In July 2015, we made a slight change to the physical way in which we update our quarterly Eater 38, a collection of 38 of the Boston area's most essential dining spots. Instead of creating a brand new map that combines some old information with some new information, like we used to do, we now simply update the existing map at the same permalink. This means that in the past, there was an archive of every previous 38, but going forward, deleted map points simply vanish forever.
As such, we keep a separate archive of retired map points here. Each restaurant (and its description from the last time it appeared on the map) is listed under the month when it ceased to appear.
From now on, the most current Eater 38 will always be found right here. Traditionally, we swap about three or four restaurants each quarter for a variety of reasons; occasionally, we do a larger overhaul.
Retired in October 2021:
- Craigie on Main: Yes, Craigie on Main makes a downright iconic burger. It’s everything everyone says it is, and you should order it if you haven’t. But it’s definitely not all about burgers at Tony Maws’ upscale Cambridge stalwart, which is also known for its seasonal, local tasting menu.
- KO Pies at the Shipyard: Australian meat pies and beer sound good enough on their own, right? Now add the fact that this casual spot is hidden away in a shipyard in East Boston, which happens to be filled with cool art installations and glorious views of downtown. The Irish beef stew meat pie is one of Boston’s most iconic dishes and should be eaten on the patio when weather allows. Note: KO is closing soon — although the meat pies will live on — so go there right now.
Retired in July 2021:
- Mei Mei: Mei Mei, a food-truck-turned-restaurant founded by a sibling trio, is considered a trailblazer in Boston’s restaurant world, from providing equitable wages to ethically sourcing meats and other ingredients. The Li family poured itself into the restaurant to create an even bigger family; dining here feels like coming home, with classic dishes like the Double Awesome sandwich (cheesy eggs loaded into a scallion pancake) and house-made dumplings headlining a menu that shifts with the seasonality of new England’s ingredients.
- Sekali: Boston is obsessed with Thai food, but the city has significantly fewer dining options for most other Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Malaysian. That’s a shame, and hopefully chef Derrick Teh’s increasingly popular modern Malaysian traveling pop-up, Sekali, will help pave the way for a more robust scene. Sekali got its start about a year before COVID-19 struck, appearing at a few local restaurants, but business has really boomed throughout the pandemic, with frequent — and always sold out — takeout and delivery pop-ups around the area. Whether it’s your first taste of nasi lemak and kaya jam or it’s a familiar taste of home, the ever-changing Sekali menu is sure to delight. Diners should take note that this spot has no set location, but keep an eye on Sekali’s social media updates to track the restaurant’s movements.
Retired in April 2021:
- Tanám: Tanám — a tiny, worker-owned, Filipinx American restaurant located in a hip food and retail development in Somerville — took home the win for Eater Boston’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year. Its story is told through multi-course meals and hands-on, kamayan-style feasts, depending on the night. Weekly cocktail and snack hours were popular in pre-COVID times — the pork belly mini siopao sandwiches are among the best bites around.
Retired in January 2021:
- Shōjō: The loud, energy-packed Shōjō brings a new spin to Asian fusion, upping the ante with dishes like the “Shojonator” burger (complete with kimchi velveeta), bulgogi beef bao, and a killer cocktail list. It’s a bit of modern flashiness in a neighborhood of old-school classics, and it somehow simultaneously stands out and fits right into Boston’s Chinatown. (Note: Shōjō reopened after a months-long hibernation, and was added back to the Eater Boston 38 in April 2021.)
Retired in November 2020 (spring and summer 2020 updates did not occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic):
- Bar Lyon: Bar Lyon’s parent company, the Columbus Hospitality Group, knows how to build an upscale mainstay: Restaurants like Mooo and Mistral have been holding down the Boston fine-dining fort for years. But the team went a little more casual, a little more affordable, with the newest addition, and it seems to be paying off. Bar Lyon has only been open since fall 2018 but already seems poised to inhabit the neighborhood forever, serving French classics, from escargots to steak frites, not to mention one of the best French onion soups in town.
- Bintimani: This Sierra Leonean restaurant is tucked away inside a small mall called Mr. G’s Plaza in Dudley Square, and as such is sort of hidden in plain sight. Wife-and-husband duo Baindu and Sahr Josiah make up the front-of-house staff, the back-of-house staff, the management, and the ownership team. The kitchen at Bintimani is tight and sparsely equipped, but you’d never know it by the food they’re turning out. The dining room — which doubles as an office and a storage space — can accommodate eight eaters at most. Sahr, who lived in Washington, D.C., for more than a decade, told Eater that he couldn’t find food from Sierra Leone during that time. He and Baindu set out to open a restaurant that could serve people food that tasted like their mothers’ home cooking. Whoever grew up with home cooking as good as the food coming out of Bintimani’s kitchen is the luckiest person on earth. Order the whole fried tilapia, and eat it with rice, spicy okra sauce, and crain crain, which is a dark green stew made of mallow-leaves.
