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Boston Restaurants: Insider Picks
Barbara Lynch has six restaurants to her name, including the elegant French-Italian No. 9 Park. Her chic oyster bar serves some of the most creative lobster dishes in this crustacean-mad city, such as the B.L.T. with lobster and the chive-and-celery-studded lobster roll (a favorite of star chef Michael Schlow). As the restaurant’s name promises, there are always a dozen daily-changing varieties on offer, all served with an ingenious Prosecco mignonette. bandgoysters.com
Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks is one of the few great places to eat near Fenway Park, featuring chef Jeremy Sewall’s stellar seafood dishes and a raw bar that showcases superbriny oysters from Island Creek Oysters, the Duxbury Bay oyster farm that supplies some of the country’s best restaurants. Another reason it’s always packed: mixologist Jackson Cannon’s terrific cocktails made with house-infused spirits. Chef Sewall also cooks next door at the more casual Island Creek Oyster Bar, which is co-owned by Skip Bennett of Island Creek Oysters. easternstandardboston.com
Photo © Mallorie Ekstrom Photography.
It’s hard to tell which of chef Ken Oringer’s outposts is most beloved—his flagship, the Back Bay splurge Clio; sashimi bar Uni; or this casual brick-walled Spanish restaurant that serves on-the-spot pinchos (small snacks), paellas for two and mini hamburguesas (topped with smoked tomato, aioli and pickled red onion) alongside an all-Spanish-wine list. toro-restaurant.com
Michael Schlow’s New England empire includes this excellent Back Bay restaurant that offers superb antipasti (crispy meatballs with spicy tomato-basil sauce, crostini topped with house-made ricotta, sage and chile flakes) and traditional pastas like fedelini (very fine spaghetti) with tiny clams and smashed cherry tomatoes. viamattarestaurant.com
Boston Restaurants: Splurge
Photo © Emily Sterne Photography.
Chef Ming Tsai is a TV star, but he still cooks at his flagship restaurant in suburban Wellesley, where he serves innovative East-West dishes like foie gras shumai in shallot broth. In 2008, Blue Ginger expanded to include the adjacent Blue Ginger Lounge, featuring small plates like shiitake-leek spring rolls and addictive bings, Tsai’s take on Chinese xiar bing (pan-fried buns), which he stuffs with roast duck, bacon cheeseburgers and traditional pork. ming.com
"I don’t spend thousands of bucks on flowers, but I go bonkers to get the best ingredients," says chef Tony Maws of this inventive French-American restaurant in Cambridge. The hands-on chef is fanatical about every element in his food; he does his own butchering in the basement and sources almost all of his ingredients from local farms. His restaurant’s 11-seat bar even highlights small-batch liquors. craigieonmain.com
Named for a small French village near the Italian border, chef Barbara Lynch’s latest restaurant is a superchic room in the semi-industrial Fort Point neighborhood. It’s her most luxurious and expensive outpost so far, with just two menu options: four courses for $95 or, for $145, seven courses and a menu of delicate French-Italian food using top-shelf langoustines, truffles and foie gras. The best seats are at the glass-enclosed chef’s table for a straight-on view of the custom Molteni stove from France. mentonboston.com
In a residential part of Cambridge chef-owner Ana Sortun serves her eastern-Mediterranean menu in a honey-colored dining room or on a foliage-covered patio. She focuses on unusual spices and sauces, adding dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend with nuts and seeds) to a spicy carrot puree and za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend with herbs, sesame seeds and dried sumac) to New England-raised chickens. Sortun’s takeout-friendly Sofra Bakery and Café, also in Cambridge, is known for its hummus bar and flaky, chocolate-y hazelnut baklava. oleanarestaurant.com
At this hard-to-find restaurant with high ceilings and dark brick walls, chef/co-owner Tim Cushman brilliantly combines Japanese training with his New England background. The result: a daily-changing menu of innovative dishes like chilled Maine lobster salad with creamy yuzu dressing, and hamachi tartare with ginger verjus sauce. Cushman’s wife, Nancy, created the stellar sake list. oyarestaurantboston.com
Photo © Melissa Ostrow.
