Dine Out Boston, the week(s) formerly known as Restaurant Week, is back, bringing hundreds of prix-fixe menus to the city from August 17-22 and August 24-29. While some use the twice-a-year event as an opportunity to try new restaurants at a lower price point than usual, others prefer to avoid it altogether for various reasons.
If you're in the latter group, here's a guide for you. The following restaurants are (1) not participating in Dine Out Boston this time around and (2) currently included in the most recent Eater Boston heatmap or on the Eater 38, the city's most essential restaurants. Try a few of these on for size this week or next.
· The Abbey: This comfortable Brookline spot has recently expanded to Porter Square in Cambridge. With a full dinner menu available until 12:30 a.m., it's your spot for late-night bison bolognese and lamb lollipops.
· Alden & Harlow: This restaurant has been off-the-charts popular since the moment it opened earlier this year, and it's constantly racking up local and national press. Grab a burger and share some beautifully composed, vegetable-driven plates.
· Asta: It's all tasting menus, all the time at this hidden Back Bay gem.
· Bastille Kitchen: This brand new Parisian bistro in Fort Point was a long time coming. Go share a bouillabaisse for two and sip on French wines.
· Bondir: Seasonal, locally sourced food in an intimate, upscale-rustic setting. The menu changes daily, so there's always something new to discover. Head out to its newer sibling in Concord as well.
· La Brasa: Wood-grilled everything in East Somerville. Stop by for a late-night taco and cocktail, or keep an eye out for the roving prime rib cart at dinnertime.
· Brass Union: It's games galore at the reinvented Precinct in Somerville's Union Square. Play giant Connect Four on the patio, or head down into the lounge for some tabletop shuffleboard. To eat, try the choripan, an Argentinian-style hot dog.
· Casa B: Spain meets the Caribbean at this ultra-romantic small plate spot in Somerville's Union Square.
· Causeway: Give this brand new restaurant near North Station a try, paying particular attention to the barbecue dishes. Blue Ribbon alum Ruben Garza runs the show.
· Craigie on Main: Tony Maws' Central Square standby is offering its own deal during Dine Out Boston: a "Chef's Whim" feast available after 9 p.m. on August 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, and 28. Choose a six-course meal ($57) or a four-course meal ($45), available with meat and fish or entirely vegetarian.
· Crave - Mad for Chicken: Korean fried chicken and sushi in the former Enso Sushi space on Kneeland Street. It's the first Boston outpost of a small New York-based chain.
· Dali: Cozy up for some tapas at this dark, intensely decorated spot in a restaurant-filled intersection in Somerville, not far from Harvard Square. If you're with a group, order a porron — a fun, communal drinking vessel — filled with cava or white wine.
· Giulia: Beautiful Italian cuisine on the edge of Cambridge's Porter Square. The pasta dishes are a must-try.
· East by Northeast: Snag a seat at this cozy Inman Square spot for innovative modern Chinese cuisine in glorious tasting menus. (Want to be really close to the action? Book a spot at the new "chef's window.") Also, there's a ramen special on Wednesday nights. Note: East by Northeast is currently closed for vacation and will reopen on August 26.
· L'Espalier: A Back Bay classic for upscale French cuisine.
· The Gallows: Gorge yourself on multiple types of poutine and other upscale comfort foods at this South End spot, which also features great cocktails. The team is also working on opening up a doughnut shop in the neighborhood, and doughnuts often appear on The Gallows' Sunday brunch menu, so you can get a sneak peek of what the shop might offer.
· Hamersley's Bistro: Now is the perfect time to try or revisit this longtime South End standby, which is closing at the end of October. Make a point to taste the signature roast chicken.
· Highland Kitchen: Comfort food in Somerville's Spring Hill neighborhood. Stop by on a Monday for fried chicken and tiki drinks, or try the always-popular spicy coconut curried goat stew or Buffalo-fried Brussels sprouts.
· Hungry Mother: Lovely Southern-inspired dishes made with a touch of New England in a multi-level house on a Kendall Square corner. Be sure to start out with the cornbread with sorghum butter.
· jm Curley: This is your essential comfort food spot in Downtown Crossing. Close out your night with some fernet bonbons or a mudslide milkshake.
