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Local Food Writers Share Top Restaurant Standbys of 2015

As is tradition at Eater, we close out the year by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and we'll be publishing their responses throughout the week. Readers, please feel free to share your thoughts below. First question: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2015?

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The Backroom at Moody's Delicatessen
The Backroom at Moody's Delicatessen
Katie Chudy for Eater

MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

Thanks to my restaurant critic gig at The Improper Bostonian, I never have as much time to visit my old favorites as I’d like, but a few places kept drawing me back in those rare moments when I wasn’t doing review research:

  • Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions (Waltham): My favorite deli in Greater Boston kept me coming back for brilliant house-made charcuterie and salumi at retail, incredible sandwiches with counter service (great corned beef, pastrami and bologna, in particular), and new fine-dining addition The Backroom, with its wood-oven delicacies and great bartending. I’m looking forward to more Moody’s at retail outlets around Boston, notably the forthcoming Gordon’s DTX.
  • Cha Yen Thai Cookery (Watertown): This tiny counter-service storefront with a handful of seats drew me to Coolidge Square again and again for its fine traditional Thai cuisine beautified by Western fine-dining plating technique. Keep an eye on gifted young chef/owner Manita Bunnagitkarn; she’s bound to find a bigger venue and attract wider attention before too long.
  • Dumpling Palace (Back Bay): The area around Symphony Hall is finally losing its restaurant-desert status, notably with additions like this excellent Taiwanese little sister to Chinatown stalwart Dumpling Café. Modest, quite traditional, and really delicious, with some of the best soup dumplings in town.
  • H-Mart Food Court (Burlington): Every one of the stalls at this Asian supermarket food court produces a short menu of fresh, healthy, delicious lunches, skipping around Korea, China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. My favorite among multiple great option is Woo Jeon, with its specialization in hearty Korean soups for $10, a bargain.
  • Estragon (South End): This very pretty South End Spanish restaurant has never generated the buzz of nearby Toro, and that’s a blessing when you want beautiful tapas and great cocktails and wine without dealing with Toro’s annoying, tightly-packed crowds. I’m psyched they’ve finally gotten a full license and are expanding into Las Ventas, their adjacent former takeout space.
  • Audubon Boston (Audubon Circle): I’ve long favored this spot near Kenmore Square for Sox pre-gaming, but it’s so much better under the new stewardship of the Trina’s Starlite gang, with a hugely improved cocktail program; a similarly casual, tasty, slightly-upscale pub menu; and great patio. I’m also relieved they finally removed the old Audubon’s Pointy Table of Death, a menace to drinkers.

Marc Hurwitz of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk:

I don't have many standbys because I review so many places, but I did spend many hours at O'Sullivan's in Somerville (still love their burgers after all these years), Joe Sent Me in Cambridge (good place for cheap food and drink and hard rock on the jukebox happily bursting my eardrums), Darcy's in Quincy (verrrrrry interesting people-watching from their outdoor "patio"), and Atwood's Tavern in Cambridge (outstanding beer list, great comfort food, hidden side patio).

Luke O'Neil, drinks writer for Metro and writer of many other things for many other publications:

As usual, my most reliable spots for drinking this year were Brick and MortarTrina’s, and The Sinclair. There have been a lot of new openings that were intriguing and fun, including Hojoko, but nowhere has really wrestled the top spot away for me this year. The only place I ordered from more than ten times this would be Cha Yen in Watertown. I really like Moody’s Deli this year as well but only got over there a couple times, and Shojo is still my top spot, for both drink and food, as I mentioned in this list of the top 10 Boston bars I did for PlayboyNight Market in Harvard Square is surprisingly somehow still under the radar, it seems. It’s super cute and funky, and the food is quite good, but cheap.

Dan Whalen, cookbook authorfood blogger, and contributor to WGBH's Craving Boston:

I went to Townsman much more than I normally go to a single restaurant in a year. Probably a combination of having really good food but also being hungry and in the area at the right time. They always treat me really well, and the unique ice cream flavors are totally my style. My true standby, though, will always be tofu drunken noodle (seven out of 10 spicy) takeout from Rod Dee.

Matt Martinelli, managing editor of The Improper Bostonian:

Picco. Despite all the new pizza options in town, it’s still the gold standard for ‘za. And its beer list might not be the longest in town, but it’s wide-ranging with lots of premium finds. What more can you ask for? Oh yeah, ice cream — and lots of it. It remains a great neighborhood spot.

