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Local Food Writers Reveal the Biggest Dining Surprises 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, feel free to share your thoughts below. Next question: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2015?

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Eric Roth for Clio

MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

It’s a good surprise, in that I frankly anticipated some industry contraction that didn’t happen this year, after a surprising run of expansion over several years, notably in the Seaport. I still think we have more seats than diners (and talented line cooks and skilled servers) in Boston at the moment, and that worries me. I say it every year: If you want a vibrant, unique, innovative Boston restaurant scene to continue, support your local indies over chain outlets. Without those independents, we’re just Des Moines with oysters.

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

That more restaurants didn't close after the horrible winter we had.

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

Candy cap mushroom ice cream from Meg Thompson at Townsman. I'm kind of an ice cream guy, but I had never seen anything like that. Even more surprisingly I saw a similar ice cream at KronnerBurger in Oakland nine months later.

Matt Martinelli, managing editor of The Improper Bostonian:

I thought that the 75 new liquor licenses for underserved Boston neighborhoods such as Mission Hill, Eastie, etc. would have more of an effect on new dining options in those neighborhoods. It’s been a slow trickle, however. The BYOB changes that were proposed might cause even fewer spots to apply for their own license.

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

When Nick Varano opened Strip by Strega at Park Plaza, I think a lot of folks expected more of the same of his other locations — Italian-centric with a cheeky side of celebrity movie/gangster culture. But the food here is sexy contemporary steakhouse with international accents: wagyu beef and veal wagyu meatballs, luxurious smoky beef tartare with quail egg, and a canoe-cut roasted bone marrow that's one of the prettiest plates in Boston.

Scott Kearnan, writer for Zagat and more:

Surprise suggests "greatest improved distance between expectation and execution," so I’d have to go with Committee for this. Knowing the more nightlife-oriented pedigree of its team, I wasn’t really banking on the food, to be honest. So I was super pleasantly surprised when it yielded a bunch of plates that would leave me saying, "I can’t wait to come back and eat that again." Sometimes you just really want flavors to pop off a plate, and it delivered that really, surprisingly well. That said, I haven’t had a chance to get back since chef de cuisine Geoff Lukas passed away, very sadly, in October. I don’t know if the team is still making good on the promise he offered, but I hope so.

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

Barry Maiden's James Beard Award victory, followed quickly by the closing of Hungry Mother, was a big surprise.

Rachel Cossar, Boston city editor for The Daily Meal:

West Bridge closing :(

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

The biggest surprise was the realization that Southie has the beginnings of a legitimate dining scene worth checking out. New restaurants like Worden Hall, Loco Taqueria, and Coppersmith have all caught my attention. I look forward to seeing how the dining scene in Southie continues to grow in 2016.

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

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at all the new Sichuan spots popping up in Allston/Brighton/Brookline. I’m a total fiend and so glad numbing-hot food is having a moment.

Dana Hatic, Eater Boston associate editor:

I think the announcement that Clio will close at the end of the year took people by surprise, though after hearing from Ken Oringer, it seems like he was overdue for a change-up.

Katie Chudycookbook author and Eater Boston contributor:

I think there were a couple of big surprise closings this year — ClioHungry MotherWest BridgePretty Things BeerA4 in Somerville, in particular.

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

There were some surprisingly rapid expansions this year — a number of teams started working on one or more new projects seemingly before the paint had dried at their original ones. Lots of expansions out to unexpected places, too, like Burlington and Lynnfield. But the biggest surprise, because it rarely happens, is when a restaurant opens right on schedule. Can't think of any of these off the top of my head from 2015, though.

Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

412 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127


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

STRIP by Strega

64 Arlington Street, , MA 02116 (617) 456-5300 Visit Website


40 West 3rd Street, , MA 02127 (617) 658-3452 Visit Website

A4 Pizza

445 Somerville Ave., Somerville, MA 02143

West Bridge

1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139 Visit Website


50 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02110 Visit Website

Worden Hall

22 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 (617) 752-4206 Visit Website


370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 617 536 7200

Hungry Mother

233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02141 617 499 0090 Visit Website