Over a decade old, this Theater District restaurant embraces old-fashioned elegance, with a dining room of white tablecloth-topped tables and arched ceilings. Chef-owner Marc Orfaly cooks luxurious, classically informed French dishes like duck liver mousse with vermouth-soaked mustard seeds. But in the expanded bar area, the menu is influenced by flavors from around the globe (fish and chips made with Icelandic haddock, roasted clams with bacon and panko stuffing). pigalleboston.com
Michael Schlow serves top-notch Italian—including fantastic pastas—but the famed chef first charmed Bostonians with his luxurious French-accented dishes like halibut with black truffle nage. The opulent Financial District restaurant, whose dining room is adorned with grand white columns, is a favorite among the city’s business set. radiusrestaurant.com
Overlooking Harvard Square, chef Jody Adams’s enduring flagship excels in regional Italian dishes like Ligurian seafood stew with local fish and fried anise bread. In 2011, Bostonians finally got what they had been pining for: a second venture from Adams, Trade. The high-ceilinged, industrial-looking space in the Waterfront District emphasizes globally inspired small plates and flatbreads. rialto-restaurant.com
Chef Ken Oringer’s restaurants, anchored by his flagship Clio, span the cuisines of Japan, France, Italy, Spain and Mexico. Located in the Eliot Hotel, Uni is a tiny jewel-box restaurant serving traditional sushi and sashimi and modern variations, like raw fluke with jalapeño vinaigrette, rhubarb and Thai basil. Global street food also slips into the menu like fish tacos with avocado cream and charred tomato salsa. unisashimibar.com
Boston Restaurants: Best Value
In 2009, Ken Oringer opened this Roman-style trattoria with talented F&W People’s Best New Chef Jamie Bissonnette, who has a tattoo of a ham bone on his hand, accompanied by the phrase “eat offal,” Bissonnette challenges diners to do just that, with daring nose-to-tail cooking that includes roasted beef heart and bone marrow on pizza. His out-of-this-world spaghetti carbonara is prepared with house-made pasta, smoked pancetta, a runny egg and an unexpected ingredient: sea urchin. coppaboston.com
Virginia-born Barry Maiden trained in some of Boston’s top kitchens (l’Espalier, Sel de la Terre) before opening this little spot in East Cambridge; he now uses French techniques to elevate Southern-style food like country ham biscuits and catfish with mustard brown butter. Even the graham crackers in the crust of the buttermilk pie are made from scratch. hungrymothercambridge.com
Boston pastry genius Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Café tackles savory dishes at this eclectic diner-style South End spot, which she opened in 2007 with her husband, restaurateur Christopher Myers. The menu is a mix of Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes such as Asian-style short rib tacos, “coal black” garlic-and-honey-glazed chicken wings and tea-smoked duck salad. myersandchang.com
There are 21 locations of this revered New England pizza chain, but purists still endure the long waits at the North End original, which has been serving brick oven pies since 1926. Regina’s distinctive red sauce has a hint of aged romano, and aged whole milk mozzarella is used on almost all of its pies. reginapizzeria.com
Near bustling Harvard Square, Chez Henri has a smart-looking dining room, but the cozy bar is more fun, and also one of the city’s best for its well-made mojitos and other tropical drinks. Chef-owner Paul O’Connell also prepares an excellent bar menu, including his pressed Cuban sandwiches loaded with slow-roasted pork. chezhenri.com
There’s no actual drinks list at this subterranean Fort Point bar from Boston chef-restaurateur Barbara Lynch. After quizzing customers about their preferences, mixologist John Gertsen custom-makes each drink to order. Highbrow bar snacks include candied bacon cashews and grilled pork ribs.
Management consultant-turned-baker Joanne Chang opened her first Flour Bakery + Café in Boston’s South End in 2000; her rigorously made French pastry, overstuffed sandwiches and upscale version of nostalgic junk foods (homemade Pop-Tarts and Oreos) quickly turned the small spot into a local favorite that now has multiple locations. Chang and her husband, Christopher Myers, also run the funky pan-Asian restaurant Myers + Chang in the South End. flourbakery.com
For over seven decades, this family-owned Hanover Street shop in Boston’s North End has been the place to go for authentic Italian sweets such as filled-to-order cannoli and eight kinds of torrone (including the famed vanilla nougat with roasted almond). modernpastry.com