Eat Here Now: Boston’s 10 Hottest Restaurants
Where to go (and what to eat) to discover the buzziest dining scenes in the city.
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Feeling torn about where to eat tonight? Allow us to focus your reservation-clicking finger on a curated list of the buzziest bars and restaurants in Boston right now— both brand-new joints and established favorites giving us new reasons for return visits. (For more established favorites, you can also check out our ranked list of the 50 best restaurants in Boston.) [Hottest list updated: August 14, 2019]
Colin Lynch, our most recent Best of Boston honoree in the General Excellence chef category, has added another buzzy branch to his network of South End restaurants. Black Lamb is an American brasserie that joins Lynch’s coastal Italian outfit, Bar Mezzana; Shore Leave, which specializes in Pacific Rim-inspired eats and tiki cocktails; and No Relation, a pint-size omakase operation inside Shore Leave. At Black Lamb, find elevated comfort food with Continental undertones, cocktails, and raw bar bites.
Try this: Duck breast frites with orange béarnaise is exquisitely cooked, and a best-bet entrée for those of us less enthralled with small-plate-sharing.
Hot tip: Keep an eye out for daily specials, like veal schnitzel Tuesdays and Wednesday’s buttered-up bucket of steamers.
571 Tremont St., Boston, 617-982-6330, blacklambsouthend.com.
The space that formerly housed old-school Scollay Square restaurant has been reborn as the Emory—a Beacon Hill bar-and-kitchen for an era of savvier diners. Owner Andy Kilgore’s hospitality background includes management and bar roles at spots like Barbara Lynch’s nearby icon, No.9 Park. And executive chef Derek Robert, a former Townsman cook who stepped into the role after the departure of Top Chef alum Brian Young, gives “cheffed-up” spins on after-work-social snacks—think Buffalo-fried sweetbreads and foie gras tots.
Try this: Need a new, wonderfully messy burger to try? Bite into the Emory burger, dripping with garlic cheddar fondue, and topped with onion jam and pickles.
Hot tip: The restaurant just launched lunch service, a nice addition to a neighborhood desperately in need of fresh midday-meal options.
21 Beacon St., Boston, 617-430-6325, theemoryboston.com
Encore Boston Harbor
There are 15 dining and drinking options inside the Boston area’s first resort-casino, which is now up and humming. Each offers a different scene—from the Rat Pack-style Italian eats of Fratelli, a partnership between two well-known North End restaurateurs, to the freshly-shucked bivalves and lobster rolls at the refreshingly straightforward Oyster Bar. Here it is: the Hub’s first dalliance with a casino-dining scene.
Try this: If you want to find certified-authentic Kobe beef in New England, Rare Steakhouse is your only real bet. But stash away some winnings if you want to splurge at this pricy chop shop.
Hot tip: Daniel Lanigan, the craft-beer king behind Lord Hobo Brewing Co., is an Everett native. So naturally, his company created a can that is exclusively available at Encore: Project Baccarat, an easy-drinking IPA that marks Lord Hobo’s first collaboration of this scale. You won’t find it anywhere else.
1 Broadway, Everett, 857-770-7000, encorebostonharbor.com.
Fox & the Knife
We had been waiting with bated breath for Top Chef alum Karen Akunowicz to launch her first self-owned venture in South Boston. (To be fair, the James Beard award-winner only left her Myers+Chang post last June; we were just, like, really eager.) Her enoteca finally opened in February, and the 80-seat, aperitivo-oriented hangout is definitely proving popular with those seeking interesting wines and exciting Italian plates. It’s even gained national attention, scoring a slot on the first-ever ranked list of America’s best new restaurants from Food & Wine.
Try this: Akunowicz perfected her pasta-making skills while working in Modena, Italy, and it shows with selections like the spaghetti with clams, spiked with vibrant saffron.
Hot tip: The wine list, offering 18 options by the glass and 20 by the bottle, was designed to showcase women winemakers— so sip around and discover something new.
28 W Broadway, Boston, 617-766-8630, foxandtheknife.com.
Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Café
A (very deservedly) popular Cuban restaurant in Waltham has spawned an even larger, two-floor sibling near Cambridge’s Porter Square. Opened in March in the space that formerly housed the Elephant Walk, Gustazo is turning out new spins on menu mainstays, like tostones tacos filled with braised duck, plus a full cocktail program (unique to this location) highlighting rums and devised by lauded local bar guru Sam Treadway. We’re grateful to have Gustazo even closer to home.