- Deep Ellum: Deep Ellum was a good beer bar before most folks knew what (or even cared what) a good beer bar was. Its draft list always boasts a number of good German beers or English beers (or both), as well as one of the city’s best arrays of locally brewed beers. The cocktail list is long and varied, and the bartenders are knowledgeable and always willing to work with customers to figure out what drinks might best suit their tastes. Deep Ellum’s kitchen is also sneakily great. Stick to the beer bar playbook and order the excellent burger, or share plates with friends and order whatever house-cured charcuterie is on offer, some tinned fish, and the gorgonzola-covered fries. This Allston joint’s late-night menu also offers one of the city’s best fried chicken sandwiches. When the season permits, snag a patio seat.
- The Table at Season to Taste: Top Chef alum Carl Dooley, Eater Boston’s 2016 Chef of the Year, is at the helm of this intimate fine-dining Cambridge restaurant, which is built into the front of an existing catering company. Diners can grab a small snack at the wine bar or settle in for the restaurant’s centerpiece, the four-course prix fixe, which highlights Dooley’s impeccable technique and love of seasonal ingredients. The menu’s always changing, but recent dishes have included goat cheese agnolotti with morels; lamb shank bisteeya; ancho chile red snapper stew; and more.
- Villa Mexico Cafe: A decades-old staple once located inside a Beacon Hill gas station and now located in its own downtown Boston space, Villa Mexico is run by Julie King, her daughter Bessie, and a friendly team that churns out grilled burritos, fish tacos, and a signature black salsa. In non-COVID times, the restaurant is a popular lunch stop for Financial District workers, especially on Fridays when King offers specials and dispenses free cookies to the masses.
Retired in January 2020:
- Area Four: As far as Neapolitan-adjacent pizza in Greater Boston goes, it’s hard to beat Area Four in Kendall Square. The dough ferments for 30 or more hours and is made with a sourdough starter. It’s then cooked at a high temperature in a wood-fired oven, which provides the perfect amount of char on the crust. The “not pepperoni” pizza (which is topped instead with soppressata) and the sausage and pickled peppers pizza are both high on the list of must-order pizzas in and around Boston. Area Four isn’t strictly a pizzeria — diners can order salads and meatballs and lasagne, for example — but the pizza is certainly the restaurant’s main draw. The list of mostly local beer isn’t bad, either.
- Waypoint: In a time when what remains of Harvard Square’s unique character is being threatened more than ever, this little sibling to Alden & Harlow has cemented its place as an important (and more importantly, fun) dining destination in the neighborhood. It boasts the biggest absinthe selection around, a vibe that careful toes the line between trendy and casual, and a menu jam-packed with creative seafood dishes and more. Want to go all-out with a full caviar service? You’ve got it. Smoked whitefish pizza? Sure thing. Big, shareable hunks of roasted meat? Yep.
Retired in October 2019:
- Asta: In a 2014 review of Asta, former Eater restaurant editor and roving critic Bill Addison wrote of the restaurant’s “sophisticated mom-and-pop approach.” Indeed, Asta achieves both sides of the equation. On one hand, it’s a fine-dining destination with pricey tasting menus, influences of New Nordic cuisine, and luxurious ingredients. On the other hand, it’s a quirky little spot with fried chicken pop-ups, an abstract internet presence, and weird bits of backstory. For example, it reportedly could have been named Princess Sparkle Power Pickle Bunny.
- Bar Mezzana: Bar Mezzana, a 2016 Restaurant of the Year nominee, is packed full of alums from the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, and it shows in the high level of hospitality and flawless execution of a menu that features excellent crudo, pasta, and more from chef and co-owner Colin Lynch (no relation to Barbara). The lobster paccheri is a smart order. And it’s not just a place for a swanky dinner date: The bustling bar scene is fun, too, and brunch is a worthy contender.
- Café du Pays: Café du Pays, Eater Boston’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year, is a fantastic reinvention of the space that previously housed the same group’s acclaimed Hungry Mother. Where Hungry Mother looked to the South for inspiration, Café du Pays looks north to Canada to serve French-Canadian food with a touch of New England. (Yes, there’s poutine.) Despite Boston’s pseudo-proximity to Canada, this is the only French-Canadian restaurant in the area, and while the restaurant could probably get by on that fact alone, it exceeds expectations with warm hospitality, a rich and meaty menu, and a delightful little bar.
- The Gallows: Open since 2010, this South End gastropub became a boisterous neighborhood mainstay on day one, virtually. Diners shouldn’t expect to have any quiet conversations here, but they’ll be too busy gorging on burgers, poutine, and the classic “stoner’s delight” dessert anyway. (That’s peanut butter mousse, chocolate ganache, banana, and bruleed Fluff, and yes, it’s a must-try, stoned or otherwise.)
- Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant: The ultimate Southie hangout, the always-bustling Lincoln Tavern serves Eater Boston readers’ favorite pizza, not to mention over-the-top brunch specials, a full bar, and lots more. Since opening Lincoln, the team has virtually taken control of the whole block with the subsequent openings of sibling spots Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar and Capo, plus Fat Baby around the corner. South Boston is changing, and its future is full of Fruity Pebbles pancakes.
- Mida: At cozy South End spot Mida, chef and owner Douglass Williams draws inspiration from Italy, serving a rotating selection of some of the best pasta in town — not to mention arancini and focaccia that can’t be ignored. The “della casa” option — a $40/person tasting of some favorites from the evening’s menu — is a good plan, as is Monday’s $35 all-you-can-eat pasta, salad, and bread special.