Kerry J. Byrne, food writer for the Boston Herald:

Tons of new pizza in town. Batali's Babbo, Frank Pepe's, etc. But pie at the original Regina's on Thacher Street always lives up to the hype. One place I tend to bring newcomers for a true taste of Boston — most recently just last week when my much-younger cousin was in town with her college pals.

Always have a great experience at Davio's, one of the few places in Boston that still offers old-school, professional service. You will be treated well. Took my mom there for her birthday this year. Davio's celebrated 30 years in 2015 and, among other welcome developments, upgraded its beer list this year to include top Italian craft brews.

And, of course, many folks know my perpetual No. 1 standby is Wendell's, the famous hot-wing honky-tonk near Wheaton College in Norton. I've brought dozens of prominent Boston chefs and restaurateurs there over the years, and they universally agree Wendell's offers the best wings anywhere. The last meal before I die: a double-order of Wendell's crispy fried wings soaked in a soup of red-hot-yet-savory suicidal sauce in their signature wooden salad bowl with blue cheese and a Portuguese roll on the side. Never disappoints.

Sam Hiersteiner, food writer for Lucky Peach, First We Feast, Art of Eating, and other publications:

  • Alden & Harlow: A&H still feels like the best all-around restaurant experience in Boston to me. I keep coming back for Mike Scelfo's vegetable dishes and Seth Freidus' cocktails and house-made elixirs. Oh, and the secret burger.
  • Sarma: I love Mediterranean food so much, and Cassie Piuma and her team are doing it better and more colorfully than anywhere else.
  • Row 34: Oysters, good drinks, perfectly calibrated atmosphere. What more could you want?
  • Myers & Chang: Still the place where we get together most often with friends. I need the hot dan dan noodles in my life.
  • Bronwyn: My heritage would suggest I'm a sucker for great German beer, pretzels, and tubed meats. And I am.
  • Thai North: I need my Isaan fix from time to time, and this is the best place I've found in Boston to get it.

Rachel Cossar, Boston city editor for The Daily Meal:

Tavern RoadTownsman, and Barcelona Wine Bar (South End).

BosGuy, LGBT Blogger (with a lot of South End restaurant coverage):

Aquitaine Boston, The Elephant Walk, and Boston Chops in the South End were my go-to restaurants in 2015. Boston Chops' late-night menu, which starts at 10 p.m. daily, is probably the best deal in town for anyone who enjoys a hamburger.

Catherine Smart, managing editor of WGBH's Craving Boston and Boston Globe correspondent:

Highland Kitchen is a perennial favorite, and 2015 was no different. The food, the drinks (when I’m not hugely pregnant as I am right now), the price point, and close proximity to our place keeps me coming back. I also find myself at Tasty Burger more than I’d like to admit. And while some women indulge in weekly mani/pedis, my little luxury is sneaking out for a workday lunch at Ames Street Deli with the husband.

Dana Hatic, Eater Boston associate editor:

I just moved near Inman Square and now rely heavily on both Punjabi Dhaba and City Girl Cafe. Before that, though, Harry's Bar & Grill in Brighton was my go-to spot.

Katie Chudycookbook author and Eater Boston contributor:

It’s a great time to love food and live in Boston. This year I found myself regularly at Moody’s Backroom, in particular for the meatballs. Commonwealth’s lunch is where it’s at; the pastrami is crazy good. El Amigo for tacos. Seta’s Cafe; the falafel is the best I’ve had. Sofra for lunch; Uni for late-night ramen; Giulia — oh, the pasta! And Shangri-La for its dim sum brunch, to name a few that really stand out to me from this year.

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

I'm still mourning the loss of A4 in Union Square, which was one of my favorite pizza places in town, and I can't wait for the team to find a new Somerville location. But in A4's wake, incredible late-night pizza and pasta sprung up at La Brasa. I find myself there often, whether late-night or otherwise, and I love the laid-back ambiance and wood-fired everything. The new Cambridge location of Lone Star Taco Bar was also a frequent haunt for me this year, especially for late-night tacos and cocktails (but a rare brunch excursion showed me the wonder of spicy corn pancakes, and now I need to go back for more of those.)

A newer addition to the scene, Kimchi Kitchen, has quickly landed in my standard rotation. Spicy and sweet dduk-bokki is going to get me through this winter. I should also throw an honorable mention to the Cambridge location of Ginger Exchange, which makes up the bulk of my Foodler orders, along with Lotus Xpress.

Can't forget about Backbar, my favorite place for unique, strong cocktails. (Sometimes I like to finish up my workday there, since there's free wifi from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.)

