Eat Here Now: Boston’s 10 Hottest Restaurants
Where to go (and what to eat) to discover the buzziest dining scenes in the city.
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.
There’s a reason why we deemed this wharf-side West End spot one of the best new restaurants in Boston: Hospitality vet Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli is fostering a very particular, “farm coast”-inspired approach that culls inspiration from the New England seacoast’s agrarian, fishing and vineyard cultures to inform executive chef Maxime Fanton’s creative, Mediterranean-inflected menus. Finally, a buzzy new option for serious dining in a neighborhood better-known for its sports bars.
Try this: Preface the larger plates with a starting snack of charred Haas avocado served with a vibrant harissa aioli. Outrageously delish.
Hot tip: For something slightly more interactive than staring blankly at the wine list, adrift and alone, you can step inside one of two glass-enclosed wine rooms to browse bottles with one-on-one help from an Alcove expert.
50 Lovejoy Wharf, Boston, 617-248-0050, alcoveboston.com.
Two decades after they launched with Mistral, a glittery game-changer that helped push Back Bay-level dining into the then-nascent South End scene, the Columbus Hospitality Group recently dropped Bar Lyon by the latter neighborhood’s Lower Roxbury borderline. This time they’re thinking smaller: At 60 seats, including the bar, it’s much more intimate than their other restaurants. But the flavors are big and full, faithful renditions of French bouchon staples like escargot and steak au poivre.
Try this: Luscious quenelle de brochet—supple pike dumplings in luscious lobster veloute—are deemed a “Lyon Classic” on the menu. D’accord.
Hot tip: Keep on eye on the spot’s social media, because brunch service is slated to launch soon.
1750 Washington St., South End, 617-904-4020, barlyon.com.
Craigie on Main
How did chef Tony Maws’ Cambridge classic wind up on a “hottest” list in its 10th anniversary year? By giving us something new to talk about— and taste. Craigie just launched COMB, the now-distinct “Craigie on Main Bar,” with its own a la carte menu, rock soundtrack, and a second, monthly-rotating twist on the original, iconic Craigie burger. (The main dining room, meanwhile, has moved to a prix fixe-only format.) The refresh ought to rekindle interest in what made Craigie so cool to start.
Try this: Arrive early to score the limited-quantity special burgers; about 10 are served nightly. February’s twist is a venison patty with red chile sauce and smoked red onions.
Hot tip: Spice seekers should swing by COMB’s new “Buffalo Sundays,” when Maws slathers the sauce on elevated noshes like sweetbreads and duck wings.
853 Main St., Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com.
Fox & the Knife
We’ve been waiting what feels like forever 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 in June; we were just, like, really eager.) The enoteca opened mere days ago, but we’re already predicting that Akunowicz’s 80-seat, aperitivo-oriented hangout will prove popular with those seeking interesting wines and exciting Italian plates.
Try this: Akunowicz perfected her pasta-making skills while working in Modena, Italy, so expect primi like wild boar Bolognese with thyme to set a high bar.
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.
Downtown has scored a sleek—and sizable—new option for Japanese cuisine. Kamakura comes from chef Youji Iwakura (previously of Basho and Uni, among others), and spreads itself over three levels: from a ground-floor kaiseki bar offering two nightly seatings (5:30 and 8 p.m.) for elaborate tasting menus, to an all-seasons rooftop lounge (named Kumo) for sipping sake while surrounded by stunning city views. We’re glad Iwakura went so big for his debut self-owned venture.
Try this: When you don’t have time for an extensive omakase experience, know that bento boxes of poke, sashimi and more are available for busy lunch crowds— and delivery service is launching soon.
Hot tip: Iwakura believes his may be the first Boston restaurant to serve Koshu wines, a delicate variety made from white grapes from the Yamanashi region of Japan.