Try this: Super-fresh ceviche is light, bright, and feels perfect for summertime.
Hot tip: Need another opinion? One of our dining critics turned his eye to Gustazo in our new August issue—find his review here.
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-714-5267, gustazo-cubancafe.com.
Boston does not exactly abound with options for Georgian cuisine. Enter Ilona, which covers underrepresented territory via mezze-style plates, boldly spiced and bearing influences from other Eastern European and Middle Eastern traditions. The lovely room lures similarly pretty people, who contribute to an energetic din of glass-clinking and South End-gossip swapping.
Try this: The kebabs are expertly grilled—know this. But you should also make friends with the shish barak, a big purse of phyllo dough stuffed with lamb and onions, drizzled with yogurt sauce and studded with pine nuts.
Hot tip: Georgian wines, currently enjoying a stateside moment but still relatively rare to find highlighted in Boston, are celebrated here. So check out the selection and sip something new.
783 Tremont St., Boston, 617-207-7742, ilonasouthend.com.
The Oyster Club at the Heritage
At long last, chef Chris Parsons returns to seafood years after making waves with Catch, a Winchester restaurant that once baited city slickers to the suburbs. Now he has a home in the heart of Boston’s Park Square—the former Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar space. The slick, yacht-club-chic interior is offering New England fish fare in classic preparations, as well as selections armed with new-school spins.
Try this: There’s a section of the menu dedicated to pan roasts, and the cod & clams is a standout there. But just in case you’d like a few other recommendations, here’s a deeper dive into the sea of options.
Hot tip: Parsons has another project opening later this year, the oysters- and fried-chicken-centric spot Lily P’s. The Oyster Club offers a pimento cheese-invoking fried-chicken sandwich as a tasty preview.
79 Park Plaza, Boston, 617-426-6700, theoysterclubboston.com.
The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint
Nashville-born chef Jonathan Post earned some buzz for the first incarnation of the Porch, when it was just a 20-seat, Southern-inspired hang in Wakefield. Now it’s moved to Medford, ballooned to 250 seats (with a centerpiece, 54-foot bar), and incorporates a robust live music lineup. What hasn’t changed: the wood-smoked barbecue and expansive whiskey selection—although there are a slew of new plates, too.
Try this: Besides the ‘cue, smoked lard-enhanced skillet cornbread with pickled oysters is a highly-shareable highlight.
Hot tip: Plan your visit around the calendar of country, blues, and other genre-spanning bands. The current agenda is here.
175 River’s Edge Dr., Medford, 781-874-9357, theporchsouthern.com.
Somerville’s Union Square, which has enjoyed an especially enviable influx of strong dining options over the last couple years, has scored a place to find gourmet pizza and legit cocktails. Chef Tim Wiechmann—a former fine-dining chef who is also behind Bronwyn, a neighboring Bavarian biergarten—is focusing on Neapolitan-style crusts, as well as Roman al taglio pies, which are characterized by thick, tender, hand-folded dough that is traditionally square-cut with scissors.
Try this: Al taglio BBQ chicken pizza spices up the bird with house guajillo sauce—and tempers it with Bailey Hazen blue cheese, an award-winning, signature variety from the geniuses at Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm.
Hot tip: Wiechmann told us he wants T&B to add to the late-night (by Boston standards) dining options in the area. Hence his special: On Thursday through Saturday nights, from 10:30 p.m. to close, just $12 will get you a pizza, beer, and a shot.
251 Washington St., Somerville, 617-764-4054, tbpizza.com.
This glitzy, global izakaya brand just docked its 12th location inside the Four Seasons One Dalton tower—the tallest residential building in New England—and the scene is already humming. Fashionable, well-heeled types are eagerly warming the seats at the main bar, stocked with a 70-deep selection of sake; intimate stone sushi counter; and centerpiece robata grill, where everything from skewered scallops to Wagyu beef is lightly licked by the charcoal flames. The dining room is also home to an elevated DJ booth, which offers the space a gentle, sexy thump as the night rolls on.
Try this: Grilled koji chicken with ginger soy and Japanese pickles is a tender, juicy, and heavenly introduction to the robata program.
Hot tip: Lunch service has recently arrived. But Zuma has also become known for its boozy, bottomless brunch in other markets, so keep an eye out for when that weekend service launches later this year–and to see how the brand adapts the lavish spread for Boston, where all-you-can-drink extravaganzas are, regrettably, not an option. (Damn the man!)