And finally there's Tasty Mo:Mo: — the name really says it all. (I will add that the chilli momo is one of the spiciest dishes I've happily sobbed my way through this year.)

Harry's Bar and Grill

1430 Commonwealth Avenue, Brighton, MA 02135 617 738 9990

A4 Pizza

445 Somerville Ave., Somerville, MA 02143

Night Market

75 Winthrop St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Townsman

120 Kingston Street, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 993-0750 Visit Website

Sarma

249 Pearl Street, , MA 02145 (617) 764-4464 Visit Website

Alden & Harlow

40 Brattle Street, , MA 02138 (617) 864-2100 Visit Website

Shangri-La

4710 Cass Avenue, , MI 48201 (313) 974-7669 Visit Website

Taqueria El Amigo

196 Willow Street, , MA 02453 (781) 642-7410

Davio's

75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116 617 357 4810 Visit Website

Tavern Road

343 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 617 790 0808

La Brasa

124 Broadway, , MA 02145 (617) 764-1412 Visit Website

Lone Star Taco Bar (Cambridge)

635 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02141 Visit Website

Dumpling Palace

179 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02115 (617) 266-8888 Visit Website

Aquitaine

569 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118 (617) 424-8577 Visit Website

Darcy's Village Pub

97 Willard St, Quincy, MA 02169 (617) 472-9213

Kimchi Kitchen

847 Cambridge Street, , MA 02141 (617) 714-3232 Visit Website

Cha Yen Thai Cookery

613 Mount Auburn Street, , MA 02472 (617) 393-0031 Visit Website

Myers + Chang

1145 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118 617 542 5200 Visit Website

Thai North Restaurant

433 Faneuil Street, Brighton, MA 02135 617 254 2025 Visit Website

Joe Sent Me

2388 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140 (617) 492-1116 Visit Website

The Elephant Walk (South End)

1415 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

The Backroom

468 Moody St, Waltham, MA 02453

City Girl Cafe

204 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 864-2809 Visit Website

Wendell's Pub

30 W Main St, Norton, MA 02766 (508) 285-5555 Visit Website

Brick & Mortar

567 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 Visit Website

Tasty Momo

508 Medford Street, Somerville, MA 02145 617-599-2333 Visit Website

Hojoko

1271 Boylston Street, , MA 02215 (617) 670-0507 Visit Website

Backbar

7 Sanborn Court, , MA 02143 (617) 718-0249 Visit Website

Highland Kitchen

150 Highland Avenue, , MA 02143 (617) 625-1131 Visit Website

Tasty Burger (Fenway)

1301 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215 617 425 4444 Visit Website

The Ginger Exchange

1287 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139 617-250-8618

Estragon

700 Harrison Ave, , MA 02118 (617) 266-0443 Visit Website

Boston Chops

1375 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 617 227 5011 Visit Website

Moody's Delicatessen & Provisions

468 Moody St, Waltham, MA 02453

R. F. O'Sullivan & Son Pub

282 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143 (617) 491-9638 Visit Website

Audubon

838 Beacon Street, , MA 02215 (617) 421-1910 Visit Website

Picco

513 Tremont Street, , MA 02116 (617) 927-0066 Visit Website

Commonwealth

11 Broad Canal Way, , MA 02142 (617) 945-7030 Visit Website

Rod Dee

1422 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02446 617-738-4977 Visit Website

Ames St. Deli

73 Ames St, Cambridge, MA

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

525 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 266-2600

Atwood’s Tavern

877 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141 (617) 864-2792 Visit Website

Seta's Cafe

271 Belmont Street, , MA 02478 (617) 484-7823 Visit Website

Bronwyn

255 Washington Street, , MA 02143 (617) 776-9900 Visit Website

H Mart

Unit 1 Leigh Close, , England KT3 3NW 020 3274 2020 Visit Website

Punjabi Dhaba

225 Hampshire Street, , MA 02139 (617) 547-8272 Visit Website

The Sinclair

52 Church Street, , MA 02138 (617) 547-5200 Visit Website

Regina Pizzeria

11 1/2 Thacher Street, , MA 02113 (617) 227-0765 Visit Website

Shojo

9 Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 423-7888 Visit Website

Row 34

300 District Avenue, , MA 01803 (781) 761-6500 Visit Website

Trina's Starlite Lounge

3 Beacon Street, , MA 02143 (617) 576-0006 Visit Website

Sofra Bakery & Cafe

1 Belmont Street, , MA 02138 (617) 661-3161 Visit Website

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