50 Years of ‘Best of Boston’: Comfort Food

In honor of this year's 50th anniversary of Best of Boston, we’re taking a monthly look back. Up first: Boston's all-time favorite feel-good fare.

Hot dogs at Fenway Park in 1973. / Photo by Don Preston/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

All throughout 2024, we’re celebrating the proud and distinguished history of our annual Best of Boston issue, which turns 50 this July. So dig into the creamy, cheesy, juicy, fatty past of Boston’s all-time favorite feel-good fare with this scroll down memory lane.

Best Hot Dog

“It’s no secret that hot dogs taste best at baseball games. H.M. Stevens‘s Fenway offerings are nothing to fast for, but the setting makes them most palatable. The Indoor Hot Dog Champion is the Underdog (get it?) in Harvard Square, which serves the classic New York kosher frank a la Nathan’s.”

Best Yogurt

Today, Yoplait is one of the most common brands of yogurt at the supermarket. But back in 1977, right here in Boston, it was an absolute delicacy. “This French-style dessert yogurt, thinner and creamier than other commercial varieties, is mellifluous enough to convert anyone to Gallic culture,” the editors explained in the gushing write-up before noting that”the lemon, orange, and cherry flavors are outstanding.” Oooh la la!

Best Chili

Apparently, even the winner of this award wasn’t good enough for our discerning tastes. “Actually just so-so,” the editors of the 1980 Best of Boston issue remarked about the chili from Charley’s Eating and Drinking Saloon on Newbury Street. “We continue to be a nonchili town.” Even today, that statement has some truth to it.

Best Pizza, Designer

Remember the days when pies from Massachusetts-based Bertucci’s were considered “designer”? Five years after the very first location opened in Davis Square, Best of Boston testers sang the praises of the boutique chain’s “excellent food, reasonable prices, and boccie to boot.” And while there may be plenty of newer and hipper pizza places around town, Bertucci’s is still going strong.

Best Onion Rings

Jacob Wirth Restaurant. “But you have to have them with a Jakey Wirth dark beer.”

Best Chocolate, Politically Correct

Even 30 years ago, Bostonians liked to show off their green bona fides—even when it came to their bonbons. “Totally free of artificial ingredients, wrapped in environmentally conscious packaging, and 10 percent of the profits are donated to nonprofit earth-friendly organizations,” the editors wrote about Gazelle Candies by Jamron. A recipe for success indeed.

Best Frozen Yogurt, Nonfat

If you need a refresher on the nonfat-frozen-yogurt trend of the ’90s, head to the Seinfeld archives for a humorous lesson. Or simply check out the award bestowed upon Christina’s in 1995, which advised readers to “pick [a] flavoring­—chocolate, coffee, strawberry, banana, or boysenberry—and they’ll blend it into a superb vanilla base.” What a novelty!

Barking Crab in 2000. / Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg / Boston Herald / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Best Chowder

Boston may be known for its chowdah, but back in 2002, our testers were feeling a little clammy about it.”Most versions have degenerated into blandness, with a texture that’s either too watery or suspiciously sludgy,” they wrote.” But it is still possible to grab a creamy, flavorful bowl. Although the service ought to be, on occasion, thrown back, the chowder at the Barking Crab actually tastes like clams and has the right amount of seasoning, with the added bonus of a water view and casual clam shack ambiance.” No wonder it’s still around.

Best Sandwich

Strip-T’s. “After trying the kitchen’s chicken ‘pho real’ sandwich—with Thai basil, avocado, bean sprouts, and hoisin and sriracha sauces on a French baguette—we sat up at attention. Then came the roast beef, layered with horseradish sauce on pieces of homemade focaccia. Sealing the deal: the fried cauliflower, provolone, and broccoli rabe creation. A can’t-miss cauliflower sandwich? See, anything is possible.”

Stillwater / Courtesy Earl Studios

Best Mac ‘N’ Cheese

Stillwater. “Chef Sarah Wade’s Okie roots shine in epic comfort foods like her signature gooey, cheddar­ sharp mac ‘n’cheese. Even better is Wade’s takeout-only ‘Mac Bar’ menu for build-your­ own bowls with fixings such as smoked chicken chili and roasted tomato sauce.”

A version of this was first published in the print edition of the February 2024 issue with the headline, “BOB 50: Comfort Food.”