- Pagu: Pagu brings together Spanish and Japanese cuisines, and this isn’t some awkward or gimmicky early-2000s “fusion.” Sashimi, ramen, and bao sit seamlessly next to jamón ibérico and pintxos on the menu, all reflecting chef and owner Tracy Chang’s culinary experiences around the globe, from working at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant restaurant in San Sebastian to spending time at Boston’s own high-end Japanese destination O Ya. Pagu is the type of place where you can casually lounge at the bar with an inexpensive Japanese beer while snacking on a cheesy “wafflato” — or share an epic feast with friends, drinking sake and eating cedar campfire black cod, lobster rolls, plate after plate of fancy ham, and Spanish omelets.
- Saltie Girl: Saltie Girl may be small, but it boasts a large selection of seafood dishes that touch on so many different genres. A table might have everything from a raw bar tower to uni Benedict toast to fried lobster and waffles, and there are plenty of imported tins of seafood as well. This young Back Bay restaurant is a seafood lover’s paradise. (By the way, there’s the option to add lobster and/or caviar by the ounce to anything on the menu.)
- Sarma: Sarma, the little sibling to Oleana and Sofra, opened in late 2013 on the tip of Winter Hill in Somerville, just uphill from bustling Union Square. It’s a beautiful, colorful spot with a lively bar scene. Chef/co-owner Cassie Piuma — an alum of Oleana, the Butcher Shop, and Sel de la Terre — creates a gorgeous array of Turkish-inspired small plates. Sarma is also included on Eater’s list of New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants. Note: Reservations can be difficult to get at the last minute here; it’s important to plan ahead.
- Tanám: Tanám is doing lots of things differently for the Boston-area dining landscape. For one, it’s one of the only options in an achingly tiny Filipino food scene in the region. It’s also the embodiment of true communal dining — something that’s not for everyone, but those who are open to sharing a meal with strangers (perhaps without utensils, if one goes for the kamayan dinner on Wednesday nights) just may meet some new best friends while chatting over pancit habhab, lumpia, and sisig and learning about Filipino cuisine and culture from chef (and former neuroscientist) Ellie Tiglao and the rest of the Tanám worker-owner team.
- Tiger Mama: Steps from its older sibling, Sweet Cheeks, and its younger sibling, Fool’s Errand, on Fenway’s Boylston Street, Tiger Mama has made a name for itself with funky decor (hello, disco ball elephant), exciting cocktails, and flavor-packed dishes inspired by cuisine around Southeast Asia. From spicy papaya salad to a banquet-style smoked and fried duck dish, there’s something for everyone from chef and owner Tiffani Faison.
Retired in July 2019:
- Brewer’s Fork: Since opening in early 2015 in a section of Charlestown mostly devoid of restaurants, Brewer’s Fork has brought a bustling, pizza-loving crowd to the quiet block. The specialty is wood-fired pizza (the “killer B” pizza is a must-try), but there are also hearty brunch sandwiches, oysters, and one of the best beer lists around. When weather permits, the patio is the place to be.
- Mistral: The Columbus Hospitality Group is one of Boston’s most reliable and long-lasting restaurant groups, behind upscale standbys like Mooo, Ostra, and more, not to mention its newest hit, Bar Lyon. Mistral, now over 20 years old, is the group’s first, and it’s an easy answer for any special occasion. The French/Mediterranean restaurant evokes an older era of Boston fine dining without feeling too stuck in the past. And brunch is not an afterthought here: Be sure to get the cinnamon buns.
- Spoke Wine Bar: Spoke Wine Bar — which reopened under new ownership in early 2017 after closing in early 2016 — really manages to capture the magic of its original incarnation, serving up a small but intriguing selection of wine-friendly snacks and small plates in a convivial Davis Square space that attracts countless neighborhood regulars and industry folks. Not all revivals of shuttered restaurants work out, but the new Spoke, owned by former Spoke bartender Mary Kurth, is a true tribute to the memory of its beloved founder Felisha “Flea” Foster, who sadly passed away in late 2017.
Retired in April 2019:
- Chilacates: Only a few years back, Chilacates debuted in Jamaica Plain, rapidly gaining in popularity; what it lacks in space, it makes up for in flavor. While it already earned a place on an older version of the Eater 38 as a crowd-pleasing spot for burritos, tortas, horchata, and more, it’s back now as it stands on the edge of substantial expansion. There’s already a second Jamaica Plain location, and Chilacates is also expanding to Chestnut Hill, Mission Hill, Roslindale, and the South End this year — not bad for a diminutive counter-service taqueria.
- The Salty Pig: Before catching a train at Back Bay station, commuters can fill up on “salty pig parts” at this neighborhood staple. Known for its irresistible combo of charcuterie (aka the aforementioned “salty pig parts”), pizza, and pasta, the Salty Pig is a busy destination, especially during lunch, for nearby workers and shoppers. Come patio season, the outdoor seating area is perpetually full of happy pizza lovers.