· Journeyman: The decision-making is completely out of your hands at this hidden spot in Somerville's Union Square. Pay $85 (add $55 for drink pairings), and a series of courses will materialize in front of you. A four-course deal ($40, plus $30 for drinks) is available after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday nights.
· Legal Oysteria: The newest Legal Sea Foods offshoot has just opened in the former Olives space in Charlestown, offering dishes like charred octopus, sausages stuffed with truffle cheese, Ligurian fish stew, and more.
· Liquid Art House: This beautiful new Back Bay spot mixes a restaurant with an art gallery, and everything's for sale, even the giant chandelier above the bar. Rachel Klein's cuisine touches on Eastern Europe and beyond, and there are shareable roasts if you've got a hungry group.
· Loretta's Last Call: Live country music and Southern-inspired food near Fenway.
· Lulu's Allston: This newish spot in the former Cafe Brazil space offers fun comfort food, from wild game Frito chili pie to short rib mac & cheese. And the beer selection is plentiful.
· Mei Mei: Fun and delicious Asian-inspired dishes made from responsibly sourced local ingredients. And of course there's the Double Awesome, an egg-and-cheese sandwich that uses scallion pancakes instead of bread.
· Myers + Chang: For dim sum or a "cheap date night" or anything in between, this is your high-energy South End spot for modern Asian cuisine.
· Neptune Oyster: It's worth the inevitably long wait for a lobster roll and other classic seafood dishes at this small North End restaurant.
· No. 9 Park: This Barbara Lynch classic in Beacon Hill is unofficially participating in Dine Out Boston with a five-course menu for $65, available on the same days as the event. Visitors to every one of Lynch's restaurants (there are six) between August 17 and August 29 can gain an entry into a contest to hold a complimentary party for 15 at Drink. Because the Lynch restaurants "participate" on their own terms, you'll find that the experience is representative of a normal visit to the restaurant. No. 9 Park's fois gras-filled prix-fixe includes the signature prune-stuffed gnocchi, for example.
· Oleana: It certainly doesn't hurt that Oleana has the most romantic patio dining in the Greater Boston area, but the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired food is to die for as well. Don't leave without trying pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick's baked Alaska.
· O Ya: Gorgeous sushi in the Leather District. If money's no object, leave your night in the hands of the chef with the grand omakase, an epic tasting adventure.
· Parla: Braised oxtail arancini, venison meatballs, a secret cocktail menu, and a Gatsby-themed brunch in the North End.
· Ribelle: If you want a tasting menu, why not try five courses of pasta ($59) at Tim Maslow's Brookline restaurant? The intense brunch menu is also worth a visit.
· Rino's: Huge ravioli and other Italian-American classics in East Boston. While you wait for a table (yes, you'll have to wait), head across the street to sister establishment Prima e Dopo for a drink and an appetizer. Note: Rino's is currently closed for summer vacation and will reopen on August 25.
· Roxy's Grilled Cheese: Fans of the truck will like the new brick-and-mortar location in Allston as well. Bright colors, tons of grilled cheese, hamburgers, and more.
· Santarpio's: This no-frills Eastie classic has been holding down the pizza fort for decades, and it's basically required eating, so go ahead and give it a try if you haven't yet.
· Shojo: Mark O'Leary, an alum of O Ya and jm Curley, has just taken over as executive chef at this modern Asian hotspot in Chinatown, so now is an especially interesting time to give it a try.
· Sycamore: Head to Newton for this intimate neighborhood bistro, serving up locally sourced dishes and tasty cocktails.
· Taiwan Cafe: An essential Chinatown spot serving Taiwanese and Szechuan cuisine and more.
· Ten Tables: Located in Jamaica Plain and a quiet part of Cambridge, this longtime neighborhood spot offers lots of specials, including a three-course meal for $38 every Wednesday in JP and Sunday in Cambridge. (This is year-round; it's not connected to Dine Out Boston.)
· Toro: This energetic tapas spot always attracts a crowd, and it's thriving well at its new New York City location, too. You must eat the grilled corn.
· Trina's Starlite Lounge: Hot dogs and cocktails in a retro ambiance in the Somerville sliver of Inman Square.
· Troquet: Upscale French food and fine wines priced reasonably, right on the edge of the Common.
· West Bridge: France meets New England at this bright Kendall Square spot. Try the popular "egg in a jar," and share a large-format chicken, lamb, or pork shoulder dish.