150 State St., Boston, 617-377-4588, kamakuraboston.com.
Chef-owner Michael Scelfo has completed a Harvard Square hat trick with the recent opening of Longfellow Bar, a two-floor hangout—with soon-to-be seasonal roof deck—housed above his flagship restaurant, Alden & Harlow. (Its seafood-focused sibling, Waypoint, is just a few blocks away.) Emphasizing elevated finger foods and killer cocktails, Longfellow is the perfect place to stop for sophisticated shared snacks or a date-night drink— especially in the gorgeous upstairs, with its soaring vaulted ceiling.
Try this: Scelfo has offered a burger at each of his restaurants (and in fact, you can order Alden’s Burger here, too). Longfellow’s Burger may just be his best, a super-juicy beef patty topped with fermented Nardello peppers, grilled onions, and a tangy Tillamook cheddar spread.
Hot tip: Guests can reserve the three-seat chef’s counter with an inches-away view of the small kitchen— and if they do, Scelfo may just let them choose which records to spin for the night’s soundtrack.
40 Brattle St. #3 (above Alden & Harlow), Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-864-0001, longfellowharvard.com.
Milk Bar and &pizza
The country’s first-ever collaboration between Milk Bar and &pizza—two East Coast brands with devout followings—has delivered sweet treats and cheese-covered slices to Harvard Square. We spoke with their respective founders about the ingenious idea, which has been luring long lines since doors opened at the end of January. Inside: creative cookies and other pastries, plus customizable pies available for dine-in or takeout.
Try this: Exclusive to this location is the Boston Cream Pie Milkquake, a loaded milkshake inspired by—what else?—Massachusetts’s official state dessert.
Hot tip: Patio seating will roll out once the weather warms, so you’ll be able to lap up some Cereal Milk soft-serve ice cream with a side of sunshine.
Chef Colin Lynch and beverage director Ryan Lotz have graciously given the South End some tropics-inspired territory to find Tiki cocktails and cuisine that take ideas from the Pacific Rim: Thailand to Hawaii, Vietnam to the California coast. It’s a subterranean sanctuary located across the street from sibling spot Bar Mezzana, covered in jungle-evoking wallpaper and featuring tons of bar space for sipping on communal cocktails in funky mugs and other vessels.
Try this: Tandoori fish collar, large enough to serve two, finds the splendidly spiced fish cooled with silky yogurt and balanced by the awesome acid of pickled mangos.
Hot tip: Surprise! Shore Leave is home to a “secret” sushi bar, No Relation, offering omakase at just nine ticketed seats. Check it out.
11 William E. Mullins Way at Harrison Ave., South End, 617-506-7932, shoreleaveboston.com
Nothing new: that this established Fenway-side barbecue restaurant turns out some of the city’s best ribs and pulled pork. Very new: Hot Chicken Mondays, an excellent additional reason to visit. The just-launched series offers up platters of fried or smoked birds at various degrees of spiciness (starting at “Hot AF”), plus special sides like pimento mac & cheese and ranch potato salad. Shout-out to chef de cuisine Dan Raia for outstanding, juicy birds that’ll make us fly by even more often.
Try this: Even if you’re stuffed, take home a slice of 7-Up cake, a lemony treat spiked with the soda.
Hot tip: Check out our feature profile on chef-owner Tiffani Faison, where she spills on her tumultuous Top Chef days— and the name of her next Fenway neighborhood restaurant, opening this summer.
1381 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-1300, sweetcheeksq.com.
The Table by Jen Royle
The concept alone intrigues: At her new North End restaurant, former Boston Herald and WEEI sports reporter Jen Royle—who previously competed on cooking shows Beat Bobby Flay and The Taste—serves only family-style Italian suppers at two communal tables. You’ll rub elbows with other adventurous diners willing to make new friends over lemon chicken, shrimp scampi, and other plates at limited nightly seatings, plus brunch. Caveat: No alcohol is currently served, as the licensing process rolls on.
Try this: Weekly-changing ravioli has included one recent offering with wild mushrooms, homemade ricotta and truffle oil.
Hot tip: The space and format make sense for private dinner parties, so if you rustle up a 32-person posse, you can reserve the whole restaurant.
445 Hanover St., Boston, 857-250-4286, tableboston.com.