Retired in January 2019:
- Field & Vine: Field & Vine is appropriately named: It feels like an intimate woodland nook, where you may dine under a tangle of branches or by a greenery-filled window. The menu, always changing, features ingredients that are local, sustainable, and exquisite; the dishes showcase those ingredients with simplicity and finesse. If there happens to be a gnocchi dish on the menu when you visit, get it. Note: During the Union Square farmers market season, swing by Field & Vine on Saturday mornings to visit Plum Delicious, a baked goods pop-up featuring some of the best pastries in Boston, such as a miso kouign amann and a pretzeled croissant.
- Highland Kitchen: A regular haunt of practically everyone who has ever lived in Somerville’s Spring Hill or Union Square in the last few years, Highland Kitchen specializes in comfort food, a lively ambiance, and strong cocktails. Try the spicy goat stew and the house-made ginger beer (also spicy), or swing by on a Monday for fried chicken and Tiki drink specials. Sunday brunch is also popular; be sure to line up early. (Love Highland Kitchen? Check out the team’s newer venture, Highland Fried, in the former East Coast Grill space — fried chicken and Tiki drinks every night.)
- Loyal Nine: Serving up what it calls “East Coast Revival” cuisine in East Cambridge, inspired by the food of colonial New England, Loyal Nine was one of the most unique openings of 2015. Your plan of attack: Try all sorts of seafood, but try a meaty entree as well. Dessert is also a must (or at least try a baked good during a daytime visit to the restaurant’s cafe). Don’t want to think? For $55 per person, trust the kitchen to make your decisions for your table with the “shared supper.” Loyal Nine is also included in Eater’s list of New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants, where contributor Amy Traverso describes it as an “ambitious, thinky, New England-inspired restaurant without the ye olde kitsch.”
Retired in October 2018:
- Cultivar: Cultivar chef-owner Mary Dumont snagged a twofer in Eater Boston’s 2017 awards, earning both the editor’s choice and the readers’ choice for Chef of the Year. Inside the Ames Hotel, she’s built an attractive, upscale restaurant that feels like spring and New England and sunshine year-round. Cultivar fits into the hyper-seasonal, locally sourced camp that so many restaurants aspire to these days, but it does a better job of it than most; it doesn’t feel gimmicky here, and the carefully sourced ingredients shine. Save room for dessert and a cocktail or two from the gin-focused selection.
- La Brasa: Open since spring 2014, this East Somerville restaurant gets better with each visit. Daniel Bojorquez’s menu changes frequently, although a few staples always seem to pop up, like the Mexican fried rice, tacos de carnitas, and the roving rib roast cart. The menu doesn’t stick to one particular region of the world, drawing inspiration from Mexico and well beyond. The massive wood-fired oven gives the gorgeous space a campfire smell. La Brasa was a long time coming, and it has really hit its stride. Keep an eye out for special events at La Brasa, including late-night wood-fired pizza and local vendor markets, and be sure to visit La Brasa’s sibling and neighbor in the adjacent space, an Italian restaurant called Fat Hen, which opened in summer 2016. La Brasa is also included in Eater’s list of New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants, with contributor Jolyon Helterman raving about the restaurant’s “live-fire dazzlement.”
- Singh’s Roti Shop: There aren’t enough Trinidadian dining options in Boston, but fortunately Singh’s Roti Shop has been holding down the fort for about 15 years, serving up the namesake menu item, roti — stuffed with everything from oxtail to goat — and other food and beverages from the West Indies. Regulars and newcomers alike connect instantly with amiable owner Ricky Singh, and his housemade hot sauce is not to be missed. It’s a counter-service spot with minimal seating, so plan for takeout. (Singh’s also makes appearances at various festivals in and around Boston.)
Retired in July 2018:
- El Pelón Taqueria: With a location in Fenway and another in Brighton, this popular taqueria has become a Boston institution thanks in part to its hearty burritos and bustling college-area locations. El Pelón’s been going strong for about two decades — interrupted only by a 2009 fire that shut the Fenway location for several years, during which owner Jim Hoben opened the Brighton location. Spice fiend? Prove yourself: Enter the restaurant’s yearly chile-eating contest.
- Myers + Chang: The self-described “indie diner” serves up a fun variety of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese-inspired dishes, courtesy of executive chef (and now Top Chef alum) Karen Akunowicz. From dim sum brunch to “cheap date night,” not to mention allergen-specific menus for people avoiding meat, shellfish, gluten, or nuts, this one’s an easy crowd-pleaser.
- Saus: Driven by a love of condiments, this cozy, casual spot downtown has been serving up a taste of Belgium in the form of fries, waffles, and more since 2011. There’s beer, there are hot dog-like “friks” (beef and pork sausages served on a roll), there are kimchi fried chicken sandwiches, and there are so many sauces. While it’s an easy choice during a boozy evening downtown (try the “beast mode” poutine to ward off hangovers), don’t discount this fun little powerhouse when sober. Keep an eye out: It’ll soon expand to Somerville’s forthcoming Bow Market with a vegetarian offshoot.
Retired in April 2018:
- ArtScience Culture Lab & Café: The restaurant formerly known as Cafe ArtScience has undergone major personnel changes (not to mention the slight name change) since opening a few years ago, but those who loved the opening team will love the new team as well, which includes some of the most talented folks in town. Executive chef Carolina Curtin (Liquid Art House, Haley.Henry) is plating up beautiful high-end dishes of dry-aged duck, Arctic char, and more, complemented by pastry chef Giselle Miller’s gorgeous desserts. And the bar is a must-visit: If you don’t already know bar director and partner Tenzin Samdo from his previous posts at Tavern Road or Trade, go say hello and drink several of his perfect cocktails immediately.
