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.
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 Mortar, Trina’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 Playboy. Night 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)