Eat Here Now: Boston’s 10 Hottest Restaurants
A multicultural Parisian bistro, the return of a major chef's Mediterranean spot on the waterfront, and a ton of new Italian.
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Where to eat tonight? It can be hard to keep up with knowing where the buzz is, so we’ve gathered a few of the most notable additions to the dining scene here, as well as established spots that are giving us exciting reasons to return right now. Keep coming back here for regular updates, and new inspiration on where to get dinner tonight. [Updated December 1, 2021]
Big Deal chef Mark Ladner, a Belmont, Mass. native who made his name and earned his food-world fame at the helm of Del Posto—Mario Batali’s NYC landmark that was widely considered one of the country’s best fine Italian restaurants—has checked his Bar Enza into the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. Big meatballs have arrived with him, and so have house-made pastas like linguini in white clam sauce and spicy lobster raviolo, all in a sensible, terra cotta-toned setting that complements the sophisticated list of (mainly) Italian region-spanning wines.
1 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, bar-enza.com.
Back on the Boston side of the Charles River, meanwhile, Top Chef All Star Karen Akunowicz is also raising the bar on Italian in Boston: Bar Volpe is now open in Southie, just steps from the James Beard Award winner’s first hit spot, Fox & the Knife. Volpe (“fox” in Italian) looks to the southern part of the Boot, with an emphasis on wood-fired fare (see: grilled fish for Sardinian paella) and pasta, of course. In fact, Akunowicz’s bagged brand of Fox Pasta even has its own small market space here. Meanwhile, the 25-seat Art Deco bar, a marble-topped former Airstream, is a fine place to tuck away for a Negroni and a snack.
170 W Broadway, South Boston, 617-865-7100, barvolpe.com.
Will you find steak frites? Yes. But you’ll find much more than that at Café Sauvage, a new Parisian-style bistro that offers a much broader, more multicultural perspective on what food in the French metropolis actually looks like. Married owners Anaïs and Antoine Lambert—who formerly worked at Frenchie and Colette Wine Bistro here in the Hub—represent African and other immigrant influences here. To wit, chef Kendall DaCosta’s injera crepe with mushrooms and coconut Swiss chard, spiced with ras al hanout and piri piri sauce; as well as his roasted chicken with jollof rice and fried plantains. And don’t forget to sip some fabulously floral bissap, an African hibiscus-based beverage, over brunch.
25 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 857-277-0075, cafesauvage.com.
It’s no surprise that this brand-new addition to Back Bay came out of the gate as one of the hottest destinations in town. For starters, it’s a glitzy, Old Europe-inspired rooftop restaurant at the Newbury Hotel, with a glass roof and retractable walls of windows offering open-air dining and views of the Public Garden. In addition, it’s the first Boston restaurant from the aptly named Major Food Group, whose portfolio includes Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Between the sumptuous pastas (say, spicy lobster capellini), fancified pizzas (topped with littleneck clams or black truffle, perhaps) and a signature Florentine-style steak for two, Contessa is an Italian stunner poised to replicate the group’s success here in the Hub.
3 Newbury St., Boston, 617-536-5700, thenewburyboston.com/dine/contessa.
Another more-expansive exploration of French cuisine in Boston, Coquette is a flirty new hotspot inside the Seaport’s just-opened Omni hotel. This one comes from the COJE group, the hospitality team behind similarly stunning, electric-feeling operations like Yvonne’s and Mariel, and sees culinary director Tom Berry turn his attention to various interpretations of “coastal French”-oriented recipes. That means a baked stuffed lobster with creamy camembert sauce, sure, but it also means supple lamb meatballs with orange-date glaze and harissa chili oil, among the nods to France’s relationship with North Africa, as well as a coconut-lime tuna crudo inspired by French Polynesia. The interior pops with pretty pastels, and its big, beautiful bar pours excellent cocktails like the Life in Pink, London dry gin with raspberry syrup and a bit of Brut Rosé.
450 Summer St., Boston, 617-419-8140, frenchcoquette.com.
Fresh Food Generation
We’ve been waiting for the day when this popular food truck- and catering-based business would finally open doors to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and—behold! The time has arrived. So has lots more Caribbean-American cuisine, now that Fresh Food Generation—which emphasizes local ingredient sourcing through partnerships with the Urban Farming Institute and others—has set up permanent shop in Dorchester. There, it offers us Jamaican jerk chicken, curried ground lamb, “Rasta Pasta” with a coconut-based pesto sauce, and more in a casual, counter service-style space. Oh, but it also continues to offer its re-heatable, home-delivered meal kits, for when you’d rather enjoy the singular flavors within your own four walls.
185 Talbot Ave., Dorchester, 617-602-7185, freshfoodgeneration.com.
More Italian! With Geppetto, chef-owner Will Gilson has finally added the capstone to his three-restaurant project at a single mixed-use site in Cambridge. Joining his rooftop New American restaurant the Lexington and all-day outfit Cafe Beatrice, Geppetto adds to the equation clever crudo, fun small plates (like an oversized, kataif-encased mozzarella stick), and big, boldly flavored pastas that tap the talents of “pasta consigliere” chef Tony Susi, a local Italian-dining legend. (His late Sage restaurants were where it was at, once upon a time.) Be sure to snag something off the room-roving amaro cart—and maybe pour it over house made gelato for an affogato-inspired dessert.
100 N First St., Cambridge, 617-945-1349, thelexingtoncx.com/geppetto.
The highly anticipated return of Iron Chef Mary Dumont, alum of fine dining rooms like Harvard Square institution Harvest, is a bit of a left-turn toward fast-casual fare—what’s more, it’s also an entirely plant-based affair. Then again, the very point of PlantPub is to prove that staple tavern comfort foods like Buffalo wings, fried chicken sandwiches, and BBQ pizzas can be just as delicious and indulgent when in meat-free form. Spoiler: They totally are, and the place still has all the canned craft brews—plus non-alcoholic beers, and even hard kombucha—that you expect at any pub.
675 W Kendall St., Cambridge, (617) 714-5452, plantpub.com.
Just in time for its 10-year anniversary, chef Jody Adams’s waterfront restaurant Trade has reopened following an 18-month slumber. What makes this not-exactly-new launch buzz-worthy, though, is the way the place used the time to give its food and face a lift: For instance, the greenery-festooned interior now has a host stand that doubles as a DJ booth, to keep the vibe upbeat, and a new glass-enclosed wine vault, stocked mostly with Greek grapes, testifies to the way Trade is doubling down on a Mediterranean menu. What’s more, the wooden platters of charred whole eggplant, roasted branzino, and baked feta in phyllo with pistachio are being personally prepared by Adams herself, as the Boston dining legend has shared that she’s back on the line to make sure Trade’s glow-up goes perfectly.
540 Atlantic Ave., Boston, 617-451-1234, trade-boston.com.
The Winsor House at Island Creek Oyster Farm
Everyone was wondering what the team at Island Creek Oyster Farm would do next, after splitting with the restaurant partners that helped turn Island Creek Oyster Bar (RIP) into such an important part of Boston’s contemporary seafood scene. Now, the answer: Open the Winsor House restaurant inside a historic former inn, sited just steps away from Island Creek’s Duxbury oyster farm. Jeff Whitmore, previously chef at the Hourly Oyster Bar in Cambridge, is now in charge of things, turning out a high-low mix of dishes—you’ll find a simple smash burger, caviar-topped ice cream, and brown butter-poached halibut with grape, dandelion green, in a rustic pistachio sauce—for enjoying with a boatload of rums.
390 Washington St., Duxbury, 781-934-0991, winsorhouse.islandcreekoysters.com.