- Bisq: Bergamot’s little sibling — an intimate wine bar tucked away on a quiet edge of Inman Square — is a dark, swanky spot for a romantic date, a whole animal feast, or even just some dollar oysters paired with unique wines. Opening chef Dan Bazzinotti has since departed for Eataly, but Alex Saenz (an alum of Puritan & Co. right across the street) has picked up the mantle, and he’s serving up a compact menu of dishes such as anticuchos, bone marrow risotto, and some especially popular fried chicken.
- Pagu: Pagu is what happens when Spanish and Japanese cuisines intersect in the middle of a tech-booming neighborhood: It’s a beautiful, wide-open restaurant that serves everything from casual weekday cafe fare (plus wifi) to elaborate tasting-menu dinners to big suckling pig parties. There’s a spacious bar, plenty of private event space, and a menu that puts Spanish pintxos next to bowls of ramen — and it works. Swing by in the morning if the words “bottomless congee” excite you.
- Pammy's: Upon entering Pammy’s, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered the living room of owners Chris and Pam Willis — the impeccably decorated, warm, pasta-filled living room. The Willises take hospitality to the next level while serving up an Italian-leaning menu of pastas made from flour milled in-house alongside entrees such as Arctic char with farro and strawberries; a roasted half chicken; and a Berkshire pork chop with cream of wheat — fresh wheat. Just look for the colorful mural on Massachusetts Avenue, partway between Harvard and Central squares, and head inside to the lively bar or the eye-catching communal table in the middle of the dining room.
- Santarpio's Pizza: Santarpio's in Eastie is the place to go to shut up your obnoxious New York friends when they claim there's no good pizza in Boston. This classic joint is unassuming and rough around the edges, just the way it should be. Pizzeria Regina may win the classic duel for sheer expansion, but Santarpio's pizza is unmatched.
Retired in January 2018:
- Asta: Since opening in January 2013, Asta has quietly built up a devoted following for its tasting menu-only format. The mysterious restaurant has a mostly bar website, little-to-no marketing or social media presence, and an amazing Zeus painted on the wall, salvaged from the restaurant formerly in the space. The minimalist menu gives only slight hints at what diners will receive; a sample listing on the website includes dishes such as pumpkin vine with black walnut; sand shark with radish and young ginger; and tomato with white chocolate fudge.
- Branch Line: Hitting its six-month mark in April 2016, this restaurant jumped right onto the 38 thanks to its insanely good rotisserie chicken (not to mention all the things cooked in the rotisserie drippings), creative beer list (especially if you like sours), and all-around fun atmosphere. There's even a bocce court next to the excellent patio. Don't miss the sugar snap pea salad. Branch Line comes from Eastern Standard hospitality gurus Garrett Harker and Andrew Holden, and it shows.
- Erbaluce: A mainstay in the "best Italian restaurant" category in a variety of publications, and with good reason, Erbaluce is an excellent destination nestled in Bay Village. Chef/owner Charles Draghi changes the menu nightly, but you can always expect beautiful Italian food prepared with local, seasonal ingredients. Erbaluce has the disinction of being continually described by everyone as "under the radar" even as it continues to win awards and recognition.
- Mamaleh's: Making Cambridge’s Jewish delicatessen dreams come true since 2016, Mamaleh’s comes from the fun-loving State Park team (also behind the now-defunct Hungry Mother and the French-Canadian restaurant that took its place, Cafe du Pays). Mamaleh’s serves up everything a good Jewish deli should, including an all-day breakfast menu (bagel sandwiches with lox, whitefish, and the like; egg sandwiches on challah rolls; baked goods; more). At lunch and dinner, plenty more dishes come out to play, from knishes to kreplach, blintzes to gribenes, Reubens and Rachels, deli sandwiches piled high with pastrami and corned beef and tongue, and so much more. Also: egg creams, phosphates, celery soda, boozy milkshakes, Slivovitz flights, and deli-inspired cocktails (one even has Manischewitz.) And don’t forget the cozy basement comedy shows, the tchotchkes in the gift shop, and the takeout options at the deli counter. Oy, just go try it already.
- Mei Mei: This brick-and-mortar version of the ultra-popular Mei Mei Street Kitchen food truck opened up in a sunny, cozy Audubon Circle space in late 2013, offering up fun, Asian-inspired cuisine. The Mei Mei team is passionate about serving responsibly slaughtered meats and supporting local farmers, and their values come through on the creative menu, which includes the beloved Double Awesome, a scallion pancake sandwich stuffed with greens, cheese, and two slow-poached-then-fried eggs. Co-owner Irene Li was named to the Eater Young Guns class of 2016.
- Puritan & Co.: Puritan & Co. oozes New England with beautiful dishes such as wood-fired duck breast or perfectly seared scallops or swordfish pastrami, not to mention a late-night South Shore bar-style pizza special. And of course there's brunch, with pastries aplenty and dishes such as beef patty melts, Belgian waffles, and corned beef hash. The restaurant recently debuted a private events room for all your party needs.
