— 43. —

Momi Nonmi

He shepherded the kitchen at Ken Oringer’s Uni when it was still a fledgling sashimi bar, then launched Lincoln’s excellent, omakase-oriented AKA Bistro; now chef Chris Chung has an intimate jewel of a Japanese-Hawaiian izakaya in Inman Square. Turns out, Chung is as adept with grilled skewers—think short ribs with spicy grated daikon—as with raw fish, like kanpachi with pineapple kosho, macadamia and black sesame. Pint-sized Momi Nonmi is packed with pleasant surprises. Cambridge,

Timeless French classics triumph at Bar Lyon. / Photo by Brayan Mesa

— 44. —

Bar Lyon

Columbus Hospitality Group clearly isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel with Bar Lyon, the latest, uncharacteristically humble-sized entry to its portfolio of splashier, more spacious spots like Mistral. This South End bouchon believes, and rightly so, in the quiet, abiding power of classic regional French fare rendered expressively: Standout bavette steak au poivre and quenelle de brochet—supple pike dumplings in luscious lobster veloute—are familiar and fabulous. Bar Lyon’s menu offers balms to soothe tastes addled everywhere else by wanton reinvention. South End,

— 45. —

Tres Gatos

Hearing your song request crackle through the speakers is just icing on the torta during a meal at this snug Spanish spot, which also houses one of the city’s best vinyl shops. The tapas and pintxos soar above perfunctory renditions thanks to Toro alum Stephen Marcaurelle’s mastery of bold, layered flavors, like the smoked onion permeating a seasonal tomato salad, and the salt-cod espuma bolstering perfectly seared scallops. The coda: spicy chocolate churros and a strong sherry selection that leaves us purring. Jamaica Plain,

Hojoko’s freewheeling izakaya fare / Photo by Brian Samuels Photography

— 46. —


We knew chef Tim and Nancy Cushman excel at elegance: See O Ya’s lofty placement on this list. Hojoko proves that their playful side is just as appealing. This izakaya’s interior conveys midcentury-kitsch as rendered by an anime illustrator, the perfect setting to sip incredible sake selections and find funky plates like wasabi roulette: six sushi rolls, one spiked with the super-spicy stuff, plus a baby bottle full of palate-extinguishing horchata. It’s great fun, with serious finesse. Fenway,

— 47. —

Fat Hen

The skinny on Fat Hen? This classy, cozy little coop is an understated winner. No supporting player to parent restaurant/neighbor La Brasa (it occupies that eatery’s former market space), the romantic 30-seater offers a delightful and distinctive modern Italian concept under newish chef Brian Miller, complete with a lean menu of antipasti (smoked burrata with pork belly), pasta (lumache with English pea and mint pesto), and secondi (roast duck and peaches). Fine wine bottles from the Boot and earnest, interested service add a little heft to a lovely neighborhood gem. Somerville,

— 48. —

Café du Pays

Hallmarks of the French bistro—a resurgent style in dining scenes across the country (see: Boston’s Frenchie and Bar Lyon)—get a folksy Canadian kick with chef Dan Amighi’s Quebecois-inspired cookery. Leaning heavily on rustic, regional ingredients, dishes like tender tri-tip beef with a foraged mushroom vinaigrette; a vegan-friendly chou farci (stuffed cabbage); and the city’s best poutine are hearty, whimsical, and très chic. Also très chic? The south-to-north transformation of the former Hungry Mother space, now sporting antique lamps, potted plants, and dark wood accents. Cambridge,

 — 49. —

Puritan & Company

Chef-owner Will Gilson, a Mayflower descendent, isn’t anchored to old models. He proves that in his dining room, where highlights such as smoked bluefish toast and mustardy roast chicken exhibit still-exciting dexterousness in modernizing New England cuisine. Also innovating: Puritan Trading Co., his recently launched “ghost restaurant” catering to the can’t-ignore trend of fine-dining delivery. It ships an array of travel-friendly fare (think: udon noodles and classy crab rangoon) to local doorsteps via Caviar. File under: dinner and a (Netflix) movie. Cambridge,

— 50. —

Loyal Nine

Executive chef Marc Sheehan marries his college history major with his culinary training at this bold upstart named for pre–Tea Party revolutionaries. Here, the focus is on “East Coast Revival”—the team’s term for risk-taking riffs on New England cuisine. Bay State oysters arrive with hyssop-flower vinegar, blood sausage is draped with shellfish gribiche, and rolled pig’s head is served charcuterie-style with toast and green strawberry relish. The open kitchen’s counter seating, meanwhile, affords firsthand views of the ambitious talents writing new chapters in our region’s collective cookbook. Cambridge,

This list is updated throughout the year to reflect closures and other prominent developments. Please send updates to food editor Scott Kearnan at