- Select Oyster Bar: A finalist for Eater Boston's 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Select is one of the newest additions to Boston's high-end seafood scene. You'll spend a solid chunk of change here, but if you're looking for simple yet unexpected seafood dishes made with impeccably fresh products, this is your spot. Chef/owner Michael Serpa first made a name for himself at Neptune Oyster in the North End before opening up Select in Back Bay.
- SRV: Winner of the readers' choice Restaurant of the Year awardfor Eater Boston's 2016 awards, the Coda Group's South End Italian restaurant explores Venice-inspired small bites (cicchetti), pasta, and plenty more. Don't miss the tasting menu — a generous amount of excellent food for $45/person. Keep an eye on the pastry program as well: In early 2017, the restaurant hired talented Townsman alum Meghan Thompson to helm the pastry and bread program.
- Townsman: Townsman — Eater Boston's 2015 Restaurant of the Year — is a downtown destination for giant seafood towers, beautiful crudo, charcuterie plates, and upscale New England cuisine. "I just want this restaurant to party. I really do," chef/owner Matt Jennings told Eater as the restaurant's first anniversary approached. Don't miss the chowder.
- Yvonne's: Since opening in fall 2015, Yvonne's has quickly become one of the hottest destinations downtown. The historic Locke-Ober space has been lovingly remade into a sexy "supper club" with excellent cocktails, a fun and varied menu of small plates and big feasts, and transcendent desserts. It doesn't take itself too seriously — the stately library bar, for example, includes a cheeky painting of a tattooed JFK — but it's suitable for a high-rolling business dinner, a date night, or any other occasion that demands a dark, energetic space.
Retired in October 2017:
- Moody's Delicatessen & Provisions: 2014 Eater Boston Chef of the Year Joshua Smith is a charcuterie wizard, and his products are popping up with increasing frequency at restaurants in and around Boston. But why not go right to the source? At Smith's Waltham deli, Moody's, customers will find a huge selection of meat and a variety of specialty products, plus a menu full of classic deli sandwiches, piled high. And in April 2015, Smith opened a highly-anticipated full-service restaurant and wine bar, The Backroom, adjacent to Moody's. Next up: a storefront down the street with smoked meats and baked goods. [Retirement notes: Moody's original Waltham location has been retired from the 38 after a solid run on the map as we tighten up the geographic radius, but stay tuned: Moody's is expanding to Boston's Back Bay soon.]
- Sichuan Garden II: If you haven't had a cocktail or 10 at The Baldwin Bar inside of Sichuan Garden II out in Woburn yet, find a designated driver and make the trip. The bartenders just can't stop winning big awards. The secret's out on this industry hangout (which also has great Chinese food), so the ever-busy bar section expanded into an upstairs space in 2015, adding room for 45 more people to drink and dine the night away. [Retirement notes: Like Moody's, Sichuan Garden II has also been a 38 staple for quite some time but falls a bit too far outside of Boston as we move forward with future updates. But, also like Moody's, there will be a closer option soon. The restaurant's Brookline sibling is being revamped into Blossom Bar by the same acclaimed team that turned Sichuan Garden II into a cocktail destination thanks to its two bars, the Baldwin Bar and Baldwin & Sons Trading Co.]
Retired in July 2017:
- No. 9 Park: Now more than 15 years old, No. 9 Park remains one of the classic destinations downtown for fine dining. It's the perfect place to get a taste of Barbara Lynch's upscale, French-inspired cuisine — without spending quite so many paychecks as you will at her ultimate destination, Menton, a Relais & Chateaux property. [Retirement notes: Swapped out for its arguably more accessible little sibling Sportello.]
- Shepard: Julia Child's spirit shines through at this France-meets-New-England restaurant from UpStairs on the Square alum Susan Regis and Hi-Rise Bread Co.'s René Becker. Simple, seasonal ingredients are transformed into beautiful works of art, and the menu is ever-changing. Don't forget to order a classic cocktail or two. Eater's restaurant editor Bill Addison included Shepard on his 2016 list of the 21 best new restaurants around the country; Shepard was the only local inclusion. [Retirement notes: Major changes are afoot at Shepard with personnel changes and a Cambridge decree that the restaurant can no longer do wood-fired cooking, so it has been retired from the 38 for now while it settles into its newer form.]
Retired in April 2017:
- Alden & Harlow: This Harvard Square hot spot from Michael Scelfo has been an industry obsession since opening night in late 2013, and the "secret" burger has garnered plenty of local and national media chatter. Scelfo has always done interesting things with meat, but here, he also offers truly beautiful and creative vegetable-focused dishes that shine a light on the local bounty. The drink program is also strong, and the bar is always packed. Also worth a visit: Waypoint, Alden & Harlow's sequel, which opened nearby in summer 2016.
- Bondir: Bondir came out of the gates strongly with a "Best New Restaurants in America" accolade from Bon Appetit in 2011, in addition to racking up about as many local awards as a restaurant could get. It took what a lot of restaurants were already doing — the classed-up, local, rootsy thing — and managed to tighten the screws, add some flourishes, and still make it distinct and feel fresh. There's a fireplace and there's a tasting menu, and it all feels quite New England-y.
- Bronwyn: One of the hottest openings of 2013, Bronwyn has continued going strong through its first few years. It's the second project from Tim and Bronywn Wiechmann of the acclaimed T.W. Food. The Union Square restaurant features German and Central European food, and the tiny biergarten is always packed when the weather is pleasant.
Retired in January 2017:
- Bisq: Open since spring 2015, BISq has carved out a happy home for itself in Inman Square, not too far from its older sibling, Bergamot. BISq chef Dan Bazzinotti snagged the 2015 Eater Boston award for Chef of the Year thanks to his love of charcuterie and the other magic that he makes, whether it's a raw seafood dish such as salmon ceviche or a gluttonous small plate such as N'awlins barbecue shrimp toast with "sexy scallions." Plan a few days in advance and book your group a whole animal roast, where Bazzinotti's skills really shine. [Retirement notes: Bazzinotti has departed for Eataly, and now Puritan & Co. alum Alex Saenz is chef de cuisine. Traditionally restaurants are retired from the 38 after a major personnel change and are reconsidered at a later date.]
- Chilacates: This tiny Jamaica Plain taqueria arrived in summer 2015, and the friendly staff handles the ever-present lines with ease. Grab some tacos to go and head across the street to the park for a perfect picnic. Also on the menu: quesadillas, burritos, tortas, and more. Don't forget the horchata.
- The Gallows: What you'll eat: a Scotch egg, Elvis French toast, at least three kinds of poutine, and creative burgers galore. The lively spot is unapologetically "loud and welcoming," and the team will soon take over the entire South End, it seems. Last year they opened Blackbird Doughnuts nearby (a doughnut shop, obviously) as well as Banyan Bar + Refuge in the former Hamersley's Bistro space.
Retired in October 2016:
- Spoke Wine Bar: Open since spring 2013, this cozy and colorful Davis Square wine bar — a favorite hidden gem of industry folks — continues to impress thanks to its creative wine offerings, not to mention executive chef John daSilva's beautiful small plates. The menu changes from time to time, but on one previous menu, slivers of asparagus stood in for pasta in an outstanding carbonara dish, squid ink lent itself to breadcrumbs atop a squid and fusilli dish, and hearty branzino made for a unique crudo. [Retirement notes: Spoke has announced that it will close on December 22, 2016, which is before our next scheduled update to the 38, so we bid it a fond farewell this quarter.]
- Sweet Cheeks: You must save room for a biscuit. It will be hard, faced with a tray packed full of Berkshire pork belly and mac 'n' cheese, but you must save room for a biscuit, big as your face and slathered in honey butter. Tiffani Faison's four-year-old Fenway barbecue joint simultaneously meets your needs for heaping portions of meat, tasty sides (don't miss the farm salad), and a boisterous ambiance. Also check out Faison's brand new restaurant, Tiger Mama, which recently opened right down the street, featuring Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine. [Retirement notes: Retired from the 38 to make way for its younger sibling, Tiger Mama.]
Retired in July 2016:
- Casa B: This romantic "Spanish Caribbean tapas" spot comes from a couple of architects, so the space is as beautiful as the menu items. You'll feel like you're dining in someone's living room, which makes sense, since owners Alberto Cabré and Angelina Jockovich got their culinary start by throwing elaborate "underground" dinner parties.
- Taiwan Cafe: A favorite of food nerds 'round the city, Taiwan Cafe is an easy answer when a Chinatown first-timer is wondering where to go. The soup dumplings rival other options in the neighborhood, and the Szechuan fish is another must-try.
Retired in April 2016:
- jm Curley: This instant industry-approved classic has helped revitalize Downtown Crossing dining with its small and meaty menu, adult milkshakes, late-night dining, and blunt rules for patrons. Opening executive chef Sam Monsour put a creative twist on junk food until leaving in the end of 2013, and his sous chef Chris Bauers has stepped up to take his place, continuing the tradition. Diners who want something more upscale can sidle into Bogie's Place, the tiny steakhouse hidden inside. [Retirement notes: A burst pipe caused massive damage to the restaurant in February 2016, and what was supposed to be a month of repairs is taking a bit longer. With jm Curley closed indefinitely, it'll sit this quarter out on the 38.]
- Ribelle: Everyone already knows the story of Tim Maslow's return to his father's casual Watertown restaurant, Strip-T's, and its subsequent transformation (and, more recently, a transformation back towards the classic Strip-T's). Ribelle is the younger Maslow's first solo project, an ambitious crossing of genres that has garnered a rare four-star review from the Boston Globe's Devra First. Ribelle is one of several restaurants leading the charge for Brookline's Washington Square to be one of the next great dining destinations. [Retirement notes: Ribelle leaves the 38 this quarter since it doesn't exactly exist anymore. With some fiery social media posts and a little trouble crossing the US-Canada border, Maslow bid Ribelle goodbye and changed the restaurant's name and concept. 1665 Beacon, as the new concept is called, features a French-inspired menu.]
Retired in January 2016:
- L'Espalier: Going strong since 1978, with a few location moves over the years, L'Espalier is revered for chef/owner Frank McClelland's hybrid of French and New England cuisine, which makes extensive use of local, seasonal ingredients. If money's no object, let him take you on his Tasting Journey, "a unique menu inspired by the seasons of New England crafted for your table." Or stop by for a Cheese Tuesday to eat cheese and sing along to classic hits like "Don't Stop Blue Cheesing." [Retirement notes: Still highly recommended, but it's time to retire this veteran 38er to make way for fresh blood — the simpler and less white-tableclothy France-meets-New-England cuisine of Shepard, newly eligible in Cambridge.]
- Neptune Oyster: This North End seafood restaurant boasts one of Boston's longest lines that's actually worth the wait, particularly if you want to eat one of the best (and priciest) lobster rolls in town. And don't miss the impeccable raw bar; it's called Neptune Oyster for a reason. While longtime chef Michael Serpa recently left to open SELECT Oyster Bar in Back Bay, chefs Daniel Karg and John Ross continue to make the perpetually busy spot worthy of its immense popularity. [Retirement notes: It's still the place to go for a high-end lobster roll, but this quarter, it departs the 38 to make way for SELECT, which has newly become eligible — and, unlike Neptune, SELECT takes reservations, which is helpful for those who like to plan ahead and avoid long lines.]
- West Bridge: Since opening in late spring 2012, West Bridge quickly became the darling of Kendall Square, among many existing darlings. The French-inspired menu comes from Aquitaine Bistro alumnus chef Matthew Gaudet, who was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2013. Don't miss the egg in a jar. [Retirement notes: Closed at the end of 2015.]
Retired in October 2015:
- Journeyman: Hidden off an alley in Somerville’s Union Square, Journeyman did away with its menu a little over a year ago; it used to simply offer a few different sizes of tastings with dishes that changed weekly. Now, there’s no menu at all — pay a set price; eat what is served. The focus is on delicate, artful preparations of local ingredients. As of November 1, 2014, Journeyman became the first Boston-area restaurant to switch over to the ticketing system developed by Nick Kokonas of Alinea in Chicago, so diners pay different amounts ($65 to $95) depending on whether they’re buying a ticket for prime time or a quieter night.
- Rialto: James Beard winner Jody Adams’ Harvard Square flagship has been drawing crowds since opening two decades ago, focusing on regional Italian cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. More recently, Adams opened up a new restaurant, TRADE, near South Station.
- Ten Tables: The flagship of what was until recently a mini-empire with locations in Cambridge, P-town, and a sibling burger shop in JP, this tiny space is where it all began. The $48 tasting menu rivals ones that cost at least twice as much. Last year, owner Krista Kranyak sold the P-town outpost (and almost Cambridge, too) to focus anew on this location as well as expand the burger shop, Grass Fed, to more locations.
- Troquet: Lovely views of the Common and proximity to a variety of theaters give Troquet an advantage location-wise, but the food is outstanding as well, and the wine list is deservedly award-winning. Plus, it’s probably the only place you’ll see servers scooping butter out of a giant basket that is completely full of butter.
Retired in July 2015:
- Bergamot: This 69-seat restaurant opened in 2010 and helped pave the way for a new era of Somerville dining. The critics have praised Bergamot's synthesis of relaxed attitude and serious skill. The team behind it will open a new restaurant, BISq (Bergamot Inman Square), fairly close by in spring 2015. [Retirement notes: The 38 is a balancing act, and we try to spread the love around many neighborhoods and restaurant groups. Bergamot's new sibling, BISq, is a strong contender for the next 38 update (it's not quite old enough for the July update), so for the time being, we're retiring big sibling Bergamot, still a wonderful restaurant, as another Inman Square spot gets a new nod this time around.]
- Harvest: Nestled in a hidden spot in Harvard Square for decades and featuring one of the area's nicest patios, Harvest continues to serve elegant New England cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Executive chef Mary Dumont was once named Boston's "princess of pork" thanks to winning a local stop of the prestigious Cochon555 tour. Harvest underwent some big renovations in early 2015, and phase two is coming up, which will result in an even nicer patio. [Retirement notes: Harvest has undergone big changes lately, from the departure of Dumont to the aforementioned renovations. Change isn't necessarily bad — in fact, it can be great — but in the tradition of not including restaurants younger than six months old, it also makes sense to remove, possibly temporarily, restaurants that have just changed in a major way. Six months down the road, we'll see how things are going.]
- Hungry Mother: There are other restaurants that do local ingredients, French technique, or Southern recipes, but not under one roof. It's amazing that shrimp and grits can taste this good so far north. Be sure to start out with an order of skillet cornbread with sorghum butter. [Retirement notes: Hungry Mother closed on July 3; it was wonderful up to the end. Chef/co-owner Barry Maiden has departed the team to work on a new project, and the rest of the team will open a new concept in the same space. Sister restaurant State Park remains open.]
- Trina's Starlite Lounge: This cozy Somerville watering hole pairs hot dogs with classy cocktails in a retro lounge. The Monday "industry brunch" leaves diners happily full of chicken and waffles, homemade pop tarts, and Kool Aid du jour. As of April 2015, there's finally Sunday brunch as well. [Retirement notes: Still an incredibly fun spot, Trina's has had a long run on the 38, and it's time to change things up a bit. But if you want a great hot dog in a lively ambiance